I've been using the K-Select 1120 and 3033 for a few years
and was curious as to how the XLO Signature stuff compared.
Anyone with experience with the two?
Thanks for all of the input. I may be better off served
by upgrading my turntable/cartridge/arm.
I used the balanced 1130, single-ended 1030, and copper single-run 3033 for years. I also used XLO Signature 1.1, 2.1, and the speaker cable, though the speaker cable was borrowed.
Both the Kimber and XLO are excellent. The problem I had with the Kimber Select stuff is that they had a residual sweetness that made everything sound ever so slightly regressed towards some mean.
The XLO Sig, OTOH, is more self-effacingly neutral, and you better be careful with it, because it's up to your equipment to do the talking. For example, when used on stuff like the Rotel RCD-971, Sony PS One, VCRs, Parasound 1600 tuner, mid-fi, Bose speakers, et. al., the XLO Sig will reveal the equipment's shortcomings. But used on truly musical equipment, the XLO Sig allows the music to come through relatively unscathed.
The Kimber Select stuff is amazingly compatible with a wide range of stuff. Even if you stick KS-1030 on the Playstation, you just might be fooled into thinking that it's areal CD player, not just the modest PS One. And then it hits you. After hearing what the KS-1030 can do, you realize how colored other cables are. When you go back to stuff you thought was okay, like the Silver Streak and Hero, you now think they suck, which, relative to the KS-1030, they do.
But for me, I've heard systems wired with top-of-the-line Audio Magic, Nordost (Valhalla makes the SPM Reference sound broken), Synergistic Research, and Tara Labs cables. As far as getting closer to absolute neutral, thee brands do it. True, they cost much more than Kimber Select, but for price-no-object systems, and for long-term system building, I highly recommend these guys.
I have heard and used XLO Limited Edition line-level IC and digital cable. I have not heard the LE speaker cable, so I cannot comment on it. But for the digital cable and interconnect, I'm afraid they make the Signature Series sound bleached, restricted, and jiggly. The LE preserves the music's fine micro tonal colors, and does not interfere with imaging. Put it this way. If the LE is a 3-D Play-Doh sculpture, then the Sig is like me putting stickers on the wall.
So, if you already have Kimber Select stuff, and are happy with it, stick with it. In order to beat it by a significant, not just marginal, amount, you'll have to spend 50%-100% more. If your long-term goal is to assemble the Ultimate System, then MAYBE you'll want to consider Nordost Valhalla, Synergistic Research's Designer's Reference with Active Shielding, or a full-blown Tara Labs The One setup.
But then again, Kimber isn't exactly sitting still. Their new PowerKord looks interesting. They don't come out with new models all the time, and I think that's a good thing. When they release new products, they give us lots to chew on. So who knows? By the time you do assemble that Dream System, maybe Kimber will have improved upon the already excellent Select Series, and will have a model or two that compete toe-to-toe with other companies' $$$$ models.
If you've heard the Tara The One's in a very good system as I'm sure you have, I wonder how you can recommend them in the company of other "ultimate" or nearly-ultimate cables? Considering The One's sub-par performance with large-scale dynamics that I've heard it display, I would have to disagree with you on this. It is my contention that the dynamic ability of an audio system is a very important aspect of trying to recreate what's on the recording, and the less capable a system is in that regard, the more "artificial" the reproduced sound becomes.
Yes, I've read your opinions on this cable here on AA and on Audio Review. No, I don't believe that the differences between using The One with an Analog Floating Ground Station, Solo, or otherwise, makes up for what I consider to be their greatest flaw. Therefore IMO, they don't belong in the company of other very top-shelf cables that I've heard.
We both must be hearing things quite differently!
I love Tara's The One interconnects (both single-ended and balanced) for what they do not do. They do not add any false emphasis, they do not favor one part of the spectrum over another, they do not blur images, they do not artificially sharpen or focus the sound, etc. They have very little sound of their own, and their shortcomings are noticeable only when used with super high-end components and against other super-duper cables.
I can't test high-level dynamics in my own room. At levels above 85dB or so on my friend's Radio Shack spl meter, the bass drowns out everything else, and the room itself squashes dynamics.
But I regularly go to other people's homes who have systems that can BELT OUT THE NOISE, DUDE!!! Really, anything over 87dB is painful to listen to. Still, you've correctly identified this area as one of The One's shortcomings. It simply doesn't make that jump as quickly or as convincingly as a handful of other cables, most notably the XLO Limited Edition and Synergistic Research Designers Reference. The One doesn't quite capture that rush from whisper quiet to UNGODLY LOUD, to a little less loud, back LOUDER THAN HELL.
But really, who listens to music like this? Not many. Who has a room capable of extreme spl's? Not many. And who has a system that can play at these demanding levels, with such violent dynamics? Only a select few. I see that you are fortunate to be in this select few. Then for you, yeah, I can se why The One is not for you. But for the vast majority of domestic environments, with the vast of array of equipment, at the usual sane levels people listen, The One is nothing short of superb.
As you're well aware, the goals of an interconnect are to be as invisible as possible, not to be incompatible (with regards to impedance and other factors) with electronics, and to protect against outside interference. In these critical factors, Tara's The One interconnect is among a handful of the best, regardless of cost. The One is an important tool for me, when I evaluate different components, from mid-fi to supreme high-end. Its less-than-perfect handling of high-level (not micro- and anything else in between) dynamics is one of subtraction, and for most listeners, should be an easy one to live with. And with compressed recordings, this imperfection is not even noticeable. Popular music (I'm enjoying Tears For Fears' "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" as I type this) can be played at any volume level, and it stays at that level, no matter what. Hardly anything in popular music goes from whisper quiet to ungodly loud, and back to whisper quiet. It starts loud, stays loud, and doesn't go much louder or softer.
So for 97% of the rooms out there, with 97% of the recorded music available, high-level dynamics will never be tested. It's important to balance this against your criticism of The One's shortcoming. And in my experience, The One doesn't handle high-level swings poorly. Rather, it kind holds back, when the music calls for loud and powerful and lightning-quick swings. In this arena, The One is much more adept than the Kimber KS-1130 and 1030 and the XLO Signature 1.1 and 2.1. In comparison to The One, the Kimber Select stuff sound quick, but too soft, not powerful enough. And the XLO Signature sounds like it puts a stair-step cap on loudness levels. Compare it to the Limited Edition, and you'll find the LE much more suave, unrestrained, and stress-free.
No, you and I are not hearing differently. We're both fortunate to have access to all this good stuff, and to be free to use them with a large variety of equipment, rooms, and musics. Where we part company is in the value judgement. For your systems and tastes, The One's shortcomings are fatal flaws. For me and my systems and tastes, The One's flaws rarely, if ever, surface, and the remaining positives are there to me to swim in and enjoy. Maybe it's a good thing that one guy hates said product, and the other loves it. We wouldn't want everyone to nod in universal agreement, and have the same stuff, would we?
BTW, I greatly appreciate that you took the time to spell out the wheres, withs, whoms, and whys. Instead of calling me names, you gave examples. From time to time, I'm guilty of name-calling, using stereotypes, and being lazy. If we all formed reasoned arguments like yours, we wouldn't have gotten into all these pissing contests and character assassinations seen in these pages lately.
"Something happens and I'm head over heels
I never find out 'til I'm head over heels"
-Tears For Fears
...you would like The One's, because they do many things well, as you described. I agree with you there. However, this argument:
"But I regularly go to other people's homes who have systems that can BELT OUT THE NOISE, DUDE!!!
Really, anything over 87dB is painful to listen to. Still, you've correctly identified this area as one of The One's
shortcomings. It simply doesn't make that jump as quickly or as convincingly as a handful of other cables, most
notably the XLO Limited Edition and Synergistic Research Designers Reference. The One doesn't quite capture
that rush from whisper quiet to UNGODLY LOUD, to a little less loud, back LOUDER THAN HELL.
But really, who listens to music like this? Not many. Who has a room capable of extreme spl's? Not many.
And who has a system that can play at these demanding levels, with such violent dynamics? Only a select few.
I see that you are fortunate to be in this select few. Then for you, yeah, I can se why The One is not for you.
But for the vast majority of domestic environments, with the vast of array of equipment, at the usual sane
levels people listen, The One is nothing short of superb."
...really doesn't hold water as far as my experience has shown me. A "super high-end" system capable of "violent dynamics", or a gigantic listening room, is not required in order to hear that The One's compress the signal level relative to the performance of many of their peers - at least in the case of the balanced 1 meter pair that I auditioned. As I mentioned in my review of them, this "holding-back" of the top end of the dynamic scale was nearly immediately noticeable, AND it was often apparent at "normal" 80-90dB listening levels.
With The One's (dynamically), I felt as though a fine FM tuner was playing a good, not-compressed-to-the-wall FM station like WRPI (Troy, NY). But when installing some other's in its place like AQ Anaconda, NBS Monitor IV, Silver Audio Appassionata, XLO Sig., for example, the general sense was that I had switched sources to my digital or turntable front-end. It seems that with The One, you lose much of the realism that you've put all of that money into the rest of the system to acheive.
This would be counter-productive to the direction in which I'm trying to take my current system. Though I do think The One's would be an excellent choice for other "types" of systems.
Obviously, it would be a very dull hobby indeed if we all liked the same results in our audio systems. So, we should each have a set of priorities where we have to decide which "trade-off" is most acceptable - because I've not yet heard a pair of cables that does "everything" right.
But then -- I haven't put The Limited's "through the wringer" yet, and soon hope to.....
In order to compare cables' ability to reproduce large dynamic swings, I'd better be sure that the room and equipment are capable of them in the first place. My own room is not, so I have to go to other people's homes, in order to investigate this aspect of sound reproduction. And let me tell you, it's a painful experience. Most systems are woefully inadequate, when it comes to replicating a sequence where there's a normal 60-dB conversation, followed by gunfire, jetplane roars, and cannon shots. No cable can make up for a system that itself truncates dynamics. In these cases, which are the majority, it's easy to blame the cable for "not making the system scale dynamic heights."
But once you do find a room/system that is capable of wide dynamics [and take care of your hearing, under such circumstances], then you can begin the cable shootout. The One does large-scale dynamics in a civilized, buttoned-down manner. But if thought that The One was fatally flawed in this regard, what about the myriad other cables out there, which butcher dynamics far worse than The One? I can single out just the XLO LE and Synergistic Research DR (and maybe the Audio Magic Illusion, though I don't have enough experience with this product), which can track dynamic changes more precisely than The One.
I have co-workers who moonlight as studio technicians. They help record local bands and such. I sit in on some of the recording sessions, and I can tell you that the recording doesn't sound like what the band is playing, and by the time I take the recordings home, they don't sound remotely like what went on in the studio. Especially noticeable is the type and amount of compression used. Drum kits, which should be powerful and loud, sound no more loud and powerful than the lead singer. Keyboards have as much emphasis and the electric guitars, for cryin' out loud. And the bass just drowns out the other tracks. What dynamics?
My point is, all these recordings are compressed like hell, and for me to blame the interconnect as being flawed and the limiting factor is not right.
Whic hreminds me. I was once sitting with another 'phile, and with The One in his system, he commented (negatively) that, "Now I hear the equipment." But to me, this was a good thing. To me, The One was being honest, in allowing us to hear what the equipment was and was not doing. This guy preferred the XLO LE, for the way it reproduced instrumental textures, sense of scale, and the natural flow (not just start, stop, and decay) of the music.
In my experience, the LE, One, and DR are remarkably similar (i.e., get-out-of-the-way neutral), but even in modest systems, I think most listeners, if they try, can hear the subtle differences. The LE maintains the music's delicate contrast of color, size, power, and texture. The One sounds clean and "there." The DR preserves the music's flair and excitement. So in my book, I can safely say that these three are different, but equal, definitely in the same class. Whether or not that cuts it is up to the individual listener. Which one is "better" is also up to the individual to decide. For now, would I wantto be without The One? Hell no. In fact, I'm trying to find ways of getting more of it, so I can wire a greater percentage of my system with it.
But you've done this community a great service with your honest evaluation. You didn't make those tired old blanket statements about silver wire, spade lugs, CAT5, using cables as glorified tone controls, etc. You stuck to the topic at hand, and ended with the comment about no cable does everything right. Thank you, thank you, thank you. That so sorely needed to be said. If we had more listeners like you, perhaps we'd get closer to that goal of bringing the live experience home.
For now, using Tara Labs The One balanced interconnect in my co-worker's studio is a blockbuster. It's a sonic decongestant, making the old AudioQuest Lapis and Diamond sound opaque and "processed," respectively. Yes, I acknowledge that a few cables can beat The One is terms of large dynamic swings. But I so rarely encounter these large swings, that the other criteria are more relevant and important to me. For you, you place a higher value and significance on high-level dynamics in attaining "live" sound, so The One's less-than-perfect handling precludes it from your consideration. Fair enough. As I alluded to in my title, when someone asks is the glass half empty or half full, it loks like I'm saying "half full," you are saying "half empty," and the moderator says "both." Likewise, I go with The One; Audiophile #2 went with XLO LE; Audiophile #3 might go for Synergistic Research DR; Audiophile #4 swears by Nordost Valhalla; Audiophile #5 can't afford any, so he sticks with Kimber Select; you don't like any, and keep looking for that elusive cable that does everything right; and Audiophile #7 says "The hell with you guys, I'm getting Tara's The Zero."
Alas, I need/want The One in my own system, so unless my co-worker gets me some NOS tubes or whatever, I'm taking The One back. Yeah, The One lets us hear the compressed nature of pop music recordings. But it still lets the musical message come through, and we can't stop getting off on the music. The One doesn't affect the music's speed and timing (with your noted exception of large-scale dynmics), so there's the unstoppable urge to flail our arms and legs to Toni Basil's "Mickey;" to thrash our heads in whiplash fashion to Slayer's "Blood Red;" to jam on the air keyboards to Elton John's Crocodile Rock;" to kick back, relax, and daydream to Keola Beamer's "Shells;" and to make like we're ice skating to the theme song of St. Elmo's Fire.
-Lummy The Seahorse
...I'm talking about the "sense of ease" that a system exhibits when large-scale dynamics are done well. The feeling that the speakers are letting go of the notes in an unrestrained way that most resembles the sound of an instrument played live in front of you. That's my reference...other 'phile's may differ.
"...you don't like any, and keep looking for that elusive cable that does everything right..."
I'm savvy enough to realize that perfection doesn't exist (at least in most things, audio cable included!). So, I don't seek it. But I DO try to find the components that have the fewest compromises for my listening tastes/budget. There are a few cables I like Ok, but often times I'm like "Mikey" and "hate everything". Well, maybe "hate" is not the right word, but I think there is a long way to go in conductor technology and understanding - as if there is still quite a bit undiscovered or "missing" - even given some of the "nearly excellent" designs we already have available to us. (BTW - have you ever conversed with Paul Smith of Silversmith Audio? Ask him about his palladium cables - some interesting, and somewhat counter-intuitive, posits.)
Being a musician as well as an audiophile, you would think would be beneficial in many respects. But it's often a handicap of sorts: being reminded on an almost daily basis what live music sounds like, I'm always disappointed when I go back and have to listen to the wonderful efforts of so many fine musician's through a mass of electronics. 'Tis truly a shame! : (
"But you've done this community a great service with your honest evaluation. You didn't make those tired old
blanket statements about silver wire, spade lugs, CAT5, using cables as glorified tone controls, etc. You stuck to
the topic at hand, and ended with the comment about no cable does everything right. Thank you, thank you,
thank you. That so sorely needed to be said. If we had more listeners like you, perhaps we'd get closer to that
goal of bringing the live experience home."
Thanks for the kudos, Lummy. Good luck in cabling your system.
FIrst of all, we need recordings that accurately capture these wide dynamic swings. And then the equipment better be able to decode the dynamics on those recordings. Next, the cables have to pass this information along unfettered. Then the speakers have to get it up. Finally, the room better be able to handle large-scale dynamics, or else everything up 'til now is wasted (dynamically).
Sadly, hardly any of the pieces above typically can handle large-scale dynamics. So The One is not alone. But it would be nice to say that The One can handle dynamics if they are there. I remember going to the guy's in the Castro, and he played that Kodo Japanese taiko drum CD on his killer Marantz/Krell/Dynaudio combo. With The One ICs in place, it was like riding bareback on a horse. But when we stuck in XLO LE ICs, it was as if that horse started to buck! No, that horse didn't fling us off, but it had more, um, jolt with the LE versus The One.
I see that for you, dynamics are a must. And you're fully justified in wanting and needingthat aspect of musical reproduction. But even in rooms that can handle low AND high sound pressure levels, I have to report that I haven't heard very many components, cables, and speakers that can convincingly handle such large swings.
My room? It's small and square. Dynamics? In my room? Don't even try. Everything gets all scrunched up once my friend's Radio Shack meter [I don't know how accurate it really is] hits the mid-80s. When you're playing popular music, that's enough to throw a party, and not be able to hear someone speaking in a normal tone of voice.
For me, The One's lack of bass boom, refusal to confuse space with the images, and nimble way with microdynamics makes it compatible with the majority of stuff I use, be it at home, at work, at friends' homes, or in co-workers' amateurish studios.
In order to squeeze out a tad more oomph from my equipment, aftermarket powercords can help. I can't explain why, but they can help reduce that sense of timidity or strain, when the going gets rough. No, this has nothing to do with ultimate SPLs. Rather, it has to do with the quality, not quantity, of reproduction. Well, even at sane volumes, you can kind of hear this when the lead singer of the Scorpions screams on "Blackout," when Simon Lebon does his thing on "The Reflex," and when the guy in Erasure does his lemon squeezing falsetto.
But you're on to something. Our hi-fi sounds nothing like what it sounds like from your place in the orchestra, or what I hear in the studio. Eh, come to think of it, with the awful bands my co-workers record, maybe it's a good thing my hi-fi doesn't sound like the studio :-)
-Lummy The Seahorse
yes, I've listened to both, and my nod goes to the XLO. the Kimber is good, but the XLO does EVERYTHING right.
I like the XLO Sig. line alot, although I have yet to give any of the Select's a spin, other than the KS-3035. The Sig's seem to have a great focus to them, are "quiet", and I like their non-forward midrange presentation, which doesn't come at a loss of midrange information.
Sorry I couldn't help you further. Good luck!
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