Kroma Atelier Stella Xtreme Loudspeaker Page 2

The speaker weighs a considerable 43kg, but its 1.15m height isn't imposing and the design aesthetic looks like it's taking up less space than it actually does. The 45cm-deep cabinet tapers, becoming narrower at the rear, and sits on an integrated plinth that, with its trio of Panzerholz/Krion feet, provides a stable footing. Note that there are no grilles for the Stella Xtreme, nor any inserts to short the reflex ports. Nor does Kroma Atelier supply a guide to speaker placement – it's a case of suck it and see.

sqnote Tipping The Scales
The maker has struck it rich with this speaker's combination of drivers, crossover and cabinet architecture, delivering a performance with some very noticeable traits – sheer bass profundity and startling reproduction of vocals being two of them. At the same time, the sound is both controlled – the Stella Xtreme is a benign load – and exquisitely clean. It's a pleasure to hear, demonstrating that musical excitement can come from other areas beyond an aggressive midband.

The scale of the soundstage is vast, and with the speakers happy to play loud without ever sounding stretched, you can drown yourself in music. Drum 'n' bass track 'Back And Forth', from the producer Andy C [Ram Records; 44.1kHz/16-bit], pinned me back as vocals and effects ebbed and flowed across a widescreen stereo image with impressive height. When the genre's two vital components kicked in, 'pulsating' and 'huge' were the two words I managed to write down before giving in and just enjoying it. Similarly, 'L/R', by Nilüfer Yanya [Painless; ATO Records ATO0594], was drawn with such depth the chattering drums seemed to appear from behind me.

The above 'trick' was undoubtedly serendipitous in my room, although I found Kroma's floorstanders benefited more than most from some placement tweaks. An initial setup with the cabinets positioned 30cm from the rear wall found the bass performance being over-dominant (without actually being unpleasant), a by-product of the Stella Xtreme's rear reflex ports.

Head Voice
Moving the cabinets further into the room revealed a better balance, as did opting for a regular rather than 'toed-in' position, as this gave the midband more of a forward push. Johnny Cash's gravelly vocal on 'Give My Love To Rosie' [American IV: The Man Comes Around; American Recordings 063 339-2] was just that bit easier to focus on.


The three-way crossover is not split so the Stella Xtreme is fitted with single Mundorf-sourced 4mm terminals. The upper and lower ports are hand turned from cedar wood

And focus you'll want to do, because the Stella Xtreme is, well, extremely articulate when it comes to vocals. Where Cash was an almost careworn presence in the room, Tom Petty, on 'I Won't Back Down' [Tom Petty And The Heartbeakers – Live At The Fillmore 1997; Warner Records 96kHz/24-bit], had that uniquely nasal, melodious twang, while French singer Francoise Hardy sounded playful and almost holographic on 'Oh Oh Cheri' [eponymous, Doxy Records; Tidal Master]. Ensuring this sense of presence is the Stella Xtreme's smooth, airy top end, plus the clean delivery of those bass/mid drivers. Subjectively, there's no indication of cabinet colouration at all as Kroma Atelier's lean-back enclosures become invisible as the music plays.

The most minor of criticisms would be that the Stella Xtreme proves hard to provoke. The way these speakers convey the cut and thrust of distortion-laded rock music, whether ZZ Top's 'Sharp Dressed Man' [Eliminator; Warner Bros. Records 8122799751] or Black Sabbath's Heaven And Hell [Warner; 96kHz/24-bit], might be too 'polite' for some tastes. At the same time, the scale, openness, precision and joyous reproduction of bass on show is a remarkable antidote.

Velvet Underground
Indeed, the ability of the three 165mm drivers to drop deliciously low while remaining controlled and subtle is astonishing. The Stella Xtreme's velvety, musical low-end is an obvious benefit to music that's bass-heavy – 'Kiss In Blue', by Yello/Heidi Happy [Touch Yello; Polydor 0602527210957], had a churning, bottom octave rhythm that filled my room – yet it makes its presence felt on all flavours of music. Santana's Latin boogie 'Oye Come Va', from the Carlito's Way soundtrack CD [Epic Soundtrax 474994 2], was driven by the speakers' powerful grasp of the staccato bassline, while keyboards, guitar and percussion danced all around it.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
A real eye-opener of a speaker, the Stella Xtreme marries high-spec drivers and crossover with a 'next-generation' cabinet material and gorgeous craftsmanship. Of course, all that would count for nothing if it didn't sound every inch the high-end floorstander, yet in this regard it truly sings. Take a little care with setup and you'll be rewarded with open, largescale soundscapes plus best-in-breed bass and soaring highs.

Kroma Atelier
Andalusia, Spain
Supplied by: Boyer Audio Ltd, UK
0330 223 3769