and then . . . the ReTHM Experience!
ReTHM horn speakers did not make a good first impression with me. But as I got to know them better, I grew to like them more and more. Now, I love them.
The initial poor impression was mainly the fault of component mismatch. I never realised how important component matching was until I experienced the ReTHM. All along, I had thought that all high-end, high quality equipment would sound good and that proper matching would only make them sound better. But no. In some cases, a mismatch can actually make a component sound bad.
was the case with the ReTHM, which sounded exceedingly bright and
Yet certain things did catch my attention. Like the incredible resolution, the amazing speed, the exciting dynamics.... I had a feeling there was something very special about this loudspeaker.
ReTHM designer Jacob George - I was introduced to him because he happened to be the cousin of an old friend - had also mentioned to me that the speakers may be difficult to match. They sounded bad in his friend's house but very much better in his own home, he had said. I was not yet going to give up on this loudspeaker.
T S Lim to the rescue. Lim is the designer of DIVA amplifiers and a
When he heard the ReTHM, his first reaction was "Change the preamp!"
explained that because of the Lowther driver's very high sensitivity
Still, it did not sound quite good enough. Lim, who was doing some soldering work in my office and not paying much attention to the ReTHMs, then asked, "What speaker cables are you using?"
"Nirvana," I replied.
"No wonder!" Lim said.
And here's the surprise. "Use cheap cables," he suggested.
a big surprise! When I removed the $2,000 Nirvana cables and
I learnt such an important lesson about component matching. Lim had always talked about it, but I never fully understood what he meant. Now I did.
together a bunch of "good" hifi equipment will not necessarily
However, I still dare not say that I now understand how component matching works. Because the same Nirvana speaker cable now sounds great with a new, improved pair of ReTHM speakers. I guess we really have to try things out and not depend solely on theory or on past experience.
Anyway, on to the new, improved ReTHM . . .
the first pair of ReTHM speakers had begun to sound very much
I gave this feedback to Jacob. He said he has received similar feedback from many others and was working on a new design with much better bass response.
and I had also been talking about about launching the speaker at the
asked Lim. His response was, "If Jacob can improve the bass, it
will be a
And so Jacob did. With only about two months to go before CES in January 2000, Jacob announced that his months of hard work had paid off. His new design has a much deeper, fuller, richer bass response. "We're in business," he said.
Lim agreed to develop a new, DIVA 2A3 push pull amplifier and a DIVA tube buffer passive preamp specially to match the ReTHM. We would launch them at THE SHOW, which is held in conjunction with CES. We booked our room almost at the last minute.
Lim and I went to THE SHOW purely on faith. Lim and I had not yet
we finally connected ReTHM and DIVA together... again the first
Jacob could not understand. He insisted that he had very much better bass response back home. Lim also insisted that his new amplifier had deep, punchy, well controlled bass.
something was wrong. We experimented with all possible speaker
We swapped CD players, from Lim's modified Marantz CD63 to the Sony SACD, then back to the Marantz - because the Marantz sounded more musical.
worked. After a few hours, we were all tired. Lim wanted to give
Then Lim said, "Let's try something...." adding, "I don't think it will work miracles..."
Lim reversed the speaker cables, swapping the red with the black.
we heard next was truly a miracle! The bass came on. The sound was
Response from visitors at THE SHOW was very encouraging. Many who were familiar with Lowther speakers commented that the ReTHM was the best they've ever heard.
were particularly impressed by the fact that the ReTHM did not have
Many were also impressed that the ReTHM produced such good bass given the relatively small size of its enclosure, and given the fact that Lowther speakers - except for those in gigantic boxes - are generally weak in bass response.
when they heard that the ReTHM retails for US$5,000, the reaction was
"very reasonable". Good sounding Lowther speakers usually
cost at least two to three times as much.
Reviewers have written favourably of the ReTHM:
Art Dudley of Listener (May/June 2000) says "the new ReTHM loudspeaker
may be the best Lowther application yet". Dudley further reports
that "THE SHOW was also the first place I've heard Lowther (and
Lowther-type) speakers producing what I consider hifi sound. particular
in the ReTHM room."
Dick Olsher (former Stereophile reviewer), notes in the internet magazine
enjoythemusic.com that the ReTHM had successfully solved many of the
problems inherent in single-driver horn speakers, such as problems with
back-wave reflections, standing waves and driver resonances.
* Positive Feedback, probably the most important magazine for serious audiophiles has acknowledged ReTHM's specialness by asking for a pair to be heard at its annual gathering of writers and reviewers in September 2000. Only a select few get this invitation.
Albert Yeung, who writes for the Chinese language HK magazine Audiophile,
is well-known for being a difficult man to please. Yet he too, gave
ReTHM the thumbs up.
Loudspeaker design is probably the most difficult of all the hifi arts and it is rare indeed for a first time designer to succeed the way Jacob has with the ReTHM.
The ReTHM is truly a great sounding loudspeaker - provided you learn to play it right.
The Soul of Music / DIVA Classic Audio