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
GeorgeHolland's picture

that anyone who works for Stereophile does not and never will admit to being wrong. That is JA's main motto, "I'm never wrong" Add into the equation that he won't do DBTs and says that they are "too hard" or "flawed" and you get the recipie for Stereophile which is , show measurements for the most difficult to measure components and judge them on that and then do zero measurememnts on components that are simple to measure and rely upon subjective opinion to judge those. This way he can include the overpriced rediculous cable and power cord "reviews" and not have to explain himself. A really neat way to sidestep the situation, objectivity combined with subjectivity so we end up with a hopelessly screwed up review system with JA and company never having to admit that he is wrong.

For future reference about ANY cable/power cord "review" from Stereophile, just remember that it's all about subjective opinion and zero facts.

ChrisS's picture

Be dazzled by the fantastical worlds that spew forth from Psycho-Georgie's Mind!

Ariel Bitran's picture

wow, it's nice to see that my written thought is in agreement with my internal thought when summarized. 

GeorgeHolland's picture

You are not going to do a DBT or SBT when trying out the Nordost cables I take it. How about a simple cable switch without you knowing which is which and writing down your guesses? Not even that? Try 3 different cables in all. Lowly Radio Shack, Blue Jean and Nordost. Interesting if you can pick which is which. If you CAN pick which is which THEN how about a simple frequency response test of each cable along with the LCR so we can see what MAY be causing the "sound differences". You are curious enough to try this no?

Utopianemo's picture

GeorgeHolland, you're incorrect on a few levels.  Stereophile does admit to being wrong from time to time.  The most infamous example that comes to mind is the Carver Challenge

Secondly, when one divorces subjectivity from objectivity, one is left with a spreadsheet.  Spreadsheets don't interpret themselves, and for the average human being they're boring as hell to read. The fact that you waste large amounts of time criticizing an audiophile magazine for the method in which they approach their reviews on their own forum pages proves my point.  You may cringe and howl and cry foul at what you perceive to be dishonest or pointless journalism, but you are still reading it and you are still spending your own time and devoting your own energies to responding.  You may hate Stereophile's method, but your own output proves you find it more interesting than some other mythical media outlet that provides factual information without subjective opinion.  Facts are meaningless without interpretation.  

I've never heard from any journalist who thinks DBTs are worthwhile. You may think they're scared of being proven wrong, and you're probably partly right. But I don't want to see DBTs in reviews.  DBTs are a test for the reviewer, not the speaker. When I read a review, I want to hear how the speaker performs.  I can tell for myself if I trust the reviewer's judgment based on the body of their work. 

Bottom line for me is, I do understand what you're saying.  To be frank, I agree with you in part; I think boutique cables are largely snake oil and in the grand scheme of things, they are the least important link in the chain from source to ear. And I am cynical when I read reports on exotic cables(and, for that matter, any gear too far beyond my budget). 

The point I'm trying to make is it doesn't matter. You've made your case, nicely nestled between Psychedelicious and that moron with the Calvin avatar. The time and energy you are putting in may make you feel a little better about your frustrations(just like the time I'm putting in makes me feel better about mine), but it's not going to make Atkinson admit he's wrong, nor will it make Stereophile even reconsider exchanging its format of flourishing flowery and ecstatic prose at pieces of audio gear or homoerotic boutique cables in favor of spreadsheets and machine language.  It will not stop self-indulgent, moneyed people from buying mystical audio cables, nor will it stop enterprising hucksters from making said cables.  You've said your piece and nobody cares except for the people who already care, so take a breath and get on with your life.

ChrisS's picture

Georgie's turning blue! No one told him to let that breath out!!

GeorgeHolland's picture

Sorry but DBT, SBT or at the very least what I proposed to Ariel is easy enough to do but of course he won't. JA won't let him. A long as JA and company let "reviewers" (I use that term with a cringe for people like Mr Serinus) spout praises for magic cables but do nothing to back up these claims with some simple testing, then Stereophile is in mine and other's opinions a farce. Get JA to admit he is ever wrong, he won't. The jitter fiasco talk he gave a few years back was brought up in a thread and he just ignored it. Nope, JA won't admit to wrong doing and his laziness is par none for refusing to test tweak products.

Areil's silence to my request for SOME sort of testing is sign enough for me to know NOTHING will be done. He will just do the typical subjective listen and come to a subjective conclusion ho hum.

ChrisS's picture

Psycho-Georgie just doesn't understand science....

eugovector's picture

Here's 134 pages of people who would love to read about DBTs: http://www.head-fi.org/t/486598/testing-audiophile-claims-and-myths

You know who doesn't want to read DBTs?  People who spend tens of thousands of dollars on cables.

ChrisS's picture

Any college kid can tell you  that these tests are poorly done and the results meaningless.

Utopianemo's picture

Fantastic! Okay, now say it again, but word it slightly differently. 

eugovector's picture

Here's a great article, and don't forget to read the editor's note at the end: http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/volume_11_4/feature-article-blind-test-power-cords-12-2004.html

GeorgeHolland's picture

But of course those dyed-in-the-wool audiophools that already have their minds made up will NEVER bother to read them. Why learn anything new when you can just throw $10,000 at a "sexy" power cord and go along your way still as ignorant as ever?  Is the last link you posted the one Mr Serinus refers to when he says he will never participate in a ABX or DBT again?  Hmmmmm sounds about right, I mean he ALWAYS hears a difference yet didn't do too well in the ABX test now did he? Got his lil Golden Ears burned. You would think he would have kept participating in ABX tests but then again that would have shown over and over that in reality, he can't tell the difference and THAT would have broken his fantasy world and his pay check for writing fluff subjective articles about how cables sound different.   Oh well I guess he's a happy lad pretending it didn't happen.

 

I LOVE this part where JA talks about blind listening tests of amplifiers

"But when you have taken part in a number of these blind tests and experienced how two amplifiers you know from personal experience to sound extremely different can still fail to be identified under blind conditions, then perhaps an alternative hypothesis is called for: that the very procedure of a blind listening test can conceal small but real subjective differences. Having taken part in quite a number of such blind tests, I have become convinced of the truth in this hypothesis"

So instead of facing facts that those two amps in fact do sound alike because JA couldn't tell one for the other, he goes into denial and comes up with a false hypothesis explaining away why blind tests are "flawed" Too funny and too sad. Here we can see the turning point where both JA and Mr Serinus turned away from the truth and decided to just make stuff up for the years afterward.

ChrisS's picture

Georgie,

You still haven't taken any high school level science courses, it still shows... The level of science in all of these articles is quite poor.

Psychedelicious's picture

Intelligent design, that's what you are selling here. Of course you don't agree with science, your agenda demands ignorance and the bliss it brings.angle

ChrisS's picture

http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/volume_11_4/feature-article-blind-test-po...

Here are two fatal flaws in this "experiment" any college student can spot:

1) Too many power cords changed= too many uncontrolled, untested variables

2) Too small sample size= insufficient data= inconclusive statistics

There are others mistakes, but even these two factors invalidate this test.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

The whole thing was fatally flawed. Unbeknownst to me, engineer Manny La Carrubba, whom I had asked to help devise test methodology and run the thing, was out to prove that power cables can't make a difference. Despite my protestations, he insisted on putting up a huge, thick curtain of green felt in front of the entire system. It severely damped the treble, smoothed over detail, and killed depth. So many of the virtues of the Nordost power cables were smothered in the process.

I saw what was happening, but I didn't have an alternative we could use on short notice. To compensate for the unexpected dullness of sound, I played the system very loud, which fatigued people. The musical extracts were very short; people hardly began to take them in when they were over. And because we were constantly switching amps on and off, and jerking cables around like nobody's business, nothing was operating optimally. By the end of each session, some people were waving a metaphorical white flag, thankful the whole thing was over.

You guys can post for 20 more pages about this, and call me and everyone else at Stereophile every name in the book. But the test was a farce, and anyone trying to use it to prove something only proves one thing: they'll grasp at anything other than admit that cables make a difference.

No, I'm not going to respond to comments about this. Say anything you want about me. Go to it. Knock yourselves out. My days of participating in circle jerks are long past. As is my tolerance for anonymous posts and fantasy identities. I'd much rather attend concerts, listen to my system, and write about music.

ChrisS's picture

Bad science is worse amongst those like Psycho-Georgie and JRusskie, who have no clue about the simple rules of scientific methodolgy, experimental design, logic, and statistics. Blind acceptance of bad science must always be rejected.

There's likely a local college near you. Take a course or two, see the light....

JohnnyR's picture

Don't make me bring up your lame attempt at showing us all how a SBT should be done by those reviewers in Canada in their lame magazine that you touted as being the end all in cable tests. This was in a cable thread in the forums.They didn't even bother to make it blind and only swithed cables once, yet you crowed at how that is the way to do it. You are clueless.

Did you bother to read the last link by eugovector? It was written by Victor Serinus, the poster child of golden ear listening and endorsed by Nordost. Oopsie Chrissy, foot in mouth disease strikes you yet again.

ChrisS's picture

There's that awful smell again....

ChrisS's picture

JohnnyR's picture

the only thing that smells is your so called education. I see you have learned well from JA and Ariel, when confronted with facts just say something silly instead. Did you get your diploma from the school of make believe? Say hello to May Belt and Geof for me, your closest buddies on the forums, you certantly think alike.

Ariel Bitran's picture

Chapter One:

Validity

Chapter Two:

Sample Size

ChrisS's picture

That's not taught until grade 7... JRusskie will have to wait.

JohnnyR's picture

Yes Wikipedia is such a treasure trove of info, too bad you revert to posting stock answers to questions about why you don't even try a blind listening test.This coming from someone who can't even replace a speaker tweeter without it becoming a fiasco.I suggest you try some summer reading of your own and get some experience in the real world of "hands on" Did Atkinson steer you in that direction with a firm hand?

The good folks over at Hydrogenaudio forums don't seem to have any problems at all using ABX to determine if sound differences exist. Give that website a good read also.

I see Stereophile is still in the EXCUSE mode instead of the TRY IT mode.

Like George said earlier, nothing to come of the cable listening "test" but subjective hoo ha.

Here is a link to something with more depth than the dictionary type you posted. If Chrissy thinks she can handle some heavier reading then she is free to read the whole thread THEN post her usual insults because that's all she knows how to do.

http://www.head-fi.org/t/486598/testing-audiophile-claims-and-myths

ChrisS's picture

When you stop trying to make sense of JRusskie, don't you find him disarmingly whacky?

Also posted before, these articles and "studies" are mostly crap. Good science seems to be beyond JRusskie and Psycho-Georgie, but not for those beyond a grade school education.

JohnnyR's picture

Ariel is Atkinson's lil "gofer" and won't do anything that Atkinson won't like.

I also get that any link anyone posts that you personaly don't agree with is  "bogus" and not "real" science according to yourself.

 I get that you are only here to act like a jerk but that's nothing new.

I get that you think your are some superior know it all but in reality you have shown everyone nothing but how much of an ass you can be. Congratulations .

Tell you what go to those forums and links I talked about and "educate" them in the "errors" of their ways. I bet they rip you a new one and eat you for breakfast so fast your head will spin. Of course you won't do it, you are too scared. Reply with whatever, who cares.

Will Areil read those links? I doubt it, he's too entrenched in Stereophile to bother looking at the rest of the world.

ChrisS's picture

Did you know that, in North America, not knowing more than a 5th grader can make you a game show contestant?

ChrisS's picture

The Spirits are about to speak!

Are they friendly spirits?

Friendly? Just Listen!

I suppose in Russia, the "Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" is known as the "Boris and Natasha Show".

Utopianemo's picture

The point of an ABX test is to test the listener. There's no reason to do such a test other than to prove or disprove a person's ability to listen discriminately.  The test may have validity for some reason or another but it doesn't belong in reviews or at-a-glance previews.

Personally, I have a lot of respect for the way Tyll Hertsens conducts his reviews and shootouts.  He does measurements, and he also has a handful of short audio clips he uses for reviews. The clips are short enough that he can quickly cycle through them, and he's heard them so many times they have a semi-permanent place in his head.  I don't care who you are, playing unfamiliar music in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar gear will produce nothing better than random results in an ABX test, unless the differences in sound are huge.  To say nothing about whether boutique cabling makes a real difference.

As to the vitriolic childishness, why? Is it the internet, or do you all really have nothing better to do then act like middle school asses?

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