Joseph Audio RM7si loudspeaker Page 2
Satellites Are Out Tonight
Whereas the first pair of Joseph RM7sis had sounded a little bright, the revised speakers were mellow-balanced. Not rolled-off, as such, but mellow nonetheless. While fizzy rock recordings like Annie Lennox's new Medusa CD (Arista 25717-2) were rendered acceptably pleasing, instruments with a lot of energy in the high treble, like the backing triangle on Tracy Chapman's "Mountains of Things" (from her eponymous first album, Elektra 60774-2), sounded dull, less vital. This improved when I switched from the solid-state Levinson No.334 to the single-ended Cary CAD-300SEI, but the tradeoff was a more forward low-treble presentation that sounded magic on some recordings, too aggressive on others. The volume setting was also very critical with the tubed Cary. Sounding just right at one level, it only took an increase of a dB or three to have me reaching for the volume control.
The RM7's treble balance was something I got used to, however, because it didn't lessen the speaker's preservation of detail. All the electronics shadings and granularities around the edges of Laurie Anderson's vocal tracks on her first album (Big Science, Warner Bros. 3674-2) were audible, as were the low-level treble noises accompanying the tape-looped "Uh uh uh" backing to her seminal "O Superman" track.
In the midrange, the RM7si was a little more idiosyncratic. While most rock recordings sounded fine, naturally balanced classical albums sounded occasionally rather nasal. Oboe, for example, took on some of the character of the English Horn. While classical piano generally sounded character-free, some upper-midrange notes were thrust forward out of the soundstage at the listener. This was a sometime thing, however, and generally didn't get in the way of my enjoyment of the music, like the complete Mitsuko Uchida set of Mozart Piano Concertos, with Jeffrey Tate conducting the English Chamber Orchestra (Philips 438 207-2) that I'm currently working my way through (not that that's work).
In the bass, the little Joseph was generously balanced. If it didn't have the extension of the three-times-the-price Totem Mani-2 or twice-as-expensive Platinum Solo, it did have a satisfying combination of weight and control. The deep bass guitar sounds on "Fast Car" and "Mountains of Things" from Tracy Chapman didn't suffer from unmusical midbass boom, and the instruments were well-balanced across their ranges—no notes sticking out more than others.
Dynamics were good, though some midrange confusion set in with such over-the-top mixes as the Red Hot Chili Peppers' One Hot Minute (Warner Bros. 45733-2), which is generally compressed to hell. (With an average level approaching the peak level, this is the loudest CD I've ever heard.) The big "hold the line" climaxes on Peter Gabriel's "San Jacinto" (Peter Gabriel, Charisma PG 4, English LP) came over with an open, easy quality.
Stereo imaging wasn't as precise as I've come to expect, with central images broadened slightly via the RM7s. Image depth was also good rather than excellent, though the delineation of image depth planes improved when I changed from the Levinson to the Cary. Putting the Blue Nile's superbly well-crafted 1983 debut album (A Walk Across the Rooftops, Linn/Virgin CD5087) on the Levinson '31, I was pleasantly surprised to hear how well the Josephs preserved the fine-grain sonic seasonings Paul Buchanan and Robert Bell had used to point their production.
They're American planes. Made in America
Although I initially found the RM7si's mellow tonal balance a little offputting compared with my reference B&W Silver Signature, I quickly accommodated to its character and came to appreciate the speaker's smooth, detailed presentation and its excellent bass balance. I actually preferred it to the more expensive Joseph RM20ti that we reviewed a couple of years back (footnote 2). As I say elsewhere in this magazine, the competition in the RM7si's price range is intense, with superb floorstanders like the Vandersteen 2ce and standmounted designs like the Epos ES 14 setting the pace. While noting that it worked better on typical rock recordings than classical, at $1300/pair, the Joseph RM7si represents good sound-for-the-bucks and is strongly recommended.
Footnote 2: August 1994, p.103; and June 1995, p.165.