Bed-Stuy ci·né·ma-vé·ri·té

I would love Art Dudley even if I had never met him, listened to bluegrass with him, or swapped stories about aliens near a campfire under a milky-way-filled Cherry Valley sky. I would love him because he's Art D. and his audio writings are so I-am-there intimate and engrossing. Unfortunately, every time I read his stuff I want more. It is one thing to read audio porn but, for me, audio porn really needs sight and sound. In print form it is not fully satisfying. Forget MQA and DSD, I want POV. I want to see Art sitting on his new couch listening to Shindo-powered Altecs. Likewise, when I write my own stuff I fret, because you my dear readers did not experience even a little of what I heard. Well, thanks to John Atkinson's wise faith and Stereophile's auteur du cinéma Jana Dagdagan's fine craft . . . now you can.

In this video you will sit with me in the Bed Stuy bunker as I work on a Follow Up review of the shiny Joseph Audio Pulsar loudspeakers. You will hear what I hear. You will see how small my 13' x 11' x 9.5' listening room really is. You might notice it is not a sealed box but opens stage right and left to halls and other rooms. You will see my sturdy (and mechanically enhanced) Home Depot equipment rack and the Mytek HiFi Manhattan II DAC connected to my computer via a AudioQuest Cinnamon USB link and to my stoop-sale Integra DPS-7.2 CD-player/transport via Kimber Kable D60 Data Flex Studio coaxial link. Because I am in the middle of a cartridge review, I used my Linn Sondek LP12 Valhalla equipped with a SME M2-9 arm and Koetsu Rosewood Standard Cartridge connected to a My Sonic Lab Stage 1030 MC step-up transformer and my beloved Tavish Design Adagio tube phono stage.

These analog and digital sources were connected to the Pass Labs HPA-1 preamplifier/headphone amp via TriodeWire Labs Spirit (Mytek) and Auditorium 23 (Tavish) interconnects. The HPA-1 reached the super-transparent Pass XA25 amplifier via a 1.5m of Wireworld Silver Eclipse 7 cable. The XA25 was tethered to the Joseph Audio speakers via TriodeWire American cables. And look! There are those 24" Sound Anchor speaker stands I am always jabbering about. Also notice that old red-striped blanket on the couch, which, unfortunately, you can't see in my stories.

Jeff Joseph and John Atkinson both nodded approvingly when I played the featured native DSD128 Nama recording (M•A M084A); as for me, I personally thought it this was the most transparent, detailed, and effectively neutral system I have assembled since starting as Stereophile. After every take, I would look over at Jana and say, "Damn! That sounded good —right?" but she would just frown and say, "Herb, can we do another take? You moved your head!" (I would love Jana even if she never scolded me.)

Special Note: In this video I used M•A Recordings exclusively. In part, this is because I am master recordist-producer Todd Garfinkle's biggest fan —everything about his productions is musically superb and sonically perfect. But mainly I used these recordings because Todd is my friend and I have his permission to do so.

tonykaz's picture

Of Course, what else should reviewing be?

An original Linn, my first true love and "Koetsu Rosewood" my second love. Hmm, I think the Valhalla power supply can do 45 as well as 33. I sold container loads of LP12s in 1984 nearly all with the Valhalla. I still love them.

I also love the detachable head shell system from Fidelity Research ( I think ) and the Sumiko MMT Arm, which is still in production. Koetsu offered a wide range of Stone ( onyx ) Head Shells ( I imagine they still do )

Wearing my own Sennheisers I could hear a Truck Passing by.

Personal perspective and experiences are the important ingredients for a review. Readers ( speaking for me ) are interested in what a reviewer is experiencing as they "Live" with some contending design. ( thanks for mentioning the xa25 amp's transparent & powerful personality- I keep hearing about it from everyone ).

"reviewed objects" should be the Substrate the writer uses to paint the intended story which can and should include Chickens and interesting Master Locks on a semi-private Garden for writing and all manner of distractions. Thank you for the wonderful visit.

For a few minutes I'm visiting NY, now I return to BasilWorld then Home to more of life's.....

This Bed Stoy story was over too quickly.

Tony in Michigan

adeep42's picture

It's great to see a reviewer that listens in what is normal environment for most of us. Sure, I'd love to have a dedicated listening room with lots of acoustic treatments and a perfectly placed listening chair. But for me that's not reality. I listen in my living spaces, frequently while I am doing other chores. Great video!!!!

Ali's picture

Thank you Herb for sharing, I always enjoying your posts. Music were great too.

volvic's picture

As someone who has heard Joseph Audio speakers many times over the years I was able to hear that familiar sound; fullness and detail but not overly analytical. Although not my cup of tea the music was interesting. I found the first track played to be the fullest and most enjoyable sonically; there was a richness and 3-D to the music the LP and CD didn't have as much, they were a little thinner. I can't believe I am saying this as an LP12 owner, but that was my first impression. Perhaps will listen again to confirm. Highly enjoyable. BTW! What happened to the Palmer table? Is the Technics 1200 still hibernating under the bed?

Herb Reichert's picture

You discriptions coincide with my experiences. As for the Palmer, it is gone. Likewise the stoop-sale Technics. But, later this year, I will revisit the notorious $699 Pioneer PLX-1000 which I like more than the original SL1200MK2s. So stay tuned and thank you for reading my stories.
peace and spring flowers

volvic's picture

Thoroughly enjoy reading your experiences look forward to the Pioneer review. Oh and by the way forgot to compliment on the art hanging on the walls. Quite lovely.

Herb Reichert's picture

for even noticing my paintings. And thank you even more for the compliment. Strangely, it is almost laughable how 99% of my audio world visitors never notice the art. But 99% my artist friends notice the audio - especially the headphones which they always ask about. When they listen to some really good headphones they go wild. They engage with the floorspeakqers less. Steve Gutenberg notices both because he is an artist too!
BTW: today I will be optimizing the cartridge allignment of the Pioneer PLX-1000 to play 7" 45rpm records. I will report on the results. peace and not styrene

volvic's picture

As an art history major, one of my many degrees, it is difficult not to notice the art. When you see something you like that grabs you it is tough to ignore. Funny, yesterday had a day off from work while recovering from the Robert Plant show that I too finally installed a cartridge on my Technics 1200 and compared it to my SME 10. The results surprised me; on some recordings the bright and brash Technics made them come alive vs the polite and damped SME 10. On others the SME with its rounded and polite approach to music was clearly the winner. Makes me wonder if I should now install the SME M2-9 on the SME 10 and move the SME IV over to the Technics to give more life to the SME and more politeness to the Technics. Look forward to the PLX-1000 review, lobe giant killers. Who knew these direct drive Japanese tables could be so refreshing in their approach to music reproduction.

Five leaves left's picture

Thank you for doing these. I think it is really cool to be able to get closer to the actual review system. I hope you keep doing them!

Lars Bo's picture

Thanks Herb.

While I think viewers won't ever be truly alongside you, it certainly closes the gap.

This kind of video aids bringing more life to the gear, and especially in connecting to you, human to human; perhaps the purpose of all music, and at least some audio gear. And, increasingly, of Stereophile too, I find--also in the writing.

Is Jana binaural as well, recording you?

Thanks again

Anton's picture

Very gracious of you to invite us in for a listen. I makes it very involving.

As an aside, you have a very involving vocal cadence. Your enthusiasm comes across wonderfully.

RH's picture

The video is terrific, thanks! These type of features are making Stereophile a "must visit" site for me these days.

Herb is a warm and enthusiastic host, and it's great fun to be invited along into a listening session at his home.

And all the better that Joseph Audio Pulsars were featured, IMO.

Having long been familiar with the name, I'd only begun hearing JA speakers in the last couple of years - at shows and then demoed at dealers etc. I'm now a huge fan of this speaker line. Herb has mentioned before the sense of "silence" or "quiet" that accompanies the JA speaker sound, and that is exactly what I and many others seem to hear: a particularly low sense of hash and added distortion that makes for a sort of "black background" from which instrumental tone and timbre seems to emerge with a grain-free, clarity and purity I rarely encounter in other products. In listening to the Pulsars and Perspectives, I've heard some of the most ravishingly pure, organic and complex reproductions of voice and acoustic instruments!

Some of that does come through in the recording - though I think it also helps to have heard JA speakers in person to help the recognition factor for the sound. And in the video Herb ruminates about the worth, or not, of experiencing audio systems through videos like these, on youtube etc. It's been with great fascination that I have found, as Herb indicates, that one can get a sort of "gist" of the sound of a system, if somewhat well recorded, through videos. I remember first noting this when I used a good Sony video camera to record some of my experience at a past CES/THE Show. Once home I watched the video wander from room to room, and as the camera entered the room with MBL 101 omni speakers I was astonished at how I recognized the sound. The sound signature changed on the video very much in the way the sound changed wandering room to room in real life. The sound of several rooms preceding the MBL speakers comprised normal dynamic box speakers, and they had that signature. Once the camera entered the MBL room it's like traces of a stereo system playing the sound vanished, and it sounded much more like the camera had wandered into a room where live musicians were simply playing music. Exactly the impression I had when comparing live.

And this makes sense to some degree, because speakers, like humans, each tend to have a "voice" and so in principle some characteristics of that "voice" can be captured by a microphone, just as the differences in our voices can.

And, again as indicated by Herb, I think much of what one learns from good videos of systems is less exactly what the system sounds like, but more the relative difference in certain sonic characteristics relative to other systems. One can watch, for instance, all of those videos documenting various rooms at CES or other shows, and note how the sonic presentation changes.

On this note, it's really intriguing to me that, in going through the many videos available on line recording the Joseph Audio rooms, the "voice" of the JA sound really seems to come through; always super clear, with vocal and instrumental tone beautifully separated, a natural, unforced transient clarity etc.

The same goes for videos of Quad ESL 57s, or videos of MBL speakers. I can really hear the particular "boxless" quality of those speakers
differentiating them from videos of most box speakers.

Fun times for us audiophools!

rbtz18's picture

Enjoyed the video. You have a nice way of expressing yourself, but I think it is hard to get a feel for the sound when you aren't listening to the actual speaker in person.
In doing the follow up, I hope you compare this speaker to the Harbeth M30.2 which you just reviewed which I suspect has a very different sound.
Thank you again.

RH's picture

Hi rbtz18,

In case Herb can not accommodate your Harbeth vs Pulsar request, I can speak somewhat to the differences as I'm familiar with both (I've owned Harbeth Super HL5 Plus, demoed the M30.2, demoed the Joseph Pulsar and Perspectives).

As you know the Harbeths are renowned for an organic, believable tone, especially with voices. There still isn't anything I've heard that quite captures what Harbeths do with the human voice - a certain fullness, roundness and tone that seems "just about right."
I did find the M30.2s a tad on the dark side tonally. Within their frequency range they sound very right, woody instruments sounding woody, reed instruments sounding reedy, etc. But in the "close my eyes could it be real?" test I was aware of a slight shelving/darkening of the sound that cued it was canned.

The Super HL5 Plus are more extended and airy in the top end (and lower bottom end, also more tonal and controlled), so to my ears they had the classic Harbeth virtues in the midrange, but opened up for an even more believable sound.

The Joseph speakers also have a special way with voices and instrumental timbre. The sound is more modern and super clear and precise vs the Harbeth 30's, more open, transients a bit more emphasized. But they still sound full and the signature is one of total lack of haze or grain. Which is why you see so many people mention the "quietness" or "black background" of the Joseph speakers. So voices have, like Harbeth, but in their own way an unmechanical, pure tone that can sound ravishing.

Both the Harbeth and the JA speakers have to my ears a rare level of tonal/timbral beauty and accuracy. But I'd say the Harbeths have a sound that is warm, clear, full, soft and rich, and consonant with the character of real acoustic sounds.

What I hear on the Joseph speakers is an even wider array of tonal colors and timbre. Something about the extended high end, totally grain-free highs and midrange, seem to let the exact, pure character of everything from bells, to cymbals, to sax, trumpet, strings etc appear with unsullied purity. Unlike most speakers where, upon hearing a few tracks with drums or sax, I can predict how they will sound with those instruments from then on, the Joseph speakers tended to have more "surprise" in each track "wow that bell is so silvery" "that cymbal so brassy," "that cello so woody and rich."

I'd say the Joseph Speakers will tend to have more depth and punch in the bass region as well. If you are used to floor standing speakers, you'd feel less of a need for a subwoofer with the Pulsars vs the Harbeth 30s.

So summing up, the Harbeths and JA speakers are among my very favorite. I'd love to own both...but...I have a wife....;-)

Hope that helps a bit.


avanti1960's picture

I have heard the speakers you listed and your descriptions of how they sound are well articulated.
Unfortunately there is no substitute for actually hearing them because words cannot adequately convey how the JAs or Harbeths truly sound- but you did as good of a job as I have ever read!
The JA Pulsars remain as the best speaker I have ever heard regardless of cost.

rbtz18's picture


rbtz18's picture

Just came across your comparison of the two speakers and thought it was very clear and insightful. It sounds like the Joseph Pulsar is more comparable to the Harbeth Super HL5 Plus that you own.
One other thing, Herb uses a room similar in size to mine. Would the Harbeth Super HL5 Plus be appropriate or produce too much bass for the room?

RH's picture

Hi rbtz,

Yes I think the bass reach of the Pulsar probably does put it more in contention with the Harbeth Super HL5 Plus. I have a modest size room, 13' wide by 15' deep (at it's deepest), and the Harbeths worked fine in that room in terms of bass quality without issues.
Though it's a good room, acoustically. Herb's room looks smaller from the brief glimpse in the video, but if they JA speakers worked in there I'd think the Harbeth's might too. Though it seems to me Herb's room, though shallow, is open on both sides so perhaps that gives it more effective volume in terms of not creating the bass nodes he'd otherwise get in such a small "bunker."

All speculation on my part, so probably not much help.


rbtz18's picture

Hi RH'
Thanks for the quick reply. The information was very helpful.

rbtz18's picture

Hi RH'
Thanks for the quick reply. The information was very helpful.

supamark's picture

Nice place, I was expecting some sort of below street level apt, like a literal bunker for the Bunker. Somewhat surprising, if a bit boomy, bass from the speakers (I'm more of a sealed box guy, would love to hear some LS3/5A's and the X25 in your next video). Overall sounded good though the room's a bit more lively than I like but that's a taste thing.

alucas's picture

Omg, I loved the sound! I am spoiled, I could hear the liveness of the sound and the deep base that didn't take over, and I like closed speakers, but these were quality! Metal cones, had a much sharper sound to them, but controlled. I live in a small town in AZ so I can't really get to a show or a store, so this is much needed! Keep video taping! I love the way you write and video and sound is quality! I feel like kicking a hole in my speakers...rethinking that one....... ...

tonykaz's picture

Dear HR,

Did those guys "dare" you into "Theater" Mode?, Angry Theater? , seeping and dripping with sarcasm, oh dear.

It was well done with subliminal suggestive inserts.

I'm taking it as Satire on "Un-earned Confidence" of the inexperienced proponents.

And it's existence ( Vocal Critics ) is probably why nobody is willing ( or eager ) to take-on Wire Reviewing. ( can't JA make a quick call to Karen Sumner to find a possible reviewer or try to get that Silberman fella ) . Stereophile needs a Wire Reviewer. Egads, talk about "click-bait" .

Well, Audiostream is another example of Jana's advancing Video workings and Stereophile's advancement as itself becoming an ArtForm taking the time to showcase an interesting person with a Barn. Hmm.

Tony in Michigan Applauding

ps. the two on one, shifting trilogy worked well, didn't it.
annnnnnnnddddd who'd have the guts to burn a speaker like us OnLine Authorities? I'm happy that the guy didn't pee or poop instead of a glass of H2O.

I guess we're that bad, aren't we: I promise that I'll stop being critical of record playing systems and their 10,000 record collections made from Fossils, for gods sake, after-all, we all know that digital floating thru Earth's Ether is far better and will continue to be for the rest of my long lifetime. ( being a keyboarding "Online Authority" ).

ps 2. I hope to have a long visit with a pair of those Devores, are they as wonderful as ProAc? I'll have to find out.

RH's picture

To quote Python: "What an eccentric performance." :)

tonykaz's picture

I'm writing about the Video that just came out and I'm writing directly to the participants of that Audiostream Theater.

Tony in Michigan

Anton's picture

Technically, you are writing 'indirectly' to the participants of "that Audiostream Theater," as this is the Stereophile website.

(I know anachronistic vinyl Hi Fi can get a modern digital aficionado such as yourself all befuddled. So, keep working on your inter-tube geography!)


Do you ever go one day without some sort of vinyl obsessing?

tonykaz's picture

99.95 % of the Vinyl Gear produced for the World's consumption will never achieve performance levels of Stereophile's Recommended 500 List. The tiny amount of sonically viable Vinyl gear will cost in the range of $20,000.

Vinyl shouldn't be promoted and/or Displayed for a buying Group that is more in keeping with $10,000 Total Systems .

Geez, I am a Vinyl Guy with deeper vinyl involvement than nearly anyone on this Planet.

Vinyl is something like the Rolex Watches starting at $10,000 advancing to Patek Philippe in the $200,000 + Range.

Phew, Stereophile isn't the Robb Report.

Tony in Michigan

Anton's picture

I'll PayPal 10 bucks to your "Get me a life" Go Fund Me campaign.

tonykaz's picture

... I won't need it .

I've been immersed in Music for well over 6 decades. I've been in the Music Industry for over 5 Decades both visibly and behind the scenes.

The future is in well recorded music not Formats.

I'll restart my Vinyl belief when the iPhone has a Moving Coil Phono input. ( maybe )

Tony in Michigan

wgb113's picture

I personally enjoy the added dimension the videos, and now binaural recordings, add to the "review" experience. To all of the Stereophile staff I'd suggest that you keep-em coming!

rbtz18's picture

Hi RH,
Just came across your comparison of the two speakers and thought it is very clear and insightful. It sounds like the Joseph Pulsar is more comparable to the Harbeth Super HL5 Plus.
Again, if you see this thank you for your reply.