reimer speaker systems
Wind River loudspeakers
as reviewed by Dave Clark and Victor Chavira
Reimer Speaker Systems will no doubt be unknown to most if not all aM readers. These speakers are a work of love by one Rick Reimer of Cody, Wyoming. Rick has been developing the Reimer speaker line for many years, using every known tool, including the most importanthis ears. He may be a newcomer to the world of speaker manufacturers, but this is not in evidence in any of his designs, either visually, physically, or sonically.
Let me digress a bit, and tell you how I "discovered" Reimer. Flashback to CES 99: Alexis Park Hotel, Terry Rosens room (Clayton Audio, Merlin, Hovland, etc.). The discussion turned from great food and wine to how Carol and I were in the market for speakers to replace our vintage Apogee Caliper Signatures. I threw out a short list of speaker candidates for comment, including the VonSchweikert 3s and 4.5s and the Transcendence 3s and 5s from Hales. Terry laughed and suggested I visit the Reimer room over at T.H.E Show, next door to the Alexis Park. He had very high praise for the Reimers. Switch to the Reimer room. Rick and his wife, hi-fi show first-timers, had arranged their line of speakers in an arc across the room, no doubt more for a visual statement than for musical value. Using Clayton S40 or Wellbourn Apollo SE amps and D.H. Labs cabling, Rick would play a piece of music and switch from one speaker to the next, allowing the visitor to hear the product line in ascending order of price and performance. Actually, "switched" gives the wrong impressiontRicks wife, using banana plugs on the speaker cables, would move the cables from one pair of speakers to the next. We were literally blown away when we heard the Tetons and the Wind Rivers, which, as the top and top next-to-top models respectively, were at the outside edges of the arc. These speakers produced room-filling musicnot "sound"on a scale that is rarely heard at audio shows.
A review was immediately arranged, and the Wind Rivers arrived a month or so later. Could these efficient and relatively full-range speakers be for us? Could they be the speakers for you? Like most high end speakers, the Wind Rivers are somewhat problematic, more so than other speakers in some areas and less so in others. How, you ask? Well, none of what I am going to say will mean squat if you dont take the time to choose the right electronics and other sundries to mate with speakers of this genre. (By genre, I am referring to any speaker that pushes the limits of current speaker design and materials.) At the time we received the Impact Ventos and the Wind Rivers, we were using Muse 150 monoblock amplifiers, Nordost Quattro-Fil interconnects and SPM speaker cabling (see sidebar for a description of our system). This was just what the Apogeestand, in most respects, the Ventostneeded to perform optimally, but not the Wind Rivers. After all, the system had evolved for many years around the Apogees, maximizing their best and minimizing their worst sonic characteristics. Using that system, the Ventos sounded very good. Using the same setup with the Wind Rivers resulted in a sound that was way too present, and sonically "white." While the speakers were musically and rhythmically dynamic, they called for a cabling less "neutral" and electronics that were not as forward and "etched" as the Muses. Rick Reimer has voiced the Wind Rivers to be very revealing, with a startling dynamic presence and quick and deep bass that brings excitement and music into the room without being annoyingly "unmusical" or overly spectacular. Using cables and electronics cut from the same cloth is too much of a good thing. My suggestion is to match the Wind Rivers to electronics that possess a more "euphonic" or tube-like sound (solid state Class A will do), and cabling like, say, Cardas, MIT, JPS, or Transparent Audio. Do this and you have a match made in heaven.
In our house, switching from the Muse amps and Nordost speaker cables to the Clayton M70s and Hovland Nine-Lines speaker cables worked wonders. The Wind Rivers became much warmer and more musically "right," with a taming of the previously accentuated "presence" through the midrange and lower treble. This became even more true when we added the Sahuaro Slipstream AC cords to the mix. (You will have to wait for Issue 10 for the whole story, but let me say just two words now about these AC cordsbuy them!). We were getting there, but the Wind Rivers could still be a tad unrelenting, so we had a way to go. Allowing them to continue to break in helped. (Rick said they had over 100 hours of music through them, but I let them play for close to an additional 150 hours before I was satisfied.) The next step was to remove the very neutral Nordost Quattro-Fil and switch to the SPM interconnects, which made as great an improvement as we had heard from the substitution of the Clayton amps and Hovland speaker cables. This was not my expectation from the SPM interconnects, which I would never have labeled warm soundingtransparent, yes, but certainly not warm. However, compared to the "whiter" sound with from the Quattro-Fil... well, you live and learn.
No doubt there are cables that will be even more synergistic with this setup, so the quest goes on, but as I write this, I am quite pleased. The SPM speaker cables bring more detail and neutrality, though at the expense of a slight loss of "musicality." Regarding placement, in our room the Wind Rivers sound relatively the same whether they were 24" from the back wall or 48" (measured from the rear of the speaker to the wall). Ditto for their distance from the side walls, but you do need to use some common sense here. Let me explain. While other speakers we have had changed tonally and/or spatially as they were moved about, not so the Wind Rivers. Yes, there is a slight increase in the mid-bass range if they are placed closer to the rear wall than 24", but this is so slight as not to be readily apparent on most music. They do not become warmer or more full-sounding with movement, nor does the soundstage change all that much.
These are pretty much "place them and leave them" speakers, though a certain degree of fussing certainly wont hurt. They do have a tendency to become brighter and more upfront if angled greater than 5-10 degrees towards the listener, which would be expected as one increases the directed energy from the midrange and tweeter drivers. However, while the Apogees needed to be way out into the room to open up, the Wind Rivers can do their thing almost anywhere. The opposite is true for the Impact Ventos. The Ventos also need to be well out into the room and angled directly at the listener to gain enough presence. I found the Wind Rivers to sound their best if angled just slightly towards the listeneryou should just see the inside edge of the speakers. Positioned thusly, the Wind Rivers are an extremely present and revealing speaker. The midrange and tweeter are quite transparent and tactile, but not in an analytical or obtrusive way, though as I mentioned above, pay heed to the accompanying components and cabling.
The Wind Rivers produce the "texture" one hears from real instruments, a dimensional texture that helps distinguish the aural characteristics of recorded instruments from those we hear live. I am always caught up in how the Wind Rivers portray stringed and percussion instruments. Take any of the following discs I enjoy (but you may not): Lows the Curtain Hits the Cast or their latest, Secret Name; Machas See it Another Way and their self-titled first release; plus Sparklehorses Good Morning Spider. All feature an incredible amount of natural and/or synthetic ambience with either sparse minimalist production (Low) or a dense musical tapestry from the use of diverse instrumentation (Macha and Sparklehorse). What they all have in common is well-recorded instruments, whether acoustic or electric, that through the Wind Rivers take on a presence that is chock full of texture and dimensional specificity. These discs will either lull you into a trance or cause you to have a mind-blowin freak-out! A very visceral experience through the Wind Rivers.
The Reimers disappear within the musical soundstage, producing few if any audible clues that you are listening to two rather large wooden boxes. Much like planars, the Wind Rivers throw a tall, wide, and deep soundfield with pinpoint accuracy, one that does not come across as sonically superficial. One can easily visualize the instruments and performers. Think front row centertno, make that on stage! The Wind Rivers will startle you with their ability to propel the music out into the room (92dB efficient!), bringing the event to you as opposed to taking you there. They will not prettify your musical collection. A more upfront, neutrally lean speaker than the proverbial "musical," laid back stereotype (which is really just a different slice of the pie), they may cause you to reassess how you want to listen to music, or at least what you listening for. One could fault them for being too fast and transparent at the expense of the trailing end of musical noteswhich was done by a fellow music lover. But I dont really hear this, though I have heard this complaint from other dynamically fast speakers by such firms as Dynaudio and Cello, and especially from the horns so cherished by the SE crowd. They are fast and dynamically effortless, but not necessarily musical. Slower speakers will allow for more musical decay, but Reimer may have addressed through his second order crossover design (Hovland caps, Alpha-Core in-line inductors). I do hear as much ambience and musical decay as I need to, so go figure. Additionally, though they have many drivers, I do not hear a bunch of individual voices, perhaps because all of the drivers are from the same manufacturer (Morel). The Wind Rivers are very cohesive and coherent sounding. Not necessarily point sources, but very close to large panel drivers.
The bass is very deep and powerful, but very fast and very, very tight. The extension is especially notable with two 6.25" woofer drivers per speakerokay, make that two 6.25" front firing drivers and two additional 6.25" drivers in isobaric chambers. Even with the front-firing port, these speakers will not go boom, nor is there any bass bloat or puffing. Some audiophiles will find the low end too tight and controlled for certain music, and will want more bloom or "air" in the bottom octaves, but one cant have it all. Add a subwoofer if you need more bass "bloom" or a room-rumbling rolling wave. I didnt feel this to be too much of a liability, though, as what the Reimers do produce is quite amazingly deep and powerful. Listening to the bass on Baby Foxs Dum Dum Baby, I did wish they could go deeper and louder (this is really fun techno-hip-hop music with a sultry female singer and it features some amazingly deep bass lines.) But hey, turn up the volume a click or two and you are there! No compression, no bass chatter, and no perceptible bass limits, at least none that I wanted to explore. No doubt this is related to their high efficiency. While they roll off around 25-30 Hz, the fixtures in the room will not buzz, rattle, or rumble, unlike with our Apogees.
A perfect speaker? No, but the Wind Rivers do so many things right
and so few wrong that, putting our money on the table, these were the speakers for us. Did
that influence my perspective in writing this review? Possibly, though I will admit to
seeing the Reimers as still a work in progress. Why? Because, with these tall beauties in
our system, there is so much more to learn about what is hidden in our music, and how they
can be coaxed in bringing it out for our pleasure. The Wind Rivers, while not inexpensive,
offer the music-loving audiophile an extremely well built and well-thought-out speaker for
the money. Very efficient, and a fairly benign load for an amplifier, they will work with
virtually any amp you might throw at them, though again I suggest that you use a slightly
darker and warmish one. Combine the right amp with the right cabling, and the Wind Rivers
will award you with a lifetime of beautiful music.
Of the large full-range speakers I have heard during the past two years, the Reimer Wind Rivers have left the greatest impression on me. I recently had the pleasure of auditioning these fine speakers at Dave Clarks home using my Anthem Amp1. The Wind Rivers are hand built one at a time in Cody, Wyoming. Daves came finished in a lustrous cherry wood. Because of their balanced proportions, the Wind Rivers appear smaller than they are. These full-range towers cut an elegant profile.
Listening to music at Daves house isnt always a pleasant experience. First of all, Dave is into dissonance and bone-crushing bass, whereas Im into harmony and nuance. Secondly, not two minutes of any track goes by without Dave stopping the music to adjust something in the system (sound familiar?). This time, Dave left me alone with my music and my amp. The first disc I listened to was Cuban pianist Hilario Durans Havana Nocturna. This is one hot disc, particularly for those of us who appreciate the art of composition and arrangement. Hilario Duran is a musician who deserves as much recognition as the great Chucho Valdez. One listen to this disc and youll understand why. On several cuts, Hilarios piano is joined by a string quartet. Here, the quartet doesnt just accompany the band like an afterthought. Rather, the strings are integral to the compositions. Members of the quartet are afforded ample space for solos and improvisation. Their best effect comes on a lively danzon, Esto si tiene que ver. Listening to this music on the Wind Rivers was like having the power of that band live in the room. The piano had a depth and weight that my Maggies could only dream about. I heard layers of sound and superior placement of musicians on a tactile soundstage. The bass was so tight that I did not recognize it as coming from my trusty little Anthem Amp1. The Wind Rivers are fast and detailed like my Maggies. Reimer does an excellent job of integrating all those drivers.
The next disc I listened to was Lux Aeterna by the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Lux Aeterna is a five-movement compostion by Morten Lauridsen. This composition is a slice of pure heaven. The Wind Rivers revealed rows of massed voices that sang in unison, yet each section retained its individualitybasses in the back, tenors in the middle, altos in the front. The sound of massed sibilance is a test that separates truly great speakers from very good speakers. Here, the Wind Rivers stood apart from the pack by disappearing in a wash of beautiful, breathy sound.
I followed the choir music with the soundtrack from my most enjoyable movie of the summer, The Iron Giant. The first track on this disc, "The Eye of the Storm," is a Wagnerian hayride. The Wind Rivers produced a huge propulsive sound that had me on the edge of my seat. I was awestruck when a snare drum roll sounded as if it came from a center channel in the wall behind the speakers, such are the imaging abilities of the Reimers. Finally, I listened to Buena Vista Club member Elaides Ochoas new recording, Sublime Ilusion. The last track is his interpretation of Lecuonas "La Comparsa." Id heard this music many times before in my system, but never had I heard such details and depth. I could actually hear the details in the fingering of his instrument and the light taps of fleshy fingers on a wooden soundboard. There was a wide spread of vocals well outside the boundaries of the speakers. Then I had one of those audiophile momentsa sound I had never noticed before was suddenly laid before me. Deep in the mix of this track, a low-tuned timbal is ever so lightly tapped by a palm on every fourth beat. I was astounded.
To conclude, I
will state that the Reimer Wind Rivers are reference-quality loudspeakers that justly
reflect their five thousand dollar price tag. I concur with Dave that the Wind Rivers can
be very unforgiving of lesser components upstream. The pairing of my Anthem Amp1 with the
Wind Rivers proved to be a very musical combination. Pairing the Wind Rivers with a
similarly-priced transistor amp would not be so wise.
Reimer Speaker Systems Wind
Reimer Speaker Systems