ReMusic visits Crystal Cable

23.09.2011..

Arnhem, Holland – If I think about that, it still makes an impression. I have been there. One of the battle fields of the Operation Market Garden, the unsuccessful and defectively estimated attempt the Allies made in September ‘44 to get over in one go with the German armies. When I was a kid, I read a lot about these facts. If I glance up, I can imagine what I always thought it had happened: the U.S.101st Airborne Division landing like dandelions in springtime. What was waiting for them after they had landed is in all the history books: not an honourable page, for no army.

Yes, I must admit it. I was intimidated. By the place. By its past. Also by the present: one of the few woman entrepreneurs in hi-fi, Gabi van der Kleij, was waiting for me. How could I absorb the impact of one of the biggest success by critique, public and commercial of the last years? Well, I mean, I had to get ready for my little war. I was feeling a bit apprehensive…

Mind you, the helpfulness and politeness I received had been impeccable. From the very first moment, Gaby had revealed herself for what she was, for what she had been. As a former professional pianist - Käfer was its surname before getting married – Gabi has that lucid determination of many musicians that I had the chance to meet. Maybe because they are used to keep time, they seem not disposed to waste it

 

Crystal Cable’s Commercial agency department is inside a high-tech skyscraper of Arnhem, alongside the buildings of Siltech Cables, a society run by Gabi’s husband, Edwin van der Kleij. The production takes place in the outskirts where you can find the same situation: common spaces, different productions. The production department is otherwise clean and tidy. It seems more like a scientific lab. Here, also the preparation of the cables becomes a science thanks, for example, to the professional stripping stations of the Swiss Schleuniger. The two firms have also the NASA’s COMSOL Multiphysics Finite Element Analysis Simulation Software, which allows a real approach of multi parameter design. If applied to the loudspeakers, it can tell you how the different materials behave. It makes the thermic analysis, foresees the interaction with the room, the cancellations of phase, the modes of the internal resonances and the dispersion of the components, with several possibilities of corrective interventions. Say nothing of the measurement equipment, with names like Tektronix or Rohde & Schwarz. One of their most spectacular applications is the one that verifies the effective magnetic and RF insulation of the cables. It has shown to me how some cables - which were above suspicion because visibly shielded - are not really shielded.

 

Another amazing thing I found out, because always visible in the monitor outcome, is the cable resistance to the mechanical alterations. You take a cable and bend it to 180°, practically a “u-turn”. Then you measure its behaviour after this rough treatment. Many of the tested cables did NOT behave like before, did NOT lead the signal as before and, most of all, did NOT conduct as before.

In extreme synthesis: twisted cables against coaxial, this is the basic manufacturing difference between Siltech Cables and Crystal Cable. Is that all? Let us ask to whom has created and pursued the Crystal success, Gabi herself. I take a deep breath and I launch into it. Without parachute.

 

Question:

Your husband Ewin is the person in charge of Siltech Cables. You are Crystal Cable. I presume you do not want to be in conflict with him. Besides, you have shared out the market: so which is the mission of Crystal Cable?

Mrs. van der Kleij (from here on, Gabi): Why should we argue!? She smiles. Everything started when I began helping my husband in solving the problems of image and P.R. of Siltech. Obviously, I had to study and deepen the technical-scientific aspects. At a certain point, I realized that those kinds of cables, although very good in performances and technical features, were too male-like: thick, heavy, impressive, intimidating.

So the question was: is it possible to make cables with the same sound quality and technologic perfection, but with a friendlier look? More desirable, like jewels? It was an idea, but a possibility too.

From my point of view the most part of cables manufacturers had a similar production, aesthetically undifferentiated. No one had already made an effort to do something different. A lot of research, very high technology, precious materials and a jewellery look: let’s do it! I felt it in the air, I had to try.

The start was a boom. Everybody loved them. I mean, everybody talked of them, because they were so different. That was what we wanted: being different and being high-end.

The first year I had to learn many things and hastily. Sources, amplifiers, loudspeakers… My background as a musician had helped me a lot. This is why Edwin and I work so well together. I know I can count on his whole technical and scientific experience that is at the basis of every product of ours. The look is then developed independently on our own way. Each of us has his own sensitivity that satisfies different needs. Our needs and the different needs of our customers. Therefore, as you can see, we are not in competition!

 

Question: Dozens of prizes, awards and reviews, a commercial presence in more than forty nations: your first years have decreed an enthusiastic welcome by the market. You have been an instant classic: can you tell me the reason why?

Gabi: Well, you are quite right. At the beginning, everybody listened to and wanted to listen to our cables. From one side they appreciated them for what they were: new, good looking, convincing cables. If you listened to them, you liked them twice, because they performed well and were good at looking too. Another reaction was instead fear, anxiety, disorientation…

Question: Why?

Gabi: Because there was a women speaking, and with competence, about hi-fi. Because women usually do not go to the hi-fi exhibitions.

Question: How come?

Gabi: Because hi-fi is thought as a technical matter. Technical things are decided by men. Because many men do not realize that women have better ears. For natural reasons, I mean. The increased sensitivity to the high-pitched frequencies, for example.

Question: I agree. It has to do with one of my key questions: every time a woman gets into a room where a hi-fi system is playing, she says that the volume is too high. I think the point is not the volume. I believe that women can better hear the distortions. I have no scientific truth about, it is just my opinion.

Gabi: True. It is a natural thing. I have the same opinion. I have no scientific evidence, like you, but, since time immemorial, the woman had to listen more, for example to the cry of her baby. Yes, it makes you wonder whether a woman can hear louder than a man. Yes. Anyhow, I think that the man focuses, on average, on the power of sound, even if the sound, in reality, is poor. The woman, instead, privileges the details, the expressive richness. She hears more the music than the volume. Also the musicians, on average, hear like that. When I was a professional musician I used to look after the quality, I was interested to music and its interpretation. Still now, I have some musician friends totally uninterested in a good hi-fi system. My mission with Crystal Cable is just this: bringing music into hi-fi. In too many hi-fi trade fairs the topic is how the system is connected, which is the room set-up, how much powerful is the amp and no one speaks about music. Everybody listen to the system and not to the music. My goal is, therefore, to bring, through the system, the musical feeling of a concert hall or of a stadium or of any other place where the music has been recorded. The music in your living room, not only the devices to reproduce music.

Question: Which are your next goals as far as the production is concerned?

Gabi: We have just completed our range of cables with the digital ones. A rising trend, definitely. It is amazing what a good digital cable can do. It is not true that all the cables perform well. We are also working on the new models of Arabesque, our loudspeakers with transparent cabinet, very hard to make. There will be a bookshelf version or smaller versions than the floorstanding model.

ReMusic: Thanks, Gabi, many compliments again.

Gabi: You are welcome, Giuseppe.

 

Arnhem, Holland, war is over.

 

P.S. For narrative reasons, I have intentionally described a situation in a very coloured style. The dinner that followed with Gabi and Edwin showed, without any doubt, that they are among the most epicurean and jovial people I have ever had the chance to meet in my entire life.

by Giuseppe Castelli
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