In person, the Pearl 2s are dead sexy. The copper on the drivers really stands out and mates well to the red burl veneer that covers the sides. These are really pretty speakers. They’re also big — each cabinet stands at 43? with an 11? face and the cabinet has a depth of 18?. While I think of it, some more specs:
Impedance: 8ohms (6ohms, minimum)
System Response: 25Hz – 20kHz @ ± 2dB
The basic design is a two-piecer, with the tweeter and mid range drivers physically separated & isolated from the dual bass drivers. Think: Wilson Watt/Puppy, but not as ugly, and you’ll be on the right track.
These speakers feature the vise-clamp Cardas binding posts — in fact, it features a whole host of them. Five, to be exact — three on the bottom cabinet and two on the top. Which means you’re going to need a lot of wire since none come with the speakers.
You’re going to want to bring the speaker cables off your amp into the bottom-most post on the bass cabinets. So far, so good. Then, you’re going to need to connect up everything else, which is going to be a bit of a challenge as the distance between the topmost binding posts and the bottom most is about a meter. You have some choices. You could just jumper the two topmost sets of posts together, which would connect the tweeter and mid range, but you’d still need to connect them to the bass cabinets, which are a full meter away (BIG jumpers!). Jeff’s solution was to get some short shotgunned speaker cables (one end with two wires and the other with only one wire) and use the single end from the bass cabinet and put a pair on each of the pairs of topmost binding posts. This is easier and cleaner than it sounds — those Cardas binding posts don’t have a lot of room underneath, so stacking thick spade connectors may be problematic — shotgunning is the more elegant (and sure fire) solution, but that means some specialty cables.
Another oddity — remember I said the bottom cabinet had three sets of binding posts? The top go up to the top cabinet. The bottom head out to the amp. But the middle ones — those go nowhere. Well, not exactly. They’re almost like shorting plugs — use a single jumper and connect the two terminals on that post together and you tune the speaker response. Too much bass? Jumper that post — and the last half octave will disappear from the system response while “tightening up” what bass response is left. I can see how this might be a great thing for smaller, under-damped rooms — like a hotel room at RMAF, for example. Interesting option.
Best for last?
I’ve alluded to this already so it shouldn’t be a shock to say that these are great sounding speakers. I’ve spent hours enthralled by the sound coming from these speakers. My notes were uncharacteristically cryptic, and the words I find there are: effortless, extension, holographic. I guess I was busy. Anyway, let me unpack each of these.
First up: effortless. What I mean by this is that everything seems to hang together really well. Nothing stands out; the coherence between top and bottom was totally seamless — there wasn’t any bump, lump, or push in any frequency that I could hear. The sound was big when it was supposed to be, delicate when it needed to be, and very believable.
By extension, I mean rather straightforwardly that the bass was big, tight, and clean and the treble was extended and pure and without grain or etch. As high or as low as I wanted to go, we went, and there was no boom or bloom (great room!) and nothing that kept me from turning up the volume and sitting back, tapping my toes in some approximation of the beat. I should note also that the mids were just lovely. Voices were seductive and realistic. Louis Armstrong’s vocals on "Satchmo Plays King Oliver" were just shocking. I don’t have this LP, but based on that session, I’m getting it pronto. This may seem like a bit of a cheat when I say that I found it rather too easy to sit there and lose myself in the sound. I have no doubt that you’ll find that this is a speaker you will listen to for hours on end with no fatigue or loss of interest and it will literally pull you into the music. Ok, so, YMMV, but I at least ended up Losing Time with these speakers. With every new album we put on, I kinda went away for a little bit.
Holography: Sound staging on these speakers, in this setup, is among the best that I’ve heard. Anywhere. On any speakers. Jeff put on a classic album I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never actually listened to: Dire Straits’ "Brothers in Arms" (never too late!). On this album I heard some truly remarkable sound staging — I’ve never heard wall-to-wall extension before, and it was incredible chasing instruments and movements across the performance stage. Did I mention I want these things in a big, ugly kind of way?
Are the Pearl 2 speakers the ultimate in detail or speed? No, probably not. I’m sure that there are speakers that are faster. More detailed. More efficient. Easier to drive. With a more specific sound stage. But I can’t think of one that does all of those things together as well as the Pearl 2s do.
At 86dB efficient, you’d think these speakers would be hard to drive and would require some seriously high-powered solid-state amplifiers to open up. You’d be very wrong.
That Luxman we were using is only a 60wpc amp. Yes, it has some serious balls for all that, and even though the output doubles into lower impedances, the Pearl 2s only dip to 6ohms — 60wpc is more than enough to rock the house.
Which brings up an interesting (and related) experience — the Pearl 2s like to be loud. Some of this is to be expected as the sensitivity is only middling. A bit of a goose brings the SPLs up and better in line with their more sensitive brethren. But that said, I still found myself reaching for the remote to tweak up the volume a bit more and ended up with a comfortable listening volume that was just shy of really loud — and louder than my “normal” listening volumes. Jeff says that the Pearls don’t really open up till you turn them up, and my own experience agrees. But as the volume creeps, so does the grin on my face — and so too does any thought of doing anything else, except listening to the music. Interesting feedback loop, there.
While I love these speakers — dearly, desperately — at $28,500, I just can’t say that they are a “great value”. There exists a class of buyers for which a $28k price tag is nothing but loose change — I might have mentioned that I’m not one of them. I think my entire rig cost me less (far less) than these speakers alone cost. But — if things were different, well. Ahem.
Finally ! Jeff Joseph opted for a large demo room at the 2002 audio show in Manhattan. He's been pushing his model 33 for the last two years. The 33 itself is a breakthrough product. With the right amplification and so forth, it was, and is, an awesomely holographic speaker. The 33 is a cool, but not cold speaker in the Miles Davis sense of cool. I.E. totally composed, focused, subtly tilted towards the intellectual. At last JJ has the Pearl up and running as more than a concept product. It seems that you can now buy one if you'd like to. he matched it up with Manley tube amps, a major departure from his former Classe all the way setups. JJ also says he has a redesigned so-called low energy storage crossover that can be retrofitted in the 33 well as an upgrade. Some variables to consider. Big demo room versus the small rooms of yore, tubes vs. solid state, new
crossover vs. old crossover. JJ himself was the same mellow buddah self he always is, even when his sacd player locked up, and forced him to play all an all analog demo for the assembled audience. From the get go, the Pearl is obviously a quantum leap beyond the 33, or could be that the Pearl with lots of tube power behind it is. This is a top drawer audiophile statement product. Somewhat Wilsonian in inspiration, but you'd never confuse the two in a hundred years. As fate would have it, the new Wilson Watt/Puppy series 7 was also demo'd right down the hall. IMHO, considering all the flaws and inherent difficulties of show conditions, the Pearl in many respects blows the Watt/Puppy off into the weeds somewhere outside of Toledo. The WP tweeter sounded a little harsh and barky by comparison, especially when the listener is off axis. The Pearl uses a silk dome tweeter, and the Wilson still has the inverted titanium dome, which I never have liked. The high frequency ringing in the metal dome is an unavoidable fact of life and frankly, it sounds nasty and obtrusive. Joseph wisely chose the a silk dome that looks as if it has been doped with a plum colored polymer. This gives the Pearl a really luxe open high end that never gets raspy or zingy. My one caveat is a mild criticism. The metal cones JJ has employed for his midrage and low frequency drivers have the subtlest residue of tin in their sound. Only the teensyest hint, but it is there.