As Srajan pointed out so elegantly in a previous column, any serious listener -- we try to avoid the word audiophile -- is looking for neutrality in her or his system. The sum of all equipment should be free of final colorations. A piece of equipment adding some 'positive' coloration is neutralized by another piece of equipment with the same but inverted 'negative' coloration. The important point in audio versus video is the absence of objective calibrations. You can't attach a gizmo to your loudspeakers and calibrate the whole system as you do with a video screen or monitor when dialing in its brightness, hue and color balance settings to conform to a standardized norm. Music lovers are free to calibrate their systems by ear. And for that, we hopefully use live music and live instruments as our reference.

Swapping a piece of equipment in a 'reference' set can cause havoc, shattering instantly that very neutrality you worked so hard to achieve. The latest entry into your system might shift all parameters in such a way as to not enable you to look through the sum of all parts and point unequivocally at the offender. The easiest way, naturally, is to blame the new kid on the block. And that's where the bullying starts. But what if the effects were diametrically opposite? What if the new kid opened things up to enter a whole new dimension of aural layers and give the listener a previously unknown rush? Now you worship the newcomer, you raise him on your shield and carry him 'round town while praising the blessings you received.

Or is the newcomer one of the Detailists, that barbarian horde of pinpointers who, like Caesar, are mistaken for the great liberators? Add one of those to the system and you can hear the ear clip of the left violinist tinkle and the tummy rumble of the tympanist in the back. Unfortunately, far too many cables are a member of the Detailist sect and add a sort of brightness that seems translated into inspiring detail. Alas, the music disappears too, the coherence of a symphony -- as the word itself already implies -- is sacrificed. You only hear details. You no longer see the forest through the trees.

Crystal Cable added nothing we could spot. We attempted to conduct this review in a structured fashion. We created a posh diagram with all of our non-cable equipment to the left and, for cable tracking, some empty columns on the right. At the bottom of the sheet, we left room for notes. Real scientific? Yeah. The tests started with having to make a choice about which software to play. We both agreed on Al di Meola's World Symphony because it is pleasant to hear many times over in a short period and is rich in sounds and structure.

First victim to the cable races was the CEC transport. It got a new mains cord. No great differences with the old cord except perhaps for a little softer sound. Next was the loaner Linn Unidisk. This power cord change made a bigger difference for some unknown reason. Let's call the resultant effect a little more bloom. Both sources now reverted to the original cords to let the TacT RCS acting as preamp have its way with CrystalPower. No difference. Next it went on the DAC. Whoopee, here the cord arrived in its proper place. The extra shielding freed up more dynamics and the overall system sound acquired added directness, as though sitting next to a drum kit. The drummer hits a cymbal and your eyes blink reflexively. Nice.

Finally the power amp received the Crystal cord treatment and here the difference or influence was most pronounced. It seems our environment is prone to "plenty of bad vibes floating around". Cleaning these up added some bass extension and gains in midrange realism as well as a minor perspective shift, as though moving one or two rows further back in the hall.

After the individual uses of the mains cords, it was time to add them all up. Each piece of hardware in our setup now benefitted from a Crystal power cord. We took notes after every addition. The Sum of all Power Cords (a new Jack Ryan movie title?) caused the music to both be more stable and more at ease - not more detail but more seamless coherence. Before getting to the next step, we listened for some time to various old and new software to settle in with the changes.

The following day was interconnect day. We proceeded systematically as with the power cords. Because we already used shielded silver interconnects before, we couldn't tell any difference. However, switching to a copper digital interconnect made a big difference. Probably not everyone's 75-ohm cable is really 75 ohms. After the individual cable swaps, we went all Crystal with the small signal connection. The prior experience repeated itself - the uniformity of using the same cable throughout added stability and ease.

The last step in the cable chain experiment was the loudspeaker cable. We needed 6 meters from the amplifier to the Duos' midrange horns The left channel made it necessary to cross the room. Our reference cable has a very bright pink and purple cotton jacket that stands out on the blue carpet as a warning sign not to step on it. With the new cables, we could run the tiny single wire between rug and under-carpet. Stepping on it was no problem and the danger of tripping over it removed.

From the midhorn of the Duo, two additional cables connected the tweeter horn and powered woofer section. Even though this amounted to a fair amount of cable, they visually nearly disappeared. We can imagine how a multi-channel setup would really benefit from this approach.

With the whole system crystallized, it was time for a final assessment. A mere few words will describe the results: Ease & quietness. The background was black and quiet to release the music without effort. The neutrality we had worked so hard on installing with our choices of equipment, accessories and modifications remained untouched. There is no reason to assume the new cabling added anything. Rather, it properly limited its contributions to a reduction or perhaps even complete elimination of noise to create more space for musical expression. Our system with its high-sensitivity horns is already very fast and reveals the slightest distortions in a recording or the following chain. These cables simply removed some of the remaining obstructions.

Is Crystal Cable the very best cable around? No, we don't think so - but it is definitely in the top 5% of the market. And that's for a company right out of the gate. Then there's the issue of pricing. By now, a big bulky cable with a firm price tag is well accepted. It makes you think you get a lot of value - the pound-per-dollar logic. Crystal Cable doesn't come free, either. In fact, the price tag on its very thin cables is something many people will have to get used to. But in the end, they're exactly like the photos Gabi is using for her publicity - fine and precious like upscale jewelry.

Second opinion:
Like my Dutch friends, I too had received a Crystal Cable Reference wire set. My findings mirror theirs to the proverbial tee. The philosophy underlying Crystal's design and manufacture could be paraphrased with the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm. Clearly belonging to the school of thought that doesn't think of cables as tone controls or tuning devices, the Reference Crystal wires just get out of the way without shining the spotlight on any specific attribute or quality. The only thing they 'do' in any quantifiably active fashion is lower the noisefloor. This expectedly results in small gains of presence if your prior setup was already very good in this regard but could, in a different context, make for rather drastic improvements in transparency and micro detail retrieval. In my personal circumstance, I found the signal cables to be virtually indistinguishable from the HMS Gran Finale, albeit lacking the latter's tuning options which, if I may say so, do come in terribly handy especially for reviewers with their constant arrival of new gear. The CrystalPower cords were superior to the HMS Energias in their ability to further drive down the noisefloor. Unlike the just-reviewed ZCable Reference cables which struck me as belonging to the slightly additive school of cable design especially in the domains of body or heft, the Crystal Cable products seem designed for utter neutrality. The only thing I've recently heard that seems to do even less to the signal is the amorphous Stealth Indra - and at its lofty price, one would expect that although cables many times the Indra's expense can't duplicate its truly stunning degree of non-doing.

My only criticism of the Crystal Cable has already been addressed. The little gold leads protruding beyond the WBT spades on the speaker cables were conductive. In a biwire/biamp array like on my Gallo Reference IIIs, this could have shorted the two amplifiers by having the lower leads touch the binding posts above. This little metal sleeve has since been shortened to be entirely encased by the banana/spade body. Perfect! So all around, this new kid on the cable block is a real winner. It takes its place alongside known neutral quantities such as the best HMS without trepidation or blushing. For once, going Dutch doesn't entail a subtext of cheaping out. Going Dutch now becomes synonymous with real class and the very best. Say cheese - and the Dutch kind is awesome to begin with...
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