Playing the room. Miguel and Javier had a preference for the Pass Lab XA30.8's earthier grippier gestalt exerting firmer control. With Julieta's highly critical room interactions caused by her twin rear ports and prodigious bass capability, a few hours went to nailing precise speaker and seat placement adjustments enforced by this hardware change. Our Spaniards also fancied the tonality of Nagra's Jazz preamp over Vinnie Rossi's more lit-up passive transformer attenuator Lio. The Job 225 was written off for the same reasons I'd already experienced for myself. I didn't have to try AURALiC's class D monos to know the same applied to them. During a 1:00AM session ending in all of our light-proof curtains closed, I felt that the freely gushing sonic gestalt had lost some of its energy to be slightly overdamped. Whilst Javier and Miguel had their eyes shut deep inside the music, I silently drew all curtains open again. Javier soon opened his eyes. He said that the magic had gone without knowing why. I finally grasped what he and Miguel had been on about when asking for "more silence". They didn't like to hear the room's influence on the high frequencies. Miguel's own—Kroma's primary audition lab—is very damped. My personal preference is to hear a bit more of the room. It creates material not just recorded spatial context. And that keener presence triggers my emotional response. I happily pay for more reflective 'noise' than accept the minor damper on energetics which closing the curtains entails. A vital reminder throughout our time spent together was the importance of properly translating another's use of lingo. What, exactly, do they hear and reference with their descriptions? Do they mean the same as we do when using the same words? Only once everyone is on the same page does talk become meaningful. Only now the aim of resultant tweaks is clear. Knowing what to do about it comes from experience. And that comes from prior experiments. Don't settle for good enough when it leaves performance untapped.

The next morning before they came from their B&B for a final audition prior to driving to Knock airport, I'd secretly replaced the single-ended interconnects with XLR equivalents. Unlike the evening before, now the Fore Audio DAISy1 --> Nagra Jazz --> Pass Labs XA30.8 signal path was fully balanced. I was curious. Would they notice its increase in damping—which related directly to what they'd referred to as more quiet—whilst leaving the curtains open as befitted daytime and views? I said nothing about the change. I first wanted to see how they'd respond. They said that the sound had become even more open and spatially expansive than the night before. Miguel opined that the top end had greater finesse, too.

During a track with Javier in the hot seat, I quickly closed all curtains again whilst he listened, eyes shut. Standing behind him, Miguel instantly gesticulated that the sound had shrunk. Javier finished the track, then said that with the curtains closed, he experienced the sound as more human—probably 'organic' in my vocabulary—but that it also had lost some of its previous enormous spatial scale and tacit immediacy.

Now we capriced to closing only the curtains of the side-wall windows. Within seconds, Javier had a huge grin and a happy thumbs up. For our combined tastes, we had arrived at the ideal balance between attack and decay, damping and fluidity.

With all primary coordinates locked in—amp/speaker pairing, precise positioning of speakers/chair for the most even in-room response—then all secondaries mapped (upstream ancillaries), one may finally chase tertiary effects with cable lifters, cones and sundry footers, mass dampers and related tweaks. Once the foundation is solid, even small adjustments will be intelligible. That's final seasoning to taste. The Spaniards' quick trial with Cliff Orman footers which they'd modified for their Ypsilon gear, under our Pass Labs amp, reverted back to our Artesania Audio amp stand with Krion slab pure. Ditto for their own speaker cables. In this context, Chris Sommovigo's Black Cat red level Lupo worked better.

Kromatics. Without doubt, newcomer Julieta was born with a toothy silver spoon. Here it means instant acceptance to the elite über-monitor club's inner circle. With a firm hand to control her twin-ported impedance swings, her ScanSpeak woofer can barely be seen to move even with ~30Hz chicanery. But the same ports require obsessive positioning to minimize room modes in the seat. And, very responsive bass reach also means that along the side walls and in the front corners, bass energies build up strongly. This obviously triggers only when actually playing music containing serious low bass. In general, team Kroma do not but Julieta takes to it with real appetite. When set up just so to play the room (and recording permitting), the results were wall-to-wall soundstaging with no trace of the physical boxes. Depth mapped very precisely. With so non-chatty a cabinet, I'd personally stay clear of bright pushy go-nowhere-fast amps. They'll encounter no warm embrace to instead exact a slightly Germanic checkerboard sorting where clinical precision not elegance rules. For non silly money, a Pass Labs XA30.8 appears to be the perfect stand-in for what type amplifier to pursue. At the far costlier end, a Greek Ypsilon amp would be a natural-born mate.

As the final photo shows, Julieta communicated across sizeable space, sounding perfectly splendid even at the kitchen table 10 metres away. Such projection liberates your tunes from the boxes. The sound no longer squeezes from them like tooth paste from a tube. It blossoms in free space not confined to a pale likeness behind the speakers but with true force and reach at the seat. It's what all speakers aspire to. It generally comes easier to monitors. Within that breed, it comes easiest to those not held back by time smear and box fuzz. Julieta scored top marks for absence from box chatter and blur. When set up correctly to remove or minimize room effects inside the listening window, timing for a ported design seemed quite high too yet not so focused as to feel metronomic. The rear-firing ports simply enforce more setup labour than sealed designs.

Not having really been conceptualized from a commercial angle but converted from passion project to formal production, Julieta's small-volume artisanal origins mean high cost. Of course no speaker at €30'000 retail can invoke value, much less a compact two-driver stand mount. €15'000 like our Mythology 1 gets can't either except when inserted in today's context. Walking right past this aspect, on raw performance, luxurious build and attractive looks, Kroma Audio's Julieta is an amazing discovery. She proves that you needn't tolerate monkey coffins or robotic descendents of Klaatu when it comes to room-fill gush from compact beautiful tone sculptures that pack serious bandwidth. Subwoofers aren't invited. Neither is casual listening due to intense projection. Top drivers and rigid enclosures welcome high playback SPL without punishment other than neighbourly peace. The synthetic stone finish is easy on eye and maintenance, being dusted and cleaned without marks. Low binding posts at the base of the stand make for clean cable dressing without the additional half metre that hanging off from traditional terminations behind the main driver entails. The tone-wood ingredients inject some timbral wetness. That counters dead-box tendencies for dryness and hyper focus. Julieta is no alumni of the Magico school as her driver choices already suggest. She's no vintage Sonus faber either nor carries the radiation-pattern derived warmth of a Kaiser Acoustic Chiara. She's far from any full-on thin-walled live box. As a Swiss amp, she'd be a cross between Soulution and Nagra. As an actual speaker from Spain, she's an exception and exceptional all around. Hail to the lucky few blessed with the means to make her their own. Whilst that sadly excludes us, we shall remain sportingly envious of them!

Kroma Audio website