In parallel with the development of high-end audio electronics and speakers, the exploding high-end cable industry offers improvements to established solutions or new approaches that are more than ever worth discovering.
Consequently, there is a constant request for me to explore different types and different levels of cables that can meet specific needs and integrate them into the variety of carefully assembled audio systems.
This is not Mono & Stereo’s first encounter with KBL Sound, Robert Szczerbowski’s high-end audio cables proudly made in Poland. In 2014, I tested KBL Sound’s cables SPECTER, which concluded with a very positive review.
The knowledge and practical experience amassed over the years have been incorporated into the KBL Sound Himalaya II XLR and Power Pro II cables, which are the subject of this review.
Himalaya II Series
The premiere of the KBL Sound Himalaya flagship series took place in 2015, and the second edition Mk II in 2021. They are very different, both in appearance and sound.
In recent years Szczerbowski has developed new solutions and researched and used new materials and technologies.
With the accumulated experience, which has grown considerably over time, Szczerbowski has decided to keep the name Himalaya, as it is the continuation of a long research and development process that has required a lot of time and investment.
Himalaya II is the next generation of KBL Sound’s flagship cables designed for uncompromising high-end audio systems. All cables in this new line come in white and black minimalist esthetics and have been designed to offer a new standard and a new relationship between (technical/sonund) quality and price.
Throughout the development process, Szczerbowski was convinced that the best solutions lie in the refinement of construction simplicity and the purity of materials. That is why Himalaya II cables also use wires with the best conductivity – copper and monocrystalline silver.
The dielectrics are air, Teflon without pigment and air foamed Teflon. The connectors are of the highest standard: WBT, Furutech NCF, and Neutrik.
All these choices and measures have been taken to avoid the mechanical nature of the sound, minimizing the losses in power and signal transmission.
KBL Sound Himalaya II flagship series cables are refined products, designed from the ground up to offer something unique to demanding music lovers looking for the highest quality of music reproduction.
Szczerbowski keeps secretive about some of the specifics of the design and production, but here are a few glimpses of the Himalaya II interconnect cables and the Himalaya Pro II power cord.
Himalaya II interconnects
Signal cables play a particularly important role in an audio system because the most sensitive signals flow through them and are then amplified. Any loss is therefore multiplied. The Himalaya II interconnect cables have been designed from the start to reduce these losses to a minimum.
All connectors in this series use uncompromised conductors made of pure monocrystalline silver obtained by the OCC (Ohno Continous Casting) process. The conductivity is 6% higher than OCC copper.
The dielectric of these conductors is air, the best-known insulator for practical use.
In addition, the cables are shielded in various ways depending on their intended use. Further shielding is achieved by a multi-layer coating that absorbs vibrations. The WBT Nextgen Signature (RCA) and Neutrik WT (XLR) connectors complete the list of sophisticated components.
Himalaya Pro II power cord
How is it possible that in all this way that the current flows from the power station to the socket, the last meter and a half of the power cord can change the sound of the electronic device?
For Szczerbowski, in effect, every electronic device between two power cables: either it is hot or neutral. From the point of view of the apparatus, the power cord is not the last, but the first in the line. Its merits (which translate into the sound characteristics of an audio device) depend on the intensity of current it can deliver and how it handles the effects of electromagnetic radiation (EMI) from the component to which it is connected.
Most EMI waves that affect sound quality in the system are generated by the audio components themselves. The main source of audible sound degradation is closely related to the power supplies. This is because power supplies typically use rectifier bridges that generate a large number of transients when rectifier diodes are switched.
However, the design of the power cable can significantly affect the reduction of these signals in the power supply. The power cable is actually part of the primary winding of the power transformer. Most filters in power supplies are ineffective at blocking the components of very high-frequency distortion, so many of them pass through DC current barriers. The sonic effects include severe background distortion, fuzzy or indistinct transients, and a general lack of transparency and clarity.
KBL Sound’s power cables were designed from the ground up to reduce these problems in power cords and to be used with components in any price range.
The Himalaya PRO II power cable is the flagship of KBL Sound’s power cable series and is based on solutions previously developed with the TriKord Power® series.
It owes its considerable thickness to the even greater separation of the conductive cores due to extreme spatial spacing. Each core is also separately tuned and shielded. The same topology is used throughout the TriKord Power® Series.
The Himalaya PRO II power cables also represent the highest standard of construction and material development in the KBL Sound product portfolio.
Sonically, these cables have been designed to be as natural as possible while bringing the listener closer to the reality of music.
During our meeting with Robert Szczerbowski at the 2022 High-End Fair in Munich, I opted for KBL Sound’s top line to hear what Szczerbowski’s last world is in cables.
From the boxes, the packaging, the Velcro-like fabric inside, the cable barrels, the natural leather parts, and the connectors, everything shows that these are not random products. Great care has been taken with everything to ensure that when you unpack the cables, there is no doubt that these cables have been designed with the utmost care.
All KBL Sound products are first baked in the factory with power conditioners that speed up their “maturing” process.
Like any high-end audio cable, the Himalaya II took a few days to get used to and perform at its best.
Szczerbowski uses an interesting analogy of introducing a new cable to the system, where the acclimation period cannot be skipped. For him, adaptation to the system is always necessary, just like in a human transplant, where the organ must be accepted by the body.
While traversing through the reference albums and titles, both Himalaya II XLR and Himalaya PRO II power cables have proven that they are more than just performance-oriented. They extend their virtues and top them with a very special emotional bonding. Here are some of the music albums that highlight the unique and outstanding qualities of the KBL Sound Himalaya II series.
Himalaya II XLR
Suite bergamasque, L. 75: III. Clair de Lune (Transcribed for Harp) – Lavinia Meijer – Claude Debussy has shown at once Has shown that a music transportive Himalaya II XLR.
Not only the transparency, tempo, and dynamics were great. Meijer’s harp playing presented itself with emotional urgency and radiance that rang true and captivating. With Suite bergamasque, L. 75: III. Clair de Lune, even far more expensive interconnects can conjure up the music and present it as a hazy illusion of sound.
With the Himalaya II XLR non-mirage, the music was never conjured, but the harp was beautifully and extremely compellingly rendered, allowing the music to spread freely, but objectivly throughout my reference listening room, never leaving me unattended. Both emotionally and aurally.
Rarely does a body of harp achieve such physical manifestation as Himalaya II XLR cables have bestowed. And decays and delays… Simply heavenly with the needly extended tails.
I was also very surprised by the ability of the Himalaya II to allow a higher than usual density, which allows a wonderful richness of overtones, as well as a natural formation of staccatos, arpeggios, etc.
On three tracks Meijer is accompanied by twenty-two members of the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, and it was most interesting to observe how skillfully the Himalaya II XLR cables maintained Meijer’s harp presence when the other instruments were joined. A very rare quality in a cable, regardless of its price.
With lots of cables, Joe Cocker’s With A Little Help From My Friends album can sound like a casual aural glance. This rock classic shows very well how a particular cable affects the fundamentals of music, dynamic potency and whether it is possible to reproduce it in its entirety.
The KBL Sound Himalaya II XLR interconnect cables provided the necessary dynamic potency without outlining the music or making it seem like a backdrop.
The Himalaya II XLR cables ensured that With A Little Help From My Friends was portrayed fully and coherently, not just flickery screened as is very often the case with a lot of cables prices same, below or above Himalaya II.
The Pizza Tapes – Jerry Garcia (acoustic guitar, vocals), David Grisman (mandolin), and Tony Rice (acoustic guitar) offers a remarkable insight into how particular cable convey this iconic album close-miked with KM-84 microphones and recorded on Nagra IV S.
The Pizza Tapes feature a great dynamic range, greatly captured vocals and guitars and splendid spatiality.
The Himalaya II XLR interconnects presented one of the kind symbiosis of the guitars and vocal as well as crowning numberless acoustical points and myriads of nodes making the The Pizza Tapes work in highly close proximity of the realms of reality.
Himalaya PRO II Power cable
Ege Bamyasi by Can can instantly reveal the sheer dynamic resolution of any power cable. There is something wickedly beautiful about the unreserved rawness of Ege Bamyasi. A surreal, experimental nature and mind-blowing pulsating rhythmic textures throughout the Himalaya PRO II power cable revealed, how there’s more to decipher from this magnificently recorded album.
The unique Himalaya PRO II power cable lent a new clarity to this fictional sonic escapade. A surprisingly natural, but not saturated warmth. The music was not an illustrated phenomenon but solidified from the first notes with deep emotional bursting, that instantly established a deep connection and firm bond.
Even some highly exotic high-end audio cables fail to deliver a tangible three-dimensional rendition of Ege Bamyasi, but merely project silhouettes rather than objectively materialize the momentum.
“Sing Swan Song” will instantly distinguish a genuinely crafted, high-performance power chord from a mediocre one. There’s just so much life taken out of the music when the raw energy is not delivered on time. And KBL Sound’s flagship power cord not only furnished exceptional speed and dynamism but also introduced a newfound spatiality.
All too easily, Stevie Wonder’s perhaps greatest album of all times, Songs In The Key Of Life can sound tangled, unenergized and uninvolving. But at its core, Songs In The Key Of Life is about a pure funk outburst. Untamed and charged with pure energy force.
With Himalaya PRO II power cable, Wonder’s timeless classic sounded far beyond the excpectations, without contouring or particular sonic distractions. All the characteristic markers were further enriched and projected even more captivating emotional occurance.
Not irreconcilable, nor forgiving as many power cords can make it sound. With the flagship KBL Sound power cord, Wonder’s one of the kind energetic crux was punctually and smootly traced in parallel with the transformation and progression of the tracks.
The Himalaya PRO II power cable escapes the frequency deduction where a variety of power cords act as a notch filter/ EQ that sucks in a certain frequency or act as a parametric EQ, which affects even more surrounding frequencies.
The field of activity of KBL top power cable is simply in a league of its own and more than worthy of being explored in a first-class high-end audio system.
The exceptional translucency and remarkable timbre, tone, and color were further confirmed with Ustad Ali Akbar Khan – Halfmoon.
Side A was recorded in the summer of 1982 at The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, Halfmoon Bay, California, and Side B was recorded in September 1982 at Fort Mason Center, San Francisco.
This is one of the first, if not the first, digital recording of classical Indian music captured on Betamax tape via Sony PCM F-1 digital and Calrec Soundfield microphone in a stereo configuration. Interestingly, the high-frequency phase correction was done by a Meyer Sound Labs filter network.
Using the Himalaya PRO II power cable, both “Rag Chhayanat Alap” and “Rag Malashri Gat” were delivered with an elemental nature that is a seemingly simple task. Yet reproducing the sarod complexity, that mimics the complexness of the human voice correctly is a far more sophisticated task and something which is too often taken for granted in high-end audio reproduction.
However, just as with the human voice, the deep, hefty, and brooding sound of the sarod requires many more intricate qualities to feel and sound genuine.
The Himalaya PRO II power cable allows the expressive range and complex timbres of the sarod to fully unfold, probing the metal steel strings contacting the fretless fingerboard with remarkable fluctuation and a spot-on golden trinity of timbre, tone, and color.
With cables, there’s often a feeling of being surrounded by the music but not having an interactive part. Himalaya II cables are quite different in this regard. They uniquely combine what often appears to be a juxtaposition of ambiance and interactivity into a seamless whole. For this virtue alone, Himalaya II cables deserve all the praise.
The fundamental role and basic job of a high-end audio cable are to preserve as much of the music’s original message as possible and to ensure that little is lost in translation.
Many high-end audio cables can enhance the sonic tendencies to the extent that they begin to obscure the intended and original message of the music.
The high-end audio cables should preserve the art of presence, providing a comprehensive experience within the given technical dimensions of the system without hindering any parameters, but accomplishing a balancing act that allows for an emotionally involving musical journey.
The most difficult thing is to relate the objective sonic merits to the actual sound, which is transformed in many ways by the electronics and cabling to the acoustic reproduction.
The KBL Sound Himalaya II Pro power and XLR interconnect cables provide particularly vivid vignette, a visceral connection to the music, and an far above-average number of sound facets.
There’s no instant artificial sonic spike, no illusory wow factor that wears off after prolonged listening. KBL Sound Himalaya II cables are not falsy extolling the virtues of music, showing that these cables have come a long way. With Himalaya II it’s all about the essentials, no erroneous vocations.
Despite all the streamlining and simplification, it’s simply not easy to make a high-end audio cable that maintains such balance and consistency as does KBL Sound top of the range cables, regardless of where they were inserted in the system chain.
High-end audio and high-performance electronics represent a unique potency that deserves an accessory that matches the level of performance and shows its best. And with KBL Sound Himalaya II cables, this potency is undiminished and Himalaya II does this in spades. It is clear that both cables come from the same brand, sharing their common sonic qualities.
At their level, these cables are both reasonably and highly competitively priced and offer an impressive level of sonic potency and return for their money compared to many higher-priced products.
For what they represent sonically, the level of execution, I grant the two KBL Sound Himalaya II power and XLR interconnect cables Mono & Stereo 2022 Upper Echelon Product Awards. ⧉
- Himalaya II XLR 2 x 1m 6279 EUR, each next 0,5 m 1250 EUR
- Himalaya PRO II 1,8 M 7029 EUR, each next 0,5 m 1195 EUR
Himalaya II XLR
- Conductors: highest purity mono crystal OCC silver
- Gauge 20 AWG
- Dielectric: air, uncoloured Teflon
- Shielding: copper, tinned copper, silver plated copper
- Termination RCA: WBT 0152 Ag Nextgen Signature
- Termination XLR: Neutrik NC3FXX-WT/NC3MXX-WT
- Phono cables with RCA to RCA (WBT) or RCA to 5 DIN (Cardas) connector to wire up any tonearm
- Digital cables: SPDiF 75 Ohm RCA or AES/EBU 110 Ohm XLR
- Standard lenght: 1 m, 1,5 m
Himalaya PRO II Power Cable
- Recommended for analog and digital devices
- Conductors: pure monocrystalline copper, multi-strand, anti-oxidation
- Gauge: 9 AWG
- Dielectric: Teflon
- All three runs are physically separated from each other
- The PRO model uses the TriKord Power® technology with separate tuning of each physically separated core
- Tunnel vibration absorption system
- Terminations: Furutech C15 Fi-48
- Optional IEC Furutech C19 Fi-48 plug for high current devices
- Optional Furutech C15 Fi-48 US plug
- Standard lengths: 1.8 m
- Other lengths on request