Kimber Kable TONIK Interconnect
Here is Kimber Kable's response to the growing demand for true economy-priced products by fine premium audio companies. It's also déjà vu all over again, as this is the third time in the past few years I've reviewed Kimber products. A year or so ago I had received their power cords from both a couple of weeks apart and long before that the same timing with their top-line interconnects. In this instance, the company has developed a budget-priced loudspeaker cable to match / pair with their new TONIK interconnect. In fact, they preferred the two identical-appearing products to be reviewed together, which I did.
The Tonik interconnect cables, like many recent audio developments, is at least partly in response to the popular budget-priced camp and home-theater development. Tied in with this is the fast-growing practice of distribution wiring in new home construction. There is a huge amount of wiring going into these thousands of new homes and companies such as Kimber want that wiring to be made by them. Because so much wiring is needed there is tremendous economic pressure on the installers. So Kimber Kable and other companies try to be competitive enough so that their products are used and listeners benefit as a result.
Home theater, home installations, and home wiring during construction are now major factors in the audio field. During a discussion, I found out that Kimber makes custom installation cables named KWIK. Rarely advertised, this UL/CL2 rated loudspeaker cable mates well with this new Tonik interconnects. They feature a soft and slick outer PVC covering that is specifically designed for easier pulling through studs and installation holes.
Details About Kimber Kable's
The Tonik uses a cheaper variation of their VariStrand (VS) wiring geometry technique as used in the 4 VS cables. Here with these new budget interconnects, instead of seven different gauges there are only four; two within the plus side and two within the negative. The male plug of the RCA connector is not split, the outer shield connection is a slightly cheaper design and so on. That is a real turnabout for Kimber Kable Company.
Ray Kimber spent years experimenting and researching to make cables sound better for music lovers. Now the efforts are to get costs down as low as possible while retaining much of their well-known qualities. If you are someone who does not believe that different cables affect sound quality, then you are either lucky or do not listen closely or are using a poor excuse for a music system.
I had just finished the evaluation of Harmonic Technology's new budget line combination of interconnects and loudspeaker cables. I only listened to them together and not separately as requested. I replaced their loudspeaker cables with my usual reference ones with an immediate and significant increase in sound quality and enjoyment, as I would expect from a very significant price differential.
Both interconnects had a rather rough frequency response. It is not common to state it that way, but it is accurate. A good example would be of a fine recording of a piano being played with notes wide-ranging up and down the scale. With top-notch interconnects, such as Kimber Kable's Select series, there would be a degree of sameness in some aspects such as volume, impact, perspective or "quality". If it all sounds right or reminiscent of a real piano playing then the response is smooth. Using those criteria, neither of these budget interconnects can be said to have a super silky smooth silver cable response (Kimber offers those as well of course). Therefore it is very possibly not fair to compare it with the new Tonik, as it sounds leaner and tighter in the lower frequencies up to the lower part of the mid-range. As a result, the tonal balance is a small touch brighter sounding.
The Tonik winds up having a relatively full and rich tonal balance though the relatively rough high end is a factor if you are really looking or listening for it. It would not be expected to hear it described as being a bit bright sounding, but remember when describing tonal balance everything is relative and where is your or somebody else's starting or reference point. Tonal balance is so very important when choosing components in the budget price range. Because of the great appeal and influence of home theater receivers, it seems to be common that most of them have added brightness in the treble range, but the lower end may be lacking.
Some products lean towards the overly full or rich-sounding side. In my limited experience and echoed by others I know, the Denon and Marantz models listing around a thousand dollars or more, usually have a pretty darn good tonal balance. I'm sure others sneak in at times, especially in today's $3000 on up units.
Loudspeakers that are commonly used with receivers or home theater setups range from the nonexistent low-end or bass response with active subwoofer(s) that are overly full, rich, and to some perhaps a bit boomy sounding. The top half of the frequency range is often bright or even harsh and edgy with super ultra-cheap designs, but that's not the case here. That characteristic helps them stand out in a crowded showroom audition though. Keep this in mind when choosing items such as interconnects or loudspeaker cables to possibly balance other components.
Power cords are typically left till much further along the audio line for music lovers. Beginners should choose which of two paths to follow. If purchasing an entire system with absolutely no plans to upgrade in the future, then remember the adage of the importance of the loudspeakers on the sound quality. Depending on the price range, as much as half the total cost might be allocated to the loudspeakers. On the other hand, if future upgrading is planned, it is common to put the emphasis and money on the front end or beginning of the audio chain. That would be items such as a CD player (or possibly a turntable setup) or preamplifier and really good cables to connect everything. The cheap speakers might wind up someday as surround sound choices or stuck in your bedroom or wherever.
In summary, the Tonik interconnects from Kimber Kable Company are another new entry by a true high-end audio company into the previously unexplored area of genuine bargain-priced products. My experience so far in this area strongly suggests that for most listeners and all music lovers the choice should mainly be decided by needed or desired tonal qualities. These interconnects seem to be close to a neutral balance or very slightly to the rich or full side. For very good performance in all areas, Kimber Kables does produce more expensive choices from copper to copper / silver mix, and the top-line all silver if your budget allows.