Later, toward the end of ‘Big Brother’, saxophonist Chris Cheeks creates a moment of sonic magic by playing a haunting, closing vamp as he gradually strolls to the left edge of the stage, then turns and walks to the back of the stage, and finally moves over toward the rear centre of the stage. As Cheeks moves, his horn acts as a subtle sonic ‘spotlight’ that illuminates the recording space and quite literally ‘lights up the room’. As this is happening, the RS3s track Cheek’s every movement with uncanny specificity, creating a three-dimensional illusion so powerful that one instinctively turns to watch Cheek walking around the stage. In short, the RS3s frequently create such moments where, if only for an instant, their compelling three-dimensionality trumps the mind’s awareness that the presentation is ‘only hi-fi’.
Next, I was impressed with the RS3’s excellent imaging precision and focus, both of which enhance and expand upon the speakers’ three-dimensionality. At the highest levels, the objective of loudspeaker imaging is to foster the believable illusion that sounds are emanating from real instruments and voices and not from loudspeakers. In this respect, vivid imaging is one of the RS3s’ greatest strengths. This fact was pressed home to me as I played guitarist Marc Ribot’s Y Los Cubanos Postizos (The Prosthetic Cubans) [Atlantic, HDCD] through the GamuTs. In general, this album conveys a warm, intimate, ‘live from the studio’ sound, which the RS3s exploited to the fullest extent possible. As a result, on the track ‘Aurora En Pekín’, the sound of Ribot’s amplified hollow-body guitar exhibited a rare kind of vividness and solidity. These qualities were further enhanced by the RS3s’ ability to capture small details such as plectrum noises or brief, split-second moments where Ribot’s guitar amp temporarily became oversaturated by particularly vigourous notes. Consequently, the sound of Ribot’s guitar seemed to exist independent of the GamuT speakers, taking up its place at centre stage in a manner so believable and compelling at times that I almost felt as if I could get up from my listening chair to reach out and touch the instrument (or its amplifier). By offering up precisely formed combinations of tonal colours, timbres, textures, and transient details the RS3 can produce palpable sonic images of startling realism.
I was also captivated by the RS3’s sheer dynamic speed and agility. In fact, after spending some time with the GamuT speakers, other transducers began to seem a little sluggish and slow on the uptake by comparison. Honestly, I have heard loudspeakers (e.g., certain full-range electrostats) that I thought offered excellent transient speed many times in the past, but I don’t think I’ve heard many (if any) that do as good a job as the RS3s of delivering powerful, fast-rising, and yet very well-controlled bursts of dynamic energy on demand. What is more, the RS3 demonstrates this capability across the entire audio spectrum—from the lowest notes to the highest. In fact, so essential is dynamic agility to the RS3s’ overall sound that I was forced to re-think the placement of acoustic treatments in my room to achieve better bass speed and dynamic articulation. Normally, I use sets of absorptive diffuser panels on the walls behind loudspeakers under review, but in the case of the RS3 those panels tended to slow the speaker down and soften its bass dynamics. To restore proper speed and impact, then, I had to move the panels from the back walls to the sidewalls of the room, which instantly unleashed even higher levels of performance from the GamuTs.
My point is that the RS3s consistently sound quick on their feet and full of dynamic energy and life, whether reproducing quicksilver treble percussion instruments such as the ethereal bells and gongs heard on Marilyn Mazur’s Elixir [ECM], the high-powered midrange horn section outbursts heard on Clark Terry’s The Chicago Sessions [Reference Recordings], or the fierce low-frequency transients of Marcus Miller’s bass guitar solos on SMV’s Thunder [Heads Up]. The agility and speed of the GamuT speakers help give them qualities of both clarity (because the beginnings and endings of notes are so sharply defined) and a sense of ‘you-are-there’ immediacy, proving there is real substance behind GamuT’s claim to have designed the speaker for correct phase and impulse response.
Finally, we come to GamuT’s assertion that the RS3 “performs like a full range speaker for smaller to medium-sized rooms.” Does it really? In a word, yes. To put the matter to the test, I put on some favourite classical, pop, and jazz bass tracks and came away impressed with the low-frequency depth, power, and control the RS3 had on offer. For example, the RS3s authoritatively captured all but the very lowest fundamentals while maintaining taut control and composure on the low organ pedal notes heard in both the ‘Pie Jesu’ section of Rutter’s Requiem [Reference Recordings, HDCD] or in the ‘Finale: Lento – Allegro moderato’ movement of Copland’s Organ Symphony [Michael Tilson Thomas, San Francisco System, SFS Media, 96/24]. Similarly, the speakers perfectly nailed the boisterous and slightly over-the-top vibe of the synth bass heard on Imogen Heap’s ‘Bad Body Double’ from Ellipse [RCA]. While the RS3 might not be the best speaker through which to explore the bottom half of music’s bottom octave, the fact is that it does handle true low bass with better extension, power, and finesse than it has any right to do, given its size.