Kharma's Enigma Veyron 2

When Charles van Oosterum founded Kharma International in the Netherlands 35 years ago, he began with the company's Ceramique line, which used ceramic drivers. Kharma's ceramic-driver Enigma was their first big speaker to fill a ballroom. Now, over a third of a century later, with ceramic drivers replaced by Kharma Composite drivers with carbon fiber, the Kharma Enigma Veyron 2 ($437,500/pair), the smaller (!) sibling of the Enigma Veyron 1, has made its US debut at CES. (I should have covered this speaker at its Munich High End debut but, mea culpa, I somehow missed it.)

The company's new Omega-F driver technology, utilized herein, claims to eliminate eddy-current distortion caused by iron-based-magnet motor systems. Instead, it uses a patented cluster of neodymium magnets, which creates a static magnetic field that needs no focusing by iron. As a result, the company claims "better transients, less coloration and more refined complex sound structures." The driver also uses carbon-fiber technology for its cones, and a carbon voice-coil. Driver connectors are of the same silver alloy used for Kharma crossover cables and external cables.

The Veyron 2's cabinet is constructed out of CNC-milled bulletwood plates. In addition, the speaker boasts a triple diamond tweeter, and a special integrated diamond stand with diamond cones on a diamond plate. As I type these words, I can't get this out of my head. Who could?

Also in the system, in addition to Lamm electronics, were Tchernov Audio cables. Tchernov Audio was founded 20 years ago in Russia, and makes it headquarters in Berlin. Its driving force is Piotr Tchernov, a former major Focal distributor who grew dissatisfied with the sound of the cables then on the market.

Made in Russia, Tchernov cable claims an "extremely innovative conductor dielectric technology" that has earned seven Russian patents. In use were the Ultimate speaker cables (approx. $2500-3000/1m pair) and interconnects (approx. $1250-1500/1m pair). The company, which stresses "value for the money," is seeking US distribution.

This system's presentation was completely different than that of the YG Acoustics/Audionet/Kubala-Sosna setup. On some of the same music, I heard more beauty and warmth, but nowhere near the bass. Highs may been more lively, but bass was, to be polite, shallow and light. Similarly, while image height was fabulous, speed lagged far behind.

When I listened to the CD layer of my SACD of soprano Carolyn Sampson, accompanied by pianist Joseph Middleton, the sound lacked focus. The voice seemed almost hollow and had a bright edge, and reverb seemed exaggerated. Just as troubling, the artists were set so far back that I felt distanced from the music. Nor was the experience helped by some clueless industry people who were chatting at a volume more appropriate to a casino. An enigma, to be sure.