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ANALOG INTERCONNECT + SPEAKER CABLE

KBL Sound
SIGNATURE SERIES
HIMALAYA II

Manufacturer: KBL SOUND
Price (when reviewed):
• interconnect 18 599 PLN/1 m + 2959 PLN/0,5 m
• speaker cable 23 399 PLN/2 x 2 m + 4199 PLN/0,5 m


Contact: tel. 696 551 492

MADE IN POLAND

Provided for test by: KBL SOUND


Review

Text: WOJCIECH PACUŁA
Translation: Marek Dyba
Images: Wojciech Pacuła

No 209

October 1, 2021

WORLD PREMIERE

KBL SOUND is a Polish audio company specializing in the production of audio signal and power cables, founded and run by ROBERT SZCZERBOWSKI. However, its offer also includes an AC power strip and anti-vibration supports for cables. We are testing its AC power cord from the new HIMALAYA II series - it's its world premiere.

HE HIMALAYA SERIES HISTORY dates back to August 2015. It was the top, limited line of cables - hence its name: Signature Series - being a development version of the RED EYE cables. This year (2021) the series has been changed and although the 'II' designation has been added to the name, its products seem to be completely new models. The Himalaya II premiered during the Audio Video Show 2021 in Hong Kong, which took place on August 6-8, 2021.

The new series includes AC power cables, speaker cables and analog, including, phono, and digital interconnects. First, the company presented an AC power cable, in which monocrystalline copper conductors, protected against oxidation, in a Teflon dielectric were used; We tested this cable in the HIGH FIDELITY’s July’s edition (HF № 207, July 1, 2021, see HERE http://highfidelity.pl/@main-4023&lang= ).

As I mentioned there, a number of changes were introduced compared to the predecessor from the Himalaya series. The first change is visible at the very beginning - instead of wooden vibration absorbers on the loudspeaker cable, the manufacturer used turned aluminum elements that connect the thicker part of the cable, i.e. the vibration damping section, with the thinner one terminated with connectors. This type of splitter is used by many other companies, including Siltech. They perform technical (mechanical) and decorative functions.

The owner and designer of KBL Sound, Mr. ROBERT SZCZERBOWSKI, will tell you more about them.

| A few simple words…

ROBERT SZCZERBOWSKI
Owner, designer

Let me proudly present to you the new flagship cable line, the Himalaya II. It's been 6 years since the premiere of the first edition of the Himalaya series. In such cases, the question always arises: since the previous product line was successful and highly appreciated by both customers and reviewers, then why introduce another one? (all emphasis - ed.)

What remains unchanged is that we rely on the simplicity of solutions and the highest standard of materials used. What is changing is technology that is constantly evolving, and we also try to use our own experiences even more fruitfully. Speaking of the simplicity of solutions, I mean sticking to minimalist assumptions: as little loss as possible, as close to neutrality as possible.

To achieve this, first of all, the structural homogeneity of the conductor is essential, while maintaining the highest purity of the metal. Resorting to alloys or galvanic joining of various metals with each other are procedures leading to the manipulation of signal transmission, i.e. a departure from neutrality. There is no reason to do so when it is possible to obtain an almost perfect conductor with a homogeneous single crystal structure, plus to use air dielectrics that minimize losses due to current flow.

Both copper and OCC silver, currently used in Himalaya II, were also used in the first series. Those cables are still excellent and will always remain so, because this kind of high-end products does not age like computers or smartphones. However, newer technological achievements bring about constantly improved materials, conductors with even greater purity, more diverse cross-sections and thicknesses, less lossy connectors, etc. Experiments with these components involve high costs and lot of time, but progress cannot be made by cutting corners. New ideas also lead to solutions that are sometimes even more refined in their simplicity.

So it's time for Himalaya II. According to comparative tests carried out in various systems in the pre-production phase, these cables received high ratings. These assessments clearly indicate their advantage over their predecessors, as well as the fact that they are a remarkable proposition compared to the competition. Moreover, they turned out to be more universal, as they were not even once rejected due to any objections. The earlier series did not always fit to every system, and it is an important feature from manufacturer’s perspective.

⸜ INTERCONNECT Interconnect in the Himalaya II series is available in both unbalanced and balanced versions, as digital cables and phono ones. There is also an already mentioned power cord. All conductors are made of pure monocrystalline silver obtained in the OCC (Ohno Continous Casting) process. According to the manufacturer, it resulted in a 6% gain compared to OCC copper, which has a much lower conductivity.

Air is used as dielectric, but - let me add - the wires must also touch the colorless Teflon tube in which they are placed. The cables are shielded in several ways, depending on their purpose, but we know that the shielding is made of copper, tinned copper and silver-plated copper. Another shield is made of a multi-layer cover that absorbs vibrations. The interconnects are terminated with WBT 0152 Ag nextgen Signature plugs. Standard lengths are 1 m, 1.5 m, but cables of other lengths are also available upon order.

⸜ SPEAKER CABLE While the interconnect is made of OCC silver, the loudspeaker cable is made of pure copper with a monocrystalline structure, also OCC, with - as the manufacturer says - a specific strand structure. Their complex geometry is intended to completely protect the sensitive signal from "the influence of the increasingly ubiquitous electronic smog, that is, all kinds of RFI and EMI". The function of the insulator is performed by foamed Teflon with very fine air bubbles, a material that protects the metal against corrosion, and at the same time does not absorb the energy of the flowing current to the same extent as other dielectrics.

The cables are equipped with a tuned, experimentally developed system for absorbing resonances, which is aimed, on the one hand, at the elimination of magnetic distortion generated by the current flowing through them, and, on the other hand, of mechanical ones, coming from the environment and disturbing their operation. They are terminated with excellent WBT plugs from the nextgen WBT-PlasmaProtect series with a reduced contact surface. This allows to minimize eddy currents and the so-called mass accumulation effect.

⸜ LOOKS For years, for many years, audio manufacturers have been faced with an impossible choice: on the one hand, they are to minimize the price of the product, and on the other hand, to make them look their best and being packaged in the best possible way. These two things cannot be combined, because whatever they do, they will be criticized by one or the other side. And by that I mean the so-called DIY enthusiasts and aesthetes.

Perhaps, however, this is a non-existing problem. After all - and I suggest you think about it this way - audio belongs to the luxury products market. And high-end audio to its upper end. Seen in this way, it must "behave" like other products in this price range, including expensive wines and cosmetics. And I do not know, I just have not heard of such a case, of any manufacturers of high-class wine or perfumes who would be criticized for too "sumptuous" bottle, packaging or vial. It is exactly the opposite - the best ones feature packaging designed by the best designers.

I am writing about it because I am looking at the suitcases in which the Himalaya II cables were delivered to me. These are really cool products, neither too ostentatious nor too poor - they are really cool. The cables themselves are also made in the same way as the best products of this type from the around the world. Their aesthetics and quality of workmanship are at a very high level.

The cables are also easy to arrange, because they are very flexible, they almost "float" under the fingers. And yet they are very thick! - They are thicker than the Siltech Triple Crown cables to which they were compared. They are much lighter than them, which means that they owe their large size primarily to the vibration damping system, which is extremely important in cables.

SOUND

⸤ HOW WE LISTENED The KBL Sound Himalaya II interconnect and speaker cable from the Signature Series were tested in the HIGH FIDELITY reference system, where they were compared to the reference cables: the Siltech Triple Crowns. Let’s add that Dutch cables cost four and six times more than cables from Poland.

The interconnect connected the RCA output of the AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition SACD player and the AYON AUDIO SPHERIS III line preamplifier input; Both devices feature gold-plated RCA WBT sockets from the nextgen series - so we can talk about "compatibility" with the plugs used for the tested interconnect.

In turn, the speaker cable connected the speaker outputs of the Solution 710 amplifier, sporting Mundorf sockets, and the input of the Harbeth M40.1 loudspeakers - the latter, unfortunately, feature quite poor-quality sockets ... It was an A / B / A comparison, with A and B known. While testing the IC I switched them every track, for the speaker cable I did it every three tracks - in my system it is really difficult to connect the SC to the amplifier.

Recordings used in the test | a selection

⸜ DAVID GILMOUR, On An Island, EMI Records 3556952, CCD (2006).
⸜ ELLA FITZGERALD, Like Someone In Love, Verve/Esoteric ESSO-90143, SACD/CD (1956/2016) w: 6 Queens of Jazz Vocal, „MasterSoundWorks”, Esoteric ESSO-90143/8, 6 x SACD/CD (2016).
⸜ PATRICIA BARBER, Companion, Premonition Records/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDSACD 2023, SACD/CD (1999/2003).
⸜ SONNY CLARK, Cool Struttin’, Blue Note/Esoteric ESSB-90124, SACD/CD (1957/2015), w: Blue Note 6 Great Jazz, Blue Note/Esoteric ESSB-90122/7 (2015).
⸜ YES, 90125, ATCO/Warner Music Japan WPCR-15914, „7 Inch Mini LP”, SACD/CD (1983/2014).

»«

⸜ INTERCONNECT THE POLISH CABLE OFFERS a dark, even, natural sound. I can say that only about few other interconnects, not only from this price range, but also more expensive ones. And when I say that, I think, "that’s a good thing." The Himalaya II interconnect shows events quite close to us.

"Phily" Joe Jones's cymbals from SONNY CLARK's Cool Struttin’ album were brought closer to me and I could feel their body more. The reference cables showed more reverbs, echoes and acoustic envelope around the instruments. It does not mean that the Polish cable did not do it - because it did it in a very good and endearing way. But I also had no doubts that it was an interconnect showing events in a tangible, close way.

Which shows how little have stereotypes to do with reality judgments, such ones as: "silver always sounds in ONE way" and "copper in OTHER way". After all, both Siltech and the tested KBL Sound are cables made of silver, and yet they are clearly different, they have a different character, because materials are one thing and the other is dielectrics, layout and other solutions. Anyway, the Polish cable sounds - if we stick to the stereotypes - like NOS cables from the 1950s, made of tinned copper.

This means warmth, closeness to the foreground and excellent sound coherence. Because the Himalaya II, an analog RCA cable, sounds incredibly pleasant and engaging. It shows large bodies of instruments, it does not attack us with a hardened impact, but rather softly draws us into the story that comes from the speakers (or headphones).

It was perfectly audible on another, same as the Sonny Clark, album remastered by the Japanese company Esoteric - ELLA FITZGERALD’s Like Someone In Love. In both versions, i.e. with the Siltech and KBL Sound cables, the gentle, supported by an orchestra, sound of the voice was reproduced in a very good way. The Polish cable is not as resolving as the top cable from the Netherlands, that's clear. But it was not a change so significant that it would change the structure of the sound. It was still an incredibly intimate, unhurried story. Same as before, the sound from the foreground - here it was the vocal - was presented close to me, it was warm and silky. Because this is how this cable “sounds”.

I WOULD SAY THAT THE CENTER OF GRAVITY with the tested cable is placed quite low, which makes everything seem large and full. This is a low-midrange-centered, so to speak, cable, with a large, dense, saturated bass, which worked great both with the DAVID GILMOUR’s On An Island (horn sound at the beginning) and with Michael Arnopol's double bass on the PATRICIA BARBER’s Companion. With the Barber’s disc, I also heard that the Polish interconnect was able to present a large mass of instruments and their "momentum", it is a kind of "getting ready" to produce sound, internal energy, a really great thing!

⸜ SPEAKER CABLE The differences in the construction of the loudspeaker cable and the interconnect are clear, although - again - they go against the common perceptions. The Himalaya II speaker cable sounds dynamic and strong. It is incredibly energetic and focused on keeping the rhythm. The double bass from the aforementioned Barber’s album did not extend as low as with the reference cable, but it had just as much energy.

It is due to, it seems to me, the rapid build-up of sound - we are definitely not dealing with a cable that would “muddy” or slow down anything. On the other hand, it is still a well-ordered and well-structured sound. The point is that when you listen to music with it, you do not have the impression of randomness of sounds, but experience an orderly presentation having a nice "flow".

Although the sound of the Himalaya II interconnect is based on a low midrange and one has the impression of communing with a silky attack, with a smooth and at the same time complex internal image of instruments and vocals, by connecting a speaker cable from this series to the system, we get a kind of "acceleration". Everything seems a bit more dynamic with it. Although it does not have the same fullness and dark attack that the interconnect charmed with, it is still not a bright or sharp sound.

Cymbals from the Cool Struttin’, strings from Like Someone In Love or a double bass attack from the Companion - all these elements had the right, cool, good, really addictive character. So I would say that both the tested interconnect and the speaker cable will be at their best in systems in which we do not want to modify anything, but only bring out their advantages.

It is true that the Himalaya II cables withdraw the treble a bit, but not extinguishing it, but smoothing it out. But with high-quality recordings it won't matter much, and with discs that sound bright, exaggerated on very open systems, like the 1984 90125 album by YES, with the KBL Sound, it will be shown in slightly weighted, dense and saturated way, but without a trace of roughness at the top of the band.

SUMMARY

THE TESTED CABLES SOUND SOMEHWAT DIFFERENT from each other. The interconnects are dark, dense, have strong low bass and fill the space between the speakers in a dense way. On the other hand, the speaker cables deliver more precise, more "point-like" sound in the space, and their tonal balance is set higher. In turn, they are more dynamic than interconnects. Both are refined, saturated and stay away from brightness. It is interesting that they complement each other in a nice way, resulting in a presentation that I know, for example, from Crystal Cable products, i.e. expensive silver-gold cables.

The KBL Sound company is growing and its products are becoming more and more sophisticated. At the same time, considering the sound quality, they are quite attractively priced. I would add to this list of advantages also excellent workmanship, which is on a high, world-class level. The Himalaya II is a very, very good set of high-end cables, intended for well-balanced systems in which you do not have to fight for changes, but to bring out the best in them.

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Reference system 2021



1) Loudspeakers: HARBETH M40.1 |REVIEW|
2) Line preamplifier: AYON AUDIO Spheris III Linestage |REVIEW|
3) Super Audio CD Player: AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition No. 01/50 |REVIEW|
4) Stands (loudspeakers): ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom) |ABOUT|
5) Power amplifier: SOULUTION 710
6) Loudspeaker filter: SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX (prototype) |REVIEW|
7) Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|

Cables

Analog interconnect SACD Player - Line preamplifier: SILTECH Triple Crown (1 m) |ABOUT|
Analog interconnect Line preamplifier - Power amplifier: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM (1 m) |REVIEW|
Speaker cable: SILTECH Triple Crown (2.5 m) |ABOUT|

AC Power

Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - SACD Player: SILTECH Triple Crown
Power (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Line preamplifier - ACOUSTIC REVIVE
Power Reference Triple-C (2 m) |REVIEW|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|

Anti-vibration

Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

Isolators:
  • PRO AUDIO BONO Ceramic 7SN |REVIEW|
  • FRANC AUDIO ACCESSORIES Ceramic Classic
  • HARMONIX TU-666M "BeauTone" MILLION MAESTRO 20th Anniversary Edition |REVIEW|

Analogue

Phono preamplifier: Phono cartridges: Tonearm (12"): Reed 3P |REVIEW|

Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

Record mats:
  • HARMONIX TU-800EX
  • PATHE WINGS

Headphones

Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC