Kharma Midi-Grand Ceramique 1.0 loudspeaker Page 2

All internal wiring is of Kharma's latest cable technology, all solid silver and gold, handmade at the factory using carbon "holding isolation" (dielectric?). Particular attention is paid to minimizing wire lengths and numbers of joints, and all connections are made with high-quality silver solder. AVT compound is used to minimize the effects of vibration on the crossover. Kharma machines the biwirable binding-post terminal from a solid block of aluminum and fits it with double pairs of deluxe WBT five-way posts. Upgrades include a diamond tweeter and Kharma's Enigma crossover, cryogenically frozen to (Kharma claims) lower the noise floor of the entire system.

While the Kharma Midi-Grands are hefty at 170 lbs each, after the 400-lb Antares they seemed light on their feet, and not too difficult to move around. Importer Parish tried various placements, at one point moving them way into the room, about 4' from the front wall, which forced me to move my listening chair well back from its normal position. I found the resulting sound woefully bass-shy, but Parish seemed satisfied and left. I planned on moving the Kharmas back myself, but before I could, he'd thought better of his choice and reappeared to help me.

While I experimented with various positions, I found the Midi-Grand to be a speaker that sounded best pointed straight ahead, with no toe-in at all. I ended up with the Kharmas about 2' from the front wall and 30" from the sidewalls. Pointing these speakers forward exposed their entire 20" depth, creating a somewhat monolithic view from the listening position. I couldn't imagine how, with the broad expanses of their flanks exposed, these big lugs could possibly "disappear."

I was also perturbed by what happened when, before doing any serious listening, I gave the enclosures the "knuckle-rap" test. The bass boxes were reasonably inert (though not compared to the Antares, of course), but both mid/hi enclosures rang like bells—I could hear them ring even with my ear well away from the enclosures' surfaces. With my ear pressed against them, the ringing was even more pronounced and distinct. Oddly, each speaker had a different tonal texture. One rang at a higher and purer frequency, and decayed with a spring-like signature, while the other's "ring" was somewhat muted and lower in frequency.

I ran into my utility room to repeat the test on the Audio Physic Avanti IIIs, and, rapping the enclosures all over, heard only a dull and quickly decaying thud from each.

The high frequency at which the Midi-Grands rang indicated an extremely stiff enclosure; what was missing was damping. However, given the resonance's pure, high frequency, I figured it would not interfere with the speaker's performance. After listening intently for about two months, I concluded that that was indeed the case.

An Enormous Picture
Once the setup dust had settled and I'd begun my serious listening, it didn't take more than a few minutes to realize that the Kharma Midi-Grands delivered an absolutely enormous sonic picture in three dimensions. Stage height, width, and depth were expansive, and unfazed by the actual dimensions of my room.

I've never experienced such an overwhelming acoustical presence in this room. When John Atkinson came by for a listen and to take a Midi-Grand home for measuring, that was his first observation, too. Despite their relative enormity, and despite being less than 10' from my listening position in a room of modest size, the Kharmas managed to completely "disappear" with astonishing ease. They made themselves scarce even in broad daylight as they delivered CinemaScopic soundstages and large-scale, well-focused, convincingly solid images.

I have no doubt the Midi-Grands can deliver the same in a much bigger room. In fact, they need to be heard in a room bigger than mine (15' by 22' by 8'). While the even larger Rockport Antares delivered a picture that fit my room, in terms of image size, the Midi-Grands were almost too big—not that I complained during the two months I had them.

The Midi-Grands' rendering of Lorin Maazel and the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus's superb 1976 recording of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (LPs, Decca/London 609-11), in which the work is presented not as a series of tunes but as an opera, was, in many ways, groundbreaking in my listening experience. The expanse of the stage, the precision of the images on the stage, the delineation of depth—all were breathtaking, if somewhat muted and lacking the last bit of extension and air on top.

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