For the 2015 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, my beat was loudspeakers costing less than $20,000 per pair and, in advance of the trip to Denver, I meticulously studied the show guide and made a list of all the rooms I’d need to visit. Well, not meticulously enough. TAS’s RMAF reports were up online within a week of the event and an early visitor reading my account wanted to know how I felt about the Ryan Speakers Tempus IIIs. Oops. I’d missed them, and posted my mea culpa. Fortunately, Robert Harley had heard the speakers and wrote that they “offered outstanding performance. Watch for a full review.” It took over six months for a pair to become available but sometimes good things come to those who wait. Or can’t read an audio show guide.
Perhaps I can be conditionally absolved for overlooking the brand in Denver last fall because Ryan Speakers had only been in business for about two years at the time. I should say back in business because from 1986 to 1993, Todd and Trevor Ryan of Riverside, California, made a number of well-regarded loudspeakers as Ryan Acoustics. (The MCL-1 bookshelf model was reviewed positively way back in TAS Issue 61.) The brothers have not been away from the loudspeaker business since Ryan Acoustics closed shop. Todd has worked at Sonance for two decades, currently as the chief designer for this leading manufacturer of “architectural speakers.” Trevor, for a time, was a principal of Motus Audio, which makes speaker drivers. The Ryans returned to producing their own audiophile loudspeakers in 2013 with Todd as Director of Design and Development and Trevor as Director of Operations.
The Tempus III sits atop a line of four models that starts with the R610, a two-way bookshelf speaker priced at $2000 per pair, and moves up the range to two-and-a-half-way and three-way floorstanders, the R620 at $3500 and the R630 at $5000. The $15,995 Tempus III is a 165-pound four-way design that employs a 1.1" chambered beryllium dome tweeter, a 4" midrange, a 6.5" mid/woofer, and a pair of side-mounted 8" woofers. Like many manufacturers, Ryan’s drivers are manufactured in China—a fact that many prestigious high-end loudspeaker-makers tend to deemphasize. With this company, there’s an important difference. Because of his position with Sonance, Todd Ryan actually lives for half of each year in Guangdong, the southern Chinese province where the country’s booming electronics industry is located. He not only designs the drivers that are unique to Ryan speakers but also oversees their manufacture to a far greater degree than do other North American and European companies. Speaker manufacturers have their drivers made in Asia, of course, for economic reasons and there’s a perception among some consumers that the quality of the work and labor conditions are potentially suspect. Trevor Ryan addressed the issue forthrightly when asked about it, explaining that workers in southern China generally come from the central and northern parts of the country to work in the electronics industry. “These workers have two long holidays when they travel back home to spend time with their families. If the working conditions and salaries were really unacceptable, they would find other places to work—but that is not what occurs in the factories that we have partnerships with. For us, the best sign that an employee cares about and enjoys what he is doing is that he returns year after year to the factory. Over time, these people become highly skilled. Many are promoted and work their way up through the factory.”
Todd Ryan has advanced modeling software and instrumentation at his disposal and strives to achieve several sorts of “symmetry” in his driver design—symmetry of driver mechanics, magnetic symmetry, symmetry of the voice coil’s inductance, and symmetry of the mechanical resistance of the drivers’ suspensions. The midrange, midwoofer, and bass drivers all incorporate Ryan Speakers’ proprietary diaphragm material, a laminate of Kevlar and Nomex. Bonding the two dissimilar materials together has the effect of eliminating the acoustical breakup each would have on its own. Ryan’s Kevlar/Nomex laminate is very light—the midrange driver, for example, weights only 4.5 grams. The Tempus III tweeter includes a Truextent beryllium acoustic dome “renowned for its extreme stiffness and low moving mass.” It features a die-cast aluminum faceplate and a large receptacle behind the dome to minimize backpressure from the tweeter’s rear wave.
Unlike the drivers that, under Todd Ryan’s watchful eye, are made on the other side of the world, the cabinets are built in Riverside CA by an American company that actually produces enclosures for several other high-end loudspeaker manufacturers. The Tempus IIIs are substantial speakers, though Ryan explained that the drivers and crossovers account for nearly 50 of the speaker’s 165 pounds. The cabinet is fabricated from MDF an inch thick on all sides. (The exceptionally rigid side panels are made from four laminated ¼" MDF layers.) There’s extensive internal bracing with ¾" MDF—two braces in the vertical direction and five horizontally. The midrange and midwoofer have their own sub-enclosures; the woofers’ air space goes up behind these sub-enclosures to the top of the speaker. The bass chamber is ported near the floor. Todd Ryan told me that listening tests demonstrated that “placing the port tube in close proximity to the woofer produces the most cohesive low-frequency response.” The side-firing woofers are connected in phase to minimize vibrational energy that could potentially be transmitted to the cabinet. The woofers are crossed over to the mid/woofer at a lower frequency (100Hz) than usual for configurations of this sort, and Ryan notes a positive influence on the “placement sensitivity” sometimes seen with side-mounted woofers. Ryan’s literature is a bit mysterious regarding details of the Tempus III’s crossover network, describing it as “a highly complex four-way design” that employs high-order, asymmetric slopes. Top quality parts are used—Clarity capacitors, Mundorf resistors, Solen inductors—and it’s explained that because the large inductors in the woofer and mid/woofer crossovers can behave like “antennas broadcasting audio signals to any other inductors close enough to receive it,” the crossovers are physically separated within the large cabinet.
The shape of the Tempus III approximates a backwards-leaning trapezoid, the tilt helping to assure time-alignment of the three drivers mounted on the front baffle. The enclosure is quite deep at 27½" but a sense of massiveness is substantially mitigated by the narrow width of the speaker, from 8½" to 10½". (The sides of the Tempus III bow out slightly.) With tow-in as recommended, the speakers’ sides are barely visible from the listening position, and I never felt that they visually overwhelmed the room. The Tempus IIIs are finished with a choice of wood veneers; they’re not sexy but the workmanship is exemplary. The two sets of binding posts on the rear panel are of Ryan’s design, machined from solid oxygen-free copper plated with nickel, suitable for either spades or banana plugs. Inside the speakers, the binding posts are soldered directly to the crossover network.
The Tempus IIIs arrived carefully packed in cardboard boxes with a well-judged amount of supporting foam. Unboxing them is definitely a two-person job but once the speaker is upright, one can move them unassisted without much difficulty before installing the supplied spikes. The 12-page owner’s manual has excellent set-up instructions. The Tempus IIIs have a driver arrangement and dimensions that are very similar to the Audio Physic LJE Cardeas loudspeakers considered in Issue 266, and I started by placing the Ryans where the German speakers had fared well. This ended up being close to the ideal location. After I’d had the speakers up and running for a few weeks, Todd and Trevor Ryan, visiting some of their East Coast dealers, stopped by to listen for a few hours and optimize the setup. Other than to assure that the Tempus III were perfectly level, pretty much all they did was to toe the speakers outward a few degrees—which did make a substantial improvement, in terms of solidifying images. When all was said and done, in my 225 square-foot room, the Tempus IIIs were about eight feet apart (center baffle to center baffle), between 18" to 22" from the wall behind the speaker, and approximately nine feet from the ideal listening position. Two sets of monoblock amplifiers were used, in turn, to power the Ryans, Pass XA60.8s as well as David Berning Quadrature Zs, and an Anthem D2v pre/pro was consistently in the system. Sources were an Oppo-93, a VPI Scoutmaster with JMW tonearm and Sumiko Blue Point EVO III cartridge played through an Audio Research PH2 phonostage, and a Baetis Reference music computer. Interconnects were Transparent, except for the Shunyata Anaconda AES/EBU used from Baetis to Anthem.
The Ryans strongly urge users to bi-wire the speakers, and hope you’ll remove the nickel-plated brass jumpers with which the Tempus IIIs are shipped. I began my listening with the jumpers in place, utilizing my usual Transparent Ultra (Generation 5) speaker cables. The only bi-wire set I own are the outrageously overachieving AntiCable Level 2 Performance Series model ($164 for a six-foot pair!) and I was more than a bit surprised at the improvement I heard in transparency, dynamic nuance, and soundstage continuity when I substituted them for the Transparent cables. When Trevor and Todd visited, they brought a set of Cardas Clear Beyond bi-wires for me to borrow. These cables moved the dial further in a positive direction, providing a better sense of openness and tonal complexity (they damn well better, at roughly $10,500 for an eight-foot pair) but given the degree of improvement heard with the AntiCables, I wondered if the supplied jumper bars might be degrading the sound. I had on hand a set of Transparent “bi-wire adapters,” specifically designed to replace the jumper bars in a bi-wireable speaker like the Ryans, and found that they narrowed the gap in performance between the Transparent single-wire and the AntiCable bi-wires. I do feel that bi-wiring is preferable with the Tempus IIIs—it usually is with most loudspeakers—and kept the Cardas product in place for most of my evaluation. But I do wonder if Ryan should revisit the composition/design of the jumpers it supplies, recognizing that some customers, for various reasons, are going to decide on the single-wire option.