The place to start is the newest addition to the Crystal Cable line-up, the CCI (or Crystal Cable Integrated) amplifier. Well, newest in terms of product launches; the amplifier has been on display and on show at audio expos for several years, going through a few perfectionist final tweaks (and that’s the downside of being having the sharpest tool in the audio box on tap... the search for perfection means never signing off the design). The amplifier itself is a cube about the size of a medium-sized two-way standmount and is deceptively clever. The compact, cuboid chassis of the CCI amplifier is there for a reason: it delivers both space and thermal efficiency. So despite its 100 Watt/channel rating in Class AB, its cooling design and extensive protection means that the Cube chassis runs cool enough that it can be placed almost anywhere. Where it gets really fun is in the use of an optically-decoupled, standing bias, Class AB design. If the phrase ‘optically-decoupled, standing bias’ rings a bell, it’s because the circuit is derived from Siltech’s revolutionary Light Drive output stage used in its air-gaspingly expensive SAGA amplifier.
CCI’s fully-balanced line-stage offers six inputs, each with individual gain settings, while software controlled relays totally isolate unused source components for optimum sound quality. Each stage of the amplifier, as well as the control circuitry, has its own independent, dedicated power supply. These are sophisticated Power Factor Corrected switch-mode designs, fully enclosed and heavily shielded. In short, don’t let the size fool you; this is one serious amp design.
Crystal Cable’s first loudspeaker was the tower Arabesque Glass (which is still in production almost 10 years after its introduction). Subsequent designs (including the Minissimo) have been scaled down from that tall, glass tower, but feature very similar design principles. And those design principles are sticking closely to the parameters expressed by COMSOL Multiphysics, the modelling software used by the company. And, by treating the air inside and outside a loudspeaker as a gas (because, well, it is a gas), and using COSMOL’s gas-dynamics package, Crystal Cable has created a design that has a natural resonant delay due to cabinet structure and not a forced resonant delay from cabinet damping.
For the basic Minissimo, Crystal Cable uses the same ScanSpeak Illuminator drivers it used in the Arabesque Mini; a 25mm beryllium tweeter and 150mm laminated cone paper mid-bass design, with the port firing downward, and a one-piece block matrix cabinet of resin and metal, from which the basic Minissimo shape is milled.
The last piece in the Minissimo jigsaw is the crossover, an updated variation on the theme of a second-order network that Crystal Cable calls its ‘Natural Science’ crossover. This is designed to create a 12dB/octave slope while trying to minimise phase and time domain distortions. This means no nasty low impedance dips, and means that while the Minissimo is 3dB down at 48Hz, the slope is very gentle and is only -6dB down at 38Hz. At the other end of the scale, the tweeter extends to 38kHz and the crossover point is 1.8kHz. The trade-off is 86dB sensitivity.