KRAKOW SONIC SOCIETY
abi was standing in the door, looking at us condescendingly while we were discussing acoustics, the microphones used and distortions. A moment before we had finished our first round of listening sessions and each of us was enthusiastically trying to convince the others that he was right. We paid the most attention to what Edwin was saying – in the end, we were talking about his cables. He was also the one with the best theoretical background. However, it was Gabi who brought in some air and distance to the meeting. In her opinion, we were “boys who, instead of listening to music and savoring it, were playing with toys for adults”. Well, there is no denying – “boys will be boys”.
As far as we were concerned, apart from wine and snacks, we could offer practical experience. It seems that such a combination was optimal. So, the visit which took place during the 97th meeting of the Krakow Sonic Society, on a sunny afternoon in Cracow, can be regarded as successful. I hereby introduce Gabi and Edwin van der Kley, or Mrs. Crystal and Mr. Siltech to you.
SILTECH /CRYSTAL CABLE
Family companies are not uncommon, also in the audio industry. It is a small industry based on handicraft and serried groups of engineers, driven by passion (if it is not so, woe betide us!). Like in the domain of music, which is ruled by multi-generational clans, also in our industry it is not difficult to “infect” a spouse or children with passion.
In the case of Mr. and Mrs. van der Kley, things have evolved a bit differently– both Gabi and Edwin have their own companies – Gabi is the managing director of Crystal Cable and Edwin runs Siltech. Both brands operate within the International Audio Holding BV company. Both of them target their products at a slightly different audience. However, there is also a horizontal division of responsibilities – Edwin is in charge of technology in both companies, while Gabi deals with sales, PR, and contact with distributors, dealers and the media.
Apparently, working in tandem has been beneficial for them – the companies have been constantly growing, year to year by 20 – 30% for the last several years. Only once, at the beginning of the crisis, there was a growth of 0%, while some years ago the year-to-year growth of the Siltech company was at the level of 100%. It resulted from the development of a formula for a silver conductor with silver molecules filling the spaces between silver crystals, subsequently called the G3. I think we can admit that this is success, no matter how we measure it.
The meeting that I am talking about focused on the greatest achievement of the Siltech company – the Triple Crown interconnect and speaker cable. Siltech is representative of a small group of cable manufacturers that do everything on their own, from start to finish, in their own factories. Investments of hundreds of thousands of euros have led to the company’s full independence and have made it possible for the owners to carry out their own projects. As Gabi said, each new cable has a few or sometimes more prototypes, from among which the best ones are chosen and another selection is conducted. That would be impossible if production was outsourced.
It all starts with a technological basis. Edwin is an engineer who specializes in measurement and leaves nothing to chance. As he said at the beginning of the meeting when he was presenting his new cables to us, at present we can measure almost everything and we can understand a lot of it. He said that referring to cables as “voodoo” is utter nonsense and results from deficiencies in education. As an engineer with many years of experience in another industry, he deplores the limitations of academic education lacking adequate practice.
Besides, Edwin said that a great majority of academic textbooks related to the audio industry were published between 1930 and 1950 when the industry was forming. At that time it was believed that a human being does not hear distortions below 0.5% or cannot differentiate slight fluctuations in volume, etc.
So, we already know a lot and we will know even more. We only need to forget a large part of what we were taught at school, as the knowledge is now outdated. The top cable Siltech system – the Triple Crown – has been based on knowledge and experience. It includes the first mono-crystal type of a conductor , i.e. completely without crystal structure, and the first XLR and RCA type plugs in the world, made by a Swiss watchmaker. The former can be turned, each by 90º (together by 180º), so there should be no difficulties with connecting them to different components.
Everything has been thought about, including the method of fixing conductors to pins in plugs – Siltech uses its own method of clamping or this purpose. The company used to use silver solder and then ultrasonic compression, but each of these methods was problematic in its own way. At present, conductors are pressed in a special machine without using solder. It took the company two years to develop the cables, even though the excellent Double Crown series constituted a basis for the Triple Crown series and Edwin did not start from scratch.
Our guests at the 97th meeting of the Krakow Sonic Society were Gabi van der Kley-Rijnveld and her husband, Edwin van der Kley. Our aim was to listen to and to assess an interconnect and a speaker cable from the Triple Crown series. First, we wanted to listen to what their creator would say about them and then compare them to what we know well, i.e. cables from the Double Crown series.
The system that we used should be well-known to “High Fidelity” readers, because all recent meetings of the KSS have taken place at Tomek’s. It is also where we have lately welcomed all our guests who, on the occasion, just like Gabi and Edwin, became honorary members of the Krakow Sonic Society. When Gabi was picking up her certificate, she was clearly moved and she said that although she had been in the audio industry for so long (she is a musician by education), that was the first time she had become a member of an association connected with music reproduction.
Tomek’s system sounds very coherent and Edwin emphasized a few times that he had not expected such good sound from a combination of Dynaudio and Accuphase devices. Although it is, of course, possible to improve it, within assumptions the system is complete. However, as I am saying, one can try to make it better, for example by changing cables.
Normally, Tomek uses Acrolink cables, Oyaide power cables and an Oyiade power strip. For the purpose of the given listening session, he had replaced all the accessories with Siltech products. The starting point were interconnects and speaker cables from the Double Crown series, the Ruby Double Crown power cables and the Octopus Double Crown power strip.
Since changing the speaker cable is a bit complicated in the case of Dynaudio speakers, especially when it comes to rigid fork terminals, we decided to listen to as many recordings as we would be able to, and then replace the interconnect and speaker cable with their Triple Crown versions, and again listen to all the recordings that we had already listened to. The power cables and strip remained unchanged – Siltech has not proposed their Triple Crown equivalents yet.
LISTENING PART 1
I noted down the comments of the participants after replacing the original system cables with Triple Crown cables. I separately report impressions connected with shielding.
What I hear is incredible – after changing the cables the sound is deeper and the soundstage is broader – it is actually enormous now. I do not even know what to say – that was an incredible change and I have to listen to yet something else to be able to form my opinion.
I am moved. OK, let me expose myself: someone who has invested in Double Crown cables without listening to Triple Crown cables, has wasted the money. For me it is a classic example of “hi-fi vs. high-end”. Even if I am exaggerating, these are my impressions at the moment. The most important change is that MUSIC appeared with the TC [I could almost hear capital letters in Rysiek’s head and that is why I am using them – Editor’s note].
Dad has already written about it once – the Double Crown sounds like a crazy night in Barcelona, there was fun. The Triple Crown is, in turn, an elegant high-end supper in Rome or Paris – the top of the top. I also did not notice any special changes in dynamics – it was rather all about phrasing and tone. Paradoxically, for someone who is not an experienced high-end user and rarely deals with high-class equipment, or in the case of systems other than the most expensive ones, the Double Crown may prove more interesting and better. It is a little bit more swanky and attractive. As far as I remember, it was similar in the case of corrections introduced by the Accuphase DG-58 processor – sound was subjectively faster and stronger without it. However, only after getting acquainted with the changes one could appreciate brilliant sound with the DG-58 in a system (more about the DG-58 HERE).
I am delighted with how music can “sing” and how instruments can murmur. It is because what is most important in all of this is what Gabi said – listening to music is to give us pleasure. With the Triple Crown, the musical message was natural and melodious. Nobody has said this yet, but this sound gets incredibly close to natural sound – at least this is what I hear. It is very close to live music. A good system emulates live sound, alongside all the problems that we have to face at the same time. The ability of rendering signal impulses with the TC is almost as good as live. I will say that in a few aspects I might make a mistake while listening to live and recorded sound, and I would surely not be sure which I like more.
Another thing is sound equalization. With the TC everything is EQUALIZED [capitals again, just like in Rysiek’s comment – Editor’s note] and normal. Also stereo is much better than with the Double Crown. Sound with the DC (when directly compared to the TC, of course) seems to be covered with a blanket. When comparing the DC with any other cable, I would say the same thing about the latter one and it is the DC that would sound clearer and more open. In this case, the TC is much better.
For me, the Double Crown had already brought my system to a level so high that I would not have expected of it. The differences between the DC and the Triple Crown are clear and there is no use deceiving anyone – the latter ones are better cables. As for me, the differences here were not as big as between my cables and the DC. I would say that it was several per cent maximum. That is why I completely disagree with Rysiek and his assessment of the DC that I do not understand at all. The DC are brilliant cables, while the TC are simply better. However, I could live with the DC and be very happy.
I have to say that I was surprised with good tonal balance of the system – it lacks nothing and it does not exaggerate in any way. When it comes to the cables, one can indeed hear well that the Triple Crown brings naturalness into the system, which had not been there before. With the TC, instruments were more in front of us, in the room, and not in undefined “recording space” – here I agree with Rysiek. There were more details with the TC, but these were inner details – a thing resulting from higher resolution.
Bartek has already talked about it – the Double Crown was already very good, but the Triple Crown clearly goes further and it cannot be denied. And I do not think that the DC was hazy, at least not in the sense in which we usually use this word – it neither lacked the treble, nor details. There were actually even more details with the DC.
However, also with the TC you listen to music and when you refer to a change, you do not say that you are now listening to a better cable, but to a better system. It seems to be of key importance to me – the TC improves the class of the connected devices, as if it was hiding behind them, while we hear the DC more explicitly and we know that it is the star.
LISTENING PART 2
I wonder how you assess the Triple Crown cable, as well as the Double Crown in a further perspective, based on the comments above. Since I was there and I heard the comparison, I have formed a firm opinion on the subject. What I heard during a test at my home was confirmed – the TC is a brilliant cable. It is dense, deep and saturated, but with subjectively fewer high tones and more deeply hidden details than the DC (more HERE). I think it is true that in a large number of systems the cheaper DC will perform in a more interesting way and that it will make the whole SYSTEM better. At the same time, it is true that in top-end systems the TC simply rules and one can hear what a great improvement on the DC it is.
However, one should know that when we listen to the Triple Crown, we actually listen to one of its versions. The cable has been built in such a way that it is, thanks to its geometry, shielded by itself, without the need of using an external shield (which does not, anyway, protect it from low and the highest frequencies). However, both the interconnects and speaker cables have an additional shield. What for? Edwin says that it is because of regulations in individual countries, and also because the Triple Crown sounds different with a shield than without it. He refers, of course, not only to the physical presence of a shield, but also to its electrical connection with the ground of the signal (RCA) or of the device (XLR).
Large break-out bodies at the ends of the cables are therefore both a place where the shield ends and where vibration damping materials that allow to stabilize the cable geometry end, as well as a place where a shield can be connected or disconnected. Since the bodies are placed at both ends of the cable, the following combinations are possible:
Gabi and Edwin had been telling us from the beginning that “in each of these settings the cable sounds different” and that “in cheap systems the differences will surely not be important, because they will be covered by bigger problems, but in top high-end they will be significant.” We were very curious what they were talking about. Edwin had already selected the “ground” setting in all the cables, i.e. with shields connected on both sides, before the first listening session. So, we compared this set-up with one where shields are not connected at all. We also looked at other set-ups, but I will talk about this at the end. Now it is time for a “ground” vs. “float” comparison.
From what you will say I will finally learn what your vision of live music is. From my point of view, it is the following: with disconnected shields the sound stage is broader, but flatter. It seems to me that the diversity of tone and dynamics is then worse. In the case of the “float” mode, the coloring of sound is lower and a bit more pastel. In my opinion, the sound was more monotonous. For me, it is like concert music – when we listen to it at home, it delivers completely different sound, in many aspects better than during a live performance.
I somehow cannot agree with Rysiek today, although we are sitting next to each other. For me it is clear that in the “float” mode, i.e. with shields disconnected on both sides, the sound was more lively and natural. Connecting the shield resulted in too much bass. For me, the TC without a shield sounds much better.
I confirm – in the “float” mode music sounds as if it was performed live, i.e. better (for me). It is as if someone has pulled some trigger. In the “ground” mode music is more drowsy and less dynamic. If I understand the words of songs that I listen to, even if they are only murmured – and that was the case for me without a shield – it means that something good must have happened and that resolution is better.
Perhaps this is why, in the case of Bille Holiday, voice articulation was better in the “float” mode. I could simply more accurately and clearly hear what she was doing with her voice. That was a very emotional message, so it was what it should be like in high-end, in my opinion. I must repeat myself, because it is important – the resolution and stereo were better. Stronger and clearer details highlighted things that must have been somewhere before but were not an important part of the message, were not as significant as during that listening session.
However, I also admit that Polish recordings sounded much better with a connected shield. It is perhaps because they needed compensation in the form of stronger bass and more subtle treble, and not because such sound was better. However, in my opinion, these Polish albums sounded bad anyway. I do not know why the album of Peter, Paul and Mary which was released eleven years before the album of BemiBem (which is part of the prestigious Polish Jazz series) sounds far better.
I liked the version with disconnected shields more. It was faster and clearer. With connected shields it was like in a lake without a supply of fresh water – it was smooth, but torpid. Without a shield, it is easier to hear the continuity of the stereo stage, even in the case of a “left/right” recording. Jazz recordings came off a bit worse without a shield, they sounded a bit “boxy” for me, without filled up bass. I do not know why Mr. Janusz complains about Polish recordings so much, because I liked them a lot – they do not sound bad at all. They sound worse than PPM, but there is something true in them, some truth about the time when they were created.
At the second attempt, i.e. in the “float” mode, I started to appreciate the TC fully. I had heard before that it is a good cable, but I had liked the DC so much that I had not felt any urge to try the TC. Without a shield, I heard an amazing separation of instruments, events and everything that was happening on the stage – that was amazing! This change convinced me that the TC is better than the DC in all respects. It also confirmed my opinion that the Double Crown had already shown how excellent good recordings can sound, especially the older ones. However, replacing DC cables with Triple Crown cables is an incredible change – these are two different worlds.
It was an interesting experience – I could hear that the cable sounds better without a shield, but it is not always advantageous for recordings. In the case of Björk’s album, sound was clearly much better with disconnected shields. The bass was also better because it was faster and better defined. However, when it came to the album of Peter, Paul and Mary, I was not sure which version I liked more. I was only sure that these were two completely different presentations.
When we were designing the cables, we listened to them thousands of times. We also compared the final cables with connected and disconnected shields hundreds of times. Since these versions sound so different, we have decided to let people decide which cable setting to choose in their own systems. It can be heard that there is a place for both the “float” and “ground” mode, depending on the type of a system.
However, I have my own opinion of it. From my point of view, Triple Crown cables sound much better without a connected shield. In top-end, well-compiled systems that are characterized by high resolution and open, the “float” version will always sound better. Of course, one can have their own preferences, but there is a so-called “consensus” when it comes to better sound and, for me, it is sound without shields, even if not everyone likes it and even if it does not pertain to all recordings. In my opinion, if a system sounds better with connected shields, it means that there is some error in the system.
Triple Crown cables constitute a standard for themselves. I do not know any other connecting cable that would sound so exquisite. It is not only my opinion, because everyone who has come across it says the same thing. It is a product of real engineering and the cost of manufacturing it is enormous, so the final price is also very high. However, we are talking about top high-end here, about the luxurious peak of a luxurious hobby, i.e. high-end audio. It is not a garage-based company which assembles (perhaps even ingeniously, but still only assembles) cables made by someone else, but a company which designs and manufactures everything itself. This is the real top.
A comparison of different variations of Triple Crown cables with connected and disconnected shields makes us realize how this element changes sound (or actually cable parameters, but these, ultimately, change sound). Without shields, the cable sounds fast and open, with a lot of treble. It is characterized by good resolution and dynamic. With shields it is calmer, there is more bass, resolution is lower and the attack is more subtle.
It was very interesting to test the cables with shields connected only on the source side, or only on the receiver side. This method is technically most correct – it is a so-called “telescopic” shield. And indeed, we agreed that in such a configuration sound was halfway between disconnected and connected shields. However, it was not attractive. In a direct comparison with both of the “extreme” versions it sounded less emotional, without energy and boldness. Connecting a shield on the side of the signal receiver was a mistake – sound became heavy and slow, and resolution was lower – I definitely do not recommend this!
And it is just a screen. Even such a fragmentary look behind the “design curtain” shows us how many variables must be taken into consideration to prepare a high-class interconnect. Conductor materials, the dielectric, geometry, thickness and distance, plugs, fixing methods, shielding, vibration damping – all these factors play an extremely important role. Knowing all this, it seems that those two years that were spent in Siltech on designing and manufacturing Triple Crown cables was an extremely short period of time. Just this little thing shows what kind of a company we are dealing with – perfectionist in all respects.
Recordings used during the listening sessions:
SYSTEM USED DURING THE LISTENING SESSIONS
Compact Disc Transport: Ayon Audio CD-T