Chario Premium 1000 loudspeaker Page 2

The ability of the Premium 1000 to unravel detail even during the most densely recorded passages made it a natural fit for difficult orchestral recordings. The boisterous opening movement of Penderecki's Credo, with Helmut Rilling and the Oregon Bach Festival Orchestra and Choir (CD, H‰nssler Classic CD 98.311), was reproduced without a trace of compression or coagulation. Even during the fortissimo passages, I was able to clearly follow each instrument in the orchestra. And listening to Louis Andriessen's De Tijd, with Reinbert de Leeuw leading the Percussion Group The Hague and the Schoenberg Ensemble (CD, Elektra Nonesuch 79291-2), I was startled by how suddenly the percussive transients popped out of the low-level orchestral continuo.

The Chario's clean, lightning-fast articulation of transients induced me to mine my collection of percussion recordings. In the second movement of Susie Ibarra's Radiance, performed by her trio on the album of that name (CD, Hopscotch HOP2), Ibarra's delicate solo—in which she uses mallets, sticks, and brushes to strike various spots on her cymbals and drums, creating a broad palette of sounds—brought a level of realism to my living room that reminded me of a recent Ibarra performance I heard at Carnegie Hall.

David Chesky's Violin Concerto, with Anthony Aibel and the Area 31 ensemble (SACD/CD, Chesky SACD288, CD layer), highlighted the Chario's distinctive high-frequency performance. Soloist Tom Chiu's violin was sweet but biting, as a live violin sounds, but there was a lack of extreme top-end sparkle from the instrument's upper partials. There was plenty of air and hall sound, but I didn't get the impression that the Premium 1000's highs were particularly extended. However, the triangle sparkled quite naturally. I believe that the quality of the Chario's high-frequency reproduction just below the extreme top was so natural that I wasn't bothered by its lack of extreme top extension. At the opposite end of the frequency spectrum, pizzicato double basses sounded naturally woody and warm, but while the bass drum seemed uncolored, it didn't quite shake the room.

That lower-high-frequency clarity made me want to listen to well-recorded electric guitar solos, such as Mark Ribot's on Tom Waits' "Sins of My Father," from Real Gone (CD, Anti- 86678-2). This is probably my favorite solo by Ribot, and it sounded rich, fuzzy, clangy, and down'n'dirty through the Premium 1000—a perfect foil for Waits' idiosyncratic arrangement.

Overall, I was quite happy with the Chario's bass performance. Although I reveled in the clear, clean, quick, crisp transients of "Man Machine," from Kraftwerk's Minimum/Maximum (CD, EMI ASW 60611), I didn't quite hear the bottom-end electronic thunder I've heard from this track with other speakers. Further up the frequency spectrum, however, the Premium 1000's midbass clarity made me want to listen to many jazz bass solos. "Woody, warm, and airy" read my listening notes for both Charles Mingus' solo on "Things Just Ain't What They Used to Be," from Mingus Dynasty (LP, Columbia CL 1440), and Buell Neidlinger's solo on his composition "O.P.," from his and Cecil Taylor's New York City R&B (CD, Candid CCD 79017)—the latter is, I believe, the only recorded example of Cecil Taylor playing a 12-bar blues.

The Premium 1000's impressive articulation of transients and its realistic midbass gave a natural sense of coherent pacing to all jazz recordings I listened to. Ron Carter's walking bass locked in perfectly with Tony Williams' driving, swinging hi-hat on the title track of Miles Davis' Seven Steps to Heaven (LP, Columbia CS 8851). And the rhythm section on the title track of Terence Blanchard's Simply Stated (CD, Columbia CK 28903) created the solidly integrated bedrock for Blanchard's biting, blatty, burnished trumpet sound.

The Chario's midbass performance also impressed on loud rock recordings. Lani Ford's solid electric bass line on her punk band Stark's Put It To Your Head (CD, Kicking and Screaming Music 796873018142) kicked butt with no problem, even at 95dB. The wide dynamic capabilities of this little bookshelf speaker impressed at all volume levels, which I experienced as I analyzed drummer Mark Flynn's playing on my jazz quartet Attention Screen's Live at Merkin Hall (CD, Stereophile STPH018-2). From his delicate low-level cymbal work on the opening of "Fruit Forward," to the powerful groove he sets up on "Blizzard Limbs," to the explosive ending of "Mansour's Gift," the Chario let Flynn's diverse percussive palette shine through.

I compared the Chario Premium 1000 ($1015/ pair) with three other loudspeakers: the Nola Mini ($695/pair when last offered), the Amphion Helium2 ($1200/pair), and the Monitor Audio RS6 Silver ($1200/pair).

The Nola Mini sounded a bit rougher in the lower highs, especially in sibilant vocal passages, but shared the Chario's rich, warm midrange. The Nola's bass was warmer yet deeper, and high-level dynamic passages were more powerful.

The Amphion Helium2 shared with the Premium 1000 a silky midrange with excellent detail, and its highs were as airy, laid-back, and detailed as the Chario's. Its bass wasn't as deep as the Chario's, however, and its high-level dynamic capabilities were inferior.

The Monitor Audio RS6 Silver had extended highs with clear, crisp sibilants, but the Chario's highs were a bit more delicate. However, the RS6's bass extension and high-level dynamic capabilities were clearly the best of the four speakers.

Summing up
Chario clearly has a winner with the Premium 1000. The speaker has its own unique personality, as has every bookshelf speaker at its price, but over a wide variety of recordings of multiple musical genres played at many different volume levels, the Chario exhibited the desirable combination of resolution of detail, low levels of coloration, and natural musical involvement. It competes handily with any bookshelf speaker I've heard at or near its price.

Chario Loudspeakers
US distributor: Koetsu USA
NA-5 Miramonte Garden Hills
Guaynabo, PR 00966
(787) 689-7239