Joseph Audio RM22si Signature loudspeaker Page 3
Proceeding to Michael Tilson Thomas' stirring rendition of the Comedy: Allegretto from Charles Ives' Symphony 4 (Sony Classical SK 44939), the RM22si handled the wild dynamic contrasts and demanding transients without straining. Even as this ritual slaughter of homecoming queens escalated in emotional density, the climactic passages never sounded muddled or congested. Throughout Ives' gleeful, jazzy bombast, the faint tolling of orchestral bells and the insistent foreground of shimmering chimes remained distinctive.
And while one might have expected a metal woofer to bestow a sense of exaggerated presence on the upper midrange, I found the RM22si to have a smooth tonal response from top to bottom, particularly apparent in the balanced presentation of Jascha Heifetz's solo violin throughout his recording of the Brahms and Tchaikovsky Violin Concertos (Fritz Reiner/CSO, RCA Victor 61495-2). I was always aware of the violinist's rich, singing tone, the complex play of fundamentals and overtones. And when Heifetz soared into the upper reaches of his range I was never conscious of the transition point from metal cone to silk dome—the RM22si's tweeter perfectly complemented its metallic mate. Sweet, transparent and airy, the RM22si made me quite conscious of the violin's woody character, and of the master's unparalleled bowing technique—I was never conscious of the tweeter.
Reaching for further confirmation of the RM22si's articulate midrange, I turned to the vigorous polyphony of alto saxophonist/composer Julius Hemphill's bluesy sax sextet—more of a vocal ensemble than a traditional sax section (Fat Man and The Hard Blues, Black Saint 120115-2). There was nothing metallic, reedy, or grainy in the RM22si's presentation of the saxes (soprano, two altos, two tenors, and baritone) on the affectionate funk of "Fat Man" or the gritty swing of "The Hard Blues." There was an authentic sense of body and fullness to the horns that gave each voice a real distinct image, while illuminating the saxophone's unique lyric/percussive duality—solo or en masse. Even amid this fervent swelter of six-part counterpoint and field hollers, the Joseph Audios retained a vivid sense of front-to-back perspective—as if Hemphill was slightly forward, at the apex of an equilateral triangle, in a deep reverberant space.
While Hemphill's band put me in about Row 10, Béla Fleck and V.M. Bhatt sat me smack dab up on the porch of their hillbilly raga, "John Hardy" (Tabula Rasa, Water Lily WLA-CS-44-CD). The Joseph revealed the full tonal complexity of Kavi Alexander's provocative two-track/1" analog recording and presented a convincing portrait of Fleck's banjo, with its fat snare-drum crack and firm, feathery, sparkling top end. Again, the RM22si wasn't bright per se, but clear. I heard the body and air of Fleck's instrument, felt it physically in my chakra the way Fleck must have felt on his belly its rich, chiming overtones. And although the microphone perspective was very close and forward, the Joseph's reproduction of subtle reverb trails led me to suspect that these performers were playing in an enormous space.
Given their superb top-to-bottom tonal balance, accuracy, and resolution, the Josephs reproduced vocal music of every stripe with stunning intimacy and immediacy—which also served to demonstrate their uncanny soundstaging. There was a warm, velvety glow to the leading edge and firm, glassy articulation of Kathleen Battle's soprano as she soared to reach the rafters in the balcony of Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church on her a cappella rendition of "Wasn't That a Mighty Day" (Angels' Glory, Sony Classical SK 62723). Then there was Margo Timmins purring into one of those big ol' RCA ribbons (or so it sounded—it was actually a Soundfield mike), well in front of her trio, just right of center in front of the drummer, hands cupped about her ears, eyes closed as she got right up on top of the overhead, her rich, husky exhalations making barely a ripple in the transducer as the Cowboy Junkies tolled away distantly behind her (The Trinity Session, RCA 8568-2-R). Her voice didn't emanate from some box but seemed to emerge from free space; I was particularly moved by the speakers' realistic presentation and focus (if not balance) from off-axis.
Voices were not just correct, but distinct in any acoustic environment. There's something quite telling about a speaker's ability to retrieve and resolve low-level information while reconstituting an ambient space. Well, on Bayaka: The Extraordinary Music of the Babenélé Pygmies (Louis Sarno, Ellipsis Arts), the dome of the sky was so vivid, airy, and unlimited that I thought I was listening to electrostatics. The Josephs let me zero in on chants from deep within the forest against a transparent foreground of chattering critters.
Then there was the utter glory of Aaron Neville's rendition of "With God On Our Side" (The Neville Brothers, Yellow Moon, A&M CD 5240). Neville and producer Daniel Lanois treat Dylan's classic as an angelic hymn, and the RM22si's depicted their holographic soundstage effects in distinct layers of detail: a minimalist wash of spacey percussion and sultry vocal reverb trails against inscrutable low-end stereo drones, a distant horizon of organ swells, and vast vistas of black silence.
All right, so the Joseph Audio RM22si was clear and detailed and neutral and open. But did it swing? Did it boogie? How did it handle bass and drums, acoustic and electric, jazz and rock?