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Kimber Kable Axios CU Headphone and KS USB-AG Cables

04-10-2020 | By Sam Rosen | Issue 108

The Axios CU headphone cable ships in a hard case

I have been on the hunt for the best headphone cable to pair with my Hifiman Susvara for the last six months or so. Every time I go to an audio show, I always see the Hifiman Susvara connected to amplifiers with a beautiful cable. That beautiful cable is, of course, the Axios headphone cable by Kimber Kable.

In January I finally had a chance to reach out to Kimber Kable, and they offered to send me a 6 meter (~19ft) Axios CU headphone cable as well as their new solid silver USB cable for review. I gladly accepted and eagerly awaited the arrival of the cables. 

Packaging and Look

The USB cable comes in a leather clam shell case

These are the first Kimber Kable products I have ever received. I knew they were premium products, but the packaging really set Kimber Kable apart from other premium cable companies. The headphone cables themselves arrived in a hard Seahorse case, similar to what some of my high end amplifiers ship in. The USB cable arrived in a leather clam shell case. Simply put, these are premium products. The packaging makes you feel like you purchased a premium product, which is a nice touch, and not a given in my experience.

The dark wood capped connectors feel great in the hand and look lovely

Taking the Kimber Axios CU headphone cable out of the case was like removing a fine watch from its box. The cable itself is stunning. The quarter inch connector on mine is nickel plated, and the top of the connector is a nice dark wood. The 2.5mm Susvara connectors are mini versions of the quarter inch connector, and the whole cable looks cohesive and lovely.

I want to take a moment to talk about the connectors themselves. I own a few ultra-premium headphone cables that retail at a similar price point, and I have found the detail that some manufacturers skimp on is the connectors. For example, I have a headphone cable that retails for over $2000 and it still uses a standard plastic capped Neutrik 1/4 connector. There is nothing wrong with that connector, but I expect better from a product at this price point, and Kimber really delivered. The wood connectors feel great in your hand, and their logo is nicely engraved into the wood.

These are products where every detail has clearly been considered

The premium look and feel extends to the USB cable as well. The two tone wood connectors look excellent on the USB cable. It may sound silly to say a cable looks good, but I have not seen a better looking USB cable, and I have had several premium USB cables in house for review. Not one of them has anything on the lovely looking Kimber KS AG USB cable.

The Axios CU Headphone Cable

I love it when cables don't tangle. That sounds silly, but when you are working with 18ft - 22ft headphone cables on a daily basis, a cable that does not tangle makes your life easier. That was one of the first things I noticed about the Axios headphone cable, it just does not tangle. My guess is that has to do with the way it is woven together. I like the look, but I love when the design has a purpose. Not only does the braiding prevent tangling, but it also provides RFI noise rejection and structural integrity.

The other thing that is important in a headphone cable is the way it feels against your skin. This may sound silly, but a headphone cable is actually something that touches your skin, since you essentially wear it. This is another area where the Axios cable really excels. It looks great and feels great. It also is not very microphonic. My reference headphone cable makes noise when I move, the Kimber on the other hand is essentially dead silent.

The Axios CU is made up of 8 strands of copper cabling; each channel uses 4 total strands, two ground / negative and two positive. I have used the Axios headphone cable in my system for the past two months, and only began doing critical listening after 100 hours or so.

Recently I have been enjoying MIKA's new live album Live at Brooklyn Steel. Listening to it on the Axios CU headphone cable turned out to be a real treat. I am able to bring the Susvara to thunderous levels, and enjoy a silky smooth non-fatiguing experience brought on by the Axios cable. This is especially true on the track "Dear Jealousy," where the bass line just felt so real. My wife ended up coming out of the other room wondering what I was doing, as the volume was so loud. That is the thing that is both amazing and scary about the Axios CU headphone cable, you can listen to music on it at thunderous levels for hours without any fatigue. This is great for rocking out, but potentially bad for your hearing in the long run.

The presentation with the Axios CU is detailed, but laid back at the same time. I found myself listening at higher volumes, not because I needed to, but because I could. Sound always came across as full, and I never found myself thinking "man this recording sounds thin." Conversely, things did not feel bloated either, which is impressive.

Going back and forth between my reference headphone cable and the Axios, I noticed that the laid back nature of the Axios cable resulted in a slightly slower presentation. This was only noticeable in a back to back comparison. I don't think most would pick up on this, but it is worth noting.

So is there anything I did not particularly enjoy? Not really, the Axios headphone cable is really quite excellent. The only thing to point out is that it is a smooth cable, and if you have a warmer system, it may create too much of a good thing. Ultimately, that is what ended up happening for me. My system naturally leans slightly warm, and I found the smooth nature of the system with the Axios cable almost too relaxing at times.

This did not match my memory or experience with the Axios cable in a show environment. It is possible that due to the cables long (and non-standard) length it was beginning to act as a high pass filter. If it was, it was slight, and I have no way to know for sure. Either way, my statements above still stand. This cable will be fantastic with a neutral system, and a neutral slightly bright system. Be careful when putting this cable into a warmer system, it may tilt things a little too much.

Kimber Kable KS USB-AG

This USB cable has the looks, and the sound quality to match. The bass was tight once the cable was broken in, the detail was as good as my best reference USB cables, and the space within the recording felt realistic and well defined.

There was a period of time where I truly believed that USB cables could not make a difference in a HiFi system. As I have gotten more and more experience with high end USB cables, I have noticed that there seems to be a defining trait of a high end USB cable. That trait is the ability to represent spatial details. When I was listening with the Kimber USB AG cable, my sound stage went from a wide 2 dimensional space using my standard Low-Fi USB cable, to a deep three dimensional space using the Kimber USB AG cable. Details were well pronounced, and I particularly noticed and enjoyed how cymbals sounded using this cable. When I was comparing this cable to my reference USB cable, much of what I loved about my reference cable was present. They both produce excellent three-dimensional space, they both have great placement, and they are both smooth and non-fatiguing. The Kimber Kable USB-AG does provide a touch more detail and air, where my reference USB cable provides a slight perceived bass bump and a bit more warmth. This is the only USB cable I have listened to that compares to my reference USB cable. I cannot say enough good things about it, and unlike my reference USB cable, the Kimber looks the part of its premium price tag.

USB is a fickle thing, however the improvement a cable will have all depends on the transmitter and receiver. Running the USB cable into my M Scaler produced a less noticeable difference in my system than running the cable into my Dave directly. I have noticed this in general with most USB cables, as the M Scaler does a good job of re-clocking and resampling the USB signal on its own. Running the cable into the Dave was a truly lovely experience. This USB cable does everything really well. I have cables that have better more pronounced bass, and I have cables that have slightly more refined highs. However, each of these cables are noticeably lacking in my system in at least one area. While the Kimber Kable did not best the best attributes of my other USB cables, in my opinion it provided the best overall performance across all attributes.

Wrapping Up

For those who have read my cable reviews, you know that I talk a lot about value. In my opinion, cables should not represent more than 20% of the overall retail cost of your system. I will be honest, Kimber Kable made me question that belief. The quality and craftsmanship in these cables began to move them, in my mind, from just "cables" to "components."

Should you run out and go buy either of these cables after reading this review?  Maybe, but you should absolutely audition these cables in your setup. If you have a high end headphone setup, especially something like a Focal Utopia or an HD800S, which are both a little on the bright side, then you should for sure try out the Axios CU headphone cable. Likewise, if you have a reference / statement DAC, and want a well-rounded USB cable that you can trust is delivering great balanced sound, then the KS USB-AG is worth an audition. Just make sure the rest of your system is revealing enough to allow you to hear the difference. If it is, I think you will really like these cables. Thank you Kimber Kable for sending me these cables for review. I cannot wait to see what you do next.


Retail: $675

Axios CU Headphone Cable

Retail: $830

Kimber Kable