Cables are the conduit of signal in an audio system. However, audiophiles have considered cables to be more than that. There are those who would spend more on a cable than an audio component in an audio system. Then there are those who would tweak or treat their cables to exact a certain sound or presentation of music from the audio system. Maybe you have been told to float your cables, ground your cables, tie up your cables in a certain way, and the list goes on. To many audiophiles, cables are a component in an audio system and should be treated and invested likewise. We have seen cable prices soared to a region that is unbelievable a few years ago and, utterly insane, a decade ago.
I will come upfront and testify that I am not comfortable to invest in cables compared to audio components. Many of my audiophile friends advised that such investment is unavoidable if performance is to be had. “I will need to be convinced,” was my reply.
Knut Skogrand learned of my passion in audio from my Analogue Fellowship Facebook a couple of years ago and asked me (then) if I would be interested to try his cables. At that time, I believe I was using one of the best cables in the market, the MIT Oracle MA.
I was fully confident using my cables then, but curiosity got the better of me. If you read my review of the Skogrand SC Markarian cables, the conclusion was that those cables were awarded the “Choice Award” in Analogue Fellowship Facebook page.
It is still the only component to have received this award considering the number of top end audio components that I have the honor and pleasure to review over the years. Fittingly, the panel of listeners converted to Skogrand SC Markarian soon after.
Not long after the review, Knut Skogrand believed that he can improved upon the Skogrand Markarian model but admitted that it may not be much. He asked if I would be willing to try this new model, the Purist Ignes model. I enquired upon the price and was taken aback. My then response was that here we have a slightly better cable than the Skogrand SC Markarian but at a much higher price. I was not that keen especially after I have paid for the Skogrand SC Markarian cables.
Enter the Skogrand campaign and distribution
Skogrand cables launched an advertising campaign in a number countries to marked its new move into the market and introduced its new model names, ie, the Markarian was renamed Tchaikovsky, and the Purist Ignes was renamed Beethoven. Malaysia’s Skogrand distributor, Victor Pheh of HiFi-Creations, contacted me and offered me the Skogrand SC Beethoven speaker cables for a trial run. I was not that enthused to try them but Victor was quite persistent.
Enter Skogrand SC Beethoven,
I took delivery of the Skogrand SC Beethoven speaker cables terminated with banana plug for easy access to my Vitus Masterpiece MPM mono amplifiers and to my Gryphon Pendragon loudspeaker system (reviews of these fine components were done with the Skogrand SC Markarian or SC Tchaikovsky speaker cables). I usually will allow the cables to run in for at least 200 hours before serious listening. The Skogrand SC Beethoven speaker cables already have a certain life in their presentation after the initial few hours of play. I realized that these cables may not be “’the ultra-expensive but with only little improvement” cables that I believed initially.
After 200 hours…
As I have mentioned, there is that certain life to the music after connecting the Skogrand SC Beethoven speaker cables. I admit that the character that I hear from the Skogrand SC Markarian or SC Tchaikovsky speaker cables are similar to the Skogrand SC Beethoven. If you like the Skogrand SC Tchaikovsky then you will love the Skogrand SC Beethoven. I would say that this is no surprise since they are of Knut Skogrand’s art or science, effort, preference and taste.
I believed that Knut was trying to create a better Skogrand SC Tchaikovsky cables and ended with something better. The Skogrand SC Tchaikovsky cables allowed me to hear so much into the music uninterrupted. There is no emphasis of any particular frequency or bandwidth thereof, detailing or character that can be easily used to describe many other branded cables in the market. Some may comment that such (non) character as being dull and uninteresting.
The cables are the conduit for signal and are supposed to allow the music’s character to be presented untainted or uncolored. The Skogrand SC Tchaikovsky cables performed their main function as a conduit flawlessly. Upfront, I would say that the Skogrand SC Beethoven cables are a much bigger conduit that allow so much more to flow through uninterrupted.
A much lower noise level…
Immediately, I noticed that the Skogrand SC Beethoven speaker cables were of much lower noise floor compared to the Skogrand SC Tchaikovsky. In this department of noise level, I would further say that the Skogrand SC Beethoven must be the quietest speaker cables that I have heard so far (I admit that I have not hear all of the top speaker cables out there).
The human voice…
Just play your favorite artist and immediately you will notice something pleasantly different from what you are used to, even with those other expensive examples of speaker cables that you used to swear by. I played Diana Krall’s Wallflower vinyl album (Verve BOO 21154-01) to a few friends who later testified that they could not recognize the voice was her’s. Here, I noticed that Krall’s voice is somewhat different compared to her previous albums.
I could not blame them since I was taken aback myself when I first heard Kit Chan’s voice in my usual heavy rotation vinyl album of hers (NCKCLP001). Through the Skogrand SC Beethoven, I heard a certain layer of detail over her voice that was not there with other cables. The expressiveness of her voice has taken on a whole new level of detail, texture, layering and breath. It was a whole new level of emotion that was palpable, dense, touching and engaging. I find the vocalist’s presence really stood out amidst the competing musicians and their respective presence.
There is that balance in the vocals…
Imagine the human voice can be divided into a number of frequencies; low, mid and high. I am used to hearing other cables that tend to emphasize a certain frequency. Here, if I may assume, the Skogrand SC Beethoven is so balanced throughout the frequencies (in comparison with other cables) that it is able to render the human voice special and somewhat delicious. I wish to add that the legibility of the lyrics is beyond reproach. Literally, each word is being expressed individually and each sentence is being sang melodiously, presented as intended by the artiste.
In addition, the sibilance took on a natural decay instead of the usual irritating peak at the highs. I felt that I can really dig deep into the artiste’s voice and enjoy the artistic use of that voice. The voice of Ms Radka Toneff from her only album “FairyTales” (Odin LP03) sounded so diverse that you can hear her employing different keys and artistry at different songs; ie, “The Moon is a harsh Mistress” compared to “Come down in time”. The Skogrand SC Beethoven highlights the voice like no other cables that have come my way thus far. I felt that it did not exaggerate the details in the human voice. In fact, this cable really loves the human voice and it will have you love your favorite vocalists all over again.
Back to the human emotion buried in the voice…
Through the Skogrand SC Beethoven, Diana Krall sounded different to my friends. It is not so much about her voice but her skill, experience and age in life. This cable has the ability to highlight the differences more than other cables and naturally too. Here, she sounded more chesty, raw, energized, focused and confident; quite a departure from her usual youthful, swinging and exploring self. The same can be heard of Ms Radka Toneff; you can hear the different emotional stages in each song.
The key she sang, the tempo and pause employed in the lyrics and so forth are highlighted here, but not in an analytical manner. So naturally presented was her emotions that the listener can immerse himself in the lyrics and musical journey of the performance with little effort. To me, the Skogrand SC Beethoven did not just give me the lyrics and song, but the artiste herself…
The key of the piano…
In the context of a cable, the key to a good representation or playback of a piano is the least possible coloration. The piano is a sophisticated musical instrument that covers the very low to the very high keys. This is one musical instrument that a whole symphony can be written on. The least colored audio system should be able to playback with clarity each key played.
Take the FairyTales vinyl album (Odin LP03) for instance, where one of the better recorded piano pieces, was done. The Skogrand SC Beethoven allows the skills of Steve Dobrogosz to shine through accurately. Each key played and its accompanied pressure can be clearly heard, felt and experienced to its full glory. Each piano key is allowed to bloom fully and decay and to be followed seamlessly by the next key.
Depending on the key played, you can hear each played to its full bandwidth, extending all the way to its intended low and high. Thus, you will hear a piano key being represented more than just as a floating note, which is the case with many other branded cables. The Skogrand SC Tchaikovsky showed me how accurate a piano key can be presented. The Skogrand SC Beethoven will take that much farther. Here, each piano key will be represented with its intended full bandwidth, and with a much greater extension of the lows and highs, with a meatier mid, and at greater clarity (clean and clear).
In addition, I noticed a spacing before each key that allowed me to follow the music easier. Thus, the decay of each key is much clearer and cleaner to the extent that you will know when it actually ends, even in instances where the pianist chose to play the next key before the complete decay of the initial key. To me, this has been a complete and wonderful experience of hearing how a piano is being played well albeit through an audio reproduction system.
The whole piano…
My next question is how will the piano as a musical instrument stand out among other instruments?
Listen to the gentle play of the piano on the track “Strange Meadow Lark” from “Time Out” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet (Columbia Stereo CS 8192). Here, each key stroke took on life with full bloom and decay appropriately and rendered an almost 3-dimensional space of sound in my listening den.
Next, I played the “Clifford Curzon played Mozart Piano Concerto No.20 & No.27 with the English Chamber Orchestra” album (Decca SXL 7007/Esoteric ESLP-10001) where the piano really stands out. I am treated with the size, weight and presence of the piano in the midst of a full orchestra. It is not just the clarity of each piano key played but I can actually feel the low keys through the entire size and length of the piano. The Skogrand SC Beethoven extended the piano keys, even in a grand venue filled with many other musicians with competing musical instruments.
This experience confirms how critical this Skogrand SC Beethoven speaker cable’s neutrality is as a signal conduit, in bringing out one of the most difficult to play of musical instruments, the piano, through an audio system.
Play it all…
The human voice and the piano love to have the Skogrand SC Beethoven in the chain, that much is for sure. I think all other musical instruments will love to have the Skogrand SC Beethoven too.
I love to play big band music, especially those led by Count Basie. On the “Me and You” (Pablo 2310-891) vinyl album, it was extremely easy to identify every one of the instruments being played. The Skogrand SC Beethoven made it easier with its ability to separate them with a space that is huge enough to walk through. I think I might have said this a number of times in my other reviews.
The Skogrand SC Beethoven goes further (than the Skogrand SC Tchaikovsky) by giving each musical instrument its own independent recording booth. The clarity of each musical instrument is uncanny with independent weight, density, palpability, energy and life even when the whole band is playing at the same time.
I experienced each musician’s artistry and musical instrument being performed as a part of the whole ensemble (remember what I said about each individual’s own recording booth). It is like watching the whole act being played out to you in its own space. The bandwidth is from top to low without discontinuity. When a certain musician is called out to do a solo in the front, the Skogrand SC Beethoven will let that musician shine without neglecting the others in the background. The wholesome realism of the band at play is the forte of this cable.
How low can you go?
I do not suppose a cable (or any audio component for that matter) is supposed to add or subtract to the playback of a recording. The Skogrand SC Beethoven, in my opinion, is one of those “invisible” links in an audio chain. I noticed musical instruments enjoy a somewhat weightier presence compared to the Skogrand SC Tchaikovsky’s. Yet, the human voice does not sound ‘weightier’. The drum’s attack and bass’ pluck lines are clearly extended, deeper and clearer.
The Skogrand SC Beethoven has given these instruments their individual recording booths to capture all their energy to be played back at full tilt. Each musical instrument comes to life, filled with energy and vigor. Ultimately, you will be treated with low bass that is fast, taut, controlled, directional, clear and clean, as if you are being shot at by it. It is that great!
Happily for me, the instruments enjoyed a denser and higher palpability, with a much clearer delineation in a ‘better defined soundstage’ in comparison. I noted ‘better defined soundstage’ because I noticed that the Skogrand SC Beethoven will outline the recording venue. It will even present the difference in time of recording of each track (if that is the case). It is apparent that the recording booth effect is extended to the venue and type of recording employed.
I played the Airto Moreira & the Gods of Jazz’s Killer Bees (B&W Music) that included ‘some synthesizer, chicken, wilderness and weirdness’, among the other conventional musical instruments. It is obvious where those ‘weirdness’ were added in the recording. For contrast, I played a recording with a venue that is actually bigger in space, Tower of Power Direct (Sheffield Lab 17). The differences were obvious since it was recorded with the musicians and their instruments in the same space, and that it was recorded direct.
Other cables will showcase the differences but the Skogrand SC Beethoven will highlight them with ‘space’ among the musicians that constitute a certain presence. Some may call it the ‘atmosphere’ of the recording but here, I wish to add that this space extended from top to bottom, fore to front and surrounded each musician and any other entity recorded. It is the super-detailed retrieval and segregation of those details that is the magic of this loudspeaker cable. However, I will not term it “super analytical” just yet. It will be painfully obvious, if you listen to your favorite recordings, after a while just how natural the sound it presents.
Is there another loudspeaker cable that is faster sounding? Or more accurate in timing? Or tempo?
I believe that there are other cables that give the impression of having a faster tempo to its presentation, but not the Skogrand SC Beethoven’s definition of ‘tempo’.
There are those with that “improved tempo” but sacrificing the intellegibility of tones. You cannot follow through the number of tones and the completion of each one. This usually follows with loss of palpability and density of imaging. It may suffer a lack of detailing and texture. Spacing may suffer too. Ultimately, I believe a “fast sounding” cable will inevitably suffer in tonal balance.
The right tempo with tonal balance is well proportioned and extended, and unobtrusive in between the lows to mids to the highs. The Skogrand SC Beethoven loudspeaker cables’ most immediate positive attribute and ‘trump card’ upon installation is the presentation of spacing in all that is presented. Imagine playing one of those most complicated of compositions that usually sound like a mess without any definition, boundary, separation and coherency. Then imagine this cable is able to separate every single tone emitted from a single musical instrument or voice. Our imagination will continue to include the spacing of the recording venue and the surrounding itself.
Finally, imagine every entity in the recording is widely separated by a space. The musicians and their instruments sound so clear and natural, with their tempo easily followed. There is no sluggishness in the mids and there is no overhang from the mid-lows to the lowest possible from the loudspeakers, even with material of extreme low frequencies.
I would say that there is no exaggeration, or roll off of any particular frequency, to suggest any contribution to the ultimate tempo of the presentation. I believe that the Skogrand SC Beethoven loudspeaker cables may be the most accurate in presenting tempo that I have yet heard.
My final thought?
The Skogrand SC Beethoven loudspeaker cables is the least colored example to come into my audio system thus far. I have many audiophile friends who swear by one cable brand or another (some brands are more ‘colored’ than others). I do not disagree with most of them as I find those ‘colors’ enticing and even necessary to make certain music or recording more entertaining.
As I venture further into the upper echelon of audio fidelity, I seek the actual presentation of the recording, as intended by the artistes and recording engineers. I am more interested in hearing more into the music than my preferences. I do admit having that lingering question of what is the actual presentation in the recording.
My rule of thumb is to go for something that can give me more of the music in terms of the artistes’ artistry, musical instruments, and the essence of the music, and not just any particular frequency and/or bandwidth. The Skogrand Beethoven is that indispensable tool. It is my current reference to really hear and understand any audio component, and ultimately any music and its intended recording. It is not the most expensive loudspeaker cables out in the current market and it’s not the cable bargain of the year either. Having said that, I believe the ultimate intention of Skogrand, is to produce the state-of-the-art cables for audiophiles.
Associated audio components in this review:
1) TriangleArt Apollo MC cartridge,
2) Vertere Reference tonearm,
3) TechDas Air Force One turntable,
4) FM Acoustics 223 Phono Master stage,
5) Vitus Masterpiece Phonostage MP-P201,
6) FM Acoustics 268C pre amp,
7) Vitus Masterpiece Mono Amplifier MP-M201,
8) Gryphon Pendragon Loudspeaker System,
9) Skogrand Beethoven Loudspeaker cables,
10) Skogrand Tchaikovsky Balance interconnects,
11) Vermouth Red Velvet XLRs,
12) Gobel Lacorde Statement XLR,
13) Gobel Lacorde Statement Power cord,
14) Shunyata King Cobra Power cords,
15) Shunyata V Ray 2 Power Distribution,
16) Frank Acoustics Power Bank Storage PB-15000Ws (3 units),
17) Nordost QX (2 units),
18) Tombo Audio platforms,
19) Stillpoints Rack and footers,
20) Harmonix 666 Million
21) BSG Technologies QOL “Signal Completion Stage”,
Dato’ Danon Han