Jake Shimabukuro In The Crystal Cable/Siltech Room At The Venetian

Since I focus on digital product introductions at CES, Crystal Cable wasn't on my radar until John Atkinson suggested checking them out last year when bringing Graham Nash to the show. Boy am I glad I did! Not only did Graham love his visit there in 2016 (and JA subsequently reviewed their speakers), Jake ended his CES 2017 tour on a high note in the room with an encore performance that brought tears to more than one visitor's eye.

The Crystal room is also one of the smaller available for CES exhibitors, but again, the company made the most of what they had. Jake sat on the couch in center, flanked on either side by Crystal's Gabi Rijnveld and Siltech's Edwin Rijnveld. And joining us for this session were John Atkinson, Ken Kessler (big Jake fan), and a small group of lucky visitors who sat or stood in the upper level.


We stuck to the plan and started with our 24/88 versions of "Blue Haiku" and "Galloping Seahorses" from Nashville Sessions, which sounded big as life despite the diminutive size of the speakers. As Jake notes: "this is amazing, so much sound . . . pristine . . . clear. The smallest speakers we've heard, but man those things sound great!"

Jake continues: "what I liked is, like the last room [Devore Fidelity], this is a little more of what I'm used to hearing, not this quality of course, but this sound because some of the other rooms were larger and the imaging so wide, you get wrapped up in it. But with these speakers the music really hits you--I felt there was a good separation of the bass and high end. There was a lot of clarity in the high end, but the bass was still very present. Every room we go to sounds so good, it sounds better than anything I've ever heard!"


At this point Jake went over to open his ukulele case and stated "this is the exciting test because I get to play something live and then we get to hear the recorded piece."

While Jake was tuning up, JA, who had joined us for the last few sessions and is also very familiar with these speakers, opined that "this system excelled at presenting the image of the instrument. The body of the uke hanging there in space."

After Jake finished and then we played the recorded version of "Eleanor Rigby" one last time, Gabi commented that "it's so intimate, if you close your eyes it's very hard to tell the difference. It's amazing." Jake adds "I immediately thought, it's focused." Then JA: "it's very interesting, at the very end, your adding that high third . . . I couldn't hear it on some of the other systems, and I could on this." Then Jake: "I feel [this system] captured the natural frequencies of the ukulele very well. What, what's the price range of these . . . "


That was it, but then Jake offered to play one last piece if we were game. Of course we were! He treated us to his celebrated transcription of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" that had so much emotional power, several in the small audience started tearing up. Gabi later confided that this is her all-time favorite work, all the more amazing since Jake had chosen it without being aware.

This year's CES audio experiment had come to an end, and Jake offered a few last thoughts: "I've been playing ukulele all my life, so I know how to get the sounds that I want. And then there's the recording engineer who knows how to capture those things, put it on tape or hard drive. And then there are [manufacturers] who know how to take it off of that medium and get it to the listener. And I always feel that with every album, [musicians] have those first two steps, but we lack control over the third step. We have to figure out a way the three parts can work together to create this experience. What I felt when I played it, that's what I want to experience again sitting on the sofa listening."

Jake brought up this last point several more times over the next few hours, and then the following day before he headed back to Hawaii. He repeatedly expressed a strong desire to work with manufacturers to help them get as close as possible to real. Any takers?

For those wondering, in response to a question from JA earlier, Jake had told us a little about his instrument at one point: "This is a Kamaka ukulele, made by the Kamaka family in Hawaii. They were the first family to start manufacturing ukuleles in the world, and learned from the Portuguese immigrants how to build these instruments when they came over to work in the plantation fields. Last year, 2016, was their centennial year--100 years as a family business--which of course makes them the oldest manufacturers of ukuleles."

And finally, I wish to thank Michael Jensen, of Jensen Communications, who connected Stereophile with Jake, Jake's manager Van Fletcher, and recording engineer Milan Bertosa who created the perfect reference track for us!

Crystal Cable/Siltech Music Equipment List:
Crystal Cable Minissimo Diamond stand mount speakers: $19,995/pair, incl. stands
Crystal Cable Cube Integrated Amplifier: $16,995
Crystal Cable Absolute Dram and The Ultimate Dram monocrystal cables: $11,000-23,000
Siltech Triple Crown cables: $15,000-25,000
As source we used the Rossini CD and DAC from dCS, and Mac computer with Absolute Dream USB cable.

More info on Jake @CES here. You can read all of the Jake @CES posts here.

Anton's picture

It seems the more "affordable" lines held up as well, or better than, the real estate-priced systems.

I wonder what he would have said about Golden Ear, Paradigm, PSB, or other 'real world' systems.

My take home from this is that there is a true asymptote for performance, but we don't know at what price the elbow actually appears.

If he will do it, next year hit the hoi polloi rooms on the lowers floors!

Thanks for the cool reports!

tonykaz's picture

Probably, Jake is referencing to Genelec Recording Monitors which are modestly priced compared to this CNO System.

This reads like Jake is comparing a $150,000 Consumer System to a $5,000 Studio System ( which he already has faith in ). I agree, the Pro powered Monitors get the job done for the most critical people on earth.

It's nice to know that ( at least some of ) the CNO stuff can perform at Professional levels, not that it matters.

Tony in Michigan