Skogrand SC Air Markarian 421 Cables: Second Impressions
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 raving reviews on the net, namely Clement Perry's (here) and that I should jump at the opportunity to hear - and possibly offer a follow-up here. Well, dear readers, here are my impressions.
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 in the following. I have divided my review into musical genre and what I want to hear and what I got from the Skogrand cables.
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 we can recognize his or her emotion or intention, with some performers more than others. Most of the audiophiles that I know will almost always gauge an audio component with vocal material - and 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 but only what I have been having under heavy rotation. I start off with a Korean jazz singer, Ms. Nah Youn Sun with her first vinyl album, "Voyage" (Silk Road Music SRM008LP).
I like this album due to the simplicity of most tracks contained, with our 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 know what her next expression will be on any given track on this album. 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 so clearly exposed. She’s not just singing the words but expressing her feelings through the words sung. There are meanings expressed through the words. This album contains a number of tracks that exposed us to the many talents of this Korean singer, as introduced in the cover of the album. Before the Skogrand cables were installed, I have been listening to the different styles of the singer's performance but after the said cables were installed, I was able to hear her different artistry in the songs sung, ie; through her breathing, the inhale and exhale of breath in the expression of words.
Yes, the Skogrand cables are able to pass through a layer of resolution that is the feeling or emotion of the artist's performance.
My next question is whether this layer of feeling or emotion of the artist can 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 (not to mention the hundreds in the audiences?) Enter my next vinyl 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 or not they are a fan of her or not. I do hear more through the Skogrand cables - especially the swinging mood of Diana. I detected this through the way she bites the words of the song and the tempo she leads the song. I felt she purposefully changes a certain part of the song to suit her style. My other cables allow the performance to flow through quite monotonous but that is never the case with the Skogrand cables.
Another positive attribute that I wish to bring to light in this recording that I get to experience with the Skogrand cables are that, even in a live recording, the presence of Diana Krall can be easily distinguished from the presence of each musician in play together and the sounds of the audience. Such presence can easily 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 is the audible sensation of weight or foundation of each player in the recording. Most of the cables I have owned or tried do 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 (vinyl) album of The Dave Bailey Sextet, "One Foot In The Gutter - A Treasury of Soul" (Epic Jazz Series BA17008). Again, I discovered and experience the same presence and weight of each musician at play to confirming my findings with the Skogrand cables. I notice that this fine delineation of image is so delicate as to allow each instrument to be projected with density and palpability as if each is having a presence of solo in the recording. You will 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 keep my body moving as I write this with the above mentioned album playing!
Let's up the level of complication and tempo with the vinyl 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 agin the Skogrand cables are able to maintain the good PRaT and the fine delineation of imaging with all the above positive attributes yet again confirming my experience.
All this positive findings caught my curiosity and I started pulling out more albums (vinyl). A rare album (vinyl) from Japan that I wish to highlight is Kojak & Baretta (RCA JRS-9522) that comprises a number famous American TV series from the golden age such as Baretta, Kojak, Policewoman, Hawaii 5-O and more.
My favorite track here is none other than Hawaii 5-O and I will play this track loud, since it is usually my last song of any given session with my buddies. Excitement is all I care 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.
Excitement and grandeur are my next challenge for the Skogrand cables. Here I wish to play my newly purchased vinyl 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. Any given area is no easy feat for any audio system. 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.
Firstly, I will look for scale of the presentation that comprises 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 include MIT Oracle MA, Stein Music (Germany), AudioQuest, XLO Unlimited, AudioNote Sogon (UK), Jorma Prime (Sweden), Audience (US) and etc, I did notice that the Skogrand cables gives a slightly wider width and higher height, and most noticeable is the deeper depth. With the Skogrand cables the Soundstage is simply expanded beyond the capabilities of any of the above mentioned cables.
Secondly - in conjunction with the above - the Skogrand cables are good at layering a good soundstage. Literally, the musicians are presented in their respective segment or group and lines. Here you can close your eyes or better yet, have them open and point to a particular musician at play.
Thirdly, the separation of the musicians within each group can be absolutely clear with the Skogrand cables – as I see it this is due to the resolution that pass through them that allow for the presentation of air and space enveloping and connecting each musician.
Fourthly, the micro detailing of these Skogrand cables is there, if not with the best, in that I am 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 require a believable (a lot of) transient of controlled energy or bass and at the right PRaT. In the case of the conduit of signal, I would say the Skogrand cables pass through so much information unadulterated that my audio components in the rest of the chain are able to present me with a believable grand scale classical performance.
I have had the Skogrand cables in my audio system for more than 6 months and during this period they have been through a number of changes of components here. They have been as neutral and as true to the source or component they are connected to, comparatively. The attributes of their ultra high resolution is apparent always but the coloration or character of the component they were connected remain. In no way the Skogrand cables induced any character or coloration of their own.
I experienced improvement in all sonic aspects from my audio system through the Skogrand cables - sensuous and enveloping … delightful enjoyment. Since the Skogrand cables came into my system, they reinvent my perception of what ultra end audio system can be. I used to be impressed and seek certain attributes of an audio component but not ...really a cumulative of those attributes and the result thereof. These cables show me that the cumulative attributes are as important as the individual attributes. Now, I seek a different path and what impresses me. No more mere PRaT, dynamic, bass, slam, bang, detail, coherency, sound staging, airiness, separation, three-dimensionality, etc, etc etc., but "Believability" that touches my soul."
The few of my fellow audiophiles whom have heard these cables agreed with my findings above. In a way, they contributed to the above, and their enthusiasm did not stop here - they have contacted Knut Skogrand to purchase these fine cables 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".
Skogrand SC Air Markarian 421 Cables
Analogue: Clearaudio Statement Turntable with its dedicated Statement Linear arm
ZYX Omega Gold cartridge,
Vitus SP 102 phono stage,
Tom Evans The Groove Anniversary phono stage,
PS Audio 300,
Pre amp: Vitus SL 102,
Spectral 30 SS,
Audio Note M6 (UK),
Audio Note M10 (UK),
Amps: Gryphon Mephisto Solo,
Gryphon Mephisto Stereo,
Audio Research 610T,
Speaker: Egglestonwork Ivy Signature,
Cables: MIT Oracle MA, Stein Music (Germany), Audio Note Sogon (UK), XLO
Unlimited, AudioQuest, Shunyata, Audience (US), Jorma Prime, etc
Power: Shunyata V Ray,
Frank Audio Power Bank 15000Ws