Product: JMR Folia - bookshelf/wall/freestanding loudspeaker
Manufacturer: JM Reynaud - France
Approx. price: 950€
Reviewer: Lucio Cadeddu - TNT Italy
Reviewed: December, 2015
Exactly one year after my review of the floorstander JMR Cantabile Supreme (please refer to that article for infos on the Company) the time has come for reviewing another quite unusual loudspeaker from JMR, the Folia bookshelf model.
Audiophiles (and their wives ;-)) are always worried about proper speaker placement in a standard living room. frequently freestanding speakers are forced to play very close to the rear wall and since they are not designed for this purpose they usually sound awful, with boomy bass and coloured midrange.
It is not easy to find a speaker that has been designed to perform well when placed close to (or against!) the rear wall. Naim, Linn and Rega are three Companies that design speakers that were (still are) rear wall-friendly. Now even JMR from France has joined this small bunch of manufacturers who try to prove that high quality bookshelf speakers can perform equally well when installed close (very close!) to the rear wall.
These JMR Folia have been designed in such a way that the cabinet can be put directly in contact with the wall behind. Indeed, there's a long slot in the rear panel that serves as a receptacle for the speaker cables! Moreover, there's even a small hole for hanging the speaker like a painting.
Considering the efforts made by the designer I was very curious to put these speakers under test. During the long evaluation period I had the opportunity of comparing the speakers to a pair of Rega RS1's which share, more or less, the same philosophy.
The JMR Folia is based on a dual-cavity coupled reflex system. The cabinet has a laterally firing reflex port, hence the speaker can be placed as close to the rear wall as one desires. The internal asymmetric panels that constitute the dual cavity system help minimizing the use of internal acoustic damping. The tweeter is placed exactly at the center of the baffle, to optimize dispersion.
The cabinet is built with 19 mm medium density fiberboard panels and has rounded edges. The woofer is a small 13cm unit with paper membrane, anti-turbulence dustcap and a 1" Kapton voice coil. The tweeter is a standard 1" silk dome unit equipped with a double neodimium magnet. Thanks to the presence of a low-frequency tuned cooling rear chamber there's no need to use ferrofluid inside the voice coil. It seems this driver is also used in some of the more expensive speakers in the JMR range. The crossover network has a dual slope: 12 and 18 dB/oct (@ 3200 Hz), and is wired in air with silver coated copper wire.
I've listened to these speakers placed in different positions, both as normal freestanders on appropriate stands and close to the rear wall. My comparison standard in the price range has been a pair of a recently reviewed Rega RS1's.
Having reviewed another JMR speaker, namely the Cantabile Supreme floorstander less than one year ago, I was ready for a similar tonal balance, but the Folia's proved to be quite different.
While the Cantabile Supreme delivered an almost classical French sound, with a crystal clear mid-high range and a sparkly personality, the Folia's are warmer, softer and easier on the ears. Again, there's a certain drop at the top of the high range, exactly like the one I noticed on the floorstanding model, but the rest of the tonal balance appears to be even, and the sound is globally more relaxed. We can't forget the tweeter starts to work above 3200 Hz and this means that most of the job in the mid range is left to the midwoofer. This 13 cm unit is therefore forced to work between 60 and 3200 Hz, definitely not an easy task! Nevertheless, it sounds precise and powerful at the same time. When compared to the Rega RS1, the bass range of the Folia appears deeper and more powerful but with lesser articulation.
The dual cavity load certainly helps in delivering powerful and deep bass, at the cost of sacrificing speed and control.
Voices and choirs, when compared to the Rega RS1's, appear slightly behind the rest.
Things change quite dramatically when the speakers are installed against the rear wall (or as close as possible!): the weight and impact of the bass range increase considerably and the overall sound becomes rhythmic and lively, a characteristic that I've found lacking when the speaker was placed in a classical freestanding installation. When compared to the Rega's these Folia's sound sweeter and more refined, while the small British competitors are much more communicative, quick and entertaining.
The sound of the French speakers is polished and refined, like that of a much more expensive model: it never sounds aggressive or harsh, even when placed against the rear wall (which is a surprise to me!) and this proves the designer did his homework quite well. Actually, the closer the rear wall, the harsher the mid-high range becomes. In this case the tonal balance varies but I'd dare to say the sound generally improves, especially in terms of pace, clarity, weight and speed. I might add that my rear wall is partially covered by a thick carpet, hence your mileage may vary!
Speaking of preferred musical genres, these Folia's are certainly at home with jazz, folk and classical music while high-energy pop and rock might not be their regular cup of tea. Even the bigger Cantabile Supreme showed the very same preferences. They don't sound bad with modern music but certainly they express their full potential with acoustic music programs.
The sensitivity of these speakers is quite low (86 dB) hence they need a powerful amplifier to really shine. Then they can deliver a “big” and quite dynamic sound, even beefier when placed against the rear wall. The bass becomes full and powerful, with a reasonable amount of punch. In comparison, the Rega RS1's sound much more “punchy”, though.
The Folia's, for sure, do not try to impress the listener though with good recordings of acoustic music their dynamic perfomance is very good as they don't compress the loudest peaks. They won't mess up your hair with wall shaking bass nor shock your ears with shotgun-like drums. Nevertheless, they possess enough energy to never sound boring.
In the microdynamics department they perform worse than the floorstanding model I reviewed despite the fact I was expecting quite the contrary. They never underline variations, i.e. the sound is not “etched”, as they prefer to add a velvet touch to everything they play. And this is not an unpleasant approach. A correct partnership with the right amplifier is of paramount importance, though (see below, section “Some advice”).
The 3D imaging is good, stable and well extended in three dimensions, provided the speakers are kept far from side walls. When placed against the wall the soundstage collapses into a two dimensional scene, though the horizontal plane placement of instruments and singers remains correct.
Of course, when placed against the wall you should completely forget the depth of the image, as there isn't any. The audiophile who purchases this kind of speakers is mostly concerned with room and walls interaction, not with the depth of the image! In any case, move the speakers far from the rear wall (even 50 cm are sufficient) et voilà, the third dimension magically reappears.
With respct to room placemnt you have plenty of different choices! The owners' manual suggests to put the two reflex ports facing each other if the speakers are more than 1,5 meters apart, while they should fire laterally (at the outside) if placed closer than that.
It is not necessary (nor beneficial, in my experience) to play with toe-in. The speakers sound better or - at least - so they behaved in my listening room, when placed perfectly parallel to each other.
The load they offer to the amplifier is not “bad” (6 Ohm nominal, with a minimum at 4 Ohm) but low sensitivity suggests to use a rather powerful amp (30 watts per channel at least, unless the room is very small). I'd avoid warm and slow amplifiers, including old-style sounding vacuum tube components. I've tested these Folia's with a Ming Da MC34 ASE, an integrated tube amp soon to appear here on TNT-Audio, and the result hasn't been convincing, to say the least. The relaxed tubey character of the amplifier, paired with the gentle sound of the Folia's made the overall performance boring and unentertaining. Everything changed for the better when lively and punchy solid state amplifiers were used.
Manufacturing & finish.
These speakers are nicely built and finished and for this amount of money you can't reasonably ask for more, especially if you consider these are made in France and not in China. I'd have preferred to choose among different finishes, for example bright and lively lacquered color schemes. A glossy white, for example, would be just perfect in a modern environment. We shouldn't forget these speakers will be placed against the rear wall, maybe above a shelf to. White should be mandatory.
Sweet and refined, that's what they are! Even rather euphonic at times. If you're looking for a razor sharp kind of sound, you'd better look elsewhere! Moreover, with wrong ancillaries, they can sound even too warm and relaxed (boring?).
In many regards, these speakers are unique: they can be hung on a wall but they still sound like an audiophile component! If you're in the market for such a versatile loudspeaker, under the 1000€ tag, you'd better put these JMR Folia's on your shortlist. An outstandingly original product, nicely designed and built, with a sound that can grow with the rest of your system.
A huge thank you to the Italian distributor Soundissimo for having sent us these review samples.
© Copyright 2015 Lucio Cadeddu - email@example.com - www.tnt-audio.com