Analysis Plus's Solo Crystal Oval (Pair):
As new demo limited opportunity!
As new factory packaged with full factory warranty, CURRENT MODEL (in stands for Interconnect) and a Great way to experience Analysis Plus Cables / warm / musical / big sound stage/ great
Using conventional round cable is like
pouring fine wine through a lead pipe. What comes out is definitely not
what went in. Continuous Cast Copper (solo crystal copper) braids with
patented hollow oval design put nothing in the way of the musical
Analysis Plus Solo Crystal
Oval Interconnects and Solo Crystal Oval 8 Speaker Cables
by Marc Mickelson:
Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval
high-resolution view of your equipment and music," but also "palpable and fleshy
through the midrange, the antithesis of thin or bleached"; "the better the
software, the better it sounds with the Solo Crystal Oval cables."
Copper wire and patented hollow oval geometry produce a cable that Analysis Plus claims is
measurably better than the competition.
spades can be tricky to connect to Mark Levinson amps and other equipment with wing-nut
speaker binding posts.
cables with which you can call it quits, no matter the pedigree of your audio system or
Although high-end audio is a technical business,
there are more than a few companies headed by people with little or no formal training in
electrical or acoustical engineering. I won't argue that this is some kind of liability
(perhaps it makes its own argument), but it is curious. However, a similar argument could
be made about editors of audio magazines, many of whom have no formal training in editing
-- or writing for that matter. Furthermore, I don't think the lack of relevant educational
experience shows in audio products anywhere near as much as it does in audio magazines,
where so many articles are the equivalent of an amp that's dead out of the box. Don't get
I open this way in order to point out that
Analysis Plus has at its helm trained electrical engineers with experience not only with
the design of audio cables but also electronic and electromagnetic simulation, design and
analysis. Mark Markel, Analysis Plus prez, has degrees in physics and electrical
engineering from the University of Michigan and once worked for GM, where he met Dr. Sun,
vice president of research at Analysis Plus and "a genius" according to Markel.
Analysis Plus was founded in 1993 to "solve complex physical problems" for the
likes of Mitsubishi, Motorola, Ford and TRW. The company has also been hired to measure
and analyze various audio products. Don't ask which ones -- there are non-disclosure
agreements in place.
At some point in its history, Analysis Plus
decided to focus its efforts on audio cables, but with an engineering-based twist. Markel
and crew researched and developed a cable geometry that would make for truer passage of
the signal. How did they know that what they were working on would do this? They initially
created computer simulations and thereafter measured the outcome, the latter of which
they've continued to do at trade shows around the world. While other companies set up
signs proclaiming that their cables are "used in the system you're hearing"
(Analysis Plus does some of this too), Mark Markel lugs his oscilloscope and will gladly
show that his cables, which utilize his company's patented hollow oval geometry, will pass
a square wave that looks more, well, square -- and more like the incoming signal.
The whys and wherefores behind the hollow oval
geometry are spelled out very clearly in Analysis Plus's literature and website as well as
of the "Y-Files" column here on SoundStage!, so I will only summarize
them here. Resistance and inductance are the culprits that Analysis Plus wished to
address, because with what Analysis Plus calls "typical round conductors"
resistance increases dramatically with frequency, rolling off the highs, "which leads
to the difference between the measured signal at the amp and the signal measured at the
speaker terminals." The hollow oval design addresses rising resistance by producing
uniform current distribution, which means resistance doesn't vary based on frequency.
Therefore, more of what goes in comes out looking the same. A byproduct of this uniformity
is that electrical properties of the cable don't change over the audio frequency band, and
thus what Analysis Plus calls "frequency smearing" is also addressed.
The Solo Crystal Oval cables add another
interesting twist -- oxygen-free copper wire that's slowly drawn and annealed so that its
grain boundaries are non-existent in normal audio lengths. Analysis Plus calls this
Continuous Cast Copper; similar wire is used by Harmonic Technology and Acoustic Zen,
albeit without the hollow oval geometry.
...and Solo Crystal Oval 8 speaker cables
The Solo Crystal Oval interconnects cost $399 USD
per meter pair and come with either locking RCAs or Neutrik XLRs. The Solo Crystal Oval 8
speaker cables, $870 per eight-foot single-wire pair, are available with an array of
connectors, including Analysis Plus's own überspade, the T1. This is a proprietary
milled connector that's beefier than any other I've seen. There is one potential issue
with it, however: Its thickness at the termination point makes it tricky to connect to
Mark Levinson amps and their wing-nut binding posts, which don't allow enough clearance
beneath them for the cap to be tightened. Using a little engineering brainpower of my own,
I was able to tighten the connector to just before the point where the T1 spade
would slip in, insert the spade, then tighten the cap the rest of the way. It's a tricky
proposition, but doable.
As has been my practice lately, I used the
Analysis Plus cables with a cornucopia of electronics and speakers as part of two separate
audio systems. One paired Lamm ML2, Tenor Audio 75Wi, and deHavilland Aries 845 amplifiers
with Wilson WATT/Puppy 6 or WATT/Puppy 7 speakers. Preamps were a Lamm L2 Reference and
Audio Research Reference Two Mk II. Digital gear consisted of a Mark Levinson No.39 used
as a CD player or tethered to Bel Canto DAC1.1 and DAC2 digital-to-analog processors. The
other system used Magnepan MG1.6/QR, Silverline La Folia or Revel Ultima Studio speakers
with Mark Levinson No.383, Audio Analogue Puccini SE Remote or Unison Research Unico
integrated amps, with a Sony DVP-NS500V CD/SACD/DVD player or Mark Levinson No.39 as
source. An Audio Research 100.2 stereo amplifier and Reference Two Mk II preamp gave the
integrateds a rest at a few points. Power cords in both systems were primarily from
Shunyata Research (Anaconda Vx, Taipan, and Python), while power-conditioning duties were
split between a Shunyata Hydra and Sound Application XE-12S, the latter used with a 20-amp
Elrod Power Systems EPS-3 power cord.
While I had a good number of cables on hand for
comparison, I chose Nordost Quattro-Fil and SPM for reasons that I will make clear below.
I'll get right to it, as this is what the Solo
Crystal Oval cables do. If you are looking for cables that will massage, tame or somehow
tune the sound of your audio system, look elsewhere. But if you are looking for cables
that offer a bracing, high-resolution view of your equipment and music, you've found them
in the Solo Crystal Oval cables. This sort of description means nothing if the end product
is less than musically satisfying. I can report, however, that musical satisfaction is
alive and well with the Solo Crystal Oval cables, even heightened in some specific ways.
Take contrasts for instance, not only dynamic
contrasts but those between the various frequency regions themselves. With the Solo
Crystal Oval cables in my system, treble takes on more of a metallic or silky tinge
depending on the recording, displaying seemingly greater extension in the process, while
bass has more pit-of-the-stomach power. A recording I came across recently that
illustrates this is Jack Johnson's Brushfire Fairytales [Enjoy Records 422 860
994-2], an eclectic hip-hop/blues/soul/folk stew that's one of the best-sounding
recordings of popular music I've ever heard. Shortly after the beginning of
"Posters" some sort of brass instrument is struck, and the tone just decays and
decays -- for seconds. With the Analysis Plus cables, this percussive strike goes
on and on, slowly thinning out until it disappears like a wisp of smoke in the wind. The
guitars have more of a steely tinge, the bass growls but is very well defined, and the
entire presentation explodes with macrodynamic and microdynamic life. If you're looking
for something new to listen to, get Brushfire Fairytales. You won't be disappointed
by its sound, that's for sure.
Cables that are described as neutral and
transparent, words that fit the Solo Crystal Oval cables well, often sound lean and even
slightly devoid of harmonic color, but the Analysis Plus cables are palpable and fleshy
through the midrange, the antithesis of thin or bleached. Cassandra Wilson's Belly of
the Sun [Blue Note 7243-5 85072] picks up where her wonderful Blue Light 'Til Dawn
 and New Moon Daughter [Blue Note 112088] left off. You want presence?
Listen to Wilson's cover of "The Weight," from Belly to get a good idea
of what we reviewers mean when we say a performer is "in the room." The Solo
Crystal Oval cables present Wilson with flesh and blood, as a person more than a mere
image. These cables impart no threadbare, transparency-above-all-else presentation, and
yet they always sound like utterly clear conduits between your components and music.
The better the software, the better it sounds
with the Solo Crystal Oval cables. I have a number of JVC XRCDs, and they sound uniformly
fantastic. Yet, with the Analysis Plus cables in my system, I was able to hear into
the recordings in new ways, which elevated these CDs so close to SACDs that telling the
difference between the two would be very difficult at best in a blind test. It's the
remastered classic jazz XRCDs that catch my interest more than any others, and among these
Wynton Kelly's Piano [Victor VICJ-60259] has become a staple of my listening, like
salt on the dinner table. Recorded in early 1958, Piano is in mono, but the term
the JVC team coined for it is "big mono" because the sound projects and spreads
to such a degree that the mono tag seems meaningless. Via the Analysis Plus cables,
Kelly's playing takes on a bouncy, vibrant personality, and the bass is surprisingly even
more present and expressive. Talk about an audio system becoming a time machine -- 1958
comes to life via Piano, which is one of the very best-sounding JVC remasters of
vintage Riverside recordings.
Do the Solo Crystal Oval cables have faults? Some
might fixate on the presence in the midrange and miss the truly high-resolution view these
cables allow. Others may think the abundant detail is a sin of commission, that the sound
these cables help produce is sort of like what you get when you adjust an equalizer to
highlight certain frequency regions, especially the treble. I don't hear it this way, as
the overall presentation is highly involving and musically right. Finally, I wonder if the
price of these cables won't hurt their chances with the crowd of well-heeled audiophiles
who want everything in their systems to be the best and most esoteric. Analysis Plus makes
interconnects with gold-over-copper conductors for such potential buyers, but even they,
at $2000 per meter pair, may not be pricey enough. Mark Markel confessed to me that he
doesn't even know how he could make an interconnect that's more expensive than his
Golden Oval, so maybe we should all just hold onto our money and appreciate the Solo
Crystal Oval cables for the achievement they are.
As keen-eyed readers will note, I have heard and
reviewed more than a few cable brands over the past few years. High-end cables as a class
of product are very good, with slight differences but great proficiency overall. Of all
the cables I've heard recently, the ones the Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval cables
resemble the most sonically are Nordost's Quattro-Fil interconnects and SPM Reference
speaker cables. The Nordost cables are known for their speed, clarity, and high-resolution
nature -- they are the cables that skeptics should hear because their sonic traits are
obvious. Yet, the Solo Crystal Oval cables, while not sounding as subjectively fast as the
Nordost cables, sound just as transparent and impart just as much information. One knock
against the Nordost cables is that some listeners find them lean, and this again is not
the case with the Analysis Plus cables, which offer notable midrange fullness and bass
heft. In fact, down low, the only cables that I've heard that better what the Solo Crystal
Oval cables do are the Transparent Reference XLs.
I know what some of you are thinking, and you're
right: the Nordost and Transparent cables are far more expensive than the Analysis
Plus cables -- by several thousand dollars. I have great admiration for the Nordost
Quattro-Fil interconnects and SPM Reference speaker cables, and in some cases, with
richer-sounding electronics and speakers, they will be the better choice. Likewise, there
is much to like about Transparent Reference XL, which was by far the finest cabling I used
with a complete collection of Audio Research electronics. But at the same overall level
lies Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval, and at a price that won't have spouses looking for a
Cable choice for some listeners is like buying
laundry detergent or other products for which brand loyalty or the recommendation of a
friend or retailer can dictate purchase. Then there are those audiophiles who want
"only the best," which often translates for them to mean "only the most
expensive." And finally there are listeners who prefer that their cables editorialize
and thus shape the sound to some extent. But the great thing about cables is that they're
so easy to audition. Heck, the Cable Company has for years used in-home trial as a selling
strategy. Try before you buy is not only highly recommended with cables, but also easy.
I know Mark Markel and the Analysis Plus gang to
be a bunch of bright guys, and their Solo Crystal Oval interconnects and speaker cables
have given me firsthand experience with their expertise. These are fabulous cables
that won't act as filters or tone controls for your equipment, putting forth sound that's
as direct and vivid as that of any cables I've used. The fact that they aren't priced
anywhere near the top of the heap is a blessing for sure, but don't let their mid-level
cost fool you. These are cables with which you can call it quits, no matter the pedigree
of your audio system or your tastes.
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