Joseph Audio RM33si Signature loudspeaker Page 4

Okay, enough sensitive chamber music. Could these muthas boogie?

In auditioning Prince's slamming New Power Soul (New Power Generation) and KRS-One's production of Sly & Robbie's hip-hop reggae meltdown, Silent Assassin (Island 91277-2), the eyes sure had it—they liked to pop right out of several listeners' heads. Yunowuttahmean? And where a certain degree of lower-bass weight helps flesh out the acoustic cues in an orchestral recording, it's at the critical juncture of the upper bass and lower midrange (ca 100-250Hz) that a loudspeaker displays its dancing mettle.

I found it hard to believe how much detail—let alone rhythm, pacing, and articulation—the Joseph's little midrange driver was capable of delivering. On track after track, particularly Prince's acoustic-mannered "The One," the RM33si resolved all manner of elaborate stereo detail while delineating the enormous front-to-back depth and complex left-right panning of the studio-derived soundstage and fleshing out solo and multitracked vocals from the gigantic upright bass and sampled drums—all the while preserving the acoustic élan of hand percussion and harp samples. Likewise, on Sly & Robbie's "Steppin'," I was startled by how much power and subsonic impact the Josephs conveyed, even as they illuminated a welter of little scratching and percussion effects, such as some orchestral bell samples way back in the mix to the left of center. Bam!

If my search for the perfect loudspeaker has shown me anything, it is that no loudspeaker does everything or will please every listener. Loudspeaker designs and designers are as varied and singular as the people who love them, and reflect their own sets of particulars of what constitutes a truly musical presentation.

Which is just another way of saying that personal tastes, system synergy, and the peculiar characteristics of your listening environment all play a part. But with the Joseph Audio RM33si, it was all there: the soundstaging depth, the pinpoint definition and localization of images in the lateral plane, the clarity of timbre, the accuracy of frequency response, the realism of the top and bottom extensions, the wealth of midrange detail and air.

Jeff Joseph and Richard Modaferri have achieved something special with the RM33si—a design that might in time prove to be a standard by which other speakers are compared. The speaker was both enormously revealing of yet complemented my upstream components: with my Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista preamp and Synergistic Research cables with Active Shielding, the presentation was richly detailed, forward, and deeply illuminated; with the single-ended, class-A triode signature of the Blue Circle Galatea preamp and JPS Labs cables, the Josephs were resoundingly extended, warmly laid-back, and spaciously inviting; and in my secondary system (in the smaller confines of my wife's piano studio), the RM33si's offered richly dynamic, liquid soundstaging via a Simaudio I-5 70W integrated amp.

For some listeners, the charm and appeal of the RM33si might initially prove elusive in an audio showroom—it's a speaker you need to live with for a while to truly appreciate how effectively it disappears and lets the music shine through. It's so revealing of its partners in the signal chain that it could be at something of a disadvantage in a dealer's showroom, where the characteristic midrange resolution, high-end detail, and low-end slam of comparable speaker designs might initially prove more alluring.

It's easy to misconstrue the RM33si's extraordinary levels of clarity and resolution as being cool, dry, bright, or analytical. Yet the Joseph couples so easily with the average listening room, and offers such clean, natural bass extension that listeners in the sacred sweet spot and at all points off-axis will be able to enjoy a remarkably realistic sense of an acoustic event. Via the Josephs they can experience all of the visceral excitement and up-from-the-floorboards rhythmic impact of no-holds-barred electric music.

Or, as one friend put it after auditioning his favorite techno record on the RM33si's, "Man, why would you ever want more bass than that?!"