Kharma Exquisite-Midi speakers? Let’s chat, shall we? Pour yourself a glass of Jenever, Advocaat, or a koffie verkeerd, and grab a handful of Klene Zoete Koopvaarders. We’re diving deep into delectable Dutch treats!
This was the easiest and the hardest review I have ever done. Yes, these speakers cost $85,000. And yes, they are worth it, if you can afford them. See? Easy! But a speaker of this price and quality needs to accomplish two tasks. First it needs to justify its price to a serious buyer, and second it needs to offer performance that allows it to stand above its competition in its price class and/or offer something unique—and at this level there is stiff competition, indeed.
A bit of history. Named from the word “karma,” meaning all the energy and effort you give shall be returned to you, Kharma International was established in 1993, and has long since established itself as a luxury brand in the audio community. With its least-expensive speaker hovering just below $20k and its most expensive one priced around $810k, you would expect hand-built quality, exotic materials, bespoke parts, and exceptional performance—and Khama has never once failed to deliver on all fronts.
Kharma’s owner and lead designer Charles van Oosterum believes in the principles behind extracting what he terms “the Kharma particle,” defined by him as the theoretically smallest audible phenomenon that the human ear can detect. By 1997 he had come upon the classic Kharma polygonal enclosure, designed to optimize phase behavior and minimize group delay. That original Ceramique speaker line matured into the current Elegance series. Charles’ enclosures prioritize an absolute reduction in vibration and internal energy. This concept led to the creation of the Exquisite line, implementing high pressure laminate (HPL) in a multi-layer construction, CNC’d and adhered in vertical plates to dampen mechanical vibration to almost zero. By absorbing and damping all internal and external vibrations, Charles gets closer to the purity of the recording and gets ever closer to his “Kharma particle.” In 2000 JV penned a review of the Exquisite Reference 1B, which was featured as the cover story of Issue 125. Shortly after, Charles began using diamond tweeters in his Exquisite line, and launched his cable series in 2003. By 2005 he had begun production of an electronics line to match the quality of his speakers and cables. Over the next 10 years Charles and his team continued to revise and add to the Exquisite line, and in 2015 they released the culmination of 22 years of pushing the envelope, the Enigma Veyron series (Enigma Veyron 2D, review forthcoming by JV). The Veyrons utilize Kharma’s newest Omega-F drivers and thick, five-axis-CNC’d, bullet-wood panels.
When discussing the model lines with Charles, he told me that each series expresses similar performance capabilities, with each step increasing bass output, room energy, and scale. Moving up the brand line also gives you increased articulation and resolution, or the capacity to correctly reproduce the smallest detail (back to the “Kharma particle”).
The Elegance series is the absolute best he can do, on a budget. They are beautifully finished, beautifully built, and of very high quality, but as Charles said, “There is [still] room for improvement.”
The Exquisite series was Kharma’s top of the line until 2015—the best possible product during its reign and limited only by what was technologically available. The Enigma Veyron remained only a possibility in Charles van Oosterum’s mind until materials and manufacturing allowed it to finally be realized.