Skogrand Cables – SC Markarian 421, SCI Markarian 421 and SCJ Markarian 421 review

Reviewed by Mr. Joseph Ki Cheong Ming - member of the Analogue Fellowship, LS3/5A club main man, inventor of the Ki method, architect and a seasoned veteran of the audiophile establishment of Malaysia.  

I’m one of those who experience that cables affect the sound of an audio system. However, it has never occurred to me that they could open up so many musical dimensions until I tried Skogrand Cables! The experience was so profound that it caused a paradigm shift in my audio journey. 

My system – used for this review:
Digital Source: Bryston BDP-2 with external solid state drive storage and iFi USB Power 
DAC: Bryston BDA-2 
Analogue Source: LINN LP12 with Hercules Power Supply, Itok arm Koetsu Anniversary Edition cartridge, Frank Acoustic Pipit Reference phono 
Amplifiers: FM Acoustic FM-155 pre and FM-108 Mono power amplifier 
Speakers System: Rogers LS3/5A 60th Anniversary Edition, Rogers AB-1 in “KI Method Mark-III” arrangement and REL Stantor II subwoofer
Power Treatments: TORUS 8A-AVR, Frank Acoustics M5Hz+ Frequency Correction, Frank Acoustics PB15000Ws Powerbank, fed by a dedicated Swiss made RADOX military power cable tapped from FRANK ABL SURSUM Cryo-MCB T1 B50amp fuse. 

I should make it clear that before the Skogrand Cables were installed, I had no known weaknesses in the sound of my system. My listening room that measured 13’2”L x 9’3”W x 10’0”H was capable of creating an illusion of believable music performances with multidimensional soundscapes. It had good focusing, excellent resolution, proportionate scaling, good tonal balance of equally good timbre, tones and overtones of acoustic instruments - all the treads found in a homogeneous and balanced sounding system.

When Mr. Knut Skogrand contacted me via Facebook claiming that his cables could improve the performance of my system, I was rather doubtful; seeing his rather unperturbed confidence offering me a money back guarantee including postage, got me quite curious!  

After working out the details Mr. Skogrand the following weeks, I ended up with a pair of Skogrand SCI Markarian 421 interconnects, SC Markarian 421 speaker cables and 10” SCJ Markarian 421 speaker jumpers and 5’0” speaker cable links (for my AB-1). The Skogrands were to work with the remaining cables in my system - Wywires “Gold” series. 

I have to admit without reservation that these Skogrand Cables are simply the best cables ever to cross my path. Considering this in an audio system with BBC LS3/5A speakers that I have lived with for the last 30 years, a system that I know so well after 30 years of constant tweaking, revamping and fine tuning - what Skogrand Cables did to the system is simply astonishing! 

With the Skogrand Cables I immediately heard a sense of better TIMING in the Sound, not only were  the starts and stops defined and delineated better, but also those sonic structures within each spectrum felt much easier to “read” or hear. The dynamic slew rise and fall became more linear and coherent, providing a better sense of “togetherness” in such a way that each note not only becomes clearer - it has greater apertures or “swing”. 

I experienced an unprecedented level of music information consummating my aural reception with the Skogrands. There was clearly higher image density heard producing an improved dynamic contrast which isolate a stronger solid ‘Form in Space’. Overall, there is also better delineated spread of layering of sound that conjured to a much tidier staging and myriads with hierarchy and orders. Music crescendos were projected with more conviction against the quieter background, like in Archie Shepp’s fine recording album - True Ballads (TOKUMA TKCV-35024) – the track “The Thrill is Gone” - here it is reproduced with full tilt displaying the energy build-up, exerting a forceful ‘column of air’ with such strength - done to the limits of the instrument expressed and with such a climax state that it has never fully been heard until now. 

Similarly, the great catalogue of Proprius Saint-Saens Oratorio de Noel (PRCD9057), the track “Recitative and Chorus: Et Pastores erant - Gloria (Chorus)”: The Skogrand Cables brought out a majestic sweep of fine, wide and tall ambient space of a church with the enveloping sensation from the chorale and organ that completely filled the entire space of my listening room like that of the church hall. The definition of the low frequency was particularly more majestic and more tuneful, and the mass choir, with Sophie Von Otter, was divided into groups creating synchronizing and intertwining weaves seemingly more populated than ever before.

With a well-designed solid core conductance and without the coloration of the dielectric - Skogrand uses wires floating in air resulting in a 1.00 dielectric constant throughout the cables – the cables are able to transform these benefits into multitudes of Timing and Dynamism. There is literally no sign of ‘stored energy’ or disturbances that affect the transmission of the signal heard. The spatial relationships between instrument and voices or other instruments are explicitly well delineated producing clarity with definition regenerating 3 dimensional Form, shapes with color and with lights in sound. The spaces between instruments are defined with darker blacks, set against a denser, more solidified sound, making some sparse yet light touches recordings particularly wonderful listening to. Previous listening of such was found wanting as there is lacks in sonic metaphor for appreciation, the Skogrands resurrects this kind of recordings and brings them the recognition that is due, substantiating and making them “relevant” to listen to. 

A good example of this kind of music is the wonderful percussive play of DAFOS by Mickey Hart (Rykodisc RCD 80108) – Ice of the North. The track begins with light touches of tubular bells hanging in space and was more precisely and more pristine isolated in centre-left spread and float about 5’0” high from my listening sweet spot. Despite the light hits, all the glory from multiplexes of resonances and nuances had rich timbre and texture reverberating naturally and outwardly in all directions with delicacy. 

On a more upbeat recording like the ‘Me and My Friend’ track from the Dire Straits’ album called “On Every Streets” (VERTIGO 510160-2), the acoustic guitar on the left came through full bodied; even the artificial reverb produced seemingly by echo machine dubbed in at the centre of the staging, sounded more obvious as post recorded artifacts added by the mixing engineer, sounding more detached from the overall presentation. Skogrand Cables can be merciless in revealing this kind of imperfect mixes, or for that matter, conversely,they  can also reveals those that are more perfectly recorded, better mixed and mastered recordings. Needless to say, on the same ‘Me and My Friend’ track, the electric guitar that jives in many seconds later on the right was coming through with more rigor in expression with the Skogrand Markarian 421s. 

The Skogrand cables  increased my music repertoire. What a pleasant surprise this was and still is for me (and LS3/5A especially)! I found nothing to quibble about, and eager to be awed by this expansion in capacity of my system  I started to pull out music that I would normally only listened to with my headphones previously, like The Temple of the King by Rainbow, ACDC, CCR, Fleetwood Mac, Gary Moore, ‘I Feel Love’ by Donna Summers, ‘Tragedy’ by Bee Gees, Mammagamma by Alan Parson Project – they are all now able to be reproduced with foot tapping level. I have even had some visitor fooled thinking that they were re-mastered in HiRes files. Perhaps it is the lack of timing and phase shift errors of the Skogrand Markarian 421 cables that have provided these pop and rock music productions to sound this good.  

The wonderful tracks under Rhymio Music called Three Kingdom (RMCD 1018) are a musical portray of warfare between three kingdoms fighting for territorial control. Skogrand Cables has the ability to carry a tense moment through, heightening the sense of danger that far surpassed all my past listening experiences! The track called ‘Wisdom of Empty City’ depict an intense danger looming upon entering an empty enemy city, the lightning speed of bamboo flute bursts(!) creating a blast of air that cut through a silent space that ‘lights-up(!)’ a huge ambient space, reminiscent to sharp arrow piercing and echoing down the empty street was reproduced with such tense, breathe-arresting manner. The rumbles of Chinese drums churning up lower register depicting chariots of army marching down the street, kicking up silk dust with such commanding scale. 

A system’s ability to reproduce resolution of a complex music instrumentation like this great concerto piece from LINN Record’s Direct Master in 24 x 88.2 kHz digital file marks the supreme of the physical ability of a music system; Sonata Graz No.3 for Violin Continuo in D RV II Allegra by La Serenissima is a well recorded piece and a difficult piece to reproduce convincingly, missing the ‘spot-on’ sensation. With the Skogrand cables added in the system listening to this track is such a delight! 

Fearing that this awe-aspiring performance was system dependent and possibly associated to a particular system, I took Skogrand cables and tried them in other systems. 3 systems were auditioned (TAD electronics + TAD CR-1, Bryston electronics + PMC speakers, and Soulution electronics + Magico speakers) and all three setups produced a performance, to a greater and lesser extent, mirror to what is found in my system. 

Personally, I aspire to an audio system, which not only excel in physical sonic attributes of resolution, scaling, dynamism, staging, and delineating music’s contextual information, it must also be capable of reproducing sublime information like human emotion manifesting the underlying personality and character of the musician. Elements like natural timbre texture, tones and nuances, but also the natural rawness that lies in visceral macro and micro details that blend-in which allows better music to come through becomes the Order in the act of music listening. Skogrand Cables improves these parameters in such a way that even those lesser attributes found in the music are not sidelined. So in the listening, I learned more than just Music but also some of the underlying Science. 

So how was my curiosity rewarded by auditioning and buying the Skogrand cables? I live better!