Bookshelf Speakers

Crystal Cable Arabesque Stand-Mounted Monitor Speakers


Crystal Cable Arabesque Speakers In Use

Just to get it out of the way, the Arabesque Minis are probably the best sounding speaker I have ever had in my room. The only competition I can think of is the Legend Acoustics Tikandis with DEQX processor I tested a couple of years back. The Arabesque Minis aren't all-arounders like the Tikandis were, but the level of performance they delivered in the areas of transient speed and the sheer size and accuracy of the soundstage and images produced was absolutely jaw-dropping.

The first thing I heard with these speakers was their speed in dealing with transients. This gave lots of life and pace to pretty much every recording I heard. There was just way more snap and impact to every transient. Because of this quickness, you could also hear more detail. Transients came on quickly, and then decayed quickly, getting out of the way of sounds that came later. This time domain performance is something that is not captured well in typical measurements. A speaker could have perfect frequency response, and vanishingly low distortion, but still manage to smear out time varying signals. I found this property of the Arabesque Minis to be most rewarding with any sort of drums, from electronica to small Jazz ensembles. The speed and impact the Minis gave to transients even helped make up for their limited bass response. Even though the bottom octave was gone, and the second dropping fast, the speed and snap of the remaining bass even made listening to electronica like Daft Punk still relatively enjoyable. The texture and life given to well recorded Jazz drums was really fantastic. In Jon Faddis' 24/96 album Remembrances, every detail of every drum and cymbal was clear as day.

The best area of performance that the Minis delivered was in imaging and soundstaging. In this arena, the Arabesque Minis are clearly the best speakers that I have ever heard in my room. The width, and particularly the height and depth of the soundstage was the largest I have heard. The width was 2-3 feet out past each speaker. I've heard speakers throw a wider soundstage than this, but not in my room. The soundstage height reached all the way to the ceiling on many recordings. Depth was way out the back of the listening room, deeper than anything I've heard ever, even at a show. When listening to Jon Faddis, the image of the trumpet and flugelhorn was so high and deep it sounded like I was sitting at a front row table in a club, just below the stage with Faddis' horn about 10 feet in front of me and 5 feet above me. It was really quite amazing. The images themselves were amazingly precise and clean, without being abnormally small and unnaturally "pinpoint". Like some of the best small speakers I've heard, they "disappeared" into the soundstage. With my eyes closed, there were no audio cues at all to the position of the speakers, so the point where I would be surprised where the speakers were when I finally opened my eyes. The only drawback here was that the recording had to be good to get this amazing soundstage out. Over produced pop recordings were plenty wide, but relatively flat and shallow, and did not reach as high. This is expected, though. No speaker can put in what was never in the recording to begin with.

The quality of timbre from the Minis was also excellent, of the same quality as the Legend Tikandis, Gallo 3.5s and Thiel CS3.7s. The fact that the speakers were so fast improved the level of detail I heard. This also helped the reproduction of timbre because every sound was so clean. The low measured distortion of the speakers also invariably helped. Even with the very clear, fast treble, the Minis never sounded harsh or hard on the high end. Bass tonality was very good down to 80 Hz or so, but started to get a bit anemic and wooly at lower frequencies before the bass became completely absent. This was verified by later frequency response and distortion measurements. For a limited frequency response speaker, this is the best outcome: excellent performance where the speakers do work, with the rest of the bass missing (rather than present, but bad).

This limited frequency response results in a speaker that works much better for small ensemble acoustic music. For big orchestral works, electronica, bass heavy rock etc, they would need a subwoofer to really deliver. The trick is adding a subwoofer without messing up the areas of performance where the Minis excel.