Sometimes reviewing one component can necessitate re-evaluating your entire system. Here's an example: I'm working on a review for The Absolute Sound of the Nuforce BDP-93 NE, which is Nuforce's version of the Oppo BDP-93. To compare its analog performance to other players I needed a multi-channel analog preamp that had two sets of 5.1 analog pass-through inputs so I could do direct real-time A/B comparisons between the two units.
My longtime multi-channel AV processor, the Lexicon MC-12B HD, wasn't going to work since it only has one 5.1 pass-through. After some research I contacted Parasound to see about using their P-7 multi-channel analog preamp for the tests. Once it arrived I realized that attaching all the analog cables I would need for the two 5.1 connections was going to be messy, very messy.
But I gathered a motley assortment of RCA-terminated interconnects from my cable stash. Final choices included a pair of lovely, but rather beefy current-generation Cardas Clear one-meter interconnects as well as some rather elderly examples from AudioQuest, Kimber, Synergistic Research, Straightwire, and even an ancient pair of Monster M-1000 cables. Connecting everything together was not the most fun I've had in the last week. After the about five minutes of screwing around with a flashlight held between my teeth I connected all the cables and arranged them so they fit. Sort of.
After determining that everything was working properly I looked at the back of my equipment rack. What a snake pit of cable! I'd rarely seen as much wire forced into a more confined area. It was bad. So bad that I removed every wire and tried again.
Twenty minutes of reattaching and rearranging cables and my rack looked less like the Fukushima No 1 plant and more like an ordinary domestic mess. I had to face the fact that there was no way to use the cables I had on hand and make everything fit. What I really needed were thinner cables.
After due diligence I came upon a review Neil Gader wrote about Crystal Cable's Piccolo Diamond Micro Standard interconnect for TAS. I contacted John Bevier, at Audioplus Services, who are Crystal Cable's US distributor, and arranged to borrow six pairs of ½ meter Piccolo Diamond interconnects. Three weeks later the cables arrived (they had to be specially-made since Crystal doesn't keep this shorter length in stock as a standard item.)
Crystal's packaging is amazing - an outer slipcase with gold embossing, and inner box with very elegant black faux lizard covering and finally a custom-cut foam interior. The Piccolos are Crystal Cable's least expensive model - I shudder to think how they package their top-of-the-line cables! A Gaga-sized crystal egg?
Installing the Piccolo cable took less than five minutes. And the physical transformation was everything I had hoped for. The Crystal Cable Piccolos have enough flexibility that I even had room to properly arrange the interconnect cables so they were well away from AC wires. It also looked much neater and I could actually see where each cable was going!
I do have one quibble - the oval-shaped solid metal "slugs" that Crystal Cable uses for their serial and model number info are a pain. The slug is impossible to remove (on purpose) but it slides freely along the entire length of the cable. Naturally, it migrates to the cable's lowest point, where it adds additional weight and bulk. If there were a way to safely remove this thing I'd do it in a heartbeat. Except for the slug, the Piccolos were super easy to install and arrange. They even made a pair of Kimber PBJ interconnect cables appear thick.
And how do the Piccolo cables sound? I'll let you know in a couple of weeks, after I've had time to give them a thorough listen. But my first impressions are quite positive. Cable mavens may argue that the Piccolos can't possibly be the best-sounding cable on earth (they're far too inexpensive at "only" $400 for a 1-meter pair) but they certainly rank among the most space-friendly interconnects around. And in my book that counts for a lot.