Cable Designer Roundtable

Equipment report
Loudspeaker cables,
Digital cables
Cable Designer Roundtable

Ray Kimber - Kimber Cable

Established in 1979, Kimber Kable is the brainchild of inventor, engineer, and entrepreneur Ray Kimber. Ray’s fondness for new discoveries and experimentation began in the first grade when he built a crystal receiver, which he tweaked, without help or knowledge, by adding to it a set of army-surplus headphones. While working at a sound and lighting company in the 1970s, Ray discovered a technique for braiding cable that not only reduced noise, but also improved fidelity. He figured that if weaving cable could alter the sound so significantly, everything else about cables was on the table for discovery, rediscovery, or investigation. This led him to create Kimber Kable to market his ideas and discoveries.

Each of you participating in this roundtable is a pioneer, designing cables long before cables and interconnects became recognized as important contributors to high- fidelity music reproduction. Why did you choose to work in the cable arena rather than in other fields of high-end audio?

The phrase “Necessity is the mother of invention” was the catalyst behind the creation of Kimber Kable. In the mid-1970s I worked at a sound and lighting company in Los Angeles when the first big discotheques were being installed. The lighting systems generated noise that was picked up by the speaker cable. Traditionally sound and lighting systems were not installed right next to each other, nor did ordinary lighting systems have an array of noise-generating fixtures such as strobes and flashing or dimmable lights. But in a discotheque the lights and speakers were installed next to each other. The speaker cable was acting as an antenna array and bringing noise from the lights into the sound system.

We tried encasing the speaker cable in a steel conduit, and while that helped with the noise it also had the unintended consequence of lowering the audio fidelity. I had the idea of counter-rotating sets of conductors in the speaker cable to cancel the magnetic interaction and get rid of the noise. That technique worked; the noise was greatly reduced, but I also discovered that the sound quality also improved. It was that discovery of noise elimination and improved fidelity that set me to developing cable designs and founding Kimber Kable. The final version of the braided-wire concept not only rejected RF but also allowed the system to sound more musical. After this period of discovery I decided to take a risk and begin entertaining the idea of selling my new discoveries.

What are your core beliefs that guide you in product development?

Low noise, high fidelity, low employee turnover, high retained value.

Now that the cable industry has about 35 years of experience under its belt, has cable design approached its pinnacle where further improvements are likely to be marginal? Or will the improvements we’ve seen in, say, the past ten years follow the same trajectory?

In the absence of some fundamental breakthrough in either metals or insulators I would think that the improvements will be in steps rather than leaps.

In a field that is overcrowded with competing designs and technical hype, what advice would you give consumers when choosing cables for their systems?

Buy from a reliable dealer. If there are doubts about a recommendation then try before you buy.