Vivaldi Interconnects and Speaker Cables
During 2016, my editor Suave Kajko at NOVO magazine let me audition a pair of Skogrand’s Tchaikovsky interconnect cables ($6,950 US) for about 8 months. Within a very short time, I concluded that these were (indeed… are) the quietest and most accurate pair of interconnects that I’d ever heard. As a reviewer, I wanted—perhaps even needed—to have those awesome cables in my arsenal of reviewing tools. Sadly, I had to return them. At the TAVES Consumer Electronics Show in 2016, Suave asked if I’d like to review Skogrand’s new Vivaldi interconnects ($750 US/2m length) and a matching pair of Vivaldi speaker cables ($850 US/3m length). Word spread like a virus through my local grapevine of audiophile friends that I’d be getting Skogrand’s new interconnects and speaker cables in for review. All of my audio- buds were drooling in anticipation at hearing the new ‘entry level’ cords. Up until now, the biggest issue with Skogrand’s wires has been their cost. You want the best…? Well… the best costs money: a LOT of money. Not any more though. The new Vivaldi cable line has price points that are far more accessible.
The excitement which Skogrand has created by releasing their entry-level (read: affordable) Vivaldi line of cables has been utterly remarkable.
DESIGN & FEATURES
Since 2011, Skogrand has been proudly making ultra-high end reference calibre audio cables in Norway. Whereas many of the bigger cable companies who established themselves in the 1990s and 2000s seem to be resting on their laurels and are still selling the same wires that they designed 15 or 20 years ago, Skogrand’s newer cable technologies are pushing the boundaries of what is, sonically speaking, possible.
The Vivaldi Interconnects (ICs) which I reviewed were about 3/4-inch in diameter. They have a striking ox-blood red colored, stitched fabric cover which sits underneath a heavy-gauge clear polymer outer jacket. The conductors are 24 AWG OCC (Ohno Continuous Cast) solid core copper wires. My review pair was terminated with locking Skogrand RCA plugs.
The primary sonic goal for all of Skogrand’s cables is to “…liberate the true sound of every system connected with [them].” Instead of adding or subtracting any sort of sonic coloration, all of Skogrand’s cords have been designed with the penultimate goal of letting audiophiles hear exactly how their components sound.
Skogrand uses balsa wood, OCC copper, Poly-tetra-fluoro-ethylene (PTFE) cotton, cross linked poly-olefin, Per-fluoro-alkoxy fluoro-carbon (PFA), silver, gold, silk, and rhodium in different configurations to achieve an exceptional clarity and accuracy from all their cables. The ends of the Vivaldi ICs are fairly stiff. As such, an end user will need at least 12 inches of clearance behind the components.
The 3m pair of Vivaldi speaker cables (SCs) I reviewed came with a white techflex jacket and was terminated with Swissmade CMC Euro-style Copper banana plugs.
Much like the ICs, the Vivaldi speaker cables also need at least 12 inches of clearance on both ends to hook-up an amplifier to most speakers.
Both the ICs and SCs come with air tight and water-proof Pelican hard shell flight cases. The build quality is exceptionally high for ICs and SCs in this price range.
Released in 1993, Junkhouse’s debut album Strays is a phenomenally well recorded rock record that contains a wide variety of toetapping songs with catchy guitar riffs and, in places, a strong acoustic edge that gives some of the tracks a small-town country feel. Featuring such epic songs as “Jesus Sings the Blues”, “Out of my Head”, “Gimme the Love”, “Stone Horses”, “Big Lake”, “No Way Out of Love”, and “The Buffalo Skinner”, the eclectic use of instruments and sounds captured on this record will test any 2-channel system’s ability to accurately reproduce the PRaT, dynamics, and shaded instrumental timbers.
Skogrand’s Vivaldi ICs and SCs were so accurate that they revealed how flawed the digitized CD version of Strays sounded as a source for reproducing their songs. After listening to both a redbook CD and a 150-weight vinyl record copy, the record sounded far more like real music, with real instruments in real space and time. The true sonic beauty of Strays came straight out of my vinyl rig. So much so that I decided to solely use vinyl for the rest of my listening tests.
For perspective, I took the Vivaldi ICs and SCs over to my friend Allan’s house. Listening to Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs’ new 180 gram 2-record set of Santana’s classic 1970 album Abraxas on his $100K+ level 2-channel vinyl rig, the Vivaldi cables let the stunning amount of inner sonic detail, unstoppable Latin-flavoured rhythms, and the startling dynamics contained on this amazing album flow forth without restriction.
While MFSL’s 2007 re-issue of Abraxas had good sonics, their new Ultra-Disc ‘one step’ plating and pressing process brings a striking new vitality and musicality to one of Santana’s best albums.
Featuring such songs as “Singing Winds, Crying Beasts”, “Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen”, “Oye Como Va”, “Se a Cabo”, “Mother’s Daughter”, and “Sampa Pa Ti”, the 1970 album Abraxas showcases Carlos Santana’s technical mastery of the guitar. The Vivaldi cables let Allan and I hear the amazing PRaT, striking dynamics, and jawdropping layering of sounds contained on Abraxas in all of its sonic glory.
Back in 1970, Santana’s ability as a guitarist was (arguably) second only to Jimi Hendrix. A listener should be able to ‘feel’ the subtle sonic textures and striking rhythmic changes in Santana’s playing on Abraxas at an emotional and spiritual level. With Skogrand’s Vivaldi cables, both Allan and I heard the truth of Santana’s musical genius. We happily agreed that this was the best that either of us had ever heard Abraxas sound.
Skogrand’s new entry-level Vivaldi interconnects and speaker cables deliver about 85% of detail, smoothness, and musical coherency of their reference calibre top-level cords; at a fraction of the price.
The Vivaldi line offers a decent sense of space, 3-dimensionality, and precision imaging. The higher frequencies were extended and accurate, without inducing any of the high-band “ringing” which cables in this price range usually create. The mid-range was neutral and accurate. I’ve heard warmer mids from a few other cables, but this “warmth” was usually accompanied by un-natural sonic colorations and too much emphasis in the lower frequency registers.
Low to mid bass was delicate, textured, and… again… accurate. If a 2-channel system created low-end rhythm, groove, and slam, the Vivaldi cables let it all come forth with an almost unparalleled precision.
Judged within their price bracket, the Vivaldi ICs and SCs offer exceptional accuracy. These are not cables which produce romantic warmth or sonic euphoria. And this precision will, unfortunately, reveal how poor sounding most lower-end and midfi 2-channel digital sources truly are.
You wanna hear what your gear really sounds like…? Give Skogrand’s Vivaldi interconnects and speaker cables a listen. Be forewarned though: these cables are hyper-accurate. They will tell you exactly how good your gear is; or… isn’t.