KRAKOW SONIC SOCIETY
Gabi & Edwin Rijnveld (Crystal Cable and Siltech) are members of the Krakow Sonic Society. Read High Fidelity magazine's (Poland) report on the visit this summer!
ne of the most pleasant things about the job that I do – let me remind you, I am a specialist journalist who deals with the aspects of high-quality audio – is contact with people who share my passion for music and its best possible reproduction. These two poles of audio, i.e. music (art) and the method of its mechanical reproduction (technology) are inseparable and, I think, either does not exist without the other. However, in real life, constructors come close either to the former or the latter side of the equation, thus leaving their fingerprints in the product – something that makes them unique.
Perhaps this is why people who manage to keep almost ideal balance between these two elements are so interesting and trustworthy. Our friends: Gabi van der Kley-Rijnveld and Edwin van der Kley, who have created the Crystal Cable and Siltech brands together as part of the International Audio Holding BV, are among them. Let me remind you that both of them are members of the Krakow Sonic Society and this is the second time they have attended our meeting. Previously, they came to Cracow with a novelty – the Siltech Triple Crown interconnects and speaker cables (read HERE). This time they visited us bringing power cables representative for both brands.
Although both Crystal Cable and Siltech cables are designed by Edwin and manufactured at the same factory, the Crystal Cable brand is traditionally associated with Gabi, while Siltech – with Edwin. They highlight the division themselves, as each presents “their own” brand during exhibitions. What is more, delicate jewelry-like Crystal cables “fit” a women’s hand, while robust Siltech cables match a masculine style. Both brands have their target customers, as well as look and sound different. They share the same designer’s DNA, a similar outlook on the role of cables and the same factory. They differ when it comes to the type of conductors, their structure and sound.
POWER x 2
The presentations of new cables representative for both brands: The Ultimate Dream Power (Crystal Cable) and the Triple Crown Power (Siltech) have been the highlight of this year’s audio exhibitions, from CES 2017 in Las Vegas to High End 2017 in Munich. Let me add that a whole new series of The Ultimate Dream cables was presented, while Triple Crown interconnects and speaker cables had been known for about three years. Information on those presentations spread like waves on the surface of water and caused a lot of confusion. I have to admit that it was no exaggeration, but a real SOMETHING, as the presentation of Gabi’s system in Munich brought her the BEST SOUND award of our “High Fidelity” magazine – we gave it to Gabi at the beginning of the meeting.
The Ultimate Dream Power is now the flagship Crystal Cable power cable. Although it has a small cross-section, because of which the cable is very flexible, it consists of a set of seven solid-core wires, each in a separate double screen made of gold-plated monocrystal silver and monocrystal silver-plated copper. Six of them are made of silver using monocrystal technology, while the central silver-gold core works as a low-loss drain. A double layer of Kapton and a material called PEEK (PolyEtherEtherKetone) was used for insulation. At their ends, the cables have modified pins made by the Japanese Oyaide company, from its top F1 series. Let me add that the cables are very flexible and come in an elegant box that resembles a small trendy suitcase.
The new Siltech power cable makes use of new monocrystal S8 silver in air insulation (pipes with air). The topology is called Air Cradle Construction. It combines conductors having a very big total diameter and Teflon-based insulation of ultra-low density. Such a combination results in very low inductance, resistance and capacity. While research was being carried out on the cables, the company made use of previously conducted experiments examining the behavior of conductors in a magnetic field, also using COMSOL (Multiphysics software) and measurements taken with the help of FW Bell (3D Gauss) and Audio Precision (THD).
Although a power cable seems to be a not-too-significant element of an audio system, as “in the wall” and then in “the open air” we have kilometers of ordinary cables, the reality is more complicated. The thing is that magnetic fields generated by the flow of current in a cable are the cause of distortions in a few specific frequency ranges, then induced in all system devices as well as interconnects and speaker cables located nearby. Distorted current may be very high and lead to the saturation of the power cable, which additionally distorts supply voltage. The greatest distortions come from the higher harmonics of the 100/120Hz-450/500Hz frequency.
That is why Edwin puts special emphasis on the best possible power supply of the power amplifier or integrated amplifier, as power consumption is the highest there. The most demanding devices are A-class amps with very high current peaks. Such an attitude is exactly the opposite of what we have agreed upon during meetings of the Krakow Sonic Society. We have come to the conclusion that the element which is most susceptible to the change of the power cable is the signal source – e.g. a CD player. Both sides may be right.
The audio domain is based on comparisons and that is what we dealt with during our meeting. Power is supplied to Tomek’s system using inexpensive and pleasant Vovox power cables produced by a Swiss company, and we started our listening session with them. As we only had three Crystal Cable cables and there were four devices in the system, we used the Siltech Triple Crown Power cable in the power amp during the whole session.
However, we changed three other cables – one used with the CD transport (Ayon Audio CD-T), one with the D/A converter (Ayon Audio STRATOS) and one with the Accuphase C-3850 preamplifier. First, we replaced the Vovox cables with a set of the Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9500 and then with a set of the Siltech Triple Crown Power cables. After a break we compared the Siltech cables with the Crystal Cable The Ultimate Dream Power.
After the first and the second round I asked the participants for comments, after which we started a discussion. As usual, we did not totally agree with one another, except for one thing: the change of power cables resulted in very big changes in sound. The next part of the article attempts to inform you whether these changes were positive or negative. We listened to recordings brought by the participants.
RECORDINGS USED DURING THE SESSION
I would like to emphasize that the choice of recordings did not completely suit my preferences, which may have influenced my personal reception – I had not known either Ed Sheeran’s name, or the presented track and I must admit that this is not the stylistics I like. I had even more problems with Infected Mushroom, as, basically, listening to such music is painful for my ears (sorry, Mr. Tomasz) and, if I can, I instantly run away from it. However, I understand that it is necessary to contrast different styles and ways of recording music for comparison purposes. Besides, participants in the meeting have the right to have their own preferences
When it comes to my listening impressions associated with the subsequent cable sets, the first one, based on Vovox cables (i.e. the starting point), seemed quite aggressive to me and offered little differentiation, which I could hear especially clearly when we listened to the Emerson, Lake and Palmer trio’s Taurus – an album that I know quite well. The sound attacked us with chaos, creating dense magma. So, using Acrolink cables instead was a great increase in quality – there was more selectivity and space in all the tracks, although I could hear it most clearly in the case of the abovementioned ELP album.
However, when Siltech cables were used, it appeared that what I had considered to be analytical but full sound, had actually created a shapeless mass of sounds, as real selectivity appeared only with those cables. At the same time, strength was not lost, especially in electronic music where tone contrasts became significantly more audible, while the softness and silkiness of vocals increased, particularly in the case of Nat ‘King’ Cole, whose timbre gained even more juiciness and depth. However, on the other hand, I was struck by the colorlessness of the orchestra, which constituted a background for the vocalist, and its clear separation from the vocalist who suddenly “came closer” to the listener, leaving instrumentalists far away at the back.
However, in Bob Dylan’s deeper vocal that I have not mentioned yet, the cables twice as powerfully revealed a certain hissing effect with some consonants, which I had not perceived as unpleasant earlier, with Acrolink cables, and which now irritated me a little. Tarkus sounded even more interesting here, there were even more transparent details coexisting in a powerful wall of sounds that did not, however, merge into a “jelly”. Generally speaking, the cables revealed both the advantages and disadvantages of a recording, which may sometimes mean disappointment.
However, it appeared that the most surprising change of cables was yet to come: when I listened to Infected Mushroom, or especially Ed Sheeran, Crystal Cable made me feel that this was different music – it seemed the tone changed, sound became darker and reverberation, which must have been present in the recording, could be heard now, revealed by the cable. As we listened to those pieces at the beginning of the session with Crystal Cable and the change brought about such a striking effect, it stayed in my mind during the rest of the “program”, influencing my reception of pieces of Dylan’s, Nat ‘King’ Cole’s and Emerson’s music. It was hard for me to focus on capturing the differences between the present and the previous cable, as music simply gave me so much pleasure that I did not think about why I listened to it. In the end, this is what it is all about, isn’t it?
To recap, I would like to stress that, as other participants in the meeting also observed, I lacked a sample of classical music. Although I listen to jazz, I know Dylan’s works and I also often listen to old progressive rock (with electronic elements like on the ELP album), contemporary pop or electronic music (e.g. Infected Mushroom) was a new experience for me. However, despite everything, it would have been even more conclusive to compare this kind of music with what I know best, i.e. the set of instruments of a symphonic orchestra or an orchestra playing early music. That was my only reservation about the otherwise really inspiring experience.
As a guest and an absolute debutant at the meetings of the Krakow Sonic Society, I do not feel especially entitled to make judgments in the field of sound, particularly because it is harder for me to evaluate due to a lack of classical music, mostly vocal, which I deal with every day. Despite these limitations, I was could listen to artists representing different epochs, styles and genres, which allowed me to formulate an initial opinion on the topic we were all interested in, i.e. changes introduced by the new Siltech and Crystal Cable cables into Mr. Tomek’s system – changes that were discussed with reference to the highly valued Acrolink 7N-PC9500 cables.
During the first part of the listening session we used our host’s cables and I must admit that it came across as the worst, compared to the subsequent sets, which can be illustrated using two examples: the first minutes of the Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Tarkus suite and Nat King Cole’s But Beautiful song from The Very Thought of You album. In the former case, I got the impression of complete sound chaos, while in the latter the velvety vocal of the American singer seemed to be located too much in the foreground and aggressive, while emphasized sibilants deprived me of the pleasure of listening to this piece.
The problem with Nat ‘King’ Cole disappeared when Acrolink cables were connected to the system. They tend to slightly withdraw human vocal and smoothen contours without losing details and selectivity, thanks to which the Gordon Jenkins orchestra accompanying the singer did not sound as harsh as before. Bob Dylan came across equally well in a very beautiful ballad You’re a Big Girl Now, but something was still missing when we listened to ELP, while Infected Mushroom’s trance music seemed less convincing.
Tarkus gained life and took on the right proportions only with the Siltech cables. The sound stage was finally ordered and I did not get the impression of chaos. The dynamics was much higher, Ed Sheeran and Infected Mushroom sounded better than before, while Nat ‘King’ Cole and Bob Dylan came across a little different, although it is hard to say if better. In their case, it was not about the difference in sound quality, but something less perceptible that I am unable to properly define after such a short listening session. To sum up this comparison stage, I would say that Siltech won, but scored just a few more points. However, we did not listen to small jazz bands or symphonic music (an additional round would have been useful).
After a break we moved on to the last stage, i.e. a direct comparison of the two new power cables, and, in this respect, the participants’ opinions were the most divided. We listened to two additional jazz albums – Rosemary Clooney and The Oscar Peterson Trio, replacing Emerson and Dylan with them. The Ultimate Dream cable surprised me positively, as I had not listened to products manufactured by Gabi Rijnveld’s company before. What is more, it worked really well both in the case of Ed Sheeran’s and Infected Mushroom’s dynamic music, as well as, which is much more important to me, in the case of a small jazz band.
The sounds of Ray Brown’s double bass and Ed Thigpen’s drums did not silence or suppress the pianist, which I felt was the case when I listened to this standard with Siltech. Vocal music (i.e. Nat ‘King’ Cole and Rosemary Clooney) appeared to be more problematic. I could hear unwanted elements in the singer’s vocals and in the sound of the accompanying bands, but I got that impression only some time after the meeting ended and I would need to return to that set in order to listen to it again.
I am a 100% engineer, so, for me, the influence of power cables on sound is an experience close to magic or a cosmos with a different space-time curve… However, we could hear what was happening already when Acrolink cables were used. I have known these cables for 10 years and I know what they are capable of. Using an Acrolink power cable can usually be compared to tearing a curtain off.
So, I was really interested in the Siltech Triple Crown. And that was IT, to tell you the truth. And the truth is that we are overloaded with false information. This is what CD does – it serves rubbish that disturbs us – hence such admiration for vinyl or tape. The Siltech cable was dark, without artificial trinkets. And then the orchestra from Nat ‘King’ Cole’s album started to swing.
I also finally heard the dialog between the left and right hand of Keith Emerson’s keyboard. Between the orchestra and the vocalist. Even the mushrooms were somehow excitingly infected. A great cable. I cannot wait for it to play with my electronics at Janusz’s. This may be remarkable realism.
Crystal Cable for dessert. I say this straight away – it has clearly been influenced by a woman. These cables are beautiful! However, I know Crystal from many systems and sometimes I use them myself during prestigious exhibitions. I may agree with my colleagues who think the Crystal The Ultimate Dream power cable is less “real” than Siltech. However, it was the best option for this system! Let me remind you that the CD transport, preamp and power amp cost as much as the cables, perhaps less. Such a system has its limitations, especially when it comes to dynamics. It was Crystal that brought about the effect of a pretty PA entering a meeting of a bank’s supervisory board – everything came to life and gained new colors. Siltech cables may be a better tool for controlling more lively systems. However, in this case – Viva Crystal! Many thanks for the visit!
I must admit that the Siltech Triple Crown power cables impressed me no less than their interconnect counterparts two years ago. However, as a lot of people attended the meeting, I sat very close to one of the speakers, which made listening more difficult for me. Despite that, I was able to notice many sound features of the new Siltech cables that simply outclassed both my set of cables and the Acrolink cable set as well.
I was mostly impressed by the rhythm, energy, the depth of bass and the presentation of dynamic contrasts in the title track from the latest album of the Infected Mushroom duet – Return To The Sauce that I prepared for the listening session. For a moment I felt like during their live performance that I had the pleasure of attending less than a month ago in Milan. When it comes to Ed Sheeran’s latest album chosen by Bartek, the Siltech power cables managed to turn a compressed and colorless (as regards sound) track into an audiophile event. I was not disappointed with the latest Crystal Cable power cables, either. Their sound was a bit different from the sound of the Siltech cables, but the level and culture of sound were equally high.
Listening to the cables themselves would have been nothing without the pleasure of having Gabi and Edwin at the meeting of the Krakow Sonic Society for the second time. I think they are the most interesting people that I have ever met, not only when it comes to the audio industry. Edwin’s incredible knowledge and experience, and the natural ability to share them with an interlocutor, combined with perfect English characterized by an accent that is easily understood in our part of Europe, make me want to listen to him for hours.
It was very painful for me to disconnect the set of cables after a few days to return it to the owner. In order to reduce the shock, I am only listening to the radio at the moment, to get used to what I will hear when I use my own cables.
A meeting with co-believers.
This time, our 109th meeting was personally attended by Gabi and Edwin van der Kley from the Crystal Cable and Siltech companies. There was a good reason – the debut of their latest and top power cables. What did they sound like?
We started with VOVOX power cables that are part of Tomek’s system. When I shared my opinion, I managed to annoy two of my Friends:
When we connected the Siltech Triple Crown cables, a big change took place immediately, but this time within the frames of the same class as above. To cut a long story short, these are different aesthetics, both at the highest level. I instantly recalled the 108th meeting of the Krakow Sonic Society, i.e. the Kondo Ongaku vs the Ancient Audio Silver Grand Mono. Siltech cables stand for maturity, balance, density and great musicality – they show a rich and beautiful world, while Acrolink cables are associated with dynamics, unique richness of tones, clarity, detail and holography – the world may be rich, but not always beautiful. My brothers and sisters in music and High-End – you choose yourselves in your own paradise – only you can judge what you need.
For dessert, after “papal” cream pies from Wadowice, we connected Crystal Cable The Ultimate Dream cables for a moment. After listening to Siltech cables and eating the cream pies, it was cool: dynamics, emotions, perfect bass and music from the albums chosen by our younger brothers in faith from the Krakow Sonic Society lifted us to a higher level. Old monks from the KSS were not too excited, but what would Tomek and Bartek say to this? They will probably write about it themselves. Stay with High-End – yours, Rysiek.
A meeting with the top Siltech and Crystal Cable power cables was, as you may have guessed, a unique experience – not only because I could learn about their capabilities in the special company of the CEOs of both companies. These cables belong to the top and most sophisticated high-end of the audio world, available to few people – not only the rich ones but those who also have a lot of audiophile experience.
I will remember the meeting with the power cables for a long time – for two reasons. First of all, I was impressed with the elegant and visually minimalist Crystal Cable design. The manufacturer’s top power cables not only offered excellent sound (dense but not muddled; dynamic but not aggressive), but also proved that all attempts to prove audiophile-cable “myths” wrong are made in vain. In the end, one of the most important “proofs” that cables do not work is the argument of autosuggestion: if the cable is thick and red, it makes audiophiles perceive sound as large and warm. The Dutch cables are incredibly thin and white, and the power of their sound is sometimes unbelievable.
I have some more problems with the top Siltech power cables. They are objectively (if we can talk about objectivity in this context) better than the Crystal cables. The sound of the system with the former was more velvety, deeper and filled with various details. The presentation of the soundstage also made a bigger impression with the Siltech cables. However, this is what happens when we play a well-recorded album. It is because, which you must learn, Siltech power cables do not forgive errors.
When it comes to badly recorded and/or poorly made recordings, the Siltech cables will treat them mercilessly, cruelly emphasizing their disadvantages. So, it sometimes happens that one simply cannot listen to certain recordings – after their weaknesses are revealed, we will not want to return to them. That is why I, as a person who owns quite a lot of badly recorded stuff in his collection (mainly rock and metal), would opt for the Crystal Cable. I may lose something, but I also will stay calm when I decide to listen to a badly made recording.
When we start to hear sound, the first undeniable impression is: how different this is! In the case of the Acrolink cables, individual sounds are so direct, clear, audible and sonorous, while here the presentation is a bit different. Shocking? Yes, but not completely. It is a bit like the view of a single color, e.g. white, from the distance of several meters and the same color surrounded by different colors. It is still the same white, but our eyes are also disturbed by colors present nearby. Therefore, Acrolink cables show us certain sounds more clearly, as they do not transfer information about other sounds. Why? Because they are not there.
Such sound presentation characteristic for Acrolink cables is more or less typical for virtually all cables - interconnects, speaker or power cables. Of course, the basic difference in all remaining cables is the degree of retaining tonal balance and the presentation of sounds closer to the ones that we know from our experience. No speaker cable that I know offers what Siltech cables provide: maximum saturation and the density of details of the musical message combined with musicality.
I will not say too much about the presentation of human vocals through this cable. Let me just conclude that we can hear whether the artist is underperforming or really putting their heart into the performance. Another feature, which is not offered by the competition to such a degree, is the presentation of sounds in a natural size or size that is subconsciously accepted by our memory, known from the live presentation or our vision of it. This is simply incredible. No range seems to be privileged. There is as much of everything as is actually recorded. It is simply good – or even wonderful!
After we replaced the Vovox with Acrolink 9500 cables, the sound became more cozy and warmer, with a nicely sounding midrange. I paid attention to that in Bob Dylan’s ballad You’re A Big Girl Now from the Blood On the Tracks album. There are a few acoustic guitars which, together with the voice, seemed more beautiful to my heart, or perhaps ears, with the Acrolink cables.
Using the Siltech Triple Power Cord led to the exposure of details of the musical message. The ELP’s Tarkus sounded swift and selective (the sound reminded me of the musical message obtained with the use of the VOVOX cables – at least the philosophy of sound seemed similar to me). I must admit I had not visited Tomek for a long time and I had to get used to the sound of the place and system. As we started comparing straight away, because the listening session started with a considerable delay and there was no time to waste, we also had no time for foreplay. With Siltech, I liked Ed Sheeran’s and Infected Mushrooms’ recordings very much – they were energetic, with a selective, pulsating bass and excellently distinguished components of individual instruments. I gave 3:2 for Siltech, as I liked Dylan’s and Nat King Cole’s recordings more in the warmed-up version with the Acrolink cables.
The best part of the program was the comparison of the Siltech Triple Power Cord with the Crystal Cable The Ultimate Dream. The Crystal cable produced more bass and ignored the treble. When we listened to a track from the Infected Mushrooms’ album, it seemed that the membranes of the Dynaudio C4 speakers would get torn away, so I observed them attentively in order to avoid the danger of being hit, just like George Bush Jr. (our older readers may remember the situation with sandals in Iraq). I was afraid that either the membranes would fly away or the coils would burn down, as the bass of the recording was so strongly amplified. I definitely preferred to listen to other tracks (Ed Sheeran or The Oscar Peterson Trio) with the Siltech cables.
The difference between these two cables is evident and can be an excellent example for “atheists” that the power cable matters! Mr. and Mrs. van der Kley have prepared a great complementary offer for audiophiles – you can choose between two cables that produce completely different sound. There is no doubt they sound totally different. So, it is oat or hay, not GMO oat or BIO oat, which would confuse everyone. Those who love detail and a broad sound spectrum – choose Siltech, bass or “low kick” lovers – go for Crystal Cable.
Post scriptum – I left the meeting unable to decide if the new Siltech cable is a breakthrough compared to the Acrolink 9500, but then I had a short occasion to meet these cables again. A few days later, at Janusz’s, we listened to the Siltech cables connected only to the CD drive with five other Acrolink 9500 cables on other elements of the system, and then the Siltech cables intrigued me – especially when we listened to the poorly made Pergolesi’s recording Stabat Mater performed by Harmonia Mundi with Adreas Scholl as the vocalist. The Siltech cable controlled the characteristic of the recording in a secret, mystical and unexplainable way. We were able to listen to it with this cable. From that moment, I understood that the Siltech Triple Crown Power is a unique cable. It is necessary to have a closer relationship with it, which may mean nothing and end quickly, but it may as well turn into lasting fascination, which is potentially catastrophic in terms of money.
Oh, Tomek, I liked both your system and album very much. It is good to have some young blood and different music in the Krakow Sonic Society. I will willingly listen to other proposed recordings. Keep on going!!!!
Conclusion, i.e. Wojciech Pacuła
It must be admitted that the Siltech cables in this system were much better than the Acrolink cables. Perhaps the former did not outclass the latter, as the Japanese cables offer incredible energy and color, but with the Siltech cables we got more information and the sound was darker at the same time – a basic thing in high-end. Everything became more fleshy and lively. The Siltech cable differentiated between sound planes much better, both when it came to the location of phantom images on the sound stage and to the tone. The Acrolink cables seemed to be too “dense” and not selective enough, although when compared to almost every other cable that I had listened to, the Acrolink cables had been characterized by great resolution. However, this is what comparing and learning is about – what we know is the best, until we hear something better.
So, I was very curious to listen to the Crystal Cable cables. Although their price does not differ too much from the price of the Siltech cables, I often meet people who underestimate them, as “they are more like an ornament than a cable”. The truth is different. I think that Gabi and Edwin have intentionally and thoughtfully prepared two products that sound so different. The Crystal Cable cables produce incredibly warm and full sound. They present instruments on a smaller scale than the Siltech cables and do not offer so much resolution or selectivity. However, they will make it possible to achieve the right balance in many systems – and synergy, or whatever we call it, is the most important in audio.
I have been using either the Crystal Cable Absolute Dream interconnects or the Siltech Triple Crown for a few years, as there are devices that make it necessary to use the former or the latter in the system. If something in my system irritates or annoys me, is brightened-up, etc., then the Crystal cables will control it very well and turn it into music, staying really high on the quality scale. Some resolution and swing will be sacrificed, but it may appear that the cables will be the element which will allow us to enjoy music without paying attention to technology.
How about the Siltech cables? Well – this is the best power cable that I have ever listened to, right next to the Japanese Harmonix X-DC Studio Master Million Maestro which costs 36,000 PLN for 1.5 m.
Gabi, Edwinie – tot een volgende keer!
SYSTEM USED DURING THE LISTENING SESSION
Compact Disc Transport: Ayon Audio CD-T