JA Perspecitve Stereophile review


Just read the review and am scratching my head a bit so wondering what you guys think. Although Atkinson recommends them in the end it comes with some big caveats in terms of less than stellar bass and a boost in the presence range that he termed "hot." Looking at the frequency response graph it does show a boost in that region on the graph and relative to a couple other speakers, but I've listened to many JA speakers in many settings -- including the Perspectives -- and "hot" is not a word I would attribute to any of them so I find this very curious (nor can I recall any other review of a JA speaker where they're called hot or bright sounding). I know it's relative and personal preferences, etc., but still. Also, not too much said about imaging/disappearing, which I've always found to be a competitive strength particularly with JA speakers so surprised that wasn't more of a standout although he does generally find imaging to be a positive.

Also curious is that Atkinson is usually pretty good at providing direct product comparisons and given he just had the Vandersteen Treos in house I find it strange he didn't compare the two or compare anything else to the Perspectives directly (although I guess we could infer the Treos or maybe the Giya G3, but I'd find direct comparisons much more useful here). What's more, he mentions stiff competition from several other speakers he lists in the conclusion section (including the Treos) and all of them are 30% to 60% cheaper than the Perspectives. Taking all this together and reading between the lines as we must do when reading these reviews, I can't help but view this as a backhanded slap against the Perspectives.

Lastly, I have to say while I generally respect Atkinson I sometimes wonder if his measurements sometimes bias his findings. Don't get me wrong, I think he's probably writing what he hears, but you can almost look at his graphs and predict a good bit of what he'll find upon listening. Obviously measurements matter but the skeptical side of me just finds the correlation a bit too tight.

Anyway, I just found the review a bit surprising and disappointing given my past experience and just looking for some other, er, perspectives on this. And no I don't own JA speakers (although I'd love to) and no affiliation with JA whatsoever.
soix
My reaction to the review was virtually identical to yours - I was very puzzled by it. I have heard the Perspectives many times and find them to be stunningly good performers along with the less expensive Pulsars and the much more costly Pearls. And no, I don't own Joseph Audio speakers but have always been favorably impressed by them being driven by tube or solid state electronics. Jeff Joseph's response to the review was positive and very professional, a real class act!
I also would have wanted to know why the Joseph speakers did not work at all in Eric Lichte's room, as Atkinson mentioned at the start of the review but on which did not elaborate. All in all, I'm confident that Mr. Atkinson called it as he heard it. I've never felt he was influenced by his measurements (which I think he generally takes after his listening is done). It may be that this particular speaker is a bit fussy as to room interaction and amplification (I was surprised that a high quality amp like the mbl didn't seem to work well with them, for example), and thus a good dealer, as mentioned in the review, is advisable to get the best out of them.
The review wasn't an over the top rave, but it was overall very positive. The way I took the review was that Stereophile thought the Perspective was a very good performing loudspeaker, but it's not a particularly high value. Not when compared to other brand's $5k loudspeakers, nor when compared to the Pulsars. Atkinson regularly responds to question on the Audio Asylum website. Go there and ask him for more info.
I read it a couple days ago and was a bit puzzled by it as well. The review did not seem positive to me even though he recommended it with caveats. I had the feeling he was a bit shy about recommending it with the less expensive Revel speaker in the same issue.
Agree with Rcprince about the questionable pulling of the review from Eric Lichte. He implies that it's due to the boost in the presence region, but given the size of the room I suspect it's more due to bass integration issues. Again curious since the Revels seemed to work perfectly there. Hmmm. Where I might disagree is that although Atkinson may take the measurements after the listening is done, I question whether it affects what he eventually writes in the review. Again, a very high correlation for me. And fussy to room interaction? How can Jeff Joseph consistently earn high marks at shows if this is the case? Surely a reviewer with months of time can do a better job than a day or two in a hotel room -- no??? Joseph uses Bel Canto Class D amps in a lot of their show demos, and if they don't make the speakers sound "on the lean side" I wonder why they sounded that way with the MBL amps (and presumably the Pass amps as well given his overall assessment). Again, just doesn't make intuitive sense to me given my experience.

Onhwy61, the review was certainly not a rave as there were no superlatives I could see throughout the review. And I'd take out the "very" from "very positive" and "very good performing" in my assessment of the review. At best he seemed to deem them "good performers." And I think you're being kind when you say "not particularly high value." It pretty plainly paints the Perspectives as a relatively poor value given the review of the Revels (and his comments on their respective measurements) and the other speakers mentioned in the conclusion paragraph.

We all know these reviews are what they are, but I'd also bet that both Atkinson and Lichte heard what they heard. So, what I find myself wondering is, were these just bad reviewing circumstances or are the Perspectives a rare miss on the part of Joseph Audio and maybe in need of some tweaking? The Perspectives are strong contenders among others for my "end all be all" speakers (albeit maybe eventually augmented with a couple subs), so I'm very curious about this less than stellar review.
By modern Stereophile standards I consider the review an outright pan. These are speakers that apparently could not be made to sound good in Lichte's room, had a tweeter that failed and needed to be replaced and then performed unevenly in Atkinson's room. IMHO, a read between the lines points to a flawed speaker that was difficult to recommend, particularly at the asking price. On the other hand, I'm not sure anything written in Stereophile means all that much these days so, to sum up--it was a pan but so what?
I just read it the night before last as I was listening to music before bed. I have never heard them, but have heard the Pearls a few years back, which I thought were very nice.
I have read so much hype and enthusiasm for the Perspectives, I was also surprised at the review. Atkinson seemed like he was either struggling to say something/anything was exceptional about them, or deliberately writing the review in such a way as to subliminally warn the reader that these speakers were not all that they could be.
As far as Jeff Joseph was concerned, he seemed to be trying to make a panicked attempt at a positive response that wouldn't sound bitter or desperate. He self-consciously used every out of context positive quote that he could cull
from the review.
Tepid would be a kind word for my overall impression of the review.
It just clicked that this kind of incongruity with general experience happened once before relatively recently with Lichte's follow-up review in 2010 of the Totem Forest speakers:

"But while the Forests' imaging greatly improved with the addition of ballast, I never got them to create the truly holographic soundstages LG wrote of. Sound tended to lump up around each speaker instead of being spread evenly between them."

This is exactly the opposite of any experience I've had with Totem's speakers (and apparently LG's too) and seems eerily similar to the incongruity I'm sensing now with the review of the Perspectives. That Atkinson was also not overwhelmed with the Josephs is definitely a concern, but I'm wondering if there may be something with Eric's setup that just doesn't work with certain speakers. Very odd indeed. I'm not at all looking to defend the Perspectives here, but something just seems a little weird here. Looking forward to more opinions/experiences.
FWIW, I think it's all subjective and in the context of a system and room they are played in. My friend has a pair of Pulsar's which he raves on about and I heard them in a showroom driven by Theta solid state. I found them pretty bright and grating but don't think my friend has tin ears.
As far as the accentuated presence range of these speakers goes, Jeff Joseph is a canny listener, if not a canny designer, and no doubt, matches his speakers with complementary gear at shows and comes up with a very fine sound.

Reviewers must slot a product into their existing system architecture and this can lead to a less than favorable result. That's really pretty simple.

The fallacy here being that a given component has a sound, when it only has a sound within the context of a system. And that context can make it sound favorable or not so wonderful. Very few components will sound great in every context.

As far as this whole imaging/soundstaging thing goes, if stereo reproduction is a parlor trick, then this imaging thing is a parlor trick within a parlor trick. IMHO, it is more an artifact than anything concrete. Concrete as in stereo, meaning "solid".
An audiophile friend has both the pulsar & perspective JA speakers. He uses Octave V110 integrated amp on them. The sound is very good, not outstanding, as these speakers are missing the bottom 2 octaves (no pun) of bass. Nothing that cannot be corrected w/ a small subwoofer (like REL!).
IMO.

I do want to audition the Pearl 2/3 series. Anyone have a local dealer/retailer that actually has them for audition?
All The Best.
I lost respect for JA many, many years ago, when he was pimping the hell out of ML gear. Every unit I tried sounded awful in my room to my tastes. I think he should just stick to measurements, I think he's deaf.
Me thinks that if you were to graph the brands reviewed in Stereophile over the years, one might come to the conclusion that if a company does not advertise heavily in Stereophile [with some exceptions] that there is a we bit of review bias going own. Throw enough money into a magazines coffers and anything will sound good,especially the bottom line.

Cynical? Maybe,but I call it the way I see it...
Jafant, since you've had the opportunity to hear these in a home system (I unfortunately have only heard them at shows to date), other than the missing bass how do you categorize their strengths, weaknesses, and overall presentation/performance? And I'm sure I'm not the only one who'd be very interested in your assessment of the differences between the Pulsars and the Perspectives -- with deeper bass obviously a given. Thanks for thoughts.
The sound is very good, not outstanding, as these speakers are missing the bottom 2 octaves (no pun) of bass.
Bottom TWO octaves? Unless you are counting the 11Hz - 22Hz octave, something is wrong with your friend's set-up if these speakers are missing 44-88Hz.
I have owned the Perspectives for over two years now and have read this review several times. At first blush, it seems critical, but actually it describes these speakers. Their strength is their unforgiving accuracy. Paired with the right electronics, feed them a well-recorded song, and very few speakers sound as good. They are both musical and detailed, as in unparalleled resolution. On the other hand, garbage in, garbage out.

The comparable speakers the the article cites are not comparable. The Revel F208, with its aluminum tweeter, is fatiguing. The new F228be is closer in sound and price. You are not going to come close to the Perspectives for less than their retail price.

Not having enough bass is bs.

Good luck finding a used pair.

That review has always struck me as a bit odd.  Not that it wasn't an accurate account of what John heard.   But I did long auditions of the Pulsar, and then the Perspectives first at my dealer.  In both cases never did either strike me as bright nor did I have the least fatigue - and brightness can fatigue my ears easily as I have some tinnitus to deal with.  

In fact, the Perspectives if anything could sometimes strike me as bit on the darker side.

I auditioned the Perspectives at home, with my CJ premier 12 amps and they sounded ravishing, tonally, and transparent.  Bass was generally excellent, though occasionally a bit "puffy." 

But I heard tonal purity of a level I rarely encounter elsewhere, hence I've been saving my money for a pair some day (unless something else comes along first...and it might have...).

Relative to my Thiel 3.7s, the Perspectives were a bit darker sounding.

my take is that general price range +/- 25% ish is hyper competitive, JA build fine fine product, go listen....
i think I reread JA’s review of my amp/ speaker combo and I veered between idiot and genius, dont get toooooooo wrapped up in what others think.....

@prof I am not criticizing the Thiel 3.7s, but they have an aluminum-dome tweeter.  I always thought the top end was too hot. My exposure was limited to hearing them at RMAF. So you think the Perspectives are a bit dark, and I think anything with an aluminum-dome tweeter is too bright. Back to preferences?
The front end electronics will have a big impact. Is it the speakers or the electronics?  I can say this about the Pulsars and the Perspectives. They satisfy my ultimate test. They rise to the level of the front-end electronics.

A friend is using Pulsars with Bel Canto Black EX. PS Audio’s best electronics drive my Perspectives. Neither of these are a mismatch. 
markalarsen,

No problem in criticizing the Thiels of course, but I can tell you they certainly are not bright by nature. They are incredibly smooth, the smoothest upper frequencies Thiel ever achieved, and smoother than the vast majority of speakers I know of. I have tinnitus with bouts of hyperacusis so bright or aggressive sound will never stay in my house. I can listen to the 3.7s endlessly and never get ear fatigue because of how smooth they sound (of course, helped by my CJ amps and a room with well controlled reflections).

My pal, who reviews, always thought Thiels were too bright but finds the 3.7s at my place anything but bright and fatiguing.

In fact, sometimes I even wish for a bit more "zing" to the upper frequencies!

Between the JA Perspectives and the Thiels, I find the Thiels upper frequencies a bit more integrated and coherent (the 3.7s are, in my home, the most coherent dynamic speaker of any size I’ve ever heard).
But the actual high frequency quality of the Perspectives, and JA in general, strikes me as more refined, pure and grain-free.

(BTW, I have older Hales transcendence speakers with metal tweeters and they are particularly non-fatiguing as well. I have not found the "metal tweeters sound like metal and are fatiguingly bright" thing to be an issue for many years now, vs in the 90’s when that may have been more true. I’ve had my ears burned by soft dome tweeters as well as metal, so I can never predict from the material what a speaker will sound like. Both my 3.7 and 2.7 Thiels, despite having all metal drivers, put out among the most organic sound - capable of round, soft, rich, delicate, as I’ve ever heard from a speaker. Which is why it’s been so hard to replace the Thiels, and why up until recently only the JA speakers
were, to my ears, contenders).

(BTW, I'm right now writing up a long post detailing all the speakers I auditioned, and my reactions, in looking for a replacement for my too-large Thiel 3.7s)


Whew I read anything in Stereophile or TAS I scratch my head. Everything is great or “the best I have ever had in my system”. If the reviewer does not like a component, they find a round-about way of saying something luke warm. They never give a negative review. Therefore I cannot take what they write seriously. 

Guys-

circling back around to the JA Perspective loudspeaker. Strength: very musical. In my previous assessment, my friend was using the Octave amp w/o the Black Box option, as well as, Cardas Clear cabling. This combo could have given me an interpretation of lower bass missing?

Well built and solid cabinet is another strength. Smooth or grain-free.

Weakness: price. Remember, this speaker at full retail costs as much as the Thiel CS 3.7. The Thiel was the better bargain dollar for dollar, IMO.

Overall presentation/performance: Excellent, not outstanding to my ears.

Not as timbre -rich as a Thiel speaker. I have a feeling that the Pearl model (1,2 or 3) gets closer in timbre and resolution to Thiel at a much higher cost. I still would like to audition the Pearl model though.

Both brands will respond well to tubed and solid-state gear. Both are easy to cable as well. I will report that the Thiel CS 2.7 and CS 3.7 will achieve their best performance capability in medium to large rooms.

The JA Perspective does well in a small to medium sized room.

Happy Listening!

Actually the Perspectives are tricky in smaller rooms - the bass can overwhelm and they need good breathing space.  See JA's measurements.
If you can bi-amp them, use a DSP on the bass to reel it in. Best of all worlds.

I won't do a full-range speaker unless I can EQ the bass section separately anymore.
I use a DEQX Premate with mine (JA Perspective speakers)--seems to work well. But, I confess I used Larry Owens to dial it all in. He is a DEQX guru.
I have two JL Audio 110 subs and the JL CR-1 crossover, which I'm trying with my Thiel 2.7s.   If they work well I figure I'd use them with the Josephs if I get those as well.  (I also have the Dspeaker Anti-node on hand, in case I want to room-eq the low pass signal).
If loudspeakers are english designs or built flaws become + if not flaws become exaggerated. JA is old and highly biased towards english products.
@prof Room set up at RMAF and ten minutes of listening is not exactly the best approach to evaluate a speaker. Speakers and room interaction are critical. 

@astewart8944 I had the JA Perspectives, with dual 15” subs, in a horrible room using a DEQX Mate that Larry Owens set up. Only way to go in difficult rooms; great way to go in good rooms.  Larry is marvelous. 
markalarsen,

I’m not sure what you are referring to in terms of RMAF and 10 minute listening sessions.

I had the Perspectives in my own home for several days (they were trickier to set up than my bigger Thiels). Atkinson of course reviewed them at his own home and measured their interaction in his room (trickier than some other speakers, showing a bass hump).

Of course room interactions are critical, that's obvious. :-)
johnk,

I don’t see the bias you mention from Atkinson (and I’m a long time reader). In the measurements for instance he calls it as he sees it, though usually - and this is for almost every speaker - he gives a "glass half full" reading in the summation.

The prickly back and forth between JA and Alan Shaw over the Harbeth 40 measurements doesn’t suggest JA gives British brands an easy ride. In fact, he said after measuring the deliberate resonant character of the Harbeth that such a design approach "makes him uncomfortable." So JA certainly wasn’t just allowing a "built in" version of what JA would normally think to be a flaw, to just pass him by.


JA is among my least favorite reviewers. He has a particular "high end" sound he likes, and calls speakers which are neutral colored.

Just about all his biases and lack of care showed up in the review for the Crystal Cable Minissimo Diamonds. Mind you, those are ridiculously expensive speakers, but he gave them half the words, admitted he didn’t listen to them in their preferred location, and then tried to call them artificially colored in the treble. Had he known anything about speaker design, he’d have realized they were going to underperform in the bass from his location from his own measurements. His own measurements of the treble and speaker impedance completely belie his claims that they were artificially altered, unlike some of his favorites.

He has built his brand on pushing a particular high end sound which is far from neutral, and his discussions of speakers and crossovers often leaves me wondering if he has any idea what he is talking about.

If you happen to hear things the way JA does, then he's the right reviewer for you to follow, but you will never convince me the man A- Is as talented as he wants to claim or B- Doesn't grind an axe or display strong biases which are not supported by his own data or writing.

Best,

E
Forgot about this, I was so bent out of shape that I did a full write-up on the Stereophile review for the Crystal Cable Minissimo Diamond.

https://speakermakersjourney.blogspot.com/2016/09/stereophile-slanders-crystal-cable.html

But this is just one example of JA's biases. It just all came together in this particular review. Mind you, I'm not saying you should like those speakers. I'm just saying this was a hatchet job.

Best,

E
erik,

Can you explain what you take to be JA's preferred "high end sound?"

By the way, I don’t mind anyone in particular having any particular bias. I think that’s fine. I’m only objecting to JA shilling really non-neutral speakers as being neutral or the golden standard. He likes what he likes and that in my mind is pretty artificially sweetened to appear more revealing.

Also, in my mind, neutral is not necessarily best. You should buy what you like because it gives you pleasure and enhances your life. Not based on what JA or I like. Neutral, accurate or low distortion are measurements. They aren't values. Buy and promote what you like! 

Best,


E
erik,

Interesting link. Though I didn’t leave fully convinced of your thesis.
You mentioned a typical bump at 11kHz, but that doesn’t seem to be terribly relevant to hearing loss with age, the relevant loss tending to occur between 2K and 8K.

Also, apropos of the Joseph Audio speaker reviews, Fremer raved about the Pulsars, Atkinson also admired them, and they seem to measure quite flat in the mids upward.

Atkinson does complain somewhat of an unforgiving treble in the Perspectives, but the measurement tend to back him up showing a rising treble response, does it not?
@prof
I am referring to me hearing the Thiels at RMAF
@erik_squires 

"But this is just one example of JA's biases."  You are referring to John Atkinson, not Joseph Audio, correct?
prof:

Well I wouldn't make too much out of this as reviewers tastes and ears change over time. 

JA sure didn't mind a rising response in the B&W or Golden Ear speakers, which are not only rising, but ragged, and wow, can I hear it! And it is this raggedness which JA seems to most like. 

Ultimately speaker designers have to guess how their users will ultimately listen to their speakers. Make a speaker ideal for moderate listening with family around and you make them too bright at live levels. Another speaker I might put into a similar tonal balance are the Magico S1 Mk II. Also, glass smooth response. 

Why did Atkinson call the Perspectives as having a "rising treble" but complain about the Minissimo Diamonds having a "tailored treble?" They were perfectly neutral. 

In large part though, I want to point out that these differences are often dealt with a single part, a resistor. It's a real shame audiophiles have to end up trading amplifiers, cables and speakers to get the tonal balance they want. Making your own speaker or allowing for external adjustment can solve all these problems. I think the top of the line Wilson's deal with this by allowing you to use external resistor networks. Pretty progressive thinking say I. 

Best,

E
@markalarsen 

"But this is just one example of JA's biases." You are referring to John Atkinson, not Joseph Audio, correct?

Hah! Sorry for the confusion! :) Yes. 
Atkinson's said his measurement indicated that "the Perspective's tweeter is balanced a little hotter than the Pulsar's, though its response is even overall." 

Read more at https://www.stereophile.com/content/joseph-audio-perspective-loudspeaker-measurements#4AXoXOpCvHU0vR...

Interesting, because they have the same tweeters.

Yep, the tweeter level and even the shape of it's output is controlled by the crossover, and ultimately the speaker designer. I could easily adjust that on any of the 3 different models I listen to at home. 

The overall balance also matters a great deal. It's not just what the tweeter is doing but what the bass is doing, as well as the crossover point and therefore radiation pattern, so it is important to hear speakers for yourself, in an environment similar to your own. 

This may have been JA's failing in the case of the Diamond's. He set them up with poor bass, and he attributed it to excess mid/treble energy. 

Best,

E
I should also point out, treble balance can be affected by room acoustics. including what’s on the floor between and behind the speakers. Most audiophiles are into first reflections, but try throwing some blankets around. :) 

Between the drivers, crossover and room is where most of this balance is achieved.

Best,

E
markalarsen,

Ah, got it.  Thanks for clearing that up for me.
Most audiophiles are into first reflections, but try throwing some blankets around. :)

On that subject...

I enjoy playing with acoustics, generally speaking. Always have. I remember in my late teens taking some really cheap small speakers and loading them into room corners, augmenting this by actually putting them in a type of box/shelf. It turned the tiny speakers in to monsters that cast a huge sound with the impression of big bass. It never failed to blow away my pals.

When I go on vacation and all I have is my iPhone for music, I’ll play around with putting it on different surfaces. Throw it on a bed and the sound becomes smooth and mellow, less tiny and electronic. Or I may place it into the well of a desk, turning it into an acoustic amplifier for a bigger louder sound.

In my current listening room, which was designed with the help of an acoustician, I can play to some degree with the liveness or deadness of the room, by shifting around some thick curtains - e.g. over first refection points, or off, or over other points (my curtain track allows the curtains to slide or be bunched anywhere along the full side walls and back walls).

I recently purchased one of these:

https://www.acousticgeometry.com/products/curve-diffusor/

And first placed it at the first reflection point near my left speaker (which is close to the fireplace, over which I usually pull a thick curtain that kills the reflection hash). I didn’t care for it at the first reflection point - made things a bit harder sounding than I liked (though it was technically speaking closer to the speaker than you normally want a diffusor).

However, playing with it around the room was really interesting! I found one spot actually just to the rear of the left speaker which seems to both lock in the focus of the images, especially centered images, and give a bit more solidity and liveness to the sound without giving up the organic timbre I’m used to. So now it’s become a permanent part of the system.




I own the JA Pulsars and love them. I use them in my den Systm. When it came to updating the speakers in my main system, I went with Monitor Audio PL300ll. They sound fantastic in my 17x26' room. Never harsh, highly detailed, image impeccably and voices are spooky good! They are keepers!