Jim Hannon: Elegance dB11-S

Jim Hannon, The Absolute Sound.

Evaluating loudspeakers at trade shows is difficult. Not only are the hotel rooms sonically challenging, but the associated system elements are often unfamiliar. However, some setups are able to overcome these obstacles and            really shine. Such was the case at the 2014 CES. Along with my colleague, Jonathan Valin, I was really impressed by a system featuring Kharma’s electronics, cables, and new Elegance dB11-S loudspeakers, and gave it my “best-of-show” accolade. I was particularly taken by its superlative performance on demanding piano recordings. I wondered how the Elegances would compare with the sound I heard at CES across a wider variety of music. Fortunately, these beautiful speakers, finished in a sumptuous chocolate-brown, have been ensconced in my listening room for several months. And I can tell you that they fare very, very well.

Kharma’s innovative Elegance dB11-S loudspeaker is not only easy on the eyes—and a 2014 winner of the CES Innovations Award for outstanding design and engineering—it’s also a delight to the ears. The largest model in the company’s Elegance line, it features a highly advanced magnet system to reduce driver distortion. The dB11-S utilizes a beryllium tweeter designed by Kharma in association with Danish driver manufacturer Scan-Speak. What I first noticed about this beryllium marvel was that, unlike many tweets made of that material, it did not sound bright. While it could sound slightly dry on occasion, it did not produce any nasal overtones, stridency, or ringing. Indeed, when the dB11-S was driven by Constellation Audio electronics, the highs were extended and incredibly pure. This helped the dB11-S achieve a level of harmonic truthfulness that was first-rate. The rich timbre of woodwinds, massed strings, voices, guitars, and percussion approached what one would hear at a live performance in a great concert hall; indeed, lifelike timbre was one of the major strengths of this formidable speaker.

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