The esteemed editor has referred (in our Twitter feed) to the fact that I have been having something of an Italian year, and that theme continues with this review. Let me hasten to say that thus far my Italian adventures have been thoroughly enjoyable perhaps because they were an opportunity to hear great components which have not previously crossed my path, and one of the joys of this hobby/obsession/vocation (delete as appropriate) is for me, at least expanding one’s horizons.
The Chario Delphinus is the smallest of the Constellation II series, the “entry level” of the four range Chario lie-up. The UK importer is John McMahon of iStereos, who included a very helpful note with the review pair of Delphinus, some of which I am using here to fill in the factual information about these stand mount loudspeakers. He told me of the bottom-mounted bass port and that the built-in feet were specifically designed to give an optimum space between the loudspeaker and the top plate of the chosen stand. He urged me to ensure that the Delphinus stood on a robust surface so that they can give of their best. After some experimentation, I balanced a polished granite worktop saver on a tripod of StillPoints Ultra SS, arrayed on the top plate of the HiFi Racks solid oak stands I use for my own small loudspeakers. Although this arrangement looked a bit Heath-Robinson it worked surprisingly well, placing the tweeters at ear level, which is ideal. I also experimented with toe-in, and found that having the baffle firing directly at my listening chair worked best. I would not want to use them in a room bigger than my 16 x 12 foot (5 x 4m) lounge – there are other Chario models more appropriate for large rooms.
John also told me that the Charios were new so needed some running-in. I left critical listening for a couple of weeks once they had been set up, but it was gratifying to hear the sound definitely improving over that period. Let us spend a moment discussing the build quality and finish of these Charios. First of all, they may be relatively small but they are reassuringly hefty (the shipped weight per pair is 20kg). The slightly curved side panels are a matte-finished real walnut (sourced from a sustainable forest) and are extremely attractive. The craftsmanship is self-evident, and I have no doubt that these loudspeakers would outlive most prospective purchasers. The single-wire binding posts also seem to be very high quality. The black grilles are removable. I tried the sound with and without them, and most of my listening was done with the grilles in place. They seem to be acoustically transparent.
Hooked up to my trusty Yamaha A-S3000 integrated amplifier via Tellurium Q Ultra Black II cable, I really put these Charios through their paces, with an extremely varied selection of music and they performed well above my expectations, given their retail price and their lowly place in the Chario product range. Playing vinyl, silver discs and streaming from my Naim UnitiServe or Tidal, they did a very fine job of communicating the music and, more importantly to me, the emotion of a musical performance. Voices, whether speaking or singing, were extremely well reproduced and very believable, which made listening to a soprano like Emma Kirkby a real joy.
My musical choices ranged from AC/DC to ZZ Top, and encompassed rock, blues, jazz and both large scale classical and chamber music. The Charios sounded best with smaller scale things for the most part, giving wonderful tone to acoustic instruments. That is not to say that they don’t rock, because they do, but it is not their real forte. One of my favourite musicians is the late great and much missed JJ Cale. The Delphinus did him proud, his voice and guitar both coming though beautifully.
Imaging is good with a very credible soundstage being presented. The Charios do not present that holographic three dimensional effect that the very best (and far more expensive) designs can do, but musicians seemed to occupy their own space and who was doing what and where was very clear.
The bass was tuneful, and the downward firing bass port certainly did its job without in any way drawing attention to itself. The midrange was really excellent and the high frequencies were clear and had plenty of “air”. The sound also held up well at lower volumes, which is good news for those of us who prefer not to use headphones for late night listening.
Chario has a very loyal worldwide following (as I discovered through the Chario Facebook group) and for good reason, if these ‘entry level’ examples of their craft are anything to go by. The retail model in the UK is interesting, as they are available via the online only Audiophile Buyers Club, for which membership has to be requested. However that tiresome may sound, if you want to hear these or indeed other Chario loudspeakers it is worth the small investment of your time and effort.
The Chario Constellation II Delphinus will reward the owner who invests in appropriate stands with a sufficiently large top plate to allow the four built-in feet to stand securely, or on a relatively deep book shelf or a desk top. These are grown up loudspeakers for the discerning listener. They deserve to be paired with high quality amplification and sources and will give many years of musical pleasure, which to me is the point of our sometimes baffling hobby.