Joseph Audio RM7si loudspeaker August 2000 part 2

And the speakers' imaging was excellent, individual images being precisely positioned within a detailed, stable stage. Peculiarly, the soundstage was arch-shaped, central images being noticeably higher than those at the sides. This generally suggests some frequency-response anomalies that mimic the effect of the listener's pinnae, but the Joseph's response was pretty flat (see the "Measurements" Sidebar). Color me puzzled.

It's all been good news so far, but you'll note that I haven't mentioned the lower frequencies. In my 1996 review of the basic RM7si, I mentioned the generous lows; the Signature's lows are more generous. Not one-notey, I hasten to add, or boomy, but "gruff," in that there was just a little too much midbass in absolute terms. Orchestral music sounded glorious as a result—check out the Rachmaninoff Symphony 1 with the National Symphony of Ireland on Naxos (8.550806)—but any rock or jazz recording with double bass sounded just too plummy. Stanley Clarke's killer solo on "Nevermind" (Stereophile's Test CD 3) had too much body, not enough leading edges. But, interestingly, I could adjust this ratio with the playback volume. Turning up the wick brought the attacks on each note in better balance with the followthrough tone—presumably a compression effect. (This kind of tuning could also be done with the Celestion SL600.) The bass could also be adjusted with the cable used, Cardas Cross sounding usefully leaner than the Goertz cable I've been becoming enamored of.

Finally, I was alternating between the Josephs and the Dynaudio Contour 1.3s to balance Robert Silverman's complete Beethoven piano sonata project, which has occupied much of my time this spring. A couple of piano notes at the top of the keyboard persistently sounded more forward on the '7 Siggy than they did on the (more expensive) Danish speaker, so I investigated further. The region between 1.6kHz and 3kHz sounded definitely "dirty," both on warble tones and the half-step-spaced sinewaves on Test CD 3. Was an inductor saturating? Or was there some other problem? Whatever, the top of the woofer passband is the weak point of this otherwise excellent loudspeaker.

The RM7si was a favorite of mine, which begs the question of whether the Signature version is worth the premium. That I can't say, unfortunately, it being more than four years since I auditioned the regular '7si. But while I may have had some quibbles with some aspects of the Joseph speaker's performance, overall it gets the musical message right. With the right ancillaries, the bighearted RM7si Signature will offer its owner long-term listening pleasure.