CAF2012: Command Performance A/V presents Joseph Audio, Bel Canto, VPI, Audience


There’s nothing like a Joseph Audio demo to make me feel like Clarence Thomas. I mean, I know I ought to recuse myself, but I just won’t do it. Fact is, I’m a Joseph fan boy! Yep, I said it.

It’s pretty easy for me to tell you why I love my Joseph Audio speakers — and I have several. I have RM7XL and a Cinergy 6.1XL in my home theater and a pair of Pulsars in the man cave. Why all the love? Elementary, my dear Watson — they’re awesome. Enough said! Okay, maybe not.

There is a seamlessness to the sound of a Joseph speaker that is uncanny. Why this is may be moot, but I tend to attribute it to their patented Asymetrical Infinite Slope crossover, which …

… optimizes the interactions between the drivers, so the sound that comes from the woofer is seamlessly fused with that of the tweeter. It also optimizes the sound of each the drivers, permitting the use of such exotic materials as aluminum cones, while effectively silencing the ringing that such drivers can exhibit in conventional implementations.

The result, for me, is a musical loudspeaker that does wonders with detail, tone, and produces a shocking bass. PJ Zornosa, the National Sales Manager for Joseph Audio, says it this way:

The Joseph Audio speakers all have a few things in common which we could refer to as Design Integrity:

  • No Listener Fatigue
  • Good Imaging throughout the room, not just when sitting in the “sweet spot”.
  • Consistent impedance throughout the frequency range; nominally 8 Ohm, never less than 6 Ohms for ANY of our models and some never less than 7 Ohm. (Amps “love” this aspect – tube gear especially.)
  • Metal cone drivers manufactured to our specifications by SEAS, a well-respected driver manufacturer from Norway.
  • No characteristic ringing from metal cones due to the use of our (patented) Infinite Slope Crossover included in ALL models, including our Insider, in-wall model.
  • Very forgiving in terms of room placement; smooth but transparent response.

The Perspective, at $11,800, has been out for about a year now and is clearly one of the hottest speakers on today’s market. They are everything I love about my Pulsars, with an additional helping of bass — and overall finesse. No, these aren’t taller Pulsars. Jeff Joseph mucked about with them significantly and revoiced this new offering to produce a more linear, more even, more balanced presentation. It might be his best work to date.

Which leads me to a judicious application of hyperbole: I can’t think of another speaker at or near its price point that I’d rather own and it smokes not only my previous references, I’ll happily predict that it will remain my go-to sub-$20k recommendation for the foreseeable future. Just to pile on, if I didn’t already own Pulsars, I’d be looking to steal a pair of Perspectives.

The Perspectives have a response window of 35Hz to 20kHz. Sensitivity is an moderate-low/industry-standard 85-ish dB. I’ve heard these speakers on tubes and on solid-state, and both have sounded great, but were it me, I think I’d lean more on the side of “power”, of whichever type was preferred. But then, I’m kind of an idiot when it comes to volume. YMMV.

Jeff Fox of Command Performance A/V, the local Joseph Audio dealer, stuffed this room (one of two he was showing this weekend) with electronics from Bel Canto, including a pair of $3,990/pair REF500m monoblock amplifiers, a $4,990 3.5VB Mk II DAC w/ the VBS external power supply, a $2,995 CD-2 CD transport, and a fancy, brand-new, soon-to-be-released uLink USB-to-S/PDIF converter.

Analog playback came from a $2,800 VPI Classic 1 mounted with a $950 VPI/Dynavector 20x cartridge, run into a $800 Soundsmith MCP-2 phono preamplifier.

Command Performance has been building computer servers for many years, and at CAF, Jeff had the latest on hand — a $4,495 CommandPC Mini Music Server, which includes a very fancy and ludicrously robust external linear power supply — stuck in the rack, providing the tunes into the Bel Canto converters.

XLO Audio provided the signal cables. Power cords came from XLO, Audience and Wireworld.

Power filtering and distribution came courtesy of a top-of-the-line $10,000 Audience aR12TSS. This is a new model, building on the latest Teflon improvements to the line.

The optional filter section, designated by an “S” at the end of the model number, offers improved sonic performance and is available on the Adept Response standard, model T and model TS power conditioners.

The Audience Adept Response power conditioner S input filter upgrade adds a new dimension to an already superior filtering system. This filter section consists of a new large-core balun transformer implemented with the same OCC (Ohno) wire used to make the award-winning Audience Au24 powerChord. The result is more effective filtering over a broader frequency spectrum, down into the critical 20-30 kHz range.

In a startling display of awesomeness, Jeff Fox and team had converted the second room of the suite into a second demo room, this time featuring the familiar-to-me $7,000/pair Joseph Audio Pulsars. XLO Cables wired everything into a $2,995 Bel Canto C7R integrated receiver, including a Bel Canto $1,495 CD3t transport and a $1,300 Traveler turntable from VPI in a gorgeous candy-apple red.

I’m pretty psyched about all of this gear. First, the amp:

yes, okay, it’s a Receiver! But, he said arching his eyebrows, the amplifier section is based on the uprated REF150 so you get the REF-series filter board for maximum AC isolation, and like all Bel Canto components it runs so cool it can be placed practically anywhere. The C7R also sports an improved 8-character display, WBT NextGen terminals and an advanced DSP-based FM tuner section. This isn’t your daddy’s tuner!

Here’s the idea, in a tight space espeically, why choose different components for your music downloads, computer, CD player, tuner, turntables, cable/satellite box or game consoles? Keep things simple with the low-heat, compact, powerful C7R Receiver! It’s loaded with inputs — two 24/192 SPDIF, two 24/192 TOSLINK, and one 24/96 USB, MM Phono and Line Level inputs. Outputs are WBT NEXTGEN Speaker Connectors plus RCA Line Out and a Headphone Output.

The 24-bit digital volume control is completely transparent and accurate throughout the volume range. Advanced engineering details abound; 0.1% audio grade resistors, class-A output control circuitry, and low-noise power supply components. The heavy-gauge all-steel chassis design prevents mechanical resonance from compromising the audio signal. The stereo amplifier section is based on an elegant switching output stage that eliminates thermal distortion caused by changes in operating temperature.

And lastly, the Traveler. This is the second room I found a Traveler in, so I won’t spend much time re-covering it — other than to say, I don’t have one yet, but I sure would like one!

[insert crickets here]

The only thing a Traveler needs is a cartridge — but you can get package deals that include one. RCA jacks take the signal into the phono preamplifier of your choice and Bob’s your Uncle. It’s a handsome turntable. Belt driven, so it’s quiet. Metal platter so it has mass and sounds “alive”. Dense plinth, gimballed tonearm … full package, for almost half what a Classic 1 turntable costs. Remarkable.

The sound quality in these two rooms is pretty much unfair — to the other rooms. I’ve yet to hear a Joseph Audio room sound bad, though I have heard them sound kinda average. Not here. This was top drawer sound — in both rooms, though they were rather different.

Both rooms had dynamics and plenty of “jump” to them — the sound was rich, extended, and offered a significant and obvious window into the micro details buried in the recording. Not analytical, just clear. The Pulsars, set up across a corner in the second room, sounded startling, clean and (as usual) punched deceptively deeper than they have any right to. I’m sure they’d have loved the bigger amps and all the power conditioning their younger/larger siblings were enjoying in the main room, but for all that, I still got to scare a couple of unsuspecting show goers when I dropped Chris Jones’ “No Sanctuary Here” (off of Roadhouses & Automobiles) into the Bel Canto. I turned up the volume, and stepped back to take some pics. I’m paraphrasing, of course, but the response was something along the lines of “Holy Shit!” This track is a favorite bass torture track, and sounded robust and suitably ominous, if not outright life-threatening.

The Perspectives, obviously, reached deeper, with a punchier bass. Coming from the Pulsars, who were doing bizarrely awesome things with the bass, the Perspectives were enough to make more than one show goer start hunting for the absent sub woofer. I have a hard time believing that the Perspectives are only rated to the mid-30s for bass, because I wasn’t sure what else to ask for. Well … you could ask for that last decade, sure, but in this room, the Perspectives managed to do a nice job of energizing and the room no doubt contributed to the sense of depth and reach, which makes the loudspeakers a perfect fit, if you ask me. Moving on, but using the same CD, “Roadhouses & Automobiles”, the system dug deep into the mix and brought out all the buried crickets the mastering engineer must have added in just for fun. Jones’ vocals were just full of all that raspy despair the singer is known for.

Awesome stuff!

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4 Responses to CAF2012: Command Performance A/V presents Joseph Audio, Bel Canto, VPI, Audience

  1. Was thinking Elena Kagan more than Clarence Thomas …

  2. Mike C. says:

    Enjoyed the coverage, and couldn’t agree more about the Perspectives. I’ve owned the Pulsars, loved them, and traded them in on a beautiful pair of Perspectives. Regarding power requirements, more is definitely better. I’ve driven mine with both a VAC Phi Beta 110i (110 wpc) and, just recently, a Sanders Magtech. You MUST hear the latter on any of the Joseph speakers if possible. It’s magic.

    • TS says:

      Mike C., since you’ve had both the Pulsars and Perspectives in your system was wondering how they compare. Are the latter like Pulsars with more/better bass or are there other advantages in mids, highs, soundstage, imaging, micro/macro dynamics, etc.? Thanks for thoughts.

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