best hifi cables

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Skogrand Cables Wagner AC Power Cable Review.indd

When I began building my first hifi system some twenty years ago, I didn’t give much thought to cables. Cables simply served as a means of connecting all the components together.  Audio magazines introduced me to the idea of upgrading cables but it was only when I tried the first few cables in my own system that I truly began to appreciate how much influence good quality cables had on a system’s performance. As hifi component designers continue to push the envelope of audio performance in their products, audio cable designers need to develop cables that are more transparent than ever in order to let hifi components perform at their highest level. One of the cable companies that has been capturing the attention of music enthusiasts around the world for the last few years is Skogrand Cables of Norway. In business since 2011, the company has been on the ‘hifi show circuit’ around the world for several years now, demonstrating its high-end cables to a great acclaim of music listeners and industry types. I’ve been impressed by the exemplary performance of Skogrand cables on several occasions at audio shows but my true appreciation for the brand was born when I tested the Skogrand SCI Tchaikovsky interconnect cable in my own system earlier this year. Never before had a cable conjured up such an emotional connection with the music that I listen to, allowing my hifi system to truly achieve world-class performance. In fact, I loved this interconnect cable so much, it ended up finding a permanent position in my reference system.

Given this positive experience with the Skogrand interconnect, you can imagine my excitement at the chance of reviewing the Skogrand Cables Wagner AC power cable. It is a well known fact among hifi enthusiasts that when it comes to cables, power cables play the most significant role in the performance of a system. That’s because music reproduction starts at the wall power outlet. Music components essentially “shape” the AC power into the music that reaches our ears. Therefore, if you upgrade the cables in your hifi system, it is best to start with power cables and follow the signal path (interconnects next, and finally speaker cables).

Skogrand Cables produces a full range of hifi cables, including power cords, interconnects, digital cables and speaker cables. Skogrand power cords are available in two different series, called Wagner and Beethoven. The company’s speaker cables and interconnects are grouped into five different series, each named after a famous composer – Rachmaninov, Brahms, Ravel, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. Skogrand digital cables on the other hand are available in the Grieg and Beethoven series.

The Wagner series of cables is Skogrand’s affordable (by high-end standards) series of power cords. The 2 meter Wagner AC power cable I received for this review retails for $2,500 US. These are far from the least expensive power cables you can find in the market, but as with everything in this world, when it comes to audio cables, you get what you pay for. High-end performance costs. In contrast, a 2 meter power cord from the flagship Beethoven series will run you a whopping $18,000 US.

Unlike some cable manufacturers, Skogrand Cables does not offer a great level of detail about its cables designs on the company’s website. Skogrand prefers for listeners to focus on what they hear from their music when using its cables. As stated on the company’s website, the Wagner AC power cable is designed to deliver a pure energy flow to your components, while protecting and preserving the energy transfer. The cable features a multi-strand design, which consists of two 4mm stranded UP-OCC copper conductors, and a single 5mm ground wire. Surrounding these conductors is a double braided copper shielding. A polyolefin cable jacket offers additional insulation. All Wagner power cords can be ordered with an optional silk brocade cable sleeve or black braid with purple polyolefin shining through. My review sample came in the unique and gorgeous silk brocade sleeve. Wagner cables are equipped with high-end Rhodium plated UP copper connectors, and can be ordered with North American or European power connectors.

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Skogrand SCI Tchaikovsky Interconnect Cables 01

Established in Norway in 2011, Skogrand Cables is still a relatively young player in the hifi business, yet the company has already earned remarkable respect within the industry and made it to the top of the ‘wish list’ for many audio enthusiasts and hifi writers.  What distinguishes Skogrand Cables apart from other cable brands are the company’s unique cable architectures and the use of extremely high-quality materials.  These factors enable music systems to achieve unprecedented levels of sonic performance, allowing music fans to connect with their music like never before.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting CEO Knut Skogrand at several audio shows in the last couple of years and have learned some insights about him as well as his company and products.  I’ve also had the chance to listen to Skogrand cables in several systems recently and always walked away incredibly impressed.

Today, Skogrand offers a full suite of speaker cables, interconnects, power cords and digital cables, with prices starting from $2,300 US.  The cables certainly aren’t inexpensive but if you’re looking to elevate your listening experience to the highest possible level, these are the prices you’ll have to pony up for world-class audio cables.  Skogrand speaker cables and interconnects are available across five different series, each named after a famous composer – Rachmaninov, Brahms, Ravel, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven.  Power cords come in two different series, called Wagner and Beethoven.  Meanwhile, digital cables are available in the Grieg and Beethoven series.  In early 2016, Skogrand also began integrating its wiring into the ModWright Instruments DS 845 SET monoblock amplifier.  A Skogrand wiring upgrade is also available for the ModWright KWA 150 SE amplifier.  All Skogrand cables are meticulously hand-crafted in a small workshop in the mountain hills of Norway.  To learn more about the company and owner Knut Skogrand, I invite you to read “Skogrand Cables: Love at First Sound… An Interview With Knut Skogrand” on novo.press, written recently by Malcolm Gomes.

After numerous listening sessions with Skogrand cables in various music systems at audio shows, I was delighted to finally try a Skogrand cable in my own reference system, with components and music that I am intimately familiar with.  Skogrand sent me the SCI Tchaikovsky interconnect cable, priced at $6,950 US for a 1 meter pair.  At this price level, I was expecting nothing but the very best.

First, let me describe the cable technology briefly.  At the heart of the SCI Tchaikovsky interconnect is a 24 AWG Ultra Pure Ohno Continuous Cast Copper (UP-OCC) Solid Core (SC) pure copper conductor.  UP-OCC is pretty well the highest grade of copper you can find in audio cables and, if implemented well, can result in incredibly natural sound, without edginess or graininess that lower quality of copper suffers from.  This copper conductor is suspended in air within a framework of ultra low dielectric fabrics and PTFE tubing, allowing it to achieve a dielectric constant of 1.0018 and a signal transfer speed 99.82% the speed of light, making it one of the fastest cables in the world.  The conductor touches just 0.18% of the cable framework – this achievement enables the cable to reach an extremely high level of performance.  The SCI Tchaikovsky interconnect comes terminated with a choice of Rhodium plated RCA or XLR connectors – I was sent the RCA version to test.  Rounding out the cable is a visually distinctive pure silk sleeve, giving the cable an exceptionally classy appearance.  What do all of these characteristics mean when it comes to audio playback?  The cable provides a perfectly clean signal from your music source component to the amplifier, without taking anything away or introducing any distortions.  You can find many more technical details about this interconnect, along with insights about the manufacturing process, at www.skograndcables.com.

To determine the performance of the SCI Tchaikovsky interconnects, I tried them with numerous amplifiers, speakers and source components to get a true sense of what these cables are capable of.  One of the systems I did a lot of listening to included the Jeff Rowland Continuum S2 integrated amplifier and Raidho C 1.1 loudspeakers.  Another system consisted of the ModWright Instruments KWA 100 amplifier, ModWright Instruments LS 100 tube preamp and Focal Electra 1008 Be II speakers.  In both systems, the music source was the Bryston BDP-1 digital player connected to the Bryston BDA-1 DAC.  The SCI Tchaikovsky interconnects fed the signal from the DAC to the amplifier or preamp, depending on the system I used.