Kharma International’s Exquisite Speaker Cables and AC Cords
Coming from across the big pond and branded as “Dutch Masterpieces Handcrafted in the Netherlands,” these products arrived in two sturdy shipping boxes with additional inner support and protection. They were designed to withstand the long journey to my home in Minnesota. This review resulted from a follow-up inquiry with the good folks at Kharma International, specifically as I was seeking an update on the development of various products in their current line of loudspeakers and cables. Kharma has three distinct product lines that distinguish their speaker and cable products and their electronics. For this particular review – my focus is on their Exquisite line of cables, specifically power chords and speaker cables. Having had an opportunity to review their then newly introduced speaker Elegance DB7-Signature (see review here). I was also able to check out the companion Elegance speaker cables at that time as well. Given a very positive experience with both these speakers and cables – I’ve also been very interested in learning more about their Exquisite line of cables. Beyond this, my experience listening to various Kharma exhibits at high-end audio shows has always been a sonic revelation. And each exhibit, the company’s superb electronics were present, as well as their cables.
In my long-time experiences with a wide variety of cables – as good as many are out there today- the notion that as a manufacturer of such high-performance speakers, Kharma also designed, developed, and produced their own cables significantly increased my level of interest. Additionally, due to my very positive experience with the speakers, I reviewed and knowing how much of an impact that cables can make on the overall sonic performance in a high-end audio system – I entered into engaging conversations with the folks at Kharma regarding this matter.
Furthermore, the Kharma Exquisite line is advertised as “continuing the tradition of excellence and without compromise including technologies that have been integrated to their highest potential.” Beyond this – Kharma has received high praise for its products throughout the high-end audio industry, including numerous awards such as Best Sound at various shows.
After several positive and enlightening conversations, including a warm, cordial acknowledgment of my loudspeaker review, things quickly picked up, including an offer for me to check out the speaker and power cables from their Exquisite line. I was delighted and quite enthused with this opportunity. And to me, system synergy is the magic that enhances the overall musical experience, not just merely putting various good products together and expecting great results. The importance of cables is often a secondary consideration when it can take a system to a whole different level.
Brief Technical Overview & Appearance
Quoting directly from information accessible through the Kharma website, here’s an excellent description of the cables that were shipped to me: 2017 Introducing New Cable Series – this year, Kharma introduced three new cable series, including Elegance, Exquisite, and Enigma Veyron cables with revolutionary techniques, innovation, and design. In all three collections, the combination of Silver and Nano-Carbon conductors (SNCtm) form a hybrid construction. Together with individually chambering the conductors to optimize the effect of air insulation, a new tradition has] been born. Moreover, the leather sleeves for the Exquisite and Engima Veyron series is a perfect example of true craftsmanship.
Additionally, descriptive information available provided specific commentary on the Kharma Exquisite power cables. It reads as follows: The Exquisite Power Cable has foundation of silvered copper conductors in combination with carbon, that is used in a different way. The use of ultra pure silver as conductors has enhanced the conductivity along with an alternate carbon conducting material. The ultra-fine strands of carbon used in the Exquisite Cable Collection is used for filtering out the skin effect of performing as a main conductor. This leads to ultra-fine resolutions of acoustic space. The Exquisite power cable is shielded against undesired external interference by the use of dual layer screening, vibration-reducing tubing, and a genuine black leather sleeve. Besides this, the shielded connections are based on Silver plated plugs and can be used as an EU or US version with on the other side an IEC or IEC HC connector. Please note – these power cords also came distinguished as either analog or high-current and received approximately four days of continuous AC running through them before any serious listening.
Next came the replacement and installation of the Exquisite speaker cables. In terms of the descriptive language for these speaker cables, it reads as follows: the level of technological delicacy and the passion for craftsmanship fully reflect in the appearance of the Exquisite loudspeaker cables. Creating an undisturbed signal path with the combination of individually chambered conductors, vibration-reducing tubing, and genuine black leather sleeves to protect the cable and reduce vibrations based on their ultra-effective internal damping coefficient. True craftsmanship is the foundation of this special loudspeaker cable. It can be found in the handmade Silver-Gold spades and the attention to detail in the cable ending, resulting in the blank anodized aluminum and gold trimming details. In terms of the silver spades – are molded by a Dutch silversmith that refines every spade one by one. A true Dutch masterpiece with a high level of craftsmanship is introduced within this cable.
These specially made silver-gold spades minimize the unwanted external electromagnetic interference and mechanical vibrations. A brief initial listening after putting these cables into my reference system – although a pleasant sound, they also quickly revealed the need for additional break-in. I’ve found that speaker cables often need continuous full-range music signals running through them, typically for an extended period. The Exquisite speakers’ cables were no different and benefitted for almost a full week of break-in (i.e., approximately one hundred plus hours).
This all sounds like good PR from the manufacturer, and as the saying goes – the proof of the pudding is in the eating or, in this case, the listening. And without spoiling the ending of this review, I can confidently state that these words ring largely true through my extensive listening of my system, including these cables. My understanding and appreciation of the designation of Exquisite for these products were enhanced through my direct experience of having them in my system.
Products Finally Arrive
With much anticipation – the two sturdy boxes finally arrived carrying the goodies inside, and my first task was to ensure there was no obvious damage. Even though one of the outer boxes had some minor external damage – there was no intrusion into the inner box, and from what I could see – everything inside was well protected and had survived the long trek to finally reaching my home. As I removed the inner boxes, I found each cable to be placed in its separate container, a very nice smaller box including an internal cushion inside each container.
Carefully extracting each cable from its beautiful inner box – I was immediately impressed by the visual appearance and quality of materials and construction. So far, so good, and my anticipation for my upcoming experience was looming. As I mentioned earlier in this review, I previously had an opportunity to audition the Elegance line of speaker cables as part of my review of the Kharma Elegance DB7S loudspeakers. These cables were good, competent if you will. They were also designed as the entry-level cables in the Kharma Cable Collection. During that same time, I also had access to several different high-end speaker cables and ultimately favored the overall performance of these speakers with those particular speaker cables. And that was in the past, and this new experience was now upon me. Clearly, with such positive experiences with a wide range of different power and speaker cables, including my current reference cables, the question would be how the Kharma Exquisite cables would perform.
Let The Listening Begin
Whenever receiving various cables, other than an initial listen to ensure things were working properly, my initial effort was to replace my current power cables with the Kharma Exquisite power cables. Even though this was merely an early glimpse and certainly not something to take seriously, my reaction to this quick substitution was generally positive. It caused me to rub my chin and wonder how I would feel later once these cables had a proper break-in. As these power cords reached greater levels of break-in and conditioning, there was an obvious effortlessness and dynamic flow to the music. Additionally, the sound of my system with these power cords took on a noticeably improved level of power and dynamics along with greater neutrality, clarity, and sonic naturalness. Additionally, there was a high degree of organic fullness and warmth, including fully fleshed-out intimate details. Essentially the overall impact of these power cords was quite noticeably positive and brought new musical life to my system. For the most part, my expectation for power cords is first, do no harm. Beyond that – delivering high-quality AC to my precious reference electronics is what I look for in power cables and exactly what I received with these wonderful Kharma Exquisite power cords.
Next up was to ensure that the speaker cables had adequate break-in time. In this case – serious evaluation did not occur anytime before these cables had close to two full weeks of continuous music signal passing through them. During this period, I checked in for periodic listening to determine whether the progression of sound was occurring. Somewhere just past day ten of this extended conditioning period – I felt that the most noticeable levels of sonic improvement had been achieved. And without question, something magical was happening with these two sets of cables. Below I will attempt to provide descriptions of my enthusiasm related to listening to my system with enhanced musical pleasure. For the most part – with the combination of Kharma Exquisite cables, my system’s overall sonic performance became even more musically captivating than before.
Tonal Balance – of the many sonic attributes, tonal balance is an absolute must. Without proper tonality, reproduced music can easily take on a different sonic character than the actual instrument (or voice) and create a misperception of the real thing. Skewing or tilting the tonal balance can cause the sound to shift from heavy to light. In this regard, cables have often been referred to as tone controls and thus potentially impacting the final signal as it travels to the speakers. Preserving the integrity of sound requires the signal to flow to its final destination as unaltered as possible. Based on my extended listening with the Kharma Exquisite cables in place – the sound was bathed in a wonderful sense of intimate detail with a neutral tonal balance. At the same time, there was also a clear sense of natural warmth that somehow did not skew the tonal balance and enhanced the sense of organic naturalness to all instruments and voices. For example, listening to beautiful Keith Jarrett’s beautiful piano presentation on his ECM recording titled “The Melody At Night, With You” – solo piano had superb detail and dynamic flow, including a natural sustain and lingering harmonics. On the selection titled Someone To Watch Over Me, there was superb neutrality and very accurate tonality with no emphasis across the frequency spectrum. At the same time – the sound was super smooth, easy, and without any loss of detail. Essentially the sound was outstanding and captivating.
In terms of how this can be best related to the various commonly referred to frequency bands such as bass, midrange, and highs – with these cables, each had its own set of musical attributes that together helped to create an authentic, holistic musical delight. For example, across the full bass range, the sound felt and sounded more substantive, organic, full, yet even more articulate and convincing. This helped to reveal the natural sonic characteristic for the type of instrument that was playing. Beyond this – the transition and blend from the bass to the broad midrange was seamless without any noticeable emphasis.
Soundstaging and Harmonic Realism – pinpoint placement and positioning of instruments and performers across the full frequency range was quite convincing and provided an illusion of proper perspective for all musical sounds emerging from my speakers. For the midrange – the sound was open, clear with excellent ambiance, organic texture, and musical color. Warren Wolf’s recording titled Convergence is an excellent example of how this was revealed. Particularly on the selection titled “Knocks Me Off My Feet” – the vibes, bass, percussion, and piano were all beautifully rendered with a rich, resonate, harmonic, and full character. Additionally, the midrange had a wonderful sense of ambiance and openness with a very natural presentation and with no exaggeration throughout the range. The Kharma cables further revealed the overall neutrality as I listened to the dreamy, sensuous piano work of Eliane Elias on her recording titled “Swept Away” (i.e., MQA on Tidal) along with Marc Johnson’s wonderful blend of acoustic bass that was also articulate, warm, round, full and deep. Clearly obvious was also how Elias’ piano did not have any of those sharp, edgy leading edge transients that sometimes are associated with dynamic snap.
Focusing on higher frequencies – I listened to one of my favorite Ahmad Jamal recordings titled Blue Moon. This recording is loaded with lots of upper frequency dynamic, propulsive music, and more intimate renderings throughout. Listening to how the cymbals rang clearly, loudly, precisely, and open was very convincing. Similarly, listening to how the cymbals intimately emerge and are fully revealed on the opening selection titled The Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers on Brian Bromberg’s popular recording titled Wood was quite convincing and realistic. Additionally, listening to Mary Stalling’s version of You Go To My Head on her beautiful Manhattan Moods recording revealed the clear, open sonic character of the harmonica’s reach into the upper midrange and above, along with an authentic mystical and allusive musical quality.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
Having an opportunity to audition products from an iconic high-end audio manufacturer, such as Kharma International, not only created expectation and excitement on my part – it also made me feel a sense of heightened responsibility for conducting a thorough, impartial and complete review. Ironically, what I actually experienced was a significant challenge to stay on task with doing the necessary listening, taking notes, and later writing this review. With these cables in place – listening to music often rendered me into writer’s block through a state of laziness for writing, that is, with a greater desire to listen as often and to as many of my favorite tunes as possible. Musical realism is a trademark of Kharma International and superb quality through pristine craftsmanship.
Even though these cables are on the pricey side of the equation, given how they can raise the sonic performance of a high-end audio system, I feel this makes them worthy of consideration. Removing these cables from my system and returning them to the factory in the Netherlands created a temporary sense of loss, requiring a period of adjustment.
And although I’ve recovered – the memory lingers on. Congratulations to Kharma International for designing and developing such wonder cables, and my sincere thanks to the fine folks at the company’s headquarters who helped make this review possible.
· Exquisite power cable – analog/high current, 2-meters – $5,900 ($1,000 per extra .5 meter)
· Exquisite speaker cables – 2 meters, $16,750 ($4,000 per extra .5 meter)
Name: Kharma International
President: Charles Van Oosterum
Address: Kalshoven 7
4825 AL, Breda
Tel: +31 (0) 76 571 50 10
Web Site: www.kharma.com
Bill’s Associated Equipment
Amplification & Digital Playback System
· Bel Canto Design – Black System: ASC2 Asynchronous Stream Controller (line stage) and MPS1 Power Stream units (monoblock amplifiers), including internal DACs
· Tidal/Qobuz – hi-rez streaming services
· Kharma Elegance DB7 Signature
· A.T.&T. Fiber Optic – interconnection links
· Cardas Clear Beyond XL – power and speaker cables
· Fidelium – speaker cables
· Kharma Elegance – speaker cables
· Synergistic Research – Atmosphere X Euphoria power and speaker cables
· Wireworld Platinum – speaker cables
· Cardas Nautilus AC power strip
· Furtech NCF Nano AC receptacles]
· Matrix Systems equipment rack
· Puritan Audio Laboratories – Studio Master PSM156 line conditioner w/Ultimate power cord
· Shakti Holographs
· Synergistic Research – PowerCel 12 UEF, FEQ Frequency Equalizer, Black Box, HFT’s and cable lifters
· Townsend Seismic Podiums and Isolation Pods – speakers/electronics
· Ultra Resolution Technologies – isolation base
Stereo Times Masthead
Frank Alles, Mike Girardi, Key Kim, Russell Lichter, Terry London, Moreno Mitchell, Paul Szabady, Bill Wells, Mike Wright, Stephen Yan, and Rob Dockery
David Abramson, Tim Barrall, Dave Allison, Ron Cook, Lewis Dardick, Dan Secula, Don Shaulis, Greg Simmons, Eric Teh, Greg Voth, Richard Willie, Ed Van Winkle, and Rob Dockery
Carlos Sanchez, John Jonczyk, John Sprung and Russell Lichter
Site Management Clement Perry
Ad Designer: Martin Perry