Cable Research Lab Gold Series Cables
|Cable Research Lab Gold Series Cables|
|Wired or tired? What CRL, Cable research Lab, can do for your system
On a final pass through the venders section of the Hi End audio show in New York this past spring, I came across a modest display that at first glance blended seamlessly into an amalgam of table tops laden with a variety of audio accessories, CD’s, analog offerings and the assorted odds and ends of high end gadgetry.
After a rather humorous discussion with a very affable Asian distributor from Zindac, I had a nagging feeling about the table supporting some thick black cables I had previously passed by. What was it exactly that managed to penetrate my end of the day fog? Not to sound jaded, but I have seen, heard and possessed enough cable to wire a small Texas town. Retracing my steps the display came back into view. My first fleeting impression crystallized. It was the speaker spades on the Gold series Solid core copper speaker wire that registered in my subconscious. Without jumping too far out of editorial sequence, the Australian made Bocchino Audio connector spades are incredible. Robust would be an understatement.
Owner and developer Mr. Harry L. Winston, whose relaxed demeanor welcomed my interest with nary a hint of high end attitude, was more excited, like a customer of his products would be than the typical tense over hyped new manufacturer hoping to shove his wares into the ever contracting high end market.
That attitude is fitting, as Harry was a fevered customer of FIM cable, the genetic ancestor from which CRL was born. Harry was so impressed with the results he had been getting, he put his Moolah where his ears are and bought out FIM from then-distributor Musical Surroundings.
The headlining products in CRL are the Gold series, the subject of this review, the Silver series (which uses half the number of conductors) and rounding out the line, the most affordable Copper series. The spades are compression-terminated rather than soldered. As mentioned earlier, the speaker wire is as well constructed as any wire I have ever used. Though very thick, the wire is very flexible and fairly light. The XLR interconnects share the fine construction and feature a connector I have never seen before. Also sourced from Bocchino Audio, these things make the standard XLR connector look like play things. The final surprise came in the form of the asking price: $2700 for a 6ft pair of speaker wire and $2600 for a 1 meter pair for the XLR interconnects. I have used several high-end brands of wire at multiples of the CRL’s price. Though most performed very well, only a few could touch the build quality of the CRL. Of course great build quality is all fine and good, but if there is no get up and go, they will be packed up and gone.
CRL burns in all the cables before they ship and despite sounding really, really good out of the box, I let them play for a while before putting my ears to them in any meaningful way. Once I started paying attention however, I found a reasonably priced high-end wire that made no apologies whatsoever for its modest asking price. Coming off the Sunny 1000 cable review, my ears had been spoiled pretty rotten, yet the CRL kept the over all sonic quality of the system operating at a very high level. The first thing that struck me was the deep silence that allowed for great dynamic and transient clarity. Music had great contrast, a snap crackle and pop resulting from effortless dynamic dexterity hosting extraordinarily well-defined images within a soundstage as wide and deep as I have heard in my system. All this adds up to a very lively and engaging sound.
There is no softening or rounding out of high frequency extension either. Where the Sunny had a very slight downward tilt of the frequency balance, gently favoring the mid band, the CRL favored the treble range, moving high frequency rich instruments into greater significance within the over all picture. This came to light on the Billy Cobham compilation CD Billy’s Best Hits(GRP). Despite being out of print, this collection of compositions from one of fusions’ great innovators should be sought out on the second hand market. Despite all of its many musical and sonic charms, it is not a recording that represents the last word in high frequency information. With the CRL cable, Billy’s cymbal work becomes clearer, more coherent and focused. This is not to be understated. Cables in this price range more often than not use a sonic sleight of hand to deal with compromises in the design usually resulting in either softening or exaggeration. The CRL plays it straight, letting the gear and recording speak for themselves.
The mid band benefited from the open, sparkling treble as well. Vocals from Eva Cassidy Live at Blues Alley (Didegeridoo Records) are a great archive of a blessed singer that left us way too soon. With the CRL Eva’s voice opens up a bit resulting in a see through transparency that allows the variety of textures and inflections to register, with little or no effort from the listener to fill in the blanks.
This can be a double edge sword however. Compared to the best cables on the market, cost no object designs breeding deep into the five figures, the CRL can sound a bit too light, or overly see-through. Eva’s voice could have a bit more density or saturation of color like you would hear live. Gratefully the mid band and treble are largely free from edginess or electronic artifice. This does allow the airier balance to be a far greater virtue than liability.
Now, if the CRL’s bass proved to be too weighty or thick, the over all balance would be thrown off. If there was not enough low-end extension, the CRL would sound too lightweight. It is here that the CRL really pulls it all together – integrating the full frequency range into a coherent whole. This is a cable that will go all the way down with great authority, pitch definition and transient speed without leaving the upper frequencies to fend for themselves. Going back to Billy Cobhams’s Best hits (GRP), on track three, Mosaic, there is a double kick drum employed to great effect. The CRL cable has been one of my all time favorite cables through which I have played this track. We are talking real audiophile drool bucket stuff here. Another unreal bass recording is Brian Bromberg’s album Wood. Track two features, as do all the tracks on this recording, some of the most power full acoustic bass playing I have heard. The recording is outstanding if not entirely realistic in scale due to it’s close mic’d perspective and the mastering balance that leaves little doubt as to who the featured player is (I have never heard acoustic bass quite this explosive). This album puts forth a tidal wave of low-end texture, dynamics and speed and the CRL does not short change the experience. For it’s price and beyond for that matter, the CRL Gold has redefined the bass performance I expect from a cable any were near its price.
To this point I have focused on the speaker wire. My system with the Nova Physics Memory Player as my source had to be internally adjusted for analog output. While this was not major surgery, it was an interface I had not tested before the CRL came around. Compared to the Memory player rigged as digital out, the sound became a bit more opaque, a tad less dynamic. Not wanting to draw conclusions at that point, I swapped out the CRL for the Sunny XLR interconnects I have on hand. The results were identical. The Sunny suffered the same fate. Both cables retained their individuality though to a lesser degree due to the inherent homogenization of the balanced output and the need to convert the signal from analog into digital within the DAC section of the Behold preamp.
I may pass the interconnects on to another ST writer whose system is better suited for a follow up.
In any given month, I have many budding audiophiles come through my apartment. We usually talk speakers first, as they remain the cause celeb’ of the audio world. It is not long however before they take notice of the cable. Remember, from a novice point of view, audiophile wire can look like some kind of Con Ed experiment gone desperately awry. And we all know that look aimed our way when we start talking the prices of the stuff. One need not be a novice to become paralyzed with incredulity when confronted with prices deep into the four figures and beyond.
The CRL presents me with a rare opportunity to whole-heartedly recommend a wire to the budding audiophile as well as the fully blossomed fruit-bearing audiophile, wire that performs on a reference level at a price that will not require keeping a CPR kit at hand. Is there a system that may not realize the benefits of the CRL? Perhaps if the system’s balance is already looking for extra richness or the taming of the high frequencies. That said, the CRL may well be the last cable you may ever need, it is that good. As a reviewer, I very much look forward to what comes next from Mr. Winston and CRL.
Gold Speaker Cable
Price: $2,700.00 /pair
Price: $2,600.00/ pair
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