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
Ariel Bitran's picture
I am willing to agree

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
Speakers, room treatments, DAC/analog source, amps, then cables

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
fair enough

(nt)

Ariel Bitran's picture
Also

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
Metering is a starting point, not a means to an end

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
Funny that you brought up food

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
The price of enjoyment

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

Psychedelicious's picture
You must have misunderstood...

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
Bonus!

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
An article = good science?

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
Right, science is crap but sales presentations are golden

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

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

Psychedelicious's picture
I could not agree more!

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
Good science

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
Play it again, Sam...

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
Flat Earth Myth

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
Whose truth?

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

Psychedelicious's picture
Shared belief in a theory

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
What do you hear

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
Poll shows most people hear no difference

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
Scientifically

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
I'm busted

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
Test, test...Ok, now off with their heads!

Psychedelicious's picture
Off with their heads

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

ChrisS's picture
Amendment

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

MVBC's picture
Again

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
Did you hear something?

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

kevon27's picture
Let's end this.

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
That ends nothing

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
This is ridiculous.

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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