Since very long time ago cabling is regarded as a necessary part of the system, but yet just an addition, a kind of jewelry. In most cases such expensive add-ons are nothing more than just plain wires put inside a nicely looking sheath and terminated with fancy plugs. But there are exceptions to the rule. I am talking about such extraordinary items like the heavy aluminum cases of MIT Oracle MA-X Super HD, or the carbon “chicken” Opus from Transparent. In this noble group also the recently tested Hijiri “Million” can be included. However none of the mentioned cables can compete with the hero of this test – the loudspeaker cables Skogrand Beethoven, supplied by G Point Audio.
Eavesdropping through the portfolio of the company starting with the top offering is on one hand a true dream of many audiophiles, but on the other, a true curse, as a human is built-up in such a way, that he easily gets acquainted with good sound, and trying to go back to some lower class components is regarded as an attack on the rights and freedoms of the individual, a true violation of the ears. Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity of listen, in controlled conditions, to the cheaper models of the Skogrand, although looking at the price list, the distance between the top Beethoven and the second in line Tchaikovsky is quite significant, as those are first are more than twice as expensive. But as we have a possibility to get to know the crème de la crème of the Norwegian metallurgy I did not think about complaining for even the smallest second, and looked forward to test the “million dollars” set.
The Beethoven are supplied in a solid, almost bullet-proof suitcase, stuffed inside with high amount of sponge, which protects the cables from any kind of damage during transit. It is hard to debate the meaningfulness of such solution, as it is indisputable, but I think, that this choice of packaging material by the owner and founder of the brand, Mr. Knut P. Skogrand, was done on purpose. It was done to show a truly explosive contrast between the military roughness of the case and the jewel-like design of the cables themselves. While the massive, but not too big spades, are common at this price level, the silver-white woven (?) braid is striking. Below the protective transparent skin we can see really royal ornaments and hypnotizing patterns. Holding them for the first time one starts to think, if it would not be good, to make something similar to the presentations of Ansae during the Audio Show, and place the system, or at least the amplifier, with the back to the front, just to be able to see the cables all the time. Now I tell you one thing – their aristocratic elegance predestines them to become part of systems housed in castles, palaces regardless of their size. The more noble interiors we have, the more the Beethoven will fit into them. Without the blatant clamorousness of the ZenSati Seraphim, they fit perfectly into the climate defined by old arras and tapestries, lazy greyhounds and servants in liveries (although they would also fit with French housemaids). So while to date Norway was mostly associated with Vikings and trolls, the top Skogrand are the proof for that more refined creatures like elves lived there too, or maybe still live there in the cold and rough mountains of Scandinavia.
With the intriguing external design comes also the technical refinement inside. In the role of dielectric PFA was used, and the heart, or rather the veins, are four, parallel solid core 12AWG wires. I did not find any information about the purity of the copper used for the conductors, but there was a lot about details like precise and long mechanical tooling, thermal and … biological treatment of the UPOCC (Ultra-Pure Ohno Continuous Cast) copper. This clearly indicate, that there is no place for even smallest compromise, what is confirmed by the rigorous, three-stage radiological (using X-Ray) process of verification of the purity and smoothness of the surface of the conductors. The only question that remains, is how this advanced metallurgy translates into sound.
In the sound of the Skogrand, the native, dominating characteristic, is the incredible clarity, resolution and detail, which do not create the impression of overly analyticity, drying out or thinning of the sound. Despite the masterful, almost transparent neutrality, all the time we have the pleasure of having true musicality and wealthy timbres at our disposal. We cannot assess their temperature, or any tendency to make the sound warmer or colder, in the same way, as we cannot assess the naturalness of the crystal clear water taken from inside of a glacier.
In case of the soundtrack to “Blade Runner”, with its synthetic planes of impressionist installations, as well as with more conventional items like „Vägen” Tingvall Trio, we could talk about learning to know the recordings anew. From the seemingly homogenous background, as this was the way it was presented to date, the Skogrand extracted absolutely virgin layers of micro-details and micro-sounds. But it was not a process of mechanical extraction of elements hidden in the dark, but very natural showing of the nuances, which had no chance of appearing on the virtual stage. The background remained dark, but this cosmic, velvety blackness did not engulf the distant planes, but was far, far behind them. Due to this not only the perspective improved, but the whole presentation gained incredible swing and momentum. I did not experience such drama as with the Siltech Triple Crown, but in direct comparison, both cables were on par with the homogeneity. Here we come to the, quite obvious, at least for the more seasoned audiophiles, truth, that not the material determines the character of the cable, but the way it was applied. Why am I writing this? As you may have noticed, I am comparing copper Beethoven with the silver Triple Crowns and I am not eager to show any pros and cons of any of the materials used. Fortunately, or unfortunately, in both cases we deal with a situation, where the quality of the sound is just reference, and it cannot be judged other than reference in all aspects, and we are only able to tell, which kind of presentation we like better, or worse. Although on the other hand … if I would be cornered with crossfire, I would say that the “Skogrand” version of copper is very close to the vividness and crystal clearness of the Dutch silver. In the beginning of the test I did not know practically anything about the construction of the Norwegian wires, so I subconsciously assumed, that they are made of silver, if not completely, then there is at least a significant amount of this material in the Beethoven. But this is not so important, as I owned some time ago the cables Gabriel Gold, where there was an explosive mixture of copper, silver, gold and platinum and kudos to all, who would have guessed what is going on there only based on listening tests. This is the reason, that it is much better to plug a given cable into your system and make up your own mind, than to analyze all the company folders and composition of the wires.
I hope, that from the above you get quite a clear picture, that the denser, more complicated music we provide the Beethoven, the more engaged we will be, we will become part of the pioneering expedition opening the to date unknown regions of musical sensitivity. Talking about sensitivity – even the intriguing achievements of the quick fingered Finnish, like “The Funeral Album” Sentenced, were able to dazzle and clearly show, that audiophile quality and heavy metal power can go together. The deep, low voice of Ville Laihiala supported by the wall of heavy, guitar riffs of Miika Tenkuli and Sami Lopakka sounded almost monumental. Also the more shrill and “granulated” oldie – “Alice in Hell” Annihilator did not cause me any discomfort to me, presenting lots of satisfactory drive and memories from the long-haired past. With this kind of repertoire, the critical parameter is speed, which needs to be close to the speed of light, ability to make a standing turn, attack or break a phrase, and that at high volume levels. This should also happen without compression higher, than the one used during the recording. This time too, I had no reason to be disappointed. It turned out, that the noble, almost byzantine looks and very ennobling name does not prevent the Beethoven from finding itself in the right place even with such rough and usually unacceptable repertoires. They provided each growl, whine and squeal directly to the speakers. They did not save the upper or lower registers, presenting to the last bit / last millimeter of the groove of what was supplied by the amplifier.
From the outside, the Skogrand Beethoven are like limited bottles of the classic water Evian, designed by Christian Lacroix, or Jean-Paul Gaultier, but from the sonic point of view, they have crystal clarity and almost no character of its own, so this makes them an almost perfect partner for ultra high-end systems. But they are also able to release their charm and potential already with much lower price levels, providing high amounts of information together with finesse and musicality, about which most of us (and most of the competition) can only dream. This is the reason, that if you are planning to buy some speaker cables for long time usage, and at the same time to elevate yourself to the heights of audiophile advancement, then the Beethoven are the cables for you. They will release you from the need to juggle around with cables, nervousness and chasing the rabbit. Buying the top Skogrand you will be sure, that even with the stratospheric High-End they will not be just an ornament, but one of the strongest parts of the system.
System used in this test:
– CD/DAC: Ayon CD-1sx
– Digital input selector: Audio Authority 1177
– Network Music Player: Olive O2M; laptop Dell Inspiron 1764 + JRiver Media Center
– Turntable: Transrotor Dark Star Silver Shadow + S.M.E M2 + Phasemation P-3G
– Phonostage: RCM Sensor 2; Abyssound ASV-1000
– Integrated amplifier: Electrocompaniet ECI5;Einstein The Tune
– Loudspeakers: Gauder Akustik Arcona 80 + spike extenders
– IC RCA: Antipodes Audio Katipo; Siltech Classic Anniversary 770i
– IC XLR: LessLoss Anchorwave; Organic Audio; Amare Musica
– Digital IC: Fadel art DigiLitz; Harmonic Technology Cyberlink Copper; Apogee Wyde Eye; Monster Cable Interlink LightSpeed 200
– USB Cables: Wireworld Starlight; Goldenote Firenze Silver
– Speaker Cables: Organic Audio; Signal Projects Hydra
– Power Cables: Furutech FP-3TS762 / FI-28R / FI-E38R; Organic Audio Power; Acoustic Zen Gargantua II; Ardento Power; Organic Audio Reference Power; Furutech NanoFlux
– Power distribution board: GigaWatt PF-2 + Furutech FP-3TS762 / FI-28R / FI-E38R
– Wall Socket: Furutech FT-SWS(R)
– Antivibration platform: Franc Audio Accessories Wood Block Slim Platform
– Ethernet cables: Neyton CAT7+
– Accessories: Sevenrods Dust-caps; Furutech CF-080 Damping Ring; HighEndNovum PMR Premium; Albat Revolution Loudspeaker Chips
The game of testing audio gear is kind of ungrateful, despite external appearance. Unfortunately many people who try to verify the results described by the reviewer at home, get a completely different sonic picture, but usually they do not take into account the whole array of variables between those comparisons and accuse the reviewer of being favorable for a given distributor. Following this lead, the disappointed potential clients claim, that everything has only one goal, which is, to keep the provider of the tested material supporting the internet portal or printed magazine. Of course there is some logic in it, maybe even some truth, but I need to point out, that myself and Marcin received some appraisal for picking out some small issues in the tested components. I can even say more – such words came often from people, who were interested in getting the best possible result of the test, the distributors themselves, what clearly shows, that their clients often just smile at too nice reviews, looking for truth, which can often be bitter, but which can be a kind of guidepost for them when making purchase decisions. I will just reinforce, that I am talking about small things here, and not big problems, what should be regarded as obvious, but for audiophiles judging in binary, 0-1, way, may not be so. But it was the truth about the products, that was the foundation for the Soundrebels portal testing the current cable, because the distributor, who read very positive reviews from abroad, asked us for a honest diagnosis of a loudspeaker cable of the brand he wants to distribute, the model Beethoven from the Norwegian manufacturer Skogrand.
When I saw the first pictures of the cable we would test, I was a bit perplexed, because when I wanted to look deeper at the offerings of this manufacturer and scanned through the Internet abyss, and there I found a series of products for the connoisseurs of extraordinary design and Arabian sheiks. I will not go further on the description of the design covering the external braid of the tested cable – everything you can see on the pictures, but I need to confess, that the cable looks richly. With all that, the construction of the cable seems to be most interesting, as we can see through the external cover, that there is a series of modules, connected like Lego blocks, and terminated with heavy spades. I was not able to see, how this looks on the cross-section, as the price of around 80 000 zlotys was too high of a barrier, to cut it through. This was the reason that after this short external overview I went directly to listening. I just add, that the set of cables is supplied in a nice carrying case.
I hope, that everybody knows, that all verifications of cables in my system are impaired by a certain bias towards Harmonix cables. Those come from the same manufacturer and will always be favored, as those are custom tailored to fit each other. However I was able to see, that when something extraordinary comes, the situation becomes interesting. It may be a bit premature, but I can already tell you, that something similar happened with the tested cables. This was not due to their price, which should always determine, that the cheaper, theoretically worse product, is the loser, but due to the really significant improvement of quality of music I heard from my speakers. I could count cables who won with my Japanese ones using the fingers of only one hand, but today’s test seems to be making me use my other hand. Common knowledge tells, that each Harmonix cable should make the sound of electronics, it is connected to, heavier, to a different extent. This of course depends on the position a given cable has on the price list, but the same kind of timbre is inherent to all of them. This is the reason, that when the Norwegian set was burned in and got acclimatized and time came to start serious listening, it turned out, that with the complete palette of the Harmonix timbres, I got a better openness of the midrange. Not a brightening, not thinning, but a bit of extra lighting, which resulted in more readability of this subrange. Such thing was fantastic with vocals, what I used putting the John Potter disc with the Monteverdi songs often in the CD-player, followed by a recital of Miss Joun Sun Nah. Of course I did not refrain from using more demanding discs like the electronics from Massive Attack, or Hans Zimmer film music, what confirmed a very well balanced of the whole sound spectrum, as this extra air did not create any annoying offensiveness of the sound, even during long listening sessions, but just delicately introduced me to the deeper aspects of the sound. Unfortunately I am not able to describe the full palette of actions this model of Skogrand does, as we received just one set of cables, and my ISIS require two sets, so I needed to use my Harmonix to supplement either the bass or treble section of my speakers. Interestingly both cables were very close together in terms of timbre, with only one difference, that, unfortunately for me, the more expensive cable did that in a much more freely, with more breath. I do not like to do that – admit that the competition is better, but during the testing of the cable, I caught myself a few times on thinking about making changes to my system, but when I allowed the price of the cable reach my mind, compared to the Harmonix system, which performed ideally till now, the magic was gone. I do not say, that the tested speaker cable is not worth its price, but the whole set must be balanced with a price consensus, and the loudspeaker cable in the price of my two-box CD player did not fit into this. However that, what was introduced by the contender, was truly splendid. With absolutely clear conscience I can recommend it, after I verified it in my own home, to all people, who have even better systems than I do, or clients who like to extract the maximum of their components using elements more refined, quality wise. I know, that our small world is full of such extremists.
The Skogrand Beethoven ideally fitted into a very demanding system, showing in this way, that it was not created by chance. An interesting surprise was the sound similar in aesthetics to my Japanese cables, but with a positive correction in the presentation of the midrange. Of course we can explain that with the increase in price, but as I wrote before, the price does not always come together with ideal synergy with everything a product encounters along its way. Is the Norwegian worth its price? Here I will repeat myself one more time, on purpose. This will depend on the set you want to connect it to, as a set not fulfilling the quality norms, which will feed its distortions into it, may receive a painful lesson of exposing the bad sound. But if you have the right sound source, then that what reaches the loudspeakers may be increase of information in the midrange you have wanted to get for a long time. And this part of the sound spectrum is most important for many of you. If your system is truly a High-End one, you should check out this proposition, and the world of information in the center of the acoustical frequencies may be opened for you.
System used in this test:
– DAC + CD transport: Reimyo CDT – 777 + Reimyo DAP – 999 EX
– Preamplifier: Reimyo CAT – 777 MK II
– Power amplifier: Reimyo KAP – 777
– Loudspeakers: TRENNER & FRIEDL ISIS
– Speaker Cables: Harmonix HS 101-EXQ (mid-high section); Harmonix HS-101 SLC (bass section)
– IC RCA: Harmonix HS 101-GP; Hiriji „Milion”
– Digital IC: Harmonix HS 102
– Power cables: Harmonix X-DC-350M2R Improved Version
– Table: SOLID BASE VI
– Accessories: Antivibration stand for the power amp by Harmonix TU-505EX MK2, Harmonix Enacom improved for AC, Harmonix Room Tuning Mini Disk RFA-80i
– Power distribution board: POWER BASE HIGH END
Drive: SME 30/2
Arm: SME V
Cartridge: MIYAJIMA MADAKE
Phonostage: RCM THERIAA