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.

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.

ChrisS's picture

Congratulations, you just saved a whole lot of money you never had!

 

Do you think everyone else will have exactly the same listening experience you've had? These cables are of no benefit only to you and your music system, right?

 

In other words, you didn't have fun driving a Veneno? I wonder why...

ChrisS's picture

Absolutely nothing wrong with a good ol' F-150... Drive on!

pwf2739's picture

Of all the negative comments assigned to this article. All the posts claiming they cannot and will not work. All the myriad of supposed reasons why one should never buy such a product, does it not seem odd that the only two comments that are positve, and agree with the article, are from people who have actually purchased V2 cables and installed them in thier system? Villify these cables all you want, until YOU have spent the money, installed them in your system, and judged for yourself if the claims made by the manufacturer are true or not, you really cannot say for sure, can you? 

Psychedelicious's picture

does it not seem odd that the only two comments that are positve, and agree with the article, are from people who have actually purchased V2 cables and installed them in thier system?

I does not seem even remotely odd. Who on Earth would buy such unbelievably expensive cables, if they did not at least think it made a significant difference? The key is that they buyer has to think the cables are worth it, or else they truly are a fool being parted with their money.

I've auditioned a number of exotic cables over the years. My criticisms—and the fact I won't purchase such product—go hand-in-hand; they are the result of personal experience as well as the application of logic. It's a truly odd suggestion, that one would need to actually buy the cables before they can ascertain if they work. IMO "try before you buy" is a truly important concept—especially when considering the merits of super-expensive items that make dubious performance claims.

By the way, I took the comment about the Emotive/Polk system to be pure sarcasm. I would want visual proof that someone actually has the cables they claim they do, before I trust that someone is using a pair of $10,000 interconnects in an Emotiva/Polk system. I feel really bad for anyone who might actually make such a mistake.

The way exotic cables are sold, it's a perversion of good science and a betrayal of trust.

Mark "Psychedelicious" Henninger

ChrisS's picture

So your only criteria for a good sounding audio component is affordability?

Unaffordability= "perversion of good science and a betrayal of trust"? So buying a Land Rover instead of a F-150, one is perverted and betrayed?

Psychedelicious's picture

The price differential between a F-150 and a Land Rover is not in the same category, it's more like buying a Lunar Rover, thinking it'll somehow outperform a F-150 on planet Earth.

For what it's worth, I think money spent on actual gear and actual engineering is money well spent. In the vehicle analogy, the engine is the amp and the chassis is the speaker. The road is the source, of course.

Spending hard-earned money on wickedly overpriced cables? That's like buying $40,000 tires for your hypothetical Land Rover, with the promise that the mere addition of overpriced tires will somehow transform the truck into a helicopter. Good luck.

ChrisS's picture

Most ads for cars, perfumes, performance-enhancing medications, lotteries, etc. will tell you in one way or another that buying a particular product will lead to a life changing experience. Are only the "expensive" items examples of betrayal and perversion? Your logic is still based on affordability. Where do you draw that line of affordability and for whom?

ChrisS's picture

Too expensive= can't be good, or just...

Too expensive for you!

Psychedelicious's picture

You miss the point. A cable is a cable, ascribing magical qualities to a cable does a disservice to the entire HiFi communty. It's too bad you believe in fairy tales, because there are much more interesting components to pay attention to, than cables. I'm not blind, the world is full of people who have misplaced their faith in a false diety. Nordost just takes the concept to an absurdist extreme, but as with any cult one expects to encounter a few true believers. devil

ChrisS's picture

Let's say a guy who delivers pizzas for a living buys a $150 interconnect (10 times more than he can afford) because he was promised that it's the last component he'll ever need to buy, but his music system now sounds like a table radio. Did he also get shafted by betrayal and perversion of good science?

Psychedelicious's picture

Of course. That pizza delivery person should have bought their interconnect on Amazon.com, of at a "Five Below". $150 for a faulty interconnect is a betrayal and a perversion of good science, as it pertains to engineering.

ChrisS's picture

So betrayal and perversion occurs at all levels, not just "high-end"?...

Psychedelicious's picture

If a product does not work as it should, that is a bertrayal. Sometimes, cheap products fail to perform; so yes, it's fair to say that "caveat emptor" applies at all levels.

Another motivator for buying expensive stuff? Confidence. SImply put, those who can afford it should be able to buy what they wish and pay what they wish. They are even allowed to think that all the money buys they something special. Sometimes that's even true, even with cars—but cost is not a significant indicator of performance when it comes to power cords, speaker cables and interconnects.

ChrisS's picture

Nordost is doing what everyone else is doing. What's the difference?

Psychedelicious's picture

Presumably what you mean is that Nordost cables perform the exact same task as other cables. So, the only difference is price!

Psychedelicious's picture

Most of those products exist to massage the egos of the insecure, so I think the advertising angle is perfectly appropriate. Yes, perfume defines the notion of "The Emperor's New...whatever." It's all a rip off, but the more the item costs, the bigger the ripoff. Monster Cable is still a ripoff, but nowhere near the level of ripoff of Nordost. 

ChrisS's picture

Cheaper is always better?

ChrisS's picture

Have I seen you shopping there?

 

http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/

Psychedelicious's picture

Was that you? I bet you were discussing interconnects!

ChrisS's picture

I'm the one with the pink flip flops, bulging pink cycling shorts, and pink crop top and we were talking motor oil!

And Saran wrap....

ChrisS's picture

Rich, expensive, luxury, high end, unaffordable... always means insecurity and rip off?

Psychedelicious's picture

So why repeat yourself? Cables are deep shannanigan territory. I think money spent to improve sound is much better spent on amplification, speakers a good DAC, and room treatment. Any funds left over should be spent acquiring MUSIC. Only a fool wastes their money on interconnects. Frankly, I say that as a music producer as well as a fan of Stereophile magazine for the last 25 years.

I'm only trying to help. angle

MVBC's picture

Nordost own website:

From Valhalla 2 interconnect: "V2 is extremely fast, at over 87% the speed of light."

From Valhalla 2 speaker cables: "The transmission speed of the cable is extremely fast, at over 96% the speed of light".

Therefore, the entire system will be limited at 87% provided there is not somewhere a lower value to be found.

Now to put in perspective this terrible loss, the exact speed of light is 299,792,458 m/s so the difference between 96% and 87% is huge:

27,000,000 m/s! This is HUGE. On your system with overall 10 m length of pricy cables, you're looking at a 0.00000037 s "very clearly" audible difference!

Can you afford to lose sleep over this? wink

Psychedelicious's picture

It's still not clear how much of an increase in near-light-speed performance Nordost gets you. 87% of light speed sounds slow to me, what if a Radio Shack cable performs faster? Has anyone tested this?

It's 2 a.m., I'm losing sleep! crying

ChrisS's picture

Seeing your system photo and hearing your music on your soundcloud profile, no wonder you find Radio Shack/ Home Depot wire good enough.

Psychedelicious's picture

I'd say that comment exposes your system as underpowered, and not truly full-range.

Try this Mozart bit I sequenced

pwf2739's picture

There is an important distinction that has been missed here. The article written by Mr. Bitran is about the Nordost Valhalla 2 (V2)  in a specific system, in a specific show, on a specific day. And that was the extent of of the article. The two positive comments, one of which was mine, were both about the V2 used in a home based system by two different consumers. All the discussion about this other cable and testing this or that has absolutely no relevancy whatsoever. That is like saying because you test drove a Ford and didn't like it you would never buy a Chevy. What ever anyone feels about "other" high end cables, or even the whole concept of reference cables, has no bearing at all on the legitimacy of the V2 cable. The only legitimate argument, as it pertains to the article, is whether or not the V2 cable offers a sonic improvement in your system. I found a significant improvement, so did the other person who responded favorably, and so did Mr. Bitran. So if anyone has not tested the V2 cable in their system, whether by purchase or by loan, then no inference about whether or not the cable lives up to it's claims can legitimately be made. Criticize all you would like, but it is simply conjecture. 

There is also a lot of discussion regarding cost. Why does cost even matter? Either you can afford and more importantly justify the cost or you cannot. High end audio has never been about affordability and likely never will be. Every audiophile with a significant other understands that. If the cost of a V2 cable is so outrageous, then what is acceptable? A $1000.00 cable? Or a $500.00 cable? Maybe a $100.00 cable? If you can justify a $1000.00 cable the people who would only spend a $100.00 would think you  are wasting your money. But you had no problem at all spending a $1000.00. If it was only about cost then the most practical way to listen to music would be a very inexpensive MP3 player. There would be no need for high end audio. But that is not how it works. 

There is nothing wrong with a system that costs $3000.00, $5000.00 or even $10,000.00. They are all capable of producing great music. But like it or not, there are those people who have $100,000.00, $200,000.00 and more invested in an audio system. Just because those people have affordability on a larger scale are they therefore wrong? I have had very inexpensive cables and interconnects and found them inferior to the products that I now have. That is proof enough to me that the claims made by Nordost are true. As well as the other Nordost Odin, Valhalla and Tyr II cables I already have prove the point. And if that is not enough, my own ears are the definitive judge. 

Because at the end of the day, no scientist, engineer, PhD or anyone else will ever be as much of an expert as I am as to how my system sounds in my home. That is the bottom line. 

Psychedelicious's picture

Because at the end of the day, no scientist, engineer, PhD or anyone else will ever be as much of an expert as I am as to how my system sounds in my home. That is the bottom line. 

Believe what you will. Double-blind tests have a way of making declarations such as yours appear very, very foolish when scrutinized by those silly scientists and intellectuals and their ridiculous "scientific method."

Apparently you make an exception to your "I know better than anyone" rule for Nordost's "engineers" (if you can call them that). You put your faith in the designers of grossly overpriced cables. Everyone else? Just fools who believe in science instead of marketing hype.

I've repeatedly noted that the super-rich are free to buy whatever they want and feel good about it. I encourage it, because free spending leads to job creation—at least that's what Ronald Reagan said. Without access to speaker cables and bottles of wine that cost more than cars, being rich would be soooo boring. But make no mistake, there is NO performance advantage—it's even possible for exotic cables to screw up the sound by failing to perform a primary task: act like a cable, not like a filter.

I will never tire of this article debunking the value of expensive cables.

Ariel Bitran's picture

about the value of cables in general? or just Monster cables? I've used a paperclip as a clip to connect the binding posts behind my crossover, but I was happy to get the official part in there once I got the replacement. Did it sound better? I don't know. This was when I first got my speakers, so I doubt I could even tell.

i also think you're ignoring something here, and something which I'm waiting for someone to say. A very simple premise:

Cables can make a difference.

Do you think it is possible to hear a difference when using different cables?

If yes, then cable engineers can certainly engineer a cable to sound a certain way. Pwf2739 makes the correct point when he says this article IS NOT about expensive vs. inexpensive and that sort of qualitative judgment but rather the experience of the old Valhalla to the new. 

I move my listening chair an inch to the left and the sound changes. I find this contention that cables are irrelevant to be tiring. NEARLY EVERYTHING MAKES A DIFFERENCE. 

I like to think of hi-fi like food. You can get a cheeseburger from the diner down the block or you can get it from the really nice place downtown. Yes, they both use meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomato, but the quality of sources, cooking process, expertise of chefs, and presentation all determine the final enjoyment. If the diner makes the better burger, then more power to you, the informed consumer. You don't have to get your burger at the fancy place anymore to get your fill. But if the nice place takes the concept of "burger" to the next level, then it's worth the added value.

I think what gets people wrapped up in this mess is that there is just such a large disparity between the 50ft of speaker cable I can buy for $8 down the block versus the $50,849 I'd have to pay for about 50feet (approx 15 meters) from Nordost.

Psychedelicious's picture

I move my listening chair an inch to the left and the sound changes. I find this contention that cables are irrelevant to be tiring. NEARLY EVERYTHING MAKES A DIFFERENCE. 

It's tiring because why? The contribution of speaker cables has been studied and debunked countless times through scientific testing, so all that's left is a cadre of true believers insisting "but I can hear the difference, so it MUST be real." That's not science, that's religion—which means engineering isn't really a part of the equation.

The law of diminishing returns hits cables very hard. Just about everything else one could do makes a much bigger difference in terms of SQ, including the act of moving your head an inch! The notion that the difference one hears is attributable to a cable, or the sum of all cables, is very silly indeed.

Manufacturer's demos are—by their very nature—are suspect. The contribution of speaker cables to a system's performance is miniscule by any standard. Exploiting that miniscule, admittedly measurable difference is the name of the game. That game is called "sales and marketing," and it has fooled many folks over the ages, including the best and brightest. 

Good luck with your audio adventures. I think you are going down the wrong path, but it's the path of your choosing, and evidently you have company. I certainly don't claim that cables are irrelevant. They need to be of adequate quality to perform their task, of an appropriate gauge yada yada. But there's the law of diminishing returns to look out for, and it hits cables really, really hard.

I merely point out the folly in attributing—on blind faith—the difference you (and others) heard at the Nordost demo, to the cables. Bernie Madoff took rich people's money, too.

I'd love to settle the debate by stepping away from absolutes. I will allow for a 1% possibility that Nordost cables do what they claim, if you allow for a 1% possibility that they do not. That would be agreement enough for me.

Ariel Bitran's picture

that different components can cause differences in sound.

i do not have the experience yet to apply dollar values to those differences.

re: do what they claim?

i care more about how they sound.

Psychedelicious's picture

Certainly, if the exercise is to simply examine how different components sound, it is necessary to listen to exotic cables and to form an opinion on their effect on a system. I suggest that a dose of skepticism and a very critical outlook serves one well, because IF one gets fooled because the speaker-cable industry is not totally immune to human folly, then the cost is severe, except for those to whom this amount of money is trivial.

 

Ariel Bitran's picture

(nt)

Ariel Bitran's picture

moving my head was a bad example b/c there is a measurable difference as to where you put your head.

i'm not saying i'm a 'mystic' -- i love measurements and science and the math of sound -- but i'm also not a 'meter-man'

 

(meter man, meter man, hears what only a meter can)

Psychedelicious's picture

I start with metering. I don't end with it. We agree on that, in the end the ear—and the person—need to be the judge of what's transcendent. When I "get it right", my system provokes goosebumps on a regular basis. For the most part, only very high-end systems have done that to me in the past, systems equipped with exotic cables.

Now, I can reproduce the entirety of the high-end experience with my frankensystem, and the one thing I found required no attention was cabling. I also say that as a musician. I have over 100 tracks on soundcloud.com, and many of them will test a stereo system's capabilities quite well. here's a link to my profile: https://soundcloud.com/psychedelicious

I've been in a room full of meter-heads, I know the folly of that way of thinking as well.
 

Psychedelicious's picture

I like to think of hi-fi like food. You can get a cheeseburger from the diner down the block or you can get it from the really nice place downtown. Yes, they both use meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomato, but the quality of sources, cooking process, expertise of chefs, and presentation all determine the final enjoyment. If the diner makes the better burger, then more power to you, the informed consumer. You don't have to get your burger at the fancy place anymore to get your fill. But if the nice place takes the concept of "burger" to the next level, then it's worth the added value.

My wife happens to be the Zagat editor for Philadelphia, a city with many fine restaurants. If there's one topic I'm immersed in all the time, it's food. If there's one pursuit where I get to enjoy the exact same service and product as the ultra-rich, it's food. 

The burger analogy is particularly apt, I've experienced the whole gamut from $5 to $100+ burgers. It's the same thing I've been saying about speaker cables—the really pricey ones are almost always gimmick. Even when there's substance behind the gimmick. the price is artificially inflated, just to "qualify" it as a rich-person's "product," while offering no tangible qualitative benefit to the consumer.

Last month, Morimoto prepared a sushi dish for my wife and I. The whole restaurant came to a standstill, to watch the Iron Chef at work. The end result would have cost us a whole lot more than the sushi we usually eat. It certainly had incredible aesthetic appeal. Was is tangibly better than other sushi I have had? No. The entire "value" of the experience was in the attention we received, because Morimoto was actually making our food, instead of someone else who earns a lot less money.

My point it that the value of the meal was based on its exclusivity, not on its quality. That happens all the time with food.

 

 

ChrisS's picture

Remind me of my father- he can't enjoy a restaurant meal if he knows the price.

Psychedelicious's picture

Often, when I go out to dinner I, cost is no object; the chefs are always personally attentive, and I dine high-end all the time. Often I don't even have to order from the menu, I just have a chat with the chef. My current situation consists of not having enough time to take advantage of all the dining opportunities that present themselves each week.

When it comes to food, I have enough experience to know that money does not directly correlate to quality. It does buy ambiance, slick sales pitches, awesome presentation, and good customer service. Owning (or eating, or drinking) something expensive does boost the ego. I love being mistaken for a celebrity, because of the great, attentive service my wife and I get when we dine out. I could see spending money to maintain that illusion 24/7, if I had the cash to spare. Seriously, why not!

ChrisS's picture

Your wife (and you by association) is in a situation better than being monied, you have power. And that power is not benevolent.

You (ok, your wife) wield the same power as an executioner and a torturer.

Tell me your ego is not orgasming...

I understand now.

ChrisS's picture

You rely on an "article" for good science? Most of these "experimental" situations are designed and executed so poorly that one can't possible come to any valid conclusions. For all we know...

-the experimental design was crap

-testing equipment was crap

-the test listeners were all 58 year old construction workers with colds and hearing problems

-Monster cable tested = coat hangers = crap!

Psychedelicious's picture

Considering how proponents of exotic cables are willing to dispense with both science and common sense, I figure anything goes—including internet polls and articles that expose the hogwash.

ChrisS's picture

Bad science is crap, bad science taken seriously is even worse. Marketing and hype is no better.

Psychedelicious's picture

It agree 100 percent. "Bad Science" is just a synonym for "mistake," and a mistake that's taken seriously - as fact- should be avoided.

Psychedelicious's picture

I rely on my experience and my own system and my ears and also measuring devices. I rely on 25 years of HiFi fanaticism. I rely on my ears, which still test well for full-range hearing and that have trained through the process of becomeing a musicial and a producer.

I'm not relying on an article for anything but a nice simple anecdote about how silly all this exotic cable talk is. I'm still waiting for factual figures on how fast electrons travel through radio Shack speaker cable. Can anyone help? 

ChrisS's picture

Some requirements of good science is replication and verification. If your experience, your ears, your system and measuring devices tell you that the world of cables is "flat", then so be it. If you hear no difference whatsoever with any cables, then that's your own experience.

If someone else with their own ears uses your system, your measuring devices, and even your choice of testing material (tones? elevator music?) and consistently hears a difference with different cables (and happens to prefer cable XYZ), what then? Does that negate your experience? No, just brings up more questions to investigate.

Good science can tell why you can't hear a difference with all the cables you've tried. But not the way you do science.

Peoples' experience used to tell them the world "out there" was flat, then someone stepped onto a boat and stayed onboard long enough to tell them otherwise.

Just because you can't hear it (or appreciate the difference?), doesn't mean others can't.

Psychedelicious's picture

Peoples' experience used to tell them the world "out there" was flat, then someone stepped onto a boat and stayed onboard long enough to tell them otherwise.

Not true...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myth_of_the_Flat_Earth

"The myth of the Flat Earth is the modern misconception that the prevailing cosmological view during the Middle Ages saw the Earth as flat, instead of spherical."

ChrisS's picture

Then speaking of truth, how does your "truth" become somebody else's? Because you say so?

Psychedelicious's picture

Of course not. I can't guarantee that I am right about exotic cables and interconnects—I can only express confidence in my opinions. What I can do is share any conjectures, hypotheses and theories I might have on the subject. 

Psychedelicious's picture

I never said all cables sound the same. I said there is no correlation between price and sound quality, and that exotic cables do not perform in a manner superior to well-engineered cables that cost much, much less.

In the analog realm, there are variables to account for which can affect a cable's performance. What I do claim is that a competently manufactured cable of a specifice gauge and resistance and without defect acts as a relatively transparent conduit, the quality of which is hard to improve upon. That's the law of diminishing returns at work. If it acts like a cable, it's a cable. Otherwise, it's a filter. If we're talking filters, then the sky's the limit, anything goes.

 

Psychedelicious's picture

Over 400 people voted on this poll, the majority of voters did not hear exotic cables offer any improvement, and a mere 7% think they heard exotic cables offer significant improvement in sound quality. 

Ariel Bitran's picture

haven't you been the one professing science and experimental validity and you give me an internet forum poll?

I'm sorry, but LOL.

Psychedelicious's picture

Yeah, that was an un-smooth maneuver. I've got to go do a photo shoot but "I'll be back," lol. Touche.

Check out my soundcloud profile though, I think you might like some of what you hear.

ChrisS's picture

Psychedelicious's picture

Figuratively speaking, if their ears are broken and their minds are closed, sure.

ChrisS's picture

Taste, taste... Ok, now off with their heads!

MVBC's picture

What's amazing here is that neither Nordost or the author of this article can clearly state what technical characteristic creates the alleged sonic improvement that brings Valhalla 2 above Valhalla 1.

Is it a case of changing the shape of the front handles that makes amp 2 better than amp 1? indecision

ChrisS's picture

You're the only one asking this question. I guess they can't hear you.

kevon27's picture

The following list below should end this debate about cables:

For the folks on a budget http://www.monoprice.com/

For the folks who can spend a little more: http://www.bluejeanscable.com/

And the people who own a money tree: http://www.nordost.com/

GeorgeHolland's picture

What we really need is for Stereophile to use DBTs and actually do measurements on cables but of course they won't and never will, BECAUSE that would show us what really is going on and THAT would hurt cable sales tremendously. So what we get is half truths, conjecture and subjective listening with all it's flaws so cable companies can say whatever they like as long as people like Mr Serinus "hears" a "big" difference. It is 100% likely Mr Serinus will, that is why i never take what he reports as fact.

Utopianemo's picture

Ariel related that he heard a difference in the sound characteristics between the V1 and V2, and described that difference in a positive manner.  Psychedelicious asserts that Ariel was either deceived, or that he may have heard some miniscule difference that was only subjectively better.  

Psychedelicious asserts that well-engineered cables essentially perform the same, or at least close enough that large increases in the cost of cables past a certain point are a deception by the manufacturers of such cables, tantamount to shysterism.  He also insinuates that people with the means to afford such cables only buy them to assuage their insecurities or feed their egos.  Although he asserts that measurements are only a beginning point to discerning quality difference between equipment, he also asserts that differences between products which are not measureable either do not exist or are insignificant. He believes statistical data and anecdotes which support his standpoints and discounts that which doesn't.

Ariel believes cables can make a difference, and at this point does not have a stated opinion on whether there is significant difference between cables of varying cost. He does not openly pass judgement on cable manufacturers who sell very expensive cables, or people who buy them. He believes statistical data and anecdotal evidence which supports his standpoints and discounts that which doesn't.

I hope I have accurately presented the two major opinions in this thread. I'm just a little agitated at myself for wasting so much time reading through it all. Since the last 3 pages have pretty much only regurgitated the above information ad nauseum, and there is no hint of anybody changing their opinions, and there is no hint that any new information or new viewpoint may surface any time soon, why don't we all step away from the keyboards and do something else? It's nice outside.

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