Joseph Audio's Surprise Joys
Nothing beats starting off four days of room-hopping at CES on a joyful. In this case, the delights were provided by Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio.
I snuck into the Joseph/Bel Canto room an hour before the show's official opening, and invited Jeff to play me music I might not know. With a wry smile, he took me on a journey that began with Midori playing a Chopin transcription for violin and piano. Then we transitioned into Harry Belafonte surprisingly doing a highly credible job of singing the blues ("Fool for You"). Next came Duke Ellington's hilarious, tongue-in-cheek version of "Moon Maiden," complete with the system's pristine reproduction of the celeste. We ended with The Roches singing "The Troubles." (Apologies if I have some titles wrong; I was too blissed out to get everything down word-for-word).
On display were the new Joseph Audio Pearl II speakers ($28,500/pair). Their gorgeous wood finish, which no longer shows exposed bolts on the sides, houses a new crossover topology inspired by Jeff's work on the little Pulsar. "You can go room-to-room and see the same drivers in different speakers," he said, "but the crossover makes all the difference in the sound. It's not the brand of capacitors we use that's most important, for example; it's how whatever capacitors we use are configured that matters most."
The Pearl II goes down to 23 or 25Hz (Jeff Joseph coulnd't rember exactly). As an 8 ohm speaker that doesn't go below 6 ohms, it's equally friendly to tube and solid-state electronics.
"For something to be satisfying long term," says Jeff, "it has to be so balanced that it can play all kinds of music and sound real." Which the Pearl II certainly does.
The system, powered by Bel Canto electronics and connected by the new Cardas Clear cabling that I kept running into at the show, was fed by either a Macbook Pro connected to the Bel Canto DAC by the Bel Canto 24/96 USB Link, or a Q-Sonic Server. It was hardly the most transparent or showy system at CES. But the solidity of the bass, and the sheer groundedness of the sound, made for a marvelous musical experience.