Any monitors clearly better than Pulsars?

After some recent amp and preamp upgrades, I'm wondering if it's possible to push further on my speakers.

Right now, I'm running Joseph Audio Pulsars, which I enjoy thoroughly. Because I live in an apartment, floorstanders are out of the question, and I know the Pulsars are some of the best monitors around.

My question is: are there any monitors that are clearly head and shoulders above the Pulsars, which might be worth a listen? Budget-wise, I could probably go up to $12k used.

In terms of what I'm looking there, really there is nothing specific. I'd say the same about upgrading from the LS26 to the REF 5SE; I wasn't looking for anything specific there, but the 5SE is clearly better :)

That said, I'd be hoping to find a speaker that is clearly an upgrade. If any other monitor would be a minor step up, or more of a lateral move, then I'm happy standing pat with the Pulsars.
Having heard the Pulsars on several occasions I completely agree... very enjoyable. I was at Goldprint Audio a couple of weeks ago to listen to the new Alta Audio Celesta FRM-2's and ohhh mama! A very well balanced speaker with incredible bass (similar to the larger Perspectives) and a wonderful top end. I believe they're right around your stated price point and definitely worthy of an audition. Maybe give Taylor (Goldprint) a call since he's a dealer for Alta as well as Joseph. I'm sure he's had a chance to compare both and would be able to offer an honest opinion.
The Raidho's are not night and day difference from the Pulsars for most people. To an experienced audiophile they are serveral levels more refined though. Worth the extra dollars spent. They are both very fine speakers.
Would be nice to sometime hear Raidho with some tubes, not some black and white, washed out, thin sounding solid state equipment.
I've heard the Raidho D1 with Luxman tubes and I've never heard anything so beautiful in my life. My close friend owns a shop and of everything he could pair with the Raidho, this Luxman amp provided the sweetest sound. For my personal taste, there's no speaker to date that can compare to the Raidho D1.
I have the Raidho C1.1 speakers paired with an Atma-Sphere S-30 tube amp. Beautiful sound.
Thank you Donjr and Sabai....just shows that Raidho should be partnered with tubes way more often than it is. Hope to hear it one day in tube set up.
Like mentioned above, try and see if you can take a listen to the Alta Celesta/FRM-2's. They are simply fantastic with amazing bass response for a "bookshelf".

There are several VERY positive reviews on these out there (ToneAudio mentioned in their recent review that they are at the head of the class in the sub $20k speaker market at this time)

**** Alta Audio dealer disclaimer *****
Those Pulsars are great speakers. I will keep an eye out for great monitors at AXPONA this weekend and report back.
Rrolack, shoot Bob Gross from Speaker Art an email to inquire about his new ribbon Super Clef's. They are amazing from first hand experience. I own a set of the standard Super Clef's(Scanspeak soft dome) and they are wonderful as well.

Bob also uses high (4th & 7th order) slopes in his networks but is the only builder to employ Kaminsky series networks. All the Clef series speakers use an 8" woofer made to his specifications by, I believe, Eminence.

The price point is well under your budget but these speakers tend to "punch well above their weight".

I've had great results driving them with a variety of amps as well. My limited experience has been with a vintage Mitsubishi DA-15DC, Jolida JD 302CRC, & Wyred 4 Sound 500W monoblocks. All three offered astonishing performance with different "personalities".

The ARC Ref5 SE is nothing less than outstanding. I do not think you will find better money spent on a pre-amp.

Now, to address your loudspeakers. Having heard both the Pulsar & Perspecive models. Until I can demo the Pearl 2 or Pearl 3, you might want to consider a Magico or Wilson Audio speaker.

Keep me posted & Happy Listening!
this is an old thread, nevertheless i wonder if anyone have more experience with the monitors mentioned in the discussion above, namely these speakers : Joseph Audio Pulsars vs Alta Audio Celesta FRM-2 and Raidho's C series or XT series. anyone had A/B before? would appreciate everyone whom share info as i'm searching for monitors with good ribbons. JA Pulsar act as a reference point for comparisons. Thank you. 


I have been enamored with the Joseph speakers, started off wanting the Pulsars, moved to wanting the Perspectives.

I auditioned tons of speakers including the Raidho X1s and C 1.2, which were being offered in a very good deal from my local dealer.

I’d been quite impressed by Raidho monitors briefly hearing them at shows. But on a longer listen I decided they weren’t for me. In a nutshell, though the Raidho tweeter does indeed make for very fine high frequencies, the actual tone and voicing of the speakers were a bit too obviously scuplted to my ear. I found the Joseph speakers to be more tonally beautiful and convincing and also more neutral-sounding (in a good way) than the Raidho. Also the Joseph speakers have stellar high frequencies as well in terms of natural, ease, and sounding "unmechanical."

I can certainly understand why someone would choose a Raidho instead, as of course it will come down to personal taste.

You can find some more detail on my Rhaidho audition in this thread:

This is interesting.  I recently built a speaker that is similar to the Pulsar using the 7" instead of the 5 1/4 " driver and it is a lovely speaker.  For $4K a pair, I can't believe how good they sound.  I have about 20 hours of time on them and they continue to get better but aren't quite the be all, end all in terms of ultra fine detail.  And they deliver great bass.  That is shocking in a little speaker.  

Interestingly, I have also owned a pair of Raidho X-1s which are a fine speaker as well.  Raidho's are all about soundstage and if you don't have 9' between the speakers and a solid 3' behind them, they don't deliver.  I was blown away by the Raidho's when I heard them setup correctly and could not replicate the performance at home.  Additionally, bass response is good, but not in the same league as the Pulsar.

What is interesting is that I have done A/B testing between my recently built stand-mount the Seas Excel drivers and my Verdant Blackthorns and I can say, the Blackthorns are clearly an upgrade.  It is all in the fine detail.  One of my benchmark songs has been Be Still My Beating Heart from Sting and the amount of subtle detail and layers of sound in that song are extraordinary.  You can here more with the Blackthorn.  It is obvious when you do AB testing.  The exception is in low frequency response where the Blackthorns bottom out at about 60hz and these new speakers hit close to 40hz.  

Each speaker takes a different approach.  The Seas Millenium tweeter is high mass and that mass I think is helping it resist internal resonances and outperforms most if not all tweeters I have heard in wood or MDF cabinets. 

In my Blackthorns, the cabinets are made from Carbon Fiber over a DuPont Nomex core.  Thus, a lower mass tweeter from Eton can outperform the higher mass Seas because of the strength of the cabinet.  

Both speakers use magnesium based, 7" drivers.  The Eton Arcosia is a composite where the Seas Excel is claimed to be pure magnesium.  Either way, they are both outstanding.

Caveats on this - My speaker is not a Pulsar.  I am using a 7" driver vs. the 5 1/4" and I have a different cabinet material (solid bamboo) and a different crossover.  

I would encourage you to checkout the Blackthorns.  They are a great speaker and below your budget.  I know they are about the same price as the Pulsars were new but that is more driven by my RTM model as consumer direct.  If I sold these at retail, they would be $11,500 - $13,000 instead of $7000-$8500 depending n finish.  


Would that JA-like speaker be the Bambusa MG 1 listed on your web site?

In any case, I had the JA Perspective speakers at my home for an audition a couple of years ago. While they have a reputation for fine detail, I actually found my Thiel 3.7s pulled out a little more detail vs the JA speakers. But what is most seductive, to me, about the JA’s is the quality of the sound; really grainless and pure and smooth (and that tweeter is just terrific - though it’s probably an inaccurate cliche that metal tweeters do metal sounds better than soft domed, the JA speakers really make cymbals and metallic objects sound authentically metallic.

John Atkinson has put it well in some of his speaker reviews: that the sound of instruments like drum-hi-hats often take on the character of "bursts of modulated white noise." Yeah, you can identify it in the recording as a drum cymbal, but it really doesn’t sound like a real drum cymbal. One of the first things I heard in the JA speakers is how authentic drum cymbals sounded. (That’s another feature of the MBL 121 speakers I own as well: incredibly convincing high frequencies).
@prof  honest question: can they rock? I am curious to know if the Pulsars can handle say ACDC or Tool (trying to name bands people actually know) well.


I don’t feel qualified to make any definitive claim about the Pulsars rocking or not. I auditioned them once or twice a couple years ago, but moved on strictly to auditioning the floor standing Perspectives after that.

That said, it depends on what you’d be comparing them to.  It would make sense to evaluate "do they rock" for a stand mounted speaker.    The Pulsars have a wide-ranging reputation for sounding like a much bigger speaker, with fantastic depth and bass impact for their size. Many have reported they do in deed rock really well. When I auditioned them, the played everything great, including some Van Halen as I remember.

I ended up wanting the Perspectives because I found them even more refined than the Pulsars.
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according to the reviews, it seems Alta Audio Celesta FRM-2 are better than Pulsar and Perspective.
i haven't heard any speakers from JA since my dealer did not stock them and said they're overprice for their sound. he go on to say there is a slight rigidness in the lower mids and colored (maybe he meant veil) in the higher octave.
as for personal taste, i prioritize wide open airy-ness, with deep thumping bass, hence feels and perhaps the Celesta FRM-2 (i could add a pair of subs if i wish for more oomph) could be a match for me, but seeking more help from experienced A'goners, so as to "triangulate" and determine the right speaker. 
anyone with any info would be a great help. Thanks!
i haven't heard any speakers from JA since my dealer did not stock them and said they're overprice for their sound.

Yeah, dealers often say that kind of thing about products they don't sell ;-)

Personally in terms of non-waveguided drivers I think the SB Acoustics TW29BN is superior to the Seas T25 Millenium.
@verdantaudio I’ve added the Bambusa to my list. I’m interested to see specs when available. 
@gochurchgo  thanks for the note.  I will let you know when they are ready.  It may have to wait till November.  I need to reach out to Excelsior to see when they can fit me in.  

I will be getting the identical measurements that I have on my Nightshade and Blackthorn speakers.  
Anyone ever heard a shootout between Fritz and Joseph monitors? They are both really good, two of my favorites, but different whenever I hear them. Does it come down to a matter of personal preference? Fritz seems to have the "easy load" bases covered very well meaning you should get very good results with most any amp including flea powered tube amps. Fritz also sets one back a good bit less financially as well it seems.
@gochurchgo  measurements will be done on my speakers in November.  Excelsior can’t get it done sooner.

I could do frequency response, impedance and SPL myself but I don’t like the idea of publishing my own specs.  And I can’t do max power and burst decay myself so I need to send it out anyway.  

The nominal impedance will almost assuredly be 6 ohms, the SPL will probably be 84dB and the frequency responses will look very much like my Blackthorn but about 15dB lower.  Will send you a PM when they are in 

The Pulsar appears to be using the Seas 5.5 magnesium woofer and 1in. Millennium tweeter, both of which are some of the best off-the-shelf drivers in the world. The only woofers that offer better detail than the magnesium are probably Seas new Graphene or Accuton ceramic.  I've used the magnesium in my own speakers and they have a lot of details and lots of bass for its size.
What music do those of you who have Pulsars listen to? Anyone listening to hard rock or reggae or electronic?

just curious.
@gochurchgo I will be using Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, New Order, Depeche Mode, Daft Punk and Shiny Toy Guns in demos at Capital Audiofest with my speakers.  The Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff tracks I have sound good but not show demo worthy.   
no matter how refine the pulsar are, they sound small with no real bass.

Id rather own:
805 d3
Harbeth 30.2

and many others
no matter how refine the pulsar are, they sound small with no real bass.

That may certainly be your opinion, but I'd say it would be quite misleading to people curious about the Pulsars.

They are renowned for their bass output for a stand mounted speaker and for sounding bigger than they are.  People who write show reports - from reviewers to audiophiles on forums - regularly report being stunned at the "size" of the sound and bass depth.
The soundstage review, for instance, points this out:

The bass was phenomenal, and seemingly went much lower than the Pulsar’s stated low-end limit of 42Hz.
The Pulsars imaged and soundstaged better than almost any other speakers I’ve ever heard, minimonitor or floorstander. The manual indicates that the buyer should expect the soundstage to extend about a foot in front of and behind the speakers. In my room, the soundstage began just behind the Pulsars and went incredibly deep and wide; images floated entirely free of the cabinets.

Although, like most minimonitors, the Pulsars didn’t produce life-size images, what they did produce was larger than most -- maybe 80% life-size -- and, like their bass response, could fool me almost completely with some recordings.

the reviewer did say exactly what I said about the pulsar.. not life size imaging (sound small) , and limited bass response. :" Although, like most minimonitors, the Pulsars didn’t produce life-size images, what they did produce was larger than most -- maybe 80% life-size -- and, like their bass response, could fool me almost completely with some recordings."

I disagree that they create impressive bass, and I guess this is truly subjective. for me impressive bass is a 12 inch, 15 inch or 18 inch in a 100l cabinet. even the reviewer agree: only with certain recordings the bass presentation didnt bother him.

Pulsar are made for jazz and chambers, at low volume. the distortion figures at 90 db is tremendous just like any 5 inch midbass.
7000$ for that? the 805 d3 is just a better allrounder, and id argue even more detailed, with better tone and definitely better bass, ability to play much louder and its cheaper.


So your complaint is that a stand mounted monitor doesn’t sound like a big speaker with 12 t o18 inch drivers and a big cabinet.

I’m not sure exactly how helpful or enlightening this input is in a thread about monitor speakers, asking for monitor comparisons to the Pulsar.

And of course your idea of what the Pulsar is "made for" is merely subjective. Many have found it, and similar performing stand mounted speakers, to be very compelling on all types of music (I auditioned everything from Van Halen to Earth Wind And Fire on the Pulsars and found them wonderful on such music. Michael Fremer remarked that he was surprised by the Pulsar with rock, mesmerized in fact).
Again, just providing some counterpoint to your subjective impressions.

Op question is: " any-monitors-clearly-better-than-pulsars"

as I find the pulsar very limited in bass extension or bass punch, and find the imagize size giving a very small window, Ive recommended:
805 D3 and Harbeth 30.2 which I think are clearly better then Pulsar.


We all have our preferences.

I'm familiar with the Harbeth 30.2 (auditioned it, heard it many times) and owned the Harbeth SuperHL5plus.

I love Harbeth, but wouldn't put the 30.2 above the Pulsar at all, certainly NOT for bass punch and extension. I mean, the Harbeth is rated only down to 50Hz and the Pulsar down to 42Hz.  The stereophile measurements clearly show the Pulsar's bass extension beating the Harbeth 30.  So I'm confused as to why that's making your recommendation "because the Pulsars don't have the punch/bass extension.'

The Pulsar even measures deeper bass extension than your recommended 805 D3!

And...again...the Pulsars have virtually made their name on putting out more, and better bass than most monitors.

So, all I can say it that your perspective is pretty anomalous on this issue.  Maybe it's what you perceived upon hearing the Pulsars in a certain set up, but there's more objective evidence that your recommendations don't exactly make sense in light of your critique of the Pulsar.

What about the Ryan S610?

It's a pity Ryan is not more mentioned and doesn't have/get more visibility.
I haven't heard all the competing speakers that are about the same size as the Pulsar but it's very hard to beat the bass on the Seas 5.5in magnesium woofer.  I could think a couple of drivers from ScanSpeak such as either the 5.5in Revelator or the Illuminator or the Accuton ceramic, but other than that, I can't think of any.  But even then, they would be very close in term of bass output.

My only beef with the Pulsars is that, given all the praises, after reading the Stereophile review of the Pulsars, the designer advertised that he uses something called "Asymmetrical Infinite Slope circuit" for his xover.  OK, there is no such thing.  There is no "Infinite slope".  Cross over technology has been around since Edison invented the light bulb.  There is nothing new.  There is no need for the designer to resort to these type of marketing sleight of hand.  It cheapens his credibility.  It probably comes down to the woofer uses 2nd order and the tweeter using 3rd order to align the phase of both drivers hence the term "asymmetric" vs. "symmetric" in which the order of both the woofer and tweeter have the same filter order.   Using Asymmetric technique is actually a compromised approach since in order to use "Symmetric", the designer will need to rework the baffle geometry.

And with all due respect to the designer, the woofer and tweeter on the Pulsars are probably top ten drivers in the world.  So 80% of the goodness in the sound probably comes from the drivers by themselves.  He then just slapped on the xover and claimed all the credits :-)

Extension is meaningless if the distortion figures are 10% at 50hz at 90db.

I have tried to look up the distortion figure of the seas excel 5 inch midbass used in the pulsar, in vain. do you have the distortion figures of the Pulsar midbass? the only way we can discuss objectively about the harbeth vs Pulsar performance is if we have those measurements.

the Harbeth midbass used in the 30.2 distortion figures however can be easily found, the Harbeth distortion figures is excellent.
Ive never seen a 5 inch midbass thateven come close to the distortion figures of a good 8 inch woofer at 95db.

secondly, you mention that the Pulsar spec indicate that it has more extension then the harbeth 30.2, which indeed is true.  You can find sone 15 inch woofer that will have less extension then the pulsar. But does that mean that the Pulsar will have better bass? not at all. having heard both, I cannot understand how one could find the bass of the Pulsar comparable to the 30.2. 


I don't find myself having much beef with your beef about the infinite slope claims.  :-)

Though I would say:  Regardless of whether the specific technical claim is true about the infinite slope crossovers, I'm personally not sure about how much is due to the drivers vs the skill of the designer.

I've heard/read from numerous speaker designers that the crossover design is one of the fundamental challenges,  so choosing the proper drivers in the first place to get what you want, and then nailing the crossover design, especially to the degree you get so many plaudits, seems like a major part of the process.

Btw, I can understand anyone not liking the JA speakers, personal taste being what it is.   I was just puzzled by the particular nature of the critique lobbed at them in this thread.

Ive read about people DITCHING their Pulsar's (Upgraded Graphene version) because they now have TOO MUCH bass for smaller rooms. Go figure

At low frequency, our hearing may not be that sensitive to distortion since the wavelength is so long.  At low frequency, what's more important is how well the bass is properly damped - otherwise the bass will be lose or flabby.  Two most important variables that determine the quality of the bass is first the driver QTS, and the internal volume of the cabinet.  As for how low the driver can go determined by first the size of the driver surface area, secondly the material (such as paper, aluminum, ceramic ...), and thirdly the Xmax (or how much excursion can the driver move back and forth).  In general, everything else being equal, the harder the cone material, the more bass extension.  Hence materials such as aluminum, kevlar or magnesium will have more bass than paper cone.

I think the Harbeth 30 woofer is made of paper or paper that has been coated with some sort of material.  The Pulsar woofer is magnesium, so most likely it will have more bass extension vs. the Harbeth.  I personally have used the Seas 5.5in magnesium, and I would crank up the volume and that thing would just play on.  I did the same thing on a lesser paper cone driver it broke on me.

The challenge in designing small monitor such as the Pulsar is that you need some sizable internal volume to able to control or dampen the bass.  But most people want small monitors so that they look pretty in their living rooms.  If the internal volume is too small, you have a midbass hump.  For the magnesium woofer on the Pulsar, you probably need about 13 - 15 liter of volume to properly damp the bass output.  I've read the Stereophile review and it seems like the Pulsars do have a bit of a midbass hump.  The midbass hump sometimes can be mistaken for having deeper bass.  And to be fair, most monitors in the same size category as the Pulsars probably don't have much deep bass to speak of so it's more like a game of millimeter.  

I heard the midbass hump on the Pulsars (Stereophile noted a bit of added warmth to the Pulsars too), which is why I gravitated to the Perspectives, which evened that out and sounded more linear t me through the lower midrange/upper bass.