It's not often we come across the word ‘polyhedric', whether connected with hi-fi or not. However, peruse Diapason's sales brochure and there it is, along with phrases like ‘staves of solid walnut', used to describe the cabinet construction, and ‘direct drive' technology – referring to the lack of an electrical crossover between the mid/bass driver and speaker terminals.
All this suggests the Karis aren't your run-of-the-mill speakers, and the accompanying photograph should be enough to confirm that fact. What might not be so apparent is just how small these boxes really are. Looked at straight on, they take up less space than a sheet of A4 paper. To put it another way, they're about as small as speakers get without wearing the ‘satellite' label.
Add the compact dimensions to a mid/bass driver barely 11cm in diameter, and it's obvious that bass-lovers should look elsewhere… or is it?
Ace of bass
When it comes to bass, there's quality and there's quantity. The Karis deliver a truckload of the former, and more of the latter than the specs suggest. Even so, these speakers can't defy the laws of physics (Jim!), and bigger speakers at this price undoubtedly go lower and louder.
However, the Karis do enough - enough not to keep reminding you of their limitations, and enough to give music a firm foundation. Diapason bass is taut, agile and tuneful, so while the lowest notes might be missing, such is the delivery of the upper harmonics that you're never in doubt what's happening.
Burning Spear's Rastaman thunders along with plenty of attitude, while Schubert's Symphony No.9 ‘The Great' is delivered with pleasing authority and passion. The Karis might be little, but they certainly don't hold back in terms of dynamics or scale. You can add iceberg-crisp timing to the list of plus points, with an impressive dose of resolution.
These speakers aren't analysis tools, as you might describe similarly priced B&Ws or Spendors. They don't dissect a recording or go out of their way to highlight production errors. The Karis have a sweeter disposition, partly due to a smooth, full-bodied midrange that delivers vocals with breathtaking panache, and partly because the treble lacks any form of harshness or edge.
The tonal presentation helps, too, because it's tailored so that the limited (in terms of extension) bass is balanced by high frequencies that aren't too pronounced. The result is a slight lack of air and a loss of the cut-glass transparency of the very best. However, the payback is the eminently listenable presentation the Karis achieves so easily.
Unusually for speakers of this type, the Karis don't turn out to be fussy when it comes to stands or positioning. Place the speakers on something really rigid, a little away from the back wall, and you won't go far wrong.
So, the Karis aren't flawless, but if you want an immaculately built, luxuriously finished pair of quality ultra-compact speakers, these are an excellent choice.