The audiophile community is slowly but surely coming to embrace headphones as serious high-end audio components and with this change a market for high-performance upgraded headphone signal cable has emerged. But some will surely question whether such upgrades are really necessary or beneficial, given that many top-tier headphones sound awfully good with the standard cables with which they are shipped. Why, some might ask, attempt to gild a lily when there’s no apparent need to do so?
The answer, of course, is as old as high-end audio itself: we choose to upgrade headphone signal cables to see if it might be possible to make good products better, better products great, and great products sublime, or so goes the theory. But, does this work in practice? As a matter of fact it does, so that in the best of cases previous untapped (even unimaginable) levels of headphone performance are unleashed in dramatic and breath-taking ways. A case in point would be Kimber Kable’s Axios headphone signal cable that is the subject of this review.
The Axios headphone cables use a braided topology that harks back to the design of Kimber’s very first commercial products: namely, the braided 8-wire 4PR and 16-wire 8PR speaker cables. In a recent interview with Hi-Fi+, company founder Ray Kimber explained that the genesis of his cable designs came through a concerted effort to use braiding strategies to create cables that were highly resistant to noise both within and above the audio band. The result was an across-the-board improvement in sound quality that could be observed in music listening, but that also could be verified through measurements (where the cables simply transmitted less noise than competing designs did). Over the years both conductor and dielectric (that is, insulator) materials have improved, but the number one design goal has remained the same: that is, to reduce both audio frequency and high-frequency noise to allow the unobstructed flow of high-purity music.
The Axios cables use a 16-wire braided design that uses, says Kimber, “a very flexible OFHC copper wire braid comprised of 16 FEP-insulated 24 gauge stranded conductors.” Further, Kimber adds, “we developed a new precision hand-braided process, which allows the conductors to seamlessly separate from 16 wires to 8 wires within the transition, eliminating the need for a solder joint.” A quick trip to Kimber’s Axios-specific web site (https://axios.kimber.com/configure) reveals that the firm offers Axios cable sets to fit upper-tier Audeze, Denon, ENIGMAcoustics, Focal, HiFiMAN, McIntosh, MrSpeakers, Oppo, Pioneer, Sennheiser, and Sony headphones. In each case, connectors for the headphone ends of the cables are made of “hand-polished hardwoods to match the beauty of (the) headphones.” In turn, buyers can specify both the lengths and the amplifier-end terminations for the cables they wish to order.