Sunday, May 18, 2014

Top drawer cables - some observations

I spent a week with two bagfuls of top drawer cables. OK, some may argue that there are far more expensive and better cables out there, but not every audiophile is comfortable with cables priced with a whole string of zeros in all the wrong places.

The ever enthusiastic Ivan Cheng of Norman Audio wanted me to try these cables as an alternative to my usual cabling, which is a mix of Acoustic Revive and Acrolink. Well, being the typical audiophile, I absolutely hate to try new things (with absolutely no strings attached I may add), or to tinker about in my system. If you believe the preceding statement, you obviously are not an audiophile. Maybe you believe in Unicorns and Leprechauns too ?

I left Norman Audio with two plastic bags full of cables. The original plan was to outfit me with enough cables to wire up my whole system. Unfortunately, we had to omit the MIT speaker cables as there simply was not enough space in the two very full plastic bags.

After ensuring that no suspicious characters were following me, I promptly left the shop and deposited the cables directly into the safety of my office. I did not ask about the price of the cables, which both Ivan and I thought would be a good way of ensuring that I was free from price tag bias. I eventually checked the prices online to do up this post - I should have asked for a large aluminum flightcase and handcuffs to transport these cables home.

The two inconspicuous plastic bags contained a variety of cables from Siltech, Crystal Cable, and MIT.

From top clockwise - MIT SL Matrix 36, CrystalSpeak Reference Diamond speaker cables, CrystalConnect Reference Diamond interconnects, Crystal Dreamline interconnects

My power amplifier is located a distance away from the preamp, necessitating a 1.5 m cable. Ivan had thoughtfully provided a Siltech Classic Anniversary 770i, as well as an MIT SL Matrix 36 and 50 in long lengths.

The MIT has adjustable impedance switching which should be selected according to the input impedance of the upstream component

This is by no means meant to be a review, but is instead an article of the general characteristics of the cables tested, and how they sounded in my system.

Inventory List

Here is a list of the cables that I was provided,

Crystal Cable

1 pair of CrystalConnect Reference Diamond RCA interconnects
1 pair of CrystalConnect Dreamline RCA interconnects
2 sets of CrystalPower Reference Diamond power cords
1 pair of CrystalSpeak Reference Diamond speaker cables


1 pair of Classic Anniversary 770i RCA interconnects
2 sets of Classic Anniversary SPX-800 power cords
1 pair of Classic Anniversary 770L speaker cables


1 pair of MIT SL Matrix 36 RCA interconnects
1 pair of MIT SL Matrix 50 RCA interconnects

Crystal Cable

I left the Siltech Classic Anniversary 770i in my system between my preamp and poweramp for most of these tests. Then, I tried the interconnects first, followed by the power cord (only for my poweramp as the 1m set was too short to reach my preamp or source), and finally the speaker cables.

I liked the Dreamline interconnects very much. Like most of the other Crystal Cables tried, the Dreamline had ruler flat neutrality. Both the bass and treble were very extended and detailed, with excellent articulation exhibited in double bass and low piano notes, as well as percussion work. Soundstaging was excellent, with impressive width and depth.

Crystal Dreamline Interconnect - This was one of my favourite interconnects

CrystalPower Reference Diamond power cable. Despite its two core appearance, the cable is grounded, presumably via the shield  

The Reference Diamond in comparison had less bass extension, with a slightly fuller and warmer midband. Overall resolution was not as good as the Dreamline and nowwhere near as enjoyable. I suspected the cables were not run-in, as there was substantial improvement and change to the sound as I ran in the cables over a duration of 100 hours.

The power cords and speaker cables had a similar house sound with a very open soundstage, exemplary neutrality and control at both frequency extremes. The cables had a very low noise floor, were free from grain and displayed outstanding low level resolving power.

The Crystal Cables did not impart any bloom of their own, nor spotlight any particular part of the frequency spectrum.

Listening to the cables in isolation, I felt that all of the cables (except the Reference Diamond interconnect) were equally strong. Whether it was inserting either the Dreamline interconnect or the Reference Diamond speaker cables into my main system, or using the Reference Diamond power cord on my Job 225 amplifier - the effect was similar, with the opening up of the soundstage, and a major step forward in speed, control and resolution.


The Siltech cables have similarities sonic qualities to the Crystal Cables which is not surprising given their common heritage. I felt that the Siltech cables had slightly more mid-bass bloom and midrange warmth. This made their cables sound meatier and more organic sounding. Cymbals had more of a golden glow to it, with a more solid sound from the initial strike. I think preference for either Siltech or Crystal would depend on your taste.

Siltech Classic Anniversary SPX-800 power cord and 770L speaker cables

Siltech Classic Anniversary 770i interconnects


The SL Matrix 50 was a clear step above the SL Matrix 36, and I decided to spend some time with the Matrix 50 instead. This cable had one of the deepest and most impactful basslines compared to the other cables I had on hand. The bass was not as wet or articulated as the Crystal though. I found the overall sound slightly less lively compared to the Crystal and Siltech, with an overall more austere presentation.

Soundstaging was very wide and deep, with good detail retrieval. I found the overall image sizes smaller compared to the Crystal and Siltech, with very precise placement of instruments and voices. There was a slight and quite subtle difference switching the impedance selector from 40-100 Kohms to >90 Kohms, although it would be difficult to distinguish the two (my Conrad Johnson preamp does not specify input impedance - but it is likely to be high, being a tube based circuit).

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