“When I entered this high-end audio field in the early 2000s, few people spoke about music and how it sounds, only about the size, placing and capacity of the equipment,” says Gabi Rijnveld, co-owner with husband Edwin of Dutch high-end audio manufacturer International Audio Holdings and its brands Siltech and Crystal Cable
TEXT: MARTIN PILKINGTON| PHOTO © INTERNATIONAL AUDIO HOLDING
“Edwin’s an electrical engineer; I was a classical concert pianist – that makes a great match in the company and in life,” she continues. “We have a great balance between the technical side and the musical and artistic – Edwin’s a passionate engineer always seeking perfection, and I provide the musicality and design input.”
GABI & EDWIN
Pianist and pupil
Edwin took over IAH in 1992, when Hungarian-born Gabi was still touring the world, fortunate enough to play with great artists like Claudio Abbado. When she stepped back from performing for a time and taught piano instead, one of her pupils was Edwin. The rest is rather romantic history.
The parallel lines of engineering accuracy and musical brilliance meet in Siltech and Crystal Cable. “Our aim is to bring a live or near-live sound quality to people using our products,” she adds, “You’ll never get there totally, but Edwin as an engineer and I as a musician strive every day to get closer.”
Technology leads to the perfect cable
The core products of Siltech and Crystal Cables are analog and digital audio cables used in high-end hifi systems. Gabi likens the significance of audio cables to tyres on a car: “Bad tyres mean poorer performance; it’s exactly the same with audio cables.”
Most audio cables use copper, or for slightly better quality oxygen-free copper. Siltech has been at the forefront of using silver, a superior conductor that actually improves its performance as it ages, whereas copper deteriorates. They’ve developed a patented process that fills the gaps in silver’s crystalline structure with a tightly controlled amount of gold to improve performance further: “Regular silver could lead to a somewhat colder sound,” says Gabi, “but filling those gaps makes the signal passing smoother, the sound warmer, while keeping superb conductivity characteristics,” she says. For top-of-the-range products they even use a rare and expensive grade of silver – mono-crystal – with no structural gaps in the conductor.
Insulation is an equally significant element in how the cables convey the musical signal. “The electrical signal is very sensitive to magnetic fields and other external factors, so needs to be shielded and insulated very carefully.” Siltech and Crystal Cable use highly advanced materials like DuPont Kapton, a very thin foil that gives the cable the shielding and mechanical strength that previously required much bulkier materials.
When Edwin and Gabi looked at combining their thinner silver conducting materials and thin foil insulators it opened up amazing possibilities for elegantly thin cables with no loss of performance or strength. The brand Gabi spearheaded, Crystal Cable, has proved a huge hit: “It’s very high-tech, but also too beautiful to hide – the life-style factor is big, looking at these products. Crystal Cable serves a different market place, customers looking for a combination of modern design and high-tech materials for their audio cables,” she says.
Like husband and wife the two brands are complementary. “The Siltech range gives a more traditional high-end audio sound, rather masculine; Crystal’s cables are equally high-end, but with a more modern lifestyle look and feel and slightly different sound”, says Gabi.
All their products are hand-made by a skilled production team in their own plant in the Netherlands. They’re currently investing in expanding their facilities, and have always adopted the best production equipment. “It’s a special recipe – craftsmanship, hand-work, high technology and brilliant engineering and product design,” says Gabi.
Innovative technologies and products
Expertise gained on designing cables with the engineering simulation software Comsol has helped them develop speakers and other hi-fi elements. “The speakers started as special projects to show what technologically advanced products we’re capable of making, and in turn draw attention to our cables,” says Gabi, “now they’re well-known and award-winning products in themselves. Innovation again was key in this process. “To ensure the best sound and prevent vibrations inside the cabinet, we moved into our Arabesque teardrop shape, using rigid materials like glass (still unique in the world), aluminium and metal-filled compound material,” she relates.
Thanks to that engineering/art balance the end product is not just a technical masterpiece: “All these achievements serve one goal – the perfect musical experience. Our high-end audio products combine the highest technical standards with exceptional design, making them unique in the high-end audio market. Music is as essential as breathing, and music is for everybody,’ she concludes.