The Tempus IIIs were the only loudspeaker in my reference system for five weeks and I thoroughly enjoyed their residence. With both tubed and solid-state amplification, the Ryan flagship was highly effective in communicating the musical meaning of whatever reached its binding posts. The sound was vital more than it was vivid, the kind of speaker that might not stop you in your tracks at a dealer but, at home, encourages you to listen straight through two-disc concert albums. Whether the material was chaste (“Will We Gather at the River?” from Anonymous 4’s 1865) or majestic (the brass chorales in the finale of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 5, as performed by Benjamin Zander and the Philharmonia Orchestra) the Tempus IIIs consistently locked on to the basic character of the music and largely eliminated themselves from the equation.
The Ryans are not super-detailed loudspeakers, yet their reproduction of vocal and instrumental texture is very specific, and thus realistic. The Hagan String Quartet, in concert and on SACD, manifests a gorgeously blended sonority that can be heard especially well in the Andante movement of Beethoven’s Quartet in D major, Op. 18, No. 3. There are good reasons for their richly complex yet homogenous ensemble sound—these musicians have been playing together for a long time (three are siblings) and they use a set of matched Stradivarius instruments—and the Tempus IIIs permit one to savor it fully. Or listen to Ricki Lee Jones’s eponymous first album, to the “rightness” of the tonality of her youthful voice, a slight roughness superimposed upon an almost childlike quality. The Ryan’s ability to deliver natural musical textures is a significant advantage, as there is such a thing as too much detail. Most of the vocals on Lyn Stanley’s Potions from the 50’s were recorded at a different time, in a different studio than the jazz instrumental accompaniments. An over-analytical speaker could reveal that fact to a distracting degree but the Tempus III’s give a convincing impression of a performance occurring in real time.
When it comes to issues of spatiality, the Tempus IIIs perform quite well. A superb orchestral recording dating from 1958 that I only recently came to know is a selection of movements from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, Efrem Kurtz conducting the Philharmonia. (The Parlophone original was remastered for an XRCD on the Hi-Q Records label.) With both the Pass and David Berning amps, the soundstage was gratifyingly broad and deep, and the degree of instrument localization within the soundfield was believable, specific without having an over-etched quality. Likewise, the scaling of instrumental and vocal images was redolent of a live concert experience, as demonstrated on another recently issued XRCD with soprano Mariella Devia as the featured performer in an all-Mozart program (Master Music XRCD24-NT018.) With “Regina coeli,” K.108, the Ryan speakers neither exaggerate nor minimize the relative acoustic masses of soloist, chorus, and orchestra, the proportions of which contribute significantly to the naturalness of the 1997 analog recording.
In terms of tonal balance, these speakers do not editorialize. The human voice lives, of course, in the critical midband and if a vocal is aggressively recorded and equalized, that’s what you’ll hear: “Baltimore” from Lyle Lovett’s Joshua Judges Ruth was an example that came up as I listened to favorite albums. That’s not to say, however, that dynamics present on the original recording are in any way suppressed. The Rickie Lee Jones album noted above was recorded well before the onset of egregious dynamic compression of pop recordings. The emotional intensity of the climax to the song “Last Chance Texaco” comes through loud and clear with the Ryan speakers.
Though rated down to 24Hz +/-3dB, the Tempus III’s low end doesn’t register as especially prodigious. This may be a good thing, the consequence of a well-executed side-firing woofer system, which can minimize standing wave problems. I always use DSP room correction that, as performed by the Anthem pre/pro ARC software, allows the user to choose how far up the frequency spectrum to apply the correction. The Tempus IIIs required less correction than any other loudspeaker I’ve had in my room—only up to 500Hz (5000Hz is more typically necessary to smooth out irregularities.) Bass was naturally connected to higher frequencies, without bloat or overhang and with excellent pitch differentiation. By no stretch of the imagination was the low end in subwoofer territory, qualitatively or quantitatively. There wasn’t china-rattling, pant-leg-flapping bass, the gut-wrenching visceral impact that so many audiophiles seem to crave—and the musical validity of which I often question. I listened with great satisfaction to the Philadelphia Orchestra’s recording of the Saint-Saëns “Organ” Symphony, ripped from my Ondine SACD. I was at one of the concerts in May of 2006 from which this recording derives, sitting in Row L. Though the experience was thrilling, with the orchestra and organ (the largest concert hall instrument in the U.S.) playing full out, there was no pant-leg-flapping going on at Verizon Hall that night. Good bass reproduction is about more than just visceral sensation.
The Ryan Tempus III is a smartly designed loudspeaker, the most ambitious commercial effort to date from an engineer with both high-end ideals and extensive manufacturing experience. Most speaker designers piously maintain that the decisions they make are in the service of creating a musical device, even as the emphasis of their promotional efforts (and the coverage their product receives) tend to emphasize exotic materials, unusual aesthetic choices, and ear-grabbing elements of the audiophile’s perceptual palette—detail, soundstaging, bass extension, and so on. Sometimes, an audio product can add up to more than the apparent sum of its parts. Consider this as well. The price of Todd Ryan’s best effort is around the same as “entry level” models from a number of higher cachet brands. This is not because Todd Ryan has cut corners in any way. If your speaker budget is up to $20k, by all means listen to the usual suspects but also try to audition the Tempus IIIs—the company now has around 30 dealers and is steadily adding more. You may conclude that it represents one of the more exceptional values in a full-range audiophile loudspeaker that’s available. As for me, I won’t be missing Ryan Speakers at shows anymore. Promise.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Four-way, ported enclosure
Driver complement: One 1.1" chambered beryllium dome tweeter, one 4" midrange, one 6.5" mid/woofer, two 8" woofers
Frequency response: 24Hz–35kHz
Impedance: 6 ohms nominal, 4.1 ohms minimum
Dimensions: 10.75" x 48" x 27.5"
Weight: 165 lbs.
3380 La Sierra Avenue
Riverside, CA 92503-5225