Nordost Premiers the Valhalla 2

Rune Skov shows off the new Nordost Valhalla 2 interconnect ($9799/2m pair) next to his sweet Nordost tattoo.

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.

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COMMENTS
pwf2739's picture

I recently installed a pair of Valhalla 2 XLR Interconnects in my system and can say without question that these cables live up to what was written in the above article. I discovered improvements in clarity, detail, dynamics and soundstage. While not the tour de force cable that is Nordost Odin, it is a vastly superior cable to the Valhalla and the other Nordost series that are under Valhalla. If you are a fan of Nordost products or you are considering upgrading a cable or interconnect, even if it is a different brand, I highly suggest you give the V2 a try. You will not be disappointed. 

Psychedelicious's picture

Would you care to share any details whatsoever about your system? A photo would be the best.

Evidently a sucker is born every minute; suckers appear to be drawn to exotic cables like moths to a flame, and they don't even notice when they get burned! I can't tell if you are a sucker or if you are a flame. 

PhD B. Smith's picture

Thanks to Nordost for giving me and other scientists in electrical engineering a good laugh.

Psychedelicious's picture

It's amazing that private industry found a way to make cable that costs more per meter than NASA pays for the stuff they use on spaceships!

ajay556's picture

i hear this time and time again that people dont hear the difference in cables. There are lot of factors involved. I have 3 stereo systems ranging from $1500 to $75k.

If i install my high end power cable from  my 75k system  into my $1500 system, it has no difference in sound. But a huge difference in my 75k system. 

Point is if you take the $10k wheels from a  buggati and install it on a scion...

The scion driver will swear that wheels are a waist of money as it probably will degrade the cars performance...

Now if you take the scions wheels and install it into the buggati....you get my point...

stereo slim's picture

the new cables brought out more inner-detail to the instruments, added spaciousness to the soundstage, and eased and sweetened the highs

all that plus 96% speed of light for only 51,649.95 USD - even Marty McFly would be impressed.

Is a free tattoo included if one buys the whole set?

MVBC's picture

Yep, and they can even hear the difference with the 94% of speed light yet no one here has explained why... cool  

eugovector's picture

I've bookmarked this page and can't wait.  Ariel, your whole life is ahead of you, don't blow your hi-fi cred on this one.

MVBC's picture

costs $9799 for two meters and an additional $1100 for each additional half-meter

Is the $1 on the 2m pair a discount for willingness to be fleeced? As for the additional, half-meter should it rather be $1099 per 46.5 cm just to round it up audiophile way...crying

 

jporter's picture

The next you are doing a cable comparison with $10,000 cables on a $200,000 system. Come on man...

andy_c's picture

A blown tweeter that had gone unnoticed for four years! LOL!

Ariel Bitran's picture

You don't have to be a millionaire to hear the differences between cables.

if you are criticizing the price/per value of these cables, you are more than welcome to. I can offer no formal opinion on this matter as I have not compared to cables of lesser or similar price ranges. but i can tell you there was a VERY clear difference when the cables were switched at this demo.

Some Corrections/Footnotes:

The Usher S-520s, from the time the tweeter was broken until the Spring of 2013, were placed in a much-less-than-optimal listening room environment (LINK). Until that point I knew something was wrong, but I was not sure what it was. When placed in the proper listening environment, I was able to deduce what was wrong.

It is also important to note that the tweeter was partially blown, from about 8khz and up. Not completely. If completely, I would have identified it right away, as I did with my Polk Audio speaker.

Finally I do believe it is important to note that these speakers have been used primarily for social and casual listening up until the Fall of 2012, when my Getting Back into Hi-Fi series began (thus the title). Before then, my ear training for the past three years at Stereophile has happened on headphones.The Usher S-520s treble is a touch closed-in already so if you remove sonic information above 8khz in just one speaker in a less-than-optimal listening environment, the problem will not be obvious to someone who is admittedly still training his ear.

MVBC's picture

I can offer no formal opinion on this matter as I have not compared to cables of lesser or similar price ranges.

Yet you just claimed you did in your article since you compared the "old" with the "new".

Now the question is, if there is a difference to hear, how do you know which cable is the closest to the reality of the recording? You don't but you assume that the characteristics of the new are "better". As for the VERY clear, I truly wonder what else you'll write when they'll introduce the next next generation in 3 to 5 years time... devil

Psychedelicious's picture

Ariel, it is my opinion that your ears will never receive enough "training" because there's nothing more to hear; you have entered the realm of psycho-acoustics, and apparently there's no turning back. "The Emperor's New Interconnect" is the one and only appropriate title for any article such as this.

By the way, regarding your detective skills and the blown tweeter... I love your definition of "proper listening environment,"—the only thing missing is a bong and a VHS copy of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

It's cool that you're writing up so many articles for the Stereophile homepage; don;t spoil it by insisting that interconnects have an impact when all science points to the fact that their influence is vanishingly minimal once basic electrical parameters are taken care of.

By the way, did you ever think to ask the good folks at Nordost what percentage of the speed of light electrons travel in a Radio Shack interconnect? Seriously, I want to know. 

Finally, here's a tip: Calibration mics are quite affordable. Use one on a regular basis and you'll catch most issues pertaining to frequency response, as well as giving yourself a powerful tool to improve your systems sound—unlike ridiculous interconnects, proper use of a calibration Mic with some RTA software will lead to genuine improvements in your system's performance.

PsycheDelicious

Ariel Bitran's picture

means that I have enough space between my side and rear walls and speakers to eliminate nasty room resonances (although with some recent repositioning, I'm dealing with a resonance around 65Hz) and also space to create an evenly dispersed soundstage

both of which were not possible in my previous, dreadfully square bedroom room.

also, while i'm open to a calibration mic, i'm very much about learning the fundamentals of things, and that includes being able to properly identify frequency response and anomolies by listening and then measuring afterwards to see how my ears compare to technology.  

Psychedelicious's picture

Ariel,

I know what it's like to operate in cramped quarters. I definitely am not a believer in high-end interconnects, but I am a believer in doing what it takes to get good sound—aesthetics be damned.

Here's my current solution. The tweeters cost a whole lot more than those Andrew Jones towers! Time aligned, too.

Ij promise, hyper-expensive interconnects and speaker cables are among the few things that make my blood boil. That's the skeptic in me, as you can see I use extension cord from Home Depot as my speaker cable, and sump basins from Home Depot as subwoofers.

3000 watts of Crown amplification, contractor-grade extension cord delivers it to my frankenspeakers!

Ariel Bitran's picture

I'll be doing a comparison between the cheapest speaker cable I could find, (and I mean CHEAP -- bought 50ft/$8 at a bodega a block from my house) and my Belden Cable I bought from Blue Jean Cable which is a bit nicer but still affordable, so this is a discussion I will continue in my writings.

Psychedelicious's picture

Ariel,

I'm definitely curious about speaker-wire tests, especially in light of the (now famous) engadget "Monster Cable vs. Coat Hanger" test.

My impression is that there is zero correlation between price and "quality." For all I know, aluminum foil wrapped in celophane sounds better than cables that cost more than cars.

Also, I agree that one should know how to listen, as well as how to measure. However I question whether it's the ears that are really being trained—it's all in the mind, including the ability to focus deeper into music. One thing I'd like to see is a salesperson for high-end cables flip the script and start with the "new, awesomer" cables first, then switch to the less-impressive pair. I feel that sometimes there is a bias towards "first here's the old, now here's the new" in those sort of demonstrations.

Psychedelicious

ChrisS's picture

So, you guys would rather junk around in a beat up 1980's F-150 than drive a Lamborgini Veneno and you think everyone else should too? Unless I won the next Powerball lottery, I'd never be able to afford the Veneno, but given an opportunity to test drive one, who wouldn't? Well, sounds like you guys would rather pretend those kinds of stratospherically-priced items don't exist....

Psychedelicious's picture

If by "Test Drive" you mean go to audio shows and have a good listen to the latest ultra-high-end offerings, I do that. I appreciate the quality of those systems. The car example doesn't work for me, unless the 1980's F-150 you are referring to is the one from Buckaroo Banzai. You know, a vehicle that's capable of crossing dimension barriers.

I'll gladly spend money when it correlates to performance, but I can recognize when an item's price is entirely based on the needs of the rich—to feel special and exclusive. Mostly, I'm all about warning folks with modest income to stay away from ultra-high-end interconnects and cables. When a wealthy person buys such cables, they help create jobs and I have no issue with that. 

I've used a bathroom on a yacht that featured Rolex plumbing. It did not improve any aspect of the experience, versus how some Kohler gear would have performed. How's that for an analogy?

kevon27's picture

"I've used a bathroom on a yacht that featured Rolex plumbing. It did not improve any aspect of the experience, versus how some Kohler gear would have performed. How's that for an analogy?"

Ah man.. that is just to funny.

But I don't know about you but if a bathroom is not painted white and have that cold hospital feel, I cannot enjoy my dump.

MVBC's picture

Tell me again what's the audio difference between 96% of speed light and 94%?

kevon27's picture

I purchased these cables and hooked them up to my Pioneer Elite vsx-52, Emotiva Amps and polk audio Monitor 60 speakers. Now my system out classes MBL's highest end gear. You don't need to by high end equipement, just spend your money on ultra premium cables.

jporter's picture

Cognitive dissonance theory explains human behavior by positing that people have a bias to seek consonance between their expectations and reality.

Psychedelicious's picture

You are a genius, sir. wink

ChrisS's picture

So what's the point of warning people who can't afford a yacht, a Veneno, a Rolex, or the Valhalla 2?

ChrisS's picture

Test drives allow you to try out things that exist outside of your own imagination.

Psychedelicious's picture

Correct, which is why after listening to plenty of exotic cables over the course of two decades I have concluded that their benefits are primarily imaginary. surprise

ChrisS's picture

kevon27's picture

I purchased these cables and hooked them up to my Pioneer Elite vsx-52, Emotiva Amps and polk audio Monitor 60 speakers. Now my system out classes MBL's highest end gear. You don't need to by high end equipement, just spend your money on ultra premium cables.

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