Graham Nash Finishes Up With Crystal Cable/Siltech and then Vandersteen Audio in the Venetian

[Note: click here for background on this project and here for how we set up the equipment.]

The day was getting long at this point and we'd already listened to a couple hour's worth of music, but we wanted a little variety from the floor-standing speakers we had heard to far. So we popped into the Crystal Cable/Siltech room to hear This Path Tonight on a dimensionally smaller system.

Crystal's Hungarian-born Gabi Rjinveld was a touring concert pianist in her youth (she started training at age 4) and she and Nash immediately fell into conversation about music. Perfect. But we were here to listen to Nash's album, so I hooked his computer up to the dCS DAC on hand and eventually Graham moved to the sweet spot.

His reaction: "I was expecting much less when I saw the speakers. I mean, they are only a foot or so square. So I wasn't prepared for the size of the sound coming out. I didn't realize you could get that kind of sound from that size."

To be fair, there was a subwoofer in the room, but Nash was right, the imaging sounded just as big as in the other rooms.

"And the music sounded very natural, very real. Of course being a smaller system, again I could see this in my own living room since they aren't gigantic things. The speakers were beautifully designed and did you see the inside of the [Siltech] amplifier? Beautiful! The Dutch—watch out!"

Gabi and Edwin Rjinveld with Graham Nash .

As we were talking in the back of the room, Graham's eye caught a glimpse of some in-ear-monitors wired with Crystal Cable (sold through Astell and Kern) in a display case. I knew that he has some Koss day-glo earbuds that he connects to his phone and computer, so suggested he give them a listen to see what he'd been missing. Even better, Gabi handed him the set and said "try them out on your own and let me know what you think."

Graham told me later that back at the hotel he had charged up the Chord Mojo headphone DAC he had been given earlier, and plugged in the new ear-buds, deciding right then and there he had to have them. He and Gabi worked it out and Nash couldn't be happier. I'm hoping he spreads the word to all of his musician pals as well.

Our Last Stop: Vandersteen Audio
We had run out of time, but back in my retail days, Vandersteen speakers were a cornerstone choice for budding audiophiles, and I didn't want to miss paying a visit. The room was fairly dark—which presented a very relaxing, almost reverent listening space.

In fact when we first walked in, they were playing one of John Atkinson's Cantus choral recordings, and Graham Nash immediately asked if it could be turned up a tad as he sat down to listen. Everyone in the packed room became quiet and waited a couple minutes until the piece was finished.

Meridian’s Brad O’Toole used the flashlight function on his cellphone so we could see in the darkness and we fiddled around until we had Graham's laptop plugged in to the Meridian DAC and Roon booted up.

We listened to two tracks and then Graham looked at me and asked what I'd like to hear for the final song that day. So of course I picked the last track on the album, "Encore." And it was a sad moment for me as I knew this dream was about to end.

We headed to the elevators and on the way down Nash noted that the bass in the Vandersteen room was not his favorite and I had to agree that it was a little uneven, probably due to the smaller room dimensions, with the speakers closer to the side walls then the other larger suites. I've heard these speakers sounding fantastic all the way down elsewhere and simply chalk it up to the dreaded CES hotel curse in this case.

But then Graham added "what I really liked was the midrange of that speaker system, that sounded like my voice. There was plenty of natural detail." Which was spot on. I had to agree that the vocals sounded gorgeous and alive.

L-R Richard Vandersteen, Graham Nash, Shane Buettner (Intervention Records and marketing for Vandersteen)

And finally, "pretty good for the last room today. The truth is, the album sounded pretty good all over the place. Big, small, tiny. I'm pleased and impressed with what people are building now."

Crystal/Siltech Equipment List (used for demo):
dCS Rossini Player DAC $28,000
Siltech SAGA preamp/monoblock power amps $100,000/set
Crystal Cable Minissimo Diamond two-way mini-monitor and stands $15,000/pr
Crystal Cable Submissimo powered subwoofer $12,000
Siltech and Crystal Cable cables $20,000

Vandersteen Equipment List (used for demo):
Meridian 818V3 dac/preamp combo $16,000
Brinkmann Audio Marconi preamp $13,000
Vandersteen M7-HPA mono blocks $62,000/PR.
Vandersteen Model 5A Carbon speakers $29,900/PR.
AudioQuest Niagara 7000 power conditioner $7,995
HRS Isolation Stands
All Cables by AudioQuest

doak's picture

Great read.
Thanks Jon.