Candid opinions regarding Kharma Ceramique 2.2

As indicated in a previous post, I am trying to make some final decisions regarding speaker selction for a "mid-range budgeted" 2 channel system. This system will be for a dedicated audio room that we will be constructing this summer with dimensions 23Lx13Wx9H. My musical tastes of late include a number of alternative rock/indie rock/rock artists: Radiohead, Muse, Ryan Adams, Strokes, White Stripes, Franz Ferdinand, Interpol, PJ Harvey, Lucinda Williams, Beck, U2, REM, Modest Mouse, Shins, Air, Stereolab etc

To date, my problem has been limited access to auditioning equipment as I live in a small Canadian city. Many speakers have been auditioned on business trips and there are some I have yet to track down (e.g. Kharma Ceramique 2.2) Of the speakers I have listened to so far, my short list includes JMlab Utopia Alto Be, Dynaudio Confidence C2, and the Wilson Sophia. I want to listen to Dali Euphonia's MS4 and the Kharma Ceramique 2.2 and I am waiting to travel somewhere where I can seriously audition them. The likely electronics will be Simaudio P-5 preamp, W-5 amp, and Nova CDP. On the other hand, I am still considering the possibility of a tube pre-amp (e.g. Hovland HP200), but would definitely prefer to avoid a tube amp.

As much as I love the musicality, air, transparency of the JMlab Alto Be, I am troubled by it's price, bulk, and worry it may be a tad too polite for the music I listen to. Similarly, I worry the C2 maybe too polite and lacking a little in emotional dynamic bass. On the othe hand, as much as I love the dynamic bass response of the Sophia (e.g. playing White Stripes), and the precise focused imaging of that speaker, I worry the speaker maybe too much in your face for extended listening and enjoyment It can also be tough on poorly recorded discs ...

Therefore, I am not sure I have found the right speaker yet, and given all the recent excitement regarding the more expensive Kharma speakers, I have been intrigued to consider their lower more affordable model the Ceramique 2.2. Yet, reading the recent review by Becker on, I worry that he felt the speaker was similarly too much in your face, too detailed, and impossible to ignore. Moreover, he states the speaker is on the "border where music could become irritable or edgy with bad recordings". At the same time, he remarked about the trademark Kharma disappearing act. Until I get a chance to travel down to NJ, I would greatly appreciate any candid opinions regarding this speaker. I have already been recommended by person from this forum to look at this speaker line. I am curious whether people feel this speaker mates well with SS electronics, as most of the positive Kharma reviews were with tube (or hybrid) equipment (Tenor, Lamm, or Manley). Does anyone have any personal experience using the 2.2 with Simaudio amps/preamps, or the Hovland preamp ? Is this speaker too big to consider for my room size ? Do people feel this speaker is fatiguing over time ? Can anyone comment on a direct comparison with I dare say, the WIlson Sophia (please don't shoot me !).

I thank you for all of your help, sorting out my confusion. I realize I must listen myself, but I am trying to psych myself up to travel to NJ to hear for myself.
Sophias are great speakers, and not "in your face." Kharmas got the focal tweets too, so going to be somewhat similar on the top end. The Sophias don't fatigue me like the W/P neighbors. There is a much more natural top to bottom coherance too.

I like the big Kharmas (midi grands, etc), but the smaller ones seem over priced for there bass extension/size etc.

I recently aquired Wilson Sophias, and they have flat out amazed me...even on lesser equipment. You like rock music, and want to jam out--the Sophias I think are better than the Kharmas in that regard. Yes, I love Radiohead too!

I like the Utopia line too, but feel the Novas are the best, and they are way to pricy. The Altos don't rock hard enough for me.

I'm sure you'll get a lot more experience from other audiophiles on this site, but I'll share my thoughts. I have heard some very expensive Kharmas. They were run by Tenor 75 watt monoblocks. At that point, it was, by far, the best system I've heard. The digital front end was Meitner gear.

I am not at that level, but that being said, I have extreme interest in the sim audio/dyanaudio combination. I have heard there is great synergy between the two. I would love to try the I-5 integrated and some stand mount dynaudios like the Special 25. If the Kharmas were out of the picture, I would definitely spend some time with the confidence C2.
What are you worried about getting flamed for?? The Wilson Sophia is a GREAT speaker. I don't find it " in your face", I find it has great sound. I'm going this afternoon to have an extended listen to the Sophia. The Kharma is one I'm looking into also. Alot of people are jumping off the Kharma bandwagon and moving to the big VonSchwiekert(spelling?) just look at the adds here on the Gon. I would also look into Silverline. The Bolero has my attention. Peace and Good Listening, Pat.
Have you thought about other types of speakers i.e. electrostatic, ribbon (Maggies), or horns?, or are you only into the dynamic/box???

I may be way off the mark by suggesting that you look at some Maggie 3.6's, ML Prodigy's etc. If you haven't you may like the sound.
I share some of the same listening preferences as you, and I find my Merlin VSM-MM's to be heavenly. If you haven't considered these, you may wish to check into them. All of the qualities you mention looking for seem to epitomize these speakers.
I have had Kharma 1.0 for a couple years now and judging from what i have heard listening to the 1.0 .2.0 3.0,that they all share the similar traits ,also getting a touch better each step up. My feelings are ,considering the type of music you listen and what you are looking for , I don't feel the Kharmas are the speaker for you. My guess is they may be too forward and may not have the bass slam that you might be looking for. Do'nt get me wrong i feel the 1.0 is the best speaker for me,but not just right for you. I wouldn't rule out B&W 801 Matrix series 2 or 3. I owned them for years and they ( in my mind ) would do well to serve you....Good Luck
Your room is fairly good sized at about 300sq ft. For whatever type of music you listen to, a good efficient speaker will give you much more mileage than one with average efficiency, by this I mean anything >90db/w should be able to fill your room quite easily.

If you like the JM Labs, then you should also consider the Cabasse Baltic/Thor combination.

The one other advantage of efficient spks is that you could quite easily get good SPLs with even lower powered tube amps, thus saving you a bundle on expensive high powered tube amps. A good 50w tube amp would already be "too much" power.

Sorry if I confused you. Just giving an alternative view.
Dear Thom_y:

Hello again. Thorman is correct. With the exception of perhaps the top two or three Kharmas (which cost as much as a house), the Kharmas are not the best speaker for someone who listens primarily to rock, as they are more prone to compress when pushed hard as compared to, say, a Wilson, Revel or Dynaudio. They are a supurb speaker for their ability to image and soundstage, and no speaker "disappears" like a Kharma -- you cannot tell that the music is coming from the speakers -- but those are qualities that will appeal to someone who listens primarily to minimally miked jazz and classical recordings, not multitrack rock. In particular, the Kharma 2.2 would likely be wrong for you, as it has the dynamic limitations described above, yet does not have the incredible midrange and imaging of the more expensive Kharmas. PS - to the Kharma-ites out there, I am not saying that the Kharma is terrible for dynamics, but merely less suited to highly dynamic music than a Wilson, Revel or Dynaudio.

Based upon your various threads, you want a speaker that can handle real power and that will not compress when driven hard. In this regard, the Sofia or Revel Salon (or maybe Revel Studio - your room is medium-sized) would be appropriate. The Sofia uses a Focal tweeter that many feel is a bit hot, but once it gets 500+ hours on it, it should be okay. The Revels are shelved down in high frequencies above 8,000 Hz. and will be less fatiguing (they also have a tweeter control, which of course helps). I again mention the Vienna Acoustics Mahler, which definitely fits your profile.

If I were you, I would buy Sofias or Studios, power them with Bryston 7B-ST's, and get the Hovland. I had the HP-100 in my main system for two years and it is very dynamic and musical. I had noise problems like many owners (it has nothing to do with the tubes -- the outputs on the HP-100 are not shielded, and this makes the unit very susceptible to noise in places with lots of RFI/EMI or around lights with dimmer switches -- Hovland makes a "hush kit" to address the problem), but I was using it in NYC. It sounds like you are in some place like Yellowknife, so perhaps this would not be an issue for you. There are other top-quality tube preamps available with remote controls -- if you like the Hovland, you would love the VAC Renaissance (+/-$7,500 new).

Good luck.
You may want to go back and read that review again. The thing to keep in mind with SOTA resolution (detail) is the critical nature of system matching. Tonal balance is the key never is it too much detail. It is obvious that this is not a plug and play speaker but places a high priority on refinement and the components it would be matched with. Keep that fact in mind if you are considering the Kharmas. It is amazing to me how many audiophiles buy such products and end up getting rid of them without ever getting close to hearing their potential.

No i haven't heard the specific speakers in question but what did catch my attention was "too much detail" and "in your face" which is an old song with too many notes missing.
Hello Thom,

We spoke via email a while about about the Wilson Sophias and some other stuff. Read through this thread again - Some other recs for the sophias, as well as the Hovland Preamp.

Plan that trip to Goodwin's High-End, and listen to the Sophias with the Hovland pre, and either the Sim W5 or W6 amps with a sim Equinox CDP, or the source of your choice. I am confident your search will end there.

They've also got the Dyn C2s there, as well as the Verity Parsifal encores, all of which you should listen to while at Goodwins.

They know how to set the Sophias up there. Just for fun, if you have time while you're there, ask to try out the Wilson X2s in their reference room. Just spent some time with them a few days ago. Sonic HEAVEN! If only I was rich... maybe some day!
Let me know the results of your visit if it happens

Dear Thom_y:

I am sure you are trying to keep your list of eligible speakers to a reasonable size, but it occured to me that another speaker that certainly fits your profile is the EgglestonWorks Andra II. They are VERY refined and musical, they disappear into the soundstage really well, but they can really rock. The only caveat is that they are more expensive, at US$19,000 list, than your other contenders. An option would be to buy the original Andra used (there are currently a few on Audiogon), and have Eggleston do the $3,400 upgrade to Andra II status. The original Andra was no wallflower, winning Stereophile's Product of the Year in 1997 (that's "Product" of the Year, not just "Speaker" of the Year). They completely overhaul the speaker and even restore it to like-new cosmetic condition. EgglestonWorks is in Memphis and I know, through a friend of mine who owns a pair, that they are a really good company to deal with.

Again, because you listen primarily to rock, you need to keep your eye on speakers that can handle real power and transients without compressing -- as a consequence, otherwise really fine speakers like Kharma and Verity are, in my opinion, best left off your list. For the same reason, I mentioned the idea of big Bryston amps. The Sim amplifier is a very, very good amp, but I were listening to Radiohead (about the only modern act I know anything about, incidentally!), I would want amps with tons of clean power in order to protect my crossovers and the voice coils on my tweeters. To the extent that the Sim has somewhat more finesse than the Brystons, so be it, but your not going to need it listening to multi-track rock (and in any event, Bryston amps are underrated -- with top-notch cabling, they can sound really good with even the most challenging music). If you go with a really efficient speaker like the Sofias, you will not really need the extra power provided by the Brystons, but for pretty much anything other than the Wilson, I would want mono amps with lots of current for listening to rock.

Good luck.
Thanks for all of the suggestions ... maybe the 2.2 isn't the right speaker after all ... one less plane ticket I guess.

I think I really need to listen to the Sophia again with the W-5 and possibly the Hovland preamp.
Thom, let us know what your demo experiences are. I listen to much the same type of music as you, and I'd be interested to know what you come out with. I'm incredibly happy with my Merlin VSM-MMs, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on anything you may come in contact with.