Why the switch from Kharma/Tenor to DarTZeel/VSA

Perhaps, its like that old joke that Woody talks about in the beginning of Annie Hall:

"And it goes like this-I'm paraphrasing: Uh ...
"I would never wanna belong to any club
that would have someone like me for a
member." "

But, why does it seem that some of the original Kharma/Tenor/emm labs club members are switching over to DarTZeel amps and Von Schweikert speakers. On the other hand, it doesn't seem like there are many Tenor hybrids or Kharma speakers going up for sale ... yet
I still have Tenor. I heard the VR-11 in San Marcos and thought the VR-9 would be a nice fit for me. There is still nothing better in digital so Emmlabs is still tops.
They are switching because of a new amp. Some people have to buy what is new and shiny. Not to mention that maybe they get a discount to go on certain websites and proclaim product X is the greatest since sliced bread!!

I can't imagine anyone going from a speaker of the quality of Kharma and then down-grading to a speaker as poor as the Von Schweikert!
Based on my auditioning, I agree with Nrchy.

By the way Thom_y, the original version of this pithy little saying was delivered by Groucho; Woodie knew which side his bread was buttered on, but he didn't bake that one.


You're absolutely correct, as I omitted the line before (sorry Groucho):

"The-the other important
joke for me is one that's, uh, usually
attributed to Groucho Marx, but I think
it appears originally in Freud's wit and
its relation to the unconscious. "
You both obviously have not heard the VR-11's. I am able to hear what the best my gear can put out. I had the reviewed pair of Kharma Midi Grands with Enigma that Frank P wrote in on Stereotimes. I find the Von Schweikert to my ears, compared to the Midi's, better in all areas and I know those Midi's are better than your Kharma's you are comparing the VS to Nrchy. Just my opinion though.
AFAIK Metralla heard the VR-11s in Las Vegas (he said, "Based on my auditioning") as did I, and he and I got together several times during the show.

Most likely a matter of preferences as well as manufacturer/dealer and dealer/customer relationships. Some of this is verifiably true.

You're right Brian. It is about preferences and I am sure most dealers do have that dealer/customer dealer/manufacturer relationship. You have this relationship too don't you?

I am not saying the Kharma's are not great. They are but I liked what I heard from the VR-11's better. As far as the DartZeel, I liked what I hear from the Tenor compared to the Dart I had in my room even though the Dart is the best musical sounding solidstate amp I have heard.

Hey Mike!

I only have one slight caveat on your comment about the Kharma/Von Schweikert comparison:

VR-11s = $120,000

Kharma Midi Grand = $36,000 - 40,000

Do the math. The VR-11s BETTER be better for 3 times the price!!! This is like saying that I compared these two automobiles and that darn Mercedes SL 500 is better than that inferior Buick Regal. I know that when I sold the Midis and went to the Exquisites (also at 2-3 times the price), my sound improved in every parameter and justified my decision to buy them. However, I tried to resist the unfair comparison between the two for this very reason.

Hey guys, it is ALL personal preference. I have always liked and been very impressed with the Von Schweikerts I have heard and if Albert can do with the VR-9s and 11s what he's done at lower price points, they surely will be special. You must also realize that a NUMBER of VR-9s have been sold to the same people who own Kharmas by the same dealer that sold them the Kharmas and that they have not heard the VR-9s because there are no VR-9s even built yet. They have purchased either on the promise of the VR-9 garnered from the impressive twice the size and cost VR-11s (no problem with that) or from their trust in their dealer's judgment (no problem there either if he has done you right in the past).

The bottom line is that we are all chasing something - whether it's the best sound, the best deal or owning the trendy component du jour, does it REALLY matter? It is OUR money and we all have the right to chase what will make us happy for our money.

For me, I am always open to anything that betters my sound but, at least at this point, I don't see my speakers going anywhere for a while. But, as I know, things may change as I have been proven wrong too many times to mention.!! :-)
Hiya Frank,

I am not getting the VR-11's. I am getting the VR-9's which are half the price of the 11's, 2/3 the size, and use the same drivers. The 9's are what I was comparing the Midi's too. Yes, there are no 9's built yet but I am told by Kevin at VSA they use the same bass cabinets and are very simular in sound but that the 11's are for a much bigger room. They also use the Rives Audio room adaption. Not all VR-9 or 11's for that matter are going to former Kharma owners.

The Midi's with Enigma are now $47000 and if you want the diamond tweeter they are even more than the VR-9's at $62000.

I do notice that there are hardly ever any upper model VS's on the market but even before the recent interest in VSA I have noticed more than the usual Kharma's for sale. I do have the VR-4jr at home until the 9's arrive and I am quite impressed with these little guys and the best part is their price.

Anyway, I have heard the Kharma's top model Exquisites and I know it is unfair to compare them to say the VR-11's without the two of them being in the same room with the same electronics. Hopefully some reviewers will be able to do this in the near future. ;^)
Great thread! Although every piece of equipment mentioned (including the Buick Regal!) is way out of my league(well maybe not the Buick) I have to say that If you can afford it...by all means knock your selves silly and compare as much as you can to get the best sound to your ears..at this level it all sounds great.albiet it must be partnered very carefully with the correct ancillary's to do them justice.But.. I have to love how Fmpnd so accurately stated it..Does it REALLY matter, if it's our money and it tickels our ears in the end! Maybe when my allimony is done and paid I can find one or two of you guys and invite myself over for a listen..I know it would be a treat! :) Ken
Why do they have to be better just because they cost more? They just have to produce the sound the buyer is looking for. Regardless: From what I heard at the NY show, even the little vr 4, jrs exceed, and by not a small margin, the Kharmas midi-exquisites in realism, soundstaging, punch, slam, and dynamics. The Kharmas adjacent, with all the appurtenances of hi-end audio, including the Walker turntable, were, by contrast, delicate but lifeless.
Mike, I know you are getting the 9s. But the way your post read, it stated that you heard the VR-11s and then you go on to state your comparison to the Midis. I have no doubt you liked the 11s. Just remember, not every speaker in any Manufacturer's family will necessarily sound the same even if they use the same type of drivers. Since there are no 9s even built yet, it seems unfair to post a comparison to a speaker nobody has ever heard. Since you DID love the 11s, that is the sound you are hoping to get from the 9s. I just caution you because I liked the Kharma Midi Grands but never warmed up to the Kharma Grands - even though it was almost the same speaker with just another woofer.

So, there is no need for anyone to get their undies in a bunch and come to anyone's defense here - as you will note in my post, I always state that it's personal preference in the end. So when Gladstone decides, as a Maggie owner, to come to his buddy's (and my buddy BTW) defense, by taking his wack at the Kharmas, that's OK too, not everybody's tastes are similar and nobody needs to own any speaker they don't like or want - that is what this hobby is all about.

People need not justify their purchase here - THAT is what I was saying in my post.
Mike, I know you are getting the 9s. But the way your post read, it stated that you heard the VR-11s and then you go on to state your comparison to the Midis. I have no doubt you liked the 11s. Just remember, not every speaker in any Manufacturer's family will necessarily sound the same even if they use the same type of drivers. Since there are no 9s even built yet, it seems unfair to post a comparison to a speaker nobody has ever heard. Since you DID love the 11s, that is the sound you are hoping to get from the 9s. I just caution you because I liked the Kharma Midi Grands but never warmed up to the Kharma Grands - even though it was almost the same speaker with just another woofer.

So, there is no need for anyone to get their undies in a bunch and come to anyone's defense here - as you will note in my post, I always state that it's personal preference in the end. So when Gladstone decides, as a Maggie owner, to come to his buddy's (and my buddy BTW) defense, by taking his wack at the Kharmas, that's OK too, not everybody's tastes are similar and nobody needs to own any speaker they don't like or want - that is what this hobby is all about.

People need not justify their purchase here - THAT is what I was saying in my post.


PS - to be fair, you could point out that many of those Kharmas here for sale are yours and others who have switched to the VR-9s and 11s - not exactly a fire sale.
Frank, of course you're right. I was just tweaking, pun intended, you about your initial statement concerning cost; it seemed to me that the rest of your post was rightly saying, "it's your money, spend it as you wish."
I wasn't trying to trash Kharmas, and perhaps I'm too dismissive of them. Nor to leap to Panorama's defense--I don't think I know him--but I did immensely enjoy the vr's, to an extent I have not with the highly regarded Kharmas. Maybe I was hallucinating, based on two brief exposures, but I was stunned by the performance of the vr's.
By way, guess who just ordered a Dynavector...
Le me just add, Frank, that the reason I could understand why someone would order the VR-9s or 11s was based on the performance of the jrs. If he could extract that kind of performance for such little money... it seemed that the higher speakers would be even more alluring. But who knows? In any case, we'll soon find out.
I can't speak for anyone else here, but I went with the Von Schweikert VR-9s because I didn't think my Midi Exquisites conveyed the dynamics of rock music--the genre I listen to most frequently--to my satisfaction. In that respect I agree with Gladstone's assessment of the Midi Exquisites; they sound beautiful but a little lifeless and dynamically lacking. I've owned, and own, several Von Schweikert products, and I've been mightily impressed with all of them. If the VR-9 is indeed comparable to the VR-11--and I don't have any reason to doubt that it is--I should find what I didn't in the Kharmas. As for the Dartzeels, they're the only solid state amp I've heard that stands toe to toe with the world's VERY BEST tube amps. I've been wanting to go solid state for years, but haven't heard a SS amp that I've been truly satisfied with in EVERY parameter . . . until now. Of course, it's not for everyone and your mileage may vary.
Gladstone, I agree - that is exactly what I told my friend yesterday who asked this same question. If Albert can make a speaker like the VR-4 sound that good, it is frightening what he might be able to do with an all out assault like the 11s.

I have never heard a VS speaker I didn't enjoy. And, you're right it doesn't HAVE to sound better if it's more expensive, but why and the heck would anyone want to spend more and not expect the sound to be better.

My only MINOR concern with Mike's post is that it seemed a little unfair to say "I heard the $120,000 VR-11s, and in my book they were better than the $36,000 Midi Grands" - (as that is what they did retail for when Mike bought them).

I certainly have NO problem with Mike buying a speaker he is happy with - but the original post was asking why people were switching from Kharmas to VSs - so I thought one should be fair and at least look at that price differential in order to ascribe the proper weight to the response.

Nuf said, I'm done.

To each his own and enjoy the music most of all!
Frank, I see your point about comparing a speaker by the same company. So, yes, it is unfair to make any comparison to a speaker that has not been built yet.

I never listed my Kharma's for sale. They sold without listing like they did with you and the new owner is lusting over them like the both of us did. Mark has sold his without listing too. I can tell you they are reselling for a lot less than they did before and I had mine less than a year.

There are a few out there that want Kharma's and have stated to others to let them know they are selling theirs before listing. With the recent price increase hardly any are going new and many going used. :-)

Yes, I suppose you're right there, too, Frank, I wasn't thinking about it that closely. I should add that the Dynavector remains everything you said it was.
But I do hope you get a chance to hear the vr's. While the jrs, as I indicated, lacked the refinement of the Kharmas at the NY show, I did think they were more satisfying in almost every other way--and the Kharmas, of course, are much more expensive.
Now, if you'd only see the light, and get a pair of Magnepans...!
By way, Frank, I've actually ordered two pairs of the Vr, Jrs.
BEWARE of VSA show demonstrations.At the 97/98 CES,VSA furnished "us" with a pair of VR-6s.Everyone who heard them was in love with them {me too}.Several went out and bought them {me too}.Everyone we know who bought a set was disappointed and sold theirs {me too}.We found out that VSA had a "special" speaker built for the show {IE:different crossover parts,wire,cabinets and damping material}.Albert had offered to build this speaker for another manufacturer,but said it would cost $24,000.00 to reproduce.The original VR-6s listed at $12,500 with dealer cost of $6,250.No wonder we all got snoockered.Very untrustworthy,just a word to the wise.
Well, Gladstone you are the second person I know of in two days who has ordered the jr's. This other person went from Kharma's 3.2's to jr's. The world is getting smaller!
yes, but I"ll be using them in a home theater set-up, not two-channel, with full Meitner 6-channel front end. I'm not prepared (gulp!) to say they're better than the Maggies. At least not yet...
Gladstone, at first I was going to drop from shock thinking you had turned into a dynamic guy (speakers that is). I bet your home theater will sound fabulous. If you liked the Dynavector tip, check out my post on AA Vinyl Asylum today on the Loricraft )"Doubting Thomas" heading) - it is incredible and easily worth the price with a vinyl collection like yours!

Mike, good luck with the VR-9s, I am sure they will be incredible. I hope to hear them at Andrew's soon!
This has to be the best thread ever. Thank you for the entertainment.

Rich Maurin
Ah, I should have kept up the suspense, Frank! I'll check out the Loricraft.
Come on, Rich! We're all audiophiles. Anyway, a little birdie told me that you've been playing around with different equipment recently.
Thanks Frank! Yes this thread has been very entertaining. LOL! I will always have special thoughts for both pairs of Kharma's I had the joy of owning.

This hobby never ceases to be fun and now that these new VR's will be very heavy maybe I will be too lazy and old to move them for any others. LOL!!! Riigghhtt.....
Frank, either you or I, or both of us in tandem, have a special gift for stirring up the pot.
By way, did you really have to torture the rest of us with your AA thread? What if I told you the Keith Monks machine was even better?
Oh, I forgot to mention I went ultimate route of vinylphilia and got a mono Helikon.
Entertaining, yes, informative, uh...

I guess I'm silly for finding something that gets things right in the first place and leaving it alone. There is no perfect component or speaker, just different approaches and I guess I'm old school wanting proven solutions that work well together instead of chasing my tail, to focus on the music. More than one way to get down the road but I'm done being a guinea pig and imagine some of you are, too. Just my biased opinion...

Well Brian, ideally you're correct, but if one is fortunate enough to be exposed to different gear the chance of finding something that "seems" better presents itself. It's an individual choice that people make to the best of their ability. Such as going from Atmaspheres to JC-1's. And I'd hardly classify as guinea pigs anyone wanting to purchase a pair of Sound Labs and drive them with the JC-1's if they like it better than their previous amp/speaker combo. I've heard it and it sounds great. Happy for them. Or even moving up in a given product line. Even those at their ideal stopping point had to get there somehow. And those that never do? Well, if they've the disposable income to swap out gear ad infinitum, so what? What's the harm? Why are people seemingly insulted and take issue with that? If some have a problem with that, well that's exactly what it is: their problem. And somewhat petty at that. I really don't want to get into a pissing contest here. I have neither the energy, nor prostate, for it. I'm happy and enjoy this hobby, and don't begrudge anyone for whatever moves they make. I'm not personally offended by any change anyone makes, regardless of how many and seemingly ludicrous. If I was, it's time to look more closely at me than them.
Great post Mark! Hey, I am happy too!!!!! Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy!

How is it sounding?

Yes, Brian, it seems to me that since no system, however expensive, will achieve perfection (whatever that is), there is an understandable impulse on the part of some, not all, audiophiles to tinker, tweak, and experiment. You yourself have clearly not been immune to this impulse, though you may have settled (for now) on a system you find pleasing.
Mark, Frank, and Jacob have all stated it very well. This hobby allows for so many different ways to the "top"--and "top" is such a subjective term anyway--that it's pointless in getting upset that someone has a different approach than you. Some people have more money, some less, some like to experiment, some don't--it's all relative. The point is, we all love music and love to hear it reproduced well. That commonality has allowed me to meet a lot of nice people in this hobby, and has allowed a lot of others to do the same, and I think that ultimately what counts. Can I get an amen?
Well Stimpy, it's sounding like you need to lower your dose :^)
You guys are ALL nuts, and you ALL have terrible systems, your speakers are ALL crap, your digital stinks, your decisions are ALL stupid, your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries, now go away or I shall taunt you a second time!! (or was I supposed to fart in your general direction?)

Doc, can you up my meds? Just gimme what you take from Stimpy!
I am almost sorry I asked the question ... but it has been amusing seeing the responses.

It would seem as though some of those who switched from the Kharmas to VR-9 were efforts to improve the dynamics for playback of rock music. Which goes back to one of my previous questions regarding the Tenor/Kharma/emm lab combo for alternative rock and whether it was an appropriate consideration for this genre. I will have to answer that myself with serious listening.

In terms of the switch to DarTZeel from Tenor, I wonder how many people were anxious just to give up tubes. On the other hand, I also wonder whether some of the switchers have had equipment failure problems with their Tenor equipment. Are there any quality control issues with the Tenor equipment or is their any financial viability issues with Tenor Audio ?
As you said, the best solution is to listen for yourself. If you can, try out lots of different speakers, in, below, and above your price range, including of course VSA and Kharma. That way you'll be absolutely sure when it comes decision time.

FWIW, I switched from Tenor to Dartzeel based on a decision to get out of tubes--provided I could find a SS amp that rivalled, or exceeded, the very best tube units in my experience, including the Tenor 300 hybrids. Luckily enough, I found one, and that's why I switched. Can't speak for anyone else, though.
My guess is that the DartZeel is a little more melliflous, for better and for worse, than many amps--I believe there was a review in Positive Feedback, or one of the on-line zines, that expressed admiration along with some reservations about the sound and price.
I think the combination of transparency and slam with the V.S.'s is quite intoxicating, but the Kharmas may--I'm not sure--be a bit more refined.
One more thing: the corollary of your statement, Frank, would be that you, and you alone, have the perfect system!
Gladstone, you are quite correct my amative and discerning friend - I believe that I have found the Holy Grail!
But have you been allowed to touch it? Remember: Lancelot was only allowed to see it, not grasp it.
Mark, if someone is happy changing his system every six months or so, there's no point of further discussion, cost not being an issue. Some people go through cars, boats, whatever often enough to make your head spin. Auto nervosa? Not much different from audio nervosa, and many go through that. But it's nice to get off that bus once you find a great lasting solution that really works.

Some years ago a guy around here with pretty good gear ranted about having gone through tens of thousands of dollars' worth of cables and whined that his system "still sounds like sh--." What he spent was his business, but I felt sorry for him.

huh huh, pull my finger
Brian, I can certainly see your POV and don't necessarily disagree. As I stated earlier, the ideal would be to hit it right the first time and listen blissfully everafter. And I too would feel badly for someone who struggles and comes up short. But I do think some changes aren't out of frustation that ones system sounds like excrement, but that even though happy with the sound, something that sounds/mates better becomes an option. Then obviously the pecunia is the rate limiting factor. How many changes is too much? I guess that's up to the individual, but I certainly am not going to judge or criticize them. I've read that you call someone who has lived through many mistakes experienced. So at least I've got that going for me. Which is nice. Enjoy your system, I've heard the SL's and JC's and thought they were outstanding. You perhaps have reached the last stop. I think I'll go and enjoy mine now also. Cheers, Mark
Thanks, Mark. What you heard at CES '03 was but a rough snapshot. Any time you're in the Chicago area, please be my guest and come by for a listen.

Tireguy: Very funny!!! :)
Back to the question from Thom: I had the opportunity to A/B the DartTzeel side by side with the Tenor 300's, for an extended period. I purchased the DartTzeel, not out of any problems with the Tenors but because in my system the Dart sounded better. Quieter, more dynamic, equally if not more adept at staging, and the sweetest amp I have heard. No ss amp, or tube for that matter renders instruments and voice with such lifelike realism. The extremes are beautifully represented with deep powerful bass and shimmering highs without any brightness or etching. The Tenor is an outstanding amp, but in my system the DarTzeel sounds better. I know Mike feels differently, and that's OK. I'm OK with agreeing to disagree. I also have ordered a pair of Von Schweikert VR-9's after having heard some of the other speakers in the line, although obviously I haven't heard the 9 since none have been finished yet. I have the jr's as an interim while the 9's are being built, and if I hadn't paid for the 9's already, might have just kept the jr's. Dynamic, musical, very good bass for the size, and imaging demons. I also heard them in NY at the show, and although quite impressive, that demo didn't really exploit what the speaker can do. I was in the fortunate position to have the Tenors and DarTzeel still in my possesion as well as the jr's and Kharma Midi Grands, and had a lot fun playing. The Kharma's are a beautiful speaker, but to my ear other than being slightly more refined, had nothing on the jr's, which frankly was quite a surprise. This isn't comparing the $120K 11's to the Midi Grand, this is the $3995 jr. This is a killer little speaker and continues to knock my socks off. So to answer your question Thom, I changed because I had the opportunity to demo various combinations between 2 amps and 2 pairs of speakers, and found unequivicaly I preferred the DarTzeel/VS combo.Which is not to take anything from the Tenors or Mids's, both extraordinary in their own right, and those owning them may well disagree with me and prefer what they have. And that's OK too. Good on ya. And other than lugging heavy gear up and down steps to my listening room, it was fun as hell.
Hey Mark, again great post.

I need to call you so send me an email again with your number as I misplaced it.