Kharma Midi-Grand Ceramique 1.0 loudspeaker Page 5

In terms of dynamics at both ends of the scale, low-level resolution, delineation of inner detail, harmonic integrity, transparency, and every other performance parameter, the Midi-Grand delivered the goods you'd expect from a speaker costing $32,500/pair. When I listened at low, late-night SPLs, the full picture and musical expressiveness remained intact. When I cranked them up loud, there was no hint of compression or strain. This big, expensive speaker did the heavy lifting where it counts.

When the Midi-Grands were gone and the far smaller, much less expensive Audio Physic Avanti IIIs were returned to my system, I played those Little Feat tracks again. The enormity of the picture diminished, as did the spectacular, Macy's balloon-sized images—the drama departed the playing field. While the picture diminished in size considerably and there were certainly some losses of transparency, detail, and resolution, the focus tightened and the air returned.

But the Rice Krispies were back on the table. There was snap to the cymbal hits, wallop to the kick drum, sparkle to the cowbell, a deeper growl to the synthesizer, and a greater sense of rhythmic drive and forward propulsion, even as many of the Midi-Grand's strong suits were obviously gone and sorely missed.

Combine the presentations of these two very different high-performance loudspeakers, and the sound (at least in my room) approaches what Rockport's Antares delivered (again, in my room). In fact, combine the costs of the Midi-Grands and the Avantis ($32,500 and $12,000), and you'd be just a few thou above the Antares' asking price of $41,500/pair.

Two months with the Kharma Midi-Grand-Ceramique GRCe-M-1.0 convinced me of two things: It's a great speaker that does many wonderful things that will satisfy many music-lovers over the long haul, and it's meant for a much larger room than mine. However, while it's possible that the Midi-Grand's bass performance will be better-balanced in a bigger room, I don't think "tight" and "punchy" will ever be used to describe it, nor do I think that's what the designer had in mind.

I think Charles van Oosterum went for maximum resolution and transparency on top, and was willing to sacrifice the last bit of air and extension up there to get it. Tuning the bass as he seems to have allows it to match the relaxed and open top end, and to mate effectively with the impressively smooth and peak-free midband to create a full-range speaker that doesn't have a false or mechanical bone in its body. Rhythmically, the Kharma Midi-Grand couldn't be faulted. Its sense of time was outstanding because its sonic picture held together so well from top to bottom. I've heard "faster," but not more "together."

For $32,500, you get two speakers capable of delivering an enormous and credible soundstage with commensurately large, well-focused images. The Midi-Grand's overall harmonic integrity was up there with the best I've heard, though I felt its very top end was slightly muted, which slightly softened transients and took a bit of the bite out of brass.

This brand of "relaxed fit" sound won't suit every listener, but if you've got a big space to fill and can spend $32,500, the Kharma Midi-Grand-Ceramique GRCe-M-1.0 is well worth considering. Me? I'd still like to hear Kharma's $19,000/pair Ceramique 3.2s in my room. They're probably more my speed.

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