Joseph & Soundsmith

After lunch, I wandered into the Joseph Audio room. I had initially encountered Jeff Joseph on Wednesday afternoon as he was attempting to cart four huge boxes of equipment into the hotel by stacking them one atop the other on a flimsy two-wheel luggage cart. Needless to say, upon encountering a small hump at the hotel threshold, the poor thing began to bend under the weight, unceremoniously depositing Jeff's boxes on the floor. Like someone kicking a mule whose hind legs have collapsed under it, Jeff attempted to wrestle with the beast, trying to convince it to perform its intended duty. The man may have the wherewithal to produce uncommon speakers that have received three "Best Sound at the Show" honors, but he seems to share a common human failing with yours truly—an occasional refusal to acknowledge the obvious.

Happily, with the help of hotel personnel, Jeff managed to get his three sets of speakers into the diminutive room he was set to share with Soundsmith Audio. What he did not transport were the Cardas Golden Reference speaker cables necessary to power the Joseph Audio RM22XL floorstanders ($3199/pair). Nonetheless, even using Radio Shack speaker wire, the floorstanders bore a strikingly similar sonic signature to the RM7XL bookshelf speakers ($2299/pair) which benefited from Cardas speaker cables.

Most intriguing were the as yet unreleased and unnamed Soundsmith HE 2006 Power amplifier (300Wpc into 8 ohms/480Wpc into 4 ohms), which will probably retail at $22,000, and the Strain Gauge Phono Cartridge and preamplifer, which may debut at $15,000. The units, which sounded most impressive, boast far more than brightly illumined, large logos. The amp's front face is dominated by two large, sunburst shaped arrays that light up in different colors as volume levels increases, while the preamp offers several differently shaped illumined arrays. One is composed of a host of LEDs aligned in a V shape around the attenuator knob; the other is a vertical array of lights that registers phono cartridge tracking force. The resultant light show, which I found so bright that I could only listen with my eyes closed, clearly threw me off balance; my photo of the set-up came out far too blurry for posting.

Thankfully, Soundsmith engineer and company head Peter Ledermann offered solace by assuring me that the finished product will offer complete control over luminosity. This is a good thing, because the Soundsmith sound suggests that his products may be destined for greatness. Certainly the wonderful range of colors displayed on the Ebony Band Amsterdam's Homenaje a Revueltas, superbly captured on a Channel Classics SACD, came through in spades, abetted in no small part by the justly praised Ayre C-5xe universal player and the Joseph Audio gems.

P.sandberg's picture

Great sound in this room! M&Ms, too!