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For me Serblin's loudspeakers arrived at a very opportune juncture taking their place in a line of other ambitious speakers I’d evaluated in the months prior like the German Physiks HRS120 Carbon, Isophon Berlina RC7 and Ascendo System ZF3 S.E. In this list I would also include the Avalon Ascendant; my previous Harpia Acoustics Dobermann in-house reference whose sound I remember very well; and one of the best monitors extant, the Harbeth P3ESR. I monitored this review as I always do with Sennheiser HD800 headphones over my Leben CS-300 XS custom amplifier and my recently acquired Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo cable. I had everything necessary in place to do justice to Franco Serblin's latest creation.

The first few days with the Ktêma were less fabulous than expected however. Unlike with the Avalons this was not about finding the ideal position. The Italians integrate quite easily although there are of course some tonal balance changes contingent on boundary proximity. But these changes were not significant enough to spoil the sound. They were more of a choice between different good options – more or less bass, a somewhat wider or narrower soundstage. Here the proper qualifier was ‘different’ rather than ‘better’ or ‘worse’. I simply had to make the choice that best fit me rather than being best per se. You might insist that there is only one proper tonal balance, only one proper soundstage scale and so on. Yet when you listen to loudspeakers of this caliber you appreciate that there is no objectively single best choice. And Serblin's products surely are amongst the best.

One of the primary strengths of these is resolution. Here it is absolutely outstanding. Although I know most of Serblin's Sonus Faber designs I also know how these can still take you by surprise with their resolution. I refer mostly to the Elipsa and Stradivari models but also the very special Electa Amator MkI. Except for the treble where I peg the Electa slightly superior, the resolution of Serblin's latest is simply supreme. In a peculiar way it was this extraordinary resolution which rendered the first days with the Ktêma a bit painful. I couldn't get quite used to it. I felt there was too much midrange information. Later I realized that it was a matter of a quite significant difference between the Ktêma, the Isophon which preceded it and the Chario Academy Sonnet I used for direct comparison. On the other hand I also think that when the Ktêma arrived it was not fully broken in yet and required more time to show its full potential.

Their stupendous resolution helped me identify differences between two very high-end preamplifiers, the Ayon Polaris III and the Thrax Dionysos. Both are peak performance machines. This makes it impossible to cross-reference them with any superior product to concretise differences and strong and weak points.

It was easiest to appreciate Ktêma’s resolution by analyzing the bass. Yes this is no mistake. The Ktêma’s bass range is astonishing. Only once before had I encountered anything slightly superior still by way of Hansen's Prince v2. There bass had been extended even further and also had been more muscular. Yet Serblin's speakers better differentiated the upper bass to distinguish between different recordings and different double basses where the Hansen tended to homogenize this band slightly.

In general the Ktêma’s bass prowess was to be expected by those two giant woofers breathing out its back through narrow vertical slots. Even so it was not predictable what their effects might be on very specific placing and boundary loading. Here it seemed that Serblin’s special cabinet geometry serves a very practical purpose other than separating it from the competition (which clearly is successful too). Bass quantity can be manipulated by different in-room placement but it’s a matter of only two options – a lot of bass or even more bass. If memory serves I always obtained rich bass from big speakers in this room and I never tried to fight it but always rather fancied it. It makes recordings sound more natural and endowed with verve, never lean and clinical which is often the case with currently recorded fare.

For me this tonal balance is the preferred one. Does it mean best or most realistic? It’s probably not perfectly neutral in the absolute sense but to be honest, I categorically reject neutrality that does not fully serve the music. I care about musical communion, not any Pyrrhic victory of absolute neutrality. As long as it serves its purpose, neutrality is vital of course. While the Ktêma's tonal balance was simply slightly shifted downwards, I found it very attractive.