GamuT RS3 standmount loudspeaker
- Chris Martens
- Oct 2015
GamuT is a Danish firm that is famous both for its high performance audio electronics and loudspeakers, with the four-model RS-series range standing as the firm’s flagship offerings. The RS range evolved from an earlier-generation of GamuT flagship models known as the S-series speakers, which first appeared in 2007. According to firm’s R&D Manager Benno Baun Meldgaard, the intent in developing the RS range has been to preserve and even expand upon the technical strengths of the S-speakers while significantly improving their overall musicality. Meldgaard emphasises that all RS models share nearly identical voicing, so that the main differences between the RS3 standmount model tested here and its bigger siblings is slightly deeper low-frequency extension and the ability to develop higher sound pressure levels in larger rooms. Even so, GamuT stresses that the RS3 offers unusually deep bass extension for its size and “performs like a full range speaker for smaller to medium-sized rooms”—a bold claim that we will put to the test in this review.
GamuT’s RS3 is a two-way standmount loudspeaker with a ported enclosure said to be “tuned for optimal impulse response.” The enclosure features a swept-back, boat hull-like design with heavy internal bracing and a rear-firing aluminium port. The enclosure walls are fashioned from a laminate composed of “21 individual layers of wood of various thickness and type”, while the cabinet, says GamuT, is “shaped for optimal damping using small amount(s) of damping material.”
The speaker’s driver array consists of a 38mm silk diaphragm, ring-radiator-type tweeter with a stainless steel phase plug and a Neodymium magnet assembly, plus a 178mm mid-bass driver fitted with a sliced, natural oil-impregnated paper diaphragm cone. Both units are sourced from Scan-Speak, but are custom configured to GamuT’s specifications. The crossover network, in turn, is said to be a “phase and impulse linear” design, while the speaker presents a four-ohm load that is said to be amplifier friendly and to have low phase shift. Sensitivity is a relatively low 86.5dB/2.83V, meaning the speaker likes to be pushed by amplifiers that can deliver a fair amount of power into four-ohm loads.
Unlike many standmount loudspeakers, the RS3s arrive already mounted on their own integrated, and “acoustically optimised” stands, whose internal construction and external appearance mirrors that of the RS3 speakers. The stands are fitted with metal ‘outriggers’ and robust, oversized, adjustable stainless steel resonance control spikes, complete with a set of machined floor protection cups. The stands position the RS3s at exactly the right height and tilt-back angle for seated listeners to enjoy. Useful details abound, such as recessed speaker cable guides built into the back sides of the stands, or massively overbuilt speaker connection terminals—set up for bi-wiring—mounted on beefy terminal blocks fitted into the rear panels of the speakers. In lieu of fabric grilles, the speakers use sets of horizontal, elastic straps that are spaced 35mm apart and are suspended from vertical metal rods located near the edges of the front baffle. Overall, the RS3s achieve a modern, high-tech look coupled with an emphasis on old school woodworking and craftsmanship.
The core reference system for this review consisted of a PS Audio DirectStream DAC (reviewed in Hi-Fi+ issue 125) used as both a DAC and preamplifier, plus a pair of Gamut M250i monoblock amplifiers. I fed both standard and high-res digital audio files (in PCM, DXD, and DSD formats) to the system via either a PS Audio PerfectWave Transport (reviewed in issue 125) or the excellent AURALiC ARIES wireless streaming bridge. Furutech Flux-series interconnect cables, speaker cables, and power cords were used throughout the system, while AudioQuest USB and I2S cables were used to connect the ARIES and PerfectWave Transport to the DirectStream DAC.
The RS3s sounded impressive from the outset. I was bowled over by the sheer width and depth of the sound stages the RS3s produced. My mid-sized listening room (approximately 5.4m × 4.3) is configured so that speakers are typically positioned along the longer wall, meaning that speakers under review typically wind up being fairly widely spaced. Given this, I can achieve sound stages that stretch from the left to the right speaker, or perhaps a bit further. However, the RS3s confidently went much further than that to create stages that extended well beyond the boundaries of the left and right speakers—sometimes reaching outward to the sidewalls of the room, or beyond. Soundstage height and depth were equally impressive, with stages reaching upwards almost to the ceiling and reaching so far back that sounds often seemed to emanate from far behind the back walls of the room. While it has become commonplace for journalists to praise high-quality standmount speakers for producing ‘big sounds from small boxes’ the fact is that the RS3s stretched the performance well beyond what I previously had thought possible.
For an example of the RS3’s expansive sound staging in action, try putting on Jen Chapin’s rendition of the Stevie Wonder song ‘Big Brother’ from Chapin’s ReVisions [Chesky, 96/24]. The recording was made in the resonant interior of a church sanctuary and shows Chapin singing from centre stage, with saxophonist Chris Cheek performing to Chapin’s left and acoustic bassist Stephan Crump (who is also Chapin’s husband) performing to her right. As the song progresses, the RS3s explicitly show not only show both the performers’ positions on stage, and how Chapin’s vocals, and Crump and Creek’s instrumental contributions interact with the acoustics of the space. As a result, the RS3 not only play the music at hand, but also provide a realistic sense of place (or context) within which the music can unfold.
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.
Are there any drawbacks to the RS3, apart from its price? Well, one I would point out is the fact that, despite its improved musicality vis-à-vis the original GamuT S-series speakers, the RS3 is still more of an accurate speaker than it is a forgiving one. With good, very good, or excellent recordings the RS3s usually do just fine, but if you put on mediocre-sounding, heavily compressed, or somewhat bright-sounding material the GamuTs will inform you in no uncertain terms that your selection is sonically inadequate. In short, the price of the RS3’s excellence is that it does not and cannot do anything but tell you how your records actually sound, whether for good or ill.
GamuT’s RS3 standmount monitors are one of the two finest loudspeakers I’ve ever had in my home. I’ve prized the time I’ve spent with them because, in very many ways, they’ve shown me a way forward toward higher levels of performance than I thought possible in my mid-sized listening room. For me, and especially for listeners with moderately sized rooms, the RS3s offer the fascinating prospect of standmount monitors that can do nearly everything that large, costly, and exotic floorstanders can do, but that are much better scaled for use in small-to-mid-size spaces, and that sell at more accessible prices than big, top-tier floorstanders typically command. This is a superb speaker and one I recommend without reservation.
- Type: Two-way, ported, standmount monitor with stands included as standard.
- Driver complement: One 1.5-inch, silk diaphragm equipped ring‑radiator-type tweeter with a stainless steel phase plug and Neodymium motor magnet; one 7-inch sliced-paper cone mid-bass driver with a diaphragm impregnated with natural oils. Both drivers are custom-specified units sourced from Scan-Speak with various proprietary GamuT modifications.
- Frequency response: 34Hz – 60kHz
- Impedance: 4 Ohms
- Sensitivity: 86.5dB/2.83V
- Dimensions (H × W × D): 1059 × 226 × 456mm
- Weight: 46 kg (including stands)
- Finishes: Ivory (white oiled ash), Onyx (black ash), Ruby (a deep red wood finish), and Maroon (a dark brown wood finish similar in appearance to wenge)
Manufacturer Information: GamuT Audio, 6818 Årre, Denmark
Tel: (+45) 70 20 22 68
Distributor Information: Sound Fowndations, 3A Vulcan House, Calleva Park, Aldermaston, RG7 8PA Berkshire, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 118 9814238
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