Kharma Elegance dB11-S Loudspeaker

Heart and Soul

Equipment report
Categories:
Floorstanding
|
Products:
Kharma Elegance dB11-S
Kharma Elegance dB11-S Loudspeaker

Kharma’s integral Spike Disk Suspension System (SDSS), described in Neil Gader’s review of the Elegance S7-S (Issue 254), not only couples the speaker rigidly to the floor, but also provides space under the speaker to enhance bass performance.

The attention to small details in the dB11-S is phenomenal. For example, the floor disks into which the SDSS spikes fit have optional inserts made of diamonds. The speaker cable clamping system is also highly effective and easy to use—and it provides a very secure connection for spade lugs in either single or bi-wired configurations.

Soundstaging is also among the formidable strengths of the dB11-S. On Respighi’s Belkis, Queen of Sheba/The Pines of Rome [Reference Recordings], the orchestra was layered on a broad, deep stage; imaging was precise and extremely stable; and the sound of massed strings was “to die for.” There was not a hint of stridency. Indeed, the timbre of all instruments, from woodwinds to strings to percussion, was spot-on, with a wonderful sense of air.

The luscious harmonic richness of the Elegance dB11-S does not come at the expense of fine detail retrieval or transparency, nor does it blunt or soften the leading edges of transients. For example, massed strings in Debussy’s Iberia [RCA/Classic Records] still had plenty of bite, as they do in a live performance, but there was no added shrillness. While Mercury recordings might not have sounded particularly lush, one could better appreciate the mastery of the Robert and Wilma Cozart Fine recording team without being driven out the room.

This Kharma’s outstanding attributes really come together on demanding recordings of solo piano. When I listened to Hyperion Knight performing Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata (Op. 53) and Stravinsky’s Petrouchka on a nine-foot concert grand piano [Wilson Audio], there was no compression on very loud dynamic peaks and hard transients, the bass had realistic weight and extension, and the leading edges of transients were reproduced with outstanding clarity and without any smearing. One could literally hear the hammers striking the strings! The sound came closer to my own concert grand piano than any other speaker system I have had in my house, even outdistancing my previous reference for solo piano, the wonderful Raidho Eben X-3.

The Sheffield Track Record demonstrated the Kharma’s superlative deep bass, explosive dynamics, and lightning-fast transient speed, capturing the full impact of rock instruments. This baby can start and stop on a dime without any acoustic overhang, as evidenced on The Sheffield Drum Record. I typically don’t have the patience to sit through extended drum solos, but I was so engaged by the performance through the dB11-S, I could have listened far longer.

Because the Kharma dB11-S is such an outstanding speaker, I really had to scratch my head to find any minor faults. While the bass is powerful and extended—typically most welcome on powerful orchestral music, piano recordings, and rock—it can occasionally seem slightly overblown on smaller-scale jazz recordings, such as on the standup bass in Freddie Hubbard’s The Body and Soul [Impulse]. It may be that I’m just not used to hearing this much high-quality bass on familiar recordings, but the effect can be ameliorated somewhat by careful loudspeaker positioning and by using a high-quality amplifier, such as the Constellation Centaur or Kharma’s own electronics, to control the woofers. The midrange and tweeter drivers are so incredibly fast that the aluminum bass drivers can occasionally seem to lag ever so slightly behind them, producing a smidge of thickness in the midbass. On the other hand, this helps gives the speaker an appealing romantic warmth, which I prefer to a more analytical, sterile presentation.

Obviously, I was really taken by the superlative performance of the luxurious Kharma dB11-S. To think that the company makes an even higher-performance loudspeaker line boggles the mind! Perhaps the Exquisite Series will use Kharma’s breakthrough stranded carbon-fiber driver technology on its bass drivers, too? In his CES report, JV suggested that the dB11-S was one of the great speaker bargains in the ultra-high end, and I absolutely concur. It certainly offers a compelling and musically satisfying alternative to many upper-tier designs and is highly recommended.

SPECS & PRICING

Type: Three-way, bass-reflex floorstanding loudspeaker
Drivers: One 1" beryllium tweeter, one 7" Kharma Omega 7 midrange, two 10" aluminum woofers
Frequency response: 21Hz–30kHz
Sensitivity: 89dB
Impedance: 4 ohms
Maximum SPL: 115dB
Dimensions: 18.5" x 50.7" x 31.3"
Weight: 176 lbs. each
Price: $54,000

KHARMA INTERNATIONAL
Kalshoven 7
4825 Al Breda
The Netherlands
+31 (0) 76 571 50 10
kharma.com

ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT
Merrill-Williams 101 turntable with Tri-Planar U-II and Kiseki Purple Heart cartridge; Modwright-Oppo BDP-105 digital player; Constellation Audio Virgo, MFA Venusian (Frankland modified) and PrimaLuna Dialogue Three preamplifiers; Constellation Audio Centaur amplifier, and PrimaLuna DiaLogue HP monoblock amplifiers; Magnepan 3.7i and Quad ESL-57 (PK modified) loudspeakers; Silver Circle Audio TCHAIK6 power conditioner; Shunyata Research Alpha Digital power cable, Nordost Valhalla interconnects and power cords, AudioQuest Niagara interconnects and Metro speaker cables, etc.

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