Kimber Kables Celebrates

by Keijo Tanskanen

Yes, cables again! Once an audiophile has heard remarkable differences between audio cables, he/she will very likely continue the “cable ballet”. Changing cabling is a good and widely accepted way to make fine adjustments to the personality of the sound, which it will do compellingly in more or less all cases. Personally, I have tested huge amount of cables from almost every remarkable vendor and I believe I have found the most suitable ones for my set-up and for my taste.

In Finland there has been a serious gap amongst the imported audio cables but now this hole has been plugged with Kimber Kables. Hifihuone decided to begin importing Kimber Kables last year and actualized their decision this year. I think it was strategically well done, because the knowledge of cable effects is increasing in Finland.

What made me write again about cables? Well, an interesting phenomenon happened in my audio enthusiasm last summer. I was quite tired and frustrated by my reviewing and publishing work but after receiving the set of Kimber’s cables my interest rose again. The first listening sessions even furthered the positive feeling. So, at least sometimes, testing is rewarding and not just hard work. Besides, it would have been a shame to leave such a brand as Kimber without special attention.

RI shall not write a historical document of Kimber Kables of which I’m not even capable. Anyway it is good to know that Kimber Kables was founded in 1979 when Ray Kimber also introduced the first product, the 4PR loudspeaker cable. Decades passed and this year Kimber Kables celebrated the 30th anniversary of their business, actually just during my tests. My belated congratulations!

The story of Kimber Kables has been a success which wouldn’t have happened without good products. Kimber have found their own niche in the market and now for years they have been amongst the most respected cable producers. Today Kimber Kables' product selection covers all kinds of audio/video cables, power cords and even special products like connectors and capacitors.

Kimber Kables has a very simple philosophy which is to develop and manufacture cables that offer the highest correlation of performance and price. This may sound common but is actually far from easy to actualize. If this aim is achieved the results will do great business because customers love this kind of thinking as well. How well this philosophy works practically will be clarified only by cable tests and comparisons.

Kimber or Kimber Select
Besides the quality issues Kimber Kables have made their reputation by manufacturing a quite affordable series of cables, like the 8TC speaker cable. They have had excellent reviews and a huge amount of enthusiasts still hold with them. Anyway Kimber Kables has continued their product development and manufacturing even to higher levels which have finally led to introducing their Select series. This series is based on the deepest research of the company with special emphasis on materials, architecture, geometry and precision. Kimber has utilized their engineering process OSCaR (Objective Subjective Correlation and Results), in which the research of signal propagation has been given a special status, for the Select series as well. Nowadays Kimber advertises their Select products being evidence of their continuing quest to manufacture the finest cable products. The focus has clearly been in delivering goodies for the most demanding audiophiles.

Testing Background
During testing I listened to music from main brands. My all time favourite test CDs were frequently used once again: George Duke: After Hours (WB 9362-47073-2), Diana Krall: Love Scenes (IMP 12342), Pink Floyd: The Wall Live (EMI 5240752), Respighi: Belkis, Queen of Sheba suite (RR-95CD) and Dvorak: Cello Concerto (HMC 901867).

Three Select series cables were tested and all of them had a great look, fit and finish. They all were also directional. As a reference I used my Transparent Reference MM (MMI tech) series of cables in my home set-up and in certain cases also in my friend’s set-up. Our electronics was quite similar (Audio Aero CD-players and Audionet AMP II maxes) but the speakers were different. My friend has impressive Burmester B-100 and I have my extremely revealing Wilson Watt/Puppy 7.

One thing which nailed my attention regularly during my test period was the build quality of the cables. It was just flawless and inspired confidence even in the case of the cheapest cable. This kind of testing includes always a lot of connecting and disconnecting procedures, and if there are problems and/or incompatibility they will be rapidly noticed and booked. None was found.

The presented prices are valid only in Finland.

1. Kimber Select KS-3035 speaker cable.
Besides the advantages of traditional Kimber Select technology the KS-3035 includes both hyper pure copper and silver connectors in a symmetric 2:1 relationship. The silver spade terminals were excellent WBTs. Several other connector types are optional for reaching compatibility with a wide variety of speaker terminals. The use of the cable was easy and gave me very confident feelings. The list price for KS-3035 (length 2.1 m) is 5.700 euros.

KS-3035 Speaker Cables

2. Kimber Select KS-1016 RCA interconnects.
KS-1016 was the least expensive cable of the three. Still its finish was equal to the more expensive ones. Hyper pure and molecularly optimized copper is also used in this cable, as well as maximized electron transfer, electrostatic and electromagnetic relationships. As a comparison to the KS-1011 model the KS-1016 has increased conductor mass which helps to deliver more current. Despite that the cables were extremely light weight. Although the included WBT-terminals were good I personally would have liked them to be even more robust. Fortunately Kimber has several connector options which may give more confidence. KS-1016 costs 920 euros (length 0.75 m).

KS-1016 Interconnects

3. Kimber Select KS-1136 XLR interconnects.
KS-1136 balanced interconnects are Kimber’s Select series top of the line models. They use Black Pearl silver conductors, dual concentric grounding format and sophisticated constrained matrix construction. Additionally the KS-1136 has increased conductor mass, when compared to the KS-1130 model, matches also ESD yarn and features studio grade XLR connectors. During the test the use of these connectors was just a pleasure. KS-1136 costs 2.700 euros (length 0.75 m).

KS-1136 Interconnects

KS-3035 against Reference MM

This comparison was very interesting and that is why I had to write so much text about this issue. Although both cables had a quite easily recognizable personality it was sometimes a bit hard to evaluate which one was nearer to the truth. When the KS-3035 was connected for use an enjoyable richness and honourable coherence of sound were the main features which jumped to my ears. Tone colours and timbres had very natural definition and caused real pressure for my Transparent Reference MM which built up a bit different kind of sonic world. Also the KS-3035 delivered very open sound with full dynamic abilities and bandwidth extensions. My Transparent’s sound seemed to be slightly cool when compared to the Kimber. Was it more realistic or was it lacking on tone colours?

Finally after weeks of listening, splitting hairs and thinking carefully about the issue I was going to lean to the Transparent’s side, just because of the following additional notifications. My Transparent was ahead in clarity (for example in transparency and focusing), timing and delivering micro information. It also delivered better depth in soundstaging, defining a more spectacular layer by layer performance. So, it would be conflicting to think that previously mentioned results would be possible if KS-3035 was more right when connected into my system. Anyway, especially if I had not had my Transparent Reference MM as a reference, the KS-3035 could have charmed me easily and totally. Its ability to deliver very clean audio was more than obvious.

KS-3035’s performance and features frequently resembled Siltech Escay Creek and Tara Labs the Two speaker cables (both excellent ones) although quite a lot of time has gone since I listened to them. They all seemed to deliver quite the same kind of righteous tonal cohesiveness, richness and fullness. But, despite the excellence of the KS-3035, the Transparent Reference MM stays alone at the top of my speaker cable hierarchy (Opus is very likely above it but I have not tested it yet). Instead the second best group had a new participant, the KS-3035. I was left wondering what KS-3038, the flag ship of Kimber Select speaker cables, would have delivered.

KS-1016 against Reference MM
Is it fair to compare an under 920 euros cable to one eight times more expensive? Actually it is not, but at least it will reveal what can be achieved with more money, if so. Despite its relatively low price the KS-1016 delivered a great amount of goodies like excellent resolution, open and clear upper register. The sound was sharp but absolutely not strained although being more on the thin than full side

The KS-1016 is unquestionably a very good cable but it could deliver only a first step high-end performance. Transparent Reference MM interconnects showed easily who is king of the hill and revealed what was missing here and there. But that was not a surprise at all. Who was expecting another kind of result? I must point out here that many of the audio systems, even relatively high quality ones, will not benefit totally using the best cables just because they can not handle information purely enough themselves. If the revealing information is already lost elsewhere what can the top-notch cables do?

So, in certain kinds of audio systems the basic level high-end cables can do at least almost the same job as higher quality ones. This is the first reason for their existence. The second reason is system dependency and the third reason is taste dependency, both well known issues which affects everywhere on audio field. Because of these facts the KS-1016 and the other well engineered, built and reasonably priced interconnects will always have their own place on audio markets. Deservedly!

KS-1136 against Reference MM
In this case I was forced to do a slightly unbalanced comparison, just because my monoblocks, Audionet AMP II Maxes, have single-ended construction and my CD-player, Audio Aero Capitole Mk II SE, is not purely balanced (although not purely single-ended either). Still they both offer balanced connectors as well. This kind of equipment gives a tiny advantage to short RCA-interconnects (with the same quality). Despite this unbalanced situation the KS-1136 did a wonderful job and I had to work really hard to find remarkable sonic differences when compared to my Transparent.

The sound that the KS-1136 delivered simply did not have any remarkable flaws. Even the punch of bass, which actually was one of the clearest lacks of the KS-1016, was full and dynamic. The most distinctive difference when compared to my Transparent Reference MM interconnects was the KS-1136’s slight tendency towards over-brightness. Actually we did (also) this notification independently with my friend, and without knowing that the KS-1136 was a silver conductor cable. I have tested numerous pure silver cables and almost everyone has some kind of “treble boost” features. KS-1136 is a cable which has very little of this kind of coloration and break in cohesiveness, but still does a bit at least when set up into our systems. The reference cable was also slightly ahead in reproduction of spatial and other kind of micro information.

Having said this I must praise the KS-1136’s over-all performance which was nothing but equilibrium. It is a tremendous high-end interconnect which challenges strongly even much more expensive cables. If I had fully balanced equipment and I needed reasonably priced top quality interconnects the KS-1136 would be a serious candidate. Another one would be Siltech Forbes Lake, and probably Tara Labs would be also included. Transparent Reference XL and MM interconnects would be out because of their prices. So, the KS-1136’s performance was just great. So good that my demanding friend also said “What a great cable this was”!

The Kimber Select series offers extremely high quality. For example you can not find poor materials or weak and thin spades. When looking at these cables everything seems to be carefully done. This does at least inspire confidence but can also set the groundwork for sonic improvements.

My well served Transparent Reference MM (MM tech) cables will stay as an important part of my system. I have not met any cable which can outperform them. The sad thing is that purchasing them was nothing but painful for my wallet. Well, the Kimber Select series of cables are not cheap either, but there is a significant difference if you pay 5.000 euros instead of 15.000 euros, isn’t there?

Once again it is important to point out how big the roles of system and taste dependencies are. We can declare all kinds of listening results and cable hierarchies but the system and taste dependencies may beat them all. So, the most important thing for audiophiles is to choose the right cables for their system and for their tastes. Naturally information can be read, it is even recommended, but it can be used only as a basis for rough selection.

For the most serious audiophiles the quality of the sound is what really matters, and in the case of the Kimber Select series it is very, very high. I will classify KS-3035 and KS-1136 into my reference class, but not quite at the very top. If the price, fit and finish of the cables are taken in account they are on the top. Kimber Kables reputation as a top-notch cable producer is richly deserved.

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