The FinkTeam KIM from Germany reminds me that I have this weird intuition about speakers, that I can take a single glance—even a photograph—and determine it’s a design I need to hear. It’s a feeling that doesn’t happen often, but when I have it I wind up being right. Usually, it has to do with an unconventional appearance, or unusual proportion, a sort of transducer swagger that comes along less frequently than you would think in a hobby that’s being taken over by lifestyle products. It’s a sign, at least to me, that someone is thinking out of the box.
This happened the first time I saw the Trenner & Friedl ART monitors, with their small front baffle visually offset by an unusually deep cabinet. I had to take a listen, and now I’ve owned a pair for well over a dozen years. It happened again with the Fern & Roby Ravens just a few years ago—I saw an image of these retro-looking single-driver speakers in a magazine advertisement for a high-end audio show and I said, “That’s going to be the first room I visit.” The Ravens, of course, set me off on my current adventures with solid-wood enclosures that is just now hitting its stride. And now, I have had that same intuition with the FinkTeam KIM.
Right off the bat, I clearly dig the look of the FinkTeam KIM monitor. It’s fairly beefy and substantial for a two-way stand-mount, and on its fixed stands it sits low and tilted back at a graceful angle. I like the proportions of many larger-than-average two-way monitors, perhaps because it reminds me of some of the classic BBC monitor designs or maybe even the Snell Type J bookshelf speakers I owned back when I was in college. In fact, the overall heft of the FinkTeam KIM monitors reminds me of another slightly over-sized but otherwise remarkable monitor, the Epos ES-14. Of course, that classic ES-14 design is now available in an updated form from FinkTeam.
The shape of the cabinet isn’t boxy at all with its shapely baffle and gorgeous drivers, including an AMT tweeter with a Mundorf core. (The Heil/AMT folded membrane tweeter is making a comeback, and I couldn’t be happier.) My review pair came with an olive finish with some big, vibrant grain, matched visually with an unexpectedly thick white baffle, and I’m going to come right out and say this finish, this combination of colors with unexpectedly stunning contrasts, makes the Kims among the most gorgeous speakers I’ve had in here over the last couple of years. These aren’t wild conversation pieces, but tasteful and reserved speakers that still possess the wow factor.
The FinkTeam KIM first showed up on my radar when a pair were reviewed by Hi-Fi Pig a couple of years ago. I’ve discovered that my taste in high-end audio gear is very similar to that of Stuart and Linette Smith, especially since we both love Lab12 gear from Greece. The Smiths enjoyed the KIMs and gave them a strong review. I kept looking at those photos and thinking, “Those look cool. I want to hear them.” That intuition had kicked in once again.
But it hasn’t been easy. FinkTeam has only recently secured US distribution with the Matterhorn Audio Group, so the KIM and the larger FinkTeam Borg aren’t quite wandering in pairs through the back alleys and pool halls across America. I was teased even further when FinkTeam exhibited at High End 2022 in Munich last May and the KIM and the Borg were relegated to a static display while FinkTeam’s rebooting of that Epos ES-14 took center stage.
Finally, we met face to face at the Pacific Audio Fest in late July, courtesy of a couple of exciting rooms from Matterhorn. I heard the $12,990/pr USD FinkTeam KIM. I even heard the larger Borg, a floor-standing two-way that runs for $38,490/pr. Both speakers sounded quite wonderful paired with amps and sources from a newly re-energized Creek Audio—another Matterhorn brand. The Borg was extremely impressive, but it was the FinkTeam KIM that captured my attention and told me it was the one I wanted to bring home so I could get to know it better.
Inside the FinkTeam KIM
The FinkTeam KIM is a fairly easy-to-drive loudspeaker, with its 86 dB sensitivity and 8-ohm nominal impedance that never dips below 5.9 ohms. The KIM employs an 8” woofer with a 38mm voice coil, which crosses over to the AMT tweeter at 2200 Hz. The FinkTeam website gives two different numbers for frequency response, 35Hz-25kHz at 10db and 45Hz-23kHz at 6db. My ears, for what it’s worth, tells me the truth (in my listening room, at least) can be found in the middle somewhere. 45Hz sounds stingy; the KIMs delivered very satisfying bass in my listening room, and I sensed a substantial amount of info coming through below 40Hz.
The FinkTeam KIM is a reflex design with a rear-mounted slot, dubbed the CleanPort resonator, mounted almost to the top of the rear of the cabinet. The enclosure itself is braced and features Strunk Absorbers, and the panels are double-layered and damped all sandwich-like. With the stands, the KIMs weigh over 25 kg each—beefy, but not too heavy to move around easily when it came to positioning.
According to the FinkTeam website:
“The basic crossover topology is 4th order acoustic Linkwitz-Riley but with an all-pass delay for the HF unit and some simple impedance compensation at the low end to make KIM easier to drive. All the inductors in the crossover are zero distortion air-core designs with polypropylene film capacitors also chosen from Mundorf. Resistors are a combination of Mundorf low inductance and Bifilar types.”
Plenty of striking finishes are available with the FinkTeam KIMs. Standard finishes include Amarra Ebony with a black front (like the pair the Smiths reviewed), American walnut with a white front, white matte with a steel grey front and black matte with a black front. Optional finishes include American walnut with black, American black cherry with stone grey, olive with a white front (again, this pair) and high gloss piano black with a black matte front.
The level of fit and finish on the FinkTeam KIM is superb. I’ll say it again—it’s a beautiful two-way monitor.
Those distinctive and somewhat retro stands do come with the FinkTeam KIM monitors, and they are permanently fixed. Yes, that means there is no assembly required. You open up the designated side of the box and slide the KIM out, easy as pie.
I wound up pulling the FinkTeam KIM monitors further away from the back wall than most of the smaller two-ways I’ve had in. The KIMs have a nice, punchy bass that goes unexpectedly deep, and in my listening room that bass could quickly overpower the room. I brought them forward another foot or so, and I could hear the bass adjust with each position in a very linear and predictable way. When I found the right spot, those lowest frequencies opened up and revealed more of those tiny details and nuances that add to the illusion of real performers standing in front of you.
When you look at the back panel of the FinkTeam KIM, you’ll see a couple of knobs. One is marked HIGH, and basically adjusts the output of the AMT tweeter. The other knob is labelled DAMPING, which controls the damping of the 8” woofer. The last time I had to deal with a knob on the back of a speaker, I played around the settings and eventually migrated back to the factory defaults. I wound up doing the same thing with the KIMs. They arrived from the Pacific Audio Fest with HIGH set at “0” and DAMPING set at “1,” and by the time I checked all the options I wound up staying with the original setting.
It is a thoughtful feature, however, since it allows the FinkTeam to mate well for a variety of amplifiers—tube and solid state, powerful or not. Stuart Smith of Hi-Fi Pig also mentioned that the boosting the HIGH knob fleshed out some detail at lower volume levels, and that’s a plus for many audiophiles. Under different circumstances, I’d be twiddling those knobs a bit more.
I tried the FinkTeam KIMs in a number of system configurations—there was a lot of review gear coming and going right after the Pacific Audio Fest. I eventually settled on hooking the KIMs up to the Bel Canto e1X integrated amplifier, which also includes a DAC, a streamer and a phono stage—along with 200 watts per channel Class D—for just $8,500. Sources were the Sparkler Audio S-515u compact disc transport/DAC, and the Pear Audio Blue Kid Howard turntable with the Cornet2 tonearm and the ZYX Ultimate Airy X cartridge. Phono stage was the Allnic Audio H-6500. I stuck with this system for the majority of the review because, well, it really sounded wonderful and I wanted to savor the process.
FinkTeam KIM Sound
I’ve been mentioning slap in some of my recent reviews, and I think that my definition of the term might have been coined while the FinkTeam KIM speakers were playing. By slap, I mean that human sound that’s associated with the making of music, the special sounds that accompany the pure tones, so we know someone is making them as opposed to a machine. I think there’s more to the term than that, at least in my head, that’s tied in with transients, of having a crisp edge on your sound to help it feel like part of the real world.
I don’t know if that makes sense, and I’m certainly not “trying to make fetch happen,” but it’s a word that’s become meaningful for me, especially when we study those grey areas where the differences between real and recorded get blurred.
I guess that’s all a fancy way to say the FinkTeam KIM loudspeakers had a natural and realistic sound, very three-dimensional, with lots of extension at the frequency extremes. They also imaged superbly and cast out as big of a soundstage as any of the larger speakers I’ve had in my listening room. They disappeared, obviously, but in that way that shifts the spotlight toward the tonality of the speaker. You notice these speakers sound lifelike because there’s much less getting in your way.
Over time, I started to feel like the FinkTeam KIMs were neutral in all the right ways—the presentation always had a full and coherent balance between the ample bass response and the delicate and detailed highs from the AMT tweeter. Yet I felt a strong emotional bond with the music while listening to the speakers, which is something I usually associate with warmth. Is there an inherent warmth in the KIMs? If so, it’s not prodigious. In fact, under certain circumstances it was almost imperceptible, almost hiding in the shadows. But I could feel its presence.
The FinkTeam KIMs, in fact, reminded of pure class A amplification done right, as with my Pureaudio gear. You get that sense of extreme detail, that slap again, but there’s an underlying smoothness that keeps the sound in check, from going over into the sharp and jagged side, a place I have no interest in visiting.
The FinkTeam KIM arrived just as I was digging into my new Pear Audio Blue Kid Howard turntable with the Cornet2 arm and getting everything optimized (with help from the AnalogMagik software, of course). That means I listened to a lot of vinyl with the KIMs in the system, which is a good thing.
When I reviewed Lyn Stanley’s new Christmas LP, Novel Noel, it was with the FinkTeam KIMs in the system. (My first listen, however, was with the Credo EV 350 Reference monitors, which did a superb job as well.) Lyn’s recordings are so meticulous, and her standards are so high, that it’s a disservice to listen to her LPs without a pretty decent audio system. The FinkTeam KIM monitors made it easier to realize how Lyn expanded her sound for this project with a larger ensemble than she used for her Julie London recordings. This added scale brought a fine balance between the inventive and fun arrangements and an underlying seriousness that are present in her vocals—that sense that we survived our collective journey, but we lost precious things along the way. A lesser set-up tends to focus on one feeling more than the other, but the KIMs were so balanced and honest that you understand Lyn’s motives more clearly.
It would be difficult to talk about a two-way monitor with generous low frequencies without bringing up the Yulunga test—I did it, and the KIMs passed with flying colors. I also took the KIMs on a Chocolate Chip Drip trip, and they were one of the few two-way monitors I’ve heard that bring Danny Carey’s huge and esoteric drum kit into the room, where you can hear him move and shift and even pivot his body.
It sounds like I’m talking about a two-way monitor—a fairly expensive one at that—that has some pretty impressive bass. But the FinkTeam KIM is far more than that, especially when you start talking about the AMT tweeters and why they’re becoming so common in the industry. New Dreams, from Barry Coates, Jimmy Haslip and Jerry Kalaf, is a great test for treble since Kalaf’s ride cymbal plays such a prominent role in the album. Ride cymbals can tell you a lot about a tweeter, but they have to do more than just shimmer. You should be able to connect each tone with its corresponding location on the cymbal, and how close the tip of the stick is to the bell, and if you focus you can even see the movement of the cymbals when they’ve been struck.
That’s how I judge a speaker’s performance at the frequency extremes—again, there should be slap at the far ends that you can clearly detect, and they should further inform you about details of the performance. The FinkTeam KIMs preserve this insightful feeling, that you’re learning as you listen, and that feeling sticks from top to bottom.
FinkTeam KIM Conclusions
From the beginning of this review, I’ve hinted that I started off with an expectation. That’s not a great way to review—can you imagine if I stopped right after unpacking them and declared them the winners? Much of that is set in place by their tremendous good looks, and how much I love having them in my listening room. That’s a very important reason to buy a pair of high-end audio speakers.
I’m just kidding, sort of. Those certainly aren’t reasons to buy a pair of the FinkTeam KIMs, but they are a particularly tasty layer of icing. No, there’s a real reason to buy the KIMs, and it’s because they sound amazing. Of course I recommend them.
The FinkTeam KIM monitors had so few shortcomings that I stopped worrying about finding them at all. Are they perfect? I have heard the FinkTeam Borg, and they cover far more ground than the KIMs—especially in terms of a solid and deep foundation—but for around three times the price. FinkTeam set out to preserve as much of the Borg’s strengths in the KIM at a certain price point, and the company succeeded admirably. I remember sitting in the Matterhorn Audio Group exhibit room at Pacific Audio Fest and comparing the two back-to-back, and while the Borg edged out a win, I couldn’t stop thinking about the FinkTeam KIM and its very close second place finish.
In my own listening room, that loudspeaker intuition I have was once again on the nose. The FinkTeam KIM was a wonderful companion and didn’t give me one ounce of trouble. We smiled and we laughed and we had a good time, and if it was up to me they could’ve stayed and hung out and drank all my good scotch for as long as they desired.