Coincident Speaker Technology
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Coincident Speaker Technology is well known for its rather unusual price-quality ratio. Certainly, direct internet sales probably explain some of the competitiveness of Mr. Israel Blume's production, but the Coincident Speaker Technology (CST) products are far from being manufactured on the cheap or the economy, and are designed using quality components, with the primary goal of offering the highest transparency and naturalness. That is undoubtedly a very good start when you're targeting to high-end performance...
The Canadian company can also be awarded for its wide line-up of products, from loudspeakers to valve amplifiers and preamps. Israel Blume enlarge its offer progressively releasing durable and reliable products.
This is the case of my personal preamplifier (Coincident Statement Line Stage), which has been a core component in my system for many years, without being really challenged by most of the good preamps I could have hosted, and despite its very modest sticker.
Israel Blume is a very versatile manufacturer, in the way of Touraj Moghaddam (CEO of Vertere and former boss of Roksan). I was missing an experience of its cables line-up, and to avoid speculating on the presumed potential of its production, I directly focused on its new ultimate reference: the Statement cable series!
I obtained as review samples a pair of bi-wired speaker cables of 3 meters length and a pair of balanced interconnects of 1.5 meters length. Israel Blume also proposes power cords within its Statement series, but I have always been reluctant to review power cords as results can vary a lot according the electronics used during the test.
So I decided to focus on the basics, interconnects and speaker cables, within a price range quite elevated for a manufacturer who has usually been very attentive to the value for money. That's for the genesis of this review...
Before getting into the substance of this review, let's have a quick look at the whole cable line-up, and at the achievements made by Israel Blume during the past years.
These were partly devoted to developing new ranges of cables. And it worked so well that Israel Blume today declares to achieve as much turnover on its complete range of cables as on the sale of loudspeakers despite their large recognition.
Coincident Speaker Technology's approach to cables' design was quite simple: Israel Blume collected a large sample of the best cables available to the market (mostly speaker and interconnects) in order to establish a reference panel, and then worked until being able to offer cables with almost the same performance for a fraction of the price charged by the competitors.
In other words, this approach increases our sympathy whilst prices don't stop increasing for many cable manufacturers. We must however keep in mind that direct sales distort the comparison with dealers' network distribution. But this strategy of keeping affordable prices seems to be part of Coincident Speaker Technology's DNA.
The first series of CST (Coincident Speaker Technology) cables was launched in early 2000 and, with increasing success, a complete range of cables was developed up to the recent release of the Statement cables line.
Israel Blume's offer includes today three different ranges: the entry level "CST.5", the "Extreme" line, and the "Statement" series.
The Statement line is fairly complete and includes unbalanced (ST-1) and balanced (ST-2) interconnects, speaker cables (ST-5), available also in bi-wired configuration, jumpers (ST-5/JS), digital cables (ST-4, AES-EBU, SPDIF BNC or RCA), power cords (ST-10) and phono cable (ST-PH-1).
The speaker cables are, in the same way of interconnects, made from specially treated ultra-pure PC-OCC copper conductors (Pure Copper by Ohno Continuous Casting, ie a wire of pure monocrystal copper) 0.57 mm in diameter.
The specific process of extrusion at high temperature allows a quality of copper which practically puts no transverse barrier to the crystals of copper that could inhibit the signal path. The level of purity is definitely too high to be measured accurately by American laboratories, dixit Mr Blume himself.
Multiple small-diameter conductors (23 AWG) are individually insulated with thin films of a special PTFE-variant fluoropolymer material (about 0.076 mm or less) and arrayed according to the Coincident's proprietary geometry called "WaveLink", based on a Litz assembly, over air-bearing composite and concentric PTFE-variant core structures to make the cable's four individual conductor legs. Each of these four legs is then wrapped and extruded with a twin-element PTFE-variant fluoropolymer jacket and the four legs are cabled, either around an air-bearing central core member or a special into a minimum-inductance "quad", and finally given a braided protective mesh outer jacket.
The speaker cables come with an eight conductors of 16 gauge (AWG) assembly in their normal shotgun configuration (2 legs per conductor) or with four conductors of 12 AWG when terminated in the optional bi-wire mode used for this review.
Connections are available as standard in billet-machined cryogenically-treated 24K direct gold-plated copper spade lug (of either 6.0 or 8.5 mm terminal size). A banana termination option is also available in Deltron premium finish.
The CST Statement interconnects are also made from pure OCC copper with specific treatment within a structure and arrangement that is similar to the one already mentioned for the speaker cables.
The connectors are non-magnetic and are designed to achieve minimal inductance. The contacts of each connector in the Statement series are manufactured from ultra pure copper or a standardized copper alloy and chosen to be best suited for its particular application. When Coincident Speaker Technology uses gold plating, it is applied directly, without a nickel substrate, with a thickness that prevents tarnishing of the connector without affecting the sound quality. To ensure minimal inductance, Israel Blume methodically removes all conductive materials that are not absolutely necessary to ensure signal transmission (and therefore potentially harmful).
The special XLR connectors of the Statement series are custom machined and precision die-cast with male and female pins of billet-cut Tellurium copper or patented Brush-Wellman Alloy 174 beryllium copper as standard to ensure the best conductivity.
The insulation of the inner fluoropolymer central core contains a mixture of air and nitrogen. The outer insulating core is braided in high density, high strength polyester. This results in excellent dielectric characteristics with a general appearance reminiscent of that of carbon fiber.
Israel Blume further states that the insulation and core structure thus formed have a lower effective dielectric constant than any other type or combination of commercially available materials. Difficult to verify this type of affirmation but it nevertheless gives an idea of the ambitions of Coincident Speaker Technology for its last achievement in cables' design...
It is difficult for me to go deeper into the details of the manufacturing process without revealing too many trade secrets, and what counts finally is how they do perform.
My first impression about Israel's cables undoubtedly was their outstanding level of neutrality. Most of my previous experiences of speaker wires and interconnects provided me with the sensation of a specific direction in sound reproduction, the so-called sonic fingerprint. After all, audio cables are often considered as a cooking recipe, in other words the sauce which blends all ingredients to achieve further coherence and particular flavor.
But in the case of this Coincident Speaker Technology Statement series, it is very difficult to highlight such specific feature or distinctive character. I do not have however ultra-colored references in mind, and I have never used Cardas cables, don't have used for a long time HMS cables, nor this armada of North American cables that systematically increase the low-end...
Compared with High Fidelity Cables CT1-E for speaker cables, or Grimm TPM for interconnects, the Coincident Speaker Technology Statement wires seem even more linear.
These cables deliver such an accurate response within the whole sound spectrum that I hardly can say if they are better in the treble, midrange or bass. That's finally the main issue with such flawless cables: writing several pages about these cables to say what ? Just that they are flawless and undetectable?
In fact, things are not so trivial or simple. Their impact is audible because they highlight the strengths and weaknesses of your system, with just a little bit more sharpness than all the other cables I could have tested before. These are undoubtedly not cables of complacency. A small mistake in the choice of the power cord for my D/A converter Audiomat Maestro 3 Reference and the sanction was felt immediately...
But when everything is correctly set, it can be heard the same way. No compensation, no characteristics that would change them into capricious divas. Israel Blume's Statement series do their job and nothing else. Sure I could discuss for a long time about art and science of preserving neutrality and entertainment.
The same bundle of qualities can be found in the interconnects as in the speaker cables. First of all, they provide a great impression of silence, within the famous black curtain that usually exhibits the smallest ambient details without giving an overboost to brightness and trebles.
Second strong point is the obvious robust behavior in the bass which allows to explore the low-end skills of big loudspeakers like the Vivid Audio G1s, but also to produce a very clean and convincing response in the bass with more limited speakers such as the new Thiel TT1.
And if that was not enough (and yes that's not an end in itself), the Statement line provides you with an exquisite diversity of timbres without falling into the trap of systematically giving emphasis to the mids.
Finally, you can't either ignore their subtle dynamics and their precision on the transients achieved without adverse effect of listening fatigue in the long run...
All the upper mentioned features noted on my system raise these two pairs of cables to the rank of genuine top reference. The CST Statement XLR cables make my Grimm TPM interconnects sounding a bit simplistic and too systematic in their way of constructing the sound stage. In comparison, The CST Statements gave more sensation of depth but closer to the interpreters.
From a tones' accuracy standpoint, the CST Statement interconnects are also richer, providing wider tonal diversity than the Grimm, without embellishing the reality like a Cardas or even, to a lesser extent, a High Fidelity Cables pair.
LStability of the stereo image can easily be compared to the best performers in that field, such as the JPS Labs flagship, but within a higher clarity.
In fact, The CST Statement cables give you the impression to stand exactly where you should be (i.e. on the concert hall's very best seat), without removing or adding something to the recording, and that's why it's so difficult to describe precisely what they do...
Perhaps another more direct way to comment their performance would be to describe what they don't do...
The loudspeaker cables are in the same vein. I appreciated the fact that they can deliver enough current to move such big full range loudspeakers while avoiding to lose finesse.
That's in some ways a kind of squared circle: more precisely, they delivered the adequate amount of air and harmonic richness that contributes for a good part to recreate the essence of music, meanwhile they also provided enough energy to handle the most violent orchestral passages.
There is indeed quite often something missing. For instance, the High Fidelity CT1-E doesn't allow you to reproduce the dynamics at their full extent on a pair of big floorstanders, as they are real energy eaters despite a flawless behavior on all other aspects.
At the contrary, Many OCC copper cables, although very pricey, often produce good results, but at the expense of systematic tones or of recessed dynamics. At the contrary, many North American products deliver a tremendous amount of visceral energy but completely lack the necessary refinement and transparency...
The CST Statement wires avoid all these pitfalls. Even on the Thiel TT1, they have reproduced the second movement of Shostakovich's 10th symphony without collapsing at loud level. The allegro movement at realistic volume level is generally considered as a very complicated task, and the slightest weakness of the playback chain quickly brings the mistake. With the CST Statement cable line, the impression is both that of a greater clarity and of a perfect control of the transducers.
They are also able to bring out the subtlety and the eloquence of Bach Collegium Japan outstanding singers on Maestro Suzuki's last outing (?Peasant cantata? - BIS).
I really enjoyed the correct balance between organic rendering and aeration all around voices and instruments within a credible three-dimensional sound stage.
Summing up, these cables are a perfect example of the union between equilibrium and performance. I have dedicated so much time to the quest for a speaker cable able to exploit the full potential of my Vivid Audio G1s in terms of transparency and energy.
But this time, I sincerely think I've been blown away, in a still reasonable budget among a set of indecently priced proposals. They will stay then at home, being even more convinced of my own choice than I was towards the High Fidelity Cables CT1-E when I still had my old Vivid Audio K1s.
Because the CST Statement cables seem to go a little further, with a much better authority in the bass, while offering a greater versatility than my previous American cables (which clearly became a bit underpowered for the Giya G1s).
I was more dubious in my approach to interconnects, being very satisfied with the balance achieved with my current Grimm Audio cables. But again, the CST Statement pair has set very high standards, showing me finally that my proper cables were less neutral than I thought.
It is therefore a logical consequence to release our most prestigious award ?Grand Frisson 2016? (Great Thrill 2016) to the CST Statement cable line which delighted me during these last days of 2016. Congratulations to Israel Blume who continues to deliver extremely convincing products!
Joël Chevassus - Décembre 2016
Matériel utilisé pour le banc d'essai :
Sources : Esoteric K-03, Lumin S1, Lumin U1, Audiomat Maestro 3
Référence, Gold Note DS 1000, Apple Imac Yosemite Osx / JRiver
Media Center 21,Trends UD-10.1, MacBook Yosemite OSx.
Amplis / Préamplis : SPL Volume2, Coïncident Technology
Statement Line Preamplifier, 2 Luxman M800a (bridgés), Lumin M1,
Trends TA-10.2, Red Dragon S500 x 2.
Enceintes: Thiel TT1, Vivid Audio G1, Elipson Planet L.
Cables: Esprit Lumina USB, Esprit Lumina S/pdif, Esprit Eterna
USB, Skywire 2020 digital, Naturelle Audio Live 8 MK2, Grimm
Audio TPM, Cables Phi Audio, CST Statement HP + modulation.
Cordons d'alimentation: barrette secteur LH Audio, cordons DIY +
Prix du matériel testé: 3.600 $ (câbles
enceintes CST Statement bi-câblage 3 mètres), 890 $ (modulation
XLR 1,5 mètres).
Site du fabricant : http://www.coincidentspeaker.com/