Mapping. After an indulgent session with my golden ticket veered toward midnight, I moved to headphones. With the 15wpc Bakoon my very best amp for HifiMan's inefficient Susvara, those suddenly felt a bit lean and bleached. Reaching for Final's D8000 had me instantly back in the Mimí saddle. Four hours of listening to the Spandiards had locked my hearing to their balance of virtues. In the Japanese planars with stock wire harness, those mirrored ideally. That continued my session unbroken. It's how quickly our ear/brain adapts and resets.

The next day I hooked up our usual Italian transmission-line speakers with Accuton ceramic drivers to the XA-30.8. With my hearing's cache cleared overnight, moving from Aptica speakers to Susvara headphones was another take on seamless continuation. Having settled into that presentation across a few hours, suddenly donning the D8000 again felt a bit fat, warm and fuzzy. This was the key difference. As Gertrude Stein reminds us, a cymbal is a cymbal is a cymbal. Still that registers different whether hit by plastic, wood or felt-covered tip. The ceramic drivers and HifiMans handled transients more like hard tips strike cymbals or drum skins. The Finals and Mimí used felt-covered drum sticks. Depending on what you're used to, transitioning to something else at first hears losses or seeming wrongs because it relates to what came before as 'right'.

If you arrive from how hard tips whip up more crack and sharpness, soft tips seem slightly blurry, indistinct, soft and slow. But once you've acclimated to their leading-edge behaviour, hard tips aka ceramic drivers will sound a bit harmonically threadbare, whitish, damped and dry. Actual qualities don't change. Perception does by how our status quo frames it. Even if just by narrow degrees, what felt agreeably accurate and finely defined can turn to sharp, hard and bright. What was pleasantly dense and rich can seem fat, opaque and fuzzy. But acclimate and unless things were excessive before, wrong quickly becomes right and shadow sides flip around into virtuous aspects.

Why Mimí's replay of piano was so counter-intuitively impressive surely had much to do with that cellulose ScanSpeak's virtual soft tip. It behaved more like a piano's felt-covered hammers. That's distinctly different from how a guitarist's plectrum strikes a metal string (Accuton ceramic). Another difference between Albedo and Kroma speakers was the transitional band between their respective mid/woofers (smaller for Albedo) and tweeters (bigger for Albedo). The lower treble of the Accuton driver combo clearly packed more heat and separation power to register as the more sharp and brilliant. Above that, it sounded more airy. Finally the 40-80Hz register of the Albedo was slimmer and drier. It's why on the Kroma speakers I preferred Bakoon's faster grippier bass over the more generous fuller Pass. It's how all audiophiles dovetail personality traits between electronics and speakers. For my tastes, Mimí was ideally complemented by fast wide-band amplifiers like Bakoon, Crayon, Goldmund and LinnenberG from our arsenal. Such amps contribute speed, energy, impact, separation and very high resolution. The rakish Kroma boxes add density, weight, ripeness and colour intensity. From that I expected our very best downstairs match to be our 200-watt LinnenberG Liszt monos or Crayon integrated.

Delivered from Singapore to your house inside the EU for less than €2'400/pr, the true balanced Denafrips Hestia preamp and 90wpc Hyperion amp made for a financially brilliant counterpoint in my first downstairs match. Sonically this combo preceded by the matching Denafrips flagship Terminator DAC played up Kroma's signature voicing. Eyes closed, the weight and tone of this system would have had nobody guess at listening to shoe-box sized speakers. For someone splurging their majority budget on the baby Kroma, Hestia/Hyperion are a top reco. They remain inside the same aural climate whilst maximizing ROI on the remaining system budget. What's more, sub-standard width and opulent metal finishing make these Chinese electronics a great fit also on cosmetic finesse. And why shouldn't a luxurious hifi look as good as it sounds?

To maximize resolution, articulation, speed and ambient recovery, our Liszt monos with some gentle sub 50Hz Submission sub then gilded this lily. Now a bona fide full-range rig in a 10m long room with high ceiling, an actual advantage this had over the Audio Physic 4-way Codex usually at work here was to eliminate certain elevated notes in an electric bass' descent. Where the Codex rides a room node to have 2-3 notes pork out and ring a bit, the Kroma/Zu combo did not. To my ears, blending in a sub at ~40Hz is ideal. It makes Kroma's smallest a perfect candidate for a three-some. 80-120Hz is too high. It never fools my ears into a seamless blend. That's why you want a monitor that hits about 40 cycles. With mono coverage of the first octave, the lowest bass obviously didn't have the same weight as the stereo output of our floorstanders. Yet in trade I had superior intelligibility without any room interference. On linearity, this performance reminded me of our best headphones where room behaviour never factors at all.

Though some of it must be mere psychology, small speakers always seem far spookier soundstagers than the coffin types. Here the clever stand deflectors probably had their own say in this wicked disappearance act. So, cinerama panorama, very linear response, admirably developed tone, weighty images, high tonal mass, capable of putting it out… the only minor lack was the last word in top-end air and glossiness. Here the bigger dynamic tweeter plus monopole electrostatic super tweeter of the EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1 took their revenge for costing nearly double.