2019 AUDIOTECHNIQUE REVIEWS FUTURE DREAM

AudioTechnique magazine features a Future Dream review! Here's the English translation:

15 years ago (2004), there was a dominating theory amongst audiophiles about audio cables: High end cables are always thick and heavy.  lf you want to achieve excellent acoustical performance, the cables should be as thick and heavy as possible.  lnteresting enough, in that year, a renowned high end cable manufacturer  overthrew  this theory. They used a solid high density core of highly conductive  silver/ gold alloy and adopted  Kapton as insulator. The result is a super  light, thin and high performance audio  cable.   While  this  result  presented  a  great  commercial opportunity, they  have  a marketing challenge  to deal  with: Siltech  was acclaimed  for their traditional  large diameter  cables  but the new cables  seemed in the other  extreme.   Not  long after, Siltech  took a bold  move.  They  established  a new  brand  called "Crystal  Cable". The new cables  were  marketed  under  this brand. lnterestingly, Gabi Rjinveld, the wife of Siltech's CEO, Edwin Rjinveld, took charge of the new brand and started an enormous venture.

At  the  beginning,  the  biggest  challenges  that  Gabi faced  was  to  convince  the  people from  the  industry  and audiophiles  that  a small  diameter  cable  like  Crystal  Cable would bring  nothing  less  than  a  large  diameter  cable  to audiophiles  in  terms  of  acoustic performance. In  2004, Crystal  Cable  launched  their  Reference  series  which consists  of power  cable,  interconnect  and  loudspeaker cables  and  many  audiophiles  were  amazed  by  the power that  such  thin cables  could  actually  deliver. lt's  something impossible to tell purely trom the look!

The new hybrid technology

After 15  years  of  non-stop  development, Crystal  Cable possesses  two  care  technologies  that  have  been  very mature. One  is the  silver-gold  alloy  metallurgy. The  other one  is  pure  monocrystal  silver  metallurgy. These  two technologies  are used in different product series.

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Silver-gold  alloy  metallurgy  refers  to the  technique  to  fill the gaps between pure silver crystal boundaries with gold. These gaps are  typically  formed  when  silver  crystal  undergoes solidification.  By injecting gold in these gaps, the signal can pass  through  the  conductor  more  smoothly  and  eliminates the harshness of the sound that is typical among silver cables. The  silver-gold  centre  core  is  helically  wound  within  two thin  layers  of  Dupont  Kapton  insulator. This  technology  is currently adopted in the "Diamond" series.

In the higher series "Monocrystal ", Crystal  Cable  adopt  a metallurgy technique that can reduce the distortion to a much lower  level. The  technique  eliminates  all the  gaps between crystal boundaries by means of a single piece of monocrystal. In order to prevent the signal inside the conductor trom being interfered, Crystal  Cable  adopts  a coaxial  structure in their "Monocrystal " series. The conductor  is then wrapped  with a layer of PEEK.  PEEK is a very robust thermoplastic  that has strong  resistance  to  high  temperature, mechanically  strong and low loss.  On top of PEEK layer, the cable is shielded by a layer of  pure  silver  coated mono-crystal  copper  and gold plated mono-crystal silver.

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Having  described  the background and the history of Crystal Cable, it's time for us to take a look at their  all-new  Future Dream  series. lt's a "limited  edition" series  that  the  cable maker  created  to  celebrate  their  15th  year anniversary.  In terms  of  price  point,  Future  Dream  is between  the  flagship "The  Ultimate Dream " and "Absolute  Dream ". In  terms  of performance, is it lower than "The Absolute Dream"? My straight answer is "No!"

In terms of of tonal characteristics, "The Ultimate Dream" and "Absolute  Dream" are somewhat  different. This is  something we will discuss in detail later.

Many  said  Future  Dream  is  a new  member  of  the Crystal Cable's "Dream" series. This  is not accurate. Future  Dream is in tact  a new  series. Absolute  Dream  and The  Ultimate Dream that  most  audiophiles  are familiar  are parts  of the  Monocrystal  series. The  Future  Dream series  has  4 members, including power cable, interconnect, speaker cable and phono cable which was just launched in the Munich High End Show 2018. These products share one thing in common. They  adopted  monocrystal  silver  as the  core  conductor and  use  DuPont Kapton  and Teflon  as  insulating  coating. There  are  two  more  layers  of  shields  on top  of it. The  first layer  is Crystal  Cable  gold  silver  alloy.   The  second  layer  is monocrystal silver. The  combined  use  of  these  two  metallic materials  in  one  single  product  is unprecedented  in  Crystal Cable  and  even  Siltech. The  manufacturer claimed  that, even though  the  techniques  of  using  these  two  materials independently  have been matured  for years, the combination is unexpectedly  challenging.  Achieving  synergy  between them is even more difficult. Gabi Rijnveld told me that it took 6-8  months  just  to find  out  the  optimal proportion  between the  two  materials  and  also  the  best  cable  structure.  Except the  phono cable  which  is two  stranded,  all  the  members  of Future  Dream series  are of tour  strands.

The connectors  are the newest NCF family trom the well known Japanese brand, Furutech. This includes  the  power  plug,  RCA,  XLR,  spade and banana plugs for speakers.

A whole new world

In  order  to  have  a comprehensive  test  for  the  new  series, Crystal  Cable  sent  me  2 power  cords ,  2  pairs  of  XLR balanced  interconnects  and  1  pair  of  speaker  cables.  lf I were lazybones, the cheapest way to test these cables would be  replacing  the  whole  set in one go and then  depicting  the difference  between  them. But  the  problem  is, the  result  of the comparison  does  not  add much  value.  I  suspect  very few  audiophiles  would  replace  their  cables  in  this  manner. They  typically  prefer  upgrade  their  cables  progressively  and selectively. Hence,  I   choose  to bite the bullets  and  adopt  an incremental  and  progressive approach. lt  takes  more  time and  efforts but  I  could  shed  more  light  on  the  performance and tonal characteristics in each of the members.

Before  testing  the  first  cable, I spent  considerable time to establish the reference by rethinking the best combination of cables for my system. The following  is the finalised list of comparisons:

• Esoterie  K1  - Power  cord  : Siltech  Ruby  Double  Crown  vs. Crystal Cable Future Dream

• Esoterie G-0Rb  - Power  cord : Siltech  Ruby  Double  Crown vs. Crystal Cable Future Dream

• Esoterie K1 -   Kondo G-1000 - interconnect  : Siltech Crown Princess vs. Crystal Cable Future Dream

• Kondo  G-1000 -    Accuphase  A-200  - interconnect  : Siltech Princess vs. Crystal Cable Future Dream

Among  different  types  of  cables,  power  cord  is  arguably the  most  impactful  one. Hence, my  comparison  started  with power cord.

I started  with  my  favourite  test  CD "The  Perfect  Sound 2 0 1 0 ". When comparing with my reference , the  tonal characteristic of Future  Dream is  somewhat  different. Future Dream  is  more  neutral  and transparent.  Siltech  sounds more  elegant  and  shiny. 

Don't get me wrong . lf there is no AB comparison, Siltech  sounds extremely neutral too. I still vividly  remember  I  tried the  power  cords  trom  both Crystal  Cable  Absolute  Dream and The  Ultimate  Dream  in my  home  setup betore.  Both  gave  me  a strong  impression of neutrality  and  transparency. The  outline  of  the  acoustical images  was  very  fine  and clear. Everything is very  three dimensional and the sound stage is very deep. What's beyond my expectation  is  that  these  two  Crystal  Cable  products are  able  to  deliver  very  massive power  and  muscular  bass despite  that  the  cable  is so  much  thinner  than  Siltech  Ruby Double Crown. Now when I listened to Future Dream, 1 tound it  sounds  notably  warmer  than Absolute  Dream  and The Ultimate  Dream.  lt still  preserves  the  virtue  of  transparency and vivid  sound  image. There  is no  sign  of  muddiness. lt is not short of three dimensional spatial sense when comparing The Ultimate Dream, which I think is a very positive  surprise. Of course,  if I compare it  with Siltech  Ruby  Double  Crown, the  latter  gave  finer  outlines of  the  acoustical  images  and these images are closer to the listener.  From experience, the difference  might diminish  as the brand new cables run in tor some time. I would not be surprised if Future Dream comes extremely close to Siltech Ruby Double Crown eventually.

Synergy

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Although the replacement of power cord  with  Future  Dream did not make a difference as much as I would expect, 1 move forward to the second stage - swapping in the Future  Dream interconnects. The  first  song  "Wish  me  blissful " by Tsai Chin started  with smaller  "mouth  shape"  with  finer  outlines. However, Crystal Cable's  signatures  -  vivid,  transparant  and  layered sound  - remain .  When  I played  this song  or  the  male  voice  on the 4th track,  the  background  was  incredibly  dark. The  micro­ dynamics such  as the  subtle  variations  of the  singer's  voice chords  was  much  apparent  than before . When  I played Brahms ' violin  concerto  in  D,  the  acoustical  improvement was  even  more  significant.   Each  section  of the  orchestra appeared  to  be  more  three-dimensional.  The  positions  of these  sections  were  also  very  precise  and  unambiguous. In my opinion,  Crystal  Cable  and  Siltech  have similar performance  in terms  of  resolution  and  musicality. Future Dream  also  inherited  these  merits  from  Crystal  Cable  and delivers  impressive  resolution  and  touching  music.  When comparing  with  Siltech's  Crown  Princess  + Princess  combo, it  is  hard to  teil  which  one  is  better. But  when playing violin  solo ,  Future  Dream  seems  to  have  an edge  over Siltech  combo.   If  you ask  me, this advantage  can easily  be outweighed  by  one's  preference in tonal  characteristics of either brands.  Simply speaking, Siltech is warmer  and emits a lot of extravagance.  Crystal Cable is relatively brighter  with whole  lots of  energy  and punchy  bass.  The transparency  of Crystal Cable is unforgettable.  Which one you prefer is really a matter of personal taste.

Although Siltech and Crystal  Cable  share  the  same research  team,  their  cables  are  drastically  different  in terms  of  tone  and  acoustical  attributes.  At  this  point, in  my reference  system,  I  found  the  mixture  of  Siltech power  chords  and  Crystal  Cable interconnects  did  not yield  beller  results  of  pure  Siltech  or  pure  Crystal  Cable configurations. But  what  if  I  add  Future  Dream  speaker cables into the combination?

A whole new level

Some  time  ago,  my  reference  speaker  cable,  Siltech Crown  Prince  (35th  anniversary edition),  defeated  Siltech Royal  Signature  Prince  with  landslide  victory.   Now  here comes a  new  challenger,  Future  Dream  speaker  cable! When  a  pair  of  Future  Dream  speaker  cables  are  added into  a  system  that  uses  Future  Dream  power  chords  and interconnects, the  acoustical  performance  is elevated  to  a whole new level! Tsai Chin 's "mouth  shape" has a sharper and clearer  outline.   The  guitar  sounds  more  vibrant.   The trailing  sound  seems lasting  tor  ever.   When  I  played Bach 's  unaccompanied  violin  sonata ,  the  hall  effect of the  recording  venue,  which  is  a church,  is much  stronger. When I played Brahms' violin concerto, the surround sound effect  moderately  improves  too.   (Note: Don't  forget  that Siltech's  hall  effect  is  already  superb!).  In  a  nutshell,  the addition  of  Future  Dream speaker  cables  significantly enhance the synergy  of the combo.

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The best is yet to come

My testing on the Future Dream cables was actually  finished  before  the  Munich  High End show. However,  during  the  show  period,  I  had  a dinner  with  Gabi  and Edwin.   They asked me what  I thought  about  Future  Dream.   In front of  the CEOs of these two companies , I was very direct and honest  about what I thought.  They were not surprised at all.  In contrast, they agreed with what I said.  Then they asked me how I would compare the performance of Future Dream and Siltech in my system.  I told them what I have already  mentioned in this review.  I also emphasised that audiophile would make a choice between these two brands according to personal taste since their sonic performances  were so close to each ether.  lf one like Siltech's signature elegant  sound,  choosing  Siltech  is a no  brainer.   lf  you  want  to  go tor  absolute transparency  and  streng  sense  of  three  dimensional  acoustical  images,  you  simply cannot resist the temptation  trom Crystal Cable.  lf you prefer warmer  sound, Future Dream would be an ideal choice.

After then, Gabi asked me if  l'm interested to check out the all new phono cable in the Future Dream series. This means  that  I could  join  Lincoln  (Audiotechnique's chief  editor)  to be the first in HK (or even Asia?) to try out Future Dream phono cable. I said yes in a split of second. When  I went back to HK, 1  plugged Future Dream  phono  cable  into  my  Acoustical Systems  Aquilar  tone  arm  (with  Kendo 10-M  cartridge  installed  and  paired  with Kendo  SFz  MC transformer).  The  phono stage  being  used  was  Kendo  KSL-M7 phono  amplifier. On  the  foundation  of Future  Dream  power  cord,  interconnect and speaker  cables, the addition  of Future Dream  phono  cable  into  the  second  most sensitive part of the entire analogue signal chain (Note: the  most  sensitive  one  would be  the  wire  inside  the  arm  wand  of  Aquilar).   How  much  improvement  would  it  bring into the acoustic performance?

I first  played  the  female  vocals  in "The Wonderful  Sounds  of Female Vocals" trom Analogue Productions. Rickie Lee Jones's "The  Moon  is Made  of  Gold " and Joan  Baez's "Diamond  and Rust" speeded  up my heart beats.  "How comes  I never  realise that  their  singing  is so  touching?", I couldn't  help  ask  myself. Their "mouth  shape" was astonishingly  razor-sharp. 

The middle frequency  was  very  organic  and  fine  grained. The  emotion  of the singing was like water flooding the entire listening  room.  At that moment, I wanted to listen all my female voice LP collection once more to see il I missed any subtle detail in the past...

Another  impressive  thing  about  Future  Dream  phono  cable  is its  analytica!  power. lt reveals  not only  the  inner  details  of  the music  but  also  the  emotion  inspired by  the microdynamics. When I played "The Jacques  Loussier  Trio  in Concert", which I usually use to test my analogue system, 1 heard a lot of details in the transcribed version of Bach's toccata in D minor (transcribed by  Loussier)  which  I  never  heard before. The  piano  was  very realistic . The drum sound carried a lot of drum skin texture.  The plucking of double bass sounded  very powerful. The frequency response of the system end to end is very balanced.  There is very little colouration as far as I could hear.  When the passage reached the climax, 1 feit like crowded with ether audiences in the concert hall and couldn't help jumping up trom my chair!

 

Original review in Chinese below:


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