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|Suggested Retail Price:||$3500|
|Description:||Floor standing ribbon hybrid|
|Review by jonbee (A) on December 03, 2006 at 12:22:53|
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for the RM30
One of the seminal events in my 39 years in this hobby occured when I heard a pair of Infinity Servostatics in 1969. I thought my system at the time was pretty good (Rectilinear III speakers, AR amp, AR turntable, Shure V15-II cartridge) but the version of audio reality served up by those big stats changed my view of audio possibilities forever. I don't need to preach to the choir about the virtues of good planars; but those of us whove owned them know the transparency, immediacy, lack of coloration, etc. are purchased at a price, and not only in dollars. Planars bring a new set of design difficulties, which dozens of firms have tried to conquer. A partial list:
Managing room interactions with dipoles- having large dedicated spaces which you can freely "redecorate" with wall treatments, etc.
Panel resonances which produce unexpected harmonic signatures
Beaming. A planar wavewfront propogates very differently than that from a cone or horn. This leads to narrow sweet spots, and commonly weird phase shifts when on moves even a couple inches (comb filtering, or "venetian blinding")
Low frequencies require large panels, accentuating issues 1&2 above.
Radiating a wide range of frequencies fom a single driver, particularly a wide one, introduces new types of distortions.
In order to put planars into normal sized rooms, many companies have gone the hybrid route, giving the lower frequencies to cones, thus allowing much smaller panels.
This, of course introduces a difficult problem of integrating a fast, low coloration planar with a slower cone, usually in a box, that has higher coloration and a different radiation pattern.
In spite of these issues, over the years I've owned stats from Infinity(2000A), 3 pair from Janszen, Quad ESL57 and 63, Maggie MG1,MG2,MGIII, Tympani iV, and ribbons from Infinity (RS2.5), VMPS 626R and RM30, Apogee Duetta, Diva, and Caliper Signature.
I've built several pair of my own hybrids, and of course I've heard many, many more.
The pinnacle for me was the Apogee Diva, a 6'x2.5' 3 way dipole ribbon that was the top of the Apogee line. It created a palpable full sized recreation of the music that even the most tin-eared bystanders were awed to experience.
They required a lot of space, and when I remarried a decade ago I lost that space. My 16.5x19.5 living room and the wife that comes with it simply cannot support dipole radiators. For the last 3 years I've happily lived with Thiel 3.6s in this room; they give up some tranparency and immediacy, but their excellent balance, integration, and musicality made a very enjoyable experience.
I'd been watching the development of the VMPS RM30 for some time, as it is sized and configured well for a medium sized room.
This year the cabinet finishes were upgrade from adequate to awesome, and the introduction of the Constant Directivity Wave Guide offered a promising solution to the planar bugaboos of beaming, comb filtering and narrow sweet spot. Also an outboard xover was introduced.
Brian offered to send me a basic version in the "C" config., which is designed to be used with a sub. After listening for about 5 hours
I knew Brian had gotten it right: he had produced a planar hybrid that had most of the positive qualities of the very best planars, and had finessed the problem areas listed above so as eliminate them or reduce them to irrelevancy.
I say "most" of the best qualities because as a monopole, there is not the "room filling" expansiveness of big dipoles; there is also a lot less problems with room interaction, so it is a mixed verdict on that point.
I won't go into audiogeek detail about the sound qualities; lovers of good planars know what they are; IMO the RM30s I bought, with
a stunning Piano rosewood finish, auricaps, Black Hole 5 lining, and external xover, simply are at or near the top of the breed in the areas planar lovers cherish- speed, clarity, harmonic correctness and imaging.
One area that is worth mentioning is the soundstage: on decent recordings, a 3-d holographic image of great precision from top to bottom floats quite freely of the speakers; it is nearly unchanged anywhere between the two speakers (about 10 feet apart, in my room), and even 45 degrees off axis, outside the speakers, which is where my wife likes to sit, the frequency balance is nearly unchanged, with a still credible image. I know of NO other speaker that can do this. I've owned Ohm Walsh 5s, and the RM30 gives you the soundstage width of that speaker, but with SOTA pinpoint delineation of instruments. I believe this is a product of the CDWG and associated xover changes made in 8/2006. I won't go into how this works, but I'm convinced that it surely does work.
The bottom line is that I've once again gotten really excited about my music. I've got a 3 foot stack of cds that I'm hearing as if it's the first time. This joy is what this hobby has alway been about for me.
I consider myself an audio bargain hunter. When I look at the high end speaker market, and listen to these RM30s, I conclude if ANY speaker on the market is worth $4-5K, it is this one. And my wife agrees-(her comment: "These don't look like speakers, they look like sculptures!")
Will everyone like these? Will Martians be at my Thanksgiving dinner next year? I doubt it. Those that like a warmer, denser, more resonant sound in particular probably won't. But if you love speakers, planars in particular,
and want to know what is possible in a real-world medium sized room system, you should hear this latest iteration (post-8/2006) and consider them as an option, preferably in a nice, quiet, relaxed environment, where one can take the time to appreciate what these very refined speakers can do.
|Product Weakness:||The flip side- no added warmth or sweetening- extensive adjustment period; need a sub for deep bass. (I use a Carver x'd over at 30 hz.)|
|Product Strengths:||Holographic soundstage,vanishing coloration,explosive dynamics, yet very smooth,subtle and refined at the same time. W I D E sweetspot, amazing cabinetry, high WAF.|
|Associated Equipment for this Review:|
|Amplifier:||Modded PS Audio HCA2|
|Preamplifier (or None if Integrated):||PS Audio PCA2|
|Sources (CDP/Turntable):||Maxed out ModWright/Sony 999|
|Speakers:||thiel 3.6, RM30|
|Cables/Interconnects:||Goertz TQ silver, .99999 pure silver/teflon braids for spkrs|
|Music Used (Genre/Selections):||Lots, every kind|
|Room Size (LxWxH):||16.5 x 19.5 x 8|
|Room Comments/Treatments:||Lots of glass. High-rise condo|
|Time Period/Length of Audition:||5 weeks|
|Type of Audition/Review:||Product Owner|
Great review...pretty much sums up my almost identical experiences in my living room. I've been listening to RM30M's for six months now and after a bit of tweeking and a placement change or two I'm a very pleased and satisfied customer. Being a cheep country boy, I really appreciate the value and the awesome good looks.
If I had to pick the one aspect I like best it would have to be how well they scale with volume. Nothing jumps forward, nothing recesses and absoulutely no strain at all...the damn things just continue to increase intensity 'till my amps (325W) begin to run out of steam.
I'm keeping mine and happy to hear you're enjoying yours.
I enjoyed your review.
How do they perform at moderate volumes? Is it the type of the speaker that requires turning it up a bit to fully appreciate them?
Also, can they integrate within 8-9 feet from them?
playing quietly, late at night, they are just as detailed and dynamic, and the fundamental signature stays intact. More than most, when you turn them up, they just get louder. The character doesn't change.
I think integration changes some when you're closer that 7 feet or so. They sound good, though, even 3 feet away! The CDWG has something to do with this, I think.
I sit about 12 feet away, but that's mostly for room decor reasons. I'm quite sure I'd be happy several feet closer.
Thanks for the review - interesting comments and those rosewood RM30s sure a purdy!
Although I'm not a Thiel kinda gal, I think hearing the Apogee Divas on a regular basis several years ago was one of the great audio pleasures of my music loving life (they belonged to a friend).
I've always liked the RM40s as well.
Keep us posted.
I heard the (non CWG) 30s at a local dealer recently. I didn't buy them, but the least I can do is plug them, as they were probably in the top 5 speakers I've heard at about any price. Scary real imaging and purity of midrange that is 2nd to none. And these were not the newest ones and were fed by NuForce amps which I usually hate (had a pair).
Thanks for a great review, short, and to the point.
I remember seeing your beloved Thiel 3.6's for sale on AudioGon.
Once I saw that, I knew a great review was going to be coming from you.
That did not surprise me one bit, because everyone has really been surprised at the performance of the CD Waveguide equipped RM 30's!
Especially, at how little they cost.
As you know, I own older, non CD Waveguide RM 40's, and VMPS has not forgotten us.
Soon, we will have an update for our speakers too!
The cabinets really look wonderful, and it is really nice to have the external crossover option too.
In the future, even better capacitors may become available, and it will be an easy job to upgrade.
I was curious as to what stuff you tried ahead of them ?
Have you tried a tube amp yet ?
Word from the "underground" is that they sounded glorious with the new Bruce Moore Tube Stuff ?
My tastes do run to the "denser, more resonant sound..." (+warm, well if you mean Druids, it's not quite what I might want...)
I have been very impressed with planars in the past, and some dipoles, so if anyone ever brings the RM30 to the next New York HE show I'll give them a serious listen.
Thanks for a well thought out review.
Could you email about your VMPS speakers.
I have some questions for you and am interested in these speakers as I am having to sell my Maggies.
I responded to your post over on planar ...
Regarding VMPS 30's, these were one of the first speakers I considered to replace my 2.5's. I contacted the VMPS European distributor (in Croatia, of all places ...) and explained to him what I was looking for. His answer seemed quite honest and frank, and convinced me not to pursue the 30's. Plus, they are designed to be used with a sub, and this wasn't the route I wanted to go. I think you will find placing these a challenge in your room.
The distributor suggested the 40's are more what I was looking for. However, these are very, very heavy floor standers, and expensive. If I lived on the ground floor, and never move house again, I would seriously consider these, but such is not my case ... Again placement in your room could be a problem with the 40's, as they need some distance from the rear wall.
As I mentioned in my post on Planar, look into Harbeth, Spendor and JM Reynaud. These 3 speakers all have 'disappearing' capabilities, excellent musical presentation, easy to drive, and are relatively room/placement friendly. Each have their own 'flavour', so take your time.
I'm glad you feel I was frank in my answering, but I'd like to point out that explanation I wrote to you regarding comparisons of RM30, RM40 and large dipolar planar speakers is somewhat more complex than how it is presented in your answer to Scott.
Therefore, please feel free to fully quote the e-mail I sent to you here at AA, perhaps together with a gist of your question. I think that among other answers it would also be helpful in clearing Scott's dilemmas, but of course, it's not appropriate for me to do it.
the speakers are 4" from the backwall, with a 42" TV on equipment racks between. Usually this is death to imaging, but with these speakers, even in this setup, the imaging is superb.They are 10' apart, and I sit about 12 feet from the fronts, with the axes crossing about 18" in front of me. Better room placement would translate to even better sound, but the close-wall placement ability of these is another big WAF plus.
I enjoyed your review, however I'm perplexed on your views about placement. Often someone will say a speaker works well close to boundaries to justify insurmountable cirsumstances. In other situations, I think some are blessed with an inability to hear many boundary induced aberrations.
You say the speakers are 4" from the backwall, yet the imagining is superb. Is imagining the only speaker placement anomaly you find potentially annoying? I tend to prefer a lesser speaker with optimal placement (snap into focus, sound and imagery school of thought) than a great one with placement compromises. I've come to respect that many don't share this opinion.
rear radiation, the effects of close wall placement are reduced, but far from eliminated. Also, tuning the PRs allows some range of adjustment to the bass, which is quite helpful. As I have limited choices as to placement, I'm grateful for that. However- there are other boundary effects- I've found that the lower mids are a bit lumpier near the wall, and yes, imaging is much improved and overall coloration is decidedly lower when pulled farther form the wall.
I find because of the design characteristics mentioned, though, I can live with these speakers close to the wall better than most others I've tried.
I understand exactly what you mean. I'm also positive you know exactly what you're talking about. You did a good job explaining. Thanks
I bought a pair of RM30Ms about 2-3 months ago. I agree with pretty much everything you've said.
I had been considering a variety of new speakers, from Quads to Audio Physic to yet another pair of maggies. I was especially tempted by Salk HT-3s which are incredibly good looking. But when Big B introduced the CDWG it seemed that a number of the typical problems with ribbons had been solved. The rosewood cabs were not available so I went with piano black. The rosewoods are gorgeous. I went with auricaps and SR-71, too.
I went with the Ms because I wanted to get rid of my sub and have a (mainly) full range speaker. Brian did a really nice job of integrating the 3 bass drives and 2 PRs operating below 280 Hz. Despite only going down to ~32 the bass is firm and clean. In the end, my spousal unit decided that SHE was going to keep my Strata III for the HT system (which is "hers").
If I had a bigger listening room, the non-M version with a 215 or larger sub would have been my choice.
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