My most lasting memory of the loudspeakers I’ve reviewed is the way each has transformed my listening room in unpredictable, even unimaginable ways. Those with direct, forward personalities have given it the flavor of a recording studio. Others have contributed a sense of an intimate live venue, while still others—on rare occasions—have pried open the room like a can of tuna to reveal an acoustic space and auditorium-like scale that were nothing short of revelatory. Every one of them has made a unique impression.
This was never more true than with the Premium 1000 Tower—a three-way, bass-reflex, floorstanding design that stands midway in the Italian company Chario’s extensive line. Just an inch or so shorter than a yardstick, the Premium 1000T’s narrow columnar silhouette is ideally proportioned for the smaller listening room, with an understated look familiar from other European products. Sonically it has a forgiving, midrange-centered character that tends to coddle the music by smoothing its rougher edges, blunting transients rather than carving them into the sharp sonic bits that a certain segment of high-end clinicians like.
On the bottom it goes surprisingly deep into the lower midbass. More impressively, the Premium 1000T does this with an explosiveness that reminds me of much larger speakers. When I listened to the big thick acoustic-bass line during Dianne Reeves “One for My Baby” [Good Night, and Good Luck, Concord], it had a lusher, darker character, with remarkable output and dynamics in these demanding octaves. The Chario reproduced the surge of energy from brass (especially trombones) and winds (notably bassoon) in ways that felt as if a much larger and invisible woofer had slipped into the room.
In spite of many bravura moments, however, the overall tonal balance of the Premium 1000T will not be for every set of ears. The speaker is not as assertive in the upper mids as it needs to be to overcome the shade cast by its mid and upper bass. Part of this is due to an energy dip in the presence range that sweetens vocals but reduces immediacy—an issue that subdues some of the energy from instruments like tambourine, finger cymbals, and rim shots. Add to this a narrow band of extra sibilance in the 5–7kHz range, and there can be a bit of midrange-to-treble discontinuity. This balance can keep the Premium 1000T from getting as down and dirty as some pop/rock material should actually sound. Sting should have a throaty rasp in his upper register [Synchronicity, A&M], and Metallica’s James Hetfield needs to cut through the mix like a rusty axe [Nothing Else Matters, EP]. At these moments, the Chario seems to soft-peddle the physical presence behind the voice.
Tonal issues aside, it turns out that the primary strengths of the Premium 1000T lie in other areas. Namely, its ability to transport listeners into an acoustic universe of its own making—a world where soundstage reproduction in all its three-dimensional aspects and that slightly weird sensation of stepping into another spatial environment take precedence over more rigid tonal criteria. Well-honed images are layered and secured deep in this venue, yet the Premium 1000T doesn’t hyper-delineate them. Whether it’s a jazz vocalist like Holly Cole or pianist Warren Bernhardt, the Chario has a way of creating an auditorium-like distance between the artist and the audience. Orchestras are reproduced in the bowl-shape perspective we have come to expect. And soloists like violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter perform in a smaller pocket within that space [Tchaikovsky Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major, DG]. The audience perspective, on the other hand, is set a few rows farther back than I’m used to. Some may find this off-putting; others will deem it natural. In either case, it won’t be forgotten and can’t be missed.
Ultimately, the Chario won’t represent the scale of symphonic music at anything close to full range, but what it will do is provide a semblance of the layering and the weight and low-end underpinnings of a performance. Obviously, its dynamic envelope closes down somewhat in this region and, if pressed to its limits, the speaker will lose some pace and rhythmic drive. But it is this unexpectedly active mid- and upper-bass response that gives the speaker the ability to render the swirl of ambient and harmonic textures of baritone Bryn Terfel fronting a full chorus and the English Northern Philharmonia during “You’ll Never Walk Alone” [Something Wonderful, DG].
Interestingly, the speaker sounds its best and most composed at moderate to softer playback levels. It’s as if the 1000T has been contoured to perform at its most even-balanced at relatively quieter levels, where the human ear welcomes a bit of bass enhancement. Indeed, it was an odd experience when I played back violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter at levels more easy-listening than orchestral. Rather than sounding washed out and devoid of bass foundation, the Chario couldn’t have sounded more rich and full-bodied—the orchestra was represented like a perfectly modeled miniature.
There are many aspects that make the Chario Premium 1000T an alluring speaker. But it’s not an assault weapon. Rather, it’s a smaller-room specialist that will likely appeal most to listeners who prefer a more refined, sedate presentation of their music. Choral, chamber, and classical music unlock the magic in this speaker. If naturalistic soundstaging and ambience are a must, then the Chario Premium 1000T is a must-audition.