Starting in August of '07 I began a major upgrade of my system, adding the Vienna Acoustic Baby Grand speakers and a Pro-ject RM10 turntable in quick order with dramatic results. Next came a Conrad Johnson CA200 control amplifier (see review) and, most importantly a Sumiko Master Set placement of my speakers (see review).
I was using about 15ft of Kimber 8PR. When he finished my speaker set, Rod Thomson of Soundings, my Colorado based dealer, said something like, "Your system's sounding really good, now you'll need to try some Analysis Plus cable to get the most out of it." Well, that might sound self-serving, but I've grown to trust Rod and promised to try them in a few weeks, after I got used to my amazing new speaker set.
I picked up 15-feet of A-P Solo Crystal Oval 8 from Soundings and started listening tonight. First I spent 15 minutes listening with the Kimber. I thought it sounded pretty darn good and couldn't really imagine what I'd accomplish by putting in the Analysis Plus. Would it be worth a $1700 price difference? I really doubted that I'd want to spend 2-grand for the teeny, tiny improvement I expected.
I was stunned. I was pulling out my wallet and calling Soundings to order me an 8-foot pair after only 30-minutes of listening. I started with Hugh Masekela's "Stimela (The Coal Train)" from his incredible, live album "Hope". Many audiophiles have heard this cut and I've now got it on a pristine new, 45 rpm pressing from Analogue Productions (highly recommended, it's almost totally quiet except for the 40+ dB of dynamic range). As a trumpeter, I really appreciate the accurate recording of his horns. This is an amazing live recording.
It didn't take a ton of back and forth to hear a tiny little difference. I heard it on the first cymbal crash/splash. I heard the fundamental and separately I heard a detailed series of harmonics. Next, the bass did the same thing. I could hear the fundamental absolutely rock solid and harmonics stood out separately. It was like hearing 8 or so separate tones, stacked together, yet separated and detailed.
Dynamics were pretty much the same as was overall timbre. Almost all the difference was in this detail. The bass seemed more "solid" but it was NOT louder. With the Kimber, the fundamental wasn't as focused and clear, but instead it smeared slightly with its harmonics. That off center sound made bass tones seem less powerful, focused and solid.
Next I pulled out Nora Jones on a 180 gram LP. I love several tracks on Nora's "feels like home" album. "Above
Ground" has incredible depth and texture, not only in Nora's sweet voice, but the snare sound and a clear placement of each instrument. Once again, the improvement was in the details. Any voice is composed of various parts of the vocal system (vocal cords, chest, lips, and head) and now that was all clear distinct and clear. I clearly heard the components of Nora's voice.
Rob Wasserman's "Duets" CD is full of incredible bass. The bass seemed more solid than with the Kimber and once again it was due to separation of the fundamental from the harmonics. The air actually sizzles around the strings as they vibrate and you hear that more clearly. Vocalists' sibilants are also broken into their components with a fundamental and harmonics, making it less, well... sibilant, taking the edge off and making it seems like harmonics stacked on a high pitched sound.
Once I heard it, the price was cheap. This is on the order of a serious upgrade of a pre-amp or a better cartridge.
Ok, I needed to go back to the Kimber to confirm my findings. (My system is in an armoire, so it takes a few minutes to go back and forth). I instantly and EASYILY heard the difference. Of course, now I couldn't live with the Kimbers, after hearing the difference. My description above IS accurate. The fundamental and harmonics get smeared together slightly with the Kimber. You hear a "tone" but not the components of the tone. I'm amazed. The difference was larger than when I went from my Bryston 1B/2B amp/pre-amp combination to the Conrad Johnson. Maybe a lot of the difference was masked by the Kimber.
Sorry about my wallet. ;-)