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Review: Lyravox Karlotta Audio System

Review: Lyravox Karlotta audio system has quite a few customers who approach their loudspeakers primarily from the design point of view.

Much has been written about the pros and cons of active speakers. However, my guess is that neither the technology nor the realizable sound performance are the really decisive reasons that speak for or against the purchase of active ones. It’s a bit like the record here. Either you like it – or you don’t. Either you think it’s good that “all that junk over there” disappears – after all, modern active speakers often not only come with power amplifiers, but also with preamp and D/A converter functions, so you can save on these components, what for creates a tidy impression in the living room. Or that is exactly the central argument why active speakers are notbe allowed to enter the sacred audiophile halls: You don’t let your toys be taken away from you like that! There seems to be little space between these poles.

It’s all the more amusing when you see the men from Lyravox gets to know. Loudspeakers can hardly appear tidier and more stylish than the creations of the Hamburg manufacturer, and the active Karlotta (price: 26,800 euros) is a typical representative of this product portfolio, which is more reminiscent of brands such as USM, Ligne Roset or Rolf Benz than classic hi-fi. On the one hand. On the other hand, you then sit down with the Lyravox bosses from Laffert and Wietschorke over the first coffee and chat about the best-sounding LAN cables and switches, and are asked what the power supply for the Fritzbox is actually like, which power cord you use that Karlotta intends to use – and whether you don’t want to put a reasonable base under the music server (subtext: just put it in the rack, that can’t work out). It gets even funnier when measuring the loudspeakers. who thinks now they run two sweeps and that’s it… well, he doesn’t know them well. It feels more like 20, and the measurements are just the beginning. Then they “timbre” by ear, as they put it. Which can take a few hours. In short: a modern look and audiophile freak music go hand in hand here.

Lyravox Karlotta – technology & concept

The Karlotta is Lyravox’s second-largest loudspeaker, but at 109 cm it’s no taller than the €9,000 cheaper Karlina that we visited a year and a half ago. But it is wider: the baffle measures 45 cm in this dimension. Typical for Lyravox: The Karlotta also looks like a “sloping board” and is therefore the exact opposite of a slimline design with a narrow front and deep housing. Personally, I like the look a lot better – and acoustically, the width can be advantageous, especially for the tweeter.

Für den Hoch- und Mitteltonzweig setzt die Lyravox Karlotta auf Keramik-Treiber von Accuton

Where we are at the typical of the Lyravox concept: Of course, the Karlotta comes with a ceramic chassis from Accuton for the low-mid and high-frequency branches, two 17 cm cones and a 30 mm inverted dome from the Pulheim specialists adorn the front. On the back, on the other hand, there is a long-throw 10-inch Scan-Speak speaker, which serves the frequencies below 80 Hertz – it is in a bass reflex housing , whose two output ports work invisibly on the Karlotta’s artificial stone base. Finally, on top of the “roof” of the active ones, there is an AMT that is passively integrated via an upstream capacitor, which should beneficially support the diffuse sound field from 5000 Hertz.

Der AMT auf der Oberseite der Lyravox Karlotta unterstützt das Diffusschallfeld

The most obvious difference to the smaller Karlina: The Lyravox Karlotta has one more bass-midrange driver, two such ceramic 7-inch drivers clamp the tweeter in a D’Appolito-like manner. According to Wietschorke, however, it is not a strict D’Appolito, because otherwise the crossover frequency would be “outside the driver’s comfort zone”. Separation at 2200 Hertz has proven to be optimal and fulfills the desired purpose of vertical bundling – quite sensible for a loudspeaker that is often used in somewhat larger rooms with correspondingly larger listening distances, the Lyravox developer continues.

Auf der Rückseite der Lyravox Karlotta bearbeitet ein 10-Zöller von Scan-Speak die Frequenzgefilde unterhalb von 80 Hertz

The three-way concept is driven by three Hypex NCore modules, which provide a total of 600 watts per channel – 250 watts each for the bass and midrange, 100 watts for the upper register. The separation of the paths and the entire crossover characteristic is realized via DSP – and this is also where the adjusting screws lie, which enable the loudspeaker to be calibrated to the respective listening room and taste. A professional service that Lyravox recommends and that costs an extra 1,000 euros. As indicated, there is much more at stake here than just one or two room modes to iron smooth. Together with the customer, the sound is fine-tuned. If desired, alternative sound presets (e.g. TV sound, “pretty up old recordings”, rock vs. classic, etc.) can also be stored, which can then be conveniently called up using the remote control. Of course, the volume and the input can also be selected via the encoder.

 

 

Das Anschlussfeld der Lyravox Karlotta

Speaking of which: the Lyravox Karlotta can be recorded digitally (coaxial S/PDIF, Toslink and AES/EBU) and analog (RCA, XLR) – analog signals are of course immediately digitized internally for further processing in the DSP. When the first version of the Lyravox Karlotta was introduced in 2017, it still had a streamer on board as standard. That is no longer the case – the reason: Instead of chasing after the fast-moving audio streaming market, the Hamburg company prefers to concentrate on their core competence, loudspeaker construction.

I mainly controlled the Lyravox via the coaxial S/PDIF input, because the digital signal feed seems to be the most consistent thing with such a loudspeaker. (Of course, the Karlotta was also controlled analog, and that doesn’t sound very different. However, I don’t think it makes much sense to connect a DAC, streamer or CD player analog, because what’s the point of converting D/A first and then immediately turning the role backwards ? On the other hand, the A/D conversion works so well that the charm of vinyl playback comes across well on my set of SME Model 15A and BMC Audio Phonopre.)

Lyravox Karlotta: hearing test

Of course, Karlotta can sing something to you in any voice range, because with the calibration you have control over how she behaves tonally. That’s why I don’t want to go into too much detail about the over-all tonality, because it’s variable. For our test, the Lyravox was calibrated balanced-neutral.

Lyravox Karlotta im Hörraum

basement

In the bass, an active speaker must of course also be able to implement the specifications that it receives from the DSP – now just look at it purely “quantitatively”. The nice thing about active speakers is, of course, that they don’t have to be as expansive as passive representatives for a substantial and really deep bass reproduction. The Lyravox Karlotta is no exception.

Die Schallwand der Lyravox Karlotta neigt sich nach hinten

And yet their bass surprises me. Probably also because the eye doesn’t find anything on the baffle that really fits what’s being heard – the sub is on the back. Fired up with pertinent low-frequency test tracks (such as Burnt Friedman’s “Designer Groove”, Eels’ “Going to your funeral” and James Blakewith “Limit to your love”) and leveled the volume to “Just like in the club!”, the elegant Hamburg native shows that she can also hit hard and roughly. Very nice. I briefly panic when I hear a clear clink. Oh yes, the all clear … but only the showcase again, which grooves along ten meters further in the dining room. Karlotta herself stays cool. Put your finger on the thumb-thick bead of the 10-incher on the back: Yes, of course, it moves. But even at these levels, it’s still far from “pumping”. It should also be possible to celebrate parties in larger rooms. In any case, a bass or level weakness does not appear that quickly. It’s nice when noble high-end can also rock.

Lyravox Karlotta - Tieftontreiber

Two comments on the quality of what is happening. First: In contrast to her smaller sister Karlina, the bass with Karlotta comes across more light-footed and swinging. This is still not the same as with 15 inch cardboard, dipole constructions or backloaded horns, but it is noticeably more in the direction of springy response. I like that. Second: I would like to describe the “consistency” in the basement as predominantly sticky. It doesn’t get floury all the way down in the sub-bass, but it does get a little softer. In general, maximum dryness is not the goal of the Karlotta: graded, differentiated, supple – absolutely. But never as hard-edged as an equally expensive Ascendo Live 15said James Blake track. And yes, the Ascendo is also superior to it in terms of coarse dynamics, especially in the low frequency range. Like actually all loudspeakers in this price range that I know.

Lyravox Karlotta von der Seite

core competencies

Of course, she can’t hold a candle to the Karlotta in the middle and high frequency range, although she is quite good here, seen in absolute terms. But it can be done better, Lyravox proves it, and that is probably mainly due to the fact that it is equipped with Accuton ceramic drivers and the AMT. By “better” I mean: a cleaner, purer sound image, higher resolution and a more differentiated palette of tones .

Even the smaller Karlina knew how to present the music very pure and unveiled – that’s exactly what the Lyravox Karlotta masters. It is precisely the voice reproduction that turns out to be a super-intensive number for her, and not only with audiophile recordings. Portishead ‘s debut album Dummy  was not released by Stockfisch Records, but the trip-hop masterpiece comes across very well – as intended, crackling and with LoFi charm. Beth Gibbons’ singing on “It could be sweet” then really gets you: pure, close up, rich in detail, naked. I feel the same way about PJ Harvey ‘s voice on “Is this desire?” from the album of the same name.

What is good for voices is certainly not bad for musical instruments – quite the opposite. In particular, acoustic instruments come across as very real about the Hamburg native. The strings of the Catalan troupe Cuarteto Casals (Album: Apotheosis) are strikingly real: not an iota warmed up, never wrapped in cotton wool – never harsh or artificial. Optionally airy and fragrant on top of that, provided with air – but without extra shine. And the dynamic gradations, whether coarse or fine, are first-class differentiated in these frequency areas. Normal passive loudspeakers often seem a bit “slower” in the up and down coat. More polite maybe, yes, but also less lively/real.

Accuton Tiefmitteltontreiber der Lyravox Karlotta

Something else is noticeable: the mids and highs of the Lyravox Karlotta are an acoustic unit, there is no break, no transition. Anyone who fears the opposite because of the built-in AMT driver can be reassured. Maybe logical, after all, the accordion driver only supports the diffuse field.

comparisons

All well and good – but can’t other speakers do the same? Well, not everyone. The Ascendo convinces in terms of limit dynamics and in the bass, as I said, but it does not have the particular strengths of the Lyravox Karlotta in the mid/high range. The Karlina from the same company does – but it doesn’t keep up in the bass, in terms of coarse dynamics and in terms of the possible maximum level. That’s why large orchestras simply sound more convincing with the Karlotta.

And how does the Hamburg native compare it to an active “exotic” like the audiophile FAST cylindric ? Well, it doesn’t come close to the Lyravox either dynamically or in terms of detail resolution, which can also be forgiven given the starting price, which is a good 10,000 euros cheaper. However, when it comes to the spectacularly expansive spatial representation, none of the speakers mentioned can beat it. Of course, you also have to be prepared to place a 1.8 m high line array in the living room.

Speaking of stage

But one should not think that the Lyravox Karlotta is compact. The opposite is the case. As the recording shows, their spatial design appears more spacious than that of many other loudspeakers. A “window to the music” is not offered as much: You know – this feeling that there is a kind of frame on the base line of the speakers through which you have to listen, because behind itplays the music. No – Karlotta’s design seems freer. The musicians are simply in the listening room, with the area in which they move around the speakers like a large oval. In other words: it goes forward, it goes backwards – and sometimes it goes outwards, beyond the lateral speaker boundaries. The overall size of this virtual space and the breadth of the panorama in particular are more striking than the depth of the stage, which is well lit, which is not unusual in this league.

The same applies to the image quality: precise, handy, clearly structured – yes. But not so holographically plastic that I would like to emphasize it in particular, as it seemed to me to be the case with the passive Dynaudio Confidence 50 (26,000 euros, including DAC & amplification as in the test, around 46,000 euros). I would rather like to highlight another talent of the Karlotta: She can reproduce the atmosphere and the room reverberation of the recording situation incredibly well. I suspect that’s largely because it’s there at the extremes of frequency – low bass always does well in terms of space, and completing the diffuse field at the top is certainly not a bad idea. In any case, I feel with Karlotta on my current favorite baroque music albumSilent Laments immediately beamed into the nave – and transferred to the Reykjavik Arts Festival with Lhasa de Sela’s live record . It’s really great how the Lyravox recreates the respective mood.

Conclusion: Lyravox Karlotta

It can be assumed that the Hamburg-based manufacturer Lyravox has quite a few customers who approach their loudspeakers primarily from the design point of view. More important for us audiophiles is that not only the eyes, but also the ears get their money’s worth. The Lyravox Karlotta is not just another active loudspeaker, but a very harmonious hi-fi system that only needs a digital player to put a permanent grin on the faces of the majority of listeners.

Lyravox Karlotta - von vorne und von hinten

Thanks to the possibility of adjusting to personal taste and the listening room, its high sound potential should also be accessible in most cases. Karlotta plays very broadband, is never too subtle for level and dynamic attacks, but has her special talents when it comes to audiophile subtleties: she draws a very pure sound image, offers high resolution and a rich palette of timbres. This Lyravox is a real generalist.

The Lyravox Karlotta…

  • plays very broadband and offers an overall tonality “to taste” thanks to the possibility of calibration. Most will probably choose a neutral-balanced tuning, as that supports a key strength of this speaker,…
    • namely the very high resolving power. In relation to the sporty price range, something extraordinary is also on offer here. This is particularly evident in the mid and high frequency bands. Tonal shades are fanned out cleanly, room reverberation and the sustain/decay of instruments are meticulously traced, microdynamic details are revealed purely and unrounded.
  • offers – thanks to calibration – quantitatively what you want in the bass. She can play very deep down. Qualitatively more on the semi-dry side. Impulses in the bass come immediately and springily.
  • Dynamically complete, even if horn-supported systems play differently. The Karlotta is stable.
  • draws a large and especially wide stage space and places individual sound sources freely and safely. Image precision and stage depth are good, but nothing exceptional in this league. Room reverberation and atmosphere are reproduced in a first-class manner.

Facts:

  • Model: Lyravox Karlotta
  • Concept: active three-way floorstanding speaker with bass reflex system
  • Price: from 26,800 euros (pair)
  • Dimensions & weight: 45 x 109 x 19 cm (WxHxD; base: 38 cm deep), 55 kg/each
  • Power: 2 x 600 watts sinus
  • Finishes: standard: matt white; Desired color and special finishes on request
  • Inputs: three digital inputs (AES/EBU, S/PDIF coaxial, Toslink), two line level inputs (XLR, RCA)
  • Miscellaneous: extensive DSP options; room acoustics correction; three sound profiles can be saved; automatic on/off and source switching; Remote control; individual measurement at the customer: 1,000 euros
  • Guarantee: 5 years

 

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