Janine Elliot plumbs in these £1750 interconnects from Polish company KBL into her system to see what she will find.
Any cable manufacturer with the abbreviation ‘KBL’ deserves a listen. This Polish outfit have been making a big name for themselves over the last year or so, just as the rise of Poland itself is becoming a major contender for cars (Fiat Poland) and more latterly for the Hifi collectors’ pennies too. More and more products are emerging that have a decidedly premium quality and yet are still competitively priced, making them a serious choice for audiophiles.
KBL Sound have certainly been receiving review accolades and getting the attention of serious Hifi addicts over the last few years. Like many manufacturers, the company is a result of working in recording studios and having a passion for creating something that does not hinder the source material it intends to carry. Through many years of research, experimentation and improvements they have managed to complete their mission with this, the Red Eye Ultimate Interconnect. For them, the important bits are creating openness and the “ability to play back down to the bottom whatever has been preserved on the tape”. Tape? They certainly have my attention now.
This is a no-expense spared product, with highest purity mono crystal OCC (Ohno Continuous Casting) silver conductor with Mundorf NextGen WBT 0110 Silver/Gold alloy connectors which contain 1% gold (the same highly purified silver-gold alloy used for the metallization of their Supreme SilverGold capacitors), and air and foamed Teflon dielectric. Quite some specification for £1750, but does that mean it is the best sounding cable at the price? I mean, you could mix caviar and champagne together, but does that mean it still tastes nice? I remember recording a certain world champion snooker player at the BBC who told me he had all this wonderful expensive Hifi, costing an arm, leg and snooker cue, but that the sound just wasn’t right. I told him he would have been better buying an Amstrad Hifi. The interview went downhill from that point.
This cable is, as expected, really well made, though the box it comes in is decidedly home made with sellotape holding down the brown velvet “De Natura Sonorum” inscribed cloth covering a foam platform to bed the cable in the cardboard box. However, the personal touch makes it that much more of interest to me and so serious listening with it firstly between source and transformer preamp, and later between preamp and power amp was on the agenda.
Mundorf connectors, like those from Nakamichi and a few others, enable you to screw the sheath once mated to get a tighter fit. I love them and they make the cable less of a component in an already busy circuit. The only problem is some RCA sockets need you to almost take off the sheath in order to fit them; both my Krell and MFA found it impossible to connect at first. The Mundorf connectors rely on the reduced-contact surface philosophy, whereby only one point of the return/negative is connected to the socket. This is done to eliminate eddy currents and mass storage effects. Also its design prevents the sleeve of the plug itself acting as a conductor, which can influence sound. These plugs are exceptionally expensive, and I can see why.
Silver usually gives a brighter and tighter sound than copper in my experience. That is not a bad thing; I have silver cables to my tweeters and copper to my woofers. This cable was certainly OK in the top, and the mid and upper mid frequencies had exceptionally good detail. David Bowie’s (RIP) new album “Blackstar” hadn’t been released at the point of this review, but ‘The Next Day’ album’s title track was ready to spin on my player. This came across as clear as you can hear. I have never been fond of the sound engineering on his albums, but the music itself more than makes up. With “How Does the Grass Grow” the horrible compression and limiting in the recording becomes clearer to me with these cables. The slight mid-band emphasis in these cables emphasized it just that little bit.
KBL Sound’s activities are not confined to just the research and production of fine cables, but also the tuning and re-creating vintage valve amplifiers, like Leak and Dynaco. So what better than plugging in my modified Leak Stereo 20. These cables gave Harold’s best amp a more open and laid-back rendition, allowing the music to take over from any electronics that would otherwise be in the way. This really sounded musical, waking up my 1958 baby to sound as good as I have ever heard it.
Carlos Franzetti “The Jazz Kamerata” had a depth of sound I really got hooked on; the full colour from the piano, string warmth, flute and saxophone were all placed where I expected, with excellent decays on piano and a husky saxophone opened up as real as I would hear them live, like seeing the pixels on the screen, every ounce of colour was there for me to hear in all its glory. The sound had more atmosphere than I had got used to before on this regularly played recording. Not just was the soundstage detailed but it had a depth to it that was quite addictive. “Allison’s Dance” showed a move across and backwards in the soundstage at a particular point I hadn’t detected before.
Chasing the Dragon, Vivaldi Concerto for 11 Mandolins was full of emotion and breaths from musicians and also background atmosphere. Atmosphere was something really noticeable in these cables. Track 3, Bach Cello Suite No 1 was full of his bow ‘grinding away’ as Austin Pearson got engrossed in the notes.
Patricia Barber “What a Shame” (Café Blue) was equally engaging. These cables really brought out clarity of ride cymbals and Mark Walker’s percussion was as crisp as my own cables of choice. The guitar in track 4 “Romanesque” had a ‘bite’ and atmosphere that took me aback. Indeed the reverb and space in this recording using these cables was exceptional. Patricia’s voice was noticeably more atmospheric than other instruments as this cable took apart the music strands into their individual components. I felt much more involved in the music as it played, and all seemed that much more relaxed and intimate. This was a good marriage of wire and valve, though the music perhaps a little slower than I would like.
The detail in terms of pitch, focus and depth of sound, especially in the upper mid-range was excellent. These are excellent cables and should certainly be auditioned if you are spending this sort of cash (£1750). Indeed, I always say you should listen to cables in your own system as they play an important, ne, essential part in formulating the overall sound. If you need more mid frequency warmth these cables are an excellent choice. Only wish they’d change the box it came in. I’m good at sewing…
Value for Money: 8.3/10
Build Quality: 8.6/10 (The ‘box’ is not relevant)
Price at time of review £1750
Good upper-mid warmth
Excellent clarity in the top frequencies
Upper mid frequencies might not work with amplifiers with upper mid emphasis
The Red Eye Ultimate interconnects had been designed with one goal in mind: to reveal system possibilities to the latest extent. With feedback from the previous reviewers and private customers of Red Eye IC’s, they emphasize such features as accurate presentation, resolution, saturated colours and realistic sense of space.
Red Eye Ultimate interconnects are manufactured with ultra-pure silver wire with each single crystal length reaching even a few hundred meters (the result of a unique Ohno Continuous Casting process). Then, the silver is technologically aged to obtain an even better molecular order within each wire. These advanced conductors achieve such a high level of homogeneity that signal flow is practically lossless. Foamed PTFE is used as the best dielectric for practical application. The cable is internally multi-screened against EMI/RFI. Red Eye interconnects form a perfect synergy with WBT Nextgen 0110Ag type connectors fabricated to Mundorf’s specification. This German company has comprehensively changed the metallurgical composition for all internal parts responsible for electrical contact inside the connector. They contain 1% of gold in their composition when compared to the pure silver WBT concept.
Conductors: highest purity mono crystal OCC silver
Termination: Mundorf/WBT 0110 Ag sliver/gold alloy, other connectors upon request
Standard length available: 1 m, 1.5m, 2m
Other lenght available upon request
After the assembly process all our cables are tested and professionally conditioned. Thus they are already burned-in for immediate use without waiting many weeks or even months for their ultimate level of performance.
Robert Szczerbowski (KBL)