More Good Sound in Tampa

Without question, the 5th-floor room headlined by Joseph Audio Pulsar stand-mounted speakers ($7700/pair) and Doshi Audio's stereo amplifier ($19,995), line-level preamplifier ($17,995) and tape preamplifier ($17,995), connected by Cardas Clear and Clear Beyond cabling, earned its place on many an expo-goer's "Best Rooms of Show" list. Aided by an Aqua La Voce S3 DAC ($4750) and Innuos Zen Mk.3 server ($2600), the system stood out for the beauty of its midrange. I know I've mentioned the midrange a lot in these show reports, but you really needed to hear the glowing warmth of this one.

My first impression came from listening to some light classical fare that was a bit too inconsequential for my taste. (That's another way of saying "boring," which actually applies to much of the Top-10 classical fare that I encountered in multiple rooms at the show.) After asking for something down and dirty, Jeff Joseph searched around a bit on his computer and came up with a blues cut from what I believe was the Larry Carlton Trio's Live in Paris. The track began with crashing cymbals, realistically depicted, followed by good bass, nasty guitar, and warm, glowing, beautiful sound that, to my ears, epitomized the high-end experience. Equally warm and extremely present sound came from the first stereo release of Monk and Coltrane's "Blues for Tomorrow."

Cardas's Clear Beyond cabling and Nautilus power strip surfaced once again in the MoFi room, where Jonathan Derda was getting some really wonderful sound from the Falcon LS3/5A monitor ($2995/pair)—Malcolm Jones's part-for-part replica of the original BBC sealed-box monitor—as well as Primare's I25 100Wpc integrated amp ($3995), which ships next month and includes a DAC/streamer that does up to DSD256 and PCM 32/768, and has the potential to become MQA-capable at a future date; a Dr. Feickert handmade, entry-level 9.5 turntable ($3500) with Koetsu Black Gold cartridge ($2500 alone, or $5500 as a turntable/cartridge package); and MoFi's MC/MM phono stage ($299), which was developed by Tim de Paravicini. Did I actually include all that in just one sentence? [Yes!—the deputy editor]

Hearing "Willow Weep for me" from an LP of the Shoji Yokouchi Trio's Greensleeves, I enjoyed the small, precise imaging of cymbals and the warm fullness of the Hammond organ. Yes, the images were small, as in ideal for small quarters, but the transparency and warmth were very, very fine. For a change of pace, we shifted to a Qobuz stream of Yello's "'Til Tomorrow," which managed to fill the space and sound just great. Another winner.

Make that three winners in a row for the sound in the room shared by Triode Wire Labs cabling, Volti Audio's Rival Type II "compact" horn loudspeaker (starts at $9400/pair; on dem was a $16,200/pair with special veneer, external crossovers, Triode Wire Labs internal wiring, and reusable crates), and BorderPatrol Audio Electronics' P21 20Wpc, 300B-based EXD power amplifier ($15,550 with Living Voice 300Bs and other options), and BorderPatrol's DAC SE ($1850 as shown). Although all the "as shown" options can begin to read like the Family Dinner choices in a Chinese restaurant (albeit with no one fixed price), this system's unquestionably warm, lovely sound and big midrange were totally listenable and inviting on Holly Cole's "Good Time Charley's Got the Blues." A blues cut by Arturo Sandoval moved equally well, and displayed the same lovely warmth.

Atrevit Acoustic of Fort Lauderdale displayed a unique, eye-catching system that delivered a nice, airy, and warm reproduction of an LP of Miles Davis's The Man with the Horn. I could have done with a less muffled low end on both this track and Diana Krall's The Girl in the Other Room, but the ability to hear the miking on Krall's voice, the beautiful depiction of her voice and piano, and the unquestionably appealing sound certainly count for something positive in my book.

Heard was Atrevit Acoustic's Enchantriss fully active 3.2-way speaker system ($31,000/pair). The system includes Atrevit's Virtuoso tube amplifier ($5800), Solid State dual 3-channel monoblock ($6900), Enchantriss Acoustic Reference One speaker with passive crossovers ($15,000/pair), and a pair of Sphinx subwoofers ($5500).

I have only good things to say about the mating of LamizatOr electronics with Von Schweikert Audio Endeavor E-3 Mk.III speakers ($10,000/pair as shown) and a VAC Renaissance Mk.V preamplifier ($8000 without phono stage). A DSD128 file of Ray Brown's "Cry Me a River," from Solar Energy, sounded really nice, open, and illumined, with tight, mellow bass and a piano that was blessedly free of the tinkly, glassy piano sound that I heard in more than one room. Thumbs up also for the really nice midrange on a DSD128 file Stevie Ray Vaughn's "Tin Pan Alley." I only wish that, when I asked for something different, I hadn't been offered more mellow fair.

Heard from LampizatOr: the debut of the LampizatOr Pacific solid-state amplifier ($16,000 tentative pricing), Golden Gate 2 DAC ($15,000 base price), and Super Komputer music server ($6,900 base price). Also in use: Master Built reference cabling and a Critical Mass equipment stand.

RH's picture


Your description of "glowing warmth" I think captures quite well the impression of the Joseph Audio Pulsars (as well as the Perspective and Pearl speakers, which share that same voice).

I remember hearing an acapella vocal track through the JA Pearls at a show, before I had ever heard JA speakers before, and I was just stopped in my tracks. It wasn't just hearing vocals sound clear and detailed - that's par for the course for any high end speaker. It was that they actually sounded human! The organic warmth was startlingly like the sound of real speaking voices (people chatting) in the same room.

After that I had to seek out the more affordable models and was pleasantly surprised to find the same qualities.

I auditioned a huge list of speakers in the past two years, including the likes of Magico (A3), Revel, Paradigm Persona and many others. Somehow I found myself sitting for hours mesmerized at everything I played through the Joseph Pulsar and Perspective speakers. They had a certain, special midrange grain-free purity yet not at the expense of sounding anti-septic, but rather it was married to a beautiful warmth of tone.

Even playing symphonic pieces though the smaller speakers was amazing. It obviously wasn't of cinematic scale, but the timbral verisimilitude itself had my hair raising on my arms - the ravishing quality of the strings, the particularly glowing metallic signature of the horns, the particular character of the woodwinds, with a very human-sounding voice emerging solo....just bowled me over.

I'm hoping to own some JA speakers some day.

jtshaw's picture

Pulsars have graced my system since 2011, and I truly feel no desire to try any others. I'm fortunate to live near a dealer that carries exquisite high-end kit, and I've listened to several of their shoot-for-the-moon systems. I recognize how good they are, but I never feel deprived when I get home to the Pulsars. Your description of their sound is spot on.

johnnythunder's picture

midrange. Not just clear but imbued with just the right amount of warm "reinforcement" in voices that makes them sound uncannily rich and rounded. Different than a LS3/5A type of midrange-to my ears only Jean Marie Reynaud speakers have a similar quality. That's a compliment.

Volti's picture

. . . choosing from all those menu items.

I agree with you Jason, that it can be a bit daunting at first, but my phone number is on my website, and you can just call me and we'll work it all out.

The advantage to selling a dozen sets of speakers each year instead of hundreds is that I can offer such a wide variety of finishes and options and fit into a wide range of budgets, all with the same great sound.

Thanks for visiting our room at the Tampa show, see you at the next one.