The Arabesque’s mirror imaged and asymmetrical cabinets mean that they can be positioned with the ‘tails’ pointing into the soundstage or out. Which you opt for depends on the size of your room and the width between the speakers, with the argument for pointing the tails in strengthening the closer the speakers get to the corners. Despite my large listening room, I tried the cabinets configured both ways, but quickly opted for the added sense of width and space afforded by the outward pointing attitude. Initially, tails in gave a greater sense of depth to the soundstage but this soon emerged as a proportional change, with images started to clump together on a narrower frontage, robbing the music of its bounce and freedom.
Of course, this only applies to the comparative luxury of a wider room and in a more constricted environment the benefits of cleaner, more linear bass might easily outweigh or even reverse this perception. It also takes no account of the Bass Cut switch, which again was clearly inappropriate in a larger listening environment. RAAL supply sets of magnetically fixed foam wedges that can be used to tailor the tweeter response if listening in the near-field, and their inclusion reflects the lengths that Crystal have gone to, to create a speaker which will work in a range of different rooms, again helped by the sophisticated Comsol modelling software. Reluctant to cart nearly a quarter of metric tonne of plate glass up the stairs to my older and somewhat smaller room, I’m in no position to comment on the effectiveness of these steps. What I can say is that the speakers certainly work as advertised in larger spaces.
Once you’ve positioned the speakers you’ll need to level them, essential if you want natural acoustic proportions from the longish lines generating the sound. Each cabinet is supported on seven adjustable disc feet, each one moulded from engineering polymer and designed to help spread the considerable load of the speaker evenly across the supporting surface. The small degree of flexibility inherent in the material is also designed to ensure close coupling with less than even surfaces. Trying to adjust seven feet is far from easy – so don’t bother. Wind three down to support and then level the cabinet, then wind the others down to share the load.
Although I tried the speakers with various amplifier and cable combinations, the vast majority of my listening involved the Connoisseur phono and line stages, feeding the latest Berning Quadrature Z monobloc amps through a range of suitable cables including Crystal Dreamline. Sources were the ARC Reference CD8 and Wadia 781 CD players, along with the Grand Prix Audio Monaco/Triplanar turntable, carrying the Lyra Titan, the VPI TNT/JMW and the Kuzma Stabi XL4/4POINT. All played their part as I explored the limits of the speakers’ musical performance. I didn’t try alternative spikes or feet under the Arabesque, largely because of the practical implications of trying to hoist them off of the ground, although in situations where a really uneven floor challenges their stability or level, this would be an option.
One final point: the Arabesques come with a concise but extremely useful manual that includes excellent advice when it comes to speaker positioning. It may not offer an inch perfect solution but it definitely offers a great starting point. For once, don’t forget to RTFM!
Reviewing products is all about performance – and balancing that performance against cost. As I stated at the outset, given the price of the Arabesque and their high profile competition, they’re clearly going to have to bring more than just a pretty face to the party. Trying to share space with established heavy hitters like Wilson Audio and Avalon, or even newcomers like Magico and YG, takes some front. Will the Crystals, with their demure, domestically friendly appearance and modest driver complement compete when it comes to sound quality?
This is un vrai Crystal, sharing the fluid, expressive, understated qualities that make the Company’s cables so unusual and impressive. The Arabesque is that rare product that lets the music do its talking for it, a capability that’s intimately connected to the lack of contribution from its cabinet.