Tonik 1.0 meter Interconnect with Ultratike RCA type connectors:
- Varistrand(Trademark) Ultra-pure copper
- Tri-braid geometry
- PE dielectric
- (Cp) parallel capacitance: 52.0 pF @ 20kHz
- (LS) series inductance: 0.772 micro henry @ 20kHz
- (Rdc) dc resistance: 0.055 ohms
- (Xt) total reactance: 0.098 ohms @ 20kHz Frequency response + /- 0.5 db dc-2.8 MHz price: $74
Hero 1.0 meter Interconnect with WBT 0144 RCA type connectors:
- Varistrand(Trademark) Hyper-pure copper
- GyroQuadratic(Trademark) geometry
- Dual Teflon ® dielectric
- (Cp) parallel capacitance: 76.5 pF @ 20kHz
- (LS) series inductance: 0.401 micro henry @ 20kHz
- (Rdc) dc resistance: 0.033 ohms
- (Xt) total reactance: 0.051 ohms @ 20kHz Frequency response + /- 0.5 db dc-8 MHz price: $262
4PR Loudspeaker Cables 2.5 meter bare wire ends:
- High purity copper
- 2 x 14 AWG conductors
- Special formula PE dielectric
- (Cp) parallel capacitance: 312.0 pF @ 20kHz
- (LS) series inductance: 0.654 micro henry @ 20kHz
- (Rdc) dc resistance: 0.041 ohms
- (Xt) total reactance: 0.0825 ohms @ 20kHz Frequency response + /- 0.5 db dc-100 kHz price: $76.40
- price as reviewed: 4.5 meter banana-spade (SBAN-SPD) $149 optional six inch 4PR Bi-Wire binding-post jumpers: $75.80
4TC Loudspeaker Cables 2.5 meter bare wire ends:
- Varistrand Hyper-pure copper
- 2 X 13 AWG conductors
- Clear & white Teflon ® dielectric
- (Cp) parallel capacitance: 362.0 pF @ 20kHz
- (LS) series inductance: 0.715 micro henry @ 20kHz
- (Rdc) dc resistance: 0.038 ohms
- (Xt) total reactance: 0.071 ohms @ 20kHz Frequency response + /- 0.5 db dc-500 kHz price: $206
- price as reviewed: 4.5 meter banana -spade (SBAN-SPD) $360 optional six inch 4TC -Wire binding-post jumpers: $92
- 2752 South 1900 West
- Ogden, UT 84401
- Telephone: 801-621-5530
- Fax: 801-627-6980
Ray Kimber, the founder and developer of Kimber Kable products, first brought his cables to market in 1979. The very first product was the Kimber Kable 4PR loudspeaker cable which is one of the pieces up for review today. Kimber Kable products are designed using what they term the OSCaR(TM) engineering process, which stands for Objective, Subjective, Correlation and Results. The theory here is to not only use scientific measurements but also listening impressions to aide in the development of the final overall product. They quite proudly state their simple philosophy, “develop and manufacture cables that offer the highest correlation of performance and price”. Back when the first Kimber Kable product was released there was not a great deal of cable manufactures on the market like there are today. I remember when I first purchased high-end cables only to have my friends laugh at the very thought of spending that type of money on something so simple as a cable. I wish I could say I had bought the 4PR back then but I did not yet hear of Ray Kimber. Later however when the very first Kimber Kable PBJ interconnects hit the market I was one of the first to purchase them. In fact I bought two pair with their basic RCA connectors that I still proudly own and use in my dedicated home theater room today. I have gone through quite a few cables in my years but have never seen the need to replace the PBJ’s from Kimber as I found them that good. Brett Terry over at Kimber Kable informed me that the basic PBJ unshielded interconnects I bought back then are the same as the product the company produces today. There is something to be said for consistency especially if a product is made right the first time. They makes interconnects, plus cables for both loudspeakers and subwoofers as well as power cords. Kimber products also include various optical, HDMI cables, an HDMI Switcher box, phono cables, some DIY hobbyist kits (for those so inclined) and more. When you look at their thirty-five page price book you realize just how big of a company they really are.
First up for review today will be two different unshielded interconnects the Tonik and the Hero. While the PBJ was the company’s previous entry level interconnect that distinction has not been handed over to the Tonik line. The particular Tonik I requested is the most basic with the Ultratike connectors and list for only $74 for a one-meter pair. If you like you can have it terminated with a WBT connector and there is even an XLR version available for an increase in price of course. As for the Hero interconnect that I received it had the upgraded WBT-0144 connectors which costs slightly more at $262 instead of the Hero’s basic Ultraplate Black connector for $200, both priced for a one meter pair. The Hero also comes in other choices of upgraded connectors and a Balanced version as well. Both the Tonik and Hero interconnect are unshielded.
So what did I think? Right off the bat without so much as a minute of break in time the Tonik started to win my heart and after fifty plus hours of recommended break in time I was hooked. Listening to Tracy Chapman’s Cd Our Bright Future (Elektra 514061-2) was a pleasure with the Tonik interconnects. For an entry-level cable priced at $74 I was not expecting anything so smooth sounding. This cable really was able to get the midrange magic just right as vocals sounded quite lifelike when she sang “For A Dream”. Other more expensive cables, some costing close to one thousand dollars a pair, did offer more detail with instruments portrayed vividly and not quite as soft sounding as the Tonik but of course at a much higher cost to the consumer. When listening to “Thinking of You” with Tracy Chapman the soundstage was quite wide a trait I found throughout the Kimber line. Of course playing simple vocals plays right into the strength of the Tonik so let us try a more complex selection of musical passages with the song “Money For Nothing” from the Dire Straits Cd Brother In Arms (Warner Bros. 9 25264-2). Here we have the quick guitar work of Mark Knopfier, which the Tonik did quite well in reproducing. After the initial opening of the song there is a drum set that sounded tight and quick as intended while vocals were again clear and sharp. I decided not let the Tonik cables off so easily so I at first played the song at a low volume and all was fine, then normal listening levels again fine, until finally I cranked it up a few notches above loud and I heard a glare in the upper frequencies that is not there with much more expensive cables. Of course there is the rub, if you are going to push them to the limit, have very revealing equipment and want all there is to get from your music, then you need to move up the ladder in the Kimber line to get it. For $74 a pair, these cables were far better than they should be and an easy recommendation for the money or even beyond.
Just when I was content to listen happily throughout the night with the Tonik, in steps my hero, the Hero interconnect from Kimber Kable. This interconnect seems to be appropriately named Hero as it very well could rescue you from spending enormous amounts of your hard earned cash on cables that might sound no better and possibly not even as good. With the Tonik layering of voices in songs were good but with the Hero the effect got even better. On the Diana Princess of Wales Tribute Cd (Sony C2K 69012) and the song “Missing You”, sung by Diana Ross, the depth of the soundstage just seemed to opened up more. I could now hear deeper into the performance as a more lifelike 3-D effect was evident. The clarity remained and even stepped up a notch. With the Hero gone was a slight edge to the upper frequency extension as it smoothed out the sound and even firmed up the lower bass regions as well. The Hero was similar yet stronger in areas where the Tonik was lacking. It was not that the Tonik seemed to do things wrong, rather the Hero showed that it was only in the sins of omission where it could improve upon the Tonik. With the Hero music became more magical and alive through a more complex, detailed expression of the performance.
Moving on now to loudspeaker cables we have the Kimber 4PR. It is the most modestly priced loudspeaker cable from the Kimber line unless you are looking to buy their cable made for use inside the walls. As mentioned earlier in this review the 4PR was their first ever introduction to the cable manufacturing market. I must say that at $76.40 for eight feet per side of bare-ended loudspeaker cable, which is probably all that most people will need, the 4PR is a great buy. Now since I sometimes find myself taking cables on and off repeatedly during the review process I must admit preferring my cables with connectors on each end. There is a very large debate going on now in the audio community whether one should use bare wire, spades, banana or a mixture of either for the loudspeaker cable connection from speakers to amplifier. Some say bare wire sounds just as good if not better, while others think to use only the most expensive type connectors (with some liking spades the others banana and a third preferring a mixture of spade/banana on different ends of the cable). I tend to prefer spade connectors on my amplifiers and banana on my loudspeakers for convenience. I have not yet personally done a review of various connectors and perhaps that is something I might try later on. For now though if I was a little short on cash or just felt like not spending the money,I would go bare wire on both ends and not worry about it. After all, the price is right and it is still the same cable sans the connectors. If you would like a choice of connectors Kimber offers that as well. You may select from a total of four spade connectors, one banana and the bare wire default option. Slightly further up the product line is the 4TC version of loudspeaker wire which more than doubles in price yet I feel is still priced quite affordable at $206 for a similarly configured cable to the 4PR (2.5 meter bare wire ends). Both the 4PR and 4TC version of loudspeaker cables are braided which is a common theme among Kimber products. Here you will find the same offer of connector options plus three more additional banana and two more spade connectors if you wish to pay the additional price. When you look at it the company does a great job of trying to satisfy your connector needs for both their interconnect and loudspeaker cable lines with a variety of choices for the consumer. Bravo Kimber. Of course if you already have some connectors, or want even others they do not offer, just buy the bare ended version and add your own as a DIY (do-it-yourself) project.
The 4PR loudspeaker cables immediately seemed a good match for the Tonik interconnects. l I found them similar in terms of that overall smoothness they brought to the music as well as being inexpensive in a relative pricing structure. Listening once again to Tracy Chapman’s Cd but this time with the song “A Theory” both drums and percussions had a realistic truth of timbre to them along with a good measure of rhythm and pace. All the cables in this review sounded “alive” and quite musical even though they varied in the amount of retrieval of the musical presentation each was able to gather. Once again the soundstage sounded open and was spacious, like with the Tonik before it. Switching over to a different style of music I next put on the Ray Charles Cd, American Soul (Navarre 40880-2). Here we are presented with a medley of musical selections from Ray Charles’ placed together on one Cd. I chose to listen to “Over the Rainbow” where he is accompanied by both background singers and orchestra. The violins were rendered smooth as was Mr Charles’ vocal performance. This song showed some of the strong points of the 4PR in its ability to present the listener with a wide clearly defined soundstage. Violins, piano, bass, all playing on one side, Ray Charles center stage and a well layered male/female group of background singers off to the right played in unison during one passage of the song. With the 4PR cables in place there was a nice “breath” to the song it showed us the beauty of the original performance. Now in stepped the 4TC loudspeaker cables. Where the Hero interconnects added, among other things, depth to the soundstage the 4TC’s opened that stage a little to the left and the right plus adding a sense of further height to the performance. With the song “Because You Loved Me” again from the Diana Princess of Wales Tribute Cd her voice traveled across the room in a large open soundstage. The added height to the performers, I just mentioned, gave one the feeling of being in a much bigger room and so therefore closer to a live performance. Bass felt tight and the the vocals while airy were not weak but rather quite natural sounding. Take the same Cd and lis-ten to the song “Gone To Soon” sung by Michael Jackson and you just might be in for a shock. Whenever I had people listen to this song no one could recognize his voice until I told them who it was. I think this was Michael Jackson at his best displaying his vocal talent. Here the details of his singing were quite evident and the emotional impact of the performance first rate. I attribute this not only to Mr Jackson but also to the 4TC loudspeaker cables and their ability to bring out details and complexity of the performers like the previously mentioned Hero interconnects did. I could tell that this combination of 4TC and Hero would be a great match and worthy of even very pricey audio systems.
First it was time to hear the 4PR and Tonik paring before we move onto the 4TC and Hero combination. With the 4PR loudspeaker cables, I used its optional matching jumpers while ditching the factory brass ones that came standard with the Legacy Focus 20/20 loudspeakers. For interconnects I stayed with the Kimber Tonik Interconnects which I felt matched the 4PR’s price wise and possibly be what a prospective buyer might choose. You may of course chose differently and use the Hero to mate with the 4PR. James Taylor’s Covers (HRM-30829-02) Cd has a beautiful song called “It’s Growing”. Here the combination of cables enhanced the smoothness of his performance while opening up a characteristic Kimber -able soundstage. The background vocal singers could be clearly heard off to the left and individually quite distinct as James Taylor sang center stage. Within the soundstage one could also hear both the band background vocals layered properly as James Taylor performed in the foreground. On that same Cd is “Suzanne”, a very quiet song that is sung with lots of emotion. Here the Tonik and 4PR cables got the background violin’s timber correct giving the song a wonderful soulful feeling. As James Taylor played his guitar I was left feeling so relaxed and wondering how well these cables would do with jazz or blues, perhaps a little Eric Clapton. So I put on Eric Clapton’s Unplugged (Reprise 9 45024-2) and his world-renowned song “Layla”. Again, proving that this is a constant with these cables, the soundstage was just the right size, rather large. I could pinpoint the piano to the far left, both female vocals one left the other right and Eric Clayton vocals and guitar centerstage. Here the 4PR and Tonik cables gave a very appropriate slightly laid back sound to the song rather than an in your face highly detailed rendition. Laid back, yet still clear while the guitar notes remained sharp. All in all,an excellent performance.
I now moved along to the 4TC loudspeaker cable,with matching jumpers, which has patiently been resting in the wings during my entire review process, I mated these with Kimber’s Hero interconnects. Now this combination of cables took the whole music presentation up a notch. The soundstage and its expansiveness remained but taking all the positives of the prior cables you could now add a little more clarity to the upper and lower frequency range. Moving back to the two cd collection of Diana Princess Of Whales Tribute (Sony C2K 69012) I listened to the strong powerful voice of Whitney Houston as she sang “You Were Loved”. At times during the song her voice soared across the room, but never with an edgy or sharp sound to it and again background singers were even clearer than with the previous 4PR/Tonik cables. You could easily hear the soft details of her breathing during the songs passages and the powerful beat of the bass drums. On the same disc is the Puff Daddy song “I’ll Be Missing You”. One of the great things about the Kimber Kables, which is readily apparent when you listen to them, is the speed and pace they bring to the music. This was evident not only with the 4TC and Hero but the 4PR and Tonik as well, just a little more so with the former. The bass in this song is powerful, yet it did not come across as overpowering and female singers were distinct and yet separate. One of the singers voice seemed to float in the air above the rest as the layering effect was clear and quite beautiful. Later when Puff Daddy sang with the band both the male and female background singers could be heard properly dispersed along a vast soundstage in front of me. Where the 4PR and Tonik cables were great the combination of 4TC and Hero was even better as it did everything a step up in the right direction.
Outfitting the entire system with Kimber Kable
Here is where I really had some fun as I inserted all the cables at once even my own PBJ interconnects. The Tonik interconnects plugged into the McIntosh MR67 Tube Tuner and I even “cheated” a little by using one Tonik cable to go from my transport to the DAC. I know it is not Kimber’s own D60 Digital interconnect but I did not want to bother Brett at Kimber to send me an additional cable when I was not going to do a full review on it. So when I removed my own dedicated digital cable I did what you should not do and used the Tonik as a single digital cable. I then put my own
PBJ interconnects from turntable to phonostage then phonostage to preamplifier. Two sets of Hero interconnects were used to connect both the amplifiers and the DAC to the preamplifier. As for the loudspeaker cables I used the 4TC for the upper range frequencies on my Legacy Focus 20/20 loudspeakers and the 4PR to handle their lower range frequencies thereby discarding the Kimber jumpers. Now for the fun part, I got to sit back to listen and enjoy. Things just seemed to keep getting better as I first played Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers two disc Cd Anthology Through The Years (MGA UTV Records 088 170 177-2). Here with the song from Disc 2, “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star”, everything good seemed to come together. The soundstage stayed nice and open as well as smooth yet there was greater detail to the music. Guitar rifts were quick but sans any upper glare abnormalities. Bass drums were strong and full while vocals remained excellent as always. The Tonik with the McIntosh tube tuner was also a great match as tubes seemed to soften some of the upper frequency glare I had noticed at louder volumes. As for the PBJ interconnects they work very well with the VPI turntable and Whest phonostage combination. For this review I put on Ella Fitzgerald’s The Best Of Ella Fitzgerald(Pablo Records PBM 001). I will mention two songs from this vinyl pressing, “Dreamer” and “You’re Blasé”. With “Dreamer” there is a multitude of performers playing a variety of instruments and the PBJ’s in combination with the other Kimber products did not seem to have a problem with any of them. Each individual instrument was clearly pinpointed within the soundstage as the pace and rhythm of the song was excellent. The soundstage remained spacious and the upper frequencies quite smooth, although not as good as with the Hero’s. With “You’re Blasé” the song was anything but blasé. Ella Fitzgerald’s voice hung in the air between the speakers against a quiet background with just the right amount of decay in her voice to make one stop to admire her incredible singing talent. Please take note that by going to a bi-wired setup and passing on the 4PR jumpers I saved seventy five dollars and eighty cents which made purchasing the second set of wires just that more affordable. If you do not go this route and opt instead for the jumpers, I found them easy to insert (mine came with banana connectors on both ends). They had a tight fit and I liked them as an upgrade to the factory supplied thin brass connectors that originally came with my loudspeakers.
Conclusion about Kimber PR4 and Tonik:
Cables of all sorts should be thought of like components in your system and spending money for them should be allocated accordingly. Do not be afraid to see the grand total of your interconnects and speaker cables adding up to what you spent on your beloved power amplifier or speakers. In the long run you will get as much enjoyment out of these cables plus they might even wind up being in your system longer as other pieces come and go. Some good news though with Kimber Kable it just might not cost as much as you might think. I like the idea of synergy and would prefer keeping my cables all from the same manufacturer if possible. If you feel the same then you are in luck because Kimber Kable makes a large variety of cables for your audiophile needs. Looking at their thirty five page catalog I saw I could not only outfit my whole two channel audio system but my dedicated home theater setup as well. After careful listening to the above Kimber Kable products I understand why they been around so long and with such an apparently large following in the audio community. I was very satisfied with the initial pairing of the Tonik interconnects and 4PR loudspeaker cables. If someone where to ask for a recommendation for an inexpensive combination I would tell them to give these a listen first. For only $224.40 you could purchase a pair of 2.5 meters of bare-wire 4PR loudspeaker cable as well as two sets of Tonik interconnects to connect your Cd player and amplifier both to your preamplifier. If you have an integrated amplifier than lucky you can save an additional $74 on one less set of Tonik interconnects thereby spending only $150.40.
If you still need something a little more in the way of detail and a cleaner top end with a little more of an open bass response try taking a few steps up to the Hero interconnect and 4TC loudspeaker cables. After you try these I think you will be hard pressed to finding anything significantly better at this very reasonable price point. This combination of cables is realistically priced at $730 for two sets of Hero Interconnects and one set of 2.5-meter bare-ended 4TC loudspeaker cables. Again only $468 if you need only one set of interconnects because you have an integrated amplifier. If you still want the Hero interconnects and want to save even more than try them with the more basic connectors and save yourself $62 a pair. For what this cable combination does the price is completely in line with competitors and in fact a bargain. Whether you are a critical listener or not, on a tight budget or the skies the limit, Kimber Kable has a product for you. After you get hold of their thirty five page price list, go find a dealer who carries the product or even an online source with a money back or exchange guarantee and check out what they have to offer. Between the PBJ (which I personally own),Hero and Tonik interconnects, as well as the 4PR and 4TC loudspeaker cables, I was never disappointed with either price or performance. My only regret is that I did not request more cables to review. Looking at their catalog I keep thinking maybe I should drop a hint to my loved ones to let me pick something out and order it for my birthday.
The Listening Environment:
The review room is eighteen feet eight inches long by thirteen feet wide. The loudspeakers and equipment are kept on the short wall. The cathedral ceiling starts at eight feet and sloops upwards to thirteen feet at its peak in the middle spanning across the short length of the room for the full thirteen feet height. The hardwood floor has a nine by six foot oriental rug lying down the long ways toward the system placed dead center in between, yet not under, the listener and the review equipment The room has no doors but two openings. One is in front of the right Legacy Focus 20/20 loudspeakers which gives access to the hallway while the other is behind the listening position and opens to the formal dinning area. The room is treated with two floor standing acoustical panels, one behind each speaker, and the audio equipment is located in a Cherry Synergy Twin S30 Salamander audio rack against and in the middle of the short wall. I have two power conditioners which plug into a PS Audio Power Port receptacle located behind the audio rack. There are also two Blue Circle Audio MKIII Power Line Pillows one on each of two outlets on the long walls next to and behind each loudspeaker. The Legacy’s are located about six feet seven inches from the rear wall to their front panel They are also twenty one inches from the rooms side walls to the middle of each loudspeakers. The Legacy’s are twelve feet apart from each other to form a triangle with the listening position that is also angled at twelve feet from loudspeaker to listener. In the corner of each short wall behind the Legacy’s are a pair of 1989 Klipsch Klipschorn loudspeakers that are sometimes used for reviews. If the Klipsch loudspeakers are used I would then reposition the two acoustical panels to slightly behind the listening position one to the left and the other to the right of it.
- Monarchy Audio SM-70 Pro power amplifiers (2 used in mono block configuration)
- Monarchy Audio M33 Preamplifier/DAC combo (used as a DAC for redbook Cd’s)
- NAT Audio Plasma R Tube preamplifier
- Samsung HD-841 Cd/SACD/DVD Audio universal player (used as a transport for redbook Cd playback and alone for SACD/DVD Audio listening)
- Oracle Delphi MK I turntable, Grace 707 tonearm and Denon DL-301MK II Moving Coil stereo cartridge
- Whest Phonostage.20 + MsU.20 power supply(for Moving Coil or Moving Magnet cartridges) PS Audio power port receptacle
- Two Blue Circle Audio Mk III power line conditioners
- Acoustic Revive RTP-2 Series power conditioner
- PS Audio UPC-200 power center
- Tek Line, PC-8 Signiture power cords, two six foot lengths
- Mr. Cable,The Musician power cord, a nine foot length
- Monarchy Audio AC-1 power cord, two six foot lengths
- Cherry Synergy Twin S30 Salamander audio rack
from aﬀordableaudio, By Anthony Nicosia