World Premiere Review!
Crystal Cable describes their Micro Diamond Series 2 as an "affordable" (my quotes) line of cables that enables them to "offer Crystal Cable's core values at a more modest price." Before reading anything about these cables, I installed all the Micro Diamond Series 2 cables I was sent for review into my system, including both XLR and RCA terminated interconnects, their power cords, speaker cable, and even their USB cable that I used to connect my computer-based music server to my system's DAC.
Like many audiophiles, I've always assumed that the best-sounding high-end audio cables needed to have a wide diameter, and their lack of flexibility was something I just had to tolerate. Yet, the cables I was sent for review from Crystal Cable were the thinnest and most flexible cables I've used for quite some time. They also looked fantastic!
Siltech used these technical discoveries in his cables for many years, which contained this "revolutionary metallurgy" that made it possible to achieve a cable with a surprisingly thin diameter that had "the same mechanical properties as thicker diameter cables."
Audiophiles shouldn't assume that Crystal Cable's Gabi Rynveld was a dilatant that one day decided to run a company that manufactures audiophile products. Since she was nine, Mrs. Rynveld has been a professional concert pianist, playing concerts and recitals with orchestras and competing in top-level international piano competitions. She knows what music recorded in a real space sounds like.
Crystal Cable's website claims that their Micro Diamond Series 2 cable made it so they could "offer Crystal Cable's core values at a more modest price." I guess everything is relative when discussing the pricing of high-end audio products, since the list price of a one-meter Micro Diamond Series 2 interconnects terminated with RCAs costs about $1000. The speaker cable I was sent for review with a length of about 12 feet terminated with spades costs about $3600.
On their website, they declare that the new Micro Diamond Series 2 is not only a radical improvement when compared to the original Diamond Series in terms of its sound quality, but they add that the cable provides "superb performance while being compact, attractive, and affordable — that's the essence of the new Micro Diamond Series 2".
The Micro Diamond Series 2 interconnects ran between either a Pass Laboratories XP-22 two-chassis line stage or a Nagra Classic Preamp line stage to a Pass Labs X250.8 power amplifier. I also used it to connect a Pass Labs XP-27 2-chassis phono stage and an EMM Labs DA2 converter to the line stage.
As I mentioned above, the Micro Diamond Series 2 USB cable ran between a computer-based music server's USB output to an EMM Labs DA2 converter's USB input. I was sent four 1.5-meter Crystal Cable power cords, which I used on the line stage, phono preamplifier, digital converter, and power amplifier. I used a 4-meter run of Crystal Cable's speaker cable to connect the speaker binding posts of the Pass Labs power amp to a pair of Sound Lab 545 Majestic "full-range" electrostatic speakers.
The bass response of the Sound Labs speakers, despite the manufacturer's claim that they are "full-range" electrostatic speakers, goes down to 35 Hz. This low-frequency response is certainly respectable, but my listening habits demand that my system reach lower than that. The Sound Labs' bass is aided by a pair of SVS' top subwoofers, the SB16-Ultra.
These subs have a 16" driver and many other impressive specifications, yet they are far from the best available in today's seemingly infinitely priced high-end equipment market. Still, the subs' low-frequency response of 16 Hz (plus or minus 3 dB) made them perfect for augmenting the lowest frequencies of my system's rather large pair of electrostats.
With a system-wide implementation of the Crystal Cable interconnects, speaker, and power cables, it was easy to hear the characteristics, or rather, lack of characteristics, that the Micro Diamond Series 2 cables possessed. As is true of the high-frequency response that these cables allowed to pass through to the speakers, and so were the low frequencies.
There are more than a few mighty concert bass drum strikes on side two of this version of The Firebird I was listening to during the Crystal Cables' audition. Combined with this explosive low-frequency response, was the near-perfect transient response pressed into the grooves of this record, along with so many other audiophile traits that make this record not only an excellent version of The Firebird but also an excellent demonstration record.
The Micro Diamond 2's was extremely neutral sounding, its transparency was a boon to this LP's all-important midrange. Some might think that since this Mercury Living Presence The Firebird has such a fantastic string sound that the all-important midrange will sound when played on even the most modest of systems. With the Micro Diamond 2 cables installed throughout my system, the gorgeous string sound on this album was almost too beautiful, practically taking my breath away during each passage.
I hope I'm not painting myself into a corner. Yes, the Crystal Cable Micro Diamond Series 2 cables look almost as good as they sound. Still, I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn't Crystal Cables' top-of-the-line model.
At this point Pink Floyd was performing an early version of Animals, one that was still being written, as the track that eventually became "Sheep" was named "Raving And Drooling", and "Dogs" was named "You've Got To Be Crazy". When Animals was finally released in 1977, these tracks were revised into what I considered at the time watered-down versions.
It was a little more than ten years ago that an official version of the Wembley performance with much better sound quality containing these early live versions of Animals was released, on a two-CD version of "Wish You Were Here" named "The Experience Version". The remixed version of Animals does not reach the same heights as these early versions, but it is a considerable improvement over the album's original mix. The sound quality of Animals Remixed is fantastic, it is of demonstration disc quality.
Just for kicks, I also played the remastered original Animals LP, a Japanese pressing of the LP, and I also streamed the 24-bit/192kHz digital version via Qobuz. The sound quality of the original version of Animals is no slouch. The sound quality of both the high-res digital version and the Japanese LP were top-notch. The Crystal Cable's transparency made the comparison between the two easier to hear. There is no question that what I was hearing was even more impressive due to the system-wide installation of these Crystal Cables. Regardless of which version I played of Animals, the dazzlingly realistic sounding treble, lustrous midrange, and bottomless low end, could be felt as well as heard.
I like to think of my system as a time machine. This is especially true when it could do things like sonically bring me to the control room of Abbey Road Studios in the early 2000s. While listening to the remix of Animals, in my mind's ear I imagined myself sharing space on the couch of Abbey Road's control room along with the producers, engineers, and musicians, as we joyfully listened to the newly remixed version of this classic album that was recorded so long ago. This listening session was part of a wonderful afternoon, some of it was spent playing the original version of Animals, but most of it listening to what I considered the superior remixed version.
Although I feel perfectly at home using Pink Floyd's Animals as a musical example during the audition of Crystal Cables, I'm sure some might think that this album wasn't the best musical example because it isn't "real music recorded in a real space" (although I argue that it is indeed real!).
One of the best things I could say about Crystal Cable Micro Diamond Series 2 cables when listening to this album, was how this cable makes itself sonically invisible. This makes it more obvious how this composer can display the power of a large orchestra without a battery of percussion, but instead with its horn section. This recording is nearly perfect, as it captures the horns in typical Bruckner fashion to create a wall of sound.
There is more than one occasion where the horns' themes are based on simple octaves. Yet, it sounds more majestic than simple, and when listening on a good system, the horns enter the listening room, as they did that day when I spun this album, thanks in large part to, again, the transparency of the Crystal Cables.
So, getting back to my comment about my painting myself into a corner. Those who know me know that my love of music is far greater than my love of the equipment that reproduces it. But, when a component can increase my pleasure in the music; that is when I often begin to exaggerate to make my point, in this case, my point is that I can't imagine one being disappointed by the performance of these good-looking, flexible, and transparent-sounding audio cables. I highly recommend them.
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