Man big strong. Go hunt, bring home meat. Protect woman, enforce law and order. Make woman pregnant, change order. Be king and rule. Make other woman pregnant. Set off nasty trouble. Scratch scrotum perplex. Law no work. Run quick. Far away. Start heroic journey in wilderness. Better luck next village. Why not?

No matter how Neanderthal, echoes of gender roles survive. Cite biological hardwiring. Few women in Hifi industry then. Though if a better woman stands behind every good man as the saying insists, audio is peopled with females. And not just dish washers, laundry queens and bed warmers to keep their men happy and fit for the important work. It is uncommon though to find -- or at least hear of -- ladies in the back rooms of the engineering departments (amp designer Kara Chafee of DeHavilland is one proud exception). The ladies we do hear of are visible front women like Kathy Gornik of Thiel.

Dutch Crystal Cable is of course fronted by Gabi van der Kley. Because Edwin van der Kley operates Siltech, it's convenient to apply Neanderthal reasoning -- what little there is of it -- and assume. That Gabi's merely the pretty face in the public's eye. That she designs pretty
packaging, pretty ads and flirts with prospective distributors to sway vital business decisions. That the heavy lifting of engineering and the really important organizational details rest securely in the strong hands of manly men covering her back.

But somewhere in all of that, the 21st century happened. To wit, the separation of church and state in the Kley household is absolute. Edwin handles Siltech, Gabi handles Crystal. Though you'd think that these companies are really joined at the hip, with the rest posturing and public fluffery, they are in fact operated entirely separately. My first whiff of that occurred at the last Stereophile Show in NYC. Arranging to meet with Gabi on Crystal Cable time, Edwin excused himself. "Crystal Cable is her business. I don't get involved. I don't even want to know about it." I'm Neanderthal at heart. I thought he was putting me on.
Gabi assured me that he wasn't. And Edwin did not strike me as a girlie man. Far from it. But he really did make off, leaving the two of us alone. Unprompted. This truly was how the Kley is played. Going Dutch all the way - separate bills right down the middle. In business, mind you. They have four kids together.

As though to illustrate this point further, Gabi recently told me that Edwin didn't even know of the Crystal Cable Ultra until after it had been introduced at the 2006 Moscow show. As the implications congealed behind my sloping forehead, Gabi confirmed. She worked with her own engineering department, told them what she wanted, took home prototypes, listened and asked for changes until she was pleased. Voila, Crystal Cable Ultra - Crystal's finest beating Siltech's best. Her words no less.

The timing of this revelation was uncanny. I had just published my review of Gabi's Ultra cable in which I'd credited Edwin and the Siltech engineering department for the R&D behind it. It didn't even occur to me to suspect otherwise. Neanderthal again. But primitive needn't mean unfair. I made a mistake that's probably not isolated. Unfortunately - men being men. Today's tale will set the record straight. Once and for all let's hope. After all, this is the 21st century. Or so I've been told...

Run as autonomous companies with their own engineering and listening teams as well as separate distribution chains, Crystal does share certain resources with Siltech. Advanced silver/gold metallurgy appears in both product lines. Siltech's G6 benefits from 800°C thermal treatment. The Kapton dielectric inside Crystal Cable's Ultra is exposed to heat treatment before sleeving. Sometimes
referred to as annealing, it's the counterpoint to cryogenic immersion. Alternating cycles of extreme heat/cold exposure are standard MO for spacecraft material sciences to refine molecular strength, purity and longevity. Now heat treatments appear in cable manufacture (for Siltech's finest and as an option for certain lower-tiered models, this process is currently restricted to the Dutch headquarters; the requisite machinery for it hasn't been introduced to Siltech America yet).

Geometrically, Siltech relies on twisted pairs, Crystal on coaxial architectures. Siltech cables are thicker, Crystal's amongst the skinniest in the industry. Edwin studied electronics at Delft and worked as computer programmer for Philips before launching Siltech. Gabi was a concertizing pianist who spent 25 years in Budapest and fronted her first orchestra on piano at the ripe age of 9, then entered the conservatory at 14 and finished cum laude by 19. Edwin owns Audio Physic Scorpio speakers, Gabi Martin-Logan Summit hybrids. Together, they're probably Holland's most famous active HiFi couple. With 39 global accounts in less than two years, Crystal Cable's market penetration and concomitant growth have been exemplary and unexpected. It's a good thing Edwin loves his wife. He could feel threatened or parked in the shade otherwise. As it is, a couple as life partners shares its successes in private. If anyone's counting, this one is healthy, sporting rivalry, not corporate warfare to the death. If Edwin were secretly counting? He might look forward to an eventual career as gentleman of leisure. With Gabi turning the world of cable sales on its ear, Crystal looks poised to overtake Siltech in sheer volume if it hasn't already. How's that for a mother of four? I'm reminded of Yulduz Usmanova who lived in downtown Rotterdam for a few years but began as a silk factory worker in Tashkent only to grow into the biggest EthnoPop singer sensation of Azerbaijan.

In retrospect, the slow rollout of this story gives Gabi the satisfaction of having proven herself on her own steam. Now that her success is obvious and undeniable, the male public -- reluctantly perhaps -- will grant her that she got there by herself. Had the Crystal/Siltech connection been open talk from first launch, most macho menschen would have assumed -- and stubbornly continued regardless of emerging breaks -- that Gabi merely advanced herself on the coat tails of her famous husband just as famous actor offspring are believed to arrive without real effort and genuine talent but purely on connections and greased palms.

A surprise element of Gabi's story is how feminine sensibilities in product appearance and corporate identity proved no hindrance in a male-dominated industry but -- if the explosive growth is any indication -- perhaps rather the intrinsic asset. If that were the case, a lesson is to be learned. For it is the consumer who ultimately decides the fate of companies. If consumers voting with their wallets declare a preference for cables that are flexible, skinny, elegant in cosmetics and bona fide performers, our male value system of bigger, stiffer and heavier could belong into the same evolutionary reject pile as the one the dinosaurs disappeared in. This isn't mere and pretty theory. The cable sector is the most crowded of the market. Making headway here is survival of the fittest pure and simple. Anyone going as gangbuster as Gabi clearly isn't simply lucky or tells an unusually persuasive bullshit story that hoodwinks the masses this far into the game.

No, the Crystal Cable concept works - from all angles. The question is, can it be cloned to loudspeakers and electronics? If so, who's in a position to lead that parade with the same style and smarts as Gabi has demonstrated for Crystal? That's probably a story for another day. For now, let's have Gabi add a few words of her own:

"The launch of Crystal Cable is of course a credit to Edwin and Siltech. Siltech uses the G5 -- now G6 -- alloy in a twisted pair conductor configuration which requires a different metal composition. We had to optimize the metallurgy for Crystal's coaxial design and chose a variant of the G5.

"We spent weeks on measurements, listening and adjustments, experimenting with different dielectrics -- Kapton, Peek, Teflon -- different suppliers and of course different connectors before launching the starting range, the Standard and the Reference lines. We always wanted to introduce a full range of cables right away. This meant video as well.

"At that time, I was not used to technical matters nor business. I was used to playing the piano, travelling to give concerts and later, to rearing children. I I did, however, have a very clear idea about the sound of the cables - how I wanted them to be. As a pianist, I always hated colleagues who made themselves more important than the music they played. My idea was -- and is -- to transfer the composer's score to the listener in as neutral a way as possible. Of course you imprint the marks of your personality and character but still, Chopin must speak through the pianist. You should hear Chopin, not Gabi.

"You can then readily guess how this was my ideal for Crystal Cable too - to electro-acoustically translate the
music in as neutral a fashion as possible. You will further appreciate why I am so very, very pleased with the feedback which I get more and more often, about the inherent neutrality of our cables.

This was in 2004. By CES 2005, we had introduced the Micro and Piccolo lines, succeeding to maintain the character of our sound with a thinner overall diameter at more affordable price points. The Piccolo interconnect starts at € 299 for a 1-meter pair, with a 1-meter Piccolo Power costing € 249 and a 2-meter pair of Piccolo Speak € 849.

In 2005, we developed our phono cable line and introduced the iPod cable. We also developed our own custom-made Crystal Cable spades (gold-plated OFC copper for the Piccolo, Micro and Standard lines; Rhodium-plated for the Reference and now Ultra lines). We are currently in the development phase for our own bananas, hopefully premiering them in the second half of this year.

"Upon the repeat insistence of our distributors, dealers and customers, we decided in January of 2006 to author the Ultra Series. We underwent the usual process of having a concept, then looking for the appropriate metallurgy and optimizing that with the newest technologies available for thermally treated metals. Listening tests and measurements followed, just as was the case for the other lines. We wanted to provide cables in a higher price range though remain below Siltech's most expensive while offering exceptional measured properties, superior sound quality and unprecedented looks. That look, very characteristic for Crystal Cable, is not only feminine, jewel-like and aesthetically refined but also hi-tech and very functional. For the speaker cables, the acrylic barrels are hiding the adapters so we've had a computer designer for Solid Works programs design the necessary shape and specs.

"Actually, our aim has once again been reached. We arrived at the Crystal Cable sound in the Ultras too, in a magnificent, noble new fashion. And indeed, all of this transpired without Edwin knowing about it. This holds for future developments as well. Some of them are still confidential, others are already in the testing phase.

The story in Hong Kong and China has been told already - how we were introducing the Ultra line to the press and Edwin was wondering which cables in the blind listening tests sounded so fantastic [I had not heard this before but it does make for a tantalizing anecdote - Ed.]. He also had no idea about the acrylic barrels, the serial numbers or the packaging.

"I could tell you many stories about my first two years as a female CEO in the international HiFi world; of many phone calls asking for my boss; of many e-mails titled 'Dear Sir' and endless trick questions, most far too technical, just to test me and trip me up. But I have learned a lot in the last two years, even if I was already used to travelling, dealing with the press and not being afraid to talk publicly in front of a few hundred, coming from my time as a concert pianist.

"I have learned technical specifications, the audiophile lingo, dealing with the audio hobbyists and presenting a very different brand in a very different way - as a matter of fact, making a kind of history with thin, beautiful and great-sounding cables. I think the market accepts this particular concept more readily from a woman.

"I always thought that I am not terribly businesslike. As a pianist, I never could negotiate my own concert fees or honorariums. Now I understand the difference. As a musician, you struggle with having to sell yourself - your emotions and feelings. Today I sell a product. There's a world of difference between stating "I am the best" versus, "my product is the best".

"I also try to de-mystify high-end audio, take it back to the ground floor. I remind people that it's not something only a few of us can hear or enjoy. With our special marketing approach, it is much easier to approach people outside of mainstream HiFi magazines and open up that potential audience. I give lectures and interviews for lifestyle magazines, to sales and marketing organizations and events. That's something completely different from Edwin's approach of course.

I'm also trying to take up the piano again. The last track on Todd Garfinkle's m.a. recordings SACD was one of the pieces we've already recorded. I also cut a new CD with another label as though life wasn't complicated enough already for me. So let's see where I am now if I look from where I've been 20 years ago.

"I'd won an international piano competition in Monza/Italy near Milan and had to play the gala concert at the La Scala. But
coming from communist Hungary, I had no money and peddled to the Scala on a bike, with my evening dress tucked into a small, red backpack. The venue security did not want to let me in. How times have changed. Things are very different for me now..."

Cave men beware I say (and Edwin, stop grinning like a cat that's just swallowed a pretty bird)! Thanks, Gabi, for sharing your story. Your speaking engagements to groups well outside the traditional HiFi media in particular seem like a blueprint for other audio companies to follow. This is scary-but-also-good news for all us left-over Neanderthals...
Crystal Cable website