Graditech is a long established Finnish company. Created many years ago Graditech have been producing audio cables primarily for the internal wiring of speakers in Finland and other parts of the world. Graditech’s cables were so well received that speaker manufacturers began to request external speaker cables to compliment the internal wiring.
Graditech’s design and development of an external speaker cable made complete sense as the purest copper in the world comes from the Nordic regions. Designer Pasi Lankinen who has a varied and extensive background in electronic, speaker and cable design wanted to utilise the materials available to him to create a speaker cable which could adapt to changes in system components. This is where the Lumi3, a cable which has different types of conductors with different tonal characteristics, comes in.
Graditech also took their approach to external wires a step further to compliment their speaker cables with the introduction of analogue interconnects and a digital coaxial.
I chatted with Sauli Liitiäinen, Managing Director of Graditech, who is a music lover first and foremost and also a cable enthusiast. He joined Graditech to help further the company’s profile along with design engineer Pasi to bring a range of cables which are set in the high end market with a USP emphasising the company’s thoughts that ‘these will be the last cables you will ever need’.
This review will consist of me determining what I feel the characteristics of each of the cables within my current reference system are and further to that a look at the synergy between the Graditech loom feeding my electronics.
Kide3 Analogue Interconnects
The Kide3 interconnects are constructed from silver plated copper but only small amounts of silver are added to obtain sparkle and clarity and they are Teflon isolated. In Kide 3 there are three pairs of conductors connected in parallel, and there is a grounding shield for noise rejection. Structure is circular and not twisted pairs.
First impressions of the Kide3 interconnects during my various ‘warm up’ playlist is one of huge detail and speed with leading edges being extremely fast and precise. There’s no clinical presentation and beats flow fast and free, coupled with fantastic dynamic surges. Bass is huge, massively detailed and explosive, very tight, controlled and extended. There’s a wonderful crispness and cleanliness to everything which is balanced throughout and so very musical.
So let’s break this down and play a variety of music to explore the individual characteristics in a little more detail.
Rachelle Ferrell’s ‘I Can Explain’ is always a must for dynamic vocal range and control of what can be a slightly forward with an edgy upper mid and top end.
The Kide3 immediately lent speed to the leading edges of the vocals and piano, leaving so much room for the dynamic range of Rachelle’s voice and the quick transitions between lower and higher notes. Cymbals simply shimmered out of a quiet background whilst the centre focus just belted out vocal notes with elegance from convincing depth with height and scale.
Loreena McKennits ‘Full’ from The Mask And The Mirror album was so gracefully beautiful and the cables really accentuated the leading edges to the vocals again and left each phrase with a great amount of decay which faded as the next note was cast. Instruments were silky and textured and there was good depth to the soundstage allowing for the centre focused vocals to be just so expressive and liquid.
Ben Harpers ‘Whipping Boy’ was texture personified! The rubbing of strings in the background and tickling of the guitars was immaculate. Sound staging was wide and displayed all the little nuances of the layered recording leaving as much tone and texture to Bens voice that my valves could inject.
Nils Lofgrens two guitar solos, which I always use for reference, from ‘Keith Don’t Go’ and ‘Black Books’ were immediately noticeably faster than I’d heard them before. The Kide3’s have this trick where they seem to speed up the tempo a little, maybe due to the accuracy of displaying leading edges, but retain the naturalness due to the decay they leave. Both solos were engaging and terrifically well put across.
Shelby Lynne’s ‘ Just A Little Lovin” showed pure class and delicacy, a simple graceful vocal with beautiful transients which washed across the soundstage. There was a natural, neutral and embracing tempo to the sound. ‘I Only Wanna Be With You’ followed suit with its delicate harmonics and tonality, there was a perfect balance thought the performance, it’s sounded simply glorious.
Chris Jones’ ‘Long After Your Gone’ has an extremely low extended bass which needs absolute control and also texture in order not to render it ‘one note’ and I felt the Kide3 helped to present it with more control and definition than my AQ Skys – and that takes some serious doing! The AQ’s have the best weight and lower-end detail of any interconnect I have ever tried. Whilst maintaining a similar presentation I think the perceived extension from the Kide3 and its qualities of incredible decay did something to the bass which just seemed magical. The three dimensionality of these interconnects is also a point which needs firm mention, they convey placement and layering pretty much as spot on as I’ve heard it within my own system.
The Bottom Line
The Kide3 reminds me of some of my fondest memories and attributes of previous cables I’ve owned;
Synergistic Research’s Designer Reference cables has very well defined leading edges with a three dimensional display and tremendous depth. Nordost Tyrs speed and accuracy. The control and quiet background and spatial awareness of the Oriton Symphony Oranges and the delicacy, textured undertones, body and bass weight of Audioquest Skys, as well as the inner detail and micro dynamics.
The Kides do inject their own characteristics of soundstage coherence, which although spatial, has decay and tonal attributes which I can only describe as ‘elegant’ and fill the listening space in a fantastically connected way linking the whole presentation and giving it such a musical appeal, yet allowing instruments to remain in there own area within the soundstage. What they convey is pure emotion, excitement and refinement, the latter being a term I wouldn’t normally associate with the previous.
The Kide Digital cable looks and feels like one half of the Kide3 interconnects. Once again not made to a silly unmanageable thickness but nice and flexible and coming fitted with Neutrik’s spring loaded RCA plugs.
The inner construction is very similar to Kide3, although it is comprised of a slightly smaller gauge of the lightly silvered Nordic copper, configured for 75ohm. A 110ohm XLR (AES/EBU) format is also available.
After a good burn in of over 72 hours using the Ayre and Atlas burn in discs I sat down in anticipation of the sound.
I currently mainly use the Nordost Valhalla digital as my reference cable and also own a Transparent Reference, both retailing for a bit over £1500 each. The Nordost is wonderfully dynamic and crisp sounding, whilst the Transparent has a massively open top end and midrange. Each has a very large bandwidth.
On playing ‘Long After Your Gone’ by Chris Jones with the Kide Digital in place I perceived a smoother, rounder and fuller sound to my preferred Valhalla, without any loss of musical information. Guitar reverb was fantastic and the rolling, tight and controlled bass was plentiful and marvellously laid out. Vocals were lovely and relaxed, almost effortless and natural. Transients were strong and the presentation was very well balanced throughout with no peaks or nasties to report of.
I’m going to do my very best not to listen to all the same tracks as in the Kide3 portion of this review, however I’ve just finished off the majority of the previous album and very enjoyable it was. Mentioning the smoother top end I have to add that the amount of detail retrieval and inner detail within it is absolutely terrific – clarity with control could be an expression which would suit Kide Digitals character. So I need to throw Rachelle Ferrells ‘I Can Explain’ at the cables top end to enable me to see how it copes with the extremes of her vocal range.
The middle tones of Rachelle’s vocals were silky smooth and when she dropped an octave there was excellent textural weight and control. Now, even if you were to hear Rachelle played on a kitchen radio there is nothing more to be said than ‘this woman’s voice is magnificent!’ On a good system it can give you goosebumps and her top end notes sounded immaculate with the Kide Digitals control and thier smooth yet detailed top end conveying a gorgeous presentation to the peaks in her range.
Jack Savoretti has a lot texture to his voice but the ‘Between The Minds’ album can be a little grainy in its digital form and doesn’t have enough separation. The transparent cable will make this track everything the listener wants it to be, any other digital cable I’ve heard so far will either make the track sound a little harsh and noisy or dull and boring. So I was a little worried with the Kide Digital as it is that little bit smoother. I needn’t have worried as with its lack of a ‘digital edge’ it coped quite admirably. I still felt that there was some clean up needed on the recording but the attributes of the cable don’t inject grain or added warmth, it just gives a little more of a rounding to leading edges without losing clarity, allowing for a more pleasing listen to what is not the best of recordings.
Fleetwood Macs ‘Seven Wonders’ was lively, punchy and rhythmic, displaying all the pace the track deserves. The chorus can be a little bright at times but the Kide seemed to just round it off a little without losing detail and also giving the larger dynamic with which it is recorded. Background instruments, especially the kick drum, were also dynamically natural, with smaller flurries very apparent and presented with control. There are quite a few small sparkles throughout the track and if the system as a whole cannot present these smaller inner details then they may as well not exist, the Kide Digital presented these just as well as the Transparent Reference can which has the most insight of any digital cable I’ve ever heard, although I prefer the Valhallas overall presentation to the Transparent.
The well known Formula One theme ‘The Chain’ was put across with excellent separation which left free space for vocals and the strong fast bass line. The background was quiet and there was no digital vocal edginess which can be an issue sometimes when playing this track very loud.
The chorus began with a silent background and notes began to build, a few more notches on the amp and we’re off. Punchy, toe tapping and vibrant, very controlled, detailed and dynamic. Notes rang through the air but the busyness of this section never became muddled and the music flowing effortlessly.
The Bottom Line
The Kide Digital has a remarkable way of attenuating digital nasties and controlling any distracting leading edges which can cause that little touch of brightness in recordings. As with the Kide3 interconnects it has cohesiveness and displays loads of inner detail and musicality. It may lack absolute air in the top-end but it does have openness and what it may lack in air it makes up for in its balanced tonality and ability to handle dynamics. A little smoother than my reference cables but doesn’t get out shone on pure performance, which for a cable in its price bracket is a fantastic achievement. It will be very interesting to hear the synergy between the Digital’s smoother approach and the interconnects fast leading edges in the ‘full loom’ portion of this review, I suspect there to be a good balance struck between to two.
Lumi3 Speaker Cables
The Lumi3 has three pairs of conductors running along its length; pair #1 being made from solid core copper. Pair #2 comprising of stranded copper and pair #3 being a silver plated stranded copper.
The idea is that one of these pairs will suit amplifier and speaker combinations, but the Lumi3 has another little trick up its sleeve, with each of the banana plugs being able to be piggy backed one into the other creating even more combinations between the cores and giving a total of 7 differing configurations in total. Very simple and very ingenious.
Once a configuration has been chosen for your loudspeakers, if you find that you are left with one or two pairs to spare then Graditech have included what they refer to as a ‘Cable Park’ – this allows for the remaining conductors to fit into a nicely designed hunk of wood with 4mm holes to accommodate the remaining bananas so there are no shorts as the amplifier end of the cable connects all of the conductors + and – into only two plugs.
Now as this review is already becoming fairly substantial (thankfully we’re not printing on paper!) I will do my best to stay on point and try to be as brief and concise as I possibly can.
The ‘Stranded’ Copper
The ‘Stranded’ copper conductors were plugged into my Ayons and immediately they gave an out of the box, layered and textured sound. Imaging was entirely precise and there was a clear sense of accuracy with tone and body. Centre focus was deep and vocals projected. Inner detail was vast and clearly displayed.
The ‘Stranded’ copper option, gave control to forthcoming dynamics and harmonics which sounded natural and concise.
Male vocalists had great body to their voices, every movement of the mouth could be heard expressively whilst female vocalists had a clean upper mid with no forwardness or distracting nasties. They were gorgeous delicate and full of intimacy.
Instruments were full of timbre, totally accurate, conveyed accuracy and warmth with great decay. Strings were crisp with detail; wood sounded like wood, brass was well dispersed into the soundstage from its point of origin and piano had good upper bass/lower mid body to sound very natural.
With the ‘Stranded’ copper being 1/3 of the entire cable it would fall into the Acoustic Zen Hologram II area of price range and also has similar qualities to said cable, although the Graditech has a cleaner and more insightful sound without sacrificing body or controlled details.
The ‘Solid’ Copper
The ‘Solid’ copper lent itself to a slightly warmer bodied presentation overall, details were still very apparent and it could be understood that the solid cores used were of a very high purity, likely highly polished and reminiscent of a high quality Audioquest cable such as the Gibraltar, or Oyaide.
The problem I’ve always found with lower quality solid core cable is that it can defer to an over exaggerated lower-mid upper-bass, so much so that it could be called a hump. The Lumi3 didn’t have this tonal imbalance and once again retained a wonderful control and presence in my listening room, conveying textured and informative tones.
Male vocals probably thrived a little more than the previous ‘Stranded’ test with more texture and less of the upper mid cleanliness that the latter presented.
Female vocals were once again beautiful, had no edge and didn’t beam in the upper regions. I loved the silky smooth top end to female vocalists as they sounded very romantic whilst never laid back or recessed.
Instruments once again benefited from the warmer tones which still had all the detail and openness, along with a perceived naturalness.
Dynamics seemed a little softer but were not underwhelming in any way – I think the balance and coherence of the ‘Solid’ copper’s presentation was so musical and involving that any sharper more accurate details were simply not an issue for me as the musical presence was just so strong. I would absolutely be happy with the configuration as a permanent solution to hooking up my speakers.
The ‘Silvered’ (Silver Plated Copper)
Straight away there was a perceived increase in the airiness of the cleaner top end and, like the other two types, had a great balance and bottom end extension, although this time around it was a tighter and more accurate.
Poor quality silver plated copper cables, as people are aware, can be brash, bright and edgy. The ‘Silvered’ Lumi3’s conductors just lent slightly towards cleaner and more vibrant upper tones.
Male vocals expressed a little more breath to their presentation and female vocals shone, sounding beautiful with great controlled vibrancy into the higher notes. Centre focus, whilst never muddled on the other two variations, seemed to have more air around it and projected a little more forward into the listening space
Instruments had vibrancy and great sparkling top end openness. Bass notes never overshadowed the small strumming details on guitar with their full bodied and extended texture.
This wasn’t relaxed or warm, but once again showed an impression of a well implemented and carefully selected high grade material.
Sound staging as a whole was fantastic, portraying clean and crisp dynamics with great harmonic nuances.
All three together ‘Stranded + Solid + Silvered
As a quick test I just had to try all the conductors together, even though there are still more combinations available.
Presentation seems to have adopted characteristics of all three. There is more vibrancy in the top end than say the Solid alone, but less airiness than the Silvered alone. Mid-band had a little too much body for my taste in the lower parts and the bass was full and extended but lacked the upper punch a little compared to the Stranded and was fairly rich.
This is for sure an incredibly capable cable which has one of the best USPs of any cable in current production. With the ability to tailor to your setup and ability to adapt to equipment changes, Lumi3 is indeed very likely to be the last set of speaker cable you would ever need to purchase.
Each of the three cables within the whole cable are for sure high-end in retrieving detail and recreating the performance in an absolutely engrossing and exciting manner. Every micro detail and dynamic is approach absolutely spot on and the cable conveys all the emotion of a performance. The only difference is the slightly different colourations/tones that are available to taste. In my own system I could have lived with each of the three different conductor types, however with my current setup I was leaning more towards either of the coppers to compliment my own preferences and equipment’s signature.
I would advise to buy a length a little longer than is currently required to future proof any system placement changes.
The Complete Loom
As a complete loom using Kide Digital between the modded Squeezebox to Dac, Kide3 from Dac to Emille Integrated and the Stranded Copper of Lumi3 connecting to my Ayons, I chose a few different tunes to listen to.
Micheal Bubles ‘All of Me’ conveys such speed in the big band portions and dynamic flourishes which were absolutely spectacular. Smaller micro dynamics and reverbs were clearly displayed. The bass notes in the simpler parts of the track bounced and had a clearly defined weight and presence in a most spacious and ambient soundstage. Bubles voice was centre and his vocal moved ever so slightly as you could imagine him looking over to members of the band and smiling as he sang. The texture of his vocal against the individual timbres of the busy backing band was so easily heard, each within their own right and context within the performance, yet conveying absolute coherence and musicality.
Female artists such as Rachelle Ferell, Rebecca Furguson and Loreena McKennit had so much extension to their vocals with no discernible grain or upper mid-forward ness. The speed and accuracy of the leading notes was so concise, indicative of what Kide3’s biggest attribute to me is; rounded, with the ability of Kide Digital’s way of controlling digital recordings and lending its hand to a certain naturalness and Lumi3’s way of adapting to a systems overall signature to give balance and excitement. I am utterly convinced that the trio of Graditechs cables within my setup has a sound which can be deemed as ‘correct’.
Electronic and dance music was hugely commanding! Artificial notes whipped through the soundstage and around the room with incredible speed and transparency. There was a massive perception of a three dimensional soundstage which had harmonics which appeared in areas of the room that I felt I could just reach out and grab. Each end of the frequency range was extended to my systems very limits and absolutely controlled and accurate. The term accurate can be misunderstood at times some people accept the phrase as one of a clinical description, I see the word accurate as a term which describes what I feel is a correct and or natural description of the sound or a note.
This review for me has been very enjoyable and very time consuming.
I could have easily gone on for another good 3,000 words or so exploring combinations of Lumi3 along with a more in depth and varied approach to other music which I generally enjoy.
This review is basically three reviews in one and treating each of the speaker cables 7 combinations, as I have the interconnects and digital cable, would run this review far beyond any reasonable persons attention span, but it could very easily have been done as they sound absolutely fantastic and I cannot express how enthusiastic I am about the cables USP. Graditech do offer a single and double conductor configuration called the Lumi1 and Lumi2 but for completeness and future compatibility Lumi3 offers an all in one solution.
With the naturalness of Kide Digital, the speed, rendition of instruments and vocals of Kide3 and the balance, control and flexibility of Lumi3 all combined to produce a sound which has a huge bandwidth, expressive dynamics, emotional accuracy and a delicacy that can only be produced by some of the very finest audio cable I have ever heard. I would urge anyone who finds themselves in the market for new cables at this price point to consider and explore what Graditech can offer.
Author – Dan