Holland’s Crystal Cable is well known among audiophiles for its thin, attractive interconnects, speaker cables, and power cords. It’s the sister brand of Siltech, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. But although much younger, Crystal Cable has enjoyed astonishing success during its 19-year history.
That success is mainly due to its cables. But like Siltech, every so often Crystal Cable creates other products, typically with unique design ideas and features. Examples include a cube-shaped integrated amplifier called CCi (Crystal Cable integrated), all-glass speaker stands, and several loudspeakers, including the Arabesque, which raised many eyebrows following its introduction in 2009 due to its striking appearance and unique construction.
This year, Crystal Cable introduced another speaker, the Minissimo Forte, which is based on the company’s luxury-grade Minissimo and Minissimo Diamond standmount designs, which were themselves distinctive looking when they debuted. When viewed from the top, these Minissimos look like curly apostrophes—just like the original Arabesque. But unlike the original Minissimo models, which were purely passive designs, the Forte is being touted as being both passive and active. I’ll expand on that below because the purpose of this hybrid design is very unusual. The price isn’t firm yet, but I was told it will be about €20,000 per pair, an amount that will include a pair of stands that contain the active and passive circuitry. Three attractive finishes are available: Champagne, Fire Glow Red, and Matte Black.
The Forte’s cabinet is similar in appearance to the original Minissimo models, and is machined from a solid aluminum-alloy block. Like the original models, it’s shaped externally to reduce diffraction effects and internally to curtail resonances that could distort the sound. To further improve performance, the Forte has high-tech internal diffusors integrated into the inside walls. The Forte’s interior also features a new “resonance damping layer” and “vibration couplers.” Crystal Cable calls this multi-pronged approach MAD, for Multiple Absorption and Dispersion. The driver complement is a 1″ beryllium-dome tweeter and a 5.25″ paper-cone woofer, just like the original Minissimo.
Crystal calls the crossover a “balanced passive-active filter.” Its components are housed in the large-diameter, hollow aluminum tube that also acts as the speaker’s stand, which is also where you attach the necessary power cord and speaker cables. The curled backside of the cabinet wraps around this tube, which I think is a nice aesthetic touch.
The Forte’s unusual passive-active filter resembles the approach taken on Siltech’s flagship Symphony speaker, which debuted several years ago and is still available. That speaker uses onboard amplification with no gain, but is driven by an outboard amplifier. The goal was to make the huge, multi-driver Symphony a much easier load for any partnering amplifier.
The Forte uses active electronics as well as traditional passive crossover components to split the signal into separate frequency bands and direct them to the appropriate drivers. Because it does not use coils, the hybrid crossover delivers smoother response and more exciting dynamics than passive crossover designs, Crystal claims. The Forte has higher sensitivity than a purely passive implementation would provide, and it presents an easier load to the amplifier. The Forte’s claimed sensitivity is 95dB (2.83V/m), and impedance is rated at 16 ohms—both very high figures for a compact two-way. According to the company, “This means the amplifier doesn’t need to ‘overdrive’ and will dissipate much less heat, making it easier to give its best possible performance.” Amplifiers rated from a mere 15Wpc up to a moderate 150Wpc are recommended.
Crystal Cable had a pair of Champagne-colored Minissimo Fortes playing, driven by Siltech SAGA amplification. Cables were by Crystal Cable, of course. The small speakers had a very smooth sound, but what impressed me more was how well the sound was projected from the enclosures, resulting in a sense of spaciousness that belied the speakers’ compact dimensions.