Sonics & comparisons. Was the massive ebony body the enabler? Regardless, first impressions circled a sonorous lower midrange. The core character of this pickup clearly lived on the warmer darker end of town and did fulsome bass. Vis-à-vis my Lyra Delos which prices the same, the two different sonic worlds that Robert Suchy sees between MM and MC displayed clearly. Their newest attempts then manages successful integration between head and gut to impress many listeners with a well-set balance of insight and pleasure. Right off the bat without any personal hours accrued, I was impressed by a very even properly sorted low-noise reading of the excellent As long as there's music by Charlie Haden and Hampton Hawes. For a first get-to-know-you session, I'd never cue up a test record – not that I own any, mind you. My test is real music which I know, love and can count on to trigger emotions. The Charisma V2 created an instant I'm-at-home feel which I relaxed into eagerly.
Coupled to its telltale lower midrange warmth, I heard bass as a bit rounder and not as extended as my Lyra Delos which in that regard is admittedly quite relentless. On Donald Byrd's Fuego, the Clearaudio rendered his trumpet a bit less insistent but with great timbral beauty and spatial intimacy. That made it easy to slip into this flavor of replay. The venue seemed smaller so more like a packed club which has performers closer together. Piano was very lively, full and involving. On Red Garland's early Can't see for looking Prestige pressing, I was delighted also by the microdynamics which Art Taylor's brush tickles the drum with whilst leaning vigorously into his kick drum. Kraftwerk's Computerwelt bubbled happily. If I spotted anything, the synth drums on "Home Computers" could have been drier still. But don't get me wrong, Kraftwerk never sound obnoxiously hard. Their beats are characterized by a certain organic softness. It's what makes the band so musically timeless in the first place. Within this softness embed gradations however and here the Clearaudio played it more organic and round than dry and angular. A Van den Hul Frog (~€2'100) does it a bit more aggressive, an Audio Technica ART-9 (ca. €1'100) more analytical and tonally bare. So the tuning of the Clearaudio Charisma V2 was more that of a crowd pleaser which I can't imagine will fail many listeners.
"Shine your light" from Bob Dylan's Slow train coming showed off the tonally somewhat darker tuning of the V2 again. This cut reminds me of Dire Straits' "Once upon a time in the West", arguably the highlight of their second LP Communique. Mark Knopfler's solo guitar floated easefully from my speakers and felt lively, organic and involving. The band's casual groove came across in full. For any cartridge, Joni Mitchell's "Help me" from Court and Spark is always a challenge. To capture vocals as specific as Mitchell's is perhaps the crown jewel amongst the many tasks one expects aced by an ambitious pickup. The Charisma V2 proved equal to it. Clear as glass and without any breaks up into nearly the highest of highs, there was perfect integration with the cool wind arrangement. The V2 didn't get ruffled by Miles Davis' Jazz Rock on Agharta on resolution either even if his big band didn't rebuild the virtual venue as assuredly as the Lyra Delos did. Like with a good widebander, a benefit thereof was actually that nothing distracted from the tune which thus became particularly intelligible.
Conclusion. Naturally I can't be sure that Clearaudio's Charisma V2 is the best MM cartridge to market. I am certain though that it's a truly fantastic all'rounder with very little competition in the MM sector. The real challengers in fact will be in the MC camp but even there the V2 should stay solidly in the running. True, the frequency extremes won't be as explicit but that's noticeable only by direct contrast. On its own merit, the tuning felt perfectly balanced and simply 'beautiful' due to a warmer tonality which portrayed the mids as nearly fleshy. Dynamics seemed uncut, virtual vistas were more intimate yet resolution remained high due to the Boron suspension and Prime Line diamond cut. This pickup is very easy to like and follow the music with. And that's what counts!
Type: MM pickup
Weight: 9 grams
Recommended tracking force: ~2.4g
Output voltage: 3.6mV (5cm/s)
Recommended loaded: 47kΩ
Other: Boron needle shaft, Prime Line diamond profile, double polishing, ebony body
Warranty: 2 years
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