The land where Skogrand Cables were born.
Skogrand Stravinsky Balanced Interconnect…
The Rise of Cables!
I have seen more and more boutique branded audio cables in the market now than the last decade. Some said that designing and making cables involved the least capital compared to actual audio components. Others claimed that the initial capital isn’t small for designing a cable.
The SCI Stravinsky.
Ultimately, any experienced audiophile will put aside an amount for the desired cables. It is common practice that 20% of the total cost of audio system would be spent on cables. Some of my audiophile friends spent that 20% on a single cable. Personally, I have come across a number of mid end audiophiles spending close to or more, on a cable, than an audio component. Their reasoning was that cables would ‘maximize’ the performance of the current audio component(s) and remain ‘relevant and competitive’ for the next few upgrades.
The accompanying Skogrand Cables box.
The above was my belief and reasoning too and carried me through such cable brands as Straightwires, Audioquest, XLO, Be Yamamura, Cardas, Shunyata, MIT, Vermouth, Linn (UK), FM Acoustics, Audio Note (UK), Stein Music, Vertere, Gryphon Audio Designs, Vitus Audio Andromeda, Aries Cerat (other DIY cables) and Skogrand Cables.
You can imagine the insane amount of money involved here! Luckily, most of these cables are still in use in my multiple audio set ups. Therefore, money not wasted (I am still justifying my investment here).
The black or white?!
My current reference cables consisted mostly of Skogrand Cables from their previous model, SCI Markarian balanced XLR interconnects (currently modeled as SCI Tchaikovsky) and their current SC Beethoven loudspeaker cables.
My beautiful mess.
I contacted Knut Skogrand (founder and chief designer of Skogrand Cables) to review his latest flagship, the SCI Stravinsky (I believe the name was from Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky, a great composer who was born in Russia but lived in the United States after 1939).
Knut obliged my request with a pair of demo/used 1.5m SCI Stravinsky Balanced XLR interconnect. I would be able to enjoy its characteristics and/or attributes without much running in.
I cannot hide that?!
A Taste that is meant to be Shared!
I took the liberty to invite our local Malaysian distributor of Skogrand Cables, YL Audio’s James Chin, for the first taste of the SCI Stravinsky (which replaced the Vitus Audio Andromeda Balanced XLR interconnect to my Vitus Audio MP-M201 mono amplifier).
Yup, the SCI Stravinsky was plugged in!
Upon connection and with the first musical piece played, an immediate effect of ‘serenity’ was felt throughout the presentation. It was not due to lack of dynamism or energy or power or fall short of the right tempo. I would say that all the right elements were presented. I played Arnold Overtures (Reference Recordings RM-1518, Quality Record Pressings) and found that those soft passages were accompanied by a very stable and softer tape hiss. Thus, I got to enjoy more musical depth, separation, nuances and detail, without the need to turn the volume up. At the other extreme high frequencies, during the loudest and most dynamic passages, I found them to be unobtrusive, unhindered, and (yet, naturally) extended.
As James of YL Audio aptly pointed out the Skogrand Cables SCI Stravinsky has more control with extended and silky high (frequencies) than my previous interconnects.
I lifted the SCI Stravinsky!
After a few weeks and a few gatherings with audio industry guests from Japan, Canada, Singapore and Denmark, I think it was time for some serious listening with the SC Stravinsky.
Yes, that initial experience with the SCI Stravinsky proved to me that it was truly a conduit of the utmost upper echelon. Through another record, Burgmuller; LA PERI (Decca SXL 6407), I believed it’s transparency to the source material was at a level that I have yet attained with my other available cables. I would add that not only layers upon layers of detail flowed out naturally (without any hint of exaggeration or forcefulness) but were richly textured, bodied and toned. Henceforth, I could easily flow with the body and emotional play of the musicians. I believe it added to the ‘serenity’ that I expressed earlier.
In addition, I reckon the transparency (due to an eerily low noise to the source material) allowed more airiness in the actual recording to be presented. It was most apparent with a recording of an actual performing stage or a big venue as in Die Kluge Carl Orff (Eterna 8 27 155-156, a gift from Richard H. Mak of GTAA [Greater Toronto Audio Association]). Here, that airiness added ‘believability to the presentation of the breath of the stage’.
That airiness ‘profoundly’ separated, delineated and differentiated each performer at that stage in the recording. Therefore, through that single pair of SCI Stravinsky interconnect I could easily appreciate the breath, energy and dynamism of the (human) voice of each performer.
The partnering Skogrand Cables SC Beethoven speaker cables.
Literally Taste It?
Further into the review, I realized that the SCI Stravinsky presented ‘more human in the voice’. That may sound like something I had written before but assuredly, there was a difference. It was the quantum (and its nuances) of energy that ‘aggravated the air’ surrounding the human voice. It also help sized and defined the performance and/or the vocalist.
To illustrate, I played my reference track of ‘Ballad of the Runaway Horse’ (Rob Wasserman’s ‘Duets’, MCA 42131). Here, that energy and its differing level behind the ‘aggravation of air’ allowed me to hear (and experience) weightier and denser palpability in Ms. Warnes’ voice. Thus, it exhibited heavier mass and clearer body to her voice. And that allowed me to differentiate more clearly the nuances in her voice and appreciate more of her artistry in controlling her breath and voice. (I would categorize this as ‘intimate detail’).
I would not say that the SCI Stravinsky added more mass and more body to the vocalist. That would be a gross adulteration (or unwanted coloration) to the source material. I was more inclined to say that it allowed more of the native recording with its ‘intimate detail’ to be presented. That assertion could be supported with the experience of clearer definition, delineation and separation between Ms. Warnes (and her voice) and Mr. Wasserman (and his bass) in that recording.
Other branded cables were used.
At the Bottom of it all?
As per the above, it could be said that the SCI Stravinsky has more energy and strength at the mid to the high frequencies. (But, yet) that energy was never aggressive and forceful (in your face). The higher frequencies remained natural and at times, with the right recording, sweet and silky to my ears at the right volume, even at the peak of 106dB. Again, I prefer to think that the SCI Stravinsky allowed even more of the detail and resolution (comparatively) of the native recording to pass through unadulterated.
Richard Mak also recommended me to play, at a much higher volume, Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet (Decca Stereo SXL 6620-2) by Maazel and the Cleveland Orchestra. I followed his recommendation and (un)surprisingly I found the whole presentation coherent, unclouded, clean, controlled, (even) well-mannered and ‘unexaggerated’ at any particular frequency.
Those ‘unexaggerated frequencies’ allowed the lower to extreme low frequencies to bloom forth more in quantum, yet defined, layered, detailed, controlled, extended and directional. Additionally, I found the high, mid and low frequencies flowed and bloomed coherently as if from a single source transducer.
That coherency allowed a tone to be presented as a whole and in its entirety as intended. As expected, that tone tended to be more concise, dense, concentrated, defined, delineated, weighted and palpable. I would add that the tone remained dimensional but its size tended to be smaller, comparatively. I believe the above was part of the reason behind the wonderful separation, differentiation and segregation of musicians and musical instruments in the complex recording.
Ultimately, the orchestra was presented more ‘life-like’, believable and in glorious manner. That was achieved not with exaggeration of any frequencies and/or coloration but simply with higher resolution. It was an amazing experience for me since I was playing my music through a four-tower loudspeaker system, the Gryphon Kodo.
Skogrand Cables SC Beethoven.
I believe these are the distinguishing features of the Skogrand Cables’ philosophy, direction, purpose and ‘house sound’ from a number of other brands.
Some argue that the Skogrand Cables sounded like any other ‘copper’ cables, without the glow and shine of silver alternatives, without the refinement at the high frequencies of some exotic metal alloy alternatives or without the excitement of some other cables and so forth (the list continues). They could go for those other cables…no argument from me. I have met too many audiophiles who employ certain cables to achieve the desired coloration or characteristic in sound (quality).
More of my cables mess.
After some mileage in the audio journey, I realize the importance of the goal in hearing the native recording instead of the gears and/or cables. I must admit in most situations I did not achieve that goal.
I believe that the SCI Stravinsky’s higher resolution and/or transparency was simply a much more effective signal conduit and it brought me much closer to that goal of hearing the native recording than any other thus far.
Lastly, highly recommended if budget allows (US$26,000-00 per 1.5m pair).