May
2024

Country of Origin

Spain

Mac Beth

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (i5, 256GB SSD, 40GB RAM, Sonoma 14), 4TB external SSD with Thunderbolt 3, Audirvana Studio, Qobuz Sublime, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, LHY Audio SW-8 & SW-6 switch, Laiv Audio Harmony; Active filter: Lifesaver Audio Gradient Box 2; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos & Gold Note monos on subwoofer; Headamp: Enleum AMP-23R; Phones: Raal 1995 Immanis, HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Qualio IQ [on loan] Cables: Kinki Studio Earth, Furutech; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: FiiO R7 into Soundaware D300Ref SD transport to Cen.Grand DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe; Preamp/filter: Lifesaver Audio Gradient Box 2; Amplifier: Kinki Studio EX-M7; Headamp: Cen.Grand Silver Fox; Loudspeakers: MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini + Dynaudio S18 sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF, Akiko Audio Corelli; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win10/64; USB bridge: Singxer SU-2; DAC: Sonnet Pasithea; Headamp: Kinki Studio THR-1; Speaker amp: Crayon CFA-1.2; Speakers: Acelec Model One
Headphones: Final D-8000 & Sonorous X, Audeze LCD-XC, Raal-Requisite SR1a on Schiit Jotunheim R
Upstairs headfi system: FiiO R7, COS Engineering D1, Cen.Grand Silver Fox; Headphones: Raal 1995 Magna, Meze 109 Pro, Fiio FT3

2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m

Review component retail: €22'500/pr, add €3'500/pr for stands

In 2016 I reviewed Kroma Atelier's maiden Julieta speaker—4th from the left above—after I'd attended their public premiere at a Granada reveal party. Later I followed up with a review of Mimí, 5th from the left. At this year's HighEnd Munich show they introduced their new Irya and Jovita models. As the chorus line of 8" 2-way Mac Beth monitor shows next, aside from the stock white of their signature Krion synthetic stone, they now also offer these six surcharge Aston Martin paint finishes. The classic models' sides can transform into art panels painted by Juan Pablo Perez Vacas; or turn inlays executed in champagne, titanium, aluminium, root Walnut, carbon-fibre or 24K gold. Across Kroma's now 13-deep range, we see a uniform adoption of hi-tech cellulose or aluminium Purifi dynamic drivers from Denmark and Mundorf AMT tweeters from Germany.

Kroma's classic range spans from €10'500 to €75'000 in the upper left group. The 5-deep Signature Series in the middle bridges €14'500 to €90'000/pr. The heavy hitters of the Reference range introduce curved cabinetry and start with Irya at €150'000, continue with Turandot at €240'000 then top out with Maribel at a whopping €380'000 whilst simultaneously throwing down 220kg per side.

Unless one lives palatially, Kroma's best even with the requisite buying power will make little sense. Whatever headroom of SPL and bass power Maribel packs—i.e. how unflappably loud and low she can go with twin 15" woofers per side—standard listening rooms and ears won't ever test. We'd all tap out long before. In that sense flagship speakers can be V12 propositions which most of us would only ever drive in 2nd gear. In my league and reality, Kroma's top monitor would likely suit best. It's why I suggested to review that colourful character from Giuseppe Verdi's Macbeth opera; should such interest be reciprocated in sunny Granada. If Western Ireland was too rainy for our Spaniards, I'd not blame them at all.

After discussing it with chief designer Javier Milan and the rest of his team, marketing manager Valentina Castelucci referred me to their UK distributor Guillaume of Boyer Audio to organize review samples. She simply thought that he might already have plans for his Mac Beth samples. From my end, the first specs I always and instantly peruse for potential speaker dates are their weight and dimensions. The reason will be plain. If I'm doubtful that by my lonesome I can unbox and repack temporary loaners without causing damage to them or myself, I must respectfully decline. My second requirement is fully pre-conditioned arrival. I won't shut down my work space cum home to burn in speakers for a few weeks whilst evicting my wife and I for incessant noise pollution. A few days of coming-on-song action after transportation are obviously par for the course. That's different.

What might Guillaume have in mind and on his floor fully run in that could suit us both? At the Hifi Deluxe show running concurrently with HighEnd Munich but in the Marriott hotel not convention center, his team had hosted this most ambitious system to showcase their five brands Bassocontinuo, Engström, Kroma Atelier, Shunyata Research and Wadax. With my ancillary situation a few rungs lower because my wallet is far slimmer as is my room smaller, we'd obviously be setting our sights lower. Flagship product deserves flagship context. That means reviewers who actually live not fake that style and command the requisite capacious accommodations. Particularly with speakers never bite off more than you can chew. Overloading a room with bass isn't at all enjoyable.

Whilst awaiting Guillaume's reply, I reflected on the fact that since their emergence less than a decade ago, Kroma have grown from a single model to thirteen. That suggests resourcefulness and success in the market. One doesn't expand like this with poor feedback and insufficient orders. The Reference models must reflect appetite and demand from affluent markets where not just sonic performance matters but also cachet, style and gold detailing. Be it cars, wrist watches or sneakers, a well-off clientele luxuriates in the finer things. Fulfilling their desire if one has the resources and skills makes good business sense. Against Kroma's astonishing growth right through the Covid crisis, 'good', 'business' and 'sense' would appear wrapped in a happy group hug. Can you blame me for wanting some of that luv even if just for a few short weeks? Also, I'd never yet experienced Purifi drivers in our own four walls. Germany's uncrowned speaker pope Joachim Gerhardt, founder of Audio Physic, uses them in his current products. So does Rainer Weber in his latest Colibri mini for Kaiser Acoustics. Both men are brilliant designers. I wanted some of that tech, too. Now you know how we got here. How about what got here?