I have owned Valhalla power cord for 2 and half years now. I have cut and sliced everything to pieces and now I know the truth. I have written many megabytes of logs so I will try to sum up everything into a short text.
Noise + Valhalla = Real life
I have found that Valhalla uses AC noise in order to give fake transparency to the sound. It doesn't function without the noise, the noise must be there! It works best when plugged into the wall without any shielding or power conditioning.
AC noise and EMI entering the cable makes it sound edgy and thin. Valhalla makes it sound smooth and thick. When you combine both of them together you get the illusion of transparency and dynamics!
Removing low-level detail
Both the AC noise and Valhalla remove a lot of low-level detail which makes the background appear dead black. The AC noise makes it edgier which gives the illusion of more blackness. The Valhalla hides low-level detail which makes it cleaner, it also transforms the edginess into smooth whiteness.
The end result is more blackness and whiteness than neutral.
The original Valhalla has 7 conductors total. 3 for live and neutral, and 1 for ground. Vishnu has 3 conductors total, 1 for each signal.
I have done a lot of A/B-ing and Vishnu sounded noisier, thinner and faster than Valhalla, the background was noisy and it sounded veiled like something was in front of the music. I didn't know the reason but now I do. Vishnu has more low-level detail than Valhalla because it is thinner and has better noise rejection. When I separated the conductors of Vishnu I got edgier sound, the veil was reduced and it was little closer to Valhalla.
Modding the Valhalla for the most low-level detail
The first time I modded the Valhalla from the original 3 conductors per signal into 2 conductors it sounded very thin, edgy, open, cold and fatiguing. Later I realized it was just more revealing. I found the problem and it was resonance making everything brighter, after I added more vibration isolation everything got too heavy, and then I tried the Valhalla mod again and it worked. I got more speed and low-level detail. After I wrapped the Valhallas in ERS Paper I could move down to 1 conductor per signal. The improvement in low-level detail was crazy.
Later I compared 18awg stock cable + ERS vs 16awg Valhalla + ERS and I got more low-level detail with the stock cable, but it was noisy and fatiguing. The Valhalla sounded very clean just because it removed the noisy low-level detail. Stock cable gives a more neutral signal transfer while all aftermarket cables color the sound. I always preferred stock over Vishnu and PS Audio Statement. Valhalla was the only cable I liked more than stock because it made it sound like real life.
The more I tweaked my system the more low-level detail I got, but the background wasn't black anymore. It didn't make sense. I thought removing AC noise, EMI and vibration would give a blacker background, but it just made it dry, grey and warm with more low-level detail. Changing Toslink into AES/EBU made the same difference. The Toslink has a blacker background because the edginess made the low-level detail less apparent.
Short vs long Valhalla, 1 conductor per signal
I have done this experiment many times using 1 conductor per signal. The longest Valhalla I tried was 6.5 meters, and the shortest was 50cm.
- The longer the Valhalla is the cleaner, smoother, thinner, flatter, warmer and boomier it sounds like. The toned down mids and added boominess gives the illusion of more oomph in the bottom end, but it's very subtle.
- The shorter cable gives more dynamics, bass, transparency and low-level detail.
I have found that the best combination is to use the longest Valhallas at the beginning of the chain and end up with the shortest for the amp. I use 2m for CD transport, 1m for DAC, 50cm for amp. I use 1m for power conditioner because 50cm sounded too noisy.
Longer Valhalla for computer transport
My computer is 44.1 kHz with Toslink output. It doesn't have any tweaks anymore, the case is open and there is a lot of EMI all over the place. So it was time for an experiment. First I tried a 1 conductor Valhalla that was 5.5 meters long, I added it after 10+ meters of stock extension strips and stock cable. It confirmed my findings, it removed a lot of low-level detail compared to stock cable. My computer used to sound very harsh and edgy but with the 5.5m Valhalla the sound was smoother and cleaner than ever. I could listen for hours without any fatigue. But it sounded thin and veiled. Everything was too warm with too little bass.
Shorter + fatter Valhalla for computer transport
I wanted to boost up the bass so I built a 5 conductor Valhalla that was 1 meter long. It sounded much heavier and edgier than the 1 conductor 5.5 meter Valhalla. But bass transients were missing, it just sounded boom-boom-boom with stuff missing in between the beats.
There was a bigger reduction in low-level detail from a thicker cable than from a longer cable.
- The longer the Valhalla is the more of its own coloration it adds to the sound, it removes low-level detail to make it cleaner and smoother.
- A thicker Valhalla adds more body to the sound, but removes more low-level detail than a much longer cable. The reduction of low-level detail from the thicker cable doesn't make it smoother like the longer cable does, it just stays edgy.
When you are using a shorter and thicker Valhalla you get edgier and heavier sound with the illusion of transparency and dynamics. My computer now has more transparency than my modded CD transport that costs 20 times more, I don't mind the sacrifice in low-level detail when it sounds like real life.
In a proper audio system the Valhalla power cord just veils the sound. Valhalla works best with cheap and crappy gear infected with noise. People say it's insane to use a 10 times more expensive power cord than the component it is plugged into, but it's not insane, it's very smart. $3000 Valhalla power cord with $300 computer is the way to go!