Joseph Audio RM22si Signature loudspeaker Page 4
The RM22si's bass was always taut, timely, and focused, without any overhang or blurring—I could invariably pick the bassist out of a crowd—while cymbals clearly delineated tempo without peaky emphasis. I've auditioned my production of the Ginger Baker Trio's Going Back Home (with engineer Malcolm Cecil, Atlantic 82652-2) on dozens of sound systems over the last four years, and the slow attack/long decay of Charlie Haden's gut-stringed, tube-miked bass often presented a special challenge: it tended to melt into Baker's toms and bass drums when the drummer played from the bottom up (as on "When We Go"). On some speakers Charlie's bass comes out blurry and indistinct, but the articulation of each voice on the Joseph was so precise, I could clearly make him out way down low, just left of center, gonging away—like Playtex, the Joseph gently lifted and separated. And on the swing-oriented tunes, where Ginger voiced his kit from the top down, the Josephs articulated the real low-end tonality, midrange presence, and airy shimmer of Ginger's cymbals within a capacious acoustic space without italicizing their attack.
Finally, the RM22si stood up to the digital demolition course of drum transients on The Rite of Spring (Yoel Levy/Atlanta Symphony, Telarc CD-80266), and handled the immense low-end transients of Prince's "Face Down" and "Da Da Da" (Emancipation, NPG 8 7243 8) with realistic scale and distinction, irrespective of my varied output levels. Authentic organ-pedal bass? No, the Joseph doesn't extend past 38Hz. But its impact and immediacy seemed scary enough for all but the most gung-ho 'philes.
For a conclusive dirt-bike test, I tossed on some no-nonsense rock LPs by Jimi Hendrix (A Band of Gypsies, Classic 2917) and the Ramones (End of the Century, Sire SRK 6077). Not only did the RM22si capture the tune and tempo, the proportion, scale, and nuance of Billy Cox's Fender Jazz Bass, it also presented a well-balanced portrait of Hendrix's vast tonal and dynamic resources, as heard from the first balcony. (I had a real sense of the old Fillmore East's high ceiling, and how this band was bouncing off of it.) And on the Ramones' "Let's Go," producer Phil Spector makes the case for a connection between his Wagnerian wall of sound, surf music, and Bowery punk bravado with a characteristically massive mix, culminating in a roller-coaster-sized, "Wipe Out"-styled drum break. Here the Josephs handled the surflike roar of massed guitars and radical panning effects with muscular authority, effortlessly tracking the drum kit's moving image from right to left and front to back without compromising Marky Ramone's savage attack or tonal detailing in the toms.
Clear, sweet, and articulate. Airy, dynamic and uncolored. Holographic, precise, and nonfatiguing. Listening to the RM22si is like gazing at your garden through a large window on a crisp, clear day, hearing the wind whip through the silence to excite a set of chimes as the amber light floods in and breaks into a thousand colors on your grandmother's prism lamp. Aw, shucks!
I have very few quibbles with the RM22si. It should provide plenty of thrills and chills to fans of acoustic music searching for the ultimate in two-way coherence, but who don't require dedicated slam speakers. It doesn't have that bottom-octave/deep-bass whomp, and there are certainly speakers that play louder, but I think the Joseph handles deep transients—fast transients—with stunning accuracy. I always had a sense of the lowest fundamentals, the proper attack and impact of a note, even if, below a certain frequency, I was sort of filling in the blanks.
Also, while I found this speaker incredibly involving, some of you who've never heard a speaker like this might find it kind of dry at first—you'll be hyperconscious of what's not there in the way of colorations. For many listeners weaned on traditional two-way speakers—who are used to a more, oh, subjective, stylized...lush quality to the midrange—the crystal transparency of the RM22si might seem to lack a sense of tonal distinction.
For comparison's sake: In terms of the larger, more expensive speakers I've had conjugal visits with over the past year (and which will add $1300-$1500 to your budget), I'll allow as how the RM22si doesn't possess the low-end warmth and impact of the Celestion A3 I reviewed in the June '98 Stereophile (Vol.21 No.6), or the midrange bloom of the Sonus Faber Concerto Grand Piano (reviewed by Michael Fremer in May '98, Vol.21 No.5). And while the RM22si does indeed have a warm, articulate midrange, I could hardly characterize it as "voluptuous"; smooth and sweet is more like it.
But then, to my ears, the Celestions and Sonus Fabers are red-wine speakers, while the Joseph RM22si Signature Reference might just be the ultimate white-wine speaker. The sound of the RM22si's is clear, evenly balanced, and spacious. They possess remarkable spatial coherence and tonal accuracy. Their left-to-right, front-to-back, top-to-bottom soundstaging is damn near electrostatic in its immensity, yet the speaker still has the snap, crackle, and pop of a traditional two-way dynamic design. The RM22si's offer listeners exceptionally focused, realistic images without sacrificing depth of soundstage or dimensionality—and not just from that perch in your optimum sweet spot. All this in a simple, elegant, affordable package that won't scare the spouse or kids.
So drink up. The RM22si ranks right up there with some of the truly classic vintages.