PenAudio is not a well known speaker
name. Neither it was for me few years ago, when PenAudio was
"discovered". Some of our readers persistently insisted us
to make a review about their first, hitherto unknown stand mounted loudspeaker, the PenAudio 7.6cx. We did that, compared it also
agaist most of the "recommended components" of that
My colleagues and I were impressed
what we heard from a loudspeaker with such a ridiculous price.
PenAudio 7.6cx became soon a local success, which was quite an
achievement in our small, but very competitive local market.
Since this introductory model,
PenAudio's designer Sami Penttilä launched several, but more risky
designs, all of which we have reviewed in
Charisma & Charm is their first,
ambitious concept for a matched stand mounted loudspeaker and an active
Charisma's habitus is much more tiny
than one could imagine from the pictures. It has a slim frontplate and a
relatively deep enclosure. As a whole, the design looks very
distinct, classy and proportionally very harmonic. Finish is as
lavish as one could expect from a loudspeaker of this price.
Charisma is a two-way, vented
speaker. Its crossover capacitors are manufactured by SCR with a
polypropylene isolation. Coils and internal wiring is made of
Alpha-Gore copper foil. Connectors are WBT's platinum plated
signature version. The Charisma ag is a special version with silver foil inductors and
internal wires, all of with an
extra price. We used the "regular" version with copper
wiring for this review.
Loudspeaker's drivers are manufactured by
SEAS. 120 mm custom made mid/bass element is fiber. Center of the coils are
fitted with shortcut rings made of copper, in order to minimize
distortion. The tweeter, a 20 mm soft dome, is a non-resonating
design, its frequency range expands up to ultrasonic frequencies up
to 25 kHz range. This provides a very good match with the SACD and
DVD-Audio high resolution format players. Charismas are supplied with a speaker
Charm, the active subwoofer,
creates a matched combination together with the Charisma. Charm is a
sealed compound design with two aluminum, 215 mm woofers in a serial
array, progressively suspended, which -- according to manufacturer,
improves power handling capability. Phase plugs are designed to cool 39 mm
4-layer voice coils. Woofers are also custom made by SEAS.
Control panel is placed on the front
side of the enclosure. The adjustments consist of a gain, a phase, a
low and a high pass setting and an adjustable subsonic filter.
Charm Subwoofer's Control Panel
The manufacturer advices to position
the speakers at a 2,5 - 3,5 meters distance from the listener in an
equidistant triangle. I tried the speakers in various positions,
starting from wide. Best result was indeed
achieved as recommended.
During my listening sessions,
Charismas were connected directly to the power amplifier, however
there was another option, too: In order to gain maximum dynamics of
the system, manufacturer recommends using Charm's high pass filter
for cutting high energy for upper bass before feeding the Charismas.
In such case the Charismas have to be connected into Charm's
I tried active crossover's high pass mode
briefly, it appeared to improve the dynamics a large deal, but there
was slight trade off in transparency. As my listening volumes are
quite normal, I preferred to use direct connection from the Power
Amplifier to Charismas in order to capture maximum details and precise
imaging out of the recordings.
I placed the subwoofer well behind
the speakers by the wall. Finding the best setting with the Charm
was an easy task: Low pass setting was at 80 Hz, Gain at 11 o'clock,
zero degree phase
setting, subsonic filter off.
The manufacturer is known of their
attempt to pursue "accurate replay" -- the neutral tone
without coloration. This is a design philosophy behind Charisma and
Charm as well.
I checked challenging large orchestra
playback qualities on heavily orchestrated work, March
Triumphal on Edward Elgar's opera Charactacus. Brass and
timpani were quite convincing, although I might have heard slightly
better resolution with some of the recent ring
radiator and plasma
tweeter designs. Works of this scale demands a lot for dynamics and
capability to reproduce visceral impact convincinly. Overall Charm &
Charismas did this surprisingly well. Convincing was also the depth of the
Delicate sound of period instruments
of early music ensembles sounded impressive. Violin and vocals on masterful
recording of Bach/ Morimur (ECM) was a truly uplifting
experience through these speakers.
Niels Henning Oerstedt-Pedersen's
magnificent album Friends Forever offers a very good test for the
treble. There must be millions of distinct tones of the cymbals and
percussions on the album. Charismas reproduced almost all of them,
however I might have missed the smallest decays and cymbal vibrations.
On the same recording there's a well
recorded, demanding piano passage. As we all know piano's attack is
very revealing for the speaker's phase and time linearity, both
being important factors to reproduce fast transients accurately. I noticed a minor
side tone on the attack, which I could not recognize with our
reference speakers. Unless being very sensitive for this, as myself,
the piano aficionado, you hardly notice anything special with
On Diana Krall's Love Scenes
both the vocals, guitar and piano played very well, no signs for
sibilance. Very nice sound from this great artist from Nanaimo,
George Duke's After Hours is a
test for speakers' bass and dynamic response. Charm and Charisma
produced very clean, warmish, controlled and resolute bass. However,
it was not too difficult to push Charismas to the limits of this
energy intensive recording. As there's another way to handle the power
sensitivity constraint, we strongly recommend to use Charm's high
pass filter in order to cut lower frequencies before feeding signal
to the Charismas.
Like other PenAudios I have reviewed,
Charisma & Charm were at their best with classical and acoustic
music. If we take into account size if these speakers and the subwoofer,
I would say designer has achieved the task with almost full scores.
Overall sound: the chorus played
admirably well; vocals were full bodied and very natural. Piano had
a very slight, bright overtone instead of being completely neutral,
guitars and strings were both very natural, the brass played very
well - however, not too openly, though. The large orchestra was both
resolute and airy.
Balance: Very neutral, smooth
and extensive higher end, rich and balanced midrange. Lower register
of Charismas, however, is not as extensive, roll-of starts at 80 Hz.
Transparency was very good and unveiled - presence of the
instruments was imminent.
Resolution - was also very
good. The speaker is missing the overall forgiveness -- some call it
"musicality", that is associated with so many
Treble as I found it, was very
smooth and delicate without a sign of sibilance. This is really well
balanced with other features of the speakers. I might have heard
even more resolute treble with ring radiators or the plasma tweeters in a system with significantly higher price.
Midrange - very rich, full
bodied. Female vocals appeared very naturally without nasality or
sibilance. Male vocals were full bodied and powerful as one should
Strings had a rich tonal palette.
Bass was dryish, sharp and
colorful; the lowest bass in Charismas dies out below 65 Hz. When
Charm was added into system, it provided very clean, well controlled
lower register down to the lowest octaves. Very impressive.
Transient response sounded accurate in tone, with a slight overtone
in piano attack. I consider it rather being a tone than a color,
far from being fatiguing
Dynamics were slightly
constrained when Charismas were feeded directly from the poweramp.
However, this was very acceptable for a speaker of this size. When
active crossover in the Charm was used, dynamic range was extended
significantly with a very slight trade off in transparency
Soundstaging was large, wide and quite
deep, however the result is very sensitive with the listening
position. Provided placing is correct, the system provides a
holographic, focused image. Unfortunately this applies to a small
listening area. If moving few inches aside, image gets out of
Visceral impact was quite good
in absolute terms, regardless of speakers physical size. It becomes
more impressive when Charismas are connected into Charms and a high
pass filter in the crossover is used for cutting high energy of
lower notes feed into Charismas.
I did like this speaker since by
getting it out of the box. I was very glad to discover that my visual
excitement was in line with the system's sonic performance: Charisma
& Charm's sound was admirably well in balance. They produced
richly detailed sound with very good soundstaging
capability. Speakers were solid all range performers, they were
at their best with
acoustic music, both classical and jazz.
Small size leads also to the
speaker's weakest point: one should not expect too much of the
dynamics if Charismas were feeded directly form the power amp
without cutting lower frequency energy first. With the Charm
subwoofer, there's always an option to do this.
I would warmly
recommend these speakers for true music enthusiasts looking superbly
performing stand mounted loudspeaker system appreciating their unique,
- Listening room 40 m2,
light acoustic treatment
- Reference speakers: Audio Physic
- Integrated Amplifier: Audio Aero
- CD player: Audio Aero Prima with
192 kHz/24 bit upsampling
- Interconnects and speaker wires:
Transparent Music Link/Wave Plus
Charisma stand mounted Loudspeakers
- stand mounted
- 2 way vented system,
- 20 mm soft dome
tweeter, ferrofluid cooling
- 120 mm custom made treated fiber cone
midrange/woofer with copper phase plug
- Frequency range: 50-25 000
- w x h x d: 140 mm x 240 mm x 285
- Weight: 7 kg
Charm Active Subwoofer
- Active subwoofer system with
adjustable bass filter
- Sealed compound design
- Two 215 mm long throw custom made
- Two 75 W RMS amplifier, ultra low
- Frequency range 16-120 Hz
- w x h x d: 350 mm x 410 mm
x 350 mm
- Weight: 20 kg
Ltd, Jyväskylä, Finland
Price: Charisma €4000/pair,
Charm €3000; incl 22% Sales Tax/VAT