SPEAKER CABLES GROUP TEST:
UP TO 20 EUR/METER
text and photos: Marko Pecotic, October 2018
tested products: Kimber Kable 4PR, HiDiamond HD Reel 1, Van den Hul CS-122 speaker cables
manufacturers: Kimber kable [kimber.com], HiDiamond [hidiamond.eu], Van den Hul [vandenhul.com]
prices: up to 20 eur per meter
link to the original text: [click here] (croatian language)
The object of this review are bulk speaker cables that in retail cost up to 20 euro per meter.
Kimber Kable's legendary 4PR, the company's very first product, was introduced way back in 1979. It consists of four brown and four black high-purity copper conductors, each in PE dielectric. This cable is, as far as I know,
not currently available in Croatia, but it can purchased at various european Hi-Fi web stores for approx. 13 EUR per meter, plus possible tax and shipping costs. The 4PR has no marked
direction, you should determine it step-by-step: connect one wire first in one direction, then in the other and
repeat the process a couple of times (ABABA should do it) until you're 100% sure; mark the direction on the cable and repeat it on the other channel/wire. Is there any difference in sound? Yes. I played the
Ivo Pogorelich - Chopin - 4 Scherzi disc, and the "right" direction had a better timbre, better sustain, better definition of lower piano keys etc.
HiDiamond's HD Reel 1 uses 4VRC copper conductors that come cooked four times at various temperatures, until they are finally carried to a near 100% purity. The benefit of using 4VRC is to reduce
the inductance, resistance and capacitance of the cable, while most other cable manufacturers - as the folks at HiDiamond claim - cook their cable just twice. The reviewed cable is basically a naked version of their Diamond 1
speaker cable, that goes for around 200 EUR/2x2,5 meters in retail. The reviewed cable is - as far as I know - not available in Croatia, but can purchased at various european Hi-Fi web stores for
approx. 13 EUR per meter, plus possible tax and shipping costs.
The CS-122 has been out on the market for the past couple of decades and is probably one the most known Van den Hul cables. These two conductors are made of 147 strands of 0.16 mm diameter
high purity Matched Crystal OFC with a very dense pure silver coating. Covering the two conductors is the "linear structured carbon" and the cable jacket is made of "Hulliflex".
The retail price in Croatia is approx 19 EUR per meter.
I've tested these cables in two Hi-Fi systems (bookshelf speakers installed in first, floorstand speakers installed in the second system). All the cables were the same length (2 x 2,5 meters), tested as bulk. I borrowed the 4PR from a friend, I bought the CS-122 and HD Reel 1 for this review. I let the cables burn-in for about 140 hours before doing the listening and comparison. The cables were tested using the ABAB, BCBC, ACAC and/or ABCABC method.
Hereinafter: Kimber 4PR = 4PR, HiDiamond HD Reel 1 = HiD, Van den Hul CS-122 = VdH.
CD Omnibus Wind Ensemble "Opera Pearls"
(Opus 3 Records CD 19602, number 2 on the disc: Overture To The Opera Carmen)
Intro: a nice version.
Sound: Compared to the HiD, the VdH has a more beefy bass, while the HiD has a clearer sound with more freshness, a clearer stage and a better (longer) sustain. Compared to the VdH, wind instruments are reproduced in a better way with the HiD (clearer sound, better microdynamics, better transients, more air and breath). In general, the VdH has fuller tones, but also installs a blanket between the listener and the speaker. Compared to the 4PR, the VdH has fuller sounding bass/mid area, fuller body of wind instruments, while the 4PR has a bigger stage, more air coming out of the instruments, more freedom in the sound, more fluidity. The Vdh sounds euphonic and blurred compared to the 4PR. Compared to the VdH, the HiD displayes a bigger/larger soundstage (particulary the width), with a clearer soundstage depth, the music sounds more fluid with the HiD, the sound is clearer. Both HiD and Kimber are tonally similar (clear and open sound), while the 4PR sound thinner, even a bit raw; the HiD's soundstage is more coherent than the 4PR.
CD George Michael "Faith"
(Sony Epic, 88697753192, number 4 on the disc: One more try)
Intro: George was (and still is) a big shot, I love him. This is his first solo album after Wham split, one of the most famous albums of the 1980's, to date the album has reached worldwide sales of +25 million copies and most of the album songs were played, written and produced by George. He was a super talented performer like Prince.
Sound: the keyboard sounds blurred with the VdH. The VdH's bass sounds boomy, it lacks more articulation, while the HiD's keyboard sounds clearer and articulated, with more air and definition. In general, the HiD has more air and articulation than the VdH, George's voice is clearer with the HiD. The HiD has a deeper and clearer soundstage than the VdH. The 4PR sounds firm, well organized, without any blurring, with a good definition of a bass-pedal and guitar strings. This 4PR cable is good. Compared to the 4PR, the HiD is overall better: it has a bigger soundstage, is more bass extended, has a more coherent sound.
CD Wilson Philips "Dedicated"
(Sony 88697 91425 2, number 12 on the disc: Good vibrations)
Intro: back then, it was the most costly song ever recorded at the time of its release, with a total production cost estimated around 50.000 USD (ca 400.000 USD today). This is a nice acapella version, and Wilson Philips are Carnie Wilson, Wendy Wilson and Chynna Phillips, the daughters of Brian Wilson (the Beach boys) and John and Michelle Phillips (The Mamas & the Papas) respectively.
Sound: both HiD and VdH deliver a big sound and a big soundstage... And this is more-less the only thing these two have in common. Vocals in the lower range sound boomy and blurred with the VdH. The VdH has a bad focus, it's not providing the correct distinction between various vocals. In general, the sound is clearer with the HiD compared to the VdH, with a clearer separation and distinction between the vocals. Both HiD and 4PR have a similar tonality/timbre, the sound of both is clear and clean, with plenty of air and freshness, while the HiD has a more coherent soundstage and a better vocal sustain.
CD Ivo Pogorelich - Chopin - 4 Scherzi
(Deutsche Grammophon 439 947-2, number 2 on the disc: Scherzo no. 2)
Intro: narrow minded people say that this is not how Chopin imagined his notes would be interpretated. Depressive, gloomy, emotionally draining. Joyful, thrilling, shocking, amazing! In one section, he's like a hawk crashing on the piano with them long and razor sharp claws, in the other he's like an angel tenderly touching the keys. Maestro Pogorelich has obliged the music with this album. One curiosity and a confession to make: the disc became worn out during time (been listening to it too many times, haha), so I bought another one for the reserve, but I've never actually listened to this album till the end. I always press stop on the remote before the end of the fourth Scherzo. I suppose I don't want this magic to have an end.
Sound: The VdH: lower piano keys are boomy and out of control, while the higher keys are almost becoming harsh. The VdH: bad, bad. The 4PR: compared to the VdH, the body of the piano is thiner, but the piano keys su more articulate. The HiD has a more natural and balanced sound than the VdH. The VdH is on the attractive side of the sound, this is not Hi-Fi. The VdH malforms the sound, while the 4PR sounds cleaner and clearer, the 4PR is closer to the truth.
CD JD McPherson "Let the good times roll"
(Universal Rounder 0888072369542, number 1 on the disc: Let the good times roll)
Intro: the Eddie Cochran style. A great song by a great band. Their second 2015. studio album.
Sound: The VdH: unlike the 4PR and HiD, the VdH has malformed and nasal sounding vocals. The VdH: acoustic gitar has a nice body, but the guitar strings sound blurred. In general, perhaps the VdH is good for say rock (and other similar genres that might benefit from boomines in lower ranges). In global, the 4PR and HiD have a more natural and balanced sound than the VdH, and - unlike the VdH - give a clearer distinction of various tones and bass guitar strings.
CD v/a "The ultimate demonstration disc"
(Chesky UD 95, number 27 on the disc: a double bass)
Intro: a nice solo duble bass recording
Sound: unlike the 4PR and HiD, the VdH has an attractive sounding double bass, with a big (unreal and boomy) body. Imagine a big oversized wooden cask and you're there - this is how this VdH sounds like. The HiD and 4PR will do the same thing in a more natural and more realistic way, without booming the bass. Unlike the VdH, the HiD has a nice long sustain of bass strings, also gives a clearer insight of the soundstage depth. The 4PR has a nice tone of a double bass, it sounds more realistic than with the VdH, without booming.
CD Bruce Springsteen "In concert - MTV un-plugged"
(Sony Columbia 473860 2, number 1 on the disc: Red headed woman)
Intro: Bruce the Boss. Excellent!
Sound: the 4PR and HiD: the introductory audience hand clapping sounds like hand clapping; the VdH: the introductory audience hand clapping sounds like people in the audience are wearing gloves. The VdH: acoustic guitar strings sound a bit blurred. The 4PR and HiD: clearer distinction of guitar string on the guitar and a clearer vocal. HiD vs. 4PR: HiD has a deeper and wider stage. The HiD has the best "I'm there" impression and the best vocal.
2CD Vladimir Horowitz "The legendary Berlin concert 1986"
(Sony 88697527082, number 4. on the disc: Alexander Skriabin - Etude D sharp minor op. 8 no. 12: Patetico)
Intro: one and only, the then 82-year-old mr. Horowitz.
Sound: VdH: damn, who stuffed my ears with cotton balls? 4PR and HiD: yeah, I can hear the piano again, not a blurred image of something that's supposed to be a piano. Unlike the VdH, both 4PR and HiD offer a more clear sound of the piano and have a better sustain. The 4PR is a small step down from the HiD, but overall the 4PR is good, has a nice timbre, good dynamics, the body - thumbs up for the 4PR.
CD The Cramps "Bad music for bad people"
(A&M I.R.S. CD 70042, number 2 on the disc: New kind of kick)
Intro: Yeah! I read one Amazon comment that brought a smile to my face, it goes like this: When I first heard "Human fly", it sounded so nasty, so sleazy, so intoxicating. My hard rocking friends hated it which made me like it even more. I had a girlfriend who opined that "it was the worst song she had ever heard".
Sound: after listening to the 4PR, the VdH sounds like someone's been messing with the gitar amplifier tone controls in the studio, like the treble button's been moved to the left. This VdH is really starting to annoy me. The VdH: who put the blanket between the listener and the music? VdH: I feel like I should go visit my doctor and get my ears thoroughly cleaned. Both 4PR and Hid know how to play this, while the VdH make the music sound dull.
CD Sam Cooke "The very best of"
(Sony Camden 88697846762, number 6 on the disc: Cupid)
Intro: the first time I heard this song was +25 years ago at the rockabilly party in KSET club in Zagreb and I was like wow! One of the most beautiful soul voices of all time, probably one of the most beautiful pop/soul songs of all time. Don't try to screw this up.
Sound: after listening to the VdH, the HiD brings the "somebody finally opened the windows" experience, removes the curtains, liberates the music. The VdH strangles the music, compresses the sound, it drives the car with the hand brake on. After listening to the VdH, both 4PR and HiD feel refreshing like a mint, they both feel like stepping out of the darkness. 4PR vs. HiD: the 4PR doesn't strangle the music like the VdH does, the 4PR sounds clear, perhaps a bit rawer than the HiD, but it's no big deal.
CD Simon & Garfunkel "Live from New York City, 1967"
(Sony Columbia COL 5080672000, number 2 on the disc: Leaves that are green)
Intro: this is probably my favorite S&G live album.
Sound: VdH vs. Kimber: the 4PR gives a clearer, more natural and more opened sounding vocals. The VdH: vocals are damped. Kimber vs VdH: the 4PR give a more "I'm there" impression, better microdynamics, better acoustics/echo of the concert hall. The HiD takes the sound to a higher level, it brings you the stronger "I'm there" feeling: the audience, the two of them, the dynamics, the guitar tone, the hall and its' acoustics etc
CD Elvis Presley "Elvis at Sun"
(Sony RCA BMG 82876 61308 2, number 6 on the disc: Tomorrow night)
Intro: the summer of 1954., one of the most important moments in the history of modern music: a 19 years old Elvis Aaron Presley walked into the Sun records studio in Memphis.
Sound: the VdH changed the sound of the guitar, it moved the sound towards the darker side. Compared to the VdH, the HiD has a more liberation in sound, clearer vocals, better sustain. The 4PR sounds vibrant, energetic, clear, precise, with good palpability. In global, the VdH is best suited for systems that sound too bright and lack more energy in bass, more body etc. The VdH is actually an equilizer. So, we'll fix up the error of the Hi-Fi system by installing another error in it.
Considering the price-quality ratio, the scores are as follows:
- Van den Hul CS-122: 5/10,
- Kimber 4PR: 7/10,
- HiDiamond HD Reel 1: 8/10.