When Joe from Jersey based JoSound telephoned out of the blue a month or so ago and asked if we’d like to spend a month or so with the company’s Ra loudspeakers I for one was really pleased. I’d really enjoyed the Cartouche loudspeakers we had in for review a while ago and we’ve heard the Ras a good few times at show too.
Okay, these are expensive loudspeakers at £43 500, but lets put things into perspective a little here. The drivers in the sample we have for review are the Voxativ AC-4A, and they come in a £10 000 a pair, and the craftsmanship in the actual cabinets is pretty stunning. Given their price tag these speakers are never going to be accessible to the vast majority of people, but then there are lots of things in this world that aren’t. Some will be able to afford a product of this type and some will bitch about the price point to anyone who will listen. This is a high-end product and some people can access the high end whilst others can but dream…I put myself firmly in the dreamer camp here!
So let’s put the price point to one side for a moment and look at what you are actually buying when you pull the trigger on a pair of the JoSound Ra loudspeakers.
They arrive in purpose built wooden crates, one for each speaker and once unpacked the first impression can be little but WOW! These are not for the timid or those looking for a loudspeaker to blend into their environment. The Ras pretty quickly establish themselves as the focal point of the room with their unusual and unique shape and proportions. Despite their size and shape they’re actually quite an elegant design I think. They’re basically a large cylinder about 72cm across and 40 cm deep sat atop a horn shape which opens to the floor. They stand 120cm in height and the single driver is sat slap bang in the middle of the cylinder….look at the pics. The whole of the speaker cabinet is, like the company’s Cartouche, made of bamboo. The adjustable stainless steel feet (clearly very high quality and costly) fit to the bottom of the horn structure raising the whole speaker a couple of inches from the matching bass stand. Despite being a very heavy speaker moving them around on the stand is a simple affair of sliding them about until they’re where you want them. Around the back is a beautifully crafted speaker terminal plate with a single pair of binding posts and a set of inputs that allow for the connection of the power supply if you choose the field coil drivers from Voxativ.
Now the drivers are interesting in their own right and as I mentioned make up a good proportion of the Ra’s asking price. They’re 8“, full range affairs with the cones being made out of wood…yep, wood! Apparently which wood is used is a trade secret but they are seemingly put together by seamstresses which sort of makes a lot of sense.
Visually the art deco look of the Ras appeals to me, but I am sure that they will divide opinion quite dramatically.
Joe arrived and set the speakers up and once wired up to the usual reference kit there’s an immediate impression that you are listening to a quality product. There’s an immediate aural sensation of there being a little more stuff going on and in a more refined manner than our reference speakers (hORNS Mummy). The speakers were initially set up pointing straight forward about 190cm apart but I think that playing about with the positioning yields significant rewards and a slight toe-in snaps the soundstage into focus. I’ve heard these speakers at shows and to be honest the set up has not been ideal and I think JoSound could get much more out of them with a little careful placement – that said the rooms I’ve heard them in are hardly conducive to careful loudspeaker placement!
Before we started to listen critically to the Ras I did a little search on YouTube to see what had been said about them and came across a video where the poster asked the question, where’s the bottom two octaves? Whoever this was is one of several things, but whatever they may be it’s certain he’s never heard these loudspeakers at their best because they do have bass and they deliver it remarkably well. Bass is fast, it’s low and it’s really tight. It isn’t overblown though and I think our YouTube friend is probably more accustomed to a boom and tizz presentation.
As regular Hifi Pig readers will know we listen to a lot of bass heavy music and playing as I write is Todd Terry’s Blackout from the Resolutions album and I can say with honesty and conviction that there is certainly nothing lacking here at all. The sub bass synth is very well rendered but not over blown. Yes there are of course speakers that will go deeper (the Avantgarde Trios with Basshorns as one example) but in our relatively large by most standards living room this is often overkill and lots of nasty speaker/room interactions start to come into play.
Quality wise bass is, as I said tight, fast and a little dry with no bloom whatsoever. As a serious fan of the techno genre I really enjoyed this aspect of the Ra’s performance. Moving away from electronic music and the opening few bars of Neil Young’s Unplugged version of Like A Hurricane the organ is deep, resonous and with no over hang.
These are a hugely dynamic loudspeakers and on well recorded live drums the experience is somewhat exhilarating. There’s a real visceral quality and a truly live feel but not at the expense of subtlety – gently hits on hats and cymbals are offered up with just as much expression of the snap of the snare and the individual player’s character and style of playing shines through. With electronic drums the effect is similarly well portrayed with their being clear differences between the kick of a 707 and an 808.
With acoustic music, particularly acoustic guitar, there is a palpable feeling that there is a live guitar being played in the room. Decay of notes is just as it should be and there’s none of this notes left hanging where they shouldn’t be – the same with simple piano music. However, room reverbs and the acoustic of the recording space on well recorded live material is easily discernable and this only adds to that in the room and live feel you get with the Ras and this kind of music.
As you’d expect from a high quality full range driver the midrange presented with the Ras is particularly strong and well recorded vocals were a real joy. There’s again a real insight into the singers individuality and take on a recording and they offer up a true rendition of what they are being fed with. With this in mind I’d suggest that poor quality kit in front of the Ras will be highlighted…but then spending this kind of money on a pair of speakers you are unlikely to be pairing them with poor kit!
Overall the Ras are very well balanced with no one frequency band dominating the others at low to medium-high volumes, but turn up the dial to LOUD the very highest frequencies can become a little too much in the mix.
When a little time has been spent positioning the Ras they offer up a very realistic soundstage with excellent width and height but they are certainly not forward sounding – they do a similar thing to the Cabasse Spheres in that they present a natural stage that presents itself in your minds eye that is neither artificial or over done.
In many ways what you get with the Ra loudspeaker is what we heard with the company’s Cartouche loudspeakers and in many ways this is a very good thing. However what you seem to get more of it and with a little more refinement. This really shouldn’t come as any surprise as the speakers share the same family of drivers.
To my ears these loudspeakers are a very natural sounding speaker and able to take pretty much any kind of music in their stride. On real acoustic instruments they are superb and the dynamism of live drums has only been bettered by large bass horns and the Cabasse Spheres I mentioned earlier.
OK, the JoSound Ras are not going to be to everyone’s taste and I think that the price is certainly prohibitive for most folk. People who love the single driver sound and the benefits it can often bring in terms of speed and dynamics will absolutely adore these speakers. For folk used to multi driver loudspeakers with complex crossovers then I think they will take a few tunes to appreciate their differences in presentation style.
Visually the Ras are an elegant and yet imposing design but sound-wise they seem to offer a pretty open window to the sound and add very little overall.
When reviewing any bit of kit the question we all find ourselves asking is can we live with these? With the Ras the answer is a resounding yes I could. However if I was in a position to buy these I’d want to be sure that their presentation was to my tastes in my own living space as the possibilities at this price open up a world of choices of presentation.
The Ras ooze high-end confidence, they sound terrifically natural and they deliver well on all genres of music but being somewhat impoverished (and finding it difficult to shake this mentality) I’d probably go for the company’s Cartouche loudspeakers as they offer a good percentage of what the Ra offers at half the price…however, as always what we have here is the law of diminishing returns raising its ugly head and the Ras are, of course, a better speaker overall!
Sound Quality 8.5
Value for Money 7
Author – Stuart Smith
And here’s Linette’s review. It should be stressed that, as always we listened together but wrote the reviews in isolation and without seeing each others copy…despite the remarkable similarities!
House of Bamboo part 2.
There is a whisper going around the world of High End Hifi.
I guess it is fuelled by snobbery, in the same way that wine ‘experts’ scoff at those who quite like to neck a cheap bottle of cold plonk on a hot day….. rather than spending hours extolling the virtues of a pricey bottle tasting like freshly rain washed pebbles and a threat of cabbage patch.
And what is this nasty little untruth that is being touted a rule to listen by?
‘You should only listen to classical music on High End Hifi’
Now, you are probably going to split into two camps here. Some of you will be with me and immediately jump up and shout ‘WTF, of course not!!!’
Some will say ‘yes, what’s wrong with that???’
I think this myth comes from the fact that yes, classical music can be very complex and very beautiful, it is moving and emotional and when played on a great system sounds incredible….but I’m afraid it just is not my bag.
I listen to a lot of different music, acoustic and electronic, but my big love is dance music.
You know when you hit a point in your life and the music and the social scene all comes together perfectly and just feels right? That happened to me in the very early 1990’s. The years of glowstick waving ravers and illegal parties in fields and warehouses. That was when I found my groove.
It happens to us all and it could be any genre of music in any decade, but whether it’s rock, jazz or disco you will have found your groove at some point and it will always be the music that you come back to.
The term ‘Dance Music’ covers a whole range of music and the name tags change and evolve…from the funkiest disco and bounciest house to the deepest, darkest techno there is something for every mood…..rather like classical music.
And like classical music it can be complex, detailed and emotional.
So why am I wittering on about classical and dance music?
Well, Josound are breaking that High End mould.
Let’s make no bones about it…a £43 500 pair of speakers is pretty high end, whoever you are. There are still places where you can buy a house for that money……or a pretty flash car.
The drivers alone cost around £10,000….that’s more then many people would even consider spending on a complete pair of loudspeakers.
But Mr. Sound doesn’t just want you to listen to classical music on his creations; you can play what the hell you like.
Joe has a real ‘open door’ policy at shows, as we have mentioned before he invites people to bring their own music to listen to when he exhibits.
Having the Ras ‘chez nous’ for a few weeks has been heavenly. I thought I was happy when we had their little brothers, the Cartouches here….but these ones really made me smile.
I am going to find it very difficult to let them go when Joe comes to spirit them off to Munich…there may be tears!
There is a consistency with Josound speakers. They are all made from bamboo, have mainly Voxativ drivers, but the Ra is a bigger speaker than the Cartouche and it does have a bigger, fuller sound.
Looks wise they are even more impressive. The number of people whose jaw has hit the floor when they have walked into our house has been, well it’s been everybody who walked in!
I love the ‘sun rising over the pyramid’ design and they have that same wonderful Art Deco styling as the rest of the range….no they won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I think that is a good thing. The world would be a very boring place if all hifi looked and sounded the same!
They have the same ‘moreish’ quality as the Cartouche, the more you listen then the more you want to listen…but I found there to be more detail to the sound than I remember from the previous Josounds we had visiting.
‘Real’ instruments sound so incredibly real. It is a very natural sound. Listening to a piano one can hear everything, from fingers hitting the ivories to the hammer hitting the strings, if you close your eyes you are sat in front of a piano….not a hifi.
Proper goose bumps time.
Drums also were amazing; the sound of brushes on a snare drum whilst listening to jazz was incredible.
Like the Cartouches, guitar and female vocals were beautiful. There was a real emotional connection.
But let’s get the crux of things here, the reason I’ve gone off on one a bit about dance music.
There is a track, a tune (or choon) of the hugest proportions.
It is an epic anthem of the dancefloor and a celebration of the legendary Roland TB-303.
But is also perhaps the best test of a hifi’s performance that you can get…..I think it gives a system a better workout than any classical music, Hardfloor’s ‘Once again back’
The Ras do more than cope with this tune, they bring it alive. There is so much bass in this track that it can sound awful, flabby, farty and downright nasty. The Ras sound superb with it.
They are tight and fast…no hint of flabbiness here, and they bring out every intricacy of the music, bass included.
We have listened to a lot of music on these loudspeakers, and like the Cartouche, I can’t think of anything that didn’t sound right, but I love the fact that the Ra is not just a refined speaker for lovers of classical and jazz, its also a loudspeaker for people who like to crank it up and have a bit of a party listening to Pete Tong, Todd Terry or Carl Cox.
I think there are some people who would be very happy to keep High End Hifi as their own little Classical club, don’t let the plebs in, good lord what might happen then?
More and more people though are getting a taste for it and will be battering down the doors and making ourselves at home…bringing with us music of every genre.
Build Quality – 9/10
Sound Quality – 8.5/10
Value for Money – 7/10
Overall – 8.2/10
Recommended for people that want something a bit different….and have a big budget. Amazing build quality and addictive sound.
Author – Linette Smith