Herb's Saturday at the Show Part 1

The July Stereophile will include my Follow-Up report on the Joseph Audio Pulsar loudspeakers; the same Pulsars Michael Fremer raved about in his full review. Before I submitted the review, Jana Dagdagan and I made a live binaural recording/video to accompany my written report so you, the reader at home, could experience the exact same recordings in the exact same system in the same room I used to evaluate the Pulsars. Today, therefore, I will only tell you that Jeff Joseph's floor-standing, gloss-white Perspective loudspeakers (15,990 Euros/pair) sounded fuller, deeper, bigger, and richer, than the stand-mounted Pulsars I reviewed.

Like all Joseph show systems, this one specialized in finesse. Unfortunately, my impressions were surely and positively influenced by the high quality of sources Jeff chose for his Munich demonstrations: a Technics RS1500 open-reel tape transport feeding a custom Doshi tape-head preamplifier and a Alluxity Media One Media Server/DAC (9500 Euros). These premium sources fed a 200Wpc Alluxity Int One integrated amplifier (7500 Euros), which sat in all its red-orange glory on some fine Danish cabinetry by Clic Furniture.

Once upon a time . . . I represented Hiroyaso Kondo and imported to America his exquisitely handcrafted (and expensive) Audio Note amplifiers, preamplifiers, silver cables, and IO cartridges. Kondo was a metallurgist by training, and every thin wire, transformer winding, and foil-and-paper-in-oil capacitor, was made from cold-drawn, pure Italian silver. When Kondo died, I moved on, and restarted my career as a fine artist. Like I say, that was long ago.

But the spirit of Kondo lives on via the Zen-like diligence of his well-tutored successor: Masaki Ashizawa. The company name has changed from Audio Note (Japan) to simply Kondo, but the products are still dripping with pure silver, pure copper, and directly heated triodes. And . . . they have added a new, amazing-looking Kondo—a turntable. (Sorry, but there were no prices or component lists at the time of my visit.) What I heard from the system in the photo was the same transparent, liquid, ribbon-microphone tonality I loved and lived with for many years. Kondo may have passed but his love of music and the audio arts is still—very much alive.

Art Dudley stalked the four MOC halls more than I, but somehow he missed the coolest, best-sounding open display of all: the Sombetzki ESL Home.

The Sombetzki brochure asks its readers to, "Experience your music in an immediacy and intensity rarely heard." What that means is: Sombetzki's ESL Home speaker is designed for music listening from a solitary comfortable chair within 2–3' of their attractive, active, pole-mounted electrostatic speaker (7500 Euros/pair). I sat, I closed my eyes, and I listened carefully and enjoyably to what seemed like exquisite sounds. But the MOC hall was very noisy. I kept wishing for a quiet dark room, and some ambient nature recordings, featuring, birds, bees, and the voice of Bridget Bardot.

Earlier in my coverage, I mentioned that when I die, I'd be happy if I could just take my Falcon LS3/5a speakers to wherever I'm going on the other side. But while I still live, I believe I could visit heaven if only I could listen, late at night, in my own candle lit room, to the Voxativ Arpeggio X loudspeakers with Voxativ's full range 8" AC-XP field-coil drivers, which feature: leather surrounds, wooden cones, and N1 power supply. Total cost: around 76,000 Euros/pair.

Let me clarify what heaven on earth must look like: super-sensitive, full-range wooden-cone drivers, with natural leather surrounds, and electro-dynamic (field-coil) magnets. Why wood and leather pistons? Because they don't sound like, plastic, Kevlar, ceramic, or aluminum. Why electro-dynamic magnets? Because ferrite magnets sound brittle and grainy like cinders.

I am not joking. The Voxativ audio aesthetic perfectly suits my taste in home music reproduction. If I had the space in my bunker, and I had any cash in my bank (I am broke and overdrawn as I type this), I would hunker down nightly and let Voxativ's fast, rich, transparent sound take me to them Pearly Gates.

And guess what I discovered? Those pearly gates are illuminated by the bright 211 triode-tube emitters of Voxitiv's T-211 integrated amplifier (16,600 Euros). I am ready Father—take me now!

Raidho loudspeakers are way more Apollonian (left brain) than the mostly Dionysian (right brain) hornspeakers I've been describing. In fact Raidho's super-tall, super-slender, nine-driver TD-4.8s sounded more precisely drawn tantalum-ceramic-diamond–drivered than ever. These speakers image like laser-guided weapons and move like sub-atomic particles. A few times the TD-4.8s' transient speed made me jump in my seat. Therefore, if your brain favors its left side, and you have the high-resolution music files to prove it, then Raidho's diamond drivers and slender towers are waiting for your admiration.

I described the sound in one of Living Voice's rooms in an earlier report. Their second room featured the less expensive (450,000Euros/pair vs 750,000 Euros/pair) Vox Palladian & Palladian Basso loudspeakers (in European Walnut laid to a sunburst motif). Integrated amps are big and fashionable this year and the Vox Palladians played extra-smooth and extra-effortlessly, powered by the Engstrom's new 300B Arne integrated amplifier (30,000 Euros). Both Living Voice rooms employed the hyper-musical canary LV CD300 player (6525 Euros) and a Living Voice G2 equipment table (12,528 Euros).

How did the sound in the two Living Voice rooms compare? Of course the Vox Olympian room was a bit more lusty and sensuous. It played big orchestral music with a fuller, more-developed set of harmonics. Vocals came from more real flesh-and-blood humans. But! Both rooms were at the top-of-the-top of what's possible in hi-fi today. Coupled to the Vox Palladians, the Engstrom Arne 300B tube integrated proved itself to be a generous sensuous animating force.

Anton's picture

Any idea who makes the room wall mount diffusers in the Kondo and Kawero! room?

Me want!

Oldsport's picture

Following the clue of "Kawero," web searching suggests they are Kaiser Acoustics Diffuser SD1's at www.kaiser-acoustics.com
trail gets pretty cold after that. Good luck with specifics.

Anton's picture

I am continuing the search and will post a link if I find it!

funambulistic's picture

Those are nice looking panels! I am not sure how effective they may be at diffusion and/or diffraction (having specified something similar in the past, they are most likely a thin fiberglass either poured or pressed in a mold; higher quality units are CNC machined MDF) but they look very nice. The aforementioned Kaiser website also shows them installed in black, but, alas, with no further information.

A couple good sources for similar products are Interlam (interlam.com) and Modular Arts (modulararts.com). You may find something that tickles your fancy. Alibaba.com also has a diverse selection.

Anton's picture

The Voxitivs also seduce my auditory system and I would love the hear the Sombetzki speakers!

Great stuff!

RH's picture

"Today, therefore, I will only tell you that Jeff Joseph's floor-standing, gloss-white Perspective loudspeakers (15,990 Euros/pair) sounded fuller, deeper, bigger, and richer, than the stand-mounted Pulsars I reviewed."

That's what I found when comparing the Pulsar and Perspectives as well. For the most part, the Perspectives gave what the Pulsars do...but more. The Pulsars are terrific, but it was the Perspectives that really grabbed me most when I auditioned them.

Jason P Jackson's picture

The Joseph Perspectives have consistently received high praise from various reviewers of late. I'm eager to hear them myself.

Anton's picture

On the Voxativ speakers, it sounds like “Laurel.” On the Raidhos, it sounds like Yanni.

One audio rule that has never failed to serve me well: If you think you hear Yanni, plug your ears and run. Works in all things audio....and romance.

dalethorn's picture

It's a great experiment though.

RH's picture


I remember in your last video you said you didn't like shiny speakers.

I wonder why? I was amazed to see you call the JA speakers "too shiny" given their wood finish has caused much swooning by observers. I find the JA speakers, Perspectives especially in a wood finish, to be among the most beautiful out there.

The reason I bring this up is that you've just written the The Voxativ audio aesthetic is your cup of tea and you'd love to own them. But aren't they rather shiny speakers as well?

Herb Reichert's picture

I would buy the best Voxitiv driver and put it on an open baffle of my own design. It would be painted auto primer black like the amps I sometimes build . . . THAT is the system I could live with