The S7-S shone most intensely with orchestral music. Whenever I dialed up a naturalistic volume, images and dimension came alive with the angles, light, reflections, and complexity of a Vermeer. It’s a rare loudspeaker of any size or driver configuration that has the resolution to map the contours of a recording venue like the Kharma can. It not only revealed the acoustics and immersiveness and sweep of symphonic venues; it also exposed the veil of artifice of contemporary commercial and pop recordings. You could almost peer into the recording studio where The Carpenters recorded platinum hits like “Close to You,” and see knobs being twisted to punch up a vocal, faders rising and falling, the application of varying amounts of reverb to dry off or wet down specific tracks.
One of the most exhilarating aspects of listening to music through the S7-S was the degree to which it operated outside its box. Such observations are commonly reserved for small two-way, stand-mounted monitors, which are renowned for vanishing into the listening space, revealing little of themselves and everything about the music. However, even elite mini-monitors perform this disappearing act at the cost of highly restricted acoustic output, squeezed dynamics, and limited low-end extension. The S7-S’s magic is that it encapsulates the ethos of the mini-monitor—“no localization allowed”—but does so across a vastly wider frequency spectrum. In my room, the complex and varied transients and resonances of bass drum and timpani originated in precise spatial formations. During Vaughan-Williams’ The Wasps Overture [RCA] the percussion players lined up at the rear of the orchestra (and just forward of the hall’s back wall) came into strong focus, with the layers of string sections spread across the stage in front of them. What you didn’t hear was the S7-S’s cabinet, or its drivers, or its rear-firing port. In an era of new and exotic cabinet materials, the S7-S is a tribute to Kharma’s long experience honing the traditional enclosure.
To my way of thinking, a large portion of my sonic impressions are owed to Kharma’s superb new mid/bass driver, which combines a muscular midrange balance with the sinewy, fast-twitch transient response that Kharma’s ceramic diaphragms were so famous for. The new driver is a major leap over its predecessor. This isn’t a negative referendum on earlier models, but my take was that these efforts, though ultra-refined, could also sound a bit fragile, even brittle, and seemed to be biased toward lighter more delicate music, shying away from the heavier macro-dynamics of large-scale music. Back in the day, I was truly in awe and admiration of a Kharma’s resolving power but not as emotionally moved by it. The UHM mid/bass has changed that.
The Kharma may very well be the zenith of the two-way floorstander, but it still has its limits, modest though they are. It will be at its effortless best in medium-sized to smaller spaces where it can tap a little extra low end via wall reinforcement. I mentioned earlier the slightly distant audience perspective, and have concluded that there is a narrow frequency dip in the presence range that softens energy there a bit. In addition, larger dynamic swings tend to soften a little sooner than they do with larger multiways. Bass excursions, while taut and controlled in the midbass, lose intensity further down. For example, there was a little less resonance and decay from the talking drums’ during Jennifer Warnes’ “Way Down Deep.” (These drum-skin cues were immediately recaptured in all their rippling glory with the addition of a capable subwoofer like the REL S/5 [Issue 252]—a great match with the Kharma for those seeking the last word in bass extension. Kharma makes a matching subwoofer in the Elegance line, which I haven’t heard.)
The Kharma Elegance S7-S Signature is on a very short list of the world’s most musical, luxurious, and sophisticated speakers. And I have to tip my hat for the elegant way it takes its place on that list. It serves as a reminder that sometimes we don’t merely own a high-end component just to listen to, but also for the sheer pleasure of its company. We all can’t afford an S7-S, but I wish every audiophile could have the opportunity to hear one. That’s what I would call spreading around a lot of good Kharma.
SPECS & PRICING
Type: Two-way, bass-reflex floorstanding loudspeaker
Drivers: One 1" tweeter, one 7" Kharma Omega7 mid/bass
Frequency response: 29Hz–30kHz
Impedance: 8 ohms
Dimensions: 14.1" x 38.3" x 21.8"
Weight: 79 lbs. each
4825 Al Breda
+31 (0)76 571 50 10