"We just shipped your SQM cables, one set of RCA, one set of XLR. They've been tested and seen a 'break in' period. Feel free to check whether you have a preference for a certain cable direction. Our Peter van Willenswaard preferred to use this batch in text-reading direction so that's how we mounted the XLR connectors." So Grimm weren't mere scope jockeys. They make decisions based on listening, even account for break-in. Had they perchance measurable evidence of cable directionality and break-in? Either way, considering such phenomena exceeds text-book engineering. It pays tribute also to subjective evidence. That might surprise those who assumed that pro-oriented audio firms always only deal in measurements and hard science. Clearly Grimm account for softer bits as well.

Here's an audiophile softie: neutrality. Much invoked, what is it? How can we know it? There's no hardware bypass to listen to recorded music without equipment. Once we hit 'play', our data is irreversibly touched by electronics, headphones or speakers. Untouched pure playback and open-window-on-the-recording claims are myth, impossibility and poppycock. We can't know neutrality. Only recording engineers compare live sound to its recorded sound. But how many recordings exist which contain zero alterations during recording/mastering [ProTools interfaces at left]? Already mic choices and placement left their fingerprints. Then speakers are by far the gravest distortion generators. Unless we do headfi, our listening is contaminated by speaker/room distortions. Headphones suffer their own. So we triangulate. Endlessly. We use many different speakers and headphones and gear to get to a presumption of what our recordings (probably ought to) sound like.

Invoking neutrality is pure guesswork. All it means is that a listener heard nothing too sin or sick, thin or thick, slow or fast, pale or saturated, sharp or fuzzy. Everything seemed to be in the proverbial middle. Calling it neutral means that nothing stood out as clearly recognizable personality trait. But "it did nothing so is perfectly neutral" could just mean poor listening skills. A properly conditional statement should be "it did nothing I could hear". Whatever we discern or don't is always relative to our reference system as the sound we're familiar with. Our status quo has conditioned our perception.

Like any other hifi, ours has colorations. Familiarity simply makes them our very personalized normal. That makes them very hard to still recognize. No matter how you slice it, we never listen to a music file or CD or record per se. Those media remain unknowable. We listen to them through a hifi. As soon as we unpack and process music with our playback hardware, it's been altered. Neutrality is pure fiction.

It's best then not to invoke the dastardly n-word even though today's company profile and product presentation suggest that SQM cables won't be guilty of tuning liberties like sounded-good-to-me cables voiced by ear in a garage could be; or those deliberately tuned to compensate for specific gear like so-called triode cables. That now is as good an intro to today's review subjects as I could think up before my loaners arrived.