Jean Marie Reynaud Evolution 3 Loudspeakers 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Floorstanding Loudspeakers
Written by Brian Kahn   
Saturday, 01 May 2004

Recently, while perusing new and different speaker products, our editor at Audiorevolution came across a French speaker brand called Jean Marie Reynaud that piqued my interest. Due to logistics, our best opportunity to review this product was at a local audio/video retailer, Evolution Audio in Agoura Hills, California. Jean Marie Reynaud had been around since 1967 and is one of France’s most respected specialty audio manufactures.

The $3,890 Evolution 3 speakers from Jean Marie Reynaud immediately caught my attention when I walked into the room at Evolution where they were on display. The speakers filled the room with a solid, soulful soundstage. The speakers themselves are somewhat diminutive floor-standing speakers, with beech-veneered cabinets that stand 42 inches high, eight inches wide and 12 inches deep. One of the first things I noticed visually was that the tweeters were situated in their own bullet-shaped enclosures on top of the rectangular cabinet box, reminiscent of the B&W Nautilus line of speakers.

The driver complement consists of a one-and-one-tenth-inch polyamide tweeter with a large anti-vortex phase plug. The woofer, which is normally hidden behind a removable black cloth grille at the top of the cabinet, is a six-and-three-quarter-inch aerogel, dual-coil, dual-surround, dual-magnet design. That, coupled with a unique transmission line, helps achieve the Evolution 3’s frequency response of 35Hz to 20kHz.

This transmission line vents to the bottom front of the rigid enclosure. The port itself is a small rectangular opening that is progressively coupled to the air outside the cabinet to reduce the port’s sonic signature. Another innovative feature of the Evolution 3 is its crossover system that makes this a two-driver, three-way speaker system, according to Jean Marie Reynaud. In fact, this system is similar in concept to what some manufacturers on this side of the pond call a two-way system, in that there is a high-frequency driver and two identical mid-woofers with one crossed-over lower than the other. In this specific instance, the two mid-woofers are the same six-and-three-quarter-inch drivers with two voice coil and magnet assemblies.

My audition of the speakers took place in one of the listening rooms at Evolution Audio, so they were already professionally set up, broken in and tuned. The tube-driven playback system consisted of the Lector CDP 7TL ($3,290) CD player, the Lector ZOE ($1,890) preamplifier and the VAC Renaissance 30/30 amplifier. The speakers were placed well into the damped room, approximately eight feet apart.

The Music
One of the first discs I played on the Evolution 3 system was an old favorite of mine, Holly Cole’s “Train Song” from It Happened One Night (Metro Blue). I was immediately impressed by the depth and tonality of the opening bass notes that came from a wide sonic soundstage with no obvious source, almost as if the speakers had disappeared. The bass notes had a slight bloom but were still portrayed with more depth and detail than I expected from a speaker in this size and price range. The vocals were solidly placed slightly behind the plane of the speakers, with the remainder of the soundstage extending rearward several feet. The instruments each had their own sense of space or air around them, while they remained solidly anchored. The overall sense was of a very musical, smooth speaker with a slightly recessed image. The higher frequencies were extended while remaining smooth and detailed without any sense of harshness -- an impressive start.

I then listened to the Fairfield Four’s rendition of “Roll Jordan Roll” on the disc Standing in the Safety Zone (Warner). The song began with a small chorus that was positioned slightly to the left side of the soundstage and just slightly behind the plane of the speakers. The individual male voices were easy to distinguish and reproduced without any signs of chestiness or sibilance. Approximately two minutes into this track, several new singers joined the chorus, standing behind the original vocalists. The Evolution 3s portrayed these new singers only slightly behind the original singers; the most noticeable shift in imaging was the vertical displacement. The new singers’ voices seemed to be positioned slightly above the top of the speaker cabinets, whereas the chorus at the beginning of the track was positioned below the tops of the speaker cabinets. The voices remained clear and distinct, with the soloists maintaining a solid, palpable presence. I found the midrange to be detailed and sweet. This is clearly a speaker that can be enjoyed for extended periods at high volumes without fatigue.

I then played some tracks off the Burmester sampler disc, beginning with Hans Thessink’s “Call Me.” Thessink’s deep voice was reproduced clearly from a solid position with good tonal accuracy. The soundstage remained relaxed, beginning slightly behind the plane of the speakers and moving rearward. The speakers retained their composure at all reasonable volumes and only showed signs of break-up at extremely high levels. The high frequencies remained airy and clean, even at very high volume levels, without any harshness or grain. This impressed me, as it’s not a stretch for $10,000 speakers to have clean and liquid high frequencies, but is much less common in a speaker of this price range.

Moving on to some rock, I then listened to some Pink Floyd off of the Burmester disc, beginning with “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1.” The opening of this track features an almost overwhelmingly large vocal sound field accentuated with guitars that enveloped me. Having heard this particular track on many systems, I was surprised by the amount of low level detail that the Evolution 3s provided, especially with the children’s’ voices in the background. Despite the large amount of detail, I heard some dynamic range constriction and a slightly false sense of relaxation in the upper frequencies. This sense was repeated in many of my listening sessions. While the slightly distant soundstage that began at or behind the speakers and smooth sound reproduction worked well for many of my listening experiences, it seemed to lack immediacy when listening to rock tracks, such as this one from Pink Floyd.

This sense of polite smoothness continued with “Happiness,” the track that comes between parts one and two of “Another Brick in the Wall.” This track was also portrayed by a large soundstage beginning slightly behind the speakers. Vocals remained clear and solidly placed, with good detail. The drum track was deep and very solid. The bass was fairly tight, with a bit of bloom as it neared the midrange area. Again, I was impressed by the depth and ability of the bass that these relatively small speakers were providing -- no one will accuse these speakers of being flat in the low end.

The Downside
The Evolution 3s are perfectly suited for reproducing most, but not all, types of music. The Evolution 3s can sound slightly smooth and can lack immediacy for those looking for a musical adrenaline rush. They were very detailed and sweet and portrayed most music with great accuracy, yet for lovers of rock, you might find yourself a gear short of racetrack nirvana. I also noted during my listening that extremely high volumes pose a challenge, causing over-extension and break-up due to dynamic compression. Accordingly, if the majority of your listening material is rock ‘n’ roll or fast-paced jazz and you like to listen at concert levels, the Evolution 3s may not be for you. While I did not have a chance to listen to other speakers in the Jean Marie Reynaud line, they make larger speakers that may have many of the Evolution 3’s traits while being able to retain their dynamic range at higher volumes.

The Evolution 3 is an extremely musical speaker that, despite its fairly small floor-standing stature had a relatively extended frequency range. The speakers remained smooth and polished, reproducing nearly everything without strain. It is, however, this seemingly effortless sonic reproduction capability that also forms the basis of my only sonic criticism of lacking energy to reproduce paint off the ceiling rock without the biggest of power amps. On the other hand, these speakers are very well suited for long listening sessions with many types of music, especially those featuring acoustic instruments. I should note that very few if any speakers in this price class handle all types of music perfectly. That rare class happens most often in the higher-priced products. As with most all audio/video products, there are compromises and the best decision is based on your particular listening preferences.

Anyone listening to the Evolution 3 will be rewarded with a wide soundstage filled with solid, palpable sources, each with their own sense of space. You will feel as though you are sitting a bit farther from the performance, so if you are the person who is always sitting in the front row, these may not be the speakers for you. If you enjoy listening to live acoustic music from the middle of the auditorium, picking out the details that make a large coherent soundstage come alive, then you should give the Evolution 3s a close listen. I found them to be one of the more enjoyable-sounding speakers in their price class.
Manufacturer Jean Marie Reynaud
Model Evolution 3 Loudspeakers
Reviewer Brian Kahn

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