But this is where the wider conceptual approach takes over, bringing cost savings of its own. The basic cable geometry is extremely simple throughout the range, a solid core silver/gold central conductor being wrapped with a Kapton film to space it from a pure silver, woven outer, which is in turn sheathed in a thin layer of Teflon. It doesn’t get much simpler, or thinner, than this. As you move up the range, the central conductor gains weight, but even the Reference leads are incredibly spindly compared to the competition. It’s not until you get to the Ultra range that the conductors are twisted. But taking things a stage further, identical conductors are used throughout each range, paired up as required to produce everything from tonearm leads to power cords at each price level, meaning that a single base conductor is used to create an entire product tier. Far from being a cheap shot, this is one of Crystal’s greatest virtues, the utter consistency across all the cables in a system offering very real musical benefits. Yet the less-is-more simplicity extends further still, with lightweight terminations continuing the low-mass/low-bulk philosophy, and even the elegant packaging making the competition look heavy, bulky and over done.
By now, those conceptual similarities with the Nordost cables should be There’s the consistency of the materials used throughout. There’s the minimalist construction and attention paid to low dielectric effect. There’s the geometrical accuracy of each conductor and the low-mass terminations. There’s the provision of a complete, coherent range of cables to meet every system need, from the wall socket onwards.
Not that these things are exclusive to Nordost. But they are things that every really successful cable brand (and there are fewer than you’d think) has in common. In the case of Crystal, the geometrical and materials consistency across the tiers in the product range means that the cables can also be mixed and matched more successfully across less critical applications, without any loss in overall musical coherence, while their slim dimensions, low mass and flexibility make installation itself extremely easy. Unusually, the speaker cables have exchangeable terminations, lodged in the case of the Ultras, inside the oval housings at each end of the run. Want to swap from spade to bi-wired 4mm plugs? No problem. Just order up the necessary terminations and swap them over, using the high-quality multi-pin connectors installed for the job. Purists, aghast at the introduction of any sort of break in their cables can order continuous runs, but for reviewers and equipment fetishists everywhere the flexibility on offer is a Godsend.