I've been listening to speakers cables for a long time, this one has sort of taken me out of my usual listening rhythms, and posed a real challenge for me. One of the things with listening to a speaker cable versus listening to a new amplifier or speaker or DAC is the subtlety of the difference between one cable and another, especially at the high end of the speaker cable market. Another thing I try to avoid as a reviewer, is allowing the newness of a product to gobsmack me in the face and all of the "better" I am hearing is just "different" and not good or better. For this review I took a pair of cables I love and have become very familiar with in my system and started by writing a review of them (this will come soon) I placed scores (1 to 10) on some of the critical things I listen for from cable to cable.
Air: the perceived space an instrument has in a soundstage, are you getting that magical silence in all the corners of the sound stage (if the recording is made that way).
Micro Dynamics: the apparent dynamics within a note or syllable in music such as inflections in a voice, this is critical in bringing the emotion of a performance through a recording.
Shimmer: The sustain of the highest audible octave in a recording (violin, cymbals, piccolo etc.).
Speed: The apparent space given between high dynamic passages and the important negative space between the notes.
Soundstage: Width , Depth, and height of the soundstage. Is it at the max you've ever heard it?
Overall system synergy: How things do you like about your system? How many do you hate? If you have a great reference system, a 10 is basically impossible here because everything should already basically stand on its own merit. A 5 would be amazing, a 10 would be some sort of holy blessed cables that make the system somehow sound better than the sum of its parts.
Engagement: How hard is it to separate out the component from the music? A five would be totally Sterile a 10 would be "wait, what are cables again?"
Musicality: Hard to really define, but does it bring any more or any less out of your favorite recording? Five would be a baseline of tapping your toes, less than that would be pulling you out of a recording, higher than five is moving towards that rare goosebumps- hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck standing-up-first-time-you-heard-"Freebird" experience.
After assigning these scores, and taking my notes and impressions...I totally forgot about them. Closed the notebook, forgot where I put it, smeared coffee in my ears, listened to white noise for a week (sarcasm.)
I installed the new set of cables and let them marinate in my system, and just get cozy. Almost to the point I forget they are there, to the point where not only have I listened to them...I have even cleaned them a few times. I have lived with these cables, all of the newness is gone. We are out of the honeymoon phase and just quietly asking each other about work from across the dinner table eating left-over meat loaf.
Truly want to thank Skogrand for allowing me the time to really go through my process and live with these cables. It has been a truly enlightening experience. It has allowed me to take my limited acoustic memory and subjective expectations out of the equation and really just judge the cables on their own merit.
You may be screaming to yourself, "but the system was different, you didn't control for volume, this isn't ABX, you might have moved your speakers between tests, weren't the songs different?" and to you I say, "Ya... So what?" Do you have some elaborate ABX randomized switch in your system? Do you always listen to the same five songs? Do you take out your SPL meter every time you listen to a track? If you answered yes to all of these questions, I am sincerely sorry, if not let's get on with it.
Fit And Finish
With the technical designs out of the way on to the audio jewelry element, and the Skogrand doesn't let down there either. The cables are covered with a super high quality Silk Brocade outer cover with a beautiful gold or silver inlay that really looks beautiful with Skogrand's copper logo. These will fit great with a high style super high end system. Truly top notch style and build quality, maybe a bit tacky for some peoples taste or those that think the cables in a system should be understated. As many of you know solid core extruded copper wire is very rigid, so make sure you plan for a little extra distance to make the smooth swooping curve from one component to another.
Victor Wooten - Funky D
Amon Tobin - Stoney Street
Alabama Shakes - This Feeling
So I guess, on to the conclusion...
This is one of the most important parts of my listening experience as they really allow the music to have the emotional impact you want from your favorite tracks. These cables do absolutely nothing to hamper the soundstage or engagement to your music through your speakers and get top marks in these categories, driving their overall musicality score as well. As I said they are missing something on the top end, but are still very good so I gave them a system synergy rating of 6/10 if they had a piece somewhere in the chain that allowed just a little more shimmer in the high and let them breathe just a bit more, they would be even better, knowing that on this scale a five is very good.
I could strongly recommend these cables to anyone in the market for a set of cables in this price range, I might make some tweaks off an all Skogrand system in my personal reference setup just because the RAALs are so revealing, but overall this is a phenomenal system of cables. I look forward to seeing what I said about the Kimber Cable and Russ Andrews setup I have been running. You can look out for a review of those soon now that I can let myself out of the vault.