"Purist Ignis, the sound of silence."
To paraphrase the words of Knut Skogrand the owner of Skogrand Cables.
I've already raved highly about the Skogrand's in my review of Markain Skogrand SC Markarian 421 interconnect cables Skogrand SC Markarian 421 speaker cables here and our dear highly respected friend Dato Danon also conclude highly his thoughts in his review here.
If you took the time and checked above reviews or you're already familiar with the Skogrand Cables here are the Purist Ignis improvements from Markarian 421:
PFA framework components instead of PTFE
Less stored static charge
Slightly more flexibility to ease handling
Superior impact strength
4,45 times higher dielectric strength
Solid core leads floating in vacuum.
More accommodating inner framework.
Low-K material inner framework enhancements.
Mechanical, thermal and biologically treated Ultra Pure Ohno Continuous Cast copper wires with improved surface quality and electrical conductivity.
Wires scanned to eliminate any grain borders ensuring that every wire length of each cable consists of only one copper crystal.
All inner framework materials scanned and freed from impurities. All wires matched for exact similarity of size and performance.
Skogrand cables are different by nature. They're created with slow pace, passion and with strong technical background. Knut and his team pushed their efforts to the maximum with the Purist Ignis series. I've presented the cables to quite few people and even those with disbelief was meltdown by the performance change when inserted into the system.
Having them for quite some time under the scope Skogrand Purist Ignis went through many of my review systems permutations. From affordable to most demanding upper echelon gear. If summing up my listening notes, I've highlighted two words repetetly; organic and natural. There is also an consequent natural axiom to those two - the transparency. When it comes to the upper echelon of ultra high-end audio products, there are few attributes that goes seamlessly together and are ad hoc presentable. Transparency, naturalness and lifelike organic nature of music are usually catered with those high performance products and Skogrand'S Purist Ignis embrace this role with authority and proudly glance down to many much much higher priced cables.
THE INDUSTRY CHANGE
High-end industry changed a lot in recent years or on larger scale with past two decades. Once big giants, that ruled the game got a serious run for their money from many smaller boutique companies, that takes their dedicated ventures to the new extremes. Technology that was once strictly in the domain of large capital manufacturers are now available on hand for wider small companies. This global change opened up the doors to many truly creative people with adventures spirit and the urge to create something different and meaningful. You can read in the Knut short commentary below about his search and how he couldn't unsettle with the way cables worked so far. His silent way quest reminds me on the the space between notes in musical compositions. For many the the silence is the key core part of any musical structure and it defines the final outcome. Without the silence, the music can only evolve into the complexity of surrounding noises. What meant to be heard can just become a series of undeciphered musical messages. In Knut's understanding of the music and with his view of audio he found the silence to be a primal building block of highest performance. This served as a ground for the further study and development. Until reaching this basic implementation everything else was on hold. When coming up to a certain plane, that showed promising results he went further. But, with reaching the sole silence there is no guarantee for great a sound. A good example for this "phenomena" are phono preamplifiers. You might kill the noise in designing the quiet phono preamplifier, but in most cases you would also kill the music. This is where the expertise and experience takes place. Thats's why there are not many great phono preamplifiers as there are not so many ultra high-end cables.
Skogrand team managed to find the right balance, that was already there to some extend with Markarian 421 cables, but with Purist Ignis things went over the roof.
I feel strongly that such meticulously carved products as Purist Ignis needs an opportunity to be explained deeper from the creator side so I asked Knut to explain more regarding the overall design criteria of the Purist Ignis cables:
I am originally – and at the core of my being – a musician. Working as a musician for decades I have performed within many settings live, in studios and at rehearsals, always feeling a kind of urgent lack of silence. Growing up in the peaceful countryside and living in the serene mountain hills of Norway I have grown accustomed to filtering sound through a mesh of tranquility and sonorous peace – having sounds around me standing out as meticulously shaped entities from a perfectly silent background. This is something I have strived to reconstruct in my musical thinking and performance but never fully achieved.
What I have experienced both as a performing musician and as a conscious listener is that the various cabling I have encountered often has a tendency to constrict and distort the signal being put through them – often to an extent that it has to be artificially corrected by applying studio/live effects. It has always seemed a rather backwards procedure to me.
So what I have wanted to create is cabling that is so utterly true to its source or the components it connects that they alter or diminish the signal to the least degree possible.
The initial thought was that complicating the cable construct was to complicate the signal path. To let it pass unaltered would mean to put as few hindrances in its way as absolutely possible. That way you may truly distinguish what each and every component of your setup is capable of - which parts of your audio chain deserving to be cherished and kept as cornerstones and which components needing an upgrade or replacement. When as a listener and/or a performing musician you no longer have to suffer from cabling distorting the full capabilities of your setup or performance you are free to refine and distill experience.
We wanted to push past the limits of signal transfer speed and signal preservation that was already lined out by our other cable models. With the work already put into our other models we knew there were ways to push performance even further.
With the Purist Ignis cables we have gone even further than with our previous cable models in stripping away obstacles in the signal path. Simplicity at this level is an extremely time consuming and costly process that has landed us substantial funding from several government branches. Energy and signal transfer at these speeds and with this accuracy is a way of “stepping aside” or “getting out of the way” in any audio chain. It has been my biggest goal for many years, and it is a truly gratifying experience that working together with an international team of highly skilled artisans and scientists as well as musicians and audiophiles from all over the world has enabled us to realise this goal.
You may call it “the sound of silence”, a clean sheet or an absence of added personality. We call it Purist Ignis. Clean, simple, silent – the life spark that ignites pure audio joy.
The Skogrand Way. The story
What Knuts started in above text I'll continue here with the Skogrand Way story. It will give you a deeper glimpse into the ways of the man, brand and almost mystical Norwegian place:
Driving through the rural parts of eastern Norway, leaving the small Olympic village Lillehammer behind, heading further up the valley and taking a right turn you will find yourself on a steeply climbing dust road that eventually will bring you all the way up the mountain side to the small Skogrand Cables workshop. It feels like a place of peace. The quiet and serene surroundings offer a harmonic backdrop to the humble building housing of the Skogrand team.
Surrounded by forest but with a spectacular view of the valley below here is the place where the Skogrand team comes up with the audio cable designs that is rapidly turning the collective gaze of the audiophile world towards this exact spot. And looking at the Skogrand Cables’ workshop one can start understanding the affection of the audiophiles around the globe for his insights into the signal transfer in the audio market.
Owner Knut Skogrand recalls sitting on his father’s lap listening to classical music on vinyl as a child. His father taught him how to feel the moods, the colours, the patterns, dynamics, overall structure and intent of the creator of the music. Knut also tells about watching his mother dance in the living room to her Johnny Cash tapes. From her he learned the passion for making and listening to music.
Skogrand has built the company’s reputation on these terms: Make the best product possible and let others speak warmly about it. It's an old way, the gentlemen way. And this has worked out very well for Skogrand with our raving reviews in audio publications on four continents. I'm (too) often on Facebook and could seen many thankful customers cherishing their purchases. It is not for everyone to own one of the Skogrand artefacts. Their performance alone makes special, and the meticulous craftsmanship and intriguingly beautiful design gives them an aura to desire even more. In our discussion Knut revealed how metallurgy of the solid core wires is property to only three manufacturers worldwide. And the sound reproduced through these cables brings the reproduction of music to the level, that was almost impossible few years back at this price range.
This small cable manufacturer receives government funding from several branches of the state due to the signal transfer research done to achieve this. The signal transfer speed in these cables ranks among fastest in the world equaling the speed of light. The plan was to succeed with signal preservation through the cables with distortions bringing down to almost zero.
Now one can truly wonder how can this be achieved working from this humble spot up in the Norwegian mountains?
Skogrand explains it as part luck, part skill and a large amount of dedication and hard work. The ground thesis was the oldest one, that anything that stands in the way of the signal in its path will alter it, hindering it on its way between the components and giving it a wide range of challenges to overcome if it is to survive in a form complete enough to reproduce sound in an acceptable fashion.
So starting out making what was to become the Skogrand cables also nicknamed “So Grand” the first task at hand I'm being told was stripping away barriers – simplifying - giving the signal a straight path with as few obstacles as possible. The wires are suspended in a vacuum within the cables, never touching the cable walls. Skogrand ornament the finished cable with their signature design of silk brocade cable sleeves custom tailored to each customer’s desire. This gives the opportunity to customers with a choice of an individual design to their product.
Now many things cannot be revealed as they are trade secrets, that makes Skogrands truly special. But, you should get the glimpse of the man's passion and dedication. Most importantly, the results speaks for them selfs. And Knut is a proud man with the fair grounds.
Its always a hard thing to write about cables as there will be so many different responses. Especially with ultra-high end cabling solutions. Its even harder to choose the words in describing the outcomes. Listening is and art of itself and as proved with Michael Fremer and few others one can clearly distinguish the aural differences with variety of cables. As with other things in life like finest cuisine, wine, perfumes etc. you need a proper training and mileage to actually hear, taste, smell and experience the differences. Its no different with high-end audio and for that matter the cabling.
We can argue for years, but the facts are straight. You can gain the certain level of expertise in hearing with prolonged critical listenings. Ears are one of most sensible human receptors and scientist are still on the run for a complete understanding of the human hearing process. It very complex and as Vladimir Lamm of Lamm Industries told, we receive the musical impact with our whole being. There are subtle means of music and sound entering our bodies and affecting us. This is why we can only measure the technical aspects of high-end audio gear up to some degree and connect those measurings with impedance matching, conductivity etc. The rest is in the domain of more subtle senses that we know much less about then regarding our gross senses.
THE MUSICAL IMPACT
I had a luxury of taking Skogrand Purist Ignis through the few highly acclaimed systems and components. For example taking them into the Gryphon setup reminded me how much cables could offer even when system is already suppose refined. It was the same with Thrax Audio crazy good Dionysos preamplifier. On its own a real top performer the addition of Skogrand cabling added an musical accent.
Going through my stacks of vinyl I've found few of the forgotten jewels. Many of the golden jazz era and early 80's. I also put aside few classical gems, that should be a standard review material.
Vinyl always reminds me about the unmistakable energy and natural feeling of music. It just feels right when comparing to the live music. Of course it have it's flaws, yet it still evoke most natural emotions when it comes to the reproduction of music.
Everything that I recall great about analog "undistorted" playback reflected with Purist Ignis. The lightness, the ease of presentation and that lucid three dimensionality associated with vinyl and analog playback.
In the world of what is seem and endless flow of music and connected devices for the reproduction of audio its great to have a constant flow of fresh wind that keeps on with it's cool breeze. Knut Skogrand and his team managed to raise the performance to a level, that puts or should most of high-end cable manufacture to an unease situation. Even when we talk about Odins and alike, Purist Ignis brought something that is on completely other plane. I'm not talking about the sole technical specifications, but something closer to reality. I can be very ferocious regarding some contemporary products that claim latest space tech, transparency, unworthily dynamic etc. but in reality fail to bring out the musical, emotional part. Even the most transparent components falls apart quickly when it comes to the reproduction of pure acoustic un-amplified music.
2013 was a great year and I managed to hear some of the really far out systems like full blown Audio Tekne system that cost like few grand houses. Those listenings just confirmed my already established feelings regarding ultra high-end reproduction. Many people talk about it, but few actually had the pleasure of hearing it. And connected to this is another thing. An emotional impact that actually scares the people. In countless presentation I'm repeatedly dumb folded by the background music listening approach that lack any energy that happens with live music. People seems to be scared of emotions.
Most of high claimed cables mostly missed the organic, lifelike interaction. The do move in the territory of speed, dynamics and even bloom. But, it's organic feel, that Skogrand excels like few does in this regard and this makes them one of the kind. I was mesmerised, that even with components of 30k + calibre Skogrands could bring so much lifelike warm and natural impact.
It's early 2014, but I have no doubts about extending out the first Mono & Stereo for award for this great year. Skogrand Purist Ignis deserves Mono & Stereo excellence award for their overall sound performance matched with unique style. Great aesthetics came as a bonus. These cables are organic beauties in both senses.
Text: Matej Isak
"We start with a standard 2m pair and add or subtract from that. Concerning the Purist Ignis cables the price of a 2m speaker cable pair is USD 22000 +/- USD 1500 per 0.5m.
All terminations are priced the same. This applies for our interconnects also where a 2m pair of Purist Ignis interconnects costs USD 20500 both with balanced XLR or unbalanced RCA termination.
Rather than charging extra for more time consuming termination options we take it out of our profit to create a flat price structure. The same applies for the relation between speaker cables and interconnects where the latter is considerably more time consuming to build and has more expensive parts, and yet they are priced lower than the speaker cables to follow the price relation between interconnects and speaker cables common to the market."
Matej Isak. Mono and Stereo ultra high end audio magazine. All rights reserved. 2006-2014. www.monoandstereo.com. ..:: None of the original written text, pictures, that were taken by me, links or my original files can be re-printed or used in any way without prior permission! ::..