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Señor Israel also represents Mastersound some of whose amps have already made the fairaudio rounds. He thus has hands-on experience with valve amps relative to the Karis. Even so interactions between tube output stages and speakers are complex and unpredictable. I wasn’t convinced that the Karis completely cottoned to my valve-fitted Jadis Orchestra. Time for my Exposure 2010S. I know this quick lean transistor amp like the back of my hand. Its sticker makes it a sensible match and I remain certain that the small Exposure punches well above its weight class. And what to say? The combo made for a dream team.
Fretting much over setup turned out unnecessary. Here the speaker behaved quite unfussy. Perched atop the matching stand the Karis II and room got along quickly as long as I avoided undue proximity with the front wall. Otherwise they played it very tolerant. I didn’t even have to aim directly at my listening seat. The off-axis response seemed well developed. The finely conceived neatly finished grills could stay. The open metal grids had no audible effect. If I ultimately listened without them ‘twas solely because I love watching little drivers hard at work.
Leashed to the Exposure did reset Lana del Ray’s voice to again be properly anchored between Country and Soul. The bass was still mighty but showed more control. Swell, everything had locked in. The Exposure it was. Ready for a spin.
Sound. As my intro gave away, this combo really pulled a massive live stunt with the Oscar Peterson Trio. The recording’s values nicely complemented the speaker’s character. The recorded ambiance is very acute but lacks that localization sharpness and artificial feathering out so typical for many contemporary studio productions.
Faced with the unadulterated live acoustics of the Gürzenich these small speakers got on like peanut butter with jelly. No, I couldn’t pinpoint each and every piano string nor perceive the position of each tom and drum down to the final centimeter. What the Karis countered with were cubits of atmosphere which had me mostly forget about any ultimate details.
Audience din, Peterson’s unselfconscious vocalizing, his potent piano play – that’s exactly how it must have sounded in 1961. The percussion at stage rear didn’t exhibit the nearfield transients of modern recordings precisely because it sat farther away. With the concomitantly more diffusive dispersion it sounds a bit softer. Anyone who’s ever attended a Jazz concert knows the effect. Modern productions compensate with spot microphones. Those capture direct emissions sans reflections and generously season the main ambient mix which no longer sounds live at all as your ears would have heard it. Never mind, this naturally softer bass suited the talents of the Italian minis fine.
I was particularly smitten with their swing. My foot tapped along not just with Oscar Peterson but also Paul Anka’s Rock Swings. The drum set on this album was clearly more closely mic’d and hence didn’t develop the punch I know from my Geithains. Yet the upright bass exhibited lovely fat for a foundation I could readily embrace. These mini monitors sounded positively huge. When one listens with eyes closed for longer stretches, it’s a bit insulting to be reminded afterwards that all that sound emerged from just these boxes.
Our importer had a rationale for why they play so big. The reason is the enclosure. The solid wood construction and shape create broadly varying wall thicknesses whose acoustic properties become part of the final sound. Designer Alessandro Schiavi isn’t after deliberately live cabinets like Harbeth or Ocellia whose thin-walled enclosures become active sound contributors over specific bands. Yet complete elimination of box talk isn’t his ideal either. The most common solutions for enclosure damping merely concentrate the resonant frequencies into narrower bands where they become more troubling.