[We often get questions sent to us by email. Often the answers take a good deal of time to write - and after we respond we hardly ever hear back from the questioner. So, although we have talked about doing this for quite awhile this is the first time that, when the answers seem to be useful to a wider range of people, we will start posting them here. We will keep the questioner anonymous unless requested otherwise.
I originally wrote this presuming the person was not in the U.S….]
Dear Mike and Neli
Reading your web site and audiogon we have very similar taste in music systems. Please let me know your thoughts that will help me with my next system. I have to ask you because
I won’t have a chance to listen to all combinations. I currently have Edolon (older) and CAT JL2. But there was always more music coming from my friend’s Kharma3.2/Tenor 75w OTL.
I think of moving towards Kharma speakers. Not quite sure which system to end up with. I consider following
1. Kharma Mini/Lamm ML2.1
2. Kharma Mini/ Tenor 75W OTL
3. Kharma Midi/ Tenor 300 hybrids
4. Kharma Midi/ MBL 9008 monos
I don’t have enough funds to go for Audio Note Ongaku amps
I really loved Tenor 75W OTL but didn’t have a chance to hear Lamm ML2.1.
Most people who heard both ML2.1 and 75w OTL leaning towards Tenors OTL. Jtinn and Mike Larvin preferred Kharma Midi/Tenor 300 hybrids. Also Tenor support was questionable for these older Tenor models and, on other hand, Lamm support was fantastic.
I will have medium size room, so both Midi and mini will do fine there.
Please let me know what would you choose in my situation?
I imagine that your current system sounds a little too laid back, especially at various frequencies? Much as I love the Avalon speakers, I have not yet heard an amp on them [so far!] that makes have that drug-like sound [would love to try the Ongaku someday ]
The Kharma 3.2/Tenor 75w is a VERY magical combination - especially w/r to midi and micro-dynamics - missing only some slight harmonic color and, of course, some of the authority and fill that a larger speaker usually has. This is a classic system. A direct upgrade is indeed perhaps the Tenor 75w on the Midi - which we have heard but as you might expect there will be some ultimate SPL limitations [and may tax the 75w to the point that it blows up more often, more often than not taking a few speaker drivers with it when it does, as the 75w’s are wont to do].
Which begs the question: what is a ‘medium-sized room’? How loud do you listen? How important is rock-solid bass at high SPLs? Why are you not just getting a 3.2/75w and putting an awesome front end on it with the left over $$$? How would you improve your friend’s system sonically [louder? more neutral? more bass? …]
OK. On to the amps…
* The ML2.1 did not drive the Mini to our satisfaction in a 15×28 foot room [5 x 9 meters] unless you are going for very intimate nearfield midrange nirvana - the speaker may be harder to drive than the Midi, and is definitely harder than the 3.2
* The Tenor 300 hybrids did not have much [any?] of the magic that the 75w OTL did
* The new Tenor hybrid are $$$ and an Ongaku is probably cheaper and definitely makes more music unless you are looking for big, BIG SPLs
* The MBL… Kharma actually does not sound bad with solidstate amps. It will not be like your friend’s system - the sound will be bigger, more room pressurizing [if you know what I mean], more authoritative. But less intimate, less PRaT, less musical, less mini- and micro-dynamics etc…
The Lamm hybrids should be mentioned, they will be a powerful denser harmonic sound - but this may be too much like your current system, albeit a good deal more lively [but just not as lively as the Tenor OTL on the 3.2].
I would pick an Ongaku or Lamm ML3 if I were you and you had the funds. Well, I am of the firm belief that we all have to always be well prepared for the non-zero probability that funds might start falling out of the sky in our general direction.
You might also consider the Audio Note U.K. Jinro ($22K USD or so. It is a copper version of the Ongaku, which uses silver) which will drive the speakers fine - with less resolution [both w/r to detail and harmonics] than the almighty Ongaku but good midi- and micro-dynamics fairly close - but not quite - to the Tenor 75w. And it won’t blow up and is an integrated. This is probably your best choice for a sound similar to your friends but bigger and I might almost say better in every way [I could say ‘better’ with confidence if you milked all the dynamics possible using HRS vibration control, and the right cables and power cords and sources. Especially with the Mini Exquisites which are just oozing harmonic and inner detail]
In the end, on a budget, I would choose the Jinro or the solidstate solution [not just MBL, but Edge, Vitus etc. We made a list on the blog of the better solidstate out there… an older link is HERE] and then tune the living daylights out of the signal you are giving them [i.e. cables and power cords and rackage].
Oh! the Wilsons… The ML2.1 on the Watt Puppies…. Let’s just throw in the Sophia and Sasha in this discussion too. And the Marten Coltane too [I am presuming you are looking mostly at the used market given your selection of possible amps, half of which are no longer being made]. You will have some ultimate SPL issues here too which I do not know will be a problem for you are not. I like these Lamm combinations a lot - although it is a ‘different musical’ than the Kharma/Tenor. It is more stately and sensual as opposed to exuberant and exciting. I think of these as comparing a wife to a girl friend. Both have their good points. [I, personally, did not mean that last sentence to apply to myself, Neli :-O ].
Hope people find this kind of Q&A interesting…