Nordost Premiers the Valhalla 2
On Tuesday May 28th, 2013, Nordost premiered the Valhalla 2 cable lineup at Lyric Hi-Fi in New York City. Rune Skov, International Product Training & Sales Support Manager for Nordost, gave a demonstration to a garrulous group of audiophiles who joyfully suggested what differences they heard as Skov switched out each old Valhalla cable for the new one.
The first iteration of the Valhalla is a 13-year old technology. Skov stated the Valhalla “really put Nordost on the map,” but that “it was time to make changes.” Many attendees at the demo proclaimed proud ownership of Valhalla but were curious to hear the advantages of the new design. As usual, nobody had the audacity to take the sweet spot chair. A self-proclaimed symphony-conductor and I took seats at the wings of the front row.
The Valhalla 2 power cord costs $5,999.99 for 2 meters and is $1,000 each additional meter. The Valhalla 2 power cord is comprised of seven solid silver plated 16 AWG OFC conductors intertwined and suspended in a Dual Mono-Filament matrix. It is insulated with extruded fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP), a really awesome plastic used in lab-ware and tubing for corrosive processes.
Rune started with an all Valhalla 2 wired system except for a single Valhalla 1 power cord running from the wall to a Quantum QB8 power distribution center ($1499). Other gear plugged into the QB8 included the Simaudio Moon 880M monoblocks ($42,000/pair), Simaudio Moon 750D CD Transport ($12,500), and Simaudio Moon P8 Preamplifier ($16,000). The Focal Stella Utopia loudspeakers ($95,000/pair) finished it off.
We listened to a performance Tchaikovsky’s Nocturne by Chinese cellist Ma Xinhua from the Rhymhoi release Three Wishes for a Rose. After switching the to the Valhalla 2 power cord, I heard a deepening of the soundstage, more relaxed extension into the highs, and a slightly sweeter sound overall. Skov suggested, “Everything becomes more natural.” A participant interjected that he could hear the “wood of the instrument.”
We then ran the same test with another track from the same album, this time only switching the power cable of the Simaudio 750D CD Transport from Valhalla 1 to Valhalla 2. The rest of the cables remained Valhalla 2. I heard cleaner and more extended highs, extended decay on the rumbling left hand of the pianist, and greater dynamics.
Skov sold his power chord: “Your system will never sound better than the first power chord you have.”
Third to demo was the Valhalla 2 interconnect which costs $9799 for two meters and an additional $1100 for each additional half-meter. Skov interchanged balanced interconnects on the Simaudio 750 CD Transport. We listened to Chai Lang’s performance of "Theme from the Godfather" on the Rhymoi compilation A Time to Meet Again. In this comparison, I heard a less obvious difference but still a difference. There were longer decays to the piano, a bit of shrillness from the violin was eased away, and the violin’s transition to a lower-pitched section seemed a touch less bulky.
The Valhalla 2 interconnect is offered with both single-ended and balanced terminations. With the single-ended cables, circular wood blocks wrapped around the interconnect instruct the user from which direction to transfer the signal. Both terminations feature Nordost’s new trademarked Holo:Plug technology which claims to maximize efficiency of your signal transfer by creating a direct connection with the wire’s conductors.
At this point, the conductor next to me asked for a recording with a full orchestra. I made an aggressive move and took the sweet spot.
Skov played Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre as performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, conducted by Eiji Oue, and recorded by an editor at Hong Kong hi-fi magazine Audio Technique. Most startling and enjoyable were the piece’s shifting dynamics and the system’s startling impact with the unisons of timpani and double bass.
Another attendee asked for some jazz. Skov played Vietnamese-Danish bass player Chris Minh Doky’s sleepy arrangement for “Every Breath You Take” by the Police. This is jazz?
Skov suggested that the CD sounded weird and put on “All Blues” from Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue. The image was comfortably spread with one sax on each side and Davis’s trumpet clearly centered. The contrast in breathiness and blowing force between Cannonball Adderley’s nearly spritely alto and Coltrane’s mellower tenor was delightful. Good call on the switch Skov!
The final demo of the presentation was for the Valhalla 2 speaker cables priced at $11,849 for a two meter pair and $1500 each additional half meter. Nordost describes:
“The Valhalla 2 Reference Speaker Cable consists of twenty-eight conductors divided into four groups of seven. Each conductor is made from solid core 99.999999% oxygen free copper and plated with 85 microns of silver…The transmission speed of the cable is extremely fast, at over 96% the speed of light.”
Someone better call Marty McFly.
Skov played song “Another Day in Paradise” from Swedish singer Josefine Cronholm. During playback with the Valhalla 1, I noted an enjoyable evenness and cleanliness to the stand-up bass and exciting shimmering rise from a cymbal quickly struck with mallets.
Skov and Michael Taylor of Nordost fell to their knees as they switched the Valhalla 1 for the Valhalla 2 speaker cables. Through the Valhalla 2, I heard more inner detail to the stand up bass with slightly longer decay. A rimshot that had before been mostly metal rim and drumstick now included much more body of the snare. The rising cymbal now featured more body of the cymbal and less shimmer.
Nordost also offers a digital interconnect and tonearm cable within their Valhalla 2 line. As I left the event, Michael Fremer arrived. He’s got some Valhalla 2’s at home. Hopefully, he will share his thoughts in the future either in Stereophile or on AnalogPlanet.com. To sum up the improvements from the Valhalla 1 to the Valhalla 2 that I heard, it seemed the new cables brought out more inner-detail to the instruments, added spaciousness to the soundstage, and eased and sweetened the highs.