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Reviewer: Paul Candy
Financial Interests: click here
Digital Source: Rotel RCD-971 CDP as transport, PS Audio DL III DAC w/ Cullen Circuits Stage Three Mod, Shanling PCD3000A.
Analog Source: Pro-Ject RPM 5 turntable, Pro-Ject Speed Box, Pro-Ject Tube Box phono stage, Ortofon Rondo Blue cartridge
Amps: Audiomat Opéra Référence integrated, Audio Zone AMP-1, Wyred 4 Sound SX-1000 monos [in for review]
Speakers: Green Mountain Audio Callisto (on sand-filled Skylan stands), 2 x REL Q108 Mk II subwoofers, Hornshoppe Horns, AV123 Strata Mini, Hyperion HPS-738 [in for review]
Cables: Acoustic Zen Silver Reference, Audience Maestro, DH Labs Air Matrix & Revelation, JPS Labs Superconductor+, SilverFi Samarkand & Moonshadow interconnects, Auditorium 23 speaker cables
Power Cables: Audience, GutWire, Harmonic Technology
Stands: Grand Prix Audio Monaco four-tier rack
Powerline conditioning: BPT Pure Power Center with Wattgate, Bybee Quantum Purifier and ERS cloth options, Audience aR1p AC conditioner (digital only), GutWire MaxCon (digital only)
Sundry accessories: Grand Prix Audio Apex footers, Acoustic Revive RR-77, Isoclean fuses, Caig Pro Gold, Auric Illuminator, Audio Magic/Quantum Physics Noise Disruptors, dedicated AC line with Wattgate 381 outlet, Echo Busters acoustic room treatments
Room size: 11' x 18' x 8', long wall setup, suspended hardwood floors with large area rug, walls are standard drywall over Fiberglass insulation.
Review component retail: CDN$780/€450
"Hey Paul, why don't you take these home for the weekend and let me know what you think?" That was Rickey Yan of Aurora/Ontario retailer Audio Ovation while handing me a pair of odd-looking cables. "What is this? It looks like some kind of weird piggy-back cable." Ricky answered, "It's the Bridge from Crystal Cable. It retails for CDN$780 and upgrades your existing interconnects without having to replace them with more expensive ones." "Huh? Why would I spend $800 to upgrade my existing $300 cables? Why not just buy an $800 cable?" I also thought that running the signal through an extra set of RCA connectors would degrade the sound. Rickey just smiled while I took up his offer completely convinced that I wouldn't have anything positive to say upon return. Rickey also offered that sales of the Bridge had been brisk since Ovation Audio started carrying the Crystal Cable line. The fact that I subsequently contacted Crystal Cable for a formal review pair suggests that I was impressed. Indeed I was. My preconceptions henceforth received a sound butt kicking.
The Bridge is a patent-pending cable design from Crystal Cable that upgrades existing interconnect cables without actually replacing them. The Bridge's connectors have both the usual male sockets that plug into your components and female piggy-backed RCA plugs to receive your existing interconnects. What connects the plugs is a ground cable with an inbuilt "ultra high-speed filter >20GHz" at each end. This cable does not carry a signal. It is simply an enhanced ground or return that supplements your existing cable's ground. Confused? Check out the pictures. First, disconnect your existing cables, plug in the Bridge to your components and then reconnect your cables to the female connectors on the Bridge. Then sit back and prepare to be pleasantly surprised. Two models are offered, the Bridge at €450 and the Dreamlink at €1,500.
Crystal claims that the Bridge lowers system distortion and noise levels while improving dynamic range, micro dynamics and frequency response. Inside the cable's special RCA jacks reside what Crystal calls a HPSA filter made of 99.9999% silver/gold alloy while the higher priced Dreamlink boasts a 99.9999999% silver/gold alloy. Both the Bridge and Dreamlink are based on Siltech's Zero Ohm Link design. I am speculating here but the Bridge appears to function as a wide-band return shunt, which should reduce system RFI or ground loop noise. Via email, I asked Crystal cable's Gabi van der Kley to provide further background information regarding the Bridge.
"The idea for this innovation was born from the thought that the purity of the material is one of the major reasons for being able to achieve distortion-free musical cables. The low resistance adds enlarged dynamic range to this near zero distortion concept. Crystal Cable is using very high-purity silver injected with gold for the conductors. Making an extra ground cable from this advanced material with our exceptional isolators (Kapton, Peek and Teflon) allows the listener to upgrade his system without trading in the complete cabling. Connecting the Crystal Bridge or Dreamlink first, then plugging in the existing interconnects (of whatever brand) immediately results in a significant distortion reduction. The noise level drops while micro dynamics and sound quality improve dramatically. These 'super-ground' cables give any other interconnects a massive upgrade beyond the material choice. The improvements are also due to the built-in ultra high speed filter, which ensures perfect phase even at extreme frequencies."
Prompted by our Editor, I asked Gabi if the Bridge was related to Edwin's (Gabi's husband and founder of Siltech) research on amorphous conductors, which turned out to be fruitless since the material proved impossible to obtain in practical quantities. As an unexpected result of those experiments, Edwin had discovered that the last few centimeters at either end of a cable had a significantly greater effect on overall performance than initially thought. For example, take a standard OFC interconnect and replace the last couple of centimeters at each end with a higher-grade metal, say Siltech/Crystal silver/gold alloy. The resultant sound will be very similar to a cable containing this material all the way through. Frank Tchang observed the same phenomenon during his research, hence his Acoustic System Liveline cables tuck only a few millimeters of his expensive alloys (silver, gold, Platinum etc) inside the connectors while the rest of the cable remains ordinary copper and silver for hot and return.