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 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!


Musical Fidelity V-Link192 USB-S/PDIF Converter

1213vlink

I purchased this unit on a bit of a whim, since it had received many accolades on forums and in the press.

But all I really wanted to know was, just how good my Schiit Bifrost DAC could really perform.

However, I was not expecting the level of performance improvement this very affordable unit brought to the digital side of my system.

Turns out, the guys at Musical Fidelity know a thing or two about USB interfaces, but the guys at Schiit also know a thing or two about DAC’s and discreet analogue output stages Happy

Combined, these two components really know how to make superbly detailed and spacious music from a bunch of zero’s and one’s!

Unfortunately, the V-Link192 is no longer in production, but they can still be found on E-Bay for $135 US.

My only complaint is the placement of the outputs...
  • it would be easier to connect had they all been placed at the same end as the USB port
  • but at this price and performance - I’ll live with it!

If you have a DAC with a USB interface that is older than a year I would recommend getting one of these units, because it will probably elevate its performance to levels you probably thought would require a significant DAC upgrade.

It is even much better than the Gen-2 USB upgrade available from Schiit, for both the Bifrost and Gungnir, which I have also tried Embarrassed

I have found the Dual USB Cable and Power Adapter identified in this post,
Overcoming USB Streaming Issues, to work extremely well with this unit.

I have also found my own DIY S/PDIF cable design, which can be found at the end of this post -
RCA Interconnect Construction Techniques, outperformed some very pricey boutique brands.

This level of performance improvement seldom comes at such a modest price in the world of hi-fi...


It’s a real bargain!


UPDATE: I’ve since removed the DAC and V-link192 and replaced it with the Blusound NODE 2, connected via an ethernet cable to the NAS drive.

This eliminated the need for USB cables and computer software updates - a much simpler approach with better sound quality



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 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 Pure®Harmony RCA Plug - Turtable Review

If you’ve read the reviews of the KLE Innovations products on this site, it should be no surprise that I would at some point in time get around to installing the KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug onto the one-piece silver litz loom installed in my Audiomods tone-arm that supports a Denon DL-103 moving coil cartridge.

Pure Harmony RGB
Turntable Background:

My Turntable started its life 32 years ago as a Rega Planar II, but over the years, after applying a series of modifications and upgrades (please see Turntable Mod's and Denon DL 103 Tweak for details) it has been transformed into a device with outstanding performance characteristics.

The only things left over from the old Rega turntable is the lid and the on/off switch.

Call me sentimental. Happy

Installation:

The installation of the KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug was very simple; the most difficult part of the operation was removing the stock RCA plugs, which had a crimped cable strain relief, but soldering the extremely light gauge wires was a doddle, thanks to its redesigned signal and neutral tabs.

Once installed, all that was left to do is burn them in - for 200 hours –
c’mon KL, really?

That’s an awful lot of exercise, finding an album, changing sides, putting them back on the shelf. No wonder audio streaming is getting popular. Gasp

But in reality…

Well, 200 hours may be the optimal burn-in time recommended by KLE Innovations for ultimate playback quality to prevail.

However, for this particular application, it appears you don’t have to wait that long for some really mind blowing improvements to be heard from your treasured analogue rig.

Initially, the
KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug has a tendency to be a little bright and more than a little edgy, at least on my system. It took around 20 hours for that to settle down and transform into a very smooth and incredibly detailed performance. Which was nice, because with 180 hours left on the clock, I was giving some serious thought to installing the RCA’s onto an interconnect and letting my streamer and DAC complete the burn-in process – a much less time consuming approach.

At around 30 hours I became very impressed with the performance improvements.
  • Dynamics were very fast and extremely crisp.
  • The image is deeper than before, but there is more spacing between the instruments both left to right and front to back, e.g. each “section” in the orchestra (i.e. violins, violas, cellos etc.) have significantly more width to them.
  • The timbre of instruments having more details sounded even more natural
  • The venue acoustics are outstanding and really immerse you into the performance
  • The improved clarity in complex orchestral tracks allowed them to be played louder without distortion – 1812 with digital cannons anyone?

But the one outstanding quality of the
KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug was their transmission of incredibly fine micro-details that seemed to bring a “new reality” to my vinyl collection, especially some older live recordings.

It was apparent on the very first track I played,
Baby Please Don’t Go from the 1973 album Better Days by Paul Butterfield, featuring Ronnie Barron, Amos Garret, Geoff Muldaur, Christopher Parker and Billy Rich.
  • I dropped the arm and was returning to my chair, but I never made it. As soon as the track started playing I spun around to listen more intently, standing, the sound so totally different from any previous plays.
  • The extremely fine details of the bottleneck sliding on the strings was just downright eerie, like a ghost from the past. Many tracks sounded as though they were recorded in a gospel hall with two mikes and a stereo reel-to-reel. The natural reverberations are melded superbly with the musicians and their vocals and then reproduced in my system with a haunting reality.

For me, this was a complete jaw-dropper. I’d heard some very expensive systems that may have approached this level of reproduction, but I never expected my current configuration would be capable of such a refined and detailed presentation.

And all this was due to the KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plug? - You got it!


Some other albums that grabbed my attention, mainly because of the amazing reproduction of those extremely fine details include…

  • The Doctor, by Doc Powel - with his beautifully mellow jazz guitar, piano, drums and bass. But the outstanding instrument for me was the superb reproduction of the drums, especially the cymbals. Again, the reproduction of the natural reverberations from within the venue is a significant contribution to the reality portrayed.
  • Songs From The Wood by Jethro Tull (1977) – I’ve mentioned this album in previous reviews, where I found the vocal harmonies to be the most profound of Tull’s “signature sounds”, but after installing these RCA’s the reproduction of those vocals to this level of detail is astounding.
  • Boomers Story, by Ry Cooder (1972) – again, I ‘ve mentioned this album in previous reviews and again I mention the superb reproduction of his use of the bottleneck.

What’s a Bottleneck?...
  • A “bottleneck” is a tube of glass or metal that the musician slides on the strings over the fretboard.
  • Why am I so enamoured by this particular sound?
  • Having played guitar for over 40 years, many of which were spent dabbling in the art of Delta Blues, provides one with first hand experience of the very distinctive sounds the bottleneck makes,
  • e.g. just the vibration of the strings against the bottleneck when simply sliding it up the strings is a detail seldom reproduced in a believable manner.
  • But when it is - goosebumps! Happy

Moving forward a few years …
  • LEGEND: The Best Of, by Bob Marley and the Wailers (1984) – whilst not really in the same league as those above for it’s natural venue acoustics, the studio tracks are extremely well engineered and yields the widest image of my entire collection) – which now exceed the width of the speakers by a couple of feet.
  • Down to the Moon by Andreas Vollenweider (1986) – again – not a really natural sounding album, but exceptionally well-engineered. The outstanding feature of this album is it’s micro details and associated dynamics, i.e. those little details you hear when strings are plucked, like the fingernail catching the plucked string – as with a Harp. This album brought Harp music to the mainstream back then, but it has never lost it’s appeal and now with the vastly improved reproduction it can be enjoyed all over again, like a new album.
  • Raising Sand by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss (2007) – for me, this was one of those albums you regret buying. You know, you get it home and it just doesn’t do anything for you. But it stayed on my shelf, seldom played. Well, that was until I started to audition the KLE Innovations product line, after which the album perked up and things started to gel. It seems that before installing KLEI products I was missing so many details in many of my recordings. In this case the album sounded lackluster and had no excitement – not any more, it reproduces extremely fine details and vocal textures from these two exceptional artists are outstanding.

One last artist that really presents a challenge to any system, particularly where clarity is concerned, is Mike Oldfield, remember
Tubular bells? There’s also Omadawn, and Five Miles Out among others. But the one thing they all share is big sound, lots of multi-tracking instruments and incredible details, a lot of which can be lost. Well not any more – with the KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plugs in the system those details shine through with scintillating glockenspiels, astounding tubular bells, crisp distorted guitar licks and airy background woodwinds – absolutely stunning.

I haven’t mentioned any classical recording, mainly because it would lengthen this review considerably. However, it is worth mentioning that the
KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plugs conveys a reproduction where the venue in many orchestral tracks appears as cavernous as the actual space it was recorded in, with a precise placement of musicians in the overall image and a clarity that completely exceeded my expectations from such a simple RCA upgrade.

And the Pricing?

A set of the
KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plugs cost around US$120 for a set of four, but the improvements made in my system on this one component was as significant as replacing the cartridge costing substantially more than that, making it an extremely attractive investment.

What do you do with the two remaining plugs? – you find an analogue buddy and you blow his mind as well.

KLE Innovations actually sell a six pack for AUD$185 – so you could convert your turntable and upgrade the RCA’s on the interconnect from the phono stage to the amp

I’m not really sure why they don’t offer two packs just for this purpose, particularly on this model – perhaps they will reconsider after reading this review

CONCLUSIONS…

The most significant improvement the
KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plugs made for me was the reality that is now conveyed, which is one of those ethereal qualities that is so hard to measure and even more difficult to describe. It is also subject to our own experiences.
  • The greatly improved reproduction of venue acoustics from my system following this particular upgrade, often triggers memories of my own experience of playing in bands in many different locations, from small village halls, to nightclubs, to medium sized venues, each with their own very unique acoustic signature.

The Denon DL103 moving coil cartridge has been around for a very long time and at $229 it is a steal. There are a couple of minor warts and there are a few outfits than can modify this cartridge to get it to perform much much better. But before you opt to have the cantilever replaced, or have the cartridge “nuded” or have it mounted into an alloy or wooden head-shell, try this modification first. You will be amazed by the improvement in detail and you don’t have to wait the 6-9 weeks that the other options will take.

The 200 hours burn-in time appeared to me to be substantially shorter and I have not heard any improvements in performance since around the 60 hour mark. That may be due in part to the WBT high content (4%) silver solder I used, which I have found to perform extremely well when installing the
KLEI Pure®Harmony RCA Plugs onto my interconnects also.

If you consider implementing this tweak, I would also strongly recommend for the phono stage to amp connection, either the
KLEI Zero3 Interconnect , or better still the KLEI ®gZero6 Interconnect to compliment this change, since together, they will provide the best possible pathway from cartridge to amp you could possibly have.

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 Interconnect and Speaker Cable products


page6_blog_entry55-page6_blog_entry52-page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up-2This is definitely a “MUST HAVE” for turntable arms having a one piece continuous loom!


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 gZero3 interconnect Cable Review

For those readers that frequent this site, you might be thinking, that I'm in the middle of some kind of KLE Innovations "love fest", especially since the past three reviews on this site has been about their products and this one makes it four.

In my defence, KLE Innovations products are just that good — period!

  • And they seem to like what I have to say about their products, so they keep sending me stuff to review Happy

BUT: As it states in the header of this site.
  • I have NO affiliation to the products or companies mentioned on these pages. The products mentioned are those that I have used over time and found to perform very well.

So, My KLE Innovations journey so far...

I have tried the
KLEI Copper®Harmony RCA Plug, the KLEI Silver®Harmony RCA Plug and the KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cable all from KLE Innovations...
  • The KLEI Copper®Harmony RCA Plug was installed on my Stager Solid Silver interconnects and proved to be a much better performer than the previously installed Eichmann Silver Bullet RCA's.
  • The KLEI Silver®Harmony RCA Plug again proved to noticeably better across the board than the KLEI Copper®Harmony RCA Plug. The RCA plugs were installed on identical interconnect cables, therefore any performance improvements were solely down to the actual RCA connectors themselves.
  • The KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cable was a welcome break from the RCA battle, mainly because there was no soldering of RCA plugs involved. Despite an initial concern over the small gauge of the cables, they proved to be outstanding and significantly better performers than the Van den Hul D-352 that had been my only choice for many years.

I identified some aspects of the KLEI “cable science" in the
KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cable Review, but to recap the approach of KLE Innovations Design Team, the following applies to their entire range of cable products, including power cables (hopefully coming soon)...
  • 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.”

The
KLEI gZero3 Interconnect cables utilizes the KLEI Silver®Harmony RCA Plugs, so this particular review should be all about the actual cable used. However, the KLEI cable and plug architectures are linked (of course) and the two approaches are designed to actually augment each other’s performance abilities.

That doesn't prevent the
KLEI Harmony®Plug range of RCA's from doing a significantly better job than conventional RCA's on standard cables, they just happen to perform better on their own cables.

So without further ado...
gZero3 Pic

The
KLEI gZero3 Interconnect cable differentiates itself from other brands of cables currently on the market by the unique look of the Silver®Harmony RCA plugs.

It appears the cables are intended to be connected in a specific direction (probably due to their architecture), which is indicated by a small label with arrows indicating the direction i.e. the end the arrows point to is intended to be connected to the target component.

Keith Louis (aka KL) had advised that since this set of cables had gone through a factory “burn-in” and would only require about 24 hours to "settle-in", however, connecting one or both of the cables in the opposite direction would require that 150-200 hour burn-in process be repeated for the "cable set" before they sound their optimum.

Just like a kid with a new toy, I seldom start the burn-in process and just walk away - I like to have that "sneak peek" of what is to come. Happy
  • The one thing that stood out immediately was how deep the bass line was (and it got better and more controlled over time), but the high end extension, resolution and dynamics were already as good as the KLEI Silver®Harmony RCA plug on my Stager Silver Solids after their burn-in had completed.

With the cables well broken in I wanted to hear exactly what had happened to the bass extension following the burn-in period. For that I enlisted a couple of my favourite Pipe organ tracks.

The first track was
Undring, from the album HarmOrgan, by Sigmund Groven and Iver Kleive. It's beginning passage featuring just the harmonica playing in the church where the organ was situated, allows you to appreciate the delicate upper and mid frequency details and harmonics these cables bring to the performance. When the pipe organ kicks in, it is then that a full range speaker can really bring the complete performance into the listening room.

Not only had the bass extended even lower than my initial sneak peek, there was a very controlled presentation that bordered on a
"seismic event". The organ was now situated further back in the image and due to improved clarity, the harmonica was much more distinct and a little further forward, which contributed to a much more spacious performance.

The second pipe organ track, mention in other reviews here, is 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.

My comments made in the previous review pertaining to this track i.e.
"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" held true, but there was even more control in the presentation of the bass line, with very low frequency details that had me believing the massive pipes of the organ were about to shake themselves loose.

The dynamics these cables brought to the performance on this track are superb. They also provide significantly better presentation of micro details that contribute to the venue acoustics, which project even further into the listening room.

One of my favourite female artists is Norah Jones, mainly for her soft vocals that has a very whispery presentation, but also for the sometimes quirky arrangements that adds a distinct interest to her music.

It was during a more casual listening session that I became very aware of a second harmony that was now distinctly
"Norah". Prior to this, it had simply been a vocalist singing in harmony. This was just another indication of the resolving abilities of the KLEI gZero3 Interconnect cable.

SIDEBAR: Gauging Neutrality
  • When auditioning products, I use orchestral tracks to gauge their neutrality, since I am quite familiar with the sound from attending live concerts and also having first hand exposure to several of the instruments used.
  • Orchestras always seem to have a very balanced sound that allows me to judge whether a product is adding colour and the one thing that has impressed me with all of the KLEI products to date, is that they are all very neutral and do not add colour to the performance.
  • Attempting to judge neutrality while listening to Pop, Rock, and R & B is a little more difficult, primarily because of the coloration added by the sound processing that is applied in the studio.
  • So, once I am able to assess the amount of colouration the component under review adds to the performance, I proceed to the other genres.

On selecting tracks from other genres, I am often amazed with the changes that can occur in a track due to the complexity of sound engineering applied.

Tracks like
Not Over You, from the album Sweeter, by Gavin Degraw, really highlights the articulate and dynamic nature of the KLEI gZero3 Interconnect cable. Providing some extremely crisp punch and very nice deep bass control, which with lessor cables might otherwise sound less dynamic and bloated

Another track I've mentioned in other reviews is
Precious, from the album Diva by Annie Lennox. The crispness in Annie's voice is superb and the depth and control of the bass line showcases the details at both ends of the audio spectrum that the KLEI gZero3 Interconnect cable can bring to a system.

Is that it? - you listened to just four tracks?
  • And then some Happy - I listened to over 60 tracks across all genres over several days, both digital and analogue
  • These four displayed the most extreme improvements in my system and highlight how these cables “Kicked Butt”

In summary..,
  • Orchestral tracks presented the most spacious performances - too numerous to mention
  • Vocal tracks definitely carried more emotion - like Norah Jones, Christy Baron, Selena Jones, Diana Krall etc…
  • Jazz tracks highlighted their upper register dexterity of the plethora of percussion elements like cymbals, triangles, drums, tambourines etc..
  • Pop, Rock and R&B demonstrated their amazing control in presenting the many textures present in bass lines e.g. as on one favourite album SO, by Peter Gabriel.

So just how good are the KLEI gZero3 Interconnect cables?

Well, my system has undergone several changes in the last couple of months and each change has improved the performance. They include upgrades to power cables, interconnect cables and speaker cables, but no changes were made to the components.

The power cable changes allow the components to perform at their peak abilities and the speaker cable changes allow the subtle details brought to the system by the interconnect cables to be quite discernible.

The
KLEI gZero3 Interconnect cables will change the sound of your system, but they are not adding colour, they are allowing the the music, as recorded, to come through.
  • On some tracks the bass line may at first sound thinner, but listen for those details. On other tracks the bass line will sound rich and controlled, but never bloated.
  • High frequency details may sound more edgy on pop and rock (the intent of the sound engineer perhaps), but on classical, those violin runs to the upper register are superbly smooth
  • And vocals can be as edgy as Annie Lennox or creamy smooth like Norah Jones

Will buying a pair of
KLEI gZero3 Interconnect cables take your system to its peak level of performance excellence never before experienced?
  • Only if the rest of your cables are capable of performing to the same level! But you can be certain that the KLEI gZero3 Interconnect cables are one of the very best performing "components" in your audio chain and move on to upgrading other items.

CONCLUSIONS...

The
KLEI gZero3 Interconnect cables perform to the highest level I've experienced to date, providing an articulate, dynamic, spacious and believable performance. They are also warmer, fuller and go deeper into the bass register than the previous cables by a discernible amount.

After listening to the
KLEI gZero3 Interconnect cables for several days I found I had become "accustomed" to the new sound. So I switched back to the Stager Silver Solids with the Copper®Harmony RCA's.

The differences were quite discernible in that the performance had a smaller image, less dynamics, fewer details etc... etc... But the overall "tone" of the performance remains unchanged.

Switching up to the Stager Silver Solids with the KLEI
Silver®Harmony RCA's improved on these aspects of the performance almost to the level of the KLEI gZero3 Interconnect cable, but failed to capture that “emotion”

Removing the
KLEI gZero3 Interconnect cables from my system was definitely a case of...

“Not realizing what you have - until it's gone".


So why did I purchase the KLEI gZero3 Interconnect cables?

They are excellent performers that allows my system to convey a very dynamic and controlled performance with exceptional clarity and fullness.

The
KLEI gZero3 Interconnect cables allow my source components to perform to their peek abilities. However, should I decide to make a component upgrade, I'm confident that the abilities of the KLEI gZero3 Interconnect cables will exceed that of many of the components I may consider.

That's why I bought them! - It's called —
"Future Proofing”.

PRODUCT UPDATE NOTICE:

The KLEI gZero3 Interconnect now utilizes the latest advances in KLEI gZero Architecture/Technology
Providing significant improvements in performance.

For an indication of the improvements achieved on other models please see...
KLEI gZero6, gZero10 and gZero20 IC Product Update.


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

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:
  • Although the Copper®Harmony is capable of transferring extremely detailed Musical information of very high Resolution, further analysis of Electron Transmission Theories (e.g. skin effect being just one of many aspects considered) revealed that the Copper Ground pin was a limitation and even better performance could be attained by replacing the KLEI Copper Ground pin with a Silver Ground pin in the KLEI Silver®Harmony.

The actual design details, such as the metals used and thickness of the silver plating (being just two of the many design points considered), are defined by KL’s Signal/Ground Formula, but the basic differences to the layman are:

The KLEI Copper®Harmony
  • Both GROUND and SIGNAL pins are Silver plating over a PURE COPPER base material.
  • The Silver plating protects the Copper pins from oxidization and improves conductivity to >101% IACS.
  • Signal/Ground pins are pure Copper and >101% IACS (not Tellurium Copper (95% IACS) or Brass (28% IACS).
  • Ground pin optimization to enhance electron flow, in accordance with KL’s Copper Signal/Ground formula.

The KLEI Silver®Harmony
  • the GROUND pin is PURE SILVER
  • the SIGNAL pin has a thick Silver plating over a pure copper base, but due to Skin Effect the thick Silver plating “acts like” it is solid Silver.
  • The thick Silver plating on the SIGNAL pin improves conductivity to >106% IACS.
  • Ground pin is pure Silver, having a conductivity >106% IACS.
  • Ground pin optimization to enhance electron flow, in accordance with KL’s Silver Signal/Ground formula.

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!