Page 2 of 3
I started my evaluation with the KCAG (price starting at $542). It should be noted that my interconnect of choice is the Kimber Silver Streak . It uses separately insulated silver and copper conductors wound into the Kimber tri-braid geometry and is terminated with the WBT 0147 connectors. It is currently priced starting at $292 for a half meter pair. I use it between my Naim CD5x Cd player and Audio Research preamplifier. I believe it offers an excellent total balance, plenty of detail and air, and good bass weight. The KCAG, as noted, is an all silver three wire braid. After I plugged it in, I noticed a smidgen more resolution, a bit more bass definition, and smoother transients. The difference was not huge, but easily noticeable. The KCAG also had the advantage of the silver WBT connector.
I next moved to the Hero Ag starting at $767. I wondered if an extra conductor would be an obvious improvement. Well, the added resolution, bass articulation, and depth of soundstage was clearly noticeable, but very subtle. Sibilants were less metallic and transients were speedier. The overall presentation was more relaxed and natural, especially with acoustic music. Acoustic guitars shimmered, percussion instruments were woody, brassy, or muted where appropriate. Well recorded vocals were ever so beautiful. Any added studio ambience was easily detectable. Closely miked, dry vocals were eerily present. Now, keep in mind, the KCAG is a superb sounding cable, the Hero Ag only builds on this foundation.
I am a big fan of West African pop and traditional music, and one my recent favorite acquisitions was Tchamantche’, by Malian singer Rokia Traore’. Besides being a gorgeous, analog sounding recording, the music is spellbinding. Her velvety voice is accompanied by acoustic percussion, drums, electric and acoustic guitars, and traditional Malian instruments. There is a lot of space between the musicians in the mix, and the Hero Ag rendered this modern masterpiece in absolute holographic beauty. I kept coming back to track four, “Aimer”, a sultry, exotic ballad sung in French. I felt transported into the recording space, an experience I have rarely get to enjoy. Simply stunning.
I spent multiple listening sessions with the Hero Ag trying to cover many musical bases. Some Jethro Tull remasters, U2’s Unforgettable Fire: Deluxe Edition, Frank Sinatra reissues, some Tindersticks, and a bit of Celtic folk. I was never disappointed. At this point I was really wondering what I could expect from the KCTG, the most expensive Kimber cable below the Select series. Could it be better? And if it was, would it be worth the extra dollar layout? I was about to find out.
I installed the KCTG, starting at $952, and spun the same assortment of music used for the KCAG and Hero Ag. First up, Rokia Traore’s “Aimer”. My first reaction was an unequivocal “wow”. Images were more defined, the level of refinement is the best I have heard in my system from an interconnect. “Organic” is a word I admit I tend to overuse, but the reason I think it applies here to the KCTG is that the sound it produced was anything but mechanical, artificial, or fatiguing. “One White Duck” from Jethro Tull’s masterful Minstrel in the Gallery (2002 remastered version) was presented in a way that I have not heard before with other cables installed. Acoustic guitars were more wooden sounding, piano notes were more easily distinguishable, and Ian Anderson’s vocals and flute were more defined. This was a real eye opener, or maybe more accurately, a real ear opener.
One disc that really defined for me what the KCTG could do for a system was the latest offering from Norah Jones, The Fall. I had listened to it a bunch of times on my systems and in the car and never really lit a fire for me. However, I was quite surprised when I put it on after installing the KCTG and it seemed to come alive, with the performances having real dimension, emotional impact, and fidelity. Unless my ears were deceiving me, I even heard some tape hiss, a relic from an another era, on the track “Back to Manhattan”, which if I am correct, indicates this was recorded to old fashioned analog. The KCTG also revealed to me that the producers used a bit too much compression on the mixes, trying to make them “louder”, I guess hoping poor Norah could compete with the “shouty” records out there. In my opinion, there was no need, as her arrangements are always classy and full sounding. This is an example of how a superb component or cable can wipe away the window to the music, warts and all.
Kimber Kable has not been around for some 30 years for nothing. Since the company was born after Ray Kimber’s noise canceling braided wire experiment, they have been making universally lauded products at all price points. I personally own some entry level Kimber products, including the 4VS and 4TC speaker cables, and the Tonik interconnects (which start at $65!) and they all perform well above their price point. Now having been exposed to the pricier, all silver interconnects, I realize that Kimber absolutely does give you more as your budget increases. They are uncompromising in their choice of materials, manufacturing processes, and finish. The KCAG with WBT Ag connectors out performs my Silver Streak, but not by a huge margin, as a matter of fact it took some critical listening to hear differences. The Hero Ag and KCTG were another matter. They distinguished them selves from the get go, and to my mind are probably the best value in the line. Keep in mind I have not heard anything from the Kimber Select series at this point.
The KCTG is the finest cable I have heard in my system. It is in a class by itself in relation to cables near its price range, and offers a level of performance that for me at least, is as close to state of the art as I can afford. I say for me, because even I win the lottery tomorrow, the notion of paying mid to high six figures for an interconnect audio cable does not register for me. The KCTG represents the very top end of my budget, and for me, would be the end of the road. I think even the very fortunate among us could easily live very, very happily ever after with the KCTG.
Kimber offers several termination options from WBT. But if I was going to spend between $600 and $1000 for one of these cables, I could not imagine not going for the WBT top of the line WBT-0102-ag. Not doing so would be akin to putting cheap tires on a Maserati. Finally, these are hardly “budget” cables, but far from anywhere near the top end of cable pricing. I can conclude the survey by saying you are getting exactly what you are paying for here, superb sounding cables, beautifully made in the USA. I can’t recommend the any of these three cables highly enough.