Hands on review: Theophany Katheros Speakers
Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction, and in the case of Theophany, the words bizarre but wonderful spring to mind.
Theophany speakers have built a devoted following amongst audiophiles. Sales are going from strength to strength as the world beats a track to their door to hear Theophany speakers strut their stuff.
According to Theophany CEO, Garth Murray, and 2/3rds of the people who their showrooms buy the speakers. Even more impressive still is the fact that many cry when listening them for the first time.
If this seems more than a little bizarre, it's just peanuts compared to how Theophany speakers came into existence.
The Theophany Story
Before Theophany, Garth worked as an air traffic controller. He was diagnosed with a serious case of septicemia following surgery. After returning home, his health worsened. His memory began to falter. Eventually doctors found Garth had suffered a series of minor strokes, leaving him with memory damage (Garth has thankfully mostly recovered).
A side effect of all this was that Garth was spending lots of time sleeping as he recovered.
It was during this sleep that Garth began to experience an ongoing series of vivid dreams where he was building speakers.
Noting details such as the speaker dimensions from of a ruler in one of his dreams, Garth began to take notes whenever he woke up.
As he began to recover, Garth started to learn how to build what were literally the speakers of his dreams.
The speaker dreams still continue to happen and have formed the basis of many of Theophany's speakers.
A few years back, I reviewed a set of Theophany epiphany speakers and a Sub woofer. I liked them so much I bought them. Having been approached to check out their latest speakers, the Katharos, I once again find myself eying up my bank balance.
The Katharos speakers are a floor standing speaker whose performance is best decribed as astonishing. Just as impressive is their $1,999 price. Especially as they deliver sound only previously heard from speakers costing many times more.
The design that gives Theophany speakers their unique look and sound are present in the Katharos range. Their curved front and sleek aerodynamic body look fantastic in rimu.
The cabinets have a symmetrical design that is pleasing to the eye. They also have no parallel surfaces. This helps reduce cabinet generated distortion such as standing noise. Their curvy fronts allow for smooth airflow around the drivers. Both these design factors help to enhance audio accuracy.
Unlike the Epiphanies I bought a year earlier, the Katharos don’t slope back. Because they are designed to sit by a TV, they use a speaker array design called a diapalito (which is where the tweeters are in the middle of the woofers, helping them deliver an accurate audio image).
These small design tweaks mightn’t sound like much but the difference they make to your ears is astonishing.
Having made a cuppa, I settled in for some extended testing armed with pile of my favourite CDs and some Blu-ray audio and super audio CDs. Firing up some Eric Clapton I sat back and let my ears do to the work.
The mids and highs were almost laser-like in their accuracy, painting a detailed sound stage. The effect was so astonishing I played the same track several times and then tried several others. I was not only able to position each instrument on a left-to-right basis, but sounds were also layered front to back as well. No surround processing modes or rear speakers were used.
Bass was also present. Not in huge overwhelming proportions, but enough to give punch to bass-riffs and drums, adding warmth to the audio.
Warmth is one thing but clean audio is another and here the Katharos also excelled. Throwing on some 80’s live stadium rock from Simple Minds the soundstage impressed. I was there in the stadium listening to Simple minds. Impressive stuff.
Accurate audio can sound a little sterile and lifeless. This wasn't the case with the Katharos, which were also engaging to listen to. I found myself muttering "just one more", over and over again - only to find it had got dark outside. By the time I finished the sun was starting to come up again - I still wanted to keep going.
The Katharos speakers pull off the all too rare feat of ticking all the boxes. They look great – convincing a reluctant spouse you must have them is easier when the speakers look fantastic. They sound great – the only real comparison to these speakers audio-wise are many, many times their asking price. They’re affordable – ringing in at a reasonable $1999, the Katharos speakers are value for money. Especially when compared to big name brands from offshore.
Building speakers capable of delivering such precise and pleasing audio is one thing, but doing so at such a reasonable price point is another altogether. If you're in the market for a set of speakers, Theophany’s Katharos should be at the top of your list.