Q&A: The Marten Coltrane Momento speakers (versus Kharma speakers)

[These Marten versus Kharma questions are very popular. I try to answer each one of these a little differently, to hopefully allow people, over the course of all these answers, to paste together a more accurate picture of the two ‘house sounds’.]


I’m curious to know how the Coltrane Momento’s have worked out? I have only seen one review of them (which was very positive), but they seem to have been brought to market rather quietly – as compared to the hoopla of the Supreme several years earlier. Have you had any in your shop for audition? If so, how do you like them? Anything glaringly right or wrong?

Finally, in general terms what kind of soundstage do Marten speakers tend/aspire to create? Small focused or expansive?? (for lack of any better descriptors at this moment…)

I like the look of these speakers – simple to hook up, simple footprint….but apparently with some great components and considerable thought all on board.


Yeah, I guess statement products [the Supremes] do receive a lot more hoopla than the penultimate [the Momentos] – and perhaps because the Momentos are comparably priced to so many other speakers these days, they just don’t stand out like the Coltrane Supreme speakers do? All just speculation on my part – but I do agree the buzz has been rather muted (undeservedly so, IMHO).

No, unfortunately we have not had the Momentos in the shop. We heard them extensively at CES last year, loved them [sounded just like we expected them to], and we were actually interested in purchasing that particular pair, but another line [no, I’m not telling which one :-)] we carry had a hiccup and we decided we just could not swing it at that time. And, now, of course, we are planning on moving the shop, so getting another big speaker just does not seem like the prudent thing to do at this time. [We periodically try to actively sell the Coltrane Supreme speakers so that we can get a pair of Coltrane Momento speakers for awhile – as you may have seen on this blog – only to later think this would be nuts and we can’t live without the Supremes. Kind of an emotional issue here at Audio Federation.]

The Momentos sound similar to the Coltrane Supreme speakers – which we love – and in some instances may be more convenient [2 speakers instead of 4, no external crossover box, and like if, say, you wanted to use an integrated amp like the Audio Note Ongaku to drive them – the absence of an outboard amp (which the Supremes have and the Momentos do not) simplifies things a bit]. Let’s get to your next question, which allows us to talk about these speakers in context, the context being another great set of speakers 🙂

>> Hello again – I also wanted to ask about the Marten’s: generally speaking how are they voiced relative to Kharma (a brand that I’ve some experience with)??

* The Marten sound is more determined by upstream equipment and setup than is the Kharma sound. (i.e. the Marten is capable of having more different kinds of sounds than the Kharma)
* The Kharma sound typically creates a larger soundstage and bigger sound, all else being equal [although this is changing with the new Coltrane 2 and maybe the Momento as well]
* The Kharma sound is typically more overtly detailed in the midrange and lower treble [though I think this is changing with the newer Kharma black label drivers] than the Marten sound
* The Marten sound has a blacker background and is more revealing of subtleties than the Kharma sound

One way to look at them is that the Kharma is a party speaker, exuberant, exciting, invigorating, … and the Marten is a truth speaker, beautiful, mind-mucking, deeply insightful…

Please understand I am somewhat exaggerating the differences to help you understand their intrinsic character …. They are both capable of doing all these things quite well.

Hope this helps!

(Jinro, Tenor, Lamm, solid-state) Amps for Kharma mid-size speakers for mid-size rooms

[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…

Kharma news from Munich 2010

[Neli is still torturing me. But eventually she will relent 🙂 From the snippets I have heard – Kharma now has 2 speakers above the old (~$260K) Grande Exquisites and one immediately below.

Kharma has indeed added some new loudspeakers to the Grand Exquisite line. Above the Grand Exquisite are the Grand Exquisite Extreme ($390K), and the Grand Exquisite Extreme, Limited Edition 25 ($520K), the ultimate realization of the Grand Exquisite.

Kharma has also introduced the Midi Grand Exquisite ($145K), smaller cabinet suitable for a (somewhat) smaller room. These were the ones shown in Munich.

Kharma now makes their own ceramic drivers, the Black Label series (and so no longer use the old Accuton/ Thiele & Partner ceramic drivers – which have been exceedingly hard to come by lately). These new drivers have membranes that are black in color.

This fall, Kharma will introduce the new Elegance line. One of the smaller Elegance loudspeakers, configuration similar to the 3.2.2 CRM, is shown below. These use a new Kharma-designed and developed carbon fiber driver and a new (also Kharma-designed and developed) beryllium tweeter. Pricing for the new Elegance speakers is still being set.

Corrections to this summary, and pricing, and labeling of the photos will be forthcoming… right Neli? :-)]
A quick note on pricing. Kharma’s pricing in Euro has remained remarkably stable over the last years. Prices here are based on a conversion rate of 1.30 USD / 1 Euro, which is either … an insane opportunity, or the new normal.

Looking into the Munich show room from the outside …

wish we were able to attend, we are so happy to have these pictures sent to us from Kharma …

First glimpse inside.

These are the Midi Grand Exquisites, with the Exquisite Sub (active, 18″ long throw driver) and the new Exquisite MP-1000 mono power amplifiers.

Side view of the room, RixRax Grand Hoodoo and a pair of Exquisite Mini with the new black label drivers (more below).

Kharma owner and chief designer, Charles van Oosterum, with the new Elegance 3.2.2, with the grille on. Grilles are now mounted magnetically.

Rear of the Elegance 3.2.2, in Aubergine. The port is reminiscent of the Exquisite Mini. Note the removable back panel.
These loudspeakers can be made active by changing the binding posts to signal cable connectors (XLR/RCA) and mounting one of the little Matrix amplifiers inside.

New Kharma beryllium tweeter and carbon fiber mid/bass driver.

‘Elegance’ series badge on the side. Cabinets and cabinet finish look quite similar to the CRM 3.2/3.2.2.

Streamlined Elegance series stand with floor protectors.

This is a nice reminder that we should always level our loudspeakers …

Another nice view of the big Munich system with the Midi Grand Exquisites, the new MP-1000 mono amps ($52000), and the Exquisite sub ($32,500).

Closeup of one Midi Grand Exquisite. Makassar veneer with piano black finish. Nice view of the dual diamond tweeters, and of the new black-label ceramic midrange drivers.

Even nicer view of the Makassar …

Beautiful view of the Exquisite Mini (what a lovely, lovely loudspeaker, sonically even more than visually), with standard Walnut trim and the new black label drivers. Since the speakers are not playing, the diamond tweeters have got their little magnetic protective grilles on.

The MP-1000 with carbon front panel.

Best view of the front end. Top shelf, Metronome CD transport. Second shelf, prototype/beta version of the new Kharma PA-1000 preamplifier (expected $39000), third shelf is a DAC from Audio Note Japan (thanks Metralla) KSL-DAC. And, on the bottom shelf, what I think is the power supply for the Metronome.

Happy listeners ….