Sko­grand

Rach­mani­nov In­ter­con­nects and Speaker Ca­bles

NOVO - - REVIEW -

When asked why his ca­bles are so ex­pen­sive, de­signer, Knut Sko­grand’s re­sponse was sim­ple, “I sell per­for­mance.” And set­ting aside all the tech­ni­cal jar­gon, metic­u­lous mea­sure­ments, and painstak­ing crafts­men­ship, it re­ally does boil down to that.

DE­SIGN & FEA­TURES

Sko­grand Ca­bles’ top end Stravin­sky prod­uct com­mands a daunt­ing $27,000 US and is ac­knowl­edged among the finest in the world. The Rach­mani­nov ca­bles be­ing re­viewed here are at­trac­tively priced at 10 times less than that pin­na­cle prod­uct. They are aimed at the se­ri­ous au­dio­phile who wants a good por­tion of what the best has to of­fer at a more af­ford­able cost.

Most peo­ple would not re­gard an au­dio ca­ble that costs $2,625 US per 2.5 m pair as a “high value” pur­chase, but like any other pur­suit of pas­sion, bet­ter qual­ity doesn’t come easy or cheap. Ask any­one with a lux­ury per­for­mance car, or a top end cam­era. A real bargain isn’t about the low­est price. It’s about the high­est value.

Sko­grand Ca­bles are de­signed and man­u­fac­tured by a small group of ta­lented crafts­men in the pic­turesque moun­tain hills of Nor­way and priced to ap­peal to the mid to up­per ech­e­lons of au­dio en­thu­si­asts. Started in 2011, their cur­rent sta­ble of of­fer­ings now en­com­passes a broad range of ana­log in­ter­con­nects, speaker ca­bles, power cords, jumpers, as well as dig­i­tal in­ter­con­nects. Sko­grand builds all their ca­bles from the bare wires to com­ple­tion. The met­als are cus­tom man­u­fac­tured around the globe, and com­po­nents are sourced from 37 coun­tries

on four con­ti­nents with con­nec­tors cus­tom built to their specs. Sko­grand Ca­bles uti­lizes a hy­brid sales model of ded­i­cated deal­ers as well as di­rect sales in the ab­sence of dealer avail­abil­ity.

So what does the Rach­mani­nov se­ries have to of­fer? Th­ese ca­bles sit one tier above the en­try level Vi­valdi line in price, and con­sti­tute the sole di­ver­gent de­sign in the com­pany’s sta­ble. Up to this point, all Sko­grand ca­bles have uti­lized sin­gle crys­tal, high pu­rity cop­per, in com­bi­na­tion with an air di­elec­tric ap­proach. That de­sign phi­los­o­phy has achieved stel­lar re­sults and world­wide ac­claim. The Rach­mani­nov ca­ble loom goes a very dif­fer­ent route. In­stead of con­tin­u­ous cast cop­per, it em­ploys a mul­ti­stranded cop­per/sil­ver al­loy con­structed to af­ford the ad­van­tages of high con­duc­tiv­ity with­out com­pro­mis­ing the fun­da­men­tal tonal bal­ance of Sko­grand’s other de­signs. Un­der­taken to sat­isfy mar­ket de­mand, the line re­quired a full two and a half years of painstak­ing re­search and de­vel­op­ment to meet Knut Sko­grand’s own strict stan­dards. For the tech­ni­cally cu­ri­ous, the SC Rach­mani­nov speak­ers ca­bles of­fer 2 x 12 AWG sig­nal wires, and the in­ter­con­nects em­ploy 2 x 24 AWG wires. The air di­elec­tric found in Sko­grand’s other ca­ble se­ries was dropped in fa­vor of Te­flon for this de­sign. Mr. Sko­grand stip­u­lates that while the Rach­mani­nov can’t quite reach the abil­i­ties of his top flight ef­forts, it’s per­for­mance is im­pres­sive enough to con­fi­dently bear the Sko­grand logo. So, not lesser abil­ity, merely less ab­so­lute abil­ity. Cos­met­i­cally, the ca­bles keep the up­scale, ap­pear­ance of the higher lines, with an un­der­stated, ele­gant red on black silk bro­cade, in this it­er­a­tion pro­tected by a clear sheath. Con­nec­tors on the review sam­ples were Rhodium plated, lock­ing bar­rel RCAs for the ICs and ex­tremely high qual­ity gold plated spades for the speaker ca­bles. Other ter­mi­na­tions are avail­able. The ca­bles are ex­ceed­ingly well made but also quite stiff, so gen­tle curves, not abrupt an­gles are re­quired. Be pre­pared to al­low room to ma­neu­ver.

PER­FOR­MANCE

The big ques­tion, of course is what did they sound like? To be more ac­cu­rate, in the con­text of a ca­ble as a pure sig­nal con­duit, were they hon­est? I lis­tened to a wide va­ri­ety of mu­sic from Tidal stream­ing and high res­o­lu­tion files on my mu­sic server with ex­cel­lent re­sults. The ca­bles were tested with two dif­fer­ent am­pli­fiers af­ford­ing a suit­ably broad range of voic­ing to chal­lenge if they would re­veal the changes with­out adding their own char­ac­ter.

In their abil­ity to faith­fully re­pro­duce the tim­bre and com­plex­ity of live, acous­ti­cal in­stru­ments, the Rach­mani­nov trod the ab­so­lute high ground. With many ca­bles, you may marvel at the speed and tal­ent of a Span­ish gui­tarist as the strings light the air afire. But where is the wooden in­stru­ment? Of­ten lost. Here the in­stru­ment stayed whole, fin­ger at­tacks, string ma­te­ri­als, wooden body, all iden­ti­fi­able, all re­pro­duced with au­then­tic­ity. All other or­ches­tral in­stru­ments and voices fol­lowed suit, from the up­per reg­is­ter to the lower end of the scale, por­trayed with un­com­mon ac­cu­racy of nat­u­ral tex­ture. Mr. Knut Sko­grand brings his ex­pe­ri­ence as an ac­com­plished mu­si­cian to the ta­ble in set­ting the per­for­mance re­quire­ments of the Sko­grand Ca­bles, and his ears are un­com­pro­mis­ingly as­tute. How did the Rach­mani­nov ful­fill the other au­dio­phile niceties? Han­dling of pro­por­tion, place­ment, dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion of in­di­vid­ual in­stru­ments, and venue in­for­ma­tion were all done ex­ceed­ingly well. To sim­plify the tech­ni­cal artistry in­volved in achiev­ing that, it is as the co­me­dian once said, all in the tim­ing, and the tim­ing here was up to Swiss watch pre­ci­sion. De­tail? Dy­nam­ics? Fine de­tail was im­pec­ca­bly pre­served at all fre­quen­cies, with full bod­ied at­tack and lovely de­cay, show­cas­ing a good gra­da­tion of scale that mir­rored what the record­ing had to of­fer. Low distortion and low noise were ex­pected from the SC ca­bles, and they didn’t dis­ap­point, al­low­ing deep in­sight into low level in­for­ma­tion. Mar­ried with tim­bre ac­cu­racy, th­ese traits amal­ga­mated to con­vinc­ingly por­tray re­al­is­tic three di­men­sional in­stru­ments in a real acous­tic en­vi­ron­ment. The over­all pre­sen­ta­tion resided in very lofty ter­ri­tory, even by ab­so­lute stan­dards, and cer­tainly ex­ceeded most of the state of the art con­tenders of time gone by. The Rach­mani­nov ca­bles of­fer a re­mark­able level of per­for­mance that should be on ev­ery se­ri­ous au­dio­phile’s short list to check out. While ob­vi­ously not in­ex­pen­sive by any tra­di­tional def­i­ni­tion, the Rach­mani­nov will still con­sti­tute a bargain in the right set­ting. The ca­bles have the po­ten­tial to shine with mid to high level sys­tems that don’t have the in­sa­tiable power de­mands of some high ticket com­po­nents. Less ab­so­lute abil­ity, not lesser abil­ity comes into play with a vengeance here in fa­vor of the au­dio­phile with the right sys­tem match. While Mr. Sko­grand con­tends there are short­com­ings with the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the Rach­mani­nov against his lofti­est ef­forts, even the most jaded of lis­ten­ers may find them­selves too busy en­joy­ing their virtues to seek out those faults. Ul­ti­mately, that is the def­i­ni­tion of a true high value prod­uct.

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