Positive Feedback ISSUE 67
may/june 2013

 

 

The following submissions are for the 'Readers Who Want to be Writers' Contest. The authors are not Staff members of Positive Feedback.

 

Skogrand SCI Markarian 421
by Danon Han Hong Den

I am an audiophile in Malaysia who happens to run a group named "Analogue Fellowship." My intention is a simple one; to call all audiophiles with like interest and passion for all things audio in the analogue realm. I received a message from Knut Skogrand of Skogrand Cables asking me whether I’d be interested in listening to his then reference cables, The SCI Markarian 421 ( hereafter referred to as Skogrand cables) XLR interconnect and speaker cables. I asked around within my community of audiophiles about this Skogrand brand, and many told me about the rave reviews on the net, and that I should jump to the opportunity to listen to them.

The burn-in period for these cables is at least 500 hours in my book. After this period, you will hear most of what I am about to describe. I have divided my review into musical genres, and what I want to hear and what I got from the Skogrand cables.

Vocal

The human voice is something we can easily relate to, recognize, and understand. There are many times when listening to the mere voice of a person that we can recognize his or her emotion, or intention, with some performers more than others. Most of the audiophiles I know will almost always gauge an audio component with vocal material—usually a female vocalist. There are those that believe a good audio component (or cable) will be able to transfer the intended feeling of the singer, or artist, in the performance to the listener, even to an extent of invoking tears. Of course, such emotional teasers are not only evident in vocal material, and they are also very much dependant on the listener and the mood at that time.

I have a few albums in this category that I almost always use to gauge any change of component(s) in the chain of my audio system. I won't be able to list them all here, only what I have been having under heavy rotation. I started off with a Korean jazz singer, Ms. Nah Youn Sun with her first album, Voyage (Silk Road Music SRM008LP).

I like this album due to the simplicity of most tracks, with the artist’s performance accompanied by only a handful of musicians playing simple tunes with easily recognizable instruments. I’m so used to this album that I literally knew what her next expression would be on any given track. What I expected from this album the Skogrand cables did not short change in any way, but instead they allowed the performances of the artist to be presented in a more intimate manner. Her voice sounded sultry and sensuous, with layers of emotion that were clearly exposed. She was not just singing the words; she was expressing her feelings through the words. There were meanings expressed through the words. This album contains a number of tracks that exposed me to the many talents of this Korean singer. Before the Skogrand cables were installed, I listened to the different styles of the singer's performance, but after the cables were installed, I was able to hear her different artistry in the songs sung through her breathing, the inhale and exhale of breath in the expression of words.

Yes, the Skogrand cables were able to pass through a layer of resolution that was the feeling, or emotion, of the artist's performance.

My next question was whether this layer of feeling, or emotion, of the artist could be as easily experienced from a live recording where the performance or recording is more challenged with congestion from the multiple musicians in a grand hall, with hundreds in the audience? Enter my next album, Diana Krall, Live in Paris (Verve ORG003) where our dear Diana sings under the above mentioned conditions.

I do admit that this particular album was fairly well recorded and a keeper to most audiophiles, whether they are a fan or not. I heard more through the Skogrand cables—especially the swinging mood of Diana. I detected this through the way she bit the words of the song and the tempo. I felt she purposefully changed certain parts of the song to suit her style. My other cables allowed the performance to flow through quite monotonously, but that was never the case with the Skogrand cables.

Another positive attribute that I wish to bring to light in this recording is that I got to experience, with the Skogrand cables, the presence of Diana Krall easily distinguished from the presence of each musician, and the sounds of the audience. Such presence can be experienced, I believe, due to the air and space separating Diana from the musicians, and the musicians from the audience. In addition to the good separation, there was the audible sensation of weight, or foundation, of each player in the recording. Most of the cables I have owned, or tried, did not allow such clean delineation of individual imaging in full bandwidth, except these Skogrands.

Jazz and Percussion

To continue on these attributes of fine delineation of imaging, I explored the jazz album of The Dave Bailey Sextet, One Foot in the Gutter - a Treasury of Soul (Epic Jazz Series BA17008).

Again, I discovered and experienced the same presence and weight of each musician at play to confirm my findings with the Skogrand cables. I noticed that this fine delineation of image was so delicate as to allow each instrument to be projected with density and palpability, as if each was having a solo in the recording. You could hear the air within and without each instrument, thus allowing fine texture almost to a touch. To me, a good jazz performance requires a pronounced involvement and excitation of the soul. To achieve this, a certain pace, rhythm and tempo or timing (PRaT) is needed. I usually gauge this with my body. "Oh yes, if my body moves with the tunes, the PRaT is alright." This is what I always say to any audiophile who asks. I’m happy to report that the Skogrand cables kept my body moving as I write this with the above mentioned album playing!

Let's up the level of complication and tempo with the album of Eiji Kitamura, Swing Sessions (RCA RDC-10).

Immediately the first track of side A will pace you to almost a heart attack. Here again the Skogrand cables were able to maintain the good PRaT, and the fine delineation of imaging with all the above positive attributes yet again confirming my experience.

Soundtrack

All these positive findings caught my curiosity, and I started pulling out more albums. A rare album from Japan that I wish to highlight is Kojak & Baretta (RCA JRS-9522). It contains the themes of a number famous American TV series from the golden age such as Baretta, Kojak, Policewoman, Hawaii 5-0 and more.

My favorite track here is none other than "Hawaii 5-0," and I played this track loudly, since it is usually the last song of any given listening session with my buddies. Excitement was all I cared about with this track, and I tell you that the Skogrand cables will excite you with the full glory of detail and resolution of the above.

Classical

Excitement and grandeur were the next challenge for the Skogrand cables. Here I wished to play my newly purchased album, Exotic Dances from the Opera by Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra (Reference Recordings RM-1505).

In a recording such as this all that’s to be expected of a grand and great classical orchestra performance must be present in order to achieve believability. Here the review and impression are concentrated on the 'conduit of signal' in a chain of audio components, each having their respective effect on the end result: playing classical masterpieces of a grand scale.

First, I looked for scale of the presentation that comprised the height, width, and depth of the soundstage, and the total size of it, which may be summed up as macro detail. In comparison with my resident cables that included MIT Oracle MA, Stein Music, AudioQuest, XLO Unlimited, AudioNote, Sogon, Jorma Prime, Audience, etc, I noticed that the Skogrand cables gave a slightly wider width, higher height, and most noticeable was the deeper depth. With the Skogrand cables the soundstage was simply expanded beyond the capabilities of any of the above mentioned cables.

Second, in conjunction with the above - the Skogrand cables were good at layering the soundstage. Literally, the musicians were presented in their respective segment, group, and lines. Here you can close your eyes, or better yet, have them open and point to a particular musician at play.

Third, the separation of the musicians within each group was absolutely clear with the Skogrand cables, as I saw it, this was due to the resolution that passed through them, allowing for the presentation of air and space enveloping and connecting each musician.

Fourth, the micro detailing of these Skogrand cables was there, in that I was able to hear or experience the weight and presence of the musician(s) and their respective instrument.

Finally, all the above may not mean much if the presentation does not carry weight and presence as a whole. To me, the above mentioned classical title required a believable transient of controlled energy, or bass, and the right PRaT. In the case of the conduit of signal, I would say the Skogrand cables passed through so much unadulterated information that my audio components in the rest of the chain were able to present me with a believable grand scale classical performance.

Conclusion

I had the Skogrand cables in my audio system for more than 6 months, and during this period they went through a number of changes of components. They were as neutral and as true to the source or component they were connected to, comparatively. The attributes of their ultra high resolution was apparent always, but the coloration or character of the component they were connected remained. In no way did the Skogrand cables induce any character or coloration of their own.

I experienced improvement in all sonic aspects from my audio system through the Skogrand cables—sensuous, enveloping, and delightful enjoyment. Since the Skogrand cables came into my system, they reinvented my perception of what ultra end audio systems can be. I used to be impressed and seek certain attributes of an audio component...really a cumulative of those attributes and the result thereof. These cables showed me that the cumulative attributes are as important as the individual attributes. Now, I will seek a different path of what impresses me. No more mere PRaT, dynamic, bass, slam, bang, detail, coherency, sound staging, airiness, separation, 3Dness, and etc, etc, but "believability that touches my soul."

The few of my fellow audiophiles who have heard these cables agree with my findings above. In a way, they contributed to the above, and their enthusiasm did not stop there, they have contacted Knut Skogrand to purchase these fine cables for themselves.

The Skogrand cables have enlightened me to such an extent on my audio journey that I wish to reciprocate them as the Analogue Fellowship "Cable of Choice 2013".

 

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