Sugg. Retail: $3350 U.S (8 Foot Pair)
Manufacturer: Kimber Kable,
2752 1900 West,
Ogden, Utah 84401 U.S.A.
(801) 621-5530 FAX 627-6980
(Reprinted from the Winter
1999 Audio Ideas Guide)
In recent years more science has been applied to the design of both interconnect and speaker cables, though this has been exceeded only by the secrecy with which the science has been used. Hence, rather than a detailed description of the materials and design topography of this Select cable, we get in the brochure just a few words, followed by praise from a dealer: “All [Select] loudspeaker cables utilize our proprietary X38R core compound. This compound possesses unique acoustic damping and electrical properties. Conductors are applied to the surface of the core and are held in a constrained matrix. This matrix is applied simultaneously with the conductor, ensuring an extremely high level of precision. In conjunction with core compound, the matrix works electrostatically to improve signal fidelity and shield against electromagnetic interferences such as RF.”
“This model features both hyper-pure copper and silver. The two types of conductors are used in a 2:1 symmetric relationship. `The KS-3035 possesses an incredibly refined sense of tonality. Instruments and voices are presented with proper weight and body. Textures are organic in their realism. Amazing retrieval of ambient cues gives a realistic feeling of the air and space that surrounds instruments.’ Dick Diamond, Audio Design, Utah.”
I read this blurb just before putting the Kimber Select speaker cables into my system, and promptly forgot it. When I read it again after a month of living with the KS-3035 cables, it had an eerie sense of truth in that it reflected pretty much what I heard, and what visitors commented upon when hearing the audio system. A key and recurring comment was about the rightness of timbres, and the remarkable depth and width of soundstage, with clearly definable rear corners well behind the speakers. In comparison, Wireworld Atlantis II sounded rather fuzzy and grainy (though I had listened to it happily for a year or more), while van den Hul The Revolution seemed more detached and electronic in sound, though quite close in resolution and soundstage palpability. This latter is actually a very good speaker cable, one I have used in evaluating speakers for the last couple of years.
But the Kimber! The difference was apparent to me immediately, and to visiting listeners, who all said (those who’d heard the system before), “What have you done to make the system sound so much better?” It became a case of watching jaws drop as I put the first musical selection on. Whatever its design secrets, the KS-3035, with its silver and copper conductors, moves the signal from the amplifier (Bryston 3B ST) to the speakers (Energy Veritas v1.8s) with a purity and resolution I’ve never heard before. I wish I could say the improvement was subtle, because such things usually are, but not here.
I set up an A/B using a Bryston passive switchbox that can switch in and out 6 cables; since the Veritas are tri-wire capable, and were previously so configured with the Atlantis cable, it was simple to refit the jumpers that came with the speakers between the 3 sets of 5-way posts, and attach the 3 cables, so that they could be switched at the box, a 1-foot length of Kimber 8TC with the new WBT spade lugs attaching the 8TC at either end to amp and switchbox. WBT locking banana plugs were fitted to the Kimber Select cables (more on these elsewhere).
Though the extra cables were still connected to the speakers, unless switched in, no signal passed through them, which should have allowed a reasonable A-B-C test. And it did. All listeners clearly heard and similarly described the differences, which were mostly in the mid and high frequencies. The KS-3035 cables clearly presented the music with more air, a fully holographic soundstage, and a sense of timbral accuracy that was uncanny. Switching to the van den Hul made things become just slightly fuzzy, and the soundstage was even less realized and a bit grainy when the Wireworld cables were in circuit (obviously, these were no longer connected in tri-wire mode).
A word that kept coming up in descriptions of the sound quality was coherence, the sense that everything was happening in correct time sequence in the music. Now, the speakers themselves may not be fully time coherent, with a fairly complex 3-way crossover, but do have close to the highest resolution I have heard from dynamic speakers; that’s why they’re still in the listening room. This sense of realism and transient accuracy was increased very significantly by the Kimber Select cables.
It may be said by those who believe they understand speaker cable design parameters that what I am describing is impossible, yet every listener commented on the same characteristics, mostly referring to timbre and time, a rightness of tonality and transient events, or simply to improved perception of space and detail. Aaron will offer his own thoughts on the half-as-expensive KS-3033 Select cables in his own system (and he will be able to compare them to the even pricier Nordost SPM Reference, Wtr 98), but I am myself surprised that a pair of speaker cables, especially ones this short, can make such a difference in the sound quality of a system. And, among the other listeners, Bob Oxley in particular was flabbergasted; and he’s been a regular listener to this system in this room for the three years I’ve lived here. Before I even mentioned the Kimber, after the first piece ended, he said, “What have you done to make the system sound so much better?” Even with the switchbox and the extra foot of 8TC in the signal path, it was obvious.
Why? Well, it may be the mystery X38R dielectric, or the particular weave of silver and copper conductors wrapped around it. All materials interact electrically, and the secret is most likely in controlling these relationships, which can increase or decrease reflections and other phenomena as the signal passes through the cable’s conductors. Why this topography might be better than flat parallel conductors like those in the Nordost cables, or the coaxial designs Wireworld’s David Salz prefers, or anything else, I don’t know, and Ray Kimber won’t say. What matters, however, is in the listening.
Whether all this justifies purchase of a cable that retails for about $5000 Canadian, I can’t say. That’s more than twice the cost of the amplifier driving the cable, and even slightly more than the price of the speakers at its other end. But what would one have to spend to realize an equal improvement in sonic terms? A better amplifier? It could be $10,000. At this level, significant improvements are not inexpensive. Let me conclude by saying that the Kimber Select KS-3035 speaker cable is well worth the pleasure gained from listening to music through it. And I intend to continue doing so.