FinkTeam KIM Speakers

For a while now I have been enjoying the NDX2/SN2/NACA5 using NZ built Image 302 speakers. The well run-in pair of 302’s were passed down to me by my father after he decided to upgrade his system.

While they came to life with Naim and sounded better than ever before, they are getting old (recently they even needed some emergency soldering), veneers are starting to show age, you could say that components used to build them are good but not great, and to put it simply they are not my speakers. I never got to choose them in the first place, so I feel it is time for a change.

saying this, right now as I am writing this post the Hey Now by London Grammar came on and it sounded great on the old 302’s :sweat_smile:. It is in these moments that you ask yourself “Why am I thinking about a speaker change? Would the new speakers blow my mind even further? Should I improve the source and get a PS for NDX2? Should I just leave everything as is?”…

I am of firm belief that after a while we get used to our sound, it becomes our new normal. It takes our family and friends reactions to our systems to remind us that what we consider everyday normal, is not normal at all for the masses. I love watching their reactions as emotions take over and feet and hands start tapping. They all look like lost puppies, soon dredging up songs from their past saying…”I never heard this sound like this before”. Afterall for most people music and sound has been boiled down to their phone, Spotify and Bluetooth speaker.

So, when we demo new gear, we hear a different sound, we perceive this different sound as worse or better than our current system. When it is worse it is easy to dismiss, almost liberating. When the sound is better, we wonder if it is the gear, room, acoustic treatment, volume, how this would sound in our house, how we can make the step up again and so on. It is in these moments that I wish I could compare the gear I have to the gear I now think I want in my house, but in most situations that is an impossible task.

I started on this new speaker journey in late 2019 but progress was quickly halted by the events of last year. Yesterday I decided to restart this journey and drive to Wellington to try my luck with demonstrating few premium speakers.

Now I say “try my luck” as its always a lottery with demos in NZ. Small country, low population, lots of small HiFi stores, lots of brands represented but not in stock or not available for demo. Do not get me wrong, most brands are here but NZ average earnings are not high, and FX/distance/market often means we are parting away with much higher percentage of our income. So, market for HiFi is limited, hence demos, stock, pricing etc. are much more challenging especially when you get to premium levels of gear. And it goes without saying that Covid has impacted this even further.

For example, ask for a demo of something like a 282/250 or 252/300 and you will be asked to come back in few weeks once they try and arrange something. Most of the time the only Naim amplifier available for demo is a SN3 or a 202/200. In fact, I purchased the NDX2 without ever seeing or hearing one. By the way, this is not a dig at NZ HiFi stores, they try their best. It is just our reality in NZ, and this affects almost every premium product not just HiFi. Sometimes I think I should demo in Australia and order in NZ, flights are not that expensive.

Then we get to pricing, in UK the XPS DR is GBP 4,200, today that converts to NZD 8,100. In Australia XPS is AUD 8,300, but in New Zealand retail is NZD 10,000. However, in NZ discount culture is prevalent, and often you will get a deal. But there is no doubt you feel like you are paying more for a privilege of living in this great little country on the other side of the world. Due to all this second-hand market is also very small, but I digress.

I have number of speakers in mind from brands like Focal, Totem Acoustics, Fyne, ATC, PMC, Spendor, ProAc, Neit, Neat, Harbeth, B&W, ELAC, Sonus Faber, KEF and anything else that might come along on. Some of these will be near impossible to demo in NZ but I am wide open to bookshelves, floor standers and anything else in between. I am not necessarily looking for my end game, but I am considering this a long-term purchase. I have been reading, listening for a while now, but nothing replaces demos as I am sure you all agree.

I have been circling the likes of TA Tribe Towers and Element series, Kanta’s, Fyne 501SP, PMC twenty5 series, B&W 804/805 (note: expecting new D4 to be out soon) ELAC Vela just to name a few. While included I get the feeling I am not after speakers such as Spendor or Harbeth, but again until I get to demo them they are part of my consideration.

In my head I was throwing around NZD 10k (GBP 5,100), but again I am not going to limit the process with numbers either.

While sound is a priority one, I do see speakers as design and furniture items, so how they look matters to me. Especially if I am going to share space with them every day in my living room. And this is one of the challenges. For example, in past when hearing TA Tribe Towers I was taken back by how capable they are, but I often find myself wondering if I would care for their design in 3 years’ time. Sort of the same feeling I get with Element series and Kanta’s for example.

My main system is in my living room which is part of an open plan L shape space which includes kitchen, living and dining. The kitchen and dining would be the longer/vertical part of letter L, while the living room would be the shorter/horizontal part. The living/listening room portion is a square 5x5m (5m/16.4ft) space with windows/fire place etc.

So not a huge space and not a perfect room or acoustics, but that is the room. Sure, acoustic treatment would help but acoustic treatment is also dependent on system/speaker choice. Considering I am not settled with my current speakers and I am looking for a change, I think I need to sort the speaker direction before considering room treatments.

My music catalogue is wide, from J. J. Cale to London Grammar, not much classical, jazz, pop or hip-hop but even they feature at times. I guess I am after speakers that can handle low and slow and high and fast. I also often listen at lower volume levels, or start higher and by the end of the night its lower and lower. While I do not want the speaker to unnecessarily add or colour the presentation I am also not stuck on transparent and natural sounding speakers. I am not looking for too much bass either, I am happier with bass being there but, in the background. It needs to be punchy, tight, and controlled. While enjoy hearing higher frequencies, I do not want the speakers to be so bright they wear you out over longer listening times.

Arriving to Wellington I had a plan to visit three stores.

One store which represents brands such as Sonus Faber and Monitor Audio closed their doors on Saturday earlier then the information I was given which was unfortunate.

One of the stores just moved premises and while operational they seemed little distracted. They often have PMC speakers in stock, but apparently there is currently no PMC stock in NZ. I guess this is understandable with impact of Covid on production and logistics. They also at times have Spendor, but not yesterday. So only listening option I had was Q Acoustics Concept 500 and ELAC Vela. 500 while beautiful have a large footprint so we moved to ELAC FS 407 model, the demo was done using a NAD M10. Now, from my past experiences with the likes of Monitor Audio I am not the biggest fan of ribbon / jet tweeter sound. But I was pleasantly surprised at the presentation from Vela, perhaps the new wave-guide made all the difference. While M10 can push 100W, just like when I compared the M10 to the Atom which is rated at 40W I felt it was not delivering the punch needed to make these speakers shine. I also got the feeling I was a burden on the store, perhaps just too much going on with the move, in past they have given me great service. So, after a while I felt it was best to walk away from the demo and perhaps return at latter stage when things are more settled, and more stock arrives in the country.

So that left me with the last store, this is where the day becomes interesting.

To start I was surprised to walk into a store full of speakers, there was a lot to see there. From little Totems and Rega’s to Sopra’s, even the Borg was present. This store has started expending their brands and there was a lot of new product to check out.

It was immediately obvious that my plan of visiting three stores in a day was flowed. I should have given the entire day to one store, perhaps even book the demo. Something I must consider for next time. But I hit jackpot at least with some of my intended quarry, two of the candidates were there and available for impromptu demo.

Demo was run using a Auralic G2.1 and Rega Aethos Integrated Amplifier, Tidal and Qobuz as music source and I think speaker cable was Naim SL.

First up was the Fyne 501SP, wow they are a stunning looking speaker in white, beautiful. We started with J. J. Cale. For me immediate presentation failed to grab my attention, it sounded to me like the vocals were shifted further behind, sounded muffled almost. We moved to London Grammar and Elder Island and bass was simple overwhelming. 501SP was not what I was hoping for, I started to think is this the room, is it the gear. This is always a massive concern for me, are we walking from gold just because of the demo, room, gear. Always leaves me with doubt. I am not done with 501SP, but based on yesterday I am not sure they will become my speaker.

While I was hoping to demo something from TA Element series, they had none in stock. So, we then moved to TA Tribe Tower. Speaker I heard in past with Naim gear and loved it. In this case same demo gear as per above was used. From such a compact floor standing speaker the sound is staggering. So much bass for a such a small speaker, but not overwhelming. Torent drivers really have immense control. While this speaker presentation never ceases to amaze me, I was not as impressed as I have been in past. Uncertainty kicked in again, if they sounded great in past in another store, why not the same today. Perhaps it is the room or demo gear (last time it was Naim), maybe that’s why 501SP also failed to impress. I even asked myself if I am in right state of mind for demo today.

So by this time I was ready to exit stage left when another option was mentioned, as I said before I am open to other options.

It started with….I have been listening to your comments, music and feedback and it made me wonder what you would say about these, they arrived recently and there is not much information about them yet.

Enter……FinkTeam KIM……presented in American walnut with white front facia and black stands.

You might like to consider these, for your information pair including stands starts from NZD 21,000 (GBP 10,900), with most premium finish costing NZD 30k (GBP 15.5k)……stunned silence.

Now before we dig any deeper, let’s make some things clear;

  • I was thinking NZD 10k
  • I am not a big fan of 70’s square or rectangular box speakers
  • I prefer a size of traditional bookshelf and floor stand speakers over something in the middle
  • I am not a fan of slim metal speaker stands, I prefer something more designed/substantial
  • I am not a big fan of ribbon tweeter sound, well until yesterday at least

I heard about the FinkTeam in the past, but that was in connection to WM-4 and Borg speakers, not KIM. FinkTeam’s Karl-Heinz Fink is also the new owner of Epos speakers which he purchased from Creek Audio. Turns out that KIM is the newest and smallest model from FinkTeam, so new it is still to be added to their website product range.

First thing you think when you see KIM is modern interpretation of JBL L100 minus the foam grille, KIM comes without grills. Then you notice the slim metal stands, and a ribbon tweeter and you think……hmm……these are all the things that would normally put me of. Then you realise you are still looking at them and not walking away.

Their design while very 70’s is simple and elegant, retromod to some extent. Something that I think can stand the test of time. The horizontal length of ribbon tweeter and surround plate with its bottom curve even integrates the tweeter as part of the design somehow. That length makes the ribbon more interesting to look at vs the usual shorter round ribbon twitters. And then there is the 8-inch black classic pulp composition woofer positioned without any visible mounting screws in the middle of the white plate, so clean and simple, it just works. Even the quaint stands make sense, by the way the black stands are included with speakers. They tilt the speaker ever so slightly for best listening position, some adjustment is possible. All finished with an elegant FinkTeam name plate.

They are rear ported but at the top of the speaker and apparently don’t mind being close to the wall, this is a good thing in a small room. We positioned them 5cm/2in away from the wall at the top of the speaker and they had no complaints during the demo. Also there was no toe in during demo, I was surprised considering the ribbon tweeter. Some of the reading I did after suggested positioning them away from the wall gets them even happier.

Around the back and next to the speaker posts are two knobs labelled Damping and High. The damping knob is to change the damping of the 8” woofer (with a 38mm voice coil) whilst the HIGH knob changes the way the 110mm AMT tweeter behaves, effectively it makes it more or less prominent. I think during demo Damping was set at 1 and High was set in the middle.

We started the demo with J. J. Cale again and within seconds I felt like I was sitting in a chair on Cale’s front porch somewhere in Tulsa. Emotions overwhelmed me almost immediately, every part of my body was tapping away. Definitely not the feeling I got from prior two demos.

Move to London Grammar, massive soundstage, huge vocals, controlled bass, so much fun. Elder Island, much of the same.

Nick Cave, well Nick was in the room with us. In fact, one of the store guys was sitting in the office next door and came to have a listen, he said he couldn’t resist, sounded great from where he was next door.

And then it started….I wonder if this would sound good, did you hear this, what about that song from this album…… we were having fun, it’s the moment you realise this is no longer a demo, something special is happening. I think if anybody walked in the store at time we would have never noticed them.

We then thought what about different demo system, Rega Aethos was replaced with small Heed Audio Thesis Gamma, a Stereo Power Amplifier controlled by the Auralic G2.1 pre-amp.

Well, I think this was even better, its only 60W per channel but somehow delivered even more control then Rega at 125W, more punch, sounded more analogue, reminded me of Naim. On paper KIM are not the most efficient, 86db based on specs in reviews, but they seem easy to drive.

These moments are what music and audio gear is all about.

All I can say I was struggling to end the demo and walk out, FinkTeam KIM left me comfortably numb. On the drive back my prefrontal cortex was working overtime to stop amygdala from ringing the store and ordering a set.

These speakers have such a wide soundstage, they are easy to position, they are relatively compact, they can handle so many different genres of music, they sound great at lower volume levels, they are something special at upper volume levels, bass in well controlled. They feel like one of those speakers that will be around for years, investment rather than just another speaker.

When I came home, I could not resist researching, and I found some early reviews. What I found interesting is that I normally spend a lot of time researching and reading reviews before demonstrating any gear. In a demo I often find I do not agree with review or my experience ends up very different. However, in this case I heard something before research and formed my own opinions. Reading the reviews after I found myself agreeing with so much of what was said in the reviews. This somehow feels even more rewarding as you feel like you are not influenced by the review prior to listening.

Using my calm and logical approach yesterday morning the plan was 10k on XPS DR and 10k on speakers, now I am considering 21k speakers…… no doubt that is the amygdala logic. By the way I just find out that the olive with white front which I like even more than walnut comes at a 3k premium, so it keeps getting worse.

I was very thankful to the store team for introducing me to these very special speakers, I am not done with KIM yet. I will come back, and I think bring my system to demo them properly. And I still want to hear some other speakers especially if budget may now be changing. But KIM’s left such an impression on me I am in trouble. I think for speakers you might keep for few years is worth considering KIM. It also makes me wonder what Herr Fink will make with the Epos range when he gets some time to design.

I hope the follow up demo will be the same, and that Naim will be able deliver even better experience. I have a gut feeling it will, I think SN2 will have even more control over them then Rega or Heed/Auralic combo.

I hope those of you looking for a similar speaker do not walk pass these as I did, they might be little retro but they are something special and deserve our attention even if it’s just a demo. As Coco Chanel said…“The best things in life are free, the second best are very expensive.” I hope you get to hear them at some stage and your experience is just as enjoyable.

My hunt continues, but the quarry has somewhat changed…

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So nice to read impressions of the KIM together with Naim gear.
I like the look of the KIM and I have read the reviews which are already out there. I was always wondering how they perform at the end of a Naim chain.

Thanks for your very detailed report. :slight_smile:

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Yes the KIM speakers have received some excellent reviews, including an absolute rave from Martin Colloms in HiFi Critic.

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As far as I know, the Fink team in Essen /Germany was heavily involved in the development of Naim’s BMR unit in the Ovator series?

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Yes thats my understanding, also Q Acoustics Concept 500. And many more including automotive audio development.

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The speakers has been recently also introduced here in Norway. Same situation as in NZ, but closer to Germany. Really curious to hear one of those :slight_smile:

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Thx…interesting

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This has got to be the longest Opening Post I’ve ever seen, Man great effort :+1:t3: and enjoy the journey. ATB Peter

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Most disappointing thing after all that work was realising there is no longest opening post forum badge, gutted :joy:

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Definitely worth the effort @Pylod

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I wondered by the same shop a couple of weeks ago and heard the Kim’s being run in. They did sound rather engaging, and I’m quite the fan of the way that they look.

And as someone who started with Epos ES-12’s, I’m really interested to see where they take the brand.

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Absolutely, I would agree with engaging.

As I said it quickly stopped being a demo and became a listening session, and to me that makes them extra special.

Challenge now is that we are talking double my original budget which opens up so much choice. It makes you wonder what else is there I must consider. For example Wilson Audio TuneTot.

KIM are unique as they are not massive which works well for me. Alot of other speakers in 20k bracket are to big for my room.

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