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.

Share | |
Comments
ChrisS's picture
Big Big Savings!

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
F-150

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

pwf2739's picture
Funny

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
What's so odd about human nature?

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
I can hear it a mile away....

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
Not at all

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
Buy Me!

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
What you are saying boiled down...

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

Too expensive for you!

Psychedelicious's picture
That's not the argument

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
Get yer red hots...!

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
Yes

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
Have I got a good deal for you!

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

Psychedelicious's picture
Function is separate from value

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
Who's on first?

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

Psychedelicious's picture
What do you mean?

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
Ego mania

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
So...

Cheaper is always better?

ChrisS's picture
Walmart... Save money. Live better.

Have I seen you shopping there?

 

http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/

Psychedelicious's picture
Is that you?

Was that you? I bet you were discussing interconnects!

ChrisS's picture
Hehe!

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
And...

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

Psychedelicious's picture
You already know my answer

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
A chain as weak as its weaker link

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
But what about Radio Shack

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
How do you like them apples? oranges?

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
More likely it means your system is inadequate

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

Try this Mozart bit I sequenced

pwf2739's picture
Important Distinction Missed

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
Your expertise

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
Is this article making a statement

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
Moving your head an inch makes a difference

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.

Site Map / Direct Links