Kharma Midi Exquisite vs MBL101E

I wonder if anyone has heard both and offer their opinios on their comparisons? TAS raved about the Kharma (with the sub) and a few issues later suggested the MBL equalled and even exceeded the Kharma in some areas. Now the MBL is almost half the price of the Kharma combo. So is the kharma overpriced or the MBL underpriced?
Call Bill Parish at GTT Audio, he carries both lines. I own Kharma Exquisite 1 D/e.d's and if it were ME, I'd go for the Kharma 3.2 and the sub and save a ton of $$$ and get close to the same sound.
Completely off topic- but I'd try to listen the Cerious Reference as well. Ken at LaserCD who posts here has them and thinks they are better than anything he has ever heard at any show (and a bargain at 20K)

He is by Princeton NJ, and seems pretty willing to let people hear them.

I am a huge fan of the MBL 101's (though it has been said they hard to drive) and have heard them many times over the years at the NY shows, but after hearing the Cerious Cables in my system, I really think they are onto something. I'll have the smaller Cerious speakers here soon, and will post my comments. If I really like them, I'll try and swing the references with the next year.

Just reading their technology makes me drool, and think that most other speaker manufactureres (obvoulsy not MBL or Kharma) are in the dark ages compared to what Cerious is doing.

I asked Bob at Cerious if he ever considered using the Diamond tweeters in the reference, since I heard B&W's diamond tweeter line, and was impressed with the treble part of the spectrum (not the rest though)

Bob said he had in fact played with diamond tweeters in his reference, but that they always sounded good, but discontinuous with the rest of the spectrum. This is exactly what I heard with the B&W's, FWIW. I have never heard the Kharma line (but would love to) but have read comments on the asylum mentioning they are highly overpriced.

Please post back if you get to hear the 101e's vs. Kharma's.
Dear Fmpnd, this is the crossroad where i am at now. i have owned the 3.2F for a year and have never been satisfied with their bass (my room is 21 x 17 feet). I have heard both the MBL 101E and the Midi exquisite driven by different but equally exorbitant equipment. While impressed by both, i do feel the Midi exquisite is overpriced. I have been thinking of adding the kharma sub to my 3.2 reading those good reviews. Worries about integration problems notwithstanding, psychologically, i feel adding a sub to a system is like a band-aid approach, which then steers me towards the MBL which by itself does things right in the first place.
Alectiong; i owned the Exquisite 1D's for almost 4 years; and then used the Midi Exquisite's for 5 months while waiting for my VR9's to be built. i have listened to the MBL101E's a few times at shows; i don't consider myself an expert on the MBL's but i do know the Midi very well.

i can see what the growing MBL contingent likes about the speakers. there is a wonderful dynamic and fabulous detail retrival. they do deeper bass and more dynamic bass than the Midi Exquisite.

OTOH there are some 'issues'. to sing the MBL's need power; and mid-power tubes and less than high power ss amps really are not ideal. my favorite amps (that are just fine on the Midi Exqusites) would not be good choices on the MBL. there are aspects of the presentation that are different from cone speakers; how one feels about those differences is a matter of opinion. personally, the MBL's imaging is too diffuse for me. but that is just me. also, i don't find that they come alive at low volume levels. there is a naturalness and total top to bottom seamlessness that is least compared to what i hear from Kharma's (and my VR9's). it may be the amps i heard the MBL's on; i don't know.

the Midi Exqusites are very special speakers that do everything well; and some things amazingly well. imaging is world class; as is detail retrieval and bass articulation. extention and bass slam is very room dependent. in my very large (29' x 21' x 11') and built-in bass traped room they could only do mid-30's deep bass. but in a more normal room i would expect high 20hz bass but with seamless articulation. the Midi Exquiisite bass will always serve the music and not be prominent. you will have a sense of music as opposed to a speaker.

i don't have a solid opinion on the subwoofer match with the Midi's; i have not been wowed when i heard it at shows.

this choice is more an overall 'system character' choice than which speaker is 'best'. if you can somehow demo the MBL's then that would be ideal. it may be perfect for you.
Thanks Mikelavigne for your opinions. I have heard the MBL, and the Exquisite sans sub in properly set up rooms. I agree the MBL's imaging is not as pinpoint compared to cone speakers, which is a well noted characteric of the MBL sound. But to some listeners, that less than perfect pinpoint imagining is more like what they would hear in a live performance. My mains concerns about the MBL, like you also pointed out are the need for high power high current amps, limiting amp choices, and that they like to be played loud, not a good thing for apartment dwellers like me.
Hi Mike:

I have been lurking intermittently on this forum and would like your honest opinion on whether I should upgrade from my kharma 3.2 to the Midi Exquisite. I already have the subwoofer. I like the subwoofer with the 3.2 very much, running it without any crossover. But I have a smaller room (16'x25'x8') so the subwoofer adds enough base to the room. I am looking for more cohesiveness at high volume and a little slam on rock music. Since I have not listend the the Midi Exquisite myself, would you please comment on the upgrade? Should I just stay with what I have?

Thanks for your opinion.

Cchckc, your room is good sized; and you already like what the (i assume Kharma) subwoofer does. the Midi Exquisites will take you further down that (wonderful) road.

my Exquisite 1D's had the same ceramic mid-range and tweeter as your 3.2' i have a pretty good feel for the differences between the 3.2 and the Midi Exquisites.

if you replace your 3.2's with the Midi Exquisites; you will get a more refined and detailed mid-range from the new ceramic mid-range driver; the Diamond tweeter will be more open with more a sense of 'air' will have a good deal more extention and energy, and the bass will be a good deal punchier and controlled. the bass is not quite as effortless as the big Exquisite; but it goes lower with more speed and a whole different level than the 3.2. the Midi has will portray more a sense of space and scale when the music calls for that.

OTOH that Diamond tweeter will be more particular about amps; anything sterile or edgy (cables, sources, etc.) will not be a good match. the Midi Exquisite (nominal 4 ohm) is a little more needy of power as it's not quite as easy a load as the 3.2.

the Midi Exquisite is just as seamless and has that same sense of disappearing and just leaving the music as the other Kharmas......i really liked them.

the Midi Exquisite will hold together completely at musical peaks (again assuming that the amp is up to it). i pushed the Midi Exquisite very hard in my big room and never felt it got hard or stressed. although it could not quite completely energise my room compared to the VR9's, there would be no problem in your room.

my only recommendation would be to get a second Kharma Sub to really allow things to be properly coherent.......or......just buy the VR9's like i did......and you'll get all the good stuff of the Kharma's and much more.
Alectiong, I have heard both spkrs you mention -- but at different times so can't offer a reliable comparison opinion.
The Exquisites sound is well documented. (BTW, Avalon & Marten Desing are two other brands that use similar driver complement with the Kharma).
MBL: the need to play these loud wasn't apparent to me, maybe because I rarely listen really loud. Interesting feature: in a small, ugly (sonically), square room the MBLs sounded better than OK. The controls probably helped a lot there.

Set up in a large room, the imaging was pretty good (i.e. not pinpoint, as you note) -- but also very stable. The spkrs were relatively close to each other and far fm walls, as you'd expect.

Driving these spkrs is a nuisance. You need easily 6db more energy than with Kharma -- even though I find the Kharma power guzzlers in their own right anyway. However, bi-amping them is an outstanding option (bar the cost, of course) and makes things more palatable. We used two 250 stereo amps (~70W class A/channel).

The sense of rapid dynamic change was excellent with the MBL -- ex. listening to Mahler-2.

Amazingly however, I felt that there was a limit to their peak spl. I wouldn't mind, as I'm not a 120db "realistic levels" sort of person, but I get the feeling we were hitting the ceiling @ ~110 db (these are instaneous peaks of course). I mention this as there was a rat shack meter lying around & I played with it.

Last, certainly not least, the musical presentation b/ween MBL & Kharma is quite different... but you already know that!
Hi Mikelavigne, what is so good about VR9's? I am curious. Can you share your personal experience?
Alec; this thread is not about the VR9's. I loved what the Kharma's did and they remain a speaker that i unconditionally recommend for all but the largest rooms. they are much easier to 'get right' than the VR9's.

the VR9's are an 'open-window'. they will allow your system to go as far as you want to take it. if you scan thru the last 9 months of my system thread you will read about my journey with the VR9's.

i will try to be brief about 'what is good about the VR9's'.

first; i switched from the Kharma's to the VR9's due to building a quite large dedicated room that the Kharma's were not able to synergize in. the Kharmas could not do low bass (below 40hz in the case of the Exquisite 1D, and below 30hz in the case of the Midi Exquisites) in this room. since the room was uncompromised in design it required a speaker which was fully capable of full frequency response. i built the best room the designer could design; and not for any particular speaker.

you need to know my point of reference (the Kharma's) to understand what is good about the VR9's.

i did not want to give up any of the Kharma magic that i had enjoyed for 4 years. that would be a seamless coherence from top to bottom, completely integrated bass, excellent micro-dynamics, amazing detail and textural nuance, a natural clarity and the mids, and a natural musical treble. the Kharma's always got out of the way of the music and disappeared; you had no sense of the speaker but just the musical content. the Kharma's are an easy amplifier load and work well with the amps i most like; mid-power tubes and relatively low power ss.

the Kharmas have a lean character in the mid bass which is off-putting to some (i like it), the Kharma's lack that effortless dynamic grip and need to be played loud to come alive. the Kharma's don't throw as huge a soundstage as some speakers; and the Kharma's don't do really low bass. the Diamond Midi Exquisite does have top end air but the other Kharmas are slightly soft on top.

back to the VR9's.

if you take everything great about the Kharma's, and add all the areas where the Kharma's are lacking; you start to define the VR9's.....but it is only a start. the VR9's match the seamless coherence (even with full low frequency extention flat to below 20hz), match the disappearing act, match the ability to disappear and allow the musical message to come thru. the VR9's have integral 15" subwoofers powered by internal 1000 watt class 'D' amplifiers.......which have adjustment for gain and crossover frequency. the VR9's have three tweeters; which each have attenuators. the VR9's are 94db-96db 8 ohm efficient (depending on gain and crossover settings) so are even an easier load than the Kharma's.

the VR9's have that total effortlessness that allows you to relax into the music no matter what the music demands.

so with my very large room i'm able to retain all the magic i loved about my Kharmas in my previous smaller room; and add all the things i wanted.

but......and this is a big 'but'......there are issues. the VR9's are so adjustable and dynamically capable that there is no place to hide. between my new very live room and these 'open-window' speakers......everything in my system came under scrutiney. the VR9's require either bi-wireing or bi-amping. the VR9's are likely too energetic for some smaller rooms.

it has taken 6 months; new amps, new racks, new power cords......and a very steep learning curve to get these beasties to really sing......but sing they do......on a whole different level than the Kharma's (or any other production speaker i have heard).

i would also add that it has been interesting that there have been times when the VR9's were frustrating; i would assume that i had run into a limitation of the VR9.....only to discover that the problem was elsewhere in my room or system......or a matter of adjustment or speaker placement. every time i changed my system, even the tinyest thing.....the balance of the speaker changed. the whole idea of having the speaker completely compliment your room and system is daunting.....but ultimately rewarding. i now make minor tweeter adjustments for different cartridges. that may sound over-the-top.....but you should hear it.

i have had a few friends that have visited three or four times over the last 6 months that have seen the speakers come together. the Kharma's were never as frustrating; but also not nearly as capable. different friends like different bass balance; when i start a session; i sometimes offer a few choices of bass settings and tweeter settings. it sounds complicated but it's not. i can make the adjustments in a few seconds and they are easily reset. after 6 months of tweaking and having many visitors it is clear that there is more than one viewpoint or taste.

i love where the VR9's take me; the music is intimate and involving; they get out of the way and yet immerse me in musical flow; they have all the 'checklist' virtues but keep me focused on the musical event. there is a listenablity and naturalness that keeps my attention for hours on end.

it is difficult to separate what the VR9's are doing from the rest of my system; but they seem to be a completely 'open-window' to what can happen.

i hope i answered your question.
Thanks Mikelavigne, yes you have answered my question, and also intrigued me with the VR speakers.
Interesting thread .
I wonder what happened next?
In this corner.