RMAF 2014: Return of the Jumping Cactus


Logo - Blue VectorJim Harrell’s Jumping Cactus Loudspeakers returned to RMAF this year after a long absence. The 2000’s had Jim regularly showing off his sealed, aluminum enclosures stuffed with high-efficiency drivers and matched to active crossovers. Back then, the price was creeping in on ten grand for the eponymous speakers before a person even bought some amps.

Jim’s new speakers bear the same name (Jumping Cactus Loudspeakers) but absolutely no resemblance to the previous outings. Instead of milled aluminum, there’s veneered mdf. Instead of multiple driver enclosures, there’s one box. Instead of multiple drivers, there’s a single Visaton BG20. Instead of active crossovers, there’s no crossover. Instead of an analog signal path, a Behringer DCX2496 handles the equalization needed to make the sound tolerable. Instead of ten grand, the price is $2500 — including the stands.

When I expressed my surprise about the total change in direction, Jim said “Well… I just kept squishing all those drivers closer together. Eventually, I just gave up. These are more fun.”

Jim clearly knows his fun. In a hotel full of megabuck systems milled from purest unobtanium, Jim brought what can only be described as a Real World Rig. An old Rega P3 and a sadly discontinued Shure V15Vx (with a Jico stylus, so you can skip the MR) topped the rack. A Bellari VP130, breaking the bank at $275, handled the RIAA duties. A couple of regular-guy disc spinners filled the gaps around the Behringer box if someone wanted to hear digital. And, of course, a well-loved Moscode 300 loaded down the bottom shelf.

Really, Jim? Moscode?

“The speakers do prefer solid state, but I just like tubes. This is the way I compromise,” says the man.

That may be, but “compromise” is a completely misleading word to use for the sound here. A not-terribly-exotic pressing of the ubiquitous Time Out was spinning, and while the system may not have had that last touch of sparkle, or that overpowering resolve of some of the more exotic systems, it more than made up for it with straight ahead wholeness and a surprising absence of any boxiness. There was a little of that Behringer glare, but the sound was generally just slightly warm, and so, so inviting.

This room was filled with pedestrian parts, the DIY spirit, and a solid sense of fun. I felt right at home here. If anyone wants to talk about “giant killer” systems, you might want to start by talking to Jim Harrell.