Speaker Cables – the essential link

The connection between your amplifier and speakers is critical to the sound quality you enjoy, but is all too easily taken for granted. It’s quite probable that you already have some cable that you regard as being reasonably good that has given service for a significant number of years. Over the better part of 3 decades we’ve certainly seen untold metres of various brands go out with both new, and to existing systems. There’s always been a bit of a balancing act between length, performance, and appropriate pricing, for the system it goes in to. More than any other audio component there is no one size fits all solution.

We’ve heard a lot, we’ve learnt a lot. 

There’s been a lot of development and much of the conventional wisdom around speaker cables has proven to be not quite as settled as you might have been led to believe. What we can tell you is that if you’d like to make a really worthwhile improvement to the sound of your system, better speaker cables are a great place to start. If you read on, we’ll step you through some of the principles and guide you to the ideal speaker cables for your own system.

You will hear a difference.

Because cables, home music systems, and the production and delivery of the of the music we listen to, have all got a lot better, the improvement cables can make is magnified. So there’s never been a better time to get into a nicer set of speaker cables. 

In the past, the effect of plugs used to terminate speaker cables was equivocal at best. And with good reason. They had utility value in making them easy to plug in and out, hopefully were insulated to stop you short circuiting and damaging your amplifier, (which frayed bare cables are really good at,) and sometimes looked really cool. But underneath they are almost always brass which has conductivity of just 28% of pure copper. The gold plating is less bad but it’s still only 70%. So you can instantly see where the problem is. 

Enter the new KLEI Harmony banana plug – with a mix of silver and copper alloys, the conductivity of this plug is actually greater (around 106%) than the purest copper. When used on appropriate speaker cables, the improvement in transmission is immediately obvious – there’s simply more of everything in terms of music. Detail, clarity, bass, treble and everything in between.  And as plugs go, the KLEI Hamony’s are one of the more affordable.

This has given me a new appreciation of our proven Kimber speaker cables. All the principles of good design are there with Kimber – ultra pure copper for optimal transmission, a mix of strand sizes to better deal with the full range of frequencies, carefully chosen dielectric and a patented geometry to eliminate RF interference. 

While there are many choices with Kimber, two particular speaker cables stand; out 4VS and  4TC. I’ll explain why…

Both are easily terminated with the KLEI Harmony plugs. The heavier 8 and 12 strand versions aren’t but here’s the trick – the KLEI plugs can be stacked with no sonic compromise allowing for very easy bi-wiring or even ‘shot-gun’ cabling (two sets of cable side by side). This works especially well with larger speakers and is in line with Kimber’s own recommendations.

The lower cost Kimber 4PR is still great value for money cable, but if looking at shorter runs the fixed cost of putting 8 plugs on means there’s little actual dollar difference between 4PR and 4VS but there is a worthwhile performance difference, primarily because of the variable stranding in the latter. However, if looking at longer runs of around 4m or more, Kimber 4PR becomes proportionally more affordable.

4PR impressed us in a very positive way with its combination of detail, bass extension and sweetness. It has a very convincing way with deep bass, keeping it under tight rein while allowing it to blossom when needed and maintaining precise pitch and duration in a way few budget cables can match.Treble is extended, but never shrill, while the midrange is mainly characterised by the ease with which one can hear into and through it. Imaging has very good depth to it as well as width.Tech Radar

4VS really opens things out when you compare it with 4PR. As noted above, the different gauges of conductor bundled into 4VS delivers better bass and more extended and detailed treble. ‘Agility and expression, great detailing, fluid sound.’ If you have larger speakers you’ll really benefit from bi-wiring with 4VS.

4TC is even better again. ‘Excellent Speed And Clarity. Out of the box, Kimber 4TC surprise me at its price, the performance surpass my expectation, the sound speed and clarity are awesome, the musicality articulated very well, it is smear-free and sibilant-free !’ With 4TC the benefits of the KLEI plugs are even more obvious.

That said, if you can make it work, shorter cables are better. When cable is sold by the metre, it’s obvious that the shorter your cable, the better it can be at any fixed budget. If you can rearrange or reposition your system to reduce cable length it’s got to be a good thing. But don’t compromise on optimal speaker positioning – if they sound best well out from the wall and with a good degree of separation, then any improvement you make with better speaker cables will be made more apparent.

So there are 4 steps – Kimber 4VS, 4VS bi-wired, 4TC then 4TC bi-wired. At each stage you’ll enjoy a significant and worthwhile improvement to all aspects of your music.

Kimber 4VS speaker cable sets with KLEI Harmony Banana Plugs fitted per pair: 4VS 2 + 2m set $360, 3 + 3m set $440,  4 + 4m set $520, 5 + 5m set $600

Kimber 4TC speaker cable sets with KLEI Harmony Banana Plugs fitted per pair: 4TC 2 + 2m set $580, 3 + 3m set $770,  4 + 4m set $960, 5 + 5m set $1150.

Kimber Kable: 4VS per metre $40; 4TC per metre $95

KLEI Harmony Banana Plugs: $160 per set of 8 + $40 fitting per set.

Once we’re at bi-wired sets of 4TC you’re at around $190 per metre plus plugs. Yet compared to the cost of our better components it’s just a start…

KLEI Speaker cable gFlow 7 at Totally Wired

So when you get to the point of looking at two sets of Kimber 4TC, the KLEI QFlow speaker cables come into the frame. Rather than coming off a roll, each set of KLEI cables is hand made so there’s a little more organisation involved in getting them over from Australia (Keith Eichmann is based in Brisbane), but if we don’t have what you want in stock, it’s generally only two weeks between order and delivery. But what you’ll get in return is compelling – a smoother, more expansive sound with appreciably better bass, a real sense of space around the music and detail that you’ve never heard before.

Like Kimber, KLEI provide you with a series of progressively better options, and because of the plugs used, the bi-wire option remains open. So there are the entry level QFlow2 speaker cables, the QFlow3, QFlow7 and finally the QPurity8. The performance gains between these models are substantial.

Just how good are these cables? We can easily compare any of these models against some equivalently priced components and with very few exceptions, we, and a good number of our clients, have found that Keith’s cables provide the greatest overall improvement to a systems performance for the amount spent.

Many years ago Monster Cable suggested an arbitrary 10% of the total system price should be allocated to cable. But even then we quickly found that there were some sensational cables that transformed the sound of the systems they went into. Today we have access, not only to much better cables but also much better components and this means the gains to be made have been magnified. So it makes sense for you to treat cables as not just an accessory to a system, but components in their own right.

Better speaker cables will mean every source in your system gets to sound better. And the improved transparency granted by these cables mean that any subsequent upgrade to your system will be made that much more obvious. This is the counter to the so called ‘law of diminishing returns’. 

*I remember the first time I heard Kimber 4VS – it was at home in my own rather modest little Linn system and it was actually less costly than the cable I had – yet it sounded far more full of life and I became an immediate convert. And to this day I’ve never found a better speaker cable for the money. 4VS has evolved with improved dielectric and now with the KLEI plugs you’re going to hear a greater improvement than I did.

Just as I had to hear the difference to be convinced I appreciate that you’ll feel the same way. That’s why I’ve got sets of Kimber 4VS and 4TC, and most of the KLEI speaker cables here for you to try in your own system. Drop us a line now and we’ll start you down the track to really making your system sing.

KLEI Speaker Cables – 2.0m sets, terminated with KLEI™PureQ Harmony Banana (Classic Harmony for the QFlow2)

QFlow2 SC   NZ$925 including GST & delivery.

QFlow3 SC   NZ$1585

QFlow7 SC   NZ$2375

QPurity8 SC NZ$3170

2.5m sets, terminated with KLEI™PureQ Harmony Banana

QFlow2 SC   NZ$1080 including GST & delivery.

QFlow3 SC   NZ$1850

QFlow7 SC   NZ$2770

QPurity8 SC NZ$3695

3.0m sets, terminated with KLEI™PureQ Harmony Banana

QFlow2 SC   NZ$1230 including GST & delivery.

QFlow3 SC   NZ$2110

QFlow7 SC   NZ$3170

QPurity8 SC NZ$4225

Contact us for pricing on other lengths.

Vita by Nativ at Totally Wired with D-Stream amplifer and Monitor Audio speakers

The Totally Wired Top 10

I’ve got a little list… there is such a thing as too much choice and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the alternatives. So we did the Kondo thing and asked ‘what sparks joy?’ Components with an identifiable and unique character that can deliver benefits in almost any system are what we all want, so here are our 10 best for 2019.

Suggested Systems #1.

Expressing your individuality – 2 different system choices: 

In a one-size-fits-all world where every phone is basically the same, few things can be more individual than your choice of system to replay music in your home. The downside of this is that our choices can seem bewildering. So I’ve been doing some serious thinking about how we put together  a system – even then it’s a challenge to decide what we call it – a stereo or music  system, an AV media or surround system? Digital, analogue or both?

It’s become obvious that the old rules that were arbitrarily applied to system design just don’t work any more. Linn had a hierarchy of components starting from source but how does this work when the source is an iPhone? Wattage used to be the go-to specification for choosing speakers and amplifiers but with modern living loudness is hardly a desirable  attribute – quality is what counts.

And if you have an existing system, will be the best solution be to upgrade a single component or just to replace as a means to the end of better sound?

With all these considerations in mind I’ve decided to highlight 2 quite different system choices that we’ve been enjoying over the last few months. Working from home has allowed us to spend much more time listening and really coming to grips with how components will perform in your own environment.

System 1.

The first system centres on the new little French designed D-Stream WAMP-200 SB digital amplifier. This is a completely modern take on the idea of an entry level integrated amplifier and while intended to be a very simple to operate, there is a depth of features and flexibility that simply didn’t exist at any price a few years ago. That, and it sounds insanely good for very little.wamp3

The D-Stream hardly even looks like an amplifier – it’s a sleek and compact clamshell with two rear mounted wifi aerials that suggest in a completely reasonable way that this is essentially a network component first and foremost. So while the physical input and output array on the rear panel is modest, this is more than supplemented by wifi, Bluetooth and LAN connectivity and the entire world of possibilities that come with steaming services and shared music collections.

The D-Stream not only opens up all these channels for you, it is more than capable of making great sound with a wide range of speakers. Because it sounds so good, it will make low cost speakers sound better and allow you to build an easily affordable system that doesn’t skimp on quality or features.

But at the same time I’ll point out that the low cost of the D-Stream enables you to select speakers that are better than you might have otherwise allowed for. When carefully set up and connected in the same way we would with a high end amplifier, the D-Stream WAMP 200 SB is the literal giant killer.

My wee office system with a big sound – Quad 12L.2s and the D-Stream WAMP-200SB.

As our suggested system, I’ve matched the D-Stream with a pair of rather nice trade in speakers – the Quad 12L.2s which have just come in – these shelf mount speakers have a generous and rich sound which builds on the D-Stream’s clarity and evenhanded presentation. Together they are easily our best sounding entry level system for just $1400 complete.

Now let’s take things up another level – System 2.

There is absolutely a place for a carefully put together component system where each part is purpose built. Because I’m continually evaluating new components I want a baseline system of high transparency at a realistic price point that reflects what I know many of you can afford. Simply put, I want to know that you’ll be able to hear what I do and that you’ll be able to trust what I write.

So I’ve put together a complete system where no individual part is more than $3000 and most are much less – this approach gives a huge degree of flexibility. Each component stands as what I’d hope is best in its class so you can look to put any one of them in your own system.

I’m intentionally using both analogue and digital sources, and the aim is to be able to appreciate both in equal measure.

Is this your kind of component system – NuPrime, Sonus faber and the Consonance Wax Engine.

On the analogue side, we have the Consonance Wax Engine turntable, fitted with the new Dynavector 10X5mk2 high output moving coil cartridge. The digital foil for this is the NuPrime CDP-9 player and DAC – this deals not only with CD but has multiple digital inputs allowing you to stream in from smartphone, network, TV and more.

In keeping with the ethos of separate components we have NuPrime’s remarkable little HPA-9 analogue preamplifier. This is the unsung hero in the NuPrime range – resolutely analogue and running in pure Class A, you couldn’t ask for a simpler product that sounds great and even has an excellent phono stage built in. Originally intended as a headphone amplifier (and there are 3 outputs for this), I’ve found it to be a supremely capable preamplifier that adds quality and drive to almost any system.

Match this with the proven STA-9 120 watt power amplifier and you have a combination that will make the most of almost any form of music coming and and drive any speaker system you wish to connect. And don’t forget the STA-9 can be easily bridged so you can upgrade your system to two mono 280 watt power amps at any stage in the future.

We’ve been completely spoilt for choice with new speakers lately – the new Monitor Audio Silver series or Studios would be obvious choices for this system. But we’ve always loved what Sonus faber do and right now the Chameleon T’s are by far our best value speaker proposition – these are a full sized floor standing speaker the combine the essential ‘voice’ of Sonus faber with the efficiency, depth and solidity you’d expect with two bass drivers in a generously ported cabinet that stands around 1m high. Throw in a choice of Italian racing red or beautifully finished walnut side panels and you have a speaker system that looks every bit as good as it sounds.

Combined with the NuPrime electronics  and the Wax Engine turntable, the Chameleons do pretty much everything you could ever hope for – above all they produce the kind of sound that you can just fall into – rich and warm but always involving enough to keep you coming back for more.

Good as all the individual parts are, it’s the connections that make them work and turn it into a functioning system. The timely arrival of a new generation of cables from Keith Eichmann delivered a transparency and balance that is difficult to describe but easy to understand once you hear it. As it stands, this system includes two of the new ‘special’ gPower3 AC power cables, a couple of pairs of the the new QFlow3 analogue interconnects, a set of 2m QFlow7 speakers cables plus the matching bi-wire jumpers. And from the turntable we use a custom made Mogami interconnect with the KLEI Absolute Harmony RCA plugs – this ensures a complete absence of hum which is often the by-product of in -ine power supplies.

It says something about how I regard the importance of connections that when we do a quick add up of all the cables used, if considered as a component, they are the most costly part of this system. Sound crazy? My question to you would be what do you think would make this system perform at a higher level for less? We could change individual components, but would they really improve the system as a whole? And anyway, it would be easy enough to select Keith’s entry level KLEI cables which deliver a remarkably consistent performance – this would quickly bring the total back in line with the individual components.

The nature of component systems is that they are often built up over time – so you may only take one or two parts of the above system as being relevant to you. Think of it as a bit of a real world testbed.

What you’ll find striking is that you could migrate from the little D-Stream system in my office, to the NuPrime 9 based system above, and then to the boots and all Well Tempered/Nuprime Evolution set up, and not feel short changed at any step. Obviously as we go up there are marked improvements in qualities such as detail and precision, a vast increase in available power and dynamics. But each gets to the heart of music and is genuinely enjoyable. We’re not about audio elitism – I’m happy to work at the level you are comfortable with and will do my best to put together the best sound at whatever that happens to be. 

Consonance Wax Engine Turntable $1695

Dynavector DV 10X5Mk2 $1100

NuPrime CDP-9 player and DAC $2800

NuPrime HPA-9 preamp $1250

NuPrime STA-9 power amplifier $1250

Sonus faber Chameleon T speakers – on special – were $5000+ Now $2700 (red panels) $3000 (walnut)

KLEI gPower3 AC cables 1m $750

KLEI QFlow3 Interconnects $900

KLEI QFlow 7 Speaker cables 2m  $1575

KLEI Q7 Bi-wire jumpers $320.


At the same time as I’ve been writing this, my partner Carolijn has been working through the new Vifa range of wireless speakers from the remarkable little Reykjavik (just $429) though to their elegantly proportioned Stockholm ($2700). Read her take here.

Vifa Copenhagen#vifaofficial in Pebble Grey at Totally Wired
Vifa Copenhagen#vifaofficial

The D-Stream WAMP-200SB digital amplifier

Embracing Digital

The new D-Stream WAMP-200SB amplifier, and new KLEI plugs & cables:

On sound quality alone, the D-Stream stands as the best sub-$1000 amplifier I’ve had the pleasure of listening to. Plus I have new cables and plugs from KLEI. Given all these developments I’ve put together a special demonstration pack so you can introduce yourself to the KLEI range and hear just how great an improvement you can get when you combine all of the elements.

The arteries of my music system were being progressively unblocked…

The new QFlow7 bi-wire jumpers and Classic Harmony Banana plugs from Keith Loius Eichmann Innovations (KLEI) at Totally Wired:

Find out why this is the best and most affordable upgrade for almost all speakers and stereo cables. The story starts with a simple banana plug…