Crystal Cable Monet Power Cable Review
When the Monet power cables from Crystal Cable were offered for review, the first thing I went online for a look-see. The photos suggested a slimmed-down cable with no surplus parts, nothing more than the elemental hardware required for the task at hand. The Monet is the thinnest power cables in the new Art series and features the company's latest generation of pure silver conductors. Putting these data points together — minimum hardware, slim appearance, silver conductors — I jumped to conclusions and replied back to Gabi Rynveld, founder of Crystal Cable, "Might they sound a little light-weight?" She assured me, "Absolutely not!"
"Well, then, bring them on!" I was enthused and so, about a month or two later, the samples arrived.
My Burn-In Diary
It unfolded much as usual, until the end. Upon installation, the cables sounded stiff with an upward-tilted tonal balance. Day two: the tonal balance improved, but the recessed midrange caused temperatures to remain on the chilly side. I also noted some hardness in the treble. Day three: a warming trend came as the midrange began to fill in. The sound was less aggressive. Day four: approaching 100 hours, a minor miracle unfolded — the cable blossomed.
A Precision Sound But...
To be sure, there are numerous highly regarded cables that offer excellent sonic attributes. Some excel at detail retrieval; some do soundstaging to an unprecedented degree; others showcase the incredible dynamic range. Still, for all that, how many are capable of allowing one to suspend disbelief?
Listening on day three as the burn-in process was finishing up, the Monet power cords displayed fine artifact-free sound and admirably wide dynamic range, but I wasn't getting the kind of low-level details that clue you as to the physical thing actually creating the sound. I heard steady, pure tones. Where were the fingers depressing piano keys, followed by the hammer striking metal strings, the sort of evidence suggesting humans working on a physical instrument? Only in the low register were there signs of the mechanics, like when a bass or cello bow inadvertently hits the strings with less than perfect control, making discordant clacking or scraping sounds. These missing details suggested an electronic or synthesized genesis and prevented me from suspending disbelief.
And then, as we closed out day four, the information showed up en masse. The ivory keys being depressed, followed immediately by the hammer strike on metal strings, and then the cluster of tones and overtones, often discordant and in flux, attempting to resolve, and finally the slowly dissipating decay, another cloud of sound that leaves us with the evanescent dominant chord. Close listening to a live performance reveals this is what transpires when a human plays the piano. He (or she) elicits beautiful, complex sounds with occasional rough edges. In an odd way, this is what you need to support the belief and it was all there. Steady, pure tones are what an electronic machine, like a synthesizer or tone generator, produces.
At the 100-hour mark, the Monet morphed from chilly and lean to warm and healthy. The midrange filled in and the temperature warmed up; threads wove down to the bass and up into the treble to create a smooth, continuous cloth. What happened was somewhat analogous to looking at an underdeveloped photo. You get the stark outline with some details that hints at what it might become, but not until it's fully developed and the finer grey shadings fill in, creating the bridge of middle tones between pure black and white, do you see the complete picture.
Crystal Cable’s Monet may look demure, but you'll quickly ascertain it has plenty of low-end, more than most of my reference power cords. (While that was foretold before the cables arrived, I needed to hear confirmation.) I also took note of an expanded stage width; instruments that had plenty of flesh and sported zaftig body outlines; timbres that were complex and rich, especially in the woodwinds; and instrumental texture that was appropriate for each.
Transients are fast-moving and powerful, generating more excitement than some of my reference cables. However, this is not due to the treble leading the way, as with many cables noted for speed. The Monet transient is broadband and coherent, all frequencies land in sync. At the other end of the note, the decay wasn't shortened. The Monet is in no hurry to finish the note and takes its time, giving decays the expected duration.
A Note About The Packaging
The quarter-sized box hinted that whatever was inside was compact and, indeed, the Monet Power Cable is very svelte. It has just the parts needed to get the job done, but those parts are carefully chosen and of the highest quality to be found, while the build quality is outstanding. They are nowhere near the girth of the other PCs in my inventory, some of which are mammoth firehoses that you have to wrestle into place, and sometimes you lose that battle, with the inflexible cable's orientation dictating how the component gets positioned.
Crystal Cable’s Monet is flexible, bends easily, and doesn't weigh much, making installation a piece of cake. The color scheme is silver and gold, with transparent black-tinted Oyaide C-004 and P-004 termination barrels. The conductors are housed in a Dupont Teflon outer sheath in two bundles, which are braided. I installed them on my digital front-end (CH Precision C1 DAC, D1 transport, and T1 master clock).
You might be tempted to ask, "Where's the bling?" There ain't much, if you're looking for attention-grabbing, showy features. The only thing that comes close is the 23k gold-plated branding barrel with the Art Series Monet logo, which is near the IEC plug. The Monet's aesthetic will appeal to the minimalists among us.
Design And Construction: Infinite Crystal Silver
First of all, the conductors employ the company's new tenth-generation Infinite Crystal Silver (iCS) for the signal and ground conductors. This new material opened opportunities in designing and building cables. A direct improvement is a reduction in the number of signal conductors. The reduction in conductors has also allowed the introduction of asymmetric grounding in all Art Series interconnects. Finally, this has led to the development of ‘Cross Balanced Construction' for both the company's speaker cables and power cords. It has redesigned the topology throughout the Art Series.
In an email exchange, I asked Gabi about the differences between the iCS conductor in the Monet and the silver that Siltech uses (lightly edited):
The Art Series Monet Power cables use a Coaxial construction with a Mono X-tal Silver center core which is insulated with a dual Kapton-PTFE layer. The braided screen consists of two layers: the first is our latest generation proprietary Silver-Gold alloy and the second one is Mono X-tal Silver. The Ground connection is made through a Silver Plated Copper braided screen.
This construction makes for a quite flexible cable, unlike the Siltech equivalents. This is due to the ongoing research for unique solutions to make cables thin, powerful, and dynamic as well as beautiful looking, musical, and easy to work with.
Our engineers are constantly looking for the two best options, to be able to make products for two brands with a very different philosophy, performance, soundstage, and customers.
Crystal Cable’s Monet defied the silver stereotype. The lower-midrange and bass bands are well represented, even slightly favored. Secondly, images are endowed with healthy amounts of body and far from being model-slim. Third, the tonal temperature veers slightly to the warm side. About the only things that did conform to the silver stereotype were the sweet timbres and musicality. Placing the Monet on the often-used analytic/musical metric, it would land to the musical side.
Audiophiles are always chasing the twin muses of resolution and musicality. One doesn't readily encounter strong performance in both from a single product. The Monet Power Cable gives you the whole package and delivers a performance that would easily hold its own in a field of competitors at the $10,000 / two-meter range.
Clearly, Crystal Cable has a winner in the Monet Power Cable. It leaves me wondering, how would that new silver formulation work out for speaker cables and interconnects? Minimalism has a definite appeal for me.
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