I’ve known about Kharma for a very long time. I’ve seen their speakers reviewed in magazines and encountered them at shows over the years. And it’s always been the beautiful, raked, “entry-level” Elegance models that sprang to my mind on hearing the Dutch brand’s name. For one reason or another, I’ve never had the opportunity to sit and listen to a pair, but 18 months ago I began a conversation with Vivienne van Oosterum, the daughter of Kharma founder, Charles van Oosterum, that ultimately led to a pair of Kharma’s Elegance dB7-S loudspeakers (US$31,250 per pair) being deposited on my driveway, in mid-December 2022.
A pair of Kharma’s dB7-S loudspeakers on Hans’s front porch.
The good news was that the pair of crates looked to be in flawless shape, so I was confident the cross-Atlantic trip had been uneventful. The bad news was that the delivery driver couldn’t get them to my front door on his dolly. He left them in front of my garage, and I—all 140 pounds of me—had to wrestle them up onto my stoop, where they would at least be covered, and keep them there until I could get my brother to help me get them inside and set them up.
The dB7-S. Do you see automotive or aeronautical influences?
Once we got the crates inside, we removed the roughly 40 screws from the top panels and pulled the first review sample from its container. It came well protected, ensconced in molded-foam packing material, and covered in a white cloth. The feet and floor spikes came pre-attached, something I’d never seen before.
Removing the cover, I was immediately awed by the loudspeaker’s finish; it was the finest paintwork I’d ever seen on a loudspeaker. Many manufacturers boast about automotive-grade paint, and I have no doubt that a lot of love and sweat had been invested in the finishes of the many review samples I’ve seen over the years. But the Kharma’s Gun Smoke Grey finish was flawless: rich with metallic flakes, the like of which you’d expect to see on a BMW or Porsche, with a deep, pearlescent shimmer. The polished-aluminum accent on each side of the cabinet further enhanced the automotive feel of this rakish loudspeaker.
The only aesthetic improvement to my review samples might have been a flashier color. Several automotive-blue finishes were considered during the pre-review process, including a gorgeous light blue seen in a photo of the dB7/dB7-S on Kharma’s webpage for this model. If you’re in the market for a loudspeaker like this, you owe it to yourself to splurge on the optional bespoke finish.
Up close and personal with Kharma’s incredible Gun Smoke Grey finish.
The weight of the dB7-S is not specified, but it was fairly easy for me and my brother to carry it down a flight of stairs. It stands 39.8″H × 14.1″W × 23″D with a distinctive lean (for optimal driver coherence).
Revisiting the shipping crates revealed a pair of magnetic grilles, but I firmly believe that grilles mustn’t be used for serious or critical listening and left them off. I also found a leather-bound user manual and a leather box containing heavy polished-aluminum footers. This was no cheap leather; it was super-soft and supple. The attention to detail here was remarkable. Of course, at these stratospheric prices, buyers are looking for more than just loudspeakers—they’re looking for luxury. Something that will attest to their discriminating, refined taste. The dB7-S delivers.
I maneuvered a dB7-S speaker into the place normally occupied by one of my KEF Reference 3 loudspeakers, with two spikes digging into my carpet and two resting in the polished footers. Standing side by side, the taller, square KEF lacked the Kharma’s charisma, its modest, brushed-aluminum front panel contrasting with the Kharma’s flashier profile and finishing touches. The ringed accent that surrounds each of Kharma’s drivers, for instance, has the company’s logo etched into its dark finish—a neat touch.
Details are everything at this price point.
The dB7-S features three drivers: a 1″ beryllium-dome tweeter and two 7″ midrange-woofers, in a pure two-way arrangement. It is curious that Kharma opted for a two-way arrangement instead of a two-and-a-half way. The base-model dB7 makes do with Kharma’s standard composite midrange-woofers; the Signature variant, dB7-S, upgrades the midrange-woofers with Kharma’s proprietary Omega-7 drivers, which use a special, stiffer carbon-fiber diaphragm for improved performance.
The dB7-S’s driver complement.
One last item of note: the dB7-S uses nonstandard binding posts that don’t permit the use of banana-terminated speaker cables. I was unaware of this until I tried to hook up my Siltech Classic Legend 680L cables. I had to dig out my trusty (and significantly more affordable) DH Labs Q-10 Signature speaker cables, which are terminated with spades, before I could lure music out of the dB7-S.
Among the specs are a frequency response of 29Hz–30kHz, a nominal 4-ohm impedance, and a sensitivity rating of 88dB (2.83V/1m).
A solution looking for a problem.
I sat down for a quick listen and, while I don’t want to spoil the full review, which will be published on SoundStage! Ultra in the first half of 2023, it’s fair to say that I found an awful lot to like!
Senior Contributor, SoundStage!