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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Review Component Retail: $900

If you're a reviewer, what's cooler than shit and sexier than that Wonder cod piece for the less-than-endowed men who try to keep up with their version of cleavage and buxomness? A component you can't review because it doesn't have a sound. A component that's not meant to make sound but lets you test other components that are and do. Today's skipper is called Jack and he don't skip a beat. He's a 4-into-1 or 3-into-2 passive switcher who inserts nothing but a high-quality hermetically sealed relay and a few inches of hard-wired custom wire into the signal path. He's mute and inaudible but he ain't dumb. In fact, he's bi. That's always exciting. Bi means he can be used in either direction, with inputs becoming outputs and vice versa. A hard-wired remote actuator at the tail end of a 25' cable switches between inputs and the green-lit front-panel X button accesses the software-driven menu to select between operational modes. Holding down two of the four source buttons at the same time syncs them to override the interlock feature which disables all other inputs when any particular one is engaged. Syncing allows you to route two inputs simultaneously to an output or, in reverse, route one input to multiple outputs. But remember - Skipjack may be bi but he's also the bottom: passive. Syncing means both inputs are live simultaneously and their components are thus tied together.

Dubbed the pickle, the hardwired switch control connects via an RJ-45 jack to the Skipjack's rear panel which also holds the 5 pairs of RCAs and the 9V mini-jack power mains for the outboard wall wart.

Unlike that of most men's, even Skipjack's pickle is smart. It toggles through the inputs in endless sequence and blinks to indicate which input you're on (x 1 for A, x 2 for B etc). You can even program the pickle to jump a particular input if you only want to switch between, say 1, 3 and 4. A blinking pickle? Now that's a member worth having.

By holding down the X button, the menu is accessed, the front-panel display changes colors and the input buttons assume specific functions. One of the available functions is complete LED blackout to facilitate blind testing. Multiple Skipjacks can be slaved via CAT-5 patch cord but none becomes master. Any command prompt on any one of the group affects all others. True democracy.

So what do you do with Capt'n Skipjack? EveAnna Manley and crew use it to test capacitors, transformers, anything that demands a design decision between different parts. Reviewers can use it to compare cables or components. Regular music lovers -- not to suggest that reviewers aren't regular or anything -- can do the same or use Skipjack to send signals from the same source to multiple locations. This piece isn't a component so much as a tool. Unlike those reviewers who complain that a component is unreviewable because it doesn't have a voice of its own, I embrace Skipjack. Shy of describing its functions, I don't have to say anything else, agonize over break-in or split hairs to describe its sound.

As the absence of our usual associated components list above was meant to indicate, this isn't a review at all then. It's merely a notification that this piece exists, period. I bought one, Marja & Henk bought another and Michael Lavorgna is seriously considering the same. Call it a must-own for serious reviewers and manufacturers. With all the built-in functionality, there's likely applications the Skipjack can be used for that haven't even occurred to me yet. Never mind, all future cable reviews by yours truly will skip to the beat of Capt'n Jack. Hey, the length of the pickle cord means you can hide Jack outa sight, disable any visual feedback and truly compare on the blind - or unsighted as the popular term goes. If all cables henceforth sound the same to me, you'll know I'm truly deaf. But rather than protect my reputation, I'd rather get down and serious about the job. This little heavy hitter (heavy enough to not be derailed by monster snakes weighing more than the average components) will allow me to do just that. If it costs me my job, I can always get even and program Skipjack to fire EveAnna. Well, I don't think Capt'n is that powerful. But, he's plenty smart enough to where not losing the owner's manual is mandatory to keep up with all he can do.

When you think about it, there really was no reason for Manley Labs to turn their in-house comparator into a commercial product. It's not like they'll sell thousands of 'em. Competing manufacturers should build their own. As a reviewer, I'm arrogant enough to believe that perhaps, EveAnna retains a small amount of faith in our kind. Perhaps she partially issued the Skipjack in the hopes that audio writers serious about comparing components and cables would get it and want to add one to their toolbox? Since EveAnna's one of the few women in the biz, I wanted to impress her. Now I own one of her Skipjacks. Way to go. It makes me feel both good and properly equipped - especially since no cod piece on the market would ever cover up my other shortcomings (in passive mode, mind ya)...
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