Austin Hi-Fi: Crimson Electronics, Crimson Audio Cables, Resolution Audio, Music

I walked in during “Band on the Run,” and the sound was full of life, energy, and impact. I took a seat and scanned the deceptively small and apparently simple system: 3-way ATC SCM50SL passive loudspeakers ($11,650/pair), each way powered by its own pair of Crimson Electronics 640E Series III monoblocks ($5995/pair), a Crimson Electronics 710 preamplifier ($6995, including phono section), and Resolution Audio’s Cantata Music Center ($6000; reviewed by Jon Iverson in our November issue). All components rested neatly on simple, affordable Ikea Lack stands.

If at first I thought the overall presentation was a little small (I did), I changed my mind when we turned to large-scale orchestral. As the music grew in size, so did the system’s presentation of that music. Large-scale music was appropriately large-scale, with impressive weight and impact from such a compact system. A nice trick.

Most fun, though, was getting an opportunity to speak with Austin Hi-Fi’s Creston Funk. Have you ever met this dude? He kinda looks like Clint Eastwood: BADASS. Plus: His name is Creston Funk. Double badass. Plus: He’s got a ton of interesting hi-fi stories and an interesting perspective on the hobby itself.

“We want to get our systems right without all the extra jazz that costs a lot of money. We know this is an expensive system, but we expect our systems to match well against $300,000 systems. We’re going for a straight-ahead sound.”

As the music played, the sound seemed to get better and better. I was torn between listening to Creston and listening to the music.

“It’s the same way with music,” Funk continued. “We respect what the engineer did. We don’t want to make the recordings better. We want our customers to be able to get the most out of normal software. We want to get to the music in as direct a manner as possible.”

To that end, Funk believes in short signal paths, high-quality parts, simple construction, no excess. He uses Ikea Lack tables because they’re light and rigid and don’t store energy. All of Crimson’s cables use Eichmann Bullet RCA plugs, a favorite of Funk’s for their clear, quiet sound. The Crimson preamp, he says, is the heart of the system, one of the quietest preamps he’s ever heard.

“What happens when you lower the noise-floor? You get more music.”

For Funk, music is the priority.

“We want to get to the music in as direct a manner as possible,” he says again. “This should be more about music than gear.” He pauses, reflects, and adds: “And we think it ought to be fun.”