The latest creation from Jean-Marie Reynaud, the Jean-Marie Reynaud Emma speaker is the fruit of collaboration between the French manufacturer and Son-Vidéo.com. In a recent interview, the brand’s director explained that the Emma speaker was created to make the signature Jean-Marie Reynaud audio experience more widely accessible. In other words, the Emma will allow a new audience to discover the reasons behind the excellent reputation the brand has enjoyed among audiophiles for the past few decades. If Son-Vidéo.com has joined Jean-Marie Reynaud for the Emma project, it’s because we wanted to accompany the brand and become the lucky distributor with exclusive distribution rights for this speaker. That being said, the Emma speaker is 100% Jean-Marie Reynaud, and it has been designed and built from A to Z by the brand. A true JMR product, and the brand’s first mini floorstanding speaker.
Jean-Marie Reynaud: audio goldsmith
When we reviewed the JMR Cantabile Jubilé a few weeks ago, we were reminded of the fact that listening to a Jean-Marie Reynaud speaker is a truly unique experience. Anyone who has the opportunity to listen to one in person will likely agree that a Jean-Marie Reynaud speaker stands a head above the competition. The care that has gone into fine-tuning the Jean-Marie Reynaud sound signature is remarkable, as is the amount of detail ensured throughout the entire audio spectrum. Never overly bold, a JMR speaker is impressive for its simplicity, accurate timbres and unmistakable musicality. A true audio masterpiece.
While the Emma’s drivers are similar to those which equip the JMR Lucia, some adjustments have been made to their structure and implementation: the tweeter is not decoupled as it is for the Cantabile, and the drivers do not benefit from axial fastening. Yet the brand confirms that the core characteristics are the same: an optimized enclosure, a finely crafted passive crossover filter, and an easy-to-drive design. A compact stereo amplifier capable of driving 4 Ohm speakers is a suitable match for the JMR Emma.
JMR Emma: design
The Jean-Marie Reynaud Emma speaker is a 2.5-way hi-fi model with a triangular transmission line and a laminar port. Its two 5.1” drivers are fitted with coated pulp paper cones and accompanied by a fabric dome tweeter fitted with a neodymium magnet. The speaker’s 5.1” drivers are not filtered in the same manner: one is dedicated to lows and the lower midrange, while the other covers higher frequencies (up to the upper midrange), at which point the tweeter takes over.
The JMR Emma’s drivers are custom-made by French manufacturers–Audax, mainly–and are thus precisely adjusted to match the brand’s specifications.
The Jean-Marie Reynaud Emma’s specs are reassuring, and the bass extension down to 48 Hz seems reasonable for a bass driver of this size. The bass drivers aren’t forced to delve deeper, a technique sometimes used to offer impressive bass which, on the downside, can wind up sounding rather dull. Just like any other JMR speaker, the Emma features a triangular transmission line and a front-firing laminar port. Compared to a ported bass-reflex enclosure, lows are tighter and smoother. The speaker is also easier to drive, and its impedance is less variable.
JMR Emma: esthetics
The JMR speaker is a mini floorstanding model which is just under 2¾’ (85cm) tall. In other words, it is anywhere from 2-4” shorter than most other floorstanders on the market. As such, you could replace a pair of bookshelf speakers with a pair of Emma speakers and still enjoy the benefits of a discrete installation. The Emma’s MDF cabinet features either a satin black finish (the model we reviewed) or a cherry wood veneer. The speaker’s front panel is partially lined with felt around its drivers, which serves to reduce diffraction and prevent interference. A magnetic, acoustic cloth grill may be attached above the speaker’s front-firing laminar port, and decoupling spikes are included.
JMR Emma: test conditions and listening impressions
We listened to tracks from the following albums: Melody Gardot – Live in Europe (FLAC 24/48), Chet Baker – Baker’s Holiday (FLAC 24/192), Janis Joplin – Pearl (FLAC 24/96), Muddy Waters – Folk Singer (24/192), Jean-Louis Aubert – Live=Vivant (FLAC 16/44) and Notorious Big – Life After Death (16/44).
The JMR Emma speaker stands out for its subtle blend of vigor and neutrality, with a generous upper bass register and lower midrange, along with discrete highs and detailed, natural mids once the break-in period is over. No trace of coloration is to be heard–something rare in this day and age–and the timing is never off, even when the Emma is driven by the compact Yamaha receiver.
Excellent transient response and no trailing, with generous extension in the lows and plenty of energy in the upper bass register. Once the speaker is broken-in, the drivers contribute to ensuring a very well-articulated restitution. The Emma doesn’t need a huge amplifier to deliver convincing lows lows, and it restitutes the timbres of an upright bass with flawless accuracy.
The detail in the lower midrange and the clarity in the upper midrange make for excellent vocal restitution. Stringed instruments also benefit, while percussion instruments are full of energy. The restitution of the mids is natural, as can be expected from a JMR speaker.
The tweeter is surprisingly discrete: we couldn’t hear it and yet nothing seemed to be missing from the restitution. Never overly bright, always smooth and in their rightful place (with any amplifier), highs didn’t suffer from the slightest hint of coloration.
All the conditions are met to offer accurate timbres. The Emma speaker doesn’t aim for flattery, and its neutrality allows the restitution to ring true at all times. The classic challenge of restituting the sound of a brush on a snare drum is impressively met.
The image is deep, well centered, and a bit set back from the speakers in our listening room (31.5”/80cm away from the rear wall), which allows the soundstage to fully unfold at all volume levels.
Q Acoustics Concept 40: the energy is much less evenly distributed with the Q Acoustics, which delves deeper in the bass but struggles to ensure a neutral restitution. We’d choose the Concept 40 for a home cinema session or pair it up with an amplifier that’s (very) modest in its restitution of high frequencies.
Tannoy Revolution XT6F: the XT6F proposes a more physiological and less neutral restitution (generous lows, crystal-clear treble). While less detail in the lower midrange makes for more approximative timbres, the soundstage remains very well layered.
Focal Aria 926: the Focal speaker is more demonstrative on every level, but its showy approach might disappoint those looking for a discrete restitution with more accurate timbres. In this respect, the Emma is the 926’s polar opposite.
Dali Opticon 6: more difficult to power, the Dali offers even more delicate highs and powerful lows. The soundstage is, however, less wide compared to the Emma.
It’s difficult not to come away from our test of the Jean-Marie Reynaud Emma with a positive impression, not because Son-Vidéo.com accompanied the brand in its development of this speaker, but because the Emma is not just a discounted version of a JMR speaker, devoid of the brand’s DNA. Instead, the Emma is a shining example of French sound: warm yet precise, with accurate timbres and a generous amount of energy.
What we liked:
- The small-scale format
- The harmonious design
- The detailed upper bass and lower midrange
- The remarkably discrete tweeter
- How easy it is to power
What we would have liked:
- For it to have arrived earlier