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PENAUDIO Rebel 3 Monitor Loudspeakers Review Print E-mail
Tuesday, 02 November 2010
Article Index
PENAUDIO Rebel 3 Monitor Loudspeakers Review
Listening Session


Listening to numerous CDs and LPs, the Rebel 3s consistently performed, how should I put this? They just got out of the way of the music. The presentation is precise but not boring, neutral but not dry or stringent. If you listen to heavy metal only or drive down the road playing rap loud enough to be heard county-wide, these speakers are not for you. It's not that the Rebels can't get down and dirty, they just don't scream for such attention.

If there was ever music that “sings,” it's the iconic Second Movement from Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A major. The opening 3 minutes of this Allegretto sways in 2/4 time as the strings and woodwinds play their mournful music. Deutsche Grammophon's hybrid SACD disc, featuring the Wiener Philharmoniker led by Carlos Kleiber on this and Beethoven's 5th Symphony, is a recording of rich sonorities, expertly played rhythms and showcases a conductor wholly sensitive to the music. I think I like the redbook version better than the 2-channel SACD layer of this one, and the Rebels prove a graceful partner to the proceedings. The sumptuousness of the Allegretto is never lost or glossed over by brightness, just as the blazing energy of the final movement comes through with dynamics intact.

Gentle Giant's In A Glass House (like most of the band's catalog) contains a bevy of challenging arrangements and sounds. The Rebels didn't hold back on the glass-shattering foray that opens the album, but what caught my ear was more subtle. On the second track, “An Inmates Lullaby,” Kerry Minnear's vibes ring with subtle sustain that's not reverb-y but the sustain you actually hear when you're near the instrument itself. The detail and rendering were superb, and I found myself listening “deeper” into the music because of it. And any doubt of the Rebel 3's ability to deliver solid bass was removed during the following track, “Way Of Life,” with Ray Shulman's 4-string lines strongly in the mix.

Guitarist Larry Carlton has been responsible for some of the most memorable solos in popular music. His work on Steely Dan's “Kid Charlemagne” remains the de facto 6-string break for session wannabes worldwide. Carlton's musical instincts and sweet tone are at the forefront of his 1983 live release, Eight Times Up. Recorded in Tokyo, Japan, the performance sounds like a live gig, and captures Carlton's ability to make jazz smooth without going off the boil into fern bar muzak. All of the Rebel's strengths seem to coalesce here and unveil each instrument – from guitar to Fender Rhodes to bass and percussion – in crisp, engaging detail.

I've been spending lots of time listening to vinyl recently and the Rebel 3s pair very nicely with my favorite music format. Years before Night Moves made him a household name, Bob Seger was rocking out with his band, Bob Seger System. The group's 1970 release, Mongrel, is a slab of fierce R&B-fueled rock tempered with a few gentler moments. One not-gentle moment is the fiery title track, a spiraling fume that threatens to jump the tracks or just collide with anything in its path. Seger would later sing about “Heavy Music,” but he rarely got as beefy as on this platter. With such music I tend to revert back to my teen-age days when the measure of a stereo was how loud it could play. Even still, the Rebel 3s brought out the “rock” and soul in the music without leaving me feeling cheated or wanting much more.

Final Thoughts

The Rebel 3s impressed me with their fluid yet detailed delivery of whatever I threw at them. My typical day often includes 8 to 10 hours of listening to music. The last thing I want is fatigue or a headache from too much high-end, shrill or otherwise. That I could sit with the Rebels for days and listen, never wanting to change or turn them off speaks loudly for a little speaker that does about everything right in the context of its design. For small to medium-sized listening rooms and backed by  modest amplification, the Rebel 3s will put the performance right in front of you – where it belongs.

System Setup

  • Grant Fidelity A-348 Integrated Tube Amplifier
  • Emotiva Audio ERC-1 CD player
  • Pro-Ject RPM 5.1 turntable
  • Sumiko Audio Blue Point No. 2 Moving Coil phono cartridge
  • Parasound Zphono Preamplifier
  • Better Cables Premium Anniversary Edition Speaker Cables (3m)
  • Better Cables Silver Serpent Anniversary Edition Interconnects
  • Plateau STS-30 Speaker Stands

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