Ray Kimber is, of course, the man behind Kimber Kable. We wanted to find out more about Kimber's new cables and Kimber Kable's 40 years in business... so who better to ask than Ray himself?
Can you tell us more about the new Kimber interconnects and speaker cables? What was the impetus behind the launch of them?
Our R&D department is constantly evaluating new materials and techniques and the carbon doped polymer is a result of some of these experiments. I actually manufactured a speaker cable that had semi-conductive insulation in the early 1980s. It sounded great but was difficult to hit my target resistance. For an 8' pair it had a parallel resistance of around 5K ohm, but then the next attempt at extrusion might be much higher or lower resistance. I still have the cable, and hadn't forgotten some of the lessons learned.
The use of Carbon is a new development in the Kimber range... what are the benefits of using carbon in addition to copper or silver?
The use of an intermediate layer of carbon doped polymer between the copper conductors and insulating dielectric reduce mechanically induced electrical noise, improves overall conductivity by 5% when compared to a standard VariStrand 19.5AWG conductor, and improves voltage distribution within the insulating dielectric by virtue of the impedance gradient.
Are there specific challenges in the manufacture of a cable with carbon infused conductors?
There were numerous formulations evaluated in the laboratory until we found the perfect blend of conductivity and mechanical stability. We went through tens of thousands of feet of wire until the design met our target.
The section where the single cable splits into each channel in the interconnect, and the positive and negative in the speaker cables looks very impressive. Did you build a special machine to enable you to braid this?
Yes, the machinery and processes were completely developed in house. The ability to transition seamlessly from 1 braid into 2 braids was simply not possible in a consistent, large scale manner before the development of these new machines.
Do you intend to replace some of the existing cables in the range with the new carbon models?
We have no plans to replace existing cables with the new Carbon models as the materials and the manufacturing involved on the Carbon products places them at a price point different than the other products. We feel that the Carbon series, by virtue of the braiding and the materials used, give the cables a very natural sound.
There are three models of the carbon speaker cables - eight and sixteen wire models and Carbon 18XL. Can you describe them?
The first two feature the conventional Kimber braided design, but the last one employs a core with a wire in it. We experimented with combining a braided geometry and a non-twisted parallel straight run to provide optimal amplifier damping and minimize DCR.
Do you plan to release any more Kimber Kable with carbon technology?
We are currently working on a turntable interconnect for the carbon series of cables.
This year is Kimber Kable's 40th in business and in that time you have launched a whole range of cables for a multitude of applications. Which cable or cable design are you most proud of?
PR series for absolute longevity. TC series for helping us understand insulation and stranding options. Black Pearl for bringing about our Kimber Select line. Axios for introducing us to the ever-growing headphone market. I would like to say there is something that we have learned or been able to improve upon from every product we have made and even from the failures that never made it to market.
What keeps you interested after 40 years in business?
Love of music and appreciation of everyone at Kimber Kable.
Sony have been using Kimber Kable in their Digital Audio Players and headphones. How did the connection with Sony come about?
It's a bit of a long story... but it has to do with Sony being aware of the IsoMike recordings. In the early 2000s, Sony embarked on a flagship loudspeaker project, the SS-AR1. Unbeknownst to us, they had chosen our speaker cable for the design labs.
They also sought very high resolution recordings for listening tests and at some point Sony became aware that some of their favorites were from IsoMike and discovered that Kimber Kable and IsoMike were related. This started a wonderful relationship with Sony that has lasted for decades. The culture of our two companies seem very compatible and is tied by a passion for high-fidelity.
What is the most recent recording you have made with IsoMike?
Mussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition is our most recent recording. There is also a new vinyl project in the works.
A lot has changed over the 40 years that Kimber Kable has been in business. Do you think the next 40 years will see as much change in consumer audio?
I think we will see not yet imagined technology at the same time as reaching back into 'old school' technology. I've recently been playing pre-recorded reel to reel tapes from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Some of the quality is ordinary or worse, but occasionally it is amazing.