Kharma Sub Set Up- Review

I’d like to share my experience with other Kharma owners regarding integration of the new Kharma subwoofer with main speakers. I use CRM-3.2FE as my main speakers and was very excited when Kharma finally introduced a sub. With that said, I also acknowledge that I have tried numerous REL products (Stentor III and (2) Stadium III’s)
on different occasions with mixed results at best. The REL products were used with other speakers (Wilson WP7’s and Maggie 3.6’s).

My room is a finished basement approx. 18x23x7’4” with carpet over concrete.

Like most of you have seen at the recent shows (or pictures from the shows), the general consensus is to place the sub between the left and right speaker when using a single sub. The Kharma manual also states that this is a good location to start with.I initially set the crossovers in accordance with my dealer’s recommendation which proved to be a good starting point. BTW, the Kharma sub is the most tunable/adjustable subwoofer that I’ve seen. My results with this set-up were in my opinion OK and by far the best integration I’ve ever achieved with a sub. Well, that was until …….yesterday.

I called a friend in the area whom some of you may know, “Romy the Cat” and asked if he could help me with set up. I’ve known Romy for some time and trust his skills in system set-up and pointing me in the right direction in my quest for audio perfection.

Romy visited yesterday with all the tools of the trade. These included professional spectral RTA, RT60 and phase meters. His comment when first listening to my setup
was the integration was “deplorable”. Volume 8-10 db too high, phase off, peaks and valleys in the frequency response. These comments were based on his “ears” and not the test equipment. He also said the sub will never be optimized between the speakers.

Well, I insisted we measure the sub with my setup and Romy all the test substantiated Romy’s initial findings. Frequency response had peaks and valleys to plus 12db at 25 db to minus 11 db at 63 and 80 HZ. We moved the subwoofer to the corner behind the left speaker and after much experimentation/testing (3 hours) found the flattest frequency response to be with the sub driver FACING the sidewall. The driver is literally 4-5 inches from the sidewall. Our final settings on the sub were to cross it over at 17HZ and 70 HZ. with a 12 db/octave slope. This produces a relatively flat response in my room from 20-120 HZ. The worst peak or valley being –3 db around 40 HZ.

So how does it sound…………..absolutely stunning. Whether I’m playing acoustic jazz, electronica, rock or classical the sub integrates seamlessly and plays every note with weight, depth and the proper harmonic structure while completely disappearing (ala 3.2’s).

Anyone considering the purchase of this sub should take the time and effort to properly set it up. You will be rewarded handsomely.
Interesting to hear about Romy's ears and about his willingness to help you. Also about facing the drivers to the wall--radical but you would get the best power response that way.
So,I guess that your mixed results with the REL subs goes out the window now that you have been shown the light,by a more experienced listener.Were the RELs set up with the same cat-like listening reflexes,or is the Kharma sub just that good.I know the answer,but I just want to hear your spin!
sirspeedy: It was not my intention to question REL's performance or even try to draw a comparison to the Kharma sub. My experience with REL was well ovver 2 years ago.

The key point I'm trying to make is that subwoofer set up
requires careful attention to detail (positioning, phase, crossover slopes)and I highly doubt most audiophiles can accomplish this just by listening (I couldn't).
I heard the Kharma sub at CES and thought it was fantastic. Compared to the rest of the Kharma line, it seems like a bargain.
Rcupka, the point about subwoofer setup was a point I was trying to make in my response over at AA. The thing is that if you buy a REL sub from an authorized dealer, a trained salesman will help you with setup. And they have also developed a systematic setup process that is suppose to be easy to follow. I've had good experiences with REL subs in dealer showrooms so the idea of an easier setup could in the future become a deal breaker because I know I probably lack the tools and expertise to dial in my sub perfectly. Sometimes, it's only as good as the user's ability to use it.
I think RCupka understates significantly what is happening in his room right now.

Having been a real skeptic regarding what some call fart machines, or should I say subwoofers, and been exposed as well as owning a fair number of them in various systems have never heard anything integrate to my satisfaction with mains and sound cohesive. Anything, except perhaps statement speakers with bass towers like Genesis 200’s or Martin Logan Statements, which are not standard subwoofer type setups and are in a different price range than when we discuss “subwoofers”. This includes, yes, flying out to CES to hear the subs in a couple of setups including 3.2’s and Midi Exquisites with the Kharma sub.

What I heard from the Kharma sub before setup was perhaps the best sub that is super easy to integrate and setup and have good bass. At CES I felt that there could be a little more tweaking to phase and perhaps placement but that it was pretty good, but not great sounding. Certainly better than other professionally setup sub satellites except perhaps for one. I however sensed some directionality some phase and integration issues and told Bill Parrish this. Maybe spend some time and they could be good, or at least better, I didn’t know but all I can say is that after the experience I wasn’t real excited about the sub. I came back from CES and against my better judgement based on my past experiences and what I heard at the show and after asking a lot of knowledgeable people on this sight and my knowledgable dealer and Bill at GTT what their opinions were, I ordered the sub and simultaneously dreaded their arrival, mostly due to my ears being hugely sensitive to crossover points and the havoc the wreak. That's probably why I ended up with 3.2's since to my perception they are very seamless.

Anyways, having heard that the master of disaster had paid a visit to RCupkas, I straightaway paid a visit yesterday. Here is what I found:

When I got to RCupkas house, I had very low expectations as he has a basement room and many world class speakers he’s had in this room had sounded very flat dead and some even bad. It’s a tough room and I’ve heard his 3.2’s there and felt like there was no way any bass could ever integrate and wouldn’t even be needed as he was achieving the finest results I’d ever heard in the room with the little Kharmas. Any hesitation I felt evaporated with the first notes. As far as the bass goes, it's not just a matter of bass. The 3.2 is not added to but rather is completed by having the sub in the system. Totally seamless (to my perception) sound non directional, tight , powerful and defined as anything I've heard. There was one disc I put on Sonic Trance by Nicholas Payton and I thought I was hearing a drum with awesome bass fundamentals. It was actually a very highly tuned sharply played electric bass! It was that tight.

Also, where the recording places bass is where it ends up. I played Infected Mushroom BP Empire first track as an allout bass test and it literally energized to entire room where the bass seemed to originate from OUTSIDE the room, surrounding you with waves of controlled pressure that would literally shimmer all around you with tighter more defined bass and the 3.2's STILL exhibited their just razor sharp imaging. It was stunning and I had never heard that effect before, even from Alexandrias. Our pantlegs were flapping but there was zero bloat, just pressurized energy in the room that made us giggle like little schoolgirls.

Guitars, male vocals and horns had weight and mass that was just stunning. Stevie Ray Vaughns strat sounded like it was in the room with the woody body and awesome majestic power and presence of the real thing.

Pink Floyd cut from Burmester has a low level harmonic that is just lost on most systems. Completely captured by this setup.

When called for the low end was sledgehammer like. On Peter Gabriel's So it was the best I'd heard Tony Levin's bass stick, even better than in concert.

There were only 2 tracks where I even detected there was a sub in the room, Victor Wooten's bass on a Bela Fleck disc. He plays the uppermost range of his bass, then flies down the scale you do hear a slight transition to the sub at around 60 hz or so where the notes are not as tight and are more expansive and less defined. Perhaps it was the sub, perhaps the recording, I don’t know.

Just spectacular, truly transcendent. The magic of the 3.2’s is still there, in fact enhanced by the sub creating more weight to vocals and instruments to create more of the pulsing sphere effect of sound resonating in multiple directions with weight and body with subjectively a larger and deeper more natural soundstage. Was it perfect? I don’t know, is anything? Perhaps with 2 subs you could get more texturing in the bass, I’m not sure and don’t really care. I have heard better bass but it was in a very custom system tuned and built for a specific room with retail cost of $60k just for the bass part of the system. It textured more.

Again, is it perfect? I’m sure it’s not but shock and awe describes what I heard that day and you’re still faced with the limitations of the 3.2’s being small 2 ways. If you play your music much above 80-85db then I would say perhaps there are better speakers and setups if you’re into huge symphonic no dynamic compression type sound, get some 120db efficient horns. If you listen however at near reasonable levels the Kharmas are just taken to a new level. The magic of the 3.2’s is not interfered with, it's enhanced and completed.
I appreciate the comments and I believe the results obtained,in truly,good faith.What I do question,and this is just me,as I too would probably do exactly as you did and stay within the same component family,is the fact that Kharma,GTT or whomever (oh yeah,can't forget Mr.V of TAS)has done such a GREAT job of marketing their,admittedly fine stuff that "only an 8500.oo sub bass system" will do this job,to this level.As hobbyists, like good sheep, we thank the parties involved in the marketing for only charging 8500.00 bucks.This is what is driving the price of the better stuff up,on a continual level.The fact is that there are other fine candidates in sub-bass performance that would probably do just as good a job(I see no reason why the better REL's could not,or the Audiophysic)for less money,but,then we would not see the "latest color picture,or reviewers choice" in the "latest" magazine.Arthur Salvatore,we need more of you guys!!
SirSpeedy: Your point is well taken. In the age of 20K digital front ends, 20-30K amps and 20K cable everything is terribly expensive. Certainly marketing is part of any business and high end audio is no exception.

I wasn't concerned with the economics of my purchase (I'm in so deep now) rather I was looking for the best/easiest solution to elevate my systems performance.You may well be correct that other alternatives can equal or perhaps exceed the Kharma sub and I guess the only way to determine that would be "sub shootout" with expert integration/calibration.

Couldn't agree more with you regarding the commentary about the high end pricing getting out of hand. I do feel good however about the money I saved/spent because my other option was upgrading to Grand Ceramiques at $60k. This is certainly a very reasonable tradeoff in my mind. Could the Rels do this with the 3.2's? I don't know if they would integrate the way a sub that took 5 years to design specifically for that speaker would. I don't know if REL has the level of adjustability of the Kharma sub, as far as near infinite phase, multiple crossover slopes, etc. I do have to say that I have heard 2 REL stentor subs set up with a speaker similar to the 3.2's from a design perspective,by a professional, that also used ceramic drivers and it did not come within an order of magnitude of the coherence of the setup, naturalness, room lock and integration I just heard. But that was a completely different system and the Kharma sub is made specifically for the 3.2 and the Ceramique line. I just don't see how a designer could accomplish this level of integration without having an intimate knowledge of the speaker that the sub was being designed for. Then again, in the right hands, with the right setup it could work phenomenally well. Who really knows with this stuff until you try it?
Unfortunately, most of us can only decide based on our own theories of what would work the best. Owl, you're right, in theory, a sub that is specifically designed for a speaker should integrate the best; that is the hope anyways. But that is in some ways a cop out. If I'm not mistaken, the Ceramique sub works like a traditional sub while the RELs are still unique in their sub-bass approach with no high-pass filter. Since on paper, the Stentors and Studios are more powerful and go lower than the Ceramique sub, I don't think you have to worry about room lock and whether it'll pressurize your room. Both Kharmas and RELs are known for the quality of their bass rather than quantity so to me, bass output and naturalness will not be an issue. I'm thinking that you'll simply get "different" quality bass which can be an effective way to tweak the tonal balance to your liking. Since this is a matter of taste, this is probably less of a concern as we can decide for ourselves what we prefer.

The main issue then is the matter of integration, since that has been the biggest worry with the Kharmas. In regards to the level of adjustability, I wouldn't worry about it. You don't need ten buttons to start the engine if you know what I mean, especially since we're talking about ease of setup. As I mentioned previously, I like the idea of the RELs augmenting the bass. When setup correctly, the RELs would simply pick up where the 3.2s left off, which in theory would do the least harm if it's fast enough to keep up. On the other hand, the Kharma sub IS designed for the 3.2s and there are now some positive reports on the combination but the RELs do have a high success rate of making a system sound better. Hmm...
Howie, agreed, the tonal balance and matching the speakers to the sub is what I think/suspect keeps them so well integrated. If you could hear Rcupkas setup you would know instantly just how seamlessly they perform together, I would think tonally matching them is critical especially when they're crossed over so high, at 70hz and yet they still have to speak in "one voice". Perhaps the REL's can do it, as I stated I'm not sure. When I said room lock, I also implied sub/sat lock as well because that's just what it sounds like, a seamless death grip all of "a piece" that might just embarass some very high end full range speakers I've heard. What I do know for sure is that the 3.2's are taken to not just another level (full range), but another plane entirely with the Kharma sub set up PROPERLY that just goes way way beyond the sum of the parts.

It's seriously blown my mind because I know the 3.2's well (I think) and have lived with them for a while and never would have thought it possible, period. The lesson here is that we know what we know but we don't know what we think we know that we don't know. We all spend lots of time and money on our systems/obsession and yet don't invest in getting our rooms or setups to the next level. Room treatments and construction are one level but doing a realtime analysis of what is really happening in your room with your equipment at the listening position is, I think, the critical missed step of being serious about this hobby and possibly creating something that goes beyond just good sound.
I am feeling a bit guilty,and hope I didn't seem too "pushy" in my remarks.You have great stuff,and I hope you get endless enjoyment from it!!My gripe is that the pricing of MUCH (specifically Kharma) is WAY,WAY out of line.Take a look at the Kharma line pricing of 3 years ago and compare to now.Different importer,less selfish, IMO!I love the stuff,and could buy if I so chose,but,I've been at this a long time and find much pricing in the high end WAY out of line.I think a product like,for EX: the TAD-model one speaker,at 45,000.000 is pricey,but worth the money,when I break down it's design.I have the full white paper on tnat system.Also,the EPIPHANY stuff is great and priced fairly.These are some examples.The Kharma line went up 33% this past year.There is no excuse for that.Not even the US dollar.The only speaker in that line to hold price was the fabulous but already overpriced mere 70 lb 3.2.It amazes me how a consistent mentioning of the Kharma line by Mr. "V" helps to sell product,and make the "fat cats" rich.Sorry,I'll not fall for it.I don't like to rationalize my passions!!Admittedly,that still does not affect the fact that you have WONDERFUL stuff.Enjoy.I'm just venting.
Ya it sucks that this level of sound quality needs to cost so much. Not that you can't get good sound for less, but even at this level, there aren't enough great recordings out there that is satisfying in its own right compared to a good live session. The 3.2s were a huge purchase for me and I don't know if I'll do it again even though I don't regret buying it. I always feel bad when I think of all the money invested.

But ya, the 3.2s plus sub combo is essentially a 30K speaker system. I wouldn't say it's overpriced since it's certainly competitive with other 30K speaker sytems but it's one expensive sub especially with the price increase. Since I have yet to upgrade my source that's going to be priority over adding a sub. I don't know if I'll ever own a Kharma sub. The REL Stentor is quite a bit cheaper and might work beautifully. It also depends on how one plans to keep these speakers.
sirspeedy/howie, don't blame you for venting at all and I'm not defending the pricing as I certainly believe it is indefensable. Value is certainly becoming a much more relevant topic in these posts as prices go up for both imported and domestic products and things truly are getting out of hand, stoked by the audiopress machinery. Manufacturers seem to keep coming out with more statement products that are intended to open up perception of the value of their lower ended products and get them great press, reviews etc. Unfortunately we audiophools keep purchasing these statement products and it keeps driving lower end pricing as well. Yes, agree that there are some products that seem to get great reviewer coverage due to less than the most apparent reasons but when you attend shows like CES and see the people who are behind the audio heating machinery you do get a feel for what is real and what is part of the machinery. Nobody forces people to purchase any audio product. We all decide how to spend our hard earned money and what really takes us closer to our conceptions of what reproduced music should sound like. There is no gun pointed at our heads, there are also no Ralph Naders in the industry to protect us from ourselves. Only you can decide what makes sense for you in the long run.

For me personally, I actually can't believe how lucky to have bumped into the Kharmas and every day enjoy them more. They allow me to suspend thinking about the "gear" and place more focus on enjoying the music. I have to say every listening session is in my opinion far more rewarding than going to a concert where you may have poor seating, distractions, poor sound systems etc. I'm always front row center and attending a "live" concert in my listening chair every night. Unlike the rapid and frequent procession of other speakers I've bought and sold at a financial loss, the Kharmas to me just allow a focus on the music. Other speakers I've had (unnamed) always eventually pointed out their flaws after some time with them, making me like them less and less. Some more than others, some right away and some took longer. I'm getting the opposite effect with the 3.2's. Will I keep them forever and are they flawless? I'm sure not, but I can't see anything, even "statement" speakers anything but a sideways move at this time. Are they a good value? I don't know. I do know that when I heard them with the Kharma sub, all the pieces came together and they DO become perhaps the most significant high end "value". Whatever that is these days.

Again, this is just my opinion,so don't hang the messenger, but I'd rather have the combination than some of the $60, $75k and $120k well respected by the audiophool press speakers I've heard recently. And it's not even close, folks. YMMV
SirSpeedy: I just don't get it!!!! I've watched your posts on the Sonus Faber Strad's and other posts and you seem like you're on a mission to bash J. Valin, GTT audio and Kharma because of marketing, perceived collusion and pricing. Why not just INITIATE A POST with that as the subject matter.

The intention of this post was to HELP other current/potential Kharma sub owners with integration of their subs. NOTHING MORE......NOTHING LESS.

You've obvioulsly tried to take this and twist it into some personal agenda "hot button"

Anyone who is interested with the true topic of this discussion can send nme a privat email.

So long.

Rcupka,You know what?I have to agree with you.Sorry!

This is the last time I mention any of this.I do admit to being a bit disappointed with "Many" very selfish industry types.I've met quite a few,but,that is really no reason for going off as I have.The only thing that I can do constructively,I guess would be to shut up about how other people spend their money and watch out for my own.Your point is well taken!!Afterall,I have spent over the top dollars on rare lp's,so who am I kidding, about overspending.
Update: Just got word that my Kharma sub arrives next week. Will fill everyone in how things turn out.
Wow, Civil Adult behaviour on an internet forum, about high end audio noless.

Thanks guys, good read and good info. Glad to hear someone else speak nicely about Romy. A local dealer here in Austin, has nothing but good things to say about him and his knowledge as well.
Wanted to report that the sub is set up and that Romy himself came over to tweak it out with the Gold Line RT Spectral analyzer on Tuesday. My early report as I've just started to listen is that there are similar gains that RCupka realized in his setup. Strange thing is that the sub ended up on the sidewall, almost even with the listening position and shooting towards the backwall. I'd rather listen than type right now, but the results are most impressive and VERY enjoyable. You know something is right when music you're very familiar with causes your heart to race...

Even more noteworthy is that Romy brought his Melquiades over and to understate heavily, they have redefined for me what is possible in an audio component. It was and is very difficult to describe by using the standard audiophile lexicon, so I won't even try at this point until I can collect my thoughts and perhaps initiate a new thread to attempt to do so...