This week we are reviewing the Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia-EX Limited edition bookshelf speaker, a compact audiophile model, inspired by the Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia, with the addition of a matte white finish and a phase plug for the tweeter. This speaker was designed for demanding audiophiles, particularly in regard to its tone accuracy and soundstage consistency.
Jean-Marie Reynaud is an iconic French Hi-Fi brand. Created by Jean-Marie Reynaud in 1967, the company is based in Charentes and still uses traditional manufacturing techniques to patiently handcraft speakers for the greatest pleasure of music lovers. Today directed by Jean-Claude Reynaud, the company’s catalog features compact, floor-standing and mounted speakers as well as home cinema models.
Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia EX: a speaker you can place anywhere
Jean-Claude Reynaud was kind enough to discuss the design process of the Folia with us. He mentioned that he wanted a “simple and compact speaker which would be easy to place and could be installed traditionally on a stand or mounted on the wall without affecting the sound restitution”. “Most of all,” he added, “I wanted it to be as affordable as possible while respecting our quality standards for music listening”. In order to reach this goal, Jean-Claude Reynaud used “an asymmetrical load principle, consisting of two asymmetrical gaps tuned together using a Helmholtz resonator. A technique similar to a Bass-reflex enclosure”. The first gap is fitted with foam parts at the back and on the top of the driver, while the second gap is completely empty. “This brings prompt responsiveness to the low and lower-medium frequencies without adding a padded sound coloration”.
Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia EX: drivers made in France
The Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia EX may be entry level speaker but it is by no means a cheaply-made model. Although the shape of this speaker is not particularly surprising, the technology used for its design is astonishing. The drivers, which are built according to a bill of specifications, are assembled by different contractors (the Italian company Ciare being one of them) who nonetheless do not construct all the parts themselves. The woofer’s graphite paper cone or the tweeter’s silk dome are, for example, manufactured by a French contactor. Each model is therefore unique and specifically manufactured for Jean-Marie Reynaud. When discussing the bass driver, Jean-Claude Reynaud mentioned that it uses a “more affordable yet similar base to the Cantabile Suprême, the same copper winding, former and motor. It uses a 28 mm coil with a kapton mount, a ventilated speeder, a double magnet and an ABS anti-resonance frame”.
As for the tweeter, explains Jean-Claude Reynaud, “it uses a 25 mm coil, a French-made silk dome, as well as a neodymium magnet and features a tuned port to lower the resonance frequency to 800 Hz”. This detail is very important as most tweeters naturally resonate at a higher frequency, thus affecting the 2 kHz frequency range, to which our ears are very sensitive.
Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia EX : an electronic crossover filter welded by hand
The passive filter of the Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia bookshelf speaker has a high-pass and low-pass cutoff frequency of 3.2 kHz. Jean-Claude Reynaud explained that the crossover filter is “entirely assembled by hand, without any printed circuit, to avoid insertion loss. All the components of the filters are directly welded together using silver and are positioned in the most efficient way”. The components are oriented to avoid any unwanted electromagnetic field generation. All components are of audiophile quality: SCR 650 V polypropylene capacitors, high power capacity ceramic resistors and 1.2 mm gauge pure OFC wire self with ferrite support, for a very low ohm resistance. “This self enables the speaker to deliver crisp bass without any dynamic reduction and with a very low level of distortion”. Lastly, a specific copper-silver cable is used for internal wiring.
Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia EX: a new phase plug
The Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia EX uses a diffuser, or pole piece, for the tweeter. This addition enhances the tweeter’s directivity and linearity. The tweeter and the boomer are equally surrounded by a layer of felt used to diffract the sound reflection caused by the cabinet. “It also enhances tone accuracy and optimizes the dispersion of the signal beyond its normal axis. The listening experience is a bit more precise than with the standard version, the directivity is more controlled and the high end of the sound spectrum is more linear. The difference is not drastic but is audible”, says Jean-Claude Reynaud.
“It is a true “Reynaud” speaker with a nice tone and an assertive and spontaneous personality, delivering rich mediums and a detailed, yet never aggressive, treble. The soundstage is well-defined and deep, the bass range is well-articulated but never too low. This speaker never disappoints when used at home in an average-sized room at an appropriate level”.
— Jean-Claude Reynaud
Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia EX: the specs
The Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia EX bookshelf speaker is a 2-way model fitted with a 5″ paper graphite cone medium-bass driver. The driver’s air supply comes from two asymmetrical loads, one being tuned by a lateral circular resonator. The tweeter is a 1″ silk dome model. The frequency response of the Folia ranges between 60Hz and 22kHz within a +/- 3 dB margin. It displays a 86 dB sensitivity at 1kHz, a 120 W power capacity and a low impedance of 4 Ohms. These features imply a certain frequency response linearity as well as very few bumps and drops. Any musical amplifier able to deliver 30 watts or more can be used to drive the Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia EX.
The manufacturer communicated the response curve of the Folia EX, measured in a 30m² living room without any particular acoustic treatment. The straight line we can observe shows that the drivers, the load and the filter are perfectly handled. On closer examination, , we can notice a slight emphasis on high frequencies (from 10 to 15 kHz), which doesn’t color the sound but is caused by the proximity of the measuring microphone. When sitting at the right distance, linearity is ensured. The slight drop between 2 and 3 kHz is a good thing, as a peak in this range often results in a harsher sound. The woofer’s response drops down to 150 Hz, which is normal given its diameter and load, before being picked up by the bass-reflex resonator at 60 Hz. The steep drop below this frequency is normal; it is due to the resonator acting as a mechanic high-pass, steep slope filter (which also protects the driver’s cone from excessive movements in the infrabass range).
A linear curve is not everything, as it can be obtained at the expense of the dynamics of the delivery. Which is why we made sure the curve was true to its word.
Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia EX: setup and listening conditions
We listened to the Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia EX bookshelf speakers installed on a pair of Jean-Marie Reynaud Magic Stands and connected to various amplifiers such as the Hegel H80, NuPrime IDA-8 and Denon DRA-100. We used NorStone W250 cables and the source was a Daphile OS computer (eeePC) along with a Micromega MyDAC USB DAC, connected to the amplifier with Viard Audio Premium HD RCA-RCA cables.
We listened to the following albums: Nina Simone – Little Blue Girl (FLAC 24/96), Maria Callas – Carmen (FLAC 24/96), Muddy Waters – Folk Singer (FLAC 24/192), Depeche Mode – Delta Machine (FLAC 24/96), Supertramp – Crime of the Century (16/44), Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon (FLAC 24/96), Jean-Louis Aubert – Live=Vivant (FLAC 16/44), Muse – Live at Rome Olympic Stadium (FLAC 24/48).
Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia EX: listening impressions
The model we used for this review and listened to all week was marked as number zero. Our pair of JMR Folia EX was thus perfectly broken-in, which allowed us to appreciate its true performance from the very first notes. The sound delivered by the Folia EX is extremely meticulous and clearly serene. From one end of the spectrum to the other, the sound was never stiff, regardless of the amplifier. The various ranges were well-layered and the energy well-distributed. The Folia’s dynamic capacity speaks for itself. Most speakers in this price range, even more expensive models, experience an increasing stiffness as the volume is turned up. The Folia EX, on the contrary, is never short-winded. Casta Diva sang by Maria Callas is a formidable test for this. The singer’s voice unfolds and fills the space without becoming invasive or suffering any dynamic drop. We experienced the same result listening to Muddy Waters (My Home is in the Delta), which can be a strenuous test for many speakers.
It goes without saying that the JMR Folia EX does not have the ability to deliver very low frequencies, yet it stays consistent and in control. The transient regime is excellent, regardless of the amplifier and the swiftness of the bass range is comparable to that of a sealed enclosure speaker. The sound doesn’t drag, which adds a lot of depth to the soundstage. It has been a while since we heard such results from a compact speaker. If you are planning to pair the Folia with a subwoofer, we recommend using a closed enclosure model with a medium size driver in order to preserve the vitality of the low frequencies (such as the Rel T Zero, for example).
The sound is extremely accurate, from the low-medium to the high-medium, and the energy is evenly distributed. The result is quite simply superb. Not a hint of harshness, just a great presence which captivates the attention of the listener and never lets it go. The vocal range is delivered in a unique way. The sound is perfectly layered both horizontally and vertically; everything is perfect.
The Folia EX has the ability to go up high in a dynamic and persuasive way without ever being too bright.
Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia EX: conclusions
What we liked
- The realistic tones
- The dynamic balance from bass to treble
- The open soundstage
- The tight bass range
- The successful wager of an affordable high-end speaker
What we would have liked
- We would have enjoyed a more extended response in the lower end of the spectrum. However, we need to be realistic and accept that a compact speaker cannot, and should not, cover an excessive range without coming at the expense of the listener.
The Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia EX does everything like a great speaker should. We highly recommend it if your are looking for a true audiophile and flavorful sound. The Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia EX is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, an illustration of the French sound. We recommend using it along with a class A or AB amplifier, not necessarily a high-wattage one, but with a decent power supply (Rega (Brio-R), NAD, Musical Fidelity, Naim, etc.).French