Review: Straight Wire Crescendo Interconnect
Straight Wire CRESCENDO II Interconnects & Speaker Wire: Preliminary Review
I had the fortunate pleasure of a two-week visit in my system of Straight Wire's Crescendo products. Hence, I am calling this a Preliminary Review, as I did not have the wire long enough for a full evaluation. A full review will follow, as I was so impressed with it that I am in the process of outfitting my system in Crescendo wire.
There is so much wire out there, and it often becomes boring to even listen to it. Tizzy, thin, rolled off, bright, bloated, forward, distant, choked off, constricted, or just plain boring.
So, how would I describe this flagship product in one sentence? THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL.
It sounds like the name of a daytime soap, doesn't it? Well, we audiophiles have a penchant for dramatics, so let's run with it.
A little background on the Crescendo. A few years ago, Straight Wire went on a quest to create a flagship wire. They were quite successful in the early 90's with their original designs of the Rhapsody and Maestro, still popular to this day. These designs were followed by their compressed conductor technology, which is purported to combine the best attributes of stranded wire and solid core wire in a single design. The Serenade was introduced as a flagship product of this CCT technology, and has been well-received by reviewers and users alike.
In an effort to go even further, Straight Wire went to the drawing boards, and used designers, manufacturers, dealers, and hundreds of listening ears to develop and fine tune these products known as Crescendo. I'm not going to go into the techno-babble about it other than to say that it is a very thick wire that has multiple conductors and foamed Teflon and other dielectrics and multiple tubes and wrappings, etc. The interconnect is as thick as speaker cable. The speaker cable? Thicker, yet.
Back to the sound. My first listening was to the interconnects, so I could compare them directly with other interconnects on hand. Once I got a handle on the sound differences between IC's, I inserted the Crescendo speaker cable. Everything just improved even further in similar ways.
Even placing one Crescendo IC at the beginning of the chain (DAC to preamp) dramatically improved the sound. Adding another Crescendo between preamp and amp amplified that improvement. I must stress that no other interconnect has improved the sound of my system as much as the Crescendo.
When I hooked up the first Crescendo, it was like POW! A big, bold sound with a huge soundstage. There was an openness that none of the other cables had. That openness made other cables sound closed in, hooded, restricted, choked off. The Transparent Ref XL was no longer in my possession, but my sonic memory would say it possessed some of this openness, but was not the equal of the Cresendo.
Dynamics were explosive. Yet, there was detail that I never heard with any wire in my experience. This detail was sorted and separated so well, I was floored. This sounds like music should sound – No constriction, no resistance, no roll off, no image bunching. This wire makes you listen, riveting you to your seat.
Voices sound more coherent and real than any cable I have heard. They have, again, an openness to their sound. And a coherence to all the elements comprising a human voice. Pianos sound more like pianos. They have a larger sonority and more realisitic image size and presentation. Cymbals and percussion are much better sorted out and spread out. You can hear the various elements of their sound more easily and naturally. There is no roll off, but there is no steely brightness, and certainly no thinness. It is all so common for a defined wire to sound somewhat thin or pinchy. Not in the Crescendo. At first, I felt there was some brightness, but I was breaking in speakers as well as wire at the same time. As the two weeks progressed, I no longer found any brightness.
Rather, I found my favorite cables bright, constricted, closed down, small sounding and undynamic. I have an interconnect I keep around for comparisons, because of how natural and airy it is in the midrange and lower treble, and the openness it has. It doesn't excel in every area, but in these it does. Using it as a reference in these critical areas has proven invaluable in revealing the deficiencies most ICs have in these areas. The Crescendo is the first interconnect that competes with this wire, and, indeed, exceeds it in strengths and stomps it in its weaknesses.
Like bass. The bass is powerful and full. If you have the woofers and the power behind them, you'll have the capability of creating a shear wall of sound with the guts behind it to shake you and the room. However, I'm not talking about sloppy, bloated bass; rather, a powerful, controlled bass with perhaps a touch of richness -- as fine a combination as you could desire. The dynamics and sheer authority of the Crescendo's bass extend to the rest of the sonic spectrum, and make it hard to go back to listening to other wire, which sounds wimpy and weak-legged in comparison.
Brass of all sorts, single and massed, sound 3-dimensional with all of their complexities of timbre and harmonics completely and correctly sorted out and lined up. Trumpets, trombones, French horns, saxophones all have a full bloom that stretches out in front of you in 3D fashion.
Some of what I have described is what Straight Wire terms the holographic nature of this wire. Perhaps I haven't thought of using the term holographic before because no wire has deserved this adjective. Though it may sound like marketing hype, I do understand and agree with Straight Wire's use of this word in describing Crescendo's sound.
Adding the Crescendo speaker cable simply pushed the envelope further. When I went back to the Audioquest Mont Blanc, or some custom speaker cables made of Vampire wire, I immediately heard their deficiencies, and wanted to reinstall the Crescendo pronto. The Crescendo was simply more dynamic, more open, more natural, more everything.
The Crescendo products are not cheap. A meter of interconnect retails for $900. An 8 foot pair of speaker cables is $2300. But an 8 foot Audioquest Mont Blanc is over $1800. And consider that dealers will often provide attractive discounts, especially on upper-end cable. Shorter lengths can trim the costs as well.
I will close by saying that no wire has made such a large difference in my system. I have heard less improvement with many component upgrades than I have with this wire. No wire has produced such a coherent, large, dynamic, holographic, 3D presentation as the Crescendo, and done so without sounding artificial or overetched.
Does that mean the Crescendo is considerably and noticeably superior to many cables? A resounding yes. Does that mean it reaches perfection? No. Nothing does. No preamp, no amp, no speaker, no unit of audio reproduction is. The least perfect in the audio chain is often our recordings. All these things we grasp for are relative, and change with components and source material.
The best praise I can give is that I am merely tolerating my old wire until I replace it with Crescendo. When I do, I will report my further findings on this unusual and wonderful product.
Dali Helicon 800 speakers
Von Schweikert VR4-sr speakers
Northstar Transport & DAC
Conrad Johnson CT5 preamp
Aesthetix Calypso preamp
Pass X250.5 amp
Mark Levinson 432 amp
Transparent Reference XL