We first came across the JoSound range of loudspeakers twelve months or so ago when we attended the Paris Hifi and Home Cinema Salon and were very impressed with what we heard. Later at Munich we again made the effort to go and have a listen and were equally impressed and asked if it would be possible to get a pair of one of the range in for review. Joe Jouhal, the owner of JoSound invited us over to Jersey to review, but as it’s Hifi Pig policy to only review in our own homes we graciously declined the very kind offer…as we have done so with others in the past. However a couple of weeks ago Joe offered to drop a pair of the company’s Cartouche loudspeakers off in rural Brittany and leave them in our safe keeping for a week.
Now JoSound is an interesting company that we’ve written about previously on Hifi Pig and so I’ll not go into too much detail about their background, suffice to say that Joe has a long history in the hifi industry and began making speakers primarily because there was nothing out there that floated his aural boat.
Crazy English Types and French Customs
And so they arrived in their “coffins” – we did get a few funny looks from the passing farmers on their tractors whilst lifting them out of the van – what were the crazy English-types up to this time and would it lead to a disturbing of the cows…again.
Lugging the packing boxes containing the speakers into the house is no mean feat as they come in at a whopping75kg per speaker…plus more for their crates. At this point I should say that the Cartouche is not heaviest speaker in the range by a considerable margin and the company’s Ra tips the scales at 95kg.
Joe tells an amusing story of being stopped by French customs on the way to a hifi show and the officials not believing that a pair of loudspeakers made from bamboo could weigh so much – bamboo is light n’est pas? The two smaller officials apparently had to call their burlier friends to come and help them…the four of them gave up after dragging out the Cartouches and sent Joe on his way without checking the bigger boxes…but not before taking a two hour lunch break and leaving Joe, his van and his speakers on the dockside until they returned duly fed and watered.
Hang on a minute; I thought you wrote the speakers were made of bamboo? That’s correct you read it right, the Cartouche, like all the loudspeakers in the JoSound range are made from specially selected bamboo. So why this unusual material I hear you ask. Seemingly Joe was looking for a suitable product to construct his designs that was eco-friendly and after trying recycled glass, recycled plastic and a host of other materials he came across bamboo, used it, liked what he heard and as they say in the films “The rest is history”.
The Cartouche is an interesting design and not like any other loudspeaker I’ve ever come across. The main body of the speaker is oval from the front and this main section stands on an integrated plinth. They have a distinctly art deco feel to them.
The name of the speaker comes from the Egyptian hieroglyph of the same name (an oval with a horizontal line at one end) and which the frontal profile of the Cartouche closely resembles.
It’s essentially a quarter wave transmission line design with the porting firing downwards and at either side, yet integrated into, the oval body. It’s a single driver design and the Cartouche makes use, in the model we tested, of a Voxativ AC-1.5 driver… though any of the Voxativ range of drivers can be used I’m informed.
They are well made, nicely finished and “substantial”.
Set up was a simple affair and the speakers were plonked in the position the Mummys (our reference speaker) usually occupy. A bit of slight adjustment later and it’s on with the tunes.
When we’ve seen Josound at shows they’ve always been keen to let us play whatever we want on their system and Joe was enthusiastic in suggesting we throw anything and everything at the Cartouches. Not a problem say we and so off Joe pops back to Jersey to do whatever it is they do in that part of the world, but not before dragging out a copy of “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” which, whilst me not particularly loving this kind of music, sounded amazing during set up and dinner.
From the very first tune played it was clear that, as much as I enjoy the hORN Mummy’s we have as reference these were simply in a different class, much in the same way from the first sip of wine you can tell whether it’s merely a good wine or a great wine.
Initially we just put on disc after disc after disc on both the CD player and the vinyl front end without really listening critically and this continued for a couple of days. You get an immediate impression that the Cartouches just sound right and you’re taken along with the tunes. We were digging out a lot of stuff we’d not listened to in an age- Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Jean Michelle Jarre…and we were really getting into the music. In a way I’m sure this is what most music lovers want to do – put an album on, pour a glass of wine (other cold beverages are available), relax and fall into the music. I’d have loved to have done that for the full week the speakers were here but a review consisting of “we listened to lots of music and it was very nice” does not interesting reading make! No, we must listen critically to the sound these things are making and try and explain in simple language what we are hearing to give you dear reader an impression of what’s in front of us.
We like to listen at relatively loud volumes (we have aforementioned cows to bother after all) and the Cartouches do loud very well indeed, to the point of me saying they prefer a bit of welly up them to make them really sing. Now don’t get me wrong, they’re perfectly nice at low volumes and do everything right, but get the air in the room moving and they really come into their own. They’re plenty sensitive enough at quoted 93dB (I’d suggest this is pretty conservative) and 20 watts of from the Tellurium Q amp was plenty enough to take them to “realistic” volumes.
Female vocals (Drugstore’s “El Presidente”) sounded (from my notes) “absolutely glorious” with the full tone and texture of Isabel Monteiro’s being apparent. Likewise, with Thom Yorke’s vocal on the same track – what you get is a vocal presentation that is never strained or ragged just beautifully liquid. Instrumentation on the track doesn’t take a back seat though and it’s very easy to pick out individual strumming parts and nuances to the guitar playing and as a whole this sounds as good as anything I’ve heard before with this type of music.
Roy Haper’s “Flat, Baroque and Berzerk” is a wonderful record that sadly doesn’t get aired in this house as much as it should, but plonking this into the CD player and hitting play really has the Cartouche’s “on point”… there are inflections and little intonations in Harper’s voice that I’ve simply never heard before. Guitar is as lifelike as I’ve heard anywhere with any loudspeaker and in this respect the Cartouches really do excel. Again the sound of the guitar is so lifelike that (and I know this is a hifi pundit cliché) it really does sound like it is in the room with you.
Enough of the “Audiophile” Music!
The above comments are all well and good if you like “nice” vocals and “nice” acoustic guitar music that gets wheeled out at hifi shows, but not everyone does and so I always like to throw something electronic and heavy at kit that comes in for review. So with no further ado I reach for Massive Attack “No Protection” (The Mad Professor remix) which can sound overblown in the bottom end,giving you a sound that is unbalanced and just “too much”. With the Cartouche what you get is a tuneful feel to bass notes and an overall sensation of balance in the music. The stereo mix is absolutely spot on with these speakers and I’m sure this is in no small part down to their single driver topology.
Infectious Grooves’ “Sarsippius’ Ark” is funky and heavy in equal measure and gives any loudspeaker a good work out. Again the Cartouches take this album in their stride and deliver across the frequency spectrum. Actually I stopped taking notes listening to this album and just got lost in the groove…
Oh Go On Then!
Nevertheless, what sounds utterly sublime with these speakers is female vocals and this (Unlike Hifi Pig reviewer Dan) isn’t an area of music I’d say was my favourite, but I kept reaching (without thinking about it) for simply produced women singers albums. One of the records that stood out as being particularly well articulated with the Cartouches was Emiliana Torrini’s album “Fisherman’s Woman” which here was totally beautiful. The tone and the texture in her voice allied with the uncomplicated arrangements of the tunes really do suit these loudspeakers down to the ground. You’re left with a real feeling you’ve been touched by the music in a way that you rarely get unless you’re listening to a singer simply mic’d and “live” – again and, without wanting to drag out the clichés (but I will anyway), you have that “in the room” experience. Picked strings are very natural sounding with a great percussive feel and a pleasant character to the tone.
Soundstaging with the Cartouches isn’t exaggerated or overdone and again the word that comes to mind is natural. Instruments and voices are positioned properly front to back and side to side without any showy hifi histrionics.
The JoSound Cartouches are, to these ears, very good loudspeakers indeed, but then for their €22 000 asking price so they should be! The thing with these loudspeakers is that they feel natural and unforced and really do let the music get on with what it’s doing. That’s not to say they aren’t detailed – they are in bucketloads – but you don’t find yourself wanting to over-analyse the sounds being made and I suppose the words I’m searching for when trying to describe them are musical and effortless. If you want a loudspeaker that delivers a “hifi” experience then I don’t think these loudspeakers will be for you I’m afraid. However if you want a loudspeaker that delivers a very life like representation of music, particularly on acoustic rather than “electrified” music (and you have the money) then a serious audition of the JoSound Cartouche loudspeakers would be my recommendation
Author – Stuart
The second part of this review is written by Linette (Mrs Hifi Pig). For the sake of clarification we’d like to point out that we listen to the music together, make individual notes and then write up in isolation with neither of us having access to the others words.
I’m not talking wacky for wacky’s sake but, well thought out, well designed, constructed from excellent quality materials and pleasing to the eye.
There is a lot of beautiful HiFi out there that is colourful, exciting and a bit ‘out of the ordinary’….why limit yourself to boring, black boxes when there is a whole smorgasbord available.
Josound’s speakers are just that, different and not just in how they look.
House of Bamboo
Joe arrived at bamboo for the construction material after a long search for something ecofriendly, he considered many materials such as recycled plastic and glass.
Now when you say bamboo, you think that they are going to be lightweight, oh no they’re not!
Even though they have the Art deco vibe to them they look extremely modern, it’s a look that I really like.
Each speaker is very individual as no two pieces of bamboo are the same…..creating the effect of a natural mosaic, beautiful!
Despite their size and weight they don’t dominate the room because of their natural finish.
They definitely make a statement though and they look like they mean serious business.
The high level finish is carried through with the Voxativ drivers which are stunning.
There is a real pride in the construction and finish of these loudspeakers, everything about them is high quality.
These are, by no means, the most expensive loudspeakers in Mr. Sound’s range but at 22,000€ they are high end, and you can really see and hear their value.
Sound as a Pound!
They have been playing more or less non stop for the last week and what has struck me is that the more that you listen to them, the more that you want to listen to them.
They really seem to open up the music and make it…..more musical, if that makes sense?
The origami precision of the Voxativ drivers that Joe uses, work with his design to give a very precise and defined bass sound. Even deep sub bass sounds much more tuneful rather than just wub wub often experienced. You actually hear the individual notes much more.
The collaboration between Josound and Voxativ is a marriage made in heaven and it is nice to see credit given where it is due.
Joe’s bigger speakers, the Ra’s are actually branded ‘Voxativ by Josound’……good to see this in an industry where a lot of manufacturers like to keep everything to themselves.
The younger element in the house was keen to hear some of his tunes so we gave some Deadmau5 a spin.
Again the tuneful bass was in evidence and the sound was big, I even wrote down “orchestral” to describe it, not something you would expect with this kind of electronic music.
Where these speakers really come into their own though is with simple music, a female vocal and a guitar just sounds heavenly, but to be fair there was nothing that we played that I thought sounded bad!
Thank you Mr Sound!
Something I like about Joe is that he is a very positive and enthusiastic person; he really is the driving force behind his brand.
Go into his room at a show and you will be made incredibly welcome, you will be invited to play your own music and sit and appreciate his amazing loudspeakers.
This is a very refreshing change and creates a really relaxed atmosphere.
We have been really lucky to hear the different speakers in his range at several HiFi shows over the past year, and have never failed to be delighted by them however, actually having a pair in our home to live with for a week between shows has been fabulous, and it just goes to show that an unusual design (as we found with Thomas Scherer’s Evince speakers) is not difficult to live with at all, it is like bringing art into your home.
Do I recommend these loudspeakers, hell yes! Would I go out and by them…if I had the asking price yes I would.
Author – Linette
Review system: Wilson Benesch Circle Turntable, Origin Live Silver tonearm, Cartridge Man Music Maker III cartridge and Audio Technica AT33EV, Electrocompaniet phonostage, Valve Audio Devices DAC, Pioneer DV737 transport, Monrio Preamp, Tellurium Q Iridium amp, TAC 300 integrated amplifier, Jade Audio Moontail interconnects, Tellurium Q Ultra Black loudspeaker cables, Oriton supports.