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Reviewer: Paul Candy
Source: Eastern Electric Minimax CD player, Audio Zone DAC-1 non-oversampling digital filter-less DAC, Pro-Ject RPM 5 turntable w/Ortofon Rondo Blue cartridge
Preamp/Integrated: Manley Labs Shrimp, Audio Zone AMP-1, Pro-Ject Tube Box phono stage, Euphya Alliance 270 integrated [in for review]
Amp: Manley Labs Mahi monoblocks
Speakers: Green Mountain Audio Callisto (on sand filled Skylan stands), REL Q108 Mk II subwoofer
Cables: Acoustic Zen, Audience, DH Labs, JPS Labs
Power Cables: Audience, GutWire, Harmonic Technology, Wireworld
Stands: Premier three-tier, filled with sand
Powerline conditioning: BPT Pure Power Center w/Wattgate 381 outlets w/ Bybee Quantum Purifiers and ERS cloth, GutWire MaxCon
Sundry accessories: Grado SR-60 headphones, Pro-Ject Speed Box, Gingko Audio Cloud 11 platform, Skylan damping boards, Grand Prix Audio APEX footers, Isoclean fuses, Walker Audio SST contact enhancer, Nanotech Intron 8500 CD fluid, Audio Magic/Quantum Physics Noise Disruptors, Herbie's Way Excellent Turntable Mat, dedicated AC line with Wattgate 381 outlet, Echo Busters acoustic room treatments
Room size: 11' x 18' x 8', long wall setup, hardwood floors with large area rug
Review Component Retail: $1,295/pr

I have admired JM Reynaud loudspeakers ever since my introduction to the line several years ago at Toronto retailer Applause Audio. Regardless of the model on active display, this brand has consistently impressed me, not for HiFi fireworks but for its easy-going, good-natured musical vibe. In fact, one of the most satisfying yet affordable systems I can recall featured an earlier iteration of today's subject, along with an Audiomat Arpege integrated and the entry-level belt-drive CEC CD player plus JPS Labs Ultraconductor cabling and a REL sub - no doubt a perfect candidate for Jeff Day's Music Lover series. While proprietor Rob Doughty has displayed considerably more expensive high performance systems, this one just played tunes without fanfare or "listen to me" shout. The entry-level JM Reynaud Twin Signature, along with its more expensive brethren, is the sort of speaker that almost defies the usual laundry list of audiophile descriptors. Suffice it to say that I have lusted for a review pair for some time. Hopefully the magic I experienced in Rob's shop would reappear in my home.

The JM Reynaud brand has been in operation for nearly 40 years and is well known and respected in Europe but relatively unknown in North America apart from a half dozen or so retailers. That's a pity. Reynaud is unique and has much to offer. An email to US Distributor Bob Neill of Amherst Audio resulted in a pair of Twin Signatures appearing on my doorstep a few weeks later.

The Twin Signature is an updated version of the Twin favorably reported on in Art Dudley's Listener magazine several years ago. Today's model sports updated drivers, crossovers and cabinets. The Twin Siggy is a fairly substantial two-way stand-mounted loudspeaker measuring 17" high, 13.8" wide and 8" tall. Weight is approximately 24lbs per speaker. Nominal impedance is specified at 4 ohms and sensitivity as a healthy 91dB/1W1m. Frequency response is 50 to 22,000Hz.

Driver complement consists of a 6.7" aquaplast-coated paper woofer and a 1" graphite-coated silk dome tweeter with a double neodymium magnet and a wave guide for improved lateral dispersion. The tweeter is damped with a double-tuned rear chamber. The crossover is a 2nd order with a 3.5kHz cut off. I peaked inside and the crossover components seemed high quality air coils, polypropylene caps and resistors. All connections were soldered, no push-on clips in sight. Instead of a cabinet packed full of fiberglass or polyfill, a few foam panels line portions of the interior. The cabinet features tuned triangular cavities with a foam-plugged low-noise slot port on the front and a single pair of metal binding on the back. Forget biwiring and spend your money on records instead. Trust me, you'll feel better. The enclosure consists of Medite with Aniegre veneer on both sides. The cabinet edges sport rounded solid wood insert to reduce edge diffraction. The included dust covers rolled off the highs, hence I left them off during listening sessions. The Twins subscribe to the Henry Ford school of finish options. Instead of black, the Twins are available in any finish as long as it's wild cherry. Build quality and appearance are exemplary.

I placed the Twins on my 24" sand-filled Skylan stands and positioned them approximately four feet from the back wall and three feet from the side walls, with my listening location about eight feet away.

My Manley Labs Mahi/Shrimp combo was an ideal match. Together this arrangement exhibited a joie de vivre that I found irresistible. This was a fun-loving, toe-tapping, barn-storming setup that kept me thoroughly immersed in the music as opposed to trying to pick apart sonic traits. Sure, in absolute terms there were some sonic shortcomings with resolution and transparency but I just couldn't get riled up about it. I suspect Manley's less expensive Stingray integrated too would be a near perfect mate for the Twin Siggies. In fact Bob recommends that very match on his site. Other fine pairings involved fellow Gallic brand Euphya's Alliance 270 solid-state integrated and Audio Space's Houston Mini-2 EL-34 based amp. The Euphya was all about silky smoothness, clarity, lean textures and relaxed ease whereas the Mini-2 offered a harmonically richer, bloomier presentation.

A hard rap of my knuckles against the Twin's cabinet produced a prominent 'bonk'. A more useful test for checking cabinet resonance is placing either your ear or better yet, a stethoscope against the enclosure while playing music. With my cast marble Green Mountain Audio Callisto, there is hardly any sound whereas with the Twin, I could hear plenty of activity particularly in the lower end of the spectrum. My guess is that this was partially responsible for the speaker's slightly opaque and warmish tonal balance. I only mention this as a critical observation. Neither of these traits impeded my enjoyment of these speakers. In fact, they probably contributed to said enjoyment. However, there are two schools of thought regarding loudspeaker cabinet designs. The concrete school states that cabinets should be as inert as possible to avoid coloring the speaker's output. Others believe enclosures should resonate in a controlled manner like a musical instrument - the new Onkyo/Takamine model built like a guitar is an example. I don't think one is necessarily right and the other wrong. In audio, implementation is king. Nevertheless, the panel-like speed and freedom from boxy resonances of my Callistos certainly has me leaning towards the former school. I'm not aware of any sonic signature with their cabinet at all. The Twin enclosure on the other hand was certainly audible, albeit in a pleasant manner.

Normally I'm drawn to a very limited range of loudspeakers that preserve the original waveform. Invariably this means single driver or minimalist crossover designs. But these little upstarts somehow managed to consistently crawl under my skin and draw me in. Unfortunately, that's a rare occurrence for me due to my listening conditioning. It's that drawing-in effect where the Twins come closest to the Callistos.

Considering how their designer Jean-Marie Reynaud above is a classical music fan, one would be wrong to conclude that the Twins are more suited to acoustic instruments than good ol' Rock'n'Roll. Indeed, the Twins performed exceptionally well regardless of the material I threw at them. It was only when I cranked up the volume to high levels that compression and congestion set in.

I marveled at how well the Twins handled Alain Planes' wonderful new recording of Debussy Piano Works [Harmonia Mundi HMC 901893], DG's recent reissue of Evgeny Mravinsky's famous recordings of Tchaikovsky's Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Symphonies [DG 477 5911] and Telemann's Suites and Concerto for Orchestra [Harmonia Mundi HMC 901917]. The Twins were equally adept with Radio Tarifa's Temporal [World Circuit/Nonesuch 79499-2], Sonic Youth's Rather Ripped [Geffen B000675702] and Howe Gelb's brilliant 'Sno Angel Like You [Thrill Jockey 167]. Neko Case's Fox Confessor Brings the Flood [Anti-86777-2] made an appearance too as one of the better albums I've heard this year.

Unlike other small stand-mounted speakers, the Twins did not exhibit a big airy soundstage but one that was more solid and weighty and projected with a mid-hall perspective. Bass was surprisingly full and solid yet agile if lacking somewhat in slam and extension. No big shock there. The Twin after all is a small box with a 6.7" driver. However, I obtained a seamless match with my REL Q-108 sub. Five years ago I would have blown raspberries at the notion of using a subwoofer. Now I freely admit that in smallish rooms, the satellite/sub approach might be the most cost-effective way to get around speaker placement and bass standing- wave problems. Nevertheless, the Twin's bass performance was better than expected even without the REL and there was more than enough bottom end to underpin rock recordings with a convincing foundation. Just don't try to crank them up to window-rattling levels.

The midrange was sumptuous, almost creamy in texture. Treble was extended and sweet - no bite. On material with lots of treble energy, there was a little wispiness in the highs that became occasionally noticeable. Otherwise this is not a speaker voiced with an overly analytical or tipped-up character. The Twins were far more subtle and pleasantly balanced. In fact, the latter is probably the key to the Twin's performance. But that doesn't mean they were dull either. Au contraire, mon frère. There was just something inexorably yet calmly authoritative about these Frenchmen that enticed me to just sit back and relax when listening to music.

Vocals were wonderful and centered within the soundfield. Unlike other small speakers, the midrange did not seem bumped up to offer the illusion of clarity and transparency. I could certainly focus on individual lines and instruments but with the Twins, the whole came first. Think of the recorded conducting style of old where the long line was paramount along with an all-encompassing vision and a more flexible interpretive style. Think Furtwangler, Klemperer, Barbirolli, Toscanini, Giulini and Co. as opposed to the start-stop style and obsession with technical perfection that robs so many contemporary recordings of spontaneity and excitement. The Twins are more like the former, always concerned with giving you the big picture and maintaining proper attention to it. Most modern loudspeakers I hear remind me of the latter.

There was something else too: when I listened to John Coltrane's My Favorite Things [Atlantic 1361], I didn't just hear his enormous technical chops and improvisational brilliance. Instead I heard his ideas, his spirit, his faith and most of all, his ability to provoke an emotional response and transport the listener. It's difficult enough to forget audiophile minutiae, to just open up and get lost in the music. It's considerably easier with a speaker like the Twin.

Compared to my GMA Callistos, the Twins were noticeably veiled but somehow still managed all the essentials, the notes, the beats, the spectacle. There was no tizz, boom or bloat. The Callistos are clean, articulate and transparent to a fault. I wouldn't object if some folks found them perhaps a little too stark. I doubt anyone would say the same about the Twins. They tend towards the slightly warm and fuzzy. The Twins might have lacked the transient speed and transparency of the Callistos but they compensated with natural warmth and expressiveness.

Against the $1,200/pr Silverline Audio Prelude I reviewed in June, the Twins are superior in midrange richness and offer more rhythmic bounce and drive. The thin towers from Cali are cooler, with leaner textures and clean crisper highs. While the Preludes seem more resolved and brightly lit than the Twins, the latter simply dig into the music to a greater degree.

Briefly compared to Reynaud's more upscale models in a retail setting, oddly enough I didn't feel as though I was listening to the budget model of the line with the usual inherent limitations and compromises. I suspect each Reynaud offering is designed for differing priorities and systems rather than just filling various price points by stuffing more drivers in bigger boxes.

I can't think of anything near this price range that has impressed me as the Twins have. My dad was certainly smitten. He purchased my review loaners right out from under me. The rascal! I'd brought them over to his house so I could try them with his Audio Space Mini-2 EL-34 integrated. They haven't left since. In fact, I had to return to photograph them. With his new Twins and tube integrated, my father now listens to music more often and for longer periods than I can ever recall. I can't think of a stronger endorsement.

If you have a small to mid-sized room, a nice 30-40 watt integrated, listen to all kinds of music and are not an imaging & detail freak, the JM Reynaud Twins just might be the cat's pyjamas.

In conclusion, the Twins are smooth operators with a warmish tonal character, decent frequency extension with just a touch of congestion at high volume levels. It's a lovely, perfectly balanced little speaker that doesn't try to blow you away. Definitely not a typical audiophile speaker but one more suited to mélomanes. I doubt gear heads will be sufficiently impressed. But that's okay. There are plenty of overpriced aural ice picks to keep both them and AudiogoN busy. The Twins are about timbre, musical nuance and achieving intimacy with the music. The JM Reynaud Twin Signature is one of my favorite loudspeakers I've heard to date and a top
recommendation when friends and relatives ask for a décor- and wallet-friendly speaker. Frankly, I'm amazed that a $1,300/pr speaker can exude this degree of musical richness. I think you'd have to spend considerably more to get a speaker substantially better than this. Very highly recommended. But only if you value music over sound effects.
Manufacturer's website
US importer's website