The Kharma mini-Exquisites - like the Kharma 3.2 but
with a diamond tweeter and made to look a lot like its bigger brother,
the midi-Exquisites. Driven by the small Kharma amps and MBL electronics
with Kubala-Sosna cables, pictured in day 1's report
Very engaging, very musical in that classic, 'what we want music to
sound like this' fashion. Not so much a 'you are there' presentation
like the Marten Coltrane Supremes - more like a 'you are alive and feel
good about it' kind of thing. I really loved the sound in this room -
for a small scale system it really does 'it' for me.
We described the sound of the Midi Exquisites driven by Lamm
amplification at the Home Entertainment New York show in May, HE2005, as
being almost drug-like, like a magnetic force it tried to suck you into
the music, and, if you let it do this, if you gave in to it, there was a
rush of feeling and emotion that swept one away, flying with the music.
The ASR amps on the Midi Exquisites, at this show, did not have the same
effect, on me anyway, for whatever reason, but the Mini
Exquisites...now they had an interesting effect, though somewhat
different, from my perspective. Instead of having to consciously 'let
it' do its magic, the magic just 'was'. And whereas the 'magic' was
thick and dense, like a hot summer night with the Midi Exquisites / Lamm
system, the Mini Exquisites were light and airy, like a sunny
The Mini's magic was less intense, but more
accessible. Perhaps this was in some part attributable to the better
support the Mini had for an audiophile-quality presentation compared to
the Midi system - I was able to relax more because the Mini presentation
was more balanced and more realistic - albeit at a smaller scale.
Lots of detail, stable imaging, good separation, a rather narrow
soundstage which we blamed on the room, good dynamics, and bass was
scaled nicely to the room. Based on our two, admittedly short auditions,
we think these are a slam-dunk, you are going to be so happy, upgrade
for people who have the similarly sized Kharma 3.2's and have had the
money for the bigger Kharmas, but not the room.
fact, I have a sneaky suspicion that the little 2-way 3.2s may have been
the best speaker, for my tastes, of any in the amazing Kharma lineup of
much more expensive speakers - and that now I have found a new 'best'
speaker, the Mini, also a 2-way, with more of the Kharma magic
and more of the audiophile attributes that make the music both more
realistic and enjoyable.
The associated equipment is
interesting: warm, smooth, and somewhat detailed MBL into a small (sized
anyway) detailed solid state amp. The system was quite detailed sounding
and engaging. It would be interesting to put these speakers on something
more conventional, like Lamm amps and Meitner digital. THEN, with this
cross-section of equipment, we could perhaps pinpoint the location in
paradise these speakers come from - or whether, after all, they are from
planet earth like most other speakers.
Oops, being a
little overly effusive, I am. Time to turn Effusive menu option
Only problem is the price: $45K. At this price it is
going up against the similarly-priced Wilson Maxx II, Acapella Violon, Marten
Coltrane, Avalon Eidolon, and Audio Note speakers. More in the official report.
Um, well, this pictorial odyssey has turned into the detailed report,
for the most part, so let's discuss the competition some.
* The Mini Exquisites is for small to medium sized spaces for
people who want engaging and startlingly emotional and detailed
renditions at the expense of having less detail in the low bass.
* The Wilson Maxx 2 is for larger spaces, and for people who want
an impressive sound: large scale soundstages, midrange and bass details,
and dynamics at the expense of an almost complete lack of emotional
capability and some unruly behaviors like drivability and an overly
enthusiastic treble / upper midrange.
Acapella* Violon is also for larger spaces and for people who like a
very natural musical realism and large engrossing soundstages at the
expense of some bottom end slam.
* The Marten
Design* Coltrane speakers are for people who like a very accurate
and realistic presentation, at the expense of not having a big and open
type of sound.
* The Avalon Eidolon Diamond is also for
bigger spaces and people who like emotional yet dynamic presentations at
the expensive of deep bass control and drivability
The Audio Note* U.K. AN-E SEC Signature is for smaller spaces,
like the Mini, and for people who want very dynamic and exciting and
harmonically rich and detailed presentations, supplied by the necessary
Audio Note electronics upstream, at the expense of looking at a box.
Looking at this run down - it seems that there is indeed a place for a
$45K 2-way speaker, as much as this price for a relatively small speaker
may make us uncomfortable. And that place is for people with relatively
small rooms who still want one of the best, no compromise, musical
experiences that money can buy. The only alternative, from the
perspective of this quick survey, is the Audio Note speaker (though the
Coltrane speakers are known to work very well providing a full-range
experience in as small a room as 12.5 x 16 feet), and it is also
an expensive 2-way speaker - and it does not quite have the visual
presence and beauty of the Mini, but then few speakers do.