KLEI zFLOW22 and zFLOW33 Review


Serendipitous: to come upon or find by accident.

It is not every day that I get to use such a term, but it does sum up exactly how I stumbled upon the true nature of the KLEI zFLOW cables from KLE Innovations...

zFLOW22-33

Keith Louis (KL) Eichmann had been dropping hints about these new “Top of The Line” products for a few weeks. He hadn’t actually stated what was better about them, simply that they were “rather special”

It wasn’t until he was closer to sending them did he reveal their new nomenclature
“zFLOW”, which is short for “Zero Flow Ground State”, an extension of his existing “gZero Architecture”.

When he told me he was going to send the
KLEI zFLOW33 interconnects and the KLEI zFLOW22 Speaker Cables for my listening pleasure, I had decided the best approach was to install and evaluate the speaker cables first.

  • Primarily because I find having better quality speaker cables normally allows me to better assess any improvements provided by the later introduction of interconnects.

And this is where serendipity comes into play...


By mistake I happened to connect the
KLEI zFLOW33 interconnects first and since they were now installed I decided to audition them anyhow with the already well broken-in KLEI gZero6 Speaker Cables in the mix.

After playing a few tracks I felt that these new cables were only performing marginally better than my “well matured”
KLEI gZero20 interconnects, which I had enjoyed for many months.

Now, I am the first to admit that my system is “modestly priced” and as such there would come a day when the resolution limits of my system would be encountered.

Could his be the reason for such lacklustre performance?


After allowing the KLEI zFLOW33 Interconnects to settle in for approximately 3 days, I still had not noticed any further improvements - which is not the norm for cables from KL - like a good wine they do require some time to “breath” to sound their best.

Feeling quite underwhelmed - and wondering exactly what I was going to write about - I decided to install the
KLEI zFLOW22 Speaker Cables as well.

So with the
KLEI zFLOW22 Speaker Cables “in concert” with the KLEI zFLOW33 interconnects, I restarted the settle-in process

Immediately, there appeared to be an improvement over the previous cable combination
-
i.e. KLEI Zflow33 IC’s with the gZero6 SC’s.

A couple of days later and those improvements had really started to reveal some extremely delicate nuances I had never before heard on most of the tracks played.

After applying some thought, it was clear that the newly installed
KLEI zFLOW22 Speaker Cables were in fact providing a more suitable pathway for the extremely fine details being revealed by the KLEI zFLOW33 interconnects.

With my curiosity getting the better of me, I decided to try a configuration experiment...

  • Case “A” - combine the KLEI gZero20 IC’s with the KLEI zFLOW22 SC’s
  • Case “B” - combine the KLEI zFLOW33 IC’s with the KLEI gZERO6 SC’s

Here’s what I observed of the individual
zFLOW cable usage:
  • Case “A” - the KLEI zFLOW22 Speaker Cables sounded very much like the KLEI gZero6 speaker cables - any improvements were marginal at best.
  • Case “B” - the KLEI zFLOW33 Interconnects sounded very much like KLEI gZero20 Interconnects - again, improvements were simply marginal.
  • AND - both Cases seemed to offer a very similar, almost identical, level of fidelity.

I considered these observations as being below “the norm” with respect to my previous observations experienced for all other KLEI cables auditioned.

Basically, I expected more from their individual use!

However, one thing that was quite clear, having both the
KLEI zFLOW33 Interconnects and the KLEI zFLOW22 Speaker Cables in the audio pathway was yielding performance improvements that exceeded the performance of both case “A” and “B” and was more in line with my previous expectations

Using the two zFLOW products together seemed to allow my system to resolve to a higher level.

With that realization, I installed both sets of KLEI zFLOW cables and allowed them time to settle.

During the “settling time” I did play music, but I did not really sit down to seriously
“audition” the cables. There were a few moments where I detected some improvements, but it was not really enough to make me stop what I was doing and listen more intently.

It wasn’t until about day 6 in the settling cycle that I began to hear significant improvements that really peaked my interest.

Finally, The level of improvement I had previously come to “expect” from installing KLE Innovations products was starting to materialize!

However, rather than a marked improvements in dynamics, or image size, or bass performance etc.., the most noticeable of the improvements was clearly the level of refinement these cables were able to convey.

Now, if you feel that I’m a little
“less enthused” than in most of my other reviews, please remember that my point of reference for this review is the KLEI gZero20 Interconnect and the KLEI gZero6 speaker cables, which have proven to be exceptional performers.

So what exactly were the improvements?

The
KLEI zFLOW cables have an ability to convey an extraordinary level of detail - this was clearly demonstrated by a significant improvement in the reproduction of subtle reverberations in venue acoustics and extremely delicate nuances of vocal performances.

  • Improved clarity across the entire frequency range - which resulted in more life-like performances, even on albums recorded in the studio
  • The improvements in detail and clarity has also improved upon the already superb imaging of the gZero20/gZero6 combination, but added more depth to the image and simply dissolved the confines (i.e. walls) of my listening space.
  • An enhanced realism across the entire image provided more space around artists and instruments together with their individual localized reverberations.
  • The detail and clarity also contributes significantly to an extended bass performance, which not only goes lower than ever, but reveals textures in the bass line that up to know were only ever heard in the live performance.
  • And lastly, strange as it may sound - the detail and clarity seems to have improved upon the dynamic performance.
  • Perhaps the human ear is capable of detecting details so fine that even in the crack of a snare drum or the plucking of a string, they appear to make every performance noticeably “crisper” than before.

Some standout albums and artists:

Nellie Furtado - these cables highlighted her extremely varied vocal tones, from her edgy grittiness, to the softest and delightfully tranquil passages. The extremely dynamic and deep synth work on certain tracks went very deep and divulged many more bass textures.

Diana Krall - Diana’s vocal acuity was simply brought to a whole new level of
“seduction” and the perceived reality of having her perform right there in my living room was surreal.

Jason Mraz’s album - “Yes” - has never been so soulful and engaging with some superb instrumental and vocal textures that highlighted the superb sound engineering.

Miroslav Tadic’s album - “Window Mirror” is one of the first albums I play because of the superb sound engineering used in a live venue recording - the venue acoustics were the best I’ve ever heard them - Miroslav’s guitar playing is none too shabby either - just a superb album.

And finally, one of my stalwart tracks - Toccata from Organ Symphony No. 5: by Daniel Chorzempa from “Hear the Light” on Phillips. This track contains the whole gamut of audio reference points ...
  • The Low pitch pipes where the improved deep bass textures now seems to shake the entire house
  • An image that very successfully recreates the cavernous church the piece was recorded in
  • A cacophony of sound from all of the various keyboards & pipes in play is superbly reproduced in amazing clarity, from quietest passage to the loudest crescendos - and I played it LOUD!
  • even the most delicate sounds are brought to your ears with amazing clarity and detail.

So what princely sum will get you these hand built Cables?

Since these cables are yet to be formerly announced I can only state a “provisional price” provided by Keith Louie.
  • KLEI zFLOW22 Speaker Cables - $1699 for a 3 meter pair
  • KLEI zFLOW33 Interconnects - $2399 for a 1 meter pair

Reasonable? or Outrageous?- that’s something each individual will have to ponder. But just take the time to look at some of the esoteric competition before making any judgement and you might find...

Price/Performance to this level of fidelity - represents VALUE!


CONCLUSION...

It was very fitting that KL decided to give the
zFLOW cables their own name, since they clearly perform to a higher level of resolution than the KLEI gZero product line - a very special achievement indeed.

How much better than the KLEI gZero product line are they?

Well, If you already own the
KLEI gZero20 IC + KLEI gZero6 SC combination, like myself, you may assess their initial performance to be “Marginal”, but that is very dependent on the other system components, your ears and your listening space!

I was very fortunate in that the cables I auditioned had already undergone a long burn-in period, therefore new cables will require some 300-400 hours of burn-in - even then, they will continue to improve over time.

So give them adequate time!


Will they offer better performance on components of higher resolution? - undoubtedly!

On my system the improvements started out very subtle, but discernible and after a few days of settling, I found them immensely enjoyable. I also have a feeling they will continue to improve over time just as the
KLEI gZero products do.

Attempting to upgrade to cables having the capabilities of the
KLEI zFLOW product range from any other manufacturer will most certainly cost you considerably more and to be honest, I believe attempting to find better performing cables could prove to be a very time consuming lesson in futility.

Without a doubt, the
KLEI zFLOW product line is clearly KLE Innovations best performer (to date) and it deserves to be crowned as their new “Top Of The Line” without any reservations - that’s the opinion of this reviewer at least.

These cables don’t simply improve on “metric performance”, i.e. the dynamics, imaging, the clarity etc., they provided an astonishing level of refinement and allowed my system to convey the most realistic performance I have heard to date.

They achieve a very “life-like” reality.


My Review System:

  • Custom built turntable with a Soundsmith Denon DL103 phono cartridge mounted on an Audiomods Arm with one piece silver litz harness + KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA’s

  • Simaudio MOON LP5.3 RS phono stage

  • iMac (Music Server)

  • Musical Fidelity V-Link192 USB/SPDIF Converter + KLEI gZero3 SPDIF

  • Schiit Bifrost USB DAC with UBER analogue upgrade

  • NAIM 5i integrated amp (with passive pre-section).

  • Gershman Acoustics Sonogram speakers.

  • KLEI gZero6 Speaker Cables

  • KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables


page6_blog_entry61-page6_blog_entry60-page6_blog_entry52-page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up-2 A highly recommended product Line!

KLEI gZero6, gZero10 and gZero20 IC Product Update.

KLEI 6-10-20_001

I've been using the KLEI Innovations Interconnect cables since April 2014 and in that time I have become very accustomed to their exceptional performance characteristics and realize there are very few interconnects that can come close to providing this level of fidelity.

In the time since my review of the
KLEI gZero20 IC’sin January 2015, Keith Louie Eichmann (aka KL) of KLE Innovations has hinted at some forthcoming developments out of his R & D that he was very excited about and which he had decided to apply to his existing line of interconnects.

This struck me as being a bit of an odd approach, since most other companies would have simply announced new models, but thankfully, KL's approach is more beneficial to the customer because:
  • by restricting their product line to a very concise model range assists in managing production costs
  • it prevents the creation of a dizzying array of products (something most other companies seem to relish)
  • which in turn assists the customer in selecting the Interconnect that is best suited to their needs and budget with an optimum outcome.

This approach, so early on in the product development lifecycle, seemed to me to indicate
KLE Innovations was adopting a very customer centric approach.

The initial model range had a very consistent
acoustic signature as you progress to each successive model. Also, each successive model provided a noticeable level of improvement, whereas other brands often suffer from "diminishing returns" as you approach the upper end of the model range

So I was hoping that these new changes would not distort these particular facets of the product line.

So What Was This Exciting New Development?

During his R & D efforts, KL had refined his gZero Architecture/Technology, improving on it’s abilities with each successive model.

He then decided to try the some of those refinements on his entry level interconnects and found they provided significant improvements in their performance without significantly increasing their cost.
signal conductor and holding the neutral/ground sides of attached components at a steady state of zero volts and as such is referred to internally as
gZEROs for ground zero state", but will continue to be termed simply as gZero Architecture/Technology.

So Which Models Have Been Improved And What Are The Benefits?

The improvements have been applied to the
KLEI gZero2, 3, 6, 10 and 20 IC’s.

I first had the opportunity to observe the effectiveness of the
gZEROs Architecture just prior to this update, during the KLEI gZero2 Interconnect Cable Review and basically found...
  • QUOTE: “The new gZEROs Architecture elevates the KLEI gZero2 Interconnect almost to the same level of performance as previous/old KLEI gZero6 model"
  • But would the magnitude of the improvements observed between each successive model in the lineup diminish as you approach their top of the line products?

To assist me in answering that KL had sent me the current/new KLEI gZero6, 10 and 20 IC’s for evaluation.

Observations for the new KLEI gZero6...

Since I reviewed them in January 2015, I’ve been using the previous/old
KLEI gZero20 IC’s and since I frequently leave my system running throughout the day, I would conservatively estimate they have now had close to 800 hours of playing time.

In that time I have become very accustomed to their
beguiling nature, to the point where installing any other interconnect in their place is immediately apparent, mainly because very few IC's can come close to providing that same level of haunting fidelity.

KL had advised that upon installation of the
new KLEI gZero6 IC’s in my system, I should allow them to settle-in for 24 hours before performing any type of serious auditioning.

But as always I couldn't resist giving them just a very quick listen before leaving them to settle...
  • what I was not prepared for - that very same "beguiling nature", which had only ever been produced by the previous/old KLEI gZero20 IC’s was now being conveyed quite convincingly by the new KLEI gZero6 IC’s!

Here was yet another model in the product line, whose performance had improved to a level approaching a model that was two levels its superior, just as I had observed when I reviewed the
new KLEI gZero2 IC’s.

Comparing the
new KLEI gZero6 IC’s to the previous/old KLEI gZero6 IC's revealed:
  • The high end extension appeared unchanged
  • however the improved clarity at the top end made it more pronounced and therefore sounded more complete
  • the image was slightly wider and a little deeper with more details from venue acoustics filling in between performers
  • performer placement within the image is far more precise
  • the clarity has improved significantly, especially in the lower-mid to upper frequencies - probably due to a much lower noise floor
  • the speed of dynamics are about the same, but again, the clarity has improved this aspect also
  • there is improved bass extension in the low end with much more control and texture

That
beguiling nature, I believe is due to the exceptional clarity, which allows far more details to be heard, especially in the area of venue acoustics and reverberations, which in turn produces a more accurate and realistic reproduction.

Needless to say, the
new KLEI gZero6 IC’s with the revised gZEROs Architecture/Technology are much more adept at reproducing a more believable performance, especially for music recorded in a live environment.

Observations for the new KLEI gZero10 IC’s...

So, if the
new KLEI gZero6 IC’s were performing almost to the same level as the previous/old KLEI gZero20 IC’s

What improvements should I expect of the new KLEI gZero10 IC’s?


Comparing the new KLEI gZero10 IC’s to the previous/old KLEI gZero10 IC's revealed:

  • There was a significant improvement to the clarity of the high frequency details, making them more pronounced
  • The image is wider and extends further back
  • But also the venue acoustics and reverberations project much further forward, surrounding the listener and adding to the reality
  • Performer placement within the image is more precise but now includes significant details of the performers actual movements
  • There is a significant improvement in clarity across the board, allowing you to play music a higher volumes without any degradation
  • The speed and magnitude of dynamics have improved to a level I've never before experienced
  • The bass extension in the extreme low end is not only lower, but superbly detailed and much better controlled.
  • They now exhibited the same beguiling nature previously only heard from the previous/old KLEI gZero20 IC’s

By comparison to the new KLEI gZero6 IC’s, the new KLEI gZero10 Interconnects provides a larger, more open sound, with crisper and more powerful dynamics across the entire frequency range. Their accuracy in the reproduction of the timber of various instruments is extremely life-like and regardless of whether the instrument is part of a full orchestral presentation or being played by a soloist in the foreground. Smaller ensembles, such as quartets/sextets are reproduced with a reality that many interconnects can only aspire to.

Observations for the new KLEI gZero20...

The
new KLEI gZero20 IC’s, being the top of the line, were the last to be auditioned - which left me wondering...
  • Would they provide a significant improvement over the new KLEI gZero10 IC's?
  • Would their improvements be of the same magnitude as experienced with the lower end models
  • More importantly, could they justify their rather hefty price tag?

As with any top of the line product, there is always the issue of diminishing returns, since for most audio components and cables, attaining that ultimate performance comes at a higher price and the return is often far less noticeable in the upper echelon of a product range than it is between the entry level products.

I had thought of following the same process as above,
i.e. identifying improvements of the new vs. the old versions of KLEI gZero20 IC’s.

But when I heard the
new KLEI gZero20 IC’s, I realized this approach would be rather pointless, since it was quite clear the new KLEI gZero20 IC really is in a league all by itself!

With IC’s of this ability, it's no longer about how each of the various metrics have improved,
e.g. the dynamics are faster, the image is bigger, even though it was quite apparent.

It's about what the new KLEI gZero20 interconnects achieve that is far more relevant!


I spent considerable time listening and thinking of how I could convey the very special improvements I was experiencing.

I listened for improvements in the various metrics and even though they were discernible, there was something much more appealing that was now being experienced in the music.

It was the amazing pinpoint accuracy of
performer placement within the image, together with the space surrounding them and finally the ambiance of the entire performance.

I think the best way of describing the benefits of the
new KLEI gZero20 IC’s, is to turn to the world of cinema.

  • if you think of the new KLEI gZero10 IC’s as being analogous to watching a great action movie in an ultra-high resolution format
  • then the new KLEI gZero20 IC’s would be analogous to watching that same movie in IMAX-3D!

Everything simply appears
more focussed, having much more detail with a crisper presentation and a cavernous and spacious image.

It's just downright eerie how the
voice of each instrument or performer comes into immediate focus. Each commanding its position in a three dimensional space in such a way that it sounds more like each voice has its own individual speaker working on its behalf - even in full orchestral pieces.

To get this level of coherence from a 2 channel system is extremely difficult and is often only available on a system that utilizes components that adhere to extreme design goals and uses high calibre parts in their circuitry. You know
- the real pricey stuff !

When used on my digital source, the
new KLEI gZero20 IC’s brought the performance as close to an analogue sound that I have experienced to date and gives my solid state system a very tube-like quality.

So What's The Bottom Line?

The KLE Innovations cables are not the cheapest on the market, but I have found them to be the best that I have auditioned to date and at their price points, I find them to be exceptional value, especially when I look at the pricing of some of the high-end boutique and esoteric brands.

Which model you choose is up to you, but I think you will be very happy with any of the models that uses the revised
KLEI gZero Architecture.
  • If your system uses high-end components, then I would recommend their top of the line products.
  • If your system is more modestly priced and you find it a little difficult to entertain spending more on your cables than on your components, then try their entry to mid level interconnects.
  • either way - they will not leave you disappointed

A Brief Recap...

During over 30 years of research, KL has developed an extremely detailed understanding of the various
influences, both internal and external, that can affect the conveyance of a signal from one component to another down a piece of wire,

Also, there’s the effect that the architecture of that piece of wire can actually have on the performance of the attached components.

KL's approach is a paradigm shift from conventional thinking in that...
  • rather than view the components from a modular perspective i.e. as two boxes connected by a single cable
  • he views the connection from the perspective of the internal circuitry.


page2image664

As can be seen from the diagram above, the two conductors making the connection actually perform two very different jobs...
- the signal conductor conveys the signal
- whereas the neutral simply connects the
ground side of both circuits - keeping them both as close zero volts as possible


CONCLUSIONS...

This development in the architecture has elevated the performance of their Interconnect product line to a level that I believe far exceeds all other interconnects from competitors and definitely those having a similar price point.

Not only does the
KLEI gZero IC’s have the ability to sound excellent in high end systems, they also bring out the very best performance from more modestly priced components.

e.g. my DAC is one such component, costing around $420.00.
But sounding as good as DAC's many time it's modest price point
!

The one outstanding feature of the new architecture is the clarity and detailing these cables now bring to the music. This is very apparent on orchestral pieces, which now sound so much closer to a live performance.

So, do you replace any existing KLEI gZero Interconnects you currently own?

That is a personal choice, but because each model utilizing the new architecture performs to a higher level, even an
upgrade to the same model will yield significant improvements.

How do you tell the difference between the new and old cables?

The cables utilizing the new architecture have a Purple sleeve under the white label attached to each interconnect

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 1.37.53 PM

I have always maintained that the KLEI product line offers exceptional value for money, but by implementing the gZEROs Architecture across most of their existing interconnect product line, KLE Innovations has just raised the bar on their competitors - by a significant margin!

All of these interconnects are exceptional performers and are highly recommended for all systems!

My Review System:

  • Custom built turntable with a Soundsmith Denon DL103 phono cartridge mounted on an Audiomods Arm with one piece silver litz harness + KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA’s

  • Simaudio MOON LP5.3 RS phono stage

  • iMac (Music Server)

  • Musical Fidelity V-Link192 USB/SPDIF Converter + KLEI gZero3 SPDIF

  • Schiit Bifrost USB DAC with UBER analogue upgrade and Version 2 USB interface Upgrade

  • NAIM 5i integrated amp (with passive pre-section).

  • Gershman Acoustics Sonogram speakers.

  • KLEI gZero6 Speaker Cables

  • KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables


page6_blog_entry61-page6_blog_entry60-page6_blog_entry52-page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up-2 A highly recommended product Line!











KLEI gZero2 Interconnect Cable Review

KLEI gZero2 IC

Over the past year I've reviewed a majority of the products from
KLE Innovations and been pleasantly surprised, in that each successive item reviewed to date has achieved some very discernible improvements over its predecessor.

So when Keith Louis Eichmann (aka KL) asked me to review his
KLEI gZero2 Interconnect I was quite happy to do so, even though I thought the request a little odd.
  • After all, the KLEI gZero20 Interconnect was the last analogue model I reviewed and it just seemed like I was taking a step "backwards" to review a model that, from a performance perspective, is several levels below it.

However, I’ve learned that with most things from KL, they often turn out to be more rewarding than he would have you believe.

But this request was a little different - from KL’s “tone” he actually seemed quite excited.

So What’s So Special?

The
KLEI gZero2 Interconnect utilizes a revised gZero Architecture that has evolved from continual R & D efforts within the KLE Innovations camp.
  • The revised architecture has a designation "gZEROs" for "ground ZERO state"
  • which is basically a more advanced application of the original gZero Architecture.

Now, where many companies would have used this type of advance in product development to introduce a whole new line of products.
  • KL has decided to incorporate the new architecture into most of the existing models of the current product line,
  • Also, by restricting their product line to a very concise model range, reduces production costs, which in turn, is also a benefit to the customer.
  • this leads me to believe that he is more focussed on providing "real value" to his customer base.

And what's so different?

The
KLEI gZero2 Interconnect sports the same black nylon sleeving with the same KLEI Copper Harmony RCA plugs attached, just like the very first KLEI gZero2 Interconnect.
  • The only tell-tale sign of a product change is the slightly larger girth of the cable itself
  • and under the label bearing the KLE Innovations Logo, there is now a purple sleeve, in place of the previous blue sleeve.
  • It has also been re-packaged in a nice "Eminence Purple" bag Happy

On initial installation of the
KLEI gZero2 Interconnects I was immediately taken by a significantly more forward presentation of the image, i.e. when compared to most other gZero models having the old architecture.

Also, everything across the board sounded bigger, fuller and warmer and very much like the
previous/old KLEI gZero6 Interconnects, which I had found to be very enjoyable.

A Step Back in time...

To get an appreciation of just how well these interconnects were performing I reverted back to a pair of the
previous/old KLEI gZero6 Interconnect having the original gZero Architecture (still on loan from KLE Innovations) and to my surprise, the similarities were quite startling.

Here was the
KLEI gZero2 Interconnect performing almost to the same level as a sibling interconnect two levels above it in the product line.

The only real difference seemed to be that the
KLEI gZero2 Interconnect was not quite as adept at:
  • reproducing the details, dynamics and clarity, for instruments having an upper register that occupied the higher frequencies of the audio spectrum, such as violins, triangles and cymbals.
  • the reproduction of the micro details that contribute to the realistic presentation of the acoustics specific to a venue.

And Back to the present...

So it appears that at low and mid frequencies, the dynamic performance of the
KLEI gZero2 Interconnect has improved, providing more punch to drums and more slam to bass lines, but they do not quite possess that same level of detail, crispness and sparkle at the very top end.

Another area where I noticed a marginal difference (i.e. compared to the
previous/old KLEI gZero6 Interconnect) was in the spatial imaging...
  • as stated earlier, the KLEI gZero2 Interconnect seems to present an image that is more forward
  • the width of the image was, for the most part, unchanged
  • the depth of the image also seemed unchanged
  • so basically - the entire image now sounded closer to the listener

Closely related to imaging, another nice quality of the new architecture is the improved (i.e. lower) noise floor, which for me translates to enhanced clarity and hence a more precise image rendition.
  • I’ve often found that on orchestral tracks, where large numbers of instruments are in play, the overall presentation can become a little “muddled”
  • However, with the improvements in clarity, I found that they now sound much cleaner and I can now to listen to those tracks at louder volumes.

Another noticeable improvement was their bass performance.
  • bass response now reaches into the lower, almost subsonic frequencies, a significant improvement over earlier models
  • the textures of those low frequencies were nicely presented
  • but I didn’t find it quite as controlled as the previous/old KLEI gZero6 Interconnect, which is still very much a personal favourite from that perspective

In Summary...

The new
gZEROs Architecture has achieved some very significant improvements to the KLEI gZero2 Interconnect and has still managed to maintain the superb neutrality that the KLEi gZero product range has become renown for.

Some might consider comparing the
KLEI gZero2 Interconnect to the significantly more expensive previous/old KLEI gZero6 Interconnect, to be a little unfair?
  • The reality is - the sonic performance of these two interconnects is much closer than one might expect.


CONCLUSIONS...

The new
gZEROs Architecture, which will continue to be termed as gZero Architecture/Technology”, elevates the KLEI gZero2 Interconnect almost to the same level of performance as previous/old KLEI gZero6 model, which for me still has the edge in the areas of upper frequency extension, upper frequency dynamic performance, upper frequency clarity and imaging.

However, the
KLEI gZero2 Interconnect is fast, detailed, well controlled and spacious, with an improved clarity and an improved bass performance, that is very well controlled and drops “into the basement”.

As stated earlier, the new
gZEROs Architecture has been applied to all models from the KLEI gZero2 Interconnect upwards.
  • So, if the improvements observed in the KLEI gZero2 Interconnect are also present in their new gZero3, 6, 10 and 20 models, then I think KLE Innovations has just thrown down the gauntlet to the rest of the industry.

They have introduced an architecture to an existing product line that has elevated the performance of the
KLEI gZero2 Interconnect and possibly each successive model and that's something most manufacturers will not even entertain, let alone put into practice!

Kudos to the KLE Innovations team, who seems to care about providing value to their customers - thank you.

My Review System:

  • Custom built turntable with a Soundsmith Denon DL103 phono cartridge mounted on and Audiomods Arm with one piece silver litz harness + KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA’s

  • Simaudio MOON LP5.3 RS phono stage

  • iMac (Music Server)

  • Musical Fidelity V-Link192 USB/SPDIF Converter.

  • Schiit Bifrost USB DAC with UBER analogue upgrade and Version 2 USB interface Upgrade

  • NAIM 5i integrated amp (with passive pre-section).

  • Gershman Acoustics Sonogram speakers.

  • KLEI gZero6 Speaker Cables

  • KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables


page6_blog_entry61-page6_blog_entry60-page6_blog_entry52-page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up-2 A highly recommended product!





KLEI gZero3D (Digital/SPDIF) Interconnect Review

3D Digital Background
The KLEIgZero3D (Digital/SPDIF) Interconnect arrived in the same package as the KLEI gZero2D (Digital/SPDIF) Interconnect (previously reviewed), so this review is more about the relative performance of these two excellent SPFIFs.

However, discerning the improvements that the
KLEI gZero3D Digital/SPDIF Interconnect should be able to provide, based on it's elevated stature in the KLE Innovations product line, was actually not that simple - why?..
  • even though the KLEI gZero2D may be the more affordable SPDIF of the two in the current KLE Innovations product line, it is far from "entry level", a term normally used to denote the “most affordable" and in general, the "least capable" model in a product line.
  • but, the KLEI gZero2D is an extremely adept SPDIF Interconnect in its own right and capable of competing with many of the very best boutique and esoteric brands already out there.
  • its entry level position has no real bearing on it's actual capabilities.
  • But like all things from KLE Innovations, there's always room for improvement. Happy

So, how did the KLEI gZero3D Interconnects perform?

On initial installation, the
KLEI gZero2D lacked the fullness it was to reveal after some 25-30 hours of “settling-in” time, whereas I did not experience that aspect on installing the KLEI gZero3D.

From
“settling in” onwards, it was going to prove far more difficult to discern why the KLEI gZero3D should warrant my recommendation and why it should have a place in anybody's audio system, over the KLEI gZero2D.

The capabilities of both of these cables is extraordinary and initially appeared extremely close, i.e. when installed on my modestly priced system.

Perhaps improvements could be more easily observed if the
KLEI gZero3D were installed on a system offering higher resolution?

Well, as it turns out, it just took some extensive and focussed listening to
“live performance” recordings to really appreciate exactly what the KLEI gZero3D has to offer ...
  • sure, there was a small improvement in the speed of the dynamics - they were a little crisper
  • the image was a little deeper, but the spread in that deep image was a little more discernible
  • there was a slightly improved isolation of performers with improved details between them
  • there was a little more texture in the bass performance
  • there were improvements in extremely fine detail, such as the delicate whispery tonal qualities of voice
  • strings and soprano voice sounded a little less shrill and fuller (i.e. smoother)

But the most appreciable improvement for me was how the
KLEI gZero3D interconnects seemed to tear down the walls of the 12' x 15' room where my system is located and transport me into a more appropriately sized venue.

On many tracks I could not help but think this is exactly what the sound engineers were listening to as the recording was being made.

Albums of note include...
  • Laments, Dances and Lullabies, Suite for Guitar, by Miroslav Tadic - the sound engineering on this album is superb and the conveyance of venue's acoustics placed me in a small church, the acoustics of which, matched perfectly to Miroslav’s guitar and technique.
  • Buenos Aires Madrigal: Argentine Tangos & 17th Century Italian Madrigals, by La Chimera - I've never been to Argentina, but I close my eyes and I'm transported into a smokey nightclub in downtown Buenos Aires, watching two slim dancers, both dressed in black, perform a perfect sultry Tango
  • Mozart's Violin Concerto no.4 in D major (the Allegro track), by Marianne Thornsen + TronheimSolistene - this was just one of many tracks that far exceeded the walls of my audio room, but Marianne's passion for this piece shines more with the KLEI gZero3D

I also found that the
KLEI gZero3D to have come the closest to conveying the much sought after "analogue feel”, that I have heard from digital music reproduced on a solid state system to date.

But is it worth it?...

Well, on reviewing my observations of each individual metric (dynamics, image, clarity, etc...), I found most of the improvements when compared to the
KLEI gZero2D, are what I consider to be "marginal”.

However, in this case, the
"whole" was very much greater than the sum of the parts.

Factor in the pricing of the
KLEI gZero3D, i.e. being only $100 more than it's more affordable sibling, (an increase of only 40% ) makes it a far more attractive proposition.

The Caveat's...

1. Please ensure you burn-in this cable for the recommended period on the
KLE Innovations web site
  • the cable I tested was already burned in, but it still took a couple of hours to settle before performing its best.

2. They perform their absolute best when the other Interconnect and Speaker Cables are also from the
KLE Innovations product line.
  • it is not just that KLE Innovations products are capable of conveying the finest of details
  • their Ground Zero Architecture prevents the induction of noise into the signal conductor
  • but more importantly the architecture keeps the Neutral side of the circuit of any attached component at zero volts, thus allowing the component to perform to a significantly high level
  • other than the obvious improvements in fidelity, another noticeable side effect of using KLE Innovations products is that solid state components actually run cooler than with other cables

CONCLUSIONS...

Well, I tend to be very pragmatic in my component/cable selection and price plays largely into any recommendation I may make.

In this case,
KLE Innovations offers two exceptional SPDIFs ...
  • both perform extremely well.
  • neither will disappoint
  • both are modestly priced, i.e. compared some of the more expensive cables from other brands that attempt to offer similar abilities

From a pragmatists perspective...
  • If you are serious about enhancing the abilities of the digital reproduction components of your audio system the KLEI gZero3D will not disappoint and bring you that much closer to "analogue nirvana"
  • If your digital components are used more for background music then the KLEI gZero2D may suit your needs better. But you might just find that will change your views on digitally sourced music once you hear them.

What has not really been addressed in this review is how the
KLEI gZero3D Digital/SPDIF Interconnect compared to other SPDIF Interconnects from other brands. Unfortunately I only have one other SPDIF to compare it to, suffice to say, the other brand did not fare well at all.


The KLEI gZero3D Digital/SPDIF Interconnect expands on the very serious capabilities of the KLEI gZero2D Digital/SPDIF Interconnect, providing the most convincing “analogue feel” from a digital source observed to date!

Congrat’s again to the guys at KLE Innovations, the KLEI gZero3D Digital/SPDIF IC, just like the KLEI gZero2D Digital/SPDIF IC, is not just a winner, it’s a REVELATION!


My Review System:

  • Custom built turntable with a Soundsmith Denon DL103 phono cartridge mounted on and Audiomods Arm with one piece silver litz harness + KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA’s

  • Simaudio MOON LP5.3 RS phono stage

  • iMac (Music Server)

  • Musical Fidelity V-Link192 USB/SPDIF Converter.

  • Schiit Bifrost USB DAC with UBER analogue upgrade and Version 2 USB interface Upgrade

  • NAIM 5i integrated amp (with passive pre-section).

  • Gershman Acoustics Sonogram speakers.

  • KLEI gZero6 Speaker Cables

  • KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables


page6_blog_entry61-page6_blog_entry60-page6_blog_entry52-page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up-2 A highly recommended product!

KLEI gZero2D (Digital/SPDIF) Interconnect Review

2D Digital Background


It wasn't until recently that I had any need for a SPDIF cable. My Schiit Bifrost DAC came equipped with USB, SPDIF and Optical inputs, but up to that point I had only been using the USB option.

However, during my research into the various aspects of the many pitfalls associated with digital music reproduction, I had become aware of the notoriety that a company called Musical Fidelity had achieved, in particular for their USB-SPDIF converters, specifically the V-Link192.

Acquiring this unit necessitated the use of a SPDIF interconnect and the only one I had available at that time was "THE NAME", a 75 ohm interconnect from Van den Hul, that is sold as an analogue interconnect pair, but was also designed to function as a SPDIF interconnect.

The performance of “THE NAME” was adequate and the marriage of the V-Link192 and the Bifrost DAC proved to be extremely successful, so I tried adding the KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA's to THE NAME, which resulted in noticeable improvements across the board.

After further experimentation, I finally settled on a SPDIF interconnect of my own design that utilize the
KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA’s, which provided a significantly better performance than “THE NAME”.

Shortly thereafter,
KLE Innovations announced the release of the KLEI gZero2D and KLEI gZero3D digital interconnects.

Fast forward to last week, when the package arrived at my door with both the
KLEI gZero2D and the KLEI gZero3D inside for my review...
  • Closer inspection of the KLEI gZero2D revealed it utilized the KLEI Copper Harmony, which then had me doubting it’s abilities, since my own SPDIF design required the Absolute Harmony RCA's in order to maximize it’s performance.

But as with all things audiophilia - the proof of the pudding is in the listening...

Compared to the Van den Hul “THE NAME” SPDIF, there was nothing
"subtle" about the improvements observed...
  • i.e. I didn't have to play album after album looking for some indication that the cables were better in some way
  • it was more like a swat team bursting through a door!

Dynamics were far crisper across the board, from rim shots that sounded like the crack of a whip, to the startling thud of a bass drum

The improvements in clarity were clearly audible, as observed in a performance from Ray Brown, who
"do-be-do'd" along with his double bass instrumental intro on the Oscar Peterson track "You Look Good To Me"

The combination of both dynamics and clarity, easily revealed more improvements, such as the clash of a cymbal followed by it's considerably longer decay on pretty much any track with a cymbal.

The overall presentation sounded much more complete, which had me wondering just how much data I had previously been loosing by using “THE NAME” SPDIF, even after I had installed the KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA’s on it.

Then there were other improvements that highlighted a specific style of an artist, such as...
  • a much improved bass performance with significantly more textured detail that was revealed on albums by artists such as Peter Gabriel, Sarah McLachlan and Nelly Furtado.
  • the more delicate whispery vocal tones on albums by Norah Jones and Diana Krall
  • and by contrast, the pure grit in the voices of Adele and P!nk
  • the sheer crispness of the attack in various tracks from The Police
  • compared to the more delicate and softer presentations of Sting's solo works.

But for me the most significant improvements were revealed by albums recorded in
"Real Venues" as opposed to studio recordings.
  • The improvements in clarity revealed extremely delicate venue acoustic details, making the venue appear much larger, even than the confines of my listening space.
  • the extremely subtle reverberations and reflections that now fill the void between and around performers and blend from left to right and front to back.

What KLE Innovations has achieved with the
KLEI gZero2D Interconnect is provide stunning performance capabilities at an amazingly low price point! i.e. especially when compared to the more esoteric competition.

The Caveat's...

1. Please ensure you burn-in this cable for the recommended period on the
KLE Innovations web site
  • the cable I tested was already burned in, but it still took a couple of days to settle before performing its best.

2. They perform their absolute best when the other Interconnect and Speaker Cables are also from the
KLE Innovations product line.
  • it is not just that KLE Innovations products are capable of conveying the finest of details
  • their Ground Zero Architecture prevents the induction of noise into the signal conductor
  • but more importantly the architecture keeps the Neutral side of the circuit of any attached component at zero volts, thus allowing the component to perform to a significantly high level
  • other than the obvious improvements in fidelity, another noticeable side effect of using KLE Innovations products is that solid state components actually run cooler than with other cables

CONCLUSIONS...

The only conclusion I can come to is, if you, the reader...
  • is serious about the reproduction of digital music and need a SPDIF Interconnect between two digital components
  • wants a SPDIF Interconnect that performs way above it's price point (who doesn't)
  • then, purchasing the KLEI gZero2D, at a minimum - is pretty much - a no-branier!

Whether playing tracks recorded in 16/44, 24/96 or 24/192, they all sounded simply amazing.

This is possibly the best value for money in hi-fi right now and will elevate the performance of your existing digital components to levels normally only achieved by investing in a significant component upgrade.

If you've read the other reviews on the
KLE Innovations web site, then you've heard other reviewers rave about the abilities of their product line.
  • But the KLEI gZero2D SPDIF Interconnect for me, has made the biggest impact of all their products to date.

Congrat's to the guys at KLE Innovations - the KLEI gZero2D Digital/SPDIF Interconnect is not just a winner - it's a revelation!


My Review System:

  • Custom built turntable with a Soundsmith Denon DL103 phono cartridge mounted on and Audiomods Arm with one piece silver litz harness + KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA’s

  • Simaudio MOON LP5.3 RS phono stage

  • iMac (Music Server)

  • Musical Fidelity V-Link192 USB/SPDIF Converter.

  • Schiit Bifrost USB DAC with UBER analogue upgrade and Version 2 USB interface Upgrade

  • NAIM 5i integrated amp (with passive pre-section).

  • Gershman Acoustics Sonogram speakers.

  • KLEI gZero6 Speaker Cables

  • KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables


page6_blog_entry61-page6_blog_entry60-page6_blog_entry52-page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up-2 A highly recommended product!


KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cable Review

Yes, this is yet another review of the most recent “Top Of The Line” (TOTL) Interconnect from Keith Louie Eichmann (aka KL) of KLE Innovations.

gZero20 small

You might recall the KLEI gZero6 Interconnect Cable reviewed here last June and then the KLEI gZero10 Interconnect Cable also reviewed here in October.
  • Both reviews stated these interconnects were, at the time of the review, their “Top Of The Line!”
  • So I guess you can’t accuse Mr. Eichmann of sitting on his laurels.

KL was kind enough to send for review a 1 meter pair of
KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables that had already undergone the requisite 300+ hours of burn-in. But even with that laborious task taken care of, it would still take three days for them to settle in.

Unlike KL’s previous interconnect cables, where each successive model has a higher performing Harmony RCA plug, the
KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cable utilizes the same RCA plugs as the KLEI gZero10 IC. Therefore, any improvements attained are a direct result of refinements in the in the gZero Architecture.

Settling-in time aside, it took just 20 minutes after their initial installation for the
KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables to reveal the distinguishing features of these cables.

  • Their initial presentation of clarity, control, dexterity, dynamics, spatial image, upper frequency extension and bass extension of these interconnects was exemplary and they sounded just a little better than the well used KLEI gZero10 IC’s they had just replaced.

However, during that settling in period I did observe a little upper frequency harshness and slight distortion on a couple of 24 bit/192 kHz violin tracks and on VIVALDI’s
“Recitative and Aria from Cantata RV 679, there were a couple of times when Tone Wik’s superb soprano vocal was very shrill. But at the beginning of the third day both of these anomalies had abated and the KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables were now sounding very nice indeed.

Since I did not perform a complete burn-in I am unable to comment on what sonic transformations are likely to take place.
  • However, If I recall correctly, during the burn-in period of the KLEI gZero10 IC’s I was initially a little “underwhelmed” and wondered if they would ever “live up to their TOTL billing”. But that was rectified by about the 220 hour mark.
  • So I would caution purchasers to expect a similar experience while burning in the KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables.

With the KLEI gZero20’s settled in nicely it was time to put them through their paces...

Assessing how much better the KLEI gZero10 IC is, when compared to the KLEI gZero6 IC was a relatively easy task.
  • Since, for each of the various metrics, such as dynamic response, clarity, image, bass performance etc.. the improvements were clearly audible and could be observed on most, if not all of the audition tracks.

But assessing the comparative differences between the
KLEI gZero10 Interconnect Cables and the KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables was not quite so clear cut.

This is a common occurrence among most audio components, in that, as you approach the upper echelon in the model range, the sonic improvements from one model to the next becomes more subtle for a larger capital outlay - a point that some, myself included, categorize as
“Diminishing Returns”.

In the case of these two cables, their tonal presentation, spatial imaging and dynamic response was indicative of their lineage, with the
KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables having a slightly “warmer” presentation, with a little more “body” across the board and a spatial image that resulted in a more “believable” ambience.

And thus, we enter the world of
“Etherial Awareness” i.e. those qualities we attribute to audio equipment that are related more to “feelings”, as opposed to some form of metric quantification.

In reality, those
“feelings” are simply a product of the cable’s metric performance, but since humans cannot always put their finger on exactly what is different in a performance, we have a tendency to express those improvements in a more abstract manner.

However, with a cable the calibre of the
KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cable, its performance is so articulate that it really does sound as though it is conveying - Reality!

How does one assess “Reality”?

I find there are few tracks recorded in the studio that I can use to assess realism, since some studios can be
“acoustically challenged”, in which case it is then in the realm of the sound engineer to work their magic.

To gauge reality I mostly turn to classical music, mainly because...
  • the tracks I tend to use for audition purposes are recorded in some type of concert hall, which provides an abundance of the all important “venue acoustics” and...
  • they are often recorded by what some consider to be the most pure form of recording - two solitary microphones - and a smattering of anal sound engineers.

It was while listening to some of these classical tracks that I became aware of just how good the
KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables really are. Basically, every well recorded classical track exhibited a level of ambience that was simply not present with the KLEI gZero10 IC’s.

You also get to experience significantly more space that surrounds the performers on those tracks recorded by much smaller ensembles,
  • However on some such recordings, you also get to enjoy the more unpleasant realities of live venue recordings
  • e.g. the trucks passing by the venue in the background were now far more apparent and very detailed.

The price one pays for reality Happy


Three new CD’s I had recently purchased from
MA Recordings, which, due to their meticulous attention to detail in sound engineering and exquisite matching of venue to musical temperament, highlighted the very best ambient and spacious qualities that the KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cablez are capable of conveying

These albums contain some exquisite and varied musical performances - give them a listen, you won’t be disappointed:

  • Window Mirror, by Miroslav Tadic - classical guitar with a new flavour
  • Tonos Y Tonados, by Ensemble La Chimera - a very different ensemble presentation
  • Buenos Aires Madrigal, by La Chimera-Furio Zanasi-Ximena Biondo - Tango inspired delights

How did they perform with Analogue components?

Since I have always believed the analogue side of my system possesses a slightly higher level of resolution I was expecting a level of improvement commensurate with what I had observed in previous reviews of interconnects in the KLEI gZero product line.

However, it seems my analogue rig decided differently...


It appeared as though the
KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables had pulled out all the stops and really rose to the occasion

  • With digital playback, I had only been able to discern small improvements between the various metrics of the two interconnects, but with the analogue playback the improvements in dynamics, clarity, high-end extension and imaging were significantly better.
  • But the bass extension and bass control displayed only a marginal level of improvement over that which I had observed on the digital side

I found this observation to be surprising, since up to this point, the difference in resolution capabilities between the DAC and the phono stage with each of the prior KLEI gZero interconnect cable auditions had been pretty consistent i.e. the phono stage was always just a little better than my DAC. Suggesting that the performance ceiling of my components had not been reached

On applying some additional thought to this observation, I can only conclude...
  • the performance level of the DAC had finally hit its ceiling
  • whereas the phono stage was clearly quite capable of so much more
This begs the question...

What is the performance ceiling of the KLEI gZero20 IC’s?


Prior to the evaluation I had purchased a new phono cartridge, but unfortunately, it had been delayed by Canada Customs, so it didn’t arrive until after I had started the analogue review process.

The new cartridge had all the promise of performing significantly better than my older cartridge...

  • sporting a “Nude mounted”, Contact Line - "Optimized Contour" diamond stylus on a single crystal Ruby Cantilever
  • as opposed to my older cartridge which has a basic spherical diamond mounted onto an aluminum cantilever
  • this should result in improvements in high-end detailing, clarity and faster dynamic response

Now you would be forgiven for thinking tonal differences between two cartridges might “colour” my assessment of certain qualities of the
KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cable, however...
  • both cartridges are the venerable Denon DL 103 moving coil cartridge,
  • the newer cartridge having a modified cantilever installed by Soundsmith, a leader in the art of “cartridge modifications”

So, what I was hoping for, on installing the new cartridge, was an extension of those details conveyed with the older cartridge, with few, if any changes in tonal qualities.

Well, the new cartridge did not disappoint.

But more importantly, the
KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables effortlessly conveyed the remarkable details the new cartridge was able to extract from my vinyl.

The one outstanding quality of the
KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables that was now far more noticeable, was their incredible - SPEED!
  • By that, I am referring to the ability of a cable to convey a more complete waveform, which translates to realism.
  • it’s not only their ability to convey those instantaneous peaks of percussion instruments, which I tend to refer to as dynamic response.
  • it’s their ability to convey a warmer more, full bodied presentation.
  • particularly of those instruments who’s voice lies in the upper frequencies of the musical spectrum, which can often sound quite thin, shrill or harsh, i.e. with a less competent interconnect.
  • but with the KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables, those instruments took on more pleasing quality having more body that more faithfully represents the actual instruments being played - right there in YOUR listening room.

After a couple of weeks of full-time duty on the phono stage, these interconnects just seemed to get even better. Perhaps the improvements were due to an extended settling in period, or perhaps they require a little more burn-in than suggested on the KLE Innovations web site.

Factoring in the 300 hours burn-in already undertaken by KL and the additional time on my system, I think I would probably recommend a burn-in period between 350-400 hours in order for them to reach their full potential.

There were a couple of
“standout albums” where I felt the KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables meticulously conveyed "the soul” of the performance...
  • Nostalgia, by Annie Lennox - For me, this is Annie at her finest and her best album ever. A friend listening very casually simply commented "this is soul". Her delicate vocal inflections are superbly conveyed – with “feeling“.
  • Yes, by Jason Mraz - I liked this album from the very first play and it is now one of favourites. It's production is simple, its sound engineering is clean and detailed and its content is most engaging, but the bonus? - Jason's soul shines through on every track - even when playing the CD version which came with the vinyl.

I think the word
“Beguiling" sums up the performance of the KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables

Seducing you track by track...
Oblivious of the time...

What better way to spend a cold winter evening!



And “The price one pays for reality?”

The
KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables are priced at $1999AUS for a 1 meter pair

Not chump change by any stretch of the imagination, but more affordable than many interconnects that can only aspire to attain this level of performance.

Conclusions...

I had mentioned the term
“Diminishing Returns” above, since early on in the review process (i.e. on my digital rig), it seemed as though this might be the case i..e. the KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables only appeared “marginally better” than the KLEI gZero10 IC’s, for a significantly larger investment.

However, auditioning the cables on my analogue rig has changed my opinion - I guess you could say...

My concerns of “Diminishing Returns” have now... Diminished! Happy


I believe the
KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables are capable of conveying extremely high levels of resolution and should be considered by all. Why?

  • The KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables are extremely good at what they do
  • by far, the best in the current KLEI gZero Product Line!
  • They will continue to excel with your subsequent component upgrades

Yes, their price puts them into a different
“snack bracket” for many readers, so it begs the question...

Are they worth it?

If you had asked me that question a few years ago, I would have said...

Are you crazy? - it’s just a piece of wire!


However, my subsequent “acquisition of knowledge” and exposure to the KLEI product line has changed my mind in so many ways...

  • Cables ARE components! i.e. ALL CABLES!
  • With similar research and development approaches - it’s taken KL over 30 years to get to this point
  • As complicated in design and manufacture as components in many cases
  • With the ability to affect the performance of your entire system.

For some, deciding between the
KLEI gZero20 or the KLEI gZero10 will be a no-brainer - one way or the other.

For others - cables make no difference - it’s all mumbo-jumbo sprinkled with “fairy dust”.

But there are those readers for whom, it becomes a bit like deciding which car to choose?
  • a $240,000 Ferrari, or a $140,000 Porsche
  • both are insanely quick,
  • both have impeccable performance metrics,
  • but, only one will give them that extra ...

“Sense” of Exhilaration!


Your Choice! - But I do urge you to try at least one of the KLEI gZero Product Line Happy

gZero Architecture Addendum...
There is growing chatter on the web pertaining to KL’s
“gZero architecture”.

However, not all the chatter was positive...

  • There were several posts that denounced KL’s description of his gZero architectureon the KLE Innovations web site as just more marketing mumbo-jumbo liberally sprinkled with “Fairy Dust”.
  • Some were of the opinion the description was contrived, to the point of being incomprehensible.
  • And one poster was clearly of the opinion that “Mr. Eichmann” knows NOT of what he writes.

I, on the other hand, tend give the benefit of the doubt to a person with over 30 years’ experience in the audio industry and who has been responsible for some pretty innovative products, before I go casting aspersions!

So, with my curiosity in tow, I began investigate what was written. But what unfolded was something quite alien to my own understanding of electronics principles, even with my background in electrical engineering and my years of hobby electronics under my belt.


The Epipheny...


The diagram below helped me comprehend exactly what gZero is all about...

page1image16856


As I studied this diagram it became quite apparent that the job of the interconnect is to provide an electrical connection in two separate and very distinct ways:

  • Only the signal conductor (RED), conveys the musical signal
  • Whereas the neutral conductor (BLACK) simply links the neutral (or ground side) of the two circuits
The neutral therefore, is NOT the return path for the Signal as many folk believe, but in stark contrast to the signal conductor, should always carry the same potential value as the neutral (or ground side) of the two connected circuits...

Which would be? - You Got It - ZERO VOLTS.

or to coin KL’s vernacular – gZero - Voila!


Now, for the sake of brevity, I am not going to delve into the issues pertaining to EMI and RFI in cables in this review , but I would encourage you to read
The Significance of Cable Architectures on this site, that attempts to provide some insights, i.e. in layman’s terms, of some of the more common issues that may be encountered.

PRODUCT UPDATE NOTICE:

The KLEI gZero20 Interconnect now utilizes the latest advances in KLEI gZero Architecture/Technology
Providing significant improvements in performance.

For details please see...
KLEI gZero6, gZero10 and gZero20 IC Product Update.



My Review System:

  • Custom built turntable with a Soundsmith Denon DL103 phono cartridge mounted on and Audiomods Arm with one piece silver litz harness + KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA’s

  • Simaudio MOON LP5.3 RS phono stage

  • Schiit Bifrost USB DAC with UBER analogue upgrade and Version 2 USB interface Upgrade.

  • NAIM 5i integrated amp (with passive pre-section).

  • Gershman Acoustics Sonogram speakers.

  • KLEI gZero6 Speaker Cables

  • KLEI gZero20 Interconnect Cables


page6_blog_entry52-page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up-2A highly recommended product!

KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA Plug - Turntable Review

Absolute Harmony on TT

On completing my review of the KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA Plugs attached to my DIY interconnect cables, I figured I'd move a little quicker this time and immediately install one pair from those same interconnects onto my one piece silver litz tone-arm cable that connects directly to my Simaudio MOON LP5.3 RS phono stage. By taking this approach I figured burn-in time should be minimized.

To complete the link to the amplifier I was also using another product from
KLE Innovations, the KLEI gZero10 Interconnect Cable, which is their TOTL interconnect that also utilizes the KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA Plugs and a stellar performer. So my expectations were running pretty high to say the least.

Immediately, there was a slight improvement in details and extended bass, but there were no real
"impressive moments” in their performance.

After around 15 hours of actual playing I started to think that perhaps the incremental improvements were about as good as it was going to get. Then things started to get a little strange, in that the albums that had sounded excellent with the
Pure®Harmony RCA Plugs seemed to have lost their edge and their spirited performance was now quite lacklustre by comparison.
  • Maybe more burn-in time was required?
  • or, maybe this was just an extended seating and bedding time issue, which occurs every time you connect a plug to a component, or re-seat an installed plug.
Anyhow, they say "patience" is a virtue, so I kept going through my albums in the hope that this period of "the doldrums" would soon come to an end.

So what happened?...


On completion of approximately 25 hours of play-time, the
KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA Plugs finally “broke out” - however, their performance did not “explode into being”, but over the course of about an hour or so, you could hear the improvements in various attributes begin to “phase in”.
  • The most notable attribute was the extension to the bass, which was now deeper than ever, but retaining superb control to provide significant texture to some very low frequency bass lines.
  • The image appeared to be just as precise as with the Pure®Harmony RCA Plugs from a performer/instrument placement perspective, but it now had become extended even more in depth and width, with additional space around individuals and instruments.
  • The extremely fine micro-details that seem to bring that element of realism to a live performance had also improved, such that delicate venue acoustics and instrument acoustics now fills the voids between performers.
  • Plucked instruments exhibited a crisper staccato effect, due to an improved dynamics performance.
  • Instruments whose sounds occupy the higher registers such as glockenspiels, triangles and percussion chimes sounded more detailed and complete as their delicate harmonics are now more faithfully reproduced.
  • The improved detailing also contributes to an extremely smooth presentation of a violins upper register and a much more realistic reconstruction of sibilance.
The Albums...

For me, the albums whose performance really demonstrated the outstanding abilities of the
KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA Plugs include :
  • The Steeleye Span Story, by Steeleye Span, (1976). Many folk-rock bands of this era were extremely proficient in the art of harmonizing - I'm not talking about subdued background harmonies behind a lead vocal - but full-on harmonies of three or four individuals where each voice has an "equal billing". Steeleye Span were perhaps the masters of this style and this is one of my favourite vocal albums, But with the KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA Plugs in play, the reproduction of their diverse vocal abilities is reproduced with an unparalleled clarity that simply left me stunned. The vocal tones in play were clearly audible, without a hint of distortion, from the raspy voices of the various male vocalists like Tim hart, to the smoother vocals of Maddy Prior - just superb!
  • So, by Peter Gabriel, (1986) is perhaps one of the best albums for assessing the performance of an audio component simply because it contains "a good dose of everything". Image depth has increased, details were superb with easy to hear multi-tracked Gabriel vocals and lots of percussive chimes, a bass that goes to the basement and crisp dynamic drums. Did I mention the sublime vocals of Kate Bush? As I said - a good dose of everything!
  • Continuum, by John Mayer, (2006) is a more recent pressing, but the version I have on 150 gram vinyl is superb and really highlights the subtleties in his voice and guitar work. Add the clarity these RCA's convey and this is an exceptional musical treat for the ears.
  • The Doctor, by Doc Powel, (1992) was first mentioned in my review of the KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA’s when installed on my tone-arm, where I had noted his mellow jazz guitar and the crispness of the cymbal work. Well, the mellow nature is still there, but his guitar playing is now much crisper, which lends to realism portrayed by this great recording. The cymbals also got a whole lot better, with more body to them and less harshness.
  • LEGEND: The Best Of, by Bob Marley and the Wailers (1984), has long been one of my "go-to's" from the get-go, simply because it is very well engineered and has been one of the few albums where its performance has consistently improved with each review. But with the KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA Plugs in the audio pipeline this album became the standout performance. The image: “as cavernous as a salt mine!” The clarity: “like a clear frosty night!” The dynamics: “as crisp as shattering glass!” As soon as the stylus hit the vinyl it was, to coin a popular phrase - an OMG moment!
The reason I have not mentioned any specific classical albums is - they all sounded superb!
  • However, my classical recordings from the Tacet label are truly masterful and the prowess of their amazing sound engineers can only truly be appreciated by using components and cables that are able to achieve a level of performance that is on par with the KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA Plug.
Conclusions....

Well, I would have to say that if you own a turntable, then adding a pair of
KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA Plugs to your tone-arm cable should be at the very top of your to-do list.
  • It will provide the biggest "bang-for-the-buck" of any single piece of audio equipment you have ever purchased!.
  • It will improve the performance of your turntable to a level you might only believe possible by significant component upgrades.
There are a couple of caveats, as with all KLE Innovations products...
  • they can only perform up to level of the weakest links in your system, which is generally - your other cables!
  • you should always allow them to complete the requisite burn-in period in order for them to demonstrate their extremely adept abilities.
If you really want your analogue rig to soar to new highs I would also recommend installing a pair of KLEI gZero10 Interconnect Cables from your phono stage to your pre/amp.


My Review System:

  • Custom turntable with Denon DL103(modified) phono cartridge on and Audiomods Arm with one piece silver litz cable + KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA’s

  • Simaudio MOON LP5.3 RS phono stage

  • Schiit Bifrost USB DAC with UBER analogue upgrade.

  • NAIM 5i integrated amp (with passive pre-section).

  • Gershman Acoustics Sonogram speakers.

  • KLEI gZero6 Speaker Cables


page6_blog_entry52-page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up-2 A highly recommended product!


KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA Review

Absolute Harmony 2
As well as a pair of KLEI gZero10 Interconnect Cables that he sent for my review, Keith Louis Eichmann (KL) of KLE Innovations had also included a set of four KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA Plugs for this review.

So I immediately installed the
KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA Plugs onto on my own DIY Home-Brew silver/copper interconnect cables and proceeded with the burn-in process - since that was going to take around 150 hours.

I also had an identical set of my DIY Home-Brew Interconnects with a set of
KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plugs already installed and burned-in for comparison, so this assessment is all about how much better the new KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA Plugs are compared to the KLEI Pure Harmony when installed on identical interconnect cables

So, what are the actual differences between the various Harmony RCA models...


Outwardly, each of the RCA models conform to KL’s latest design and as such, have an almost identical appearance, with the exception of the colour of the logo on the collar that grips the the RCA socket.
What are the other differences? - to the layman, mainly in the metals used for the Signal and Neutral pins...
  • KLEI Copper Harmony (Gold logo) - Signal (KLEI PureCopper) Neutral (KLEI PureCopper)
  • *KLEI Silver Harmony(Silver Logo) - Signal (KLEI PureCopper) Neutral (KLEI PureSilver)
  • KLEI Pure Harmony (Rose Logo) - Signal (KLEI PureSilver) Neutral (KLEI PureSilver)
  • KLEI Absolute Harmony (Blue Logo) Signal (**KLEI PureSilver) Neutral (KLEI PureSilver)

*KLEI Silver Harmony
- is the one anomaly in in the line-up in that the KLEI PureCopper Signal pin has an extra thick silver plating which makes it almost as good as solid silver from an IACS conductivity rating perspective.
**KLEI PureSilver - Each RCA has it's very own formula to enhance electron flow based on the materials used the thickness of those materials, the plating used and who knows what else.
  • But from the KLEI web site, the description for the Absolute Harmony states: "Signal/Ground pins utilize an even higher spec KLEI PureSilver™ with >106% IACS conductivity"

Also - for clarity, KLEI PureCopper and KLEI PureSilver are
"proprietary alloys" formulated by KLEI Innovations.

If you would like to read the official details of the Harmony RCA Plug line of products then I would encourage you to visit
KLEI Harmony Phono/RCA which also has a nice explanation of exactly what the IACS rating is all about.

Moving On ...

Now, I had only just finished my review of the
KLEI gZero10 Interconnect Cables (which utilizes the Absolute Harmony RCA's), so my ears were now accustomed to some very high definition musical performances.

I thought it best, if I first
"re-acclimated my ears" to the sound of my interconnects with the Pure Harmony RCA’s installed, so I plugged them in and had them playing for a couple of days.

During the acclimation period I was very surprised at just how good they sounded. No, they were not as good as the
KLEI gZero10 Interconnect Cables, but they were still, very adept performers!

For me, there were now two questions in my back of mind...
  • How good is the Absolute Harmony RCA Plug as a standalone product?
  • How much did it contribute to the excellent performance of the KLEI gZero10 Interconnect Cables?
The Change Over...

Now, I had only listened briefly to the interconnects with the
KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA’s installed when I first started their burn-in process and my initial impressions were very favourable. There were distinct improvements in dynamics, bass extension/control, imaging and details etc.

But now the interconnects with the
KLEI Pure Harmony RCA’s seemed to be sounding just as good - it had me wondering if I had suffered the "new component syndrome"
  • it generally happens when you install something more expensive - ergo, it must sound better.

Obviously, only way to address this was to change over to the interconnects with the
KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA’s installed on them and play a few tunes.

Right from the first track - it was like a flashback - to that first brief audition - but something was now quite different.
  • I didn't consciously discern the improvements in terms of the various metrics associated with performance evaluation, i.e. imaging, dynamics, details etc..., but, my level of enjoyment of the music had increased significantly.
  • The music just seemed more complete, with more vim & vigor. It was crisp, clean and bold and my foot seemed as though it was tapping with a mind of its own. Every now and again the goose-bumps kicked in - it was a very interesting and pleasing experience.

Once I recovered from that initial
"beguilement", I started selecting tracks that I believed would make the various metrics more discernible and therefore, be able to make a more tangible assessment.

Hey! - Maybe - "foot tapping" and "Goose-bumps" should be considered a metric? Happy


To evaluate details, one track in particular sprang to mind - "Bad" by U2, from The Best of 1980-1990 album. The opening bars of this track is two solitary guitars that were recorded with precision. One guitar is picked, like a high pitched
"chime", highlighting the clarity of the recording, with the second guitar gently strummed in the background.

  • This gentle strumming really demonstrated just how good the KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA was at conveying minute details, since you can actually hear the pick hitting the next string in a single strum
  • "Oh boy, what a..." - OK, so you must think I'm being incredibly anal here, after all, why would that particular facet stand out? - Well, after playing guitar for over 45 years that particular strumming sound is something my ears have become acutely accustomed too and when I hear it in a recording, it has a tendency to leap out at me.
  • Alas, the KLEI Pure Harmony RCA was not quite able to perform to this level of detail.

For dynamics, I simply selected "Walking on the Moon", by The police. Again, the opening sequence is overloaded with a powerful bass drum beat, incredibly fast rim shots on the snare drum, some nice cymbal work and piercing guitar chords.
  • The KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA conveyed these extremely crisp dynamics with amazing dexterity, clarity and exceptional detailing. This was by far the fastest, most detailed RCA I had ever heard.

To assess the imaging prowess of the
KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA, I selected a track "Fragilidad", from an album by Sting, i.e. "Sting: 1985-1994.
  • This track had produced a very wide and deep image with the KLEI Pure Harmony RCA, but the KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA was able to extend the depth of that image and provide a little better focus on the various instruments within it.
  • One other facet of this recording that stood out was the high frequency detail extension of the KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA, which enabled it to convey the very fine "whispery textures" of Stings voice.

About the only metric that was left to assess was low-end performance. For this I normally turn to various Pipe Organ tracks, since they normally contain excellent low frequency detailing.
  • Sure enough, Widor: Organ Syphony #5 in F Minor, Op.42/1-6. Toccata: Allegro, by Daniel Chorzempa was able to highlight the exceptional low end detailing provided by the KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA.
  • But just for fun, I had to include "Mas" from the album Mi Plan, by Nellie Furtado. Simply because it has some of the most detailed low-end synth work in my collection. This track confirmed that the KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA has the best low-end detailing of any RCA plug I have ever tried. The extended bass was bordering on subsonic, but the details and control within those very low frequencies was exceptional, providing textures only previously heard using the KLEI gZero10 Interconnect.

One last observation pertains to the
"smoothness" the KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA conveys...
  • It stands to reason that if an RCA is capable of resolving to an extremely high level then it would allow for waveforms across all frequencies to be reproduced with far greater sonic accuracy.
  • I found that the upper register of violins on classical tracks to be significantly smoother and far less shrill.
  • Also the reproduction of vocals had a much better control of sibilance that made for a smoother more natural sound.

CONCLUSIONS...

So, after hours of listening, swapping and re-swapping of interconnects and replaying the same tracks many times, I think that a fair assessment might be...
  • The KLEI Pure Harmony RCA Plug is an exceptional and technically adept performer, that delivers fine details, dynamics, spatial imaging, and an extended bass performance, with amazing clarity and dexterity. Something many other RCA's can only aspire too.
  • The KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA however, transcends those "standard metrics" and delivers a performance which leaves you with a smile on your face, while tapping your feet and simply enjoying an incredibly rich musical performance.

So, back to my questions...

How good is the KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA Plug as a standalone product?...

  • The KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA alone will not elevate the performance of your interconnects to the level of the KLEI gZero10 Interconnect, but it will allow your interconnect to perform to the highest level it is capable of.

How much did it contribute to the excellent performance of the KLEI gZero10 Interconnect Cables? ...

  • I have absolutely no idea! - Yes, they allow the details to be transferred etc. etc. But the improvements the KLEI gZero10 Interconnect Cable brought to my system was exceptional. The only explanation I have is that the KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA is capable of conveying much more detail than my own interconnects are capable of.
  • The KLEI gZero architecture and materials however, capitalizes on the full capabilities of the KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA to achieve a significant improvement over my own interconnects.

So, why would you use the Absolute Harmony, as opposed to the Pure Harmony, or the Silver harmony or the Copper Harmony?


I use the Absolute Harmony because currently, I believe there is no other RCA plug capable of performing to the same level.
  • However, as with everything in life, one's budget can be a deciding factor, so the Harmony Range provides an RCA solution to fit several budgets. The Copper Harmony is an excellent performer and each successive model extends the abilities of its predecessor to provide a musical performance of the highest calibre.

So there you have it. If you are looking to replace your RCA's...
  • I would advise you to first consider the architecture and materials used in the construction of your interconnect.
  • After all, there is absolutely no point (i.e. from a cost perspective) in putting a Formula-One engine in a car that does not perform to the same level Happy
Just make sure you pick a product from the KLEI Harmony RCA Plug line-up!
And give it a full 150 hours of burn-in before assessing the performance

My Review System:

  • Custom turntable with Denon DL103(modified) phono cartridge on and Audiomods Arm with one piece silver litz cable + KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA’s

  • Simaudio MOON LP5.3 RS phono stage

  • Schiit Bifrost USB DAC with UBER analogue upgrade

  • NAIM 5i integrated amp (has a passive pre-section)

  • Gershman Acoustics Sonogram speakers

  • KLEI gZero6 Speaker Cables


page6_blog_entry52-page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up-2 A highly recommended product!

KLEI gZero10 Interconnect Cable Review

A mere 4 months after reviewing their TOTL Interconnect cable, the KLEI gZero6, KLE Innovations sent their latest TOTL product - the KLEI gZero10 Interconnect Cable for review.

As with all
KLE Innovations products, the outward appearance of this interconnect is almost identical to the other interconnects in their line-up, with the exception of its “gZero10” product label and the attached RCA plug which sports a light blue logo, denoting it as their very latest KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA Plug.
gZero10_2 BLUE Small
To date, I have been extremely happy with my KLEI gZero6 interconnect cable. It is very neutral, open, spacious, fast with an excellent bass response. So I was very curious as what Keith Louis (KL) and his team could possibly have done to better this already excellent performer.

From their web site...
  • “...Exceptional Resolution, very Tight non-bloated deep/detailed/resolving Bass, Extremely articulate presentation, Conveys subtle nuances with amazing dexterity, Stage is very spacious and envelopes the listener, Allows the full emotion of the music to be experienced, Superb dynamics and an excellent micro detail presentation”
This sounds very much like the KLEI gZero6 Interconnect Cable, which had already won me over.

So are the promised improvements due to…
  • The addition of the KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA Plug ?
  • A tweak of conductor metallurgy?
  • An improved “gZero architecture”?
  • All of the above?
Since that is a closely guarded secret, there was only one thing left to do - plug it in and let the music tell the story.

Initial Impressions...

Well, right out of the little red satin bag that it came in, the KLEI gZero10 Interconnect Cable actually performed slightly better than my well broken-in KLEI gZero6 interconnect.

Now, there was just 300 hours of burn-in time left to make me a believer. Sad

Although its initial performance did leave me impressed, I did observe a slightly diminished lower register. Fortunately, after the 60 hour mark the lower register was restored with just a little more depth and a little more control.

From that point on, progress slowed and checking in daily produced very little in the way of discernible improvements. Granted, some tracks did display a slightly wider and deeper image and the overall reproduction was still very articulate, lively and a pleasure to listen too.

But I did not feel the
KLEI gZero10 Interconnect Cable was really “living up to its billing”.
  • It was a bit like observing the earths tectonic plates – you know they are ever changing, but it was taking a long while for something significant to happen.

Now, I am not a real fan of products that provide little in the way of improvements – i.e. those products that some reviewers categorize as adhering to...

“The Law of Diminishing Returns”.

if you want my hard earned cash - your product must provide some really tangible benefits!


It was around the 220 hour mark that I sat down with a cup of Earl-Grey tea and turned up the volume…

Whoa! – what happened?
“the tectonic plates had separated and a new continent was born!”


OK – a little dramatic granted, but this particular burn-in was becoming just a little tedious – which is not generally my experience from a KLE Innovations product. In contrast to the progress made up to this point, these latest improvements were akin to someone flipping a switch.

There was a marked improvement across the board…

  • The whole presentation became more snappy and lively, but with a warmth and fullness that made for a much more musical delivery.
  • Instrument and performer placement within the image had a laser-like precision to it, each with significantly more space around them. Orchestral works seemed to have a more spacious presentation with the various sections of the orchestra flowing elegantly from one to the other – more like a real painting, as opposed to a “Paint by Numbers”.
  • Vocal performances were much more "breathy" thanks to the improved upper-high frequency detailing.
  • The bass was now extended down into what seemed like the subsonic level, but more importantly, improvements in the control of that extended bass resulted in a real improvement of bass textures.
  • The mid to high frequency improvements made the artifacts associated to the playing of an instrument, such as instrument timbre, fingering transitions and musician movements even more discernible, but that improved detailing also contributed greatly to a more realistic reproduction of the venue acoustics, which in turn, makes that rendition more reminiscent of the original live performance – it really is "just like being there!”.

On experiencing these changes I decided to move the cables over from my DAC to my analogue rig, since I had always believed it was capable of providing better resolution.

So – what albums to audition with…

On one of my recent forays to my favourite vinyl store I found an exceptional album from a favourite record label, TACET. The album title: JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH: Partitas – Florin Paul violinist – L10.

The sound engineering on this album, using only two 1947 Neumann U47 tube microphones into an analogue tape recorder, really demonstrates their devotion to the art of recording exquisite sound (others might just say anal)
  • Combine that with the music of JSB.
  • The superb musicianship of soloist Florin Paul playing a 1689 Stradivari.
  • In an unknown church in a suburb of Nice, chosen for its exquisite acoustics that are well suited to the violin.

This particular album was recorded some 25 years ago, but is still considered one of the very best in the TACET catalogue – and with very good reason.

Hearing this album through the
KLEI gZero10 Interconnect Cable maxed out my “Goose-bump Scale”.

One word…
incroyable! (apologies, that should read ” Incredible!” - I sometimes lapse into French when I get excited) Happy
  • The more etherial attributes ascribed to this interconnect from the KLE Innovations web site were spot on:subtle nuances with amazing dexterity, Stage is very spacious and envelopes the listener, Allows the full emotion of the music to be experienced”
Another album I tend to use for audition purposes is from James Newton Howard, called “James Newton Howard and Friends”, on the Sheffield Labs label – and another bunch of “very enthusiastic” sound engineers.
  • This album provides some amazing percussive dynamics, exceptional detailing and extremely low frequency synth work, which allowed me to assess how well the KLEI gZero10 Interconnect Cable handled these other ascribed attributes.
  • Needless to say, the results were excellent. There were some very deep low frequency details I had never heard before, the details of the percussive chimes were very crisp and articulate and the dynamics and detailing of the various drums used was exemplary.

Another noteworthy mention is my original pressing of The Beatles: White Album.
  • Since both the above albums were recorded with great care by fastidious sound engineers with superb equipment and finally pressed into 150-180gram vinyl, I figured that listening to something a little less “specialized”, might reflect recordings of a more conventional nature.
  • After all, I purchased this album in 1982. However, it was recorded 1968, in a commercial studio and pressed into vinyl - which by today’s standards is just plain flimsy. Add to that the number of tracks crammed onto each side(from 6 to 9)and you would probably be in the majority if you believed the resulting fidelity might just be a little less than premium.
  • YOU’D BE WRONG! – just as I was. Happy
  • The details and clarity I observed would make most people believe this album had been re-mastered – it was just that good. I don’t think I have ever been quite so amazed.

One last album to mention is “Tubular Bells” from Mike Oldfield:
  • Mike Oldfield is probably “the master” at multi-tracking, creating recordings that approach orchestral complexity, using both acoustic and electronic instruments. The resulting sound is very complex, but incredibly detailed. However, what transpired was perhaps the biggest single transformation I have heard from any album in my collection.
  • The first thing I noticed was the placement of the many instruments in play, taking their place in a wider and much deeper image which isolated their signature more effectively, possibly due to the improved clarity these cables provide.
  • The next improvement was in the detailing that reflected a more accurate reproduction of the many instruments, especially the improved audibility of instruments that occupy the higher frequencies such as his frequent use of glockenspiels that now ring out with superb clarity.
  • He also makes great use of various bass guitars and synths, which now have their very own unique textures that are more easily heard, together with a very well controlled extension to the depth of those bass lines.
  • Finally, side one culminates in the chimes of tubular bells, which ring out so powerfully it sounds as though you are standing in a church belfry.
  • Simply... breathtaking!

The very detailed reproduction observed in the above recordings reflects their superb sound engineering. The improvements in some albums were less apparent on first listen, but subsequent replays revealed their more subtle engineering approach in the recording process.

Now you might be thinking that I have an extremely expensive phono cartridge to achieve such incredible details, but...
Granted, the turntable and arm is a little special and the one piece Silver litz tone-arm wire is terminated with the KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plugs from KLE Innovations.

The phono stage is a Simaudio MOON LP5.3 RS, which is a pretty adept performer, but not quite in the same league as many other excellent phono stages available today.

Which means: In this case - the kudos must go to the KLEI gZero10 Interconnect Cable

CONCLUSIONS…
You can take each of the metrics above and probably, with the aid of some sophisticated electronic test equipment, measure the improvements that were observed.

But measurements do not account for the passion of the music and the emotion of the artists, which is exactly what the KLEI gZero10 Interconnect Cable is so very adept at conveying.

Yes - the addition of the
KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA Plug + an additional tweak of conductor metallurgy + a "significantly better" gZero design - all makes for a great cable.

But for something to sound
this good it is very much a case of...

The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts

Who knows - it could even have a little of “KL’s soul” in there too. Happy

But at $1100 - it is a bit on the pricey side, so why should you buy them?...

Well, that very much depends on your own individual thought process…

  • If you take the view that the cables play a significant role in your system (like me) - you should try them.
  • If you feel that your other system components may not be "worthy" of such an upgrade – then first try the KLEI gZero3 Interconnect Cable – you might just be very surprised at your components abilities (I was) – and you can always upgrade (as I have).
  • If you feel the KLEI gZero10 Interconnect Cable may not be up to the resolution capabilities of your existing components – then I would recommend you keep an eye on the KLE Innovations web site for reviews of these cables on higher resolving systems.
  • I was able to audition the KLEI gZero3 Interconnect Cable on a friends higher resolving system and we were both very impressed, especially since it bettered his very well-known Brand-Name XLR balanced silver interconnect cable. So based on that experience, I believe the KLEI gZero10 Interconnect Cable is capable of performing exceptionally well on any system.

Personally, my own journey of “cable enlightenment” over the years has actually saved me thousands of dollars in component upgrades.
  • E.g. You might think having the $700 KLEI gZero6 Interconnect Cable on my $600 DAC as - “a little overkill”.
  • However, attempting to replace my DAC with another unit capable of achieving a similar performance improvement would probably cost significantly more and still leave me with a system lacking in the realism I experience today.

That’s it! – go out and buy a pair – they are freaky good!

But please - remember to let them burn-in for the period recommended – it makes a huge difference!


PRODUCT UPDATE NOTICE:

The KLEI gZero10 Interconnect now utilizes the latest advances in KLEI gZero Architecture/Technology
Providing significant improvements in performance.

For details please see...
KLEI gZero6, gZero10 and gZero20 IC Product Update.





My Review System:

  • Custom turntable with Denon DL103(modified) phono cartridge on and Audiomods Arm with one piece silver litz cable + KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA’s

  • Simaudio MOON LP5.3 RS phono stage

  • Schiit Bifrost USB DAC with UBER analogue upgrade

  • NAIM 5i integrated amp (has a passive pre-section)

  • Gershman Acoustics Sonogram speakers

  • the KLEI gZero6 Speaker Cables


page6_blog_entry52-page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up-2 A highly recommended product!

KLEI gZero6 Speaker Cable Review

Fresh on the heels of the KLEI Speaker Cable Review on this blog, the guys at KLE Innovations (KLEI) sent me a pair of their top-of-the-line KLEI Zero6 Speaker Cables to review.

gZero6-SC-5

At first glance, the
KLEI gZero6 Speaker Cables look almost identical to the KLEI gZero2, but it appears to have a second conductor on the neutral line, as can be seen by the twisted conductor in the photo above. This is an indication that they utilize an enhanced implementation of the KLEI gZero cable architecture in the neutral line whereas the signal line appears identical.

Having now reviewed almost all of the items in the current KLEI Product Line-up, this being the last product to review, I've come realize that you really cannot
"judge these books by their covers"

SIDE BAR: The "Looks"Conundrum...

I am constantly amused by comments made in audio circles about the looks of cables and connectors. The nice gold or rhodium plating, the in-vogue carbon fibre look etc..

After all, cables generally sit behind the components and are seldom seen, unless of course you have the big mono-block amps that need their very own one cubic yard of open space and generally located to the front and between the speakers, since they provide some very pleasing
“Eye-Candy" - BUT CABLES?

So I ask - aren't the looks of a cable secondary to how they actually perform?

Not that any of the KLE Innovations cables look cheap - they are very nicely made, with a very understated appearance.

Anyhow, Back to the Books and their Covers....

So what is "under the covers"?


KLE Innovations take their competitive design advantage very seriously, so what is on their web site is about all you will find out about their construction methods.

Basically, they use a combination of very high quality copper and/or silver conductors that are constructed in accordance with
“KL's gZero architecture", which combats the effects of electrical noise that is induced into conductors from adjacent conductors and also all connected components during normal operation.

More Detail you say?
(extract from my KLEI gZero2 Speaker cable review)....

The Issues...

When you have two (or more) insulated adjacent (i.e. parallel) conductors, i.e. as in most “conventional” cable designs, the following issues can arise...
  • When an AC voltage is applied to one conductor, electrical "noise" will be induced into the adjacent conductor(s)
  • two adjacent cables will experience reactive/EMF/EF effects due to the cable's inductance and capacitance which varies with frequency
  • long straight wires are also prone to RF/EMF/EF effects from external sources
  • there is also "ground noise" which is introduced by the actual components attached to the cables.

But the team at KLEI has come up with a very different approach…
  • Their Goal: “The KLEI gZero architecture dynamically works to maintain a zero voltage Ground state”
  • Their approach: “In accordance with KL’s Signal/Ground Formula, the KLEI gZero architecture is comprised of hand wound conductors, and implemented in a manner to dynamically enhance electron flow in the Signal conductor, without the use of electronic components.
  • The Result: “This has the effect of protecting the signal conductor from ground induced capacitive and inductive reactance, which facilitates smooth uninterrupted signal flow from one component to another, effectively isolating them and allowing them to perform their task without interference.”

So, if their design works, then you should have about the purest transmission of a signal from one component to the next - Yes?

So - Did Their Design Work?

Yep! - there ya go! - they're awesome! - go out and buy them! - I'm done! Happy

But for those of you that would like further detail about their performance...

Thanks to the team at
KLE Innovations the cable set I received had undergone Factory Burn-in, otherwise I would have been faced with a recommended burn-in period of around 300 hours. As is, KLEI still suggested I allow 3 days before any serious listening.

But right from the first track, one improvement was very apparent, the extension to the bottom end was significantly lower with more control and more bass detail (not to be confused with "more bass" as in bloating)

This was an extension in
KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cables.

As time went by the openness of these cables made for an extremely open and realistic presentation, especially on tracks that were not
"over engineered" i.e. most classical albums, jazz albums and live performances. Even the over extended bass lines often present on R & B albums were still very well controlled and not prone to bloating, as can sometimes be the case.

Some tracks that really highlighted their openness include...
  • Norah Jones: Not Too Late - beautifully engineered in it's simplicity, very few effects are applied to her voice making for a truly individual performance
  • Norah Jones: My Little Room - even better, Just Norah, a guitar and Double bass - all in my living room playing to me.
  • Nellie Furtado: Saturday - again wonderful simplicity in the engineering with Nellie, an acoustic guitar, background vocalist and the natural acoustics of the studio - the fun they were having was superbly conveyed.
  • P!nk: Crystal Ball - just P!ink, a guitar and a harmonizing vocalist - simple, but incredibly pure
  • With this combination of excellent sound engineering and the KLEI gZero6 Speaker Cables - an artist has no where to hide imperfections.

As the burn-in period completed, the dynamics, openness and clarity these cables conveyed, for me, became their
“defining signature".

As my auditions progressed I also became aware that I was listening at a significantly louder level than normal, which for me is unusual, because I normally find loud music very difficult to focus on.

  • It seems these cables allows the amp to fully control the speakers such that the detail and clarity was never overwhelmed by a single instrument, e.g. drums or bass, that can sometimes occur when played at loud volumes.

In this respect, the album I had most fun with was Roxette's
Don't Bore Us - Get To The Chorus (Greatest Hits). It is possibly the most Dynamic album I have in my collection, with incredibly dynamic drums, piercing guitar riffs, deep synth work and very punchy bass lines.
This album alone demonstrated just how good the
KLEI gZero6 Speaker Cables are at exerting complete control over my speakers - even when played REALLY LOUD!. Happy

Out of curiosity, I reconnected the
KLEI gZero3 Interconnects, since I felt that their performance might also benefit from the extended abilities of the KLEI gZero6 Speaker Cables.
  • As suspected, they contributed nicely to their performance, elevating them to a more realistic and natural reproduction.
  • But when used in combination with the KLEI gZero6 Interconnects, they transport you into the heart of the performance.

Reflecting back on the performance of the
KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cables, I recall listening to them for the first time had me wondering whether the cables were colouring the sound, mainly because some of the more "engineered" tracks sounded so different.
  • To verify this was not the case. I turned to classical albums to assess their reproduction accuracy, which reassured me they were completely neutral and well balanced in their delivery.
  • Since the KLEI gZero6 speaker cables perform to an even higher level, listening to them for the first time may accentuate this phenomenon, so take time to audition a lot of tracks - they will astound!

So I guess, with more of everything and no downside,
KL’s Signal/Ground Formula has proven itself. Not only as a theory, but in a very practical demonstration at a level of performance I had not expected to achieve with my particular system components.

Things to Consider…

As stated in the
KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cable Review - there are a couple of aspects about the KLEI gZero line of speaker cables to consider...
  • a maximum length of 5 meters, but 2.5 or 3 meters is their preferred length and they start at 2 meters long.
  • KL recommends, that to ensure optimum performance, that the audio systems Speaker impedance, especially the average, needs to be >3ohms and that the Speaker Sensitivity needs to be >83db, but as KL mentioned.

And The Pricing?

The RRP of the KLEI
KLEI gZero6 Speaker Cables is AUD$605 per 2.0 m plus $60 per additional 0.5m

Yes, they are getting up there, but again, compared to the competition they are very reasonably priced, but especially if you consider what they actually accomplish.

CONCLUSIONS...

If you want a big, bold, controlled presentation that is , dynamic, crystal clear and spacious then the
KLEI gZero6 Speaker Cables will not disappoint.

They
will change the sound of your system in ways you might not anticipate.

They
will contribute to significant improvements in systems of all price points, elevating the performance of even modestly priced systems to levels that equal systems of a much higher price point.

But as the performance level of the system becomes more articulate, detailed and well defined, so will the performance of the
KLEI gZero6 Speaker cables.

They will allow the amplifier to take control of your speaker and bring out their best performance.

All
KLEI gZero Cables are a family, they augment each others abilities, so it really does not matter which combinations you select - they will perform to an extremely high level.

A Review Qualification:
  • One thing that became apparent over the course of the reviews of the KLEI gZero and KLEI Harmony®Plug product lines from KLE Innovations, was the impact good power cables has on system performance.
  • To get the very best out of your system and these cables you need good power cables
  • If you try the KLEI gZero cables and feel that they do not perform to the levels I have observed in these reviews I would urge you to try some different power cables.
  • There are several posts on this blog that may assist you

My Review System:

  • Custom turntable with Denon DL103(modified) phono cartridge on and Audiomods Arm with one piece silver litz cable

  • Simaudio MOON LP5.3 RS phono stage

  • Schiit Bifrost USB DAC with UBER analogue upgrade

  • NAIM 5i integrated amp (has a passive pre-section)

  • Gershman Acoustics Sonogram speakers

  • the KLEI gZero6 Interconnect and Speaker Cable products


page6_blog_entry55-page6_blog_entry52-page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up-2 A highly recommended product!

KLEI gZero6 Interconnect Cable Review

Pasted Graphic

The KLEI gZero6 Interconnect from KLE Innovations is their current top-of-the-line (TOTL) offering.

Not only is this their current TOTL Interconnect, it is fitted with their TOTL
KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA connectors.

Having just completed a review of the
Pure®Harmony RCA connectors attached to my own Stager Silver Solids Interconnect cables (see KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug Review), I was very interested in hearing what improvements the "gZero" cable architecture of these cables would achieve.

The principal of the
"gZero" cable architecture is - and I quote from their web site...
  • In accordance with KL’s Signal/Ground Formula, the KLEI gZero architecture is comprised of hand wound conductors, and implemented in a manner to dynamically enhance electron flow in the Signal conductor, without the use of electronic components”
  • Each successive model in the KLEI gZero range, utilizes a progressively more complex and sophisticated cable architecture, employing varying combinations of multiple neutral/ground conductors, constructed from ultra high conductivity copper and/or silver.

So,
in very simplistic terms, they are winding one or more neutral conductor(s) around the signal conductor!

This is a very different approach from many cable companies, in that many companies (not all) go out of their way to keep the signal and ground conductors exactly the same length and normally parallel to each other.

The purpose of this type of architecture? - again from their web site -....
  • The KLEI gZero architecture dynamically works to maintain a zero voltage Ground state”
Very Interesting - they endeavour to maintain a zero-voltage Ground state (reading between the lines - no noise!) - this would also prevent noise contamination into the circuitry of any of the connected components also.

I believe there are some people out there that may challenge the
“validity” of the gZero™ circuitry developed by Keith Louis Eichmann (aka KL), probably due more to a “belief” rather than actual empirical evidence!

The old “World is Flat” syndrome Happy.


At this point I'll refer you to their web site for more technical details if you are so inclined - I've already read it Happy...

http://kleinnovations.com/kle-innovations-klei-products/essence-gzero-ic/


OK - Enough of the Technical Blurb...

So, I set about comparing the performance of two 1 meter interconnect cables...

  • both having the very same KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plugs attached
  • each, in turn, connected to the very same components and allowed to burn-in
  • both reviewed in the same system - nothing else was changed
  • one interconnect utilizes a solid silver conductors of a twisted pair architecture
  • the other KLE Innovations gZero architecture, conductor material unknown, but I assume it’s very high quality copper

So - I know conductor quality is significant, but I believe it’s more about the cable architecture employed!

On To The Findings...

Bass Performance...

  • On the very first track played with the KLEI gZero6 Interconnect, I could tell there was added depth to the bass frequencies.
  • The bass was not bloated, as in "more bass", but the bottom end had extended to encompass lower frequencies than my own interconnects were capable of delivering. This was especially apparent on tracks with very low synth work and on tracks featuring pipe organs
  • the bass was also extremely well controlled, such that instrument specific textures in the bass register could easily be discerned.
  • How much difference was there? - I would compare it to getting new speakers with a larger bass driver! - yes, that much!
Dynamics...
  • The "speed" of these two interconnects were very similar - hardly surprising considering the quality of materials used
  • Both exhibited extremely fast response to transient peaks - e.g. drums, rim shots, tambourines and cymbals responded in the same manner using either interconnect
  • Piercing guitar chords and brass instruments (mainly trumpets and trombones) had almost identical qualities
  • It was in the finer micro details of cymbals, tambourines and triangles that the the KLEI gZero6 Interconnect nudged into the lead.
Details and Clarity...
  • Here, the KLEI gZero6 Interconnect edged further ahead, partly because it sounded a little more detailed, but it was more than that…
  • In orchestral tracks there was better isolation of instruments across the board, e.g. violin and viola when playing the same notes are often difficult to distinguish, but now the viola had additional depth which now distinguished them more from the violins
  • There was an added warmth and fullness, or “body” across the entire frequency range which made large orchestral works appear smoother and much more enjoyable
  • There was more texture in individual instruments e.g. you could easily discern the drum skin on large orchestral bass drums vibrating – it had more texture to the rumble following the the initial strike, rather than a simple boom and wind instruments like the Oboe and Basoon had a more realistic conveyance of their individual timbres.
  • There was smoothness in the upper register of violin soloists - even Itzhak Perlman sounded mellower, even on his more vigorous pieces!
  • The KLEI gZero6 Interconnect revealed more in the area of micro details, such as the reverberation of instruments with a venue
Image and Spatial Integrity...
  • Again, the KLEI gZero6 Interconnect pulled ahead, serving up a wider and deeper image on those tracks subject to the most finicky of sound engineers.
  • The separation of instruments was more pronounced due to their pin-point placement and what is often referred to as "more air" around each instrument
  • The image also extended further forward to go beyond enveloping the listener, it was more like “immersing” the listener in the performance.
Noise…
  • I didn’t witness any difference between the two cables on my system, both were exceptionally quiet
  • but, on another system the KLEI gZero6 Interconnect proved to be significantly “Blacker” than the very well respected Interconnect cable it replaced.
In Summary…

The
KLEI gZero6 Interconnect
  • Extends the range of the bass to very deep low frequencies with control.
  • Expands the image in three dimensions completely enveloping the listener, but it also separates the musicians/artists/instruments within that image by improving their individual spacing.
  • Clarity and details are significantly enhanced – perhaps in part due to the improved image.
  • Dynamics are lightning fast across the entire frequency range, But there is also an element of smoothness, particularly with violins and soprano, which can be quite shrill with other cables.
  • They are warm and full bodied – in essence, more complete.
  • They convey a very realistic sense of being “immersed in the venue”.
  • They are very quiet.

Conclusions...

All of the above
"performance metrics" are well understood in audio circles and easily discernible.

But there are other "attributes" that are more of an “
ethereal nature” that is often more relevant to a musical performance, such as warmth, full bodied, richness, emotion etc...

These are observed at the time of playback and although, often as a result of technical/design improvements, they are more subjective and far from measurable - unless you are going to “
count the number of goose bumps” experienced Happy

One KEY factor…

The abilities of the system being used to evaluate the performance


*
My System…

  • is a modestly price system by today’s standards - e.g. there are many components these days cost more than my entire system.
  • From that perspective, I realize my system may not be “All Revealing” with respect to the considerable abilities of the KLEI gZero6 Interconnect - I believe they are capable of so much more.
  • But, in my system’s defence - it has some killer power cables which elevate its dynamic and spatial performance to systems costing many times its modest price.

Even though the KLE Innovations products worked exceptionally well on my system, I have since had the opportunity to hear them on what many would consider
“a system of higher resolving abilities”, the heart of which is a Gryphon integrated amp into Magico V2 speakers.
  • I was not surprised to find they also performed extremely well here, providing a spacious and very dynamic performance with a smoothness that made music from all genres that much more enjoyable.

In Short…

The Stager Silver Solids +
KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA's - $150 + $140
  • achieved an extremely high level of performance
  • For many albums the differences were discernible in only one or two of the above "performance metric" categories
  • However, they fell a little short in bass response and exhibiting attributes of a more ethereal nature.
  • KLEI gZero6 Interconnects - $565 (AUS)
  • Was the top performer - enough said!

Even though the
KLEI gZero6 Interconnect demonstrated its technical prowess across the board, it also delivered an exceptional "ethereal performance", having more warmth, body and emotion than my own interconnects, which, for me, translates into a much more enjoyable performance without any fatigue.

For those of you lucky enough to have a high resolving system, then it's a no-brainer - the
KLEI gZero6 Interconnects should be at the top of your Christmas List Winking

For the rest of us, we have to wrestle with the prospect of living on Hot Dogs for a couple of months. Happy

The
KLEI gZero6 Interconnects will not break the bank i.e. compared to much of their competition, but selling-off some old gear should expedite their arrival Happy

Footnote:

So you may be wondering what the acoustical difference there is between the
KLEI gZero6 Interconnect and it’s “little brother” the KLEI gZero3 Interconnect.
  • First let me state: the KLEI gZero3 Interconnect is an extremely adept interconnect.
  • It will outperform many other well respected cables and
  • it’s nobody’s “little brother”, just a more affordable member of a very good product lineup.
  • The tonal quality of both cables is exceptional and consistent, delivering a very neutral and very controlled performance.
  • the KLEI gZero6 Interconnect just has a little more depth and adds a dash of “soul”.

Having said that, perhaps the best way I can describe the difference…
  • – it’s like changing from a 40” TV to a 60” TV, both having identical technical specs
  • Everything is just bigger, clearer and that much more enjoyable!

PRODUCT UPDATE NOTICE:

The KLEI gZero6 Interconnect now utilizes the latest advances in KLEI gZero Architecture/Technology
Providing significant improvements in performance.

For details please see...
KLEI gZero6, gZero10 and gZero20 IC Product Update.


My Review System:

  • Custom turntable with Denon DL103(modified) phono cartridge on and Audiomods Arm with one piece silver litz cable
  • Simaudio MOON LP5.3 RS phono stage
  • Schiit Bifrost USB DAC with UBER analogue upgrade
  • NAIM 5i integrated amp (has a passive pre-section)
  • Gershman Acoustics Sonogram speakers

page6_blog_entry52-page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up-2 A highly recommended product!





KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug Review

Over the last few weeks I’ve had a chance to become accustomed to the tonal qualities of the KLEI Silver®Harmony RCA Plugs that were installed on my Stager Silver Solids Interconnects for the KLEI Silver®Harmony RCA Plug Review, but those interconnects were now the pipeline from my Simaudio Moon LP 5.3 RS phono stage to my Naim 5i integrated amp, the source being a modified Denon DL103 cartridge attached to an Audiomods Classic tonearm having a one piece silver litz cable.

As such, I have come to appreciate their extraordinary abilities of these RCA connectors, which includes extremely fast response to not only very fast highs generated by percussive instruments such as cymbals and tambourines, but also their superb control of bass details such as those generated by pipe organs and synthesizers.

Also, the image that the
Silver®Harmony RCA Plugs convey is wide, deep and very precise. But perhaps the best quality of all - they are very “spacious”.

What do I actually mean by “spacious”? - In this case, it’s the ability to convey the space around the musicians and the subtle reflections of sounds from of their instruments within the recording venue.


RCA-KLEI-Pure-Harmony-Plug-500x365-515x330

The
KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug represents the pinnacle of the KLE Innovations Harmony®Plug range of RCA connectors and as such, should provide the best performance.

Their appearance is almost identical to the
KLEI Copper®Harmony and KLEI Silver®Harmony RCA Plugs except for the mauve colour of the logo stamped on the collar. But inside, the centre pin and neutral pins are made of solid silver in accordance with KL’s Signal/Ground formula, giving them an IACS conductivity rating of 106%

But I still had to wonder, after becoming accustomed to the already exceptional performance of the KLEI Silver®Harmony RCA Plugs which, due too its solid silver neutral conductor and the extra thick silver plating on the copper centre pin, has the same 106% rating. Exactly what was left to improve upon?

Thanks to the guys at KLE Innovations, they had saved me considerable time by sending a set of
KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug which had already undergone the 150-200 hours burn-in normally required from new, so that period of time had now been reduced to around 24 hours hours.

Whilst waiting for the RCA’s to arrive I had selected several albums from my collection of vinyl which I thought might best demonstrate the improvements the
KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug should bring to the party.

Since KLE Innovations is located in the “Land of Aus” (Oz) (aka Australia), what better album to select than
Business as Usual by Men at Work. The sound engineering on this album is superb. Details, such as the high frequency edginess of the the Sax and the crispness of the drums and guitar work to the more subtle changes in the textures of the various bass lines on the various tracks made it a very good album for the evaluation.

In very simple terms…
Everything got bigger, faster and cleaner!


The bass line now had added detail and texture, the cymbals were crisper and fuller, the mids were warmer, the dynamics were faster and the image just seemed more complete. There was an added “punch” to both the percussion and also to the hammering of the very muted guitar strings. Lastly, the vocal detailing is now very clear and very well isolated within the recording.

Songs from the Wood, by Jethro Tull, an album from my long distant past, has always been a favourite. It features some of the best harmonized and multi tracked vocals ever put onto vinyl. It was these vocals that the KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug seemed to perform minor miracles with micro details, in order to separate each vocal into a clearly audible presentation.

For me, spatial integrity, i.e. how accurately the artists and instruments are represented in the space of the recording venue, is best portrayed by classical recordings, since most are recorded using very few microphones, which translates to less manipulation of the final product.

To this end, one of the best albums is from a bunch of very anal sound engineers that record on the Tacet label.

How anal you ask?

  • Side Two on the album Das Mikrofon Vol.II, contains 24 tracks, each track using a different microphone!
  • Side One contains some nice Jazz Happy

But it was Das Mikrofon Vol.I that I had selected to determine just how good the Pure®Harmony RCA Plug was at conveying some very large venues.
  • Track One on Side Two is Toccata Terzza in A, one of my favourite pipe organ tracks that I also use to determine how just well bass frequencies are reproduced, since with pipe organ music there are extremely complex low frequency textures produced by those massive pipes.
  • Not only did the KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug convey the cavernous nature of the venue, but they displayed extremely fine control across the entire range of pipes from the smallest high pitched pipes to the low frequency behemoths.

How many albums/tracks can I list where the
KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug made me sit up and listen? Pretty much all of them.

There are a few tracks where the improvements were more subtle…
  • such as the whispery textures of Diana Krall’s voice on her tribute to Nat King Cole album All For You.
  • The distinctive sound of the slide of a bottleneck on guitar strings of Ry Cooder on his album Boomer’s Story

Then there were improvements that leapt off the vinyl - the all-out in your face dynamics on albums such as..
  • the incredible percussion detailing and synth work on James Newton Howard & Friends - by James Newton Howard
  • some really deep synth and piecing guitar work on Under the Joshua Tree by U2
  • the explosive “rifle-crack” drums and excellent synth work on Back In The Highlife from Steve Winwood
  • the crispness of the guitar work on the album But Seriously Folks from Joe Walsh
  • And if you are a fan of Led Zepplin’s - Whole Lotta Love - you’ve never heard it like this - incredible!

Conclusions…

Well, as I said above, while waiting for the
KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug I wondered just what improvements would they provide. Was it going to be a serious case of “diminishing returns”?

The improvements I witnessed between my identical interconnects, one se
t with the KLEI Silver®Harmony RCA Plug and the second with the Pure®Harmony RCA Plug was immediately noticeable. Improvements in dynamics, clarity, image and bass extension, with a new “fullness” to the reproduction and a new “reality” in the performance.

I’ve experimented with cables of several types over the years and used a variety of connectors, including the Eichmann Silver Bullet, which I had rated very highly.

Then Keith Louis Eichmann requested I try his new
KLEI Copper®Harmony RCA Plug which performed even better. The KLEI Silver ®Harmony RCA Plug again proved to be a significant improvement over the Copper®Harmony, but the level of performance the KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug has achieved is the new benchmark in RCA connector performance.

Achieving this level of performance simply with an RCA connector may sound unbelievable, almost “magical” and in my mind, makes the team at KLE Innovations…

“The Wizards of Aus”


If you like to dabble with making your own interconnect cables, then the
KLEI Harmony®Plug range of products are designed to fit your budget and perform exceedingly well.

The one thing the KLEI Harmony®Plug range is not...

Pretentious!

There is no gold or rhodium plating, no carbon fibre casing, no cryo treatment

If you are after looks - select another product

But…

If you want a serious product capable of the ultimate in RCA performance….

  • KLEI Pure®Harmony : pure genius, pure performance, pure magic!



page6_blog_entry52-page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up-2 A highly recommended product!

ADDENDUM: especially for Turntable Enthusiasts - also see UPDATE: Pure®Harmony RCA Plug Review




KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cable Review

Having originally developed the Eichmann Bullet RCA range of products, a well-respected RCA connector, Keith Louis Eichmann and the KLEI Team moved forward and developed and even better “mouse trap” in the Harmony®Plug product line. This too is garnering the recognition it deserves, with several companies now offering them as standard equipment on their own individual brands of high performing audio interconnects.

Flush with that new found success of the KLEI
Harmony®Plug products, the KLEI team has now focused their talents on the various issues associated to the cables within an audio system and developed a whole new set of design principles aimed to resolve them.

So What Are The Issues?

I have tinkered with cables for many years and had my own set of “beliefs”, but little did I know that I was about to get
“schooled” at a “layman’s level” in the issues associated with conventional cable design.

When you have two (or more) insulated conductors side by side, i.e. as in most “conventional” cable designs, the following issues can arise, resulting in the introduction of noise within the cable’s internal conductors...
  • When an AC voltage is applied to one conductor, electrical "noise" will be induced into the surrounding conductor(s) - that's how transformers work.
  • two adjacent cables will experience reactive/EMF/EF effects due to the cable's inductance and capacitance which varies with frequency, which results in "noise" into the adjacent conductors.
  • long straight wires are prone to RF/EMF/EF effects from external sources – like an antenna
  • there is also "ground noise" which is introduced by the actual components attached to the cable.

Now - it is common knowledge in audio circles that cables should not be closely aligned in parallel with other cables and if a cable needs to cross another, it should be preferably at right angles.

PLEASE NOTE: If you “harness” your cables together with twist-ties you are degrading performance!

And yet, many of the interconnect cables, speaker cables and power cables we commonly use contain two or more conductors in parallel inside an outer sheathing that compresses them together, which intensifies the effect further.

But the team at KLEI has come up with a very different approach…

  • Their Goal: The KLEI gZero architecture dynamically works to maintain a zero voltage Ground state”

  • Their approach: In accordance with KL’s Signal/Ground Formula, the KLEI gZero architecture is comprised of hand wound conductors, and implemented in a manner to dynamically enhance electron flow in the Signal conductor, without the use of electronic components”

  • The Result: “This has the effect of protecting the signal conductor from ground induced capacitive and inductive reactance, which facilitates smooth uninterrupted signal flow from one component to another, effectively isolating them and allowing them to perform their task without interference.”


And so, the KLEI gZero architecture was born!


At this point I am going to refer you to their web site for complete details about this revolutionary new approach :
http://www.kleinnovations.com/

Enough already! – Get on with the cable review…

OK, so I received an email from Keith Louis Eichmann (aka KL) asking if I’d like to review two of their cables, the
KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cables and the KLEI gZero3 Interconnect.

Note: the KLEI gZero3 interconnects will be reviewed separately

After what seemed like a very long
“postal interlude” the cables arrived at the postal station and upon pickup, the package itself was a little disappointing, in that it was not as heavy or as large as I was expecting. My own speaker cables are a hefty 10 gauge with a dense high tech sheathing that weighs a few pounds and would require a significantly larger shipping envelope.

Perhaps they forgot to enclose the speaker cables? Did they send a shorter pair of speaker cables by mistake?

Nope – both sets of cables were enclosed in a very nice red satin bag (see photo below), a 3 meter pair of
KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cables (which are very “skinny” cables) and a 1 meter pair of KLEI gZero3 interconnects.

WEB web gZero2 and Bag 100PPI BLUR-

My “skinny cable phobia” was the result of an encounter several years ago with a skinny cable that I found had superb mid and upper performance, but was seriously lacking in the area of a deep controlled bass.

Pasted Graphic 1

Not to be put off by the diminutive diameter of the KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cable, I connected them to the amp, making sure that the end with the labels with printed arrows were connected to the speakers.

To address my
“skinny cable phobia” I deliberately selected the track Más, from the album Mi Plan by Nellie Furtado, which has some of the deepest synth work in my collection and another track from the same album, Vacación, which has a powerful and very deep bass line.

To my amazement, my fears of a presentation lacking in fullness and depth, were immediately put to rest by an amazingly detailed and complete reproduction of two very demanding tracks. Although, I initially thought they appeared a little thinner sounding, but after a couple of replays it was evident that the bass line was in fact less bloated than before, but actually contained more detail.

KL had advised me that the cables had undergone a factory
“burn-in” so they should be sounding their best after about 24 hours.

NOTE: Since the factory burn-in is not normally applied to the KLEI gZero2 level of speaker cable, I would generally allow approximately 150-200 hours of use to complete this process.

As the burn-in process progressed I noticed a deepening of the bass presentation, but still very controlled and getting more detailed.

So, How Good Are They?…

With my “skinny cable phobia” still not quite put to rest, I selected a favourite pipe organ track by Widor, Organ Symphony #5 in F Minor. Op42/1-6 Toccata: Allegro from the album Hear the Light on Phillips, performed by Daniel Chorzempa.

The sound engineering on this track is superb and if any one track could allay my phobia it would be this one. It contains the full gamut of the sensory attributes that audiophiles use to quantify a performance.

Well, my phobia has now been completely laid to rest. On this one track alone the
KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cables accomplished an extremely articulate presentation that reached into the depths, to bass levels I have never before heard, to the highest frequencies a pipe organ can reach, with a clarity that allowed the extremely complex layers of the many pipes in play to be clearly heard.

Another very well engineered track that I thought might indicate the imaging prowess of the KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cables is the Violin Concerto no. 4 in D major KV 218 - Allegro by Marianne Thorsen / Trondheim Solistene. The concert hall in which this track was recorded already captivated me with my previous cables, in that it has a realism often not quite matched in many other recordings. Also, the performance is exquisitely delicate in the quiet sections coupled with some superbly vigorous bowing to round out a very passionate performance full of emotion.

Not only were the
KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cables able to convey the subtle nuances of this performance with amazing dexterity, they were able to expand the image such that the listener is enveloped completely within the venue, which allowed the full emotion of the piece to be experienced. But the one thing that really stood out for me was the amazing smoothness of the violin’s upper register notes.

It turns out that the effect of being
“enveloped in the venue acoustics” was not a trait confined to the one track above. Pretty much any well engineered track will be presented in a similar manner.

Now, my review process can be quite intermittent – I grab
“moments” throughout the review period, selecting tracks that I believe might feature a passage that will highlight a particular aspect of performance with a component or cable. I find that taking this approach prevents me from becoming fatigued or complacent.

Between those moments I often select albums just for background music as I tend to the various
“chores of daily life”.

One album I often select for background music is
Greatest Hits from Fleetwood Mac. I like the pace, it’s easy listening and a more mellow kind of sing-along experience. But I had never really considered it to have stunning sound engineering and as such, I have never selected any tracks from it during an evaluation.

On one particular day, I started the album playing and walked away to tend to some chores. Then, something in the music started to grab my attention, so I returned to my system and listened more intently. To my complete surprise the engineering on this album is actually not too shabby at all. I skipped ahead to a few favourite tracks and noticed details that were now being clearly conveyed in a spacious image that surprised me completely. The
KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cables really bring out the very best in a musical presentation, even on older albums.

So are there any drawbacks?…

Well definitely not from a performance aspect. Happy

The set I reviewed came terminated with banana plugs (the recommended option), but spade terminations can be accommodated if requested by the customer at the time of ordering.

However, a couple of aspects of these cables that did come to light during a few emails with KL is that he recommends:

  • a maximum length of 5 meters, but 2.5 or 3 meters is their preferred length and they start at 2 meters long.

  • KL further recommends, that to ensure optimum performance, that the audio systems Speaker impedance, especially the average, needs to be >3ohms and that the Speaker Sensitivity needs to be >83db, but as KL mentioned, these are his recommendations.


Which brings me to the pricing…

The RRP of the KLEI
KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cables is AUD$350 per 2.0 m plus $50 per additional 0.5m

Whoa! - that ain’t your Grandpa’s table-lamp wire is it! - Nope, and it doesn’t perform like it either!

Considering the level of performance the
KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cables bring to a system, I don’t consider this an outrageous price by any means, especially when compared to many other high-tech speaker cable alternatives costing significantly more.

  • I guess, as always, it depends on what you are prepared to pay for performance.
  • But in this case it is - exceptional performance!

CONCLUSIONS…

If I had not been asked to review the
KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cables and seen them on a shelf in an audio store – I would have passed them by.

Their fit and finish is first class, but they do look more like an interconnect cable than a speaker cable - sorry KL
Happy

But being an “Audio Enthusiast”…

It's NOT about “THE LOOK”, it’s all about “THE SOUND!”


Having a pair of
KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cables in your system may evoke comments from fellow enthusiasts like “hey - they look cute!” or “shouldn’t they be on a bookshelf speaker?”

That is, until you play them a few of your more demanding tracks – those comments will probably change to
“where can I get a set of those”

I have been using Van Den Hul speaker cables for many years and have been very satisfied with their performance and still consider the D-352’s to be a very good speaker cable i.e. within it’s “more conventional” design constructs.

But the design team at KLE Innovations has created a
New Breed”. With bold new designs that challenge conventional cable related “wisdoms” from the past, to bring you some very affordable cabling products that can elevate the performance of even modestly priced systems like my own, to an extraordinary level.

How good are they? - I purchased the
KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cables because they are simply…

“too good to pass by”


The KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cables will elevate the performance of your system to a level that other speaker cables fail to achieve.

Something to consider: It is imperative when using products the caliber of the KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cables, that all the other cables in your system (i.e. interconnect and power cables) must be capable of a similar level of performance otherwise the effectiveness of the KLEI gZero2’s will not be fully realized.

page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up A highly recommended product!

KLEI Silver®Harmony RCA Plug Review


Well, it seems like the guys at Keith Louis Eichmann Innovations liked my
KLEI Copper®Harmony RCA Plug Review so much, that they sent a pack of their new KLEI Silver®Harmony RCA plug, which is the middle entry in their KLEI Harmony®Plug line.

Visually, the only thing to distinguish between the KLEI Copper®Harmony and the KLEI Silver®Harmony is the colour of the logo on the collar, as can be seen below.

HarmonyTEXT

Since I found the performance of the KLEI Copper®Harmony RCA Plug to be so good, I asked the question:
  • what would make the consumer opt for the more expensive KLEI Silver®Harmony RCA Plug?

The KLEI response:
KLEI™Copper Harmony plug
  • Proprietary mathematical modelling optimises mass, thickness, and composition of the conductive pins to enhance electron flow, incorporated in accordance with KL’s proprietary Copper Signal/Ground formula, where extrapolated results are even >102% IACS.
  • The conductive pins incorporate highly conductive materials, such as copper and silver.
KLEI™Silver Harmony plug
  • Proprietary mathematical modelling optimises mass, thickness, and composition of the conductive pins to enhance electron flow, incorporated in accordance with KL’s proprietary Silver Signal/Ground formula, where extrapolated results are even >105% IACS.
  • The conductive pins incorporate highly conductive materials, such as copper and silver.


What is IACS again ?
— it’s a measure of the conductivity of various metals relative to “Pure Copper”, a standard developed for copper wire producers, having a rating of 100%

- See
IACS Conductivity Ratings PDF for further details.

When I asked what performance improvements to expect from the Silver®Harmony, the KLEI response was:

  • They bring out even more of the details, dynamics and improved imaging obtained using the KLWI Copper®Harmony.
Now the KLEI Copper®Harmony had performed well above my expectations, improving on my original Eichman Silver Bullet RCA’s by a considerable margin and taking their place as my new reference standard, but were the KLEI Silver®Harmony RCA’s capable of repeating that level of performance improvement?

The Prep Work...
In preparation for this review I had taken KLEI at their word, that the KLEI Silver®Harmony would reveal more dynamics and details. So, whilst waiting for their arrival I decided that in order to perceive such benefits I might need to do a couple of things
  1. Upgrade the power cables on the source components and amplifier - a little extreme you think? Well, I was in the process of completing this when I received the first email from KLEI asking me to review the KLEI Copper®Harmony, so that was put on the back burner until the review was complete.
  2. Find some additional tracks that I thought might just reveal the performance improvements mentioned above

Thankfully, the KLEI Silver®Harmony took a little while to arrive, which gave me ample time to install and burn-in the new power cables, get accustomed to the new sound and select a few tracks that sounded that they might provide the required details and dynamics.

During this process it became quite apparent just how good the KLEI Copper®Harmony really are: their delivery of exquisite detailing, spacious imaging and very fast dynamic response was clearly audible in my system.

SIDEBAR: Some Third Party Feedback...
During the time the KLEi Silver®Harmony were in transit, I had the opportunity to exchange experiences with another person that had tried them.

Their initial findings (i.e. before complete burn-in) were completely different to my own experience with the KLEI Copper®Harmony, in that they thought the KLEI Silver®Harmony sounded “boring” which I took as “lacked in dynamics”, the upper frequencies appeared to “roll-off” very quickly and they did not experience the blooming of bass frequencies as I had.
  • I believe this is a good indication that the effects a person encounters during burn-in will vary when used on different cables.
  • They did confirm that after a longer burn-in period (100+ hours), the KLEI Silver®Harmony had outperformed the KLEI Copper®Harmony, citing better image, dynamics and details.

Cut To The Chase…
Well - the proof of the pudding is, as they say,
“in the eating”.

So once they arrived, I installed the KLEI Silver®Harmony onto one set of my Stager Silver Solid interconnects and started the burn-in process.

As with the KLEI Copper®Harmony, I allowed for approximately 150 hours burn-in time, with small mini-auditions performed at approximately 24 hour intervals.

What I experienced within the first hour was almost identical to what I had experienced with the KLEI Copper®Harmony:
  • Immediately, I notice a significant improvement in imaging and dynamics
  • mid-frequency details were initially very good - about on par with the KLEI Copper®Harmony after burn-in
  • high frequency details were much improved and extended
  • Again, there was a significant “blooming” of certain upper-bass frequencies
  • there was a new depth to the bass frequencies that was also very muddled and bordering on distorted

Just as with the KLEI Copper®Harmony, the character of the KLEI Silver®Harmony changed significantly for the better as burn-in progressed
  • On Eric Clapton’s album Clapton Unplugged, the stomping of his foot on stage started out even more nauseating, due to the extended depth to the lower bass frequencies. But just as before, after burn-in the bloating simply melded into the background and became an integral part a very good live album, which also displayed even more details, especially in the vocals. On tracks Running on Faith and Walkin’ Blues, where, thanks to the extended upper frequencies, the use of the bottleneck throughout the track is perhaps the most realistic reproduction I have ever heard.

  • On the track You Look Good To Me from the album We Get Requests by The Oscar Peterson Trio, not only could I hear Ray Brown humming his intro, but there was a significant improvement in the details, such as the vibrations the strings make against the fingerboard of the bass, which previously was quite muted and now the superb textures in the triangle at the beginning of the track were very audible.

  • The Cymbal work on Staple It Together, from the Jack Johnson album In Between Dreams had a much faster attack from the initial strike and the decay was longer than that experienced with the KLEI Copper®Harmony.


To challenge the dynamic presentation I selected some new tracks that I thought would be more revealing that those I had selected for the KLEI Copper®Harmony.

The first was
Precious, from the album Diva by Annie Lennox
  • Annie’s voice has a superb “brittleness” to it and the KLEI Silver®Harmony provided the edge required to highlight that trait.
  • The base line had a deeper presentation, but also an extended level of control that brought out never before heard texture and the improved dynamics gave the track some additional slam not perviously experienced.
  • The improved detailing also made the opening chord sequence on the electronic keyboard much more revealing of the textures that had been recorded.

Another track that made me sit up an listen was
Turtle Shoes, from the album Don’t Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin.
  • For those of you unfamiliar with his work, Bobby McFerrin multi-tracks pretty much all the vocals himself, with some amazing sound engineering that captures his percussion line which is derived from him pounding and slapping on various body parts - he also has a very edgy vocal when deemed necessary and again KLEI Silver®Harmony allows those extremely fine details to be heard.
  • There is depth to the percussion line that is extremely textured, but since the focus is very much on the vocal performance you are also able to hear every delicate nuance of this talented performers considerable vocal talents.

From the album
The Police - Greatest Hits album I had selected Walking On The Moon
  • Primarily because I thought that the opening quitar chords would highlight the KLEI Silver®Harmony’s dynamic prowess and I was not wrong.
  • But better still, the details in Sting’s voice and the textures in his bass line reinforces the amazing abilities of this diminutive little RCA plug.

I’ve used words like “edgy” and “brittleness” to describe how the KLEI Silver®Harmony enhances micro details and combines its extremely fast dynamic abilities to reproduce those traits.

But initially, I had wondered if this new edginess was due to distortions that had not
“worked themselves out” during burn-in.
  • To verify that this was NOT the case, I returned to a track previously used in the Copper®Harmony review, the Violin Concerto no. 4 in D major KV 218 - Allegro by Marianne Thorsen / Trondheim Solistene.
  • If there were distortions in the signal, then the violin on this track would likely reveal them.
  • Instead, the violin came across smooth and extremely detailed with a more spacious image that is wider, deeper and with a more precise placement of the musicians within the space.
  • What you hear more of are the extremely fine higher frequency micro details, such as those found in the reproduction of cymbals, having a very fast attack of the initial strike, followed by a long decay, both of which has body and texture.
  • Sibilance now has considerably more texture and depth and is silky smooth.
  • The sound the KLEI Silver®Harmony conveys is full bodied and full range and is definitely NOT “thin” or “bright”.

Thinking back to the KLEI Copper®Harmony review, a track that I believed would demonstrate how much more revealing these RCA plugs are is
Iberia: Debussy - 3rd Mov’t - London Symphony, Andre Previn conductor.
  • The first thing I noticed was the extended width of the image, now considerably wider than the distance between the speakers.
  • There is without a doubt more details, particularly from the percussion section that is placed even further back in the image, but without loosing any clarity or volume.
  • The tambourine had much more pace to it and the castanets had a more life-like “clack” to them

One of my favourite newly selected review tracks is
With You In Mind from the album Blue Chip, by Acoustic Alchemy, selected because of the extraordinary sound engineering and musicianship. It’s a very easy track to listen to because there is not a cacophony of instruments vying for your attention and distracting you from the details.
  • Just a couple of guitars, a little subdued percussion and some nice melodic slide guitar way in the background. And that’s where the KLEI Silver®Harmony’s excelled, delivering a crystal clear reproduction containing the very subtle micro details of the strings being plucked and the buzzing of the strings on the fretboard and as their hands move up and down the neck the unmistakable rasping of fingers sliding over the “round-wound” strings.
  • Perhaps my playing guitars for many years has made my ears more “receptive” to these sounds, but it still takes a very adept system to reproduce them with such startling realism and clarity, which left me believing the KLEI Silver®Harmony has without a doubt made a significant contribution to my systems performance improvements.

At the other end of the frequency range is added depth in the lower bass frequencies with considerably more control. This was very evident on
Más, from the album Mi Plan by Nellie Furtado, which has some of the deepest synth work in my collection and another track from the same album, Vacación, where the thump of the bass drum is very deep and superbly controlled. In fact, the entire album highlights the amazing dexterity of the KLEI Silver®Harmony

My observations above were made while using the Interconnect to connect the analogue outputs from my DAC to my Amp. I then used the exact same interconnect to connect my phono stage to the amp and listened to several tracks from multiple albums.

To my surprise I found that there were even bigger improvements in image, dynamics and details. It seems that the KLEI Silver®Harmony are an even better match for my phono stage than the KLEI Copper®Harmony.

I have not found any downside in using the KLEI Silver®Harmony on my Stager Silver Solids Interconnects, other than a slightly longer burn-in period that approached 185 hours to reach their full potential. Across the board they perform exceptionally well, providing an image on orchestral tracks that is so deep that a little additional volume is required on some older recordings that were performed in very large venues.

The response from KLEI posted above was spot on - more of everything, but in a very balanced presentation that does not accentuate any part of the audible bandwidth.

In the case of the
KLEI Copper®Harmony I summed up their performance in one word - Clarity

With the KLEI Silver®Harmony, especially on acoustic tracks and classical ensemble tracks, it is like being at a live performance.
  • On live albums the applause has body, instead of sounding like a game show contestant getting the right answer.
  • When Eric Clapton talks between songs you just had to close your eyes and he was right there in the room.

A technique I often use to gauge how well my “tweaks” or “upgrades” are performing, is to stand or move around in the hallway outside my listening room.
  • Why? - it removes distractions such as “spatial image” from the equation and allows me focus solely on the acoustic attributes of the sound
  • I find the timbre of an instrument or the subtleties in an artists voice to be much more revealing and allows the realism in the recording shine.

In the case of the
KLEI Silver®Harmony they transcend clarity - they are simply - Transparent

The transparency of the KLEI Silver®Harmony makes them the closest thing to “3D glasses” for two channel audio I have experienced to date.

That is - until I review the
KLEI Pure®Harmony - stay tuned - coming soon Happy

The price of the Silver®Harmony? - $90 for a set of 4 (from Parts Connexion)


The details on the
Silver®Harmony, including Australian pricing, is available on their web site at...

www.KLEinnovations.com

They are also available in North America from
Parts Connexion


Conclusions…

Ever get that
“smile of satisfaction when something very right is happening” ? - ME TOO! Happy

The KLEI Silver®Harmony RCA, when used with high performance interconnect cable, conveys an incredibly detailed analogue signal that results in a very realistic three dimensional reproduction of recorded music, regardless of whether it originates from an Analogue or Digital source.

One question that came up recently - Can the KLEI Harmony®RCA Plug range be used for Digital interconnects?

  • I have not tried them as yet, but plan on doing so soon.
  • I have read a review that cites exceptional performance improvements over one very expensive purpose built single ended digital cable.
  • I have also exchanged several emails with KLEI on this topic and it appears that due to the high impedance of the entire KLEI Harmony®RCA Plug range (i.e. >110 ohms), they do not degrade the transfer of a digital signal between components.
  • This however, can be a problem with the more conventional RCA designs, where, if not matched exactly to the impedance of the cable, can result in internal distortions and jitter, causing poor sound quality.

Until I actually try them, I can only offer an “opinion”, but having experienced the speed and dexterity of their analogue performance I would have to conclude that the KLEI Copper®Harmony or KLEI Silver®Harmony, when used for digital interconnects utilizing 50, 75, or 110 ohm cable, may well result in the near elimination of jitter caused specifically by interconnect-component interaction and component transmission & reception issues, resulting in a significant improvement in the analogue performance of most current day DAC designs.

In some quality digital products, performance may even transcend the
"digital realm" and possibly achieve the much sought after "soul of analogue".


And YES - the KLEI Silver®Harmony are my new reference RCA connector!

But it’s not farewell to the KLEI Copper®Harmony just yet - I’ll try them on a very good digital interconnect I have - so check back in a couple of weeks Happy

UPDATE: As planned, I transferred the KLEI Copper®Harmony to one cable in a pair of “The NAME”, a 75 ohm interconnect from Van den Hul.

Removing the existing RCA’s from “The NAME” revealed that they were in fact very well made RCA’s that appeared to have been matched ,from an impedance perspective, to that of the cable. Not that I can tell that for certain, but the construction approach appeared very similar to that of quality BNC connectors.

Attaching the KLEI Copper®Harmony to the much thicker centre conductor and the braided shield of of the 75 Ohm cable was a little more difficult than my 24 gauge solid silver interconnects, but much easier than the Silver Bullets and once the housing was in place and the small set screws were tightened onto the 7.3mm diameter cable it provided very good support.

To test the cable I reinstated my Pioneer Elite DV-45A DVD player with SACD capability, Unfortunately SACD playback is only available via the players analogue outputs, so the de facto digital standard for the purpose of this review was going to be the 16/44kHz digital stream via it’s s/pdif output, which in turn was connected to my Schiit Bifrost DAC

However I was able to easily perform an A/B comparison with the exact same tracks within my iTunes library on my iMac that is connected to the same Schiit Bifrost DAC via its USB-2 asynchronous interface. My iMac also uses Audirvana for final digital transfer to the DAC, in order to bypass the vastly inferior Apple audio routines that alter the digital content before transmission. So the “data” being transferred is what resides in the actual music file - nothing added!

Several tracks of varying musical styles were auditioned, several times each in fact and I can report that I could not tell any difference between
  • the digital stream from the DVD player’s s/pdif output using the Van den Hul “The NAME” interconnect with the KLEI Copper®Harmony RCA’s
  • the digital stream from the iMac via iTunes/Audirvana using a USB digital link.

I did also manage to play some music DVD’s that contain 24/96kHz tracks, but alas the DV-45A down samples to 16/48kHz, so that was the best sample rate I was able to test with.

There were no signs of jitter, and playback was very smooth, spacious, detailed and dynamic, which supports the claims of KLE Innovations, that the KLEI Copper®Harmony and KLEI Silver®Harmony are also very capable performers when used on digital interconnects.

I did switch over to the other Van den Hul interconnect that is terminated with VDH’s own RCA’s and by comparison. There was a very slight degradation in high frequency details, most noticeable in the smoothness of the presentation of cymbals and sibilance.

One reviewer, with a digital front end capable of higher sample rates than my own, was very surprised to find that a cable he constructed himself using the KLEI Harmony®RCA plug, performed better than a very expensive interconnect he owned.

So, if you find your digital components are not performing to your satisfaction, give the Harmony®RCA plugs a try.

You might be pleasantly surprised.


page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up A highly recommended product!

KLEI Copper®Harmony RCA Plug Review

To date, all of the reviews on this blog (i.e., prior to this one) pertain to products I have personally acquired and found to be exceptional performers.

Since I am not a
“professional reviewer”, I was very surprised to find and email in my inbox one day, requesting my participation in a review of a brand new product from a company called Keith Louis Eichmann Innovations.

The product is their KLEI Copper®Harmony RCA Plug, which is the entry level product in a family of high resolution RCA connectors, the others being the KLEI Silver®Harmony RCA Plug and the KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug (more on those later)

So what is so special about
this RCA plug?

Copper 2

Well, its body is constructed from a very high melting point polymer, with a silver coated copper centre pin and in place of the large metal barrel found inside the outer housing on most “conventionally designed” RCA plugs, there is a smaller polymer collar with a small silver plated copper conductor imbedded into the inside of the outer collar (see photo below) to provide the contact point for the neutral connection.

The neutral pin also extends upwards from the collar such that, when used with the
optional metal housing, it serves as a grounding point.

NOTE: For this review, the KLEI Copper®Harmony RCA Plug used had the standard polymer housing.

Copper 1


Now this is not my first encounter with this style of RCA plug, since I currently have the
Silver Bullet RCA attached to the source end of the Stager Silver Solids interconnects that connect my Schiit Bifrost DAC and my Simaudio MOON LP5.3RS Phono Stage to my Naim 5i Integrated Amplifier, which employs silver plated Neutrik DIN Connectors.

Having used the Silver Bullet RCA’s for the last 10 months and being very satisfied with the details and dynamics they provided, I was very curious as to how much improvement an RCA plug utilizing very similar design principles (i.e., from a visual perspective) could bring to my system.

One thing for sure, connecting the KLEI Copper®Harmony to the solid silver interconnect conductors was very easy for two reasons:

1. The centre pin connection is offset to the opposite side from the neutral pin, making both leads very easy to connect.

  • Far better than any of the conventional style of RCA plugs I have used in the past.
2. The very high melting point polymer used allowed the pins to be heated up sufficiently to allow a very good solder joint, without melting into a puddle of plastic goop.

Once you remove the housing, one other thing that stands out about this RCA is the lack of any kind of cable strain relief support that is generally part of the barrel of most other RCA designs. But in this design, strain relief is actually provided for in the design of the housing of the RCA plug, which has two hex screws, that can be tightened onto the cable, eliminating stress on the solder joints.

NOTE: The maximum size of cable that can be accommodated is 9 mm.

In my case, the Stager Silver Solids conductor is quite thin compared to shielded types of cable, so I elected to construct a strain relief sleeve around the cable, which was adequately supported by the housing and set screws.

KLE Innovations are quite aware of the use of small diameter cables, so they supply with each plug a small end cap especially designed for small gauge cables e.g. such as those used on the very fine wiring harnesses for turntable tone-arms.

Cut To The Chase Please

So with the KLEI Copper®Harmony RCA’s in place, I connected the cables and started the “burn-in” process.

Since the cables were well used and due to the very small amount of metal used in the RCA, I had reasoned that the period of time required for complete burn-in would be less than other designs, but just to make sure, I had planned for around 150 hours, during which time I auditioned their progress several times.

My initial impression (i.e., within the first hour of listening) was that somehow, the team at KLE Innovations had discovered some magical metallurgical process in which electrons had been freed from their earthly bonds and allowed to proceed at faster than light speed to their final destination — not that my previous RCA’s are slow by any means — the KLEI Copper®Harmony RCA’s are just that much quicker!

The details had significantly improved, together with a noticeable improvement in dynamics and a deeper more spacious 3D image

And it was only going to better?

Well, there was a period of time at around 75 hours where something went a little “wobbly” - I can’t think of a technical term for it Happy
  • There was a definite change to the presentation of bass frequencies that had many tracks sounding unnaturally bloated.
  • On Eric Clapton’s album Clapton Unplugged, the stomping of his foot on stage became almost nauseating.
  • Several R & B tracks were skipped over because their bass was just too overpowering.

Fortunately, 24 hours later that particular phenomenon had abated completely and the bass had changed to a more deeper and far more detailed rendition, that appeared to be much more complete and natural, resulting in more realism.

And Eric’s loud foot tapping? — That was now just an integral part of the concert — thank goodness!

Now that the burn-in period is complete, the entire image has transformed into one having a very precise placement of instruments and artists each surrounded by their own individual venue specific (or well intentioned engineer inspired) signatures with a very dynamic presentation.

One very good example of that is on the Oscar Peterson Trio album
We Get Requests. The track You Look Good To Me starts with Ray Brown bowing his double bass and then continues with a bass lead-in, during which you can hear him humming the notes he is playing in the background. It was as if I had been transported into the recording venue — listening to it live — simply superb.

The Dynamics are now presenting a far more realistic presentation also...
  • Initially, the most noticeable improvement in dynamics were with drums, where rim shots has the immediacy of small calibre gunfire and bass drums seemed to punch through the air like a canon.
  • Electric bass also had significantly more slam to it and electric guitar chords were extremely crisp.
  • As burn in progressed the more subtle textural details of these instruments became more vivid, but the dynamics of their presentation remained unchanged.

The music had more body and was simply more complete!

On the upper end of the frequency range the most noticeable improvements in detail and dynamics were conveyed by instruments such as Cymbals, Triangles and Tambourines...
  • The initial attack of these instruments is now very crisp.
  • The decay of Cymbals and Triangles have extended significantly beyond their previous fall-off point due to the micro details now being revealed.
  • and again there was the delightful addition of texture that was previously missing, especially with Tambourines.
One of my favourite tracks for presenting some very natural sounding Cymbal work is on Staple It Together, from the Jack Johnson album In Between Dreams.

Also, on his album On & On, the crisp guitar work and the subdued bass line on Wasting Time, is dropped into a spacious image constructed by nicely applied reverb around the drum work.

Vocals also benefit significantly, in that the discernible vocal textures now have more clarity...
  • One of my all-time favourites, Diana Krall has revealed a whole new level of “s-e-x-y” with a smooth sibilance presentation and clearly audible textures in every whispery breath — the result is outstanding!
  • The reproduction of the raspy vocal tones of Xiomara Lougart on La Habana Joven is another testament to their ability to transfer micro details in a very dynamic manner.
  • Christy Baron’s whispery rendition of Ain’t No Sunshine, with a solitary bass for accompaniment draws you right into the recording.

And last but not least, the cavernous venues of classical recordings are reproduced with breathtaking reality…
  • One such recording is Iberia: Debussy - 3rd Mov’t - London Symphony, Andre Previn conductor that is presented with amazing clarity in the midst of a dizzying array of instruments that can now be clearly heard and located precisely within the image.
  • One of my favourite instruments is the Pipe organ, mainly for its many textures. The track Undring from the album HarmOrgan by Sigmund Groven & Iver Kleive is an excellent example of the depth of the sound stage that can be reproduced using these RCA’s - definitely cavernous!
  • One thing that did come to light with many orchestral tracks was the forward projection of the venue related acoustics to the point where they envelope the listener, but leaving the orchestra in the space behind the speakers — very engaging.
  • The reproduction of the Cello has improved significantly, allowing their very distinct and individual timbres to be distinguished
  • The upper frequency range of violins has actually become much smoother — the Violin Concerto no. 4 in D major KV 218 - Allegro by Marianne Thorsen / TrondheimSolistene is one such recording that highlights this particular capability of these RCA’s extremely well.

I’ve used many words that describes what the Copper®Harmony RCA Plug brings to the party...
  • Dynamic
  • Detailed
  • Cavernous
  • Engaging

But I think if I had to describe its outstanding performance in one word — it would have to be Clarity!

I cannot recall my modestly priced hi-fi ever reproducing music with such clarity.

Every instrument, every artist, every venue, every album, is being reproduced in a manner that would normally be attributed to spending thousands of dollars on significantly better components — not a $60 set of RCA plugs!

Even my oldest recordings are revealing details I’ve never before heard.

There is also a warmth that was previously missing, which is especially nice for digital playback, creating a more engaging rendition, with what appears to be a much larger “sweet spot” as a bonus.

So, just to make sure I was not hearing what my inner-self may have wanted my ears to hear - I switched to a second interconnect that is identical in every respect, except that it has the Silver Bullet RCA’s on the source end.

The Result…
  • Noticeably Flatter and thinner sounding
  • Less pace to the musical presentation
  • A little more vague
  • A little more muddied
  • Definitely less engaging

Don’t get me wrong, the old RCA’s are much better than the more
conventional RCA designs I’ve previously used.

But there’s a new guy in town — the KLEI Copper®Harmony RCA from KLE Innovations

Needless to say, the KLEI Copper®Harmony RCA’s are now my new RCA point of reference.

So Let’s talk Techie…

So how did the guys at KLE Innovations achieve such improvements?

Well, that’s proprietary and their gonna keep it that way, but they did share that they have a proprietary formula, i.e.,
KL’s Signal/Ground formula , which I believe (and I’m speculating here) specifies for each of their RCA plugs, design features like:
  • the metals used for the pins
  • the plating used for the pins and its density
  • the physical design of the pins

As an example of this, the KLEI Copper®Harmony RCA has high purity copper pins (IACS 101%) that are coated with a direct dense proprietary high purity hard silver plating (IACS 106%) — the rest they wouldn’t share — sorry Sad

What is IACS? — it’s a measure of the conductivity of various metals relative to “Pure Copper”, a standard developed for copper wire producers, having a rating of 100%

- See
IACS Conductivity Ratings PDF for further details.

I was sent significant literature so here is an extract from their Harmony RCA White Paper, highlighting some of the design features


page2image16008


The rest of the information, including Australian pricing, is available on their web site at:

www.KLEinnovations.com

They are also available in North America from
Parts Connexion


And Then There's...

The
KLEI Silver®Harmony RCA Plug and the KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug.

What are their benefits? — Well, because I have not tried them as yet, I can only make comment, based on my communications from KLE Innovations.

To paraphrase: They bring out even more of the details, dynamics and improved imaging obtained using the Copper®Harmony.

Details and pricing of the
KLEI Silver®Harmony RCA Plug and KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug is yet to be announced.

Future plans: KLE Innovations future plans include KLEI XLRs, Spades, Bananas, Binding Posts, RCA Sockets, Resonance Devices etc…(but not necessarily in that order)

Conclusion

Oh come on — after all that! — do ya really need one? - OK...

Well, without even taking into consideration their very competitive pricing, especially when compared to some of the much more expensive competition that exists out there, and simply based on their superb level of performance, I believe the KLEI Copper®Harmony RCA offers...

One of
the best “value for money” products in hi-fl today!

So go out and buy them!

UPDATE: the KLEI Silver®Harmony RCA Plug is now installed and going through the burn-in process as I type this - so keep an eye on this blog for updates Happy

page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up A highly recommended product!







Schiit Bifrost DAC Review

No - it’s not a mis-spelling - the company really is called SCHIIT

The name was calculated and they play on it - but despite their apparent sense of humour, don’t go thinking they are in it for a joke - these guys are deadly serious about hi-fi!

They produce a very focussed line of high quality products, at a fair price, with some interesting design features - and they only sell direct (hence the fair price)

The Bifrost is their mid-line product, being surrounded by the Modi as their entry level DAC and the Gungnir, the top of the line model

I opted for the Bifrost model mainly because I had identified very specific requirements which the Bifrost matched completely, which were….
  • 24/192 on all inputs
  • USB, toslink and s/pdif inputs
  • Onboard Mains Power (none of these silly little external supplies)
  • Amazing sound (OK - we all want that, but how good could possibly it be?)

I also opted to forgo the “Balance Design” of the Gungnir in order to save on cost. Hmm, maybe I should have splurged, but then, there is chatter about a new completely “tricked out” model in the development stages Winking

The only problem with Schiit being a direct-sale outfit - there really is no possibility of a side-by-side audition. But apparently, you can opt to return the DAC within 15 days if it fails to impress at audition time - i.e. for a 5% restock fee + shipping
(please contact Schiit for full details).

I did a lot of reading and people seemed to be quite generous with their accolades, so I took the plunge and placed an order.

I opted for the Bifrost with the USB input ($100 extra) and the Uber analogue stage upgrade ($70 extra) for a grand total of $520

Since I’m in Canada I elected to pay around $60 for the mid level (expedited) postage + tracking and on arrival, another $70 Duty and $10 handling - Grand Total $660

I placed the order Friday afternoon - within an hour the unit had shipped! The following Tuesday, around Mid day I was signing for the parcel. - now that’s Service!

Once unpacked, I put the little sticky feet on and left the mains lead provided in the box where it belongs!

I found, by way of experimentation with my previous DAC that a good mains supply is paramount when delivering good performance. I had replaced it’s meagre Wal-Wart power supply with a DIY supply providing much more headroom than actually required.

With on-board power supplies the only thing you can hope to improve is the power cable and since I just happen to have a well broken-in Furutech
FP-314 Ag - a 15AWG α (Alpha) conductor power cable handy, I powered up the Bifrost. Yes, cables make a difference - please see Why Good Power Cords Make A Difference

I first connected the Bifrost to my iMac via a DH Labs toslink (optical) cable, which I have found to be completely trouble free and very good at data transfer - rated at over 150 Mbps. The interconnects I use are Stager Silver Solids - 1 meter in length. Interconnects matter also - see
Wires Explained (1)

I played through several of my favourite audition tracks and right out of the box the Bifrost had already exceeded my expectations.

Prior to ordering the Bifrost I had gone to local stores and auditioned several higher priced DACs, including:
  • Wadia 121 decoding computer
  • Mytek Stereo 192 DSD DAC
  • Chord QuteHD DAC

Now I’m not going to say the Bifrost is better than these three, since they are many times its cost, but it comes very close to two of them and to these ears, was better than the other one.

What I found was that the guys at Schiit are deadly serious about producing high quality audio products
  • The bass frequencies go very deep and are very well controlled - my favourite pipe-organ tracks now sound extremely realistic with those low notes that have the unmistakable rumble and the high notes are crystal clear and uncluttered and you can hear them breathing.
  • The high frequencies are extremely well behaved - strings seem so much smoother, you can hear the air crossing the mouthpiece on flutes. Reproduction of sibilance is superb.
  • Dynamic control across the board is extremely good and a vast improvement to my previous DAC
  • The fine details that puts you into the recording venue are there and this is really highlighted on orchestral tracks and live music
  • The stage is huge in width, very good in height and cavernous in depth - again pipe organ tracks project way beyond the back of the speakers - I was sitting in a Cathedral.

The musicality is another outstanding achievement by the guys at Schiit. The sound is much more analogue than digital and as the unit breaks in that attribute is just getting better. I have not yet found myself fatigued and I’ve put in several hours listening so far.

Streaming internet radio has also taken on a new quality and I can even listen to the classical and jazz stations for longer periods with the Bifrost in place.

What about High Def. Digital Audio you say?

The bulk of my collection is 16/44-48 with a few 24/96 tracks and a couple of 24/192, but the Bifrost handles HD tracks with amazing dexterity.

My previous DAC was an up sampling DAC, so everything got up-samlped to 192kHz - and it didn’t do a great job of that.

The Bifrost processes the sample rate it’s given, so whatever you throw at it, that is what gets converted - no up-sampling! The net result is there is no interpolation going on to fill in missing samples and that seems to result a “crisper” presentation. There seems to be more snap in the drums, more whispery textures in the vocals, but strangely, strings seems smoother and not brighter - go figure.

SIDEBAR: I use an iMac to stream music files, and the iMac has program code that “messes” with the digital file for up sampling and volume control, ultimately colouring the audio output . To avoid this I installed a program called Audirvana Plus - a program that bypasses the internal iMac sound processing code and passes the data at the sample rate recorded. A nice feature of Audirvana Plus is that you can elect to have it integrate with iTunes or operate as a stand alone player. I choose to integrate it with iTunes to allow for remote control using my “Droid” tablet via an app called Retune.

One last item to test - the USB and s/pdif inputs - yep - they work! and they sound no different from the toslink to these ears - so I left the DH Labs USB cable in place.

For the s/pdif input test, I connected my DVD player. To my surprise playing a CD track sounded the same as the same track streamed from the iMac.

I could go on about the dynamics of
“this track” and the delicate textures of “that track”, but then you would have to know those tracks intimately to understand my rantings.

I will go on record as saying this is an exceptional value for money - and I mean
EXCEPTIONAL!

It is very close, performance wise, to the other units I auditioned and to be quite honest, I think that if I was to hear them side by side and budget was no object, I’d still select a Schiit - maybe the Gungnir instead of the Bifrost, but based on the performance of the Bifrost with the Uber upgrade - I think it too would also be a very close call.

If you need balanced outputs then the Gungnir would be the model to go for. For the extra $300 - you actually get a completely balanced design with dual transformer power supply and analogue sections, This should elevate it’s performance to the “next level”.

How much better? - that’s the $64M question.

Oh - I almost forgot - this little puppy is also upgradable, so as newer circuitry gets developed you can upgrade - e.g. the Uber Analogue upgrade is an example of this feature - if you don’t have the funds for the Uber right away - you can upgrade later - same goes with the USB input circuitry.

A base model Bifrost starts at $350 - AMAZING!

So I now have a piece of Schiit on my hi-fi stand and my wife didn’t give me any (shit) because it was much less than my original selections Happy


To sum up - The Bifrost is a no-nonsense, no-frills, basic inputs, no remote, get off your backside and select the damn input yourself kinda DAC!

If you want frills - go somewhere else - but ya ain’t gonna get an audio experience as honest as this one unless you spend 3, 4, or 5 times the money!

Yes - it’s that damn good!


page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up A highly recommended product!

REVIEW UPDATE:

Well, it's been over a year since receiving this surprising little DAC and it just keeps giving.

In that time I have upgraded the power cords and installed KLEI gZero6 interconnect cables

Then, just when you think you’ve squeezed just about every ounce of performance out of it - Schiit announces the USB Gen 2 upgrade.

The improvements were immediately noticeable, with improved image focus and spatial imaging, much improved detailing across the board, improved dynamics and better low-end control and detailing.

The bass reproduction is very controlled and very deep - pipe organ music bass notes carry a superb texture that my old dac fell far short of and some of the R&B music I have now sounds totally different due to that precise control.

It's performance is very articulate across the entire frequency range with very competent dynamics, particularly with drums, and brass has an edge where necessary, which was very refreshing to hear.

High frequencies also are very well controlled with a smoothness that I attribute to the dac being very adept at reconstructing a high frequency audio signal.

Cymbals linger much longer, triangles and chimes are brighter and sibilance displays a control and depth.

Lastly, the spatial image is cavernous on those recording with fastidious sound engineers. This aspect was perhaps the most surprising aspect of this $520 DAC.

I have several pipe organ tracks and merely by closing my eyes, there I am, right there in church or cathedral where it was recorded - completely enveloped in the performance - it's just downright eerie.

I also have some select jazz tracks, the best of which is La Habana Joban by Xiomara Laugart - a very spacious presentation with outstanding texture in the vocal reproduction.

Do I wish I'd purchased the Gungnir? - not any more - this little unit is superb

Is it as good as my analogue rig? At $520 how could it be? - well, it’s extremely close with this USB upgrade, especially if you ensure the cables are high quality!

How good should the cables be? - well lets just say the better the cable are (both power and interconnect) the better the performance - and it just kept improving as I upgraded.

Interconnects: 1 meter KLE Innovations gZero6 Interconnects

Power cable: my own DIY design + Sonar Quest silver plated copper mains connectors

Now you may be thinking that using cables that cost as much as the DAC would bring out a superb performance in any DAC in this price range - and you may be right.

But - what I enjoy most about the Schiit Bifrost is it neutrality, smoothness and it's precision, and from that perspective I find it to be one of the most "analogue sounding" DACs I have ever listened too - bar none!

I can listen to it for hours at a time without fatigue and at no time do I find myself wishing - "if only I had that track on vinyl"

Am I a digital convert? - getting there!

Because now I purchase those albums that are CD only and look forward to hearing them

Best DAC in the world? - I’m not buying another one
Best DAC under $1000 - except for the Gungnir, - and especially when treated to good cables!

Remember also that the $520 includes both the new USB Gen 2 upgrade and Uber analogue upgrade, the starting price is $350 and the upgrades mentioned above can always be purchased later.




Audiomods "Classic" Tonearm Review

If you own a Rega turntable you are probably aware of the many third party items that can be purchased to replace stock parts on your turntable in order to enhance its performance.

There are platters and sub-platters, kits to rewire the tonearm, counter balance weights, motors, speed controllers and a whole variety of tonearm upgrades.

If you read through this blog you will also discover a few that I have installed with great success. This one however, is definitely my most expensive turntable specific component to date (please see the
Audiomods Web Site for pricing alternatives)

NEF_0835

Audiomods is a company from the UK who’s specialties include tonearm upgrade kits for the Rega style tonearms, to entire tonearm assemblies, which is the option I chose.

They offer two tonearms, the “Classic” (an enhanced version of the Series 3, their original offering) and the “Series 5”, their most recent addition. Both use Rega Arm tubes in their assembly and that’s where any similarity to their Rega brethren ends. The bearing assemblies and counter weight were designed and engineered by
Jeff Spall the man behind Audiomods.

I’m not going to go into the technical aspects of this arm since its all available on
their web site, but they specialize in arms for Rega turntables as well as adapting them to fit the Technics SL1200, which comes with a custom mounting plate specific to this turntable

When placing an order for this arm, Jeff will request details about the turntable the arm is to be placed on and the cartridge used, since he treats every order as a custom fabrication.

The counter weight is configured to your specific cartridge, the arm may be engineered specifically to shave of a little more weight if needed and if necessary head-shell weights will be supplied to increase effective mass. Even the type of RCA connector can be selected from a couple of options, or you can provide your own for installation.

Again I refer you to their web site, because there are a few other options, like finish, to choose before the order is complete

Once complete, the order generally takes 3-4 weeks to build and then another couple of weeks to go through the mail system, but it is worth the wait. Mine actually arrived a little earlier than anticipated, which is NOT the norm in today’s world.

The arm is shipped in a wooden presentation box with your name and arm details. Inside the arm is securely held in place by the mounting hardware and the various parts like counter weight and anti-skating assembly are tightly packed and held in place with foam packing blocks.

Mounting and setting the arm up was a breeze, thanks to great installation notes that are provided and a little cylindrical spacer that allows for precise setup of the VTA.

You will see from the many photos on their web site that this arm has a very “engineered” appearance, due to the fact that the arm tube is the only part not fabricated from stock material and their finish is superb.

I elected to go with the matte bead-blast finish, but on the “Classic” there is also a polished finish available. I also chose the polished brass counterweight, just to warm up the starkness of the silver and the micrometer VTA adjuster for extremely precise control, which nudged the price to just over $1000 and then there was some import handling charges and duty to be paid upon receipt, bringing the total to a tad over $1100.

NEF_0837

My cartridge is the Denon DL 103 moving coil with a brass shim epoxied to it, increasing the total weight to 14 grams. For this, Jeff supplied the heavier counter weight. He also provided a spacer to raise the arm 6 mm should it be required.

So, how did it perform?

Well, even though it replaced a Rega RB250 with a similar mass, everything about this arm just seems smoother and lighter, not to mention that it looks so much better than any Rega offering.

Audible differences however were not immediately apparent, but crept up on me as I selected different albums.

OK, I can hear some of you now asking:
how come a component in this price range not yield more noticeable improvements?

Well, to start with, my original RB250 already had the Cardas rewire upgrade, which in itself brought a significant increase in details. The Silver Litz wire should have improved on this and it did to some extent. There were improvements in the audio image, improvements to the upper frequency range and pretty good control in the lower frequencies.

So, was this arm a red herring? Not so fast!

CONSIDER:
Any component inserted into a sound system with other components that do not match or exceed its own resolution capabilities, will only perform up to the abilities of those components in the audio path.

Now, even before the arm arrived I had been contemplating the replacement of my trusty Cambridge Audio 640p phono stage with its replacement, the 651p and now seemed like a good time to proceed, so I popped down to my local store and purchased one.

Some may question my sanity in selecting the Cambridge Audio 651p for use with an arm of this calibre, but in my defence, I use it with a custom power supply that elevates the performance of this $250 phono stage to units costing many times more.

Well, the improvements now being appreciated are indicative of some extremely exquisite engineering in a tone arm of premium quality.

First, the soundstage is enormous -
Is This Love on Bob Marley’s Legend album exceeds the boundaries of my listening room by a considerable margin. This is also apparent on many of the classical recordings I own. Also the individual instrument placement is amazingly precise.

Next, the smoothness of instruments, especially strings, brings an almost tube-like quality to the music that make them sound so much more enjoyable. The fine details that are now more noticeable, allows the natural timber of each instrument to be clearly heard. An excellent album to showcase this is the classic from
Deutsche Grammaphon, Cello Concertos of Vivaldi, Tartini and Boccherini, featuring Mstislav Rostropovich, where his cello seems to breath as he plays.

There is also an extension to the upper frequencies with a level of control that provides excellent reproduction of sibilance. Diana Krall has never sounded so silky smooth on her album
All For You, a tribute to the (Nat) King Cole Trio

And down at the bottom end is a new depth never before appreciated on my system.
Tocata Terza In A as recorded on the Das Mikrofon album by Tacet has some earth moving lows that can easily rattle windows, even when played at modest levels. The bass control is simply superb.

Each time I listen, the subtleties the “Classic” is able to extract from vinyl has me stopping dead in my tracks just to listen.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have looked up from reading while I listen, to find my foot bobbing up and down in time to the music, as though it has a mind of its own. Who knew I had feet that appreciated music.

For those with older recordings in their collections, like the mono recordings I own, circa 1958-1964, this arm treats them with a “respect” I thought only possible with a mono cartridge setup. But the really surprising aspect of the mono recordings I’ve listened to so far is the depth to the soundstage, which took me very much by surprise, since up to now they had sounded flat.

So, some might ask — is it the arm that sounds so good or the phono stage?

Well, without the superb engineering in this arm I believe the resulting audio would be far less engaging, after all the phono stage can only amplify the signal provided.

The signal, as provided by the cartridge, is totally dependent on stability of the arm, since in a perfect world the cartridge would perform at its best if the body were to remain stationary and perfectly aligned directly over the groove.

Hey, guess what the “Classic” does?

A signal this dynamic, detailed and controlled is due to the stability, precision and ultra smooth operation of the Audiomods “Classic” Tonearm.

Don’t be fooled into thinking the “Classic” is an upgrade for a Rega tonearm.
This isn’t an upgrade, the “Classic” is a tonearm, just like SME, Ortofon or Clearaudio tonearms
Yes - it uses the Rega arm tube, but that is the lone similarity.

There are some very interesting tonearm designs out there and some appear to be very complex or exotic.

The “Classic” however, is all about simplicity of operation and relies on great design, superb engineering and extremely high quality components to get the job done.

As for longevity - It’s engineered to last and will probably be the last tonearm I buy, since it will accommodate any future cartridges I purchase due to the flexible counterweight configuration design.

On my modest system, this arm has elevated my audio experience to a whole new level of listening pleasure, but I am certain that this arm is capable of achieving significantly more on systems with finer resolution capabilities.

I also think it looks pretty “majestic” on my red turntable Happy

Read the reviews on the Audiomods Web Site and you’ll see that most reviewers put the “Classic” in the same league as arms many times its price!

It can be mounted on many different turntables and if you have some special requirement I’m sure Jeff will endeavour to accommodate them

WARNING: Just make sure the rest of your components are as competent performers as the Audiomods “Classic” Tonearm!

Components used in the audio path…
  • Denon DL 103 with attached brass headshell
  • Audiomods “Classic” tonearm with 0.9 meter Silver Litz harness and Nakamichi RCA’s
  • Cambridge Audio 651p phono stage with 2 amp high capacity toroid power supply
  • Stager Silver Solids interconnect phono stage to amp
  • NAIM 5i Integrated amp
  • Vand Den Hul D-352 10 gauge silver coated Speaker Cable
  • Gershman Acoustics Sonogram speakers
  • All powered components use Furutech power cables


My journey continues…


Two Thumbs-up A highly recommended product!

UPDATE...

Since writing the review above I have made a couple of upgrades...

I have replaced the Cambridge Audio Phono Stage with a Simaudio MOON LP5.3 RS phono stage...
  • in short - you get what you pay for, but with the MOON goes further than it’s very reasonable price
  • This is a superb phono stage whose performance can easily be augmented with a quality power cable.
  • And adding a pair of KLE Innovations gZero20 interconnects certainly elevated the resolution capability of this component and cable combination to levels I thought only possible from a much more expensive analogue rig.


I haver also replaced the Nakamichi RCA’s on the one piece silver litz loom with Absolute Harmony RCA’s also from KLE Innovations...
  • the improvements here were across the board - faster dynamics, wider and deeper image, extension of both upper and lower frequency ranges, deeper and better controlled bass register.
  • But the outstanding attribute of these RCA’s was the level of clarity they bring to the performance

Granted the RCA and the phono stage upgrades are not the only contributing factor - the incredibly well-engineered Audiomods tone-arm itself is responsible for many of the improvements now being observed.

This is an exceptional tone-arm, whose true capabilities probably extend way beyond the resolution capabilities of my modestly priced audio system!



SRM/TECH Acrylic Platter Review

NEF_0833

OK - so it's not your store bought RegaHappy - See
Turntable Mod's for the full story

The most significant upgrade I have ever made to this turntable, with the exception of the Audiomods tone-arm, is the SRM/TECH Deluxe Acrylic Platter .

However, I hasten to add that without all the other upgrades, the full benefits of this platter would be lost in a muddy quagmire.

But this was definitely an upgrade that assisted in elevating this turntable from very good to stunning, with the presentation of superb details and spacial clarity never before heard.


The platter is made from jet black acrylic and features a two-part construction to reduce resonance, together with a Platter Damping Ring which acts as a peripheral wave trap.

It's a basic design, unlike many others that have the opaque white "very engineered" look, but it is 20mm thick, which provides about 50% more mass than the 10-12mm platters.

With all thicker platters, there has to be a recess on the underside to allow for the motor and pulley...
  • The recess diameter of this platter measures 163mm, which is slightly larger than most other thick platters.
  • Why is that important?
  • If, for some reason the motor is not precisely aligned, the pulley may bind on the platter.
  • The extra diameter this platter offers should provide enough clearance to prevent this.

It comes with a package of small rubber mounts of different thickness, with which you can adjust the VTA, without having to add/remove spacers, but I found these degraded the performance on my
ISOKINETIK Sub Platter, so I now use three brass discs in their place, which made a considerable difference in the details retrieved and the smoothness of the overall sound.

The one caveat I would bring to your attention is that if your Rega uses one of the standard plastic sub-platters, this may not allow this platter to perform up to its fullest potential, but then, I would also urge anyone contemplating the purchase of this platter to also look into the Isokinetik sub-platter (or similar products).

The clarity and depth this platter brings to the musical image is nothing short of amazing. Every nuance came to life in a manner I have never before experienced, From the very dynamic crack of the snare drum (like a rifle shot) to the subtle room acoustics that are now so clearly audible that I'm drawn right into the performance.

Your Rega turntable deserves this Platter/Sub-platter combination - A highly recommended purchase!

page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up A highly recommended product!

Gershman Acoustic Sonogram Loudspeaker

So there I was, driving past the hi-fi store, so I "popped" in just to see what they had. Here, take a listen to this pair of Gershman's...
Wouldn't you know it! - just 10 seconds later and there was my amp sitting on the stand playing music (OK - so I had to go home to get it, but that was one fast driveHappy - yes they actually sounded THAT GOOD!!! - errr - honey guess what I heard today?

The
Gershman Acoustics Sonogram Speaker has a sensitivity 89 dB @ 1w/1m, an Impedance of 6 ohms, frequency response 28Hz-20kHz, with recommended Power 40-250 watts. But they are pretty easy to drive.

They are a full range tower speaker unlike any other in the Gershman line-up, in that they are "normal" to look at
i.e. they are a simple box-tower design - not the usual "pyramid style" Gershman is known for.

This is their "entry level" (by that, I only mean it's the first one in their stereo speaker line-up), but this does not reflect on their absolutely superb audio performance and qualities.

They are one of the most "invisible" speakers, certainly at this level, that I have ever listened to. They are also very easy to set-up and eliminating those pesky low frequency standing waves is just a matter of adjusting the amount of toe-in (i.e. in MY listening room)

I have the walnut finish and they have a very "antique-y" hand finished appearance, with slightly rounded corners - unlike most speakers today that have very sharp corners. Removing the baffles reveals a 2" domed midrange - it looks a little strange, but it sounds amazing. I have auditioned the next model up, but I can honestly say I prefer the Sonograms. It isn't until you get to the Gap 828 model that I found an improvement in sound. Although at $15k, was it really that much better?

But their best feature by far is just how easy it is to position them in my room. I am not going to get into the science, but suffice to say they do not take a degree in acoustics to achieve a truly superb sound.

Once they are playing, you simply sit back and let them envelope you in glorious music! They have an amazing depth to the soundstage, reaching far back beyond the wall behind them and the detailed reproduction of the acoustics of the concert hall makes you believe you are right there - in the concert, or the jazz club or wherever else!

And
that's what a good speaker should be all about!

Two Thumbs-up

Naim Nait 5i mkII Review

What a cracking little amp the Nait 5i has turned out to be. I've had it for a couple of years now and it just keeps getting better.

If you are not thirsting for bags of power, but are a details kind of person, then this is the amp for you.

This is an incredibly "articulate" and "dynamic" integrated unit, which is conservatively rated at 50 watts - but those are Naim-Watts
It is really quite small and only has a volume control and 4 input switches - what more do you want?
- oh yes - it comes with a remote control Happy

The "pre" section is passive (i.e. no amplification) and that is one of the reasons this amp is so good.

It has an incredible depth to it's bass, superbly smooth middle and a very accurate top end that is neither too bright or harsh.

AND - it accomplishes this without getting any warmer than room temperature - i.e. cool to the touch - REALLY!!!
When I first got it i kept walking over to feel the temperature. Now I leave it on 24/365 and in it's dormant state it only uses 10 watts!!!

It’s a Naim - so like the rest of their amps it does not like high capacitance speaker cables, but it is a little more tolerant than some of the others in their line-up. The Naim cables are of course the best match, but the cables that I have listed in this blog are an extremely good match also.

Driving the Gershman Acoustic Sonogram speakers is accomplished with amazing ease. The Sonograms have a sensitivity 89 dB @ 1w/1m, an Impedance of 6 ohms, frequency response 28Hz-20kHz, with recommended Power 40-250 watts. and the Naim has no problem exercising these speakers across their entire frequency range.

Perhaps the most stunning music to listen to on this system is organ music with it's full spectrum sound - the superbly controlled bass can easily rattle the crockery - so bolt them down.

But it is equally at home bringing a delicate voice front and centre into your listening room, with amazingly life like performances.

To get this level of performance you will need at least a 10 gauge high quality power cord.

Thanks Naim

page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up A highly recommended product!