The first time I ever saw Nordost cable was 20 years ago at a now-defunct high-end store in Dallas.
I looked behind a KEF 107/2 speaker and saw it was connected with this ultra-cool looking wire made of close-spaced copper strands encased in a clear, flat ribbon. It looked more like something I’d see inside a computer rather than a stereo system.
I was familiar with the KEFs, but I asked to hear them with this radically different cable. The 107/2, a pleasant floorstander that usually sounded a little dark, suddenly opened up. Percussion sparkled, the space between instruments grew, and the bass now emerged free of any thickness. It was as if the proverbial blanket had been removed from around the speakers.
“Amazing,” I said to the patient salesman.
“We’ve had the Nordost line for six months,” the salesman said with a grin.
I bought a pair of Nordost Flatline Gold speaker cables. Two decades later, that cable – now dinged, bent and scuffed up — still gets inserted into my system from time to time, and never seems to fare too badly against the likes of my now-reference Transparent XL and MIT Oracle.
Nordost, though, has come a long way since its original Flatline. Its latest state-of-the-art design, the Valhalla 2, was used to good effect in two large AudioVision SF rooms at the California Audio Show.
In one, Valhalla 2 connected Dynaudio Evidence Platinum speakers ($85,000 a pair) with the Octave MRE 220 tube monoblocks featuring KT 120 tubes ($23,000/pair), the brand-new Octave HP 700 preamp ($16,000), Octave Super Black Box power supply capacitance upgrade modules ($7000 a pair), Simaudio‘s Moon 750D DAC/transport ($14,000) and Moon 820S power supply ($8,000).
I thought the Dynaudios sounded great with an all-Moon system this spring at AXPONA in Chicago, but the added warmth from the Octave tubed gear pushed these speakers into even more rarified air.
I started with Steely Dan’s “Here at the Western World” from the group’s box set. The midtempo song, a snapshot of questionable characters trolling the seedier aspects of nightlife that seem to appeal particularly to Walter Becker, opened with good piano tone. Donald Fagen’s vocals were dead-center in the mix, and the drums, which often sound kind of muffled in the 70’s style of production, seemed crisper and packing more whallop.
After that, the friendly AudioVision associate asked if I had something else. I offered a CD single from the Cowboy Junkies. When that was done I was asked again if I had another track. This was the first time an exhibitor has ever been so generous to me at an audio show. It was a bit disorienting, in fact, and I fumbled through my bag for my remastered copy of Roxy Music’s “Avalon.”
All sounded superb.
To find out more about the newest lines of Nordost cable, the associate recommended I check out the store’s other room, which was down the hall on the first floor.
When I entered, I heard Triangle’s new Delta Signatures ($8,000) playing. Although they lacked the taller Dynaudio’s projection of image height and deep bass foundation, they had an immediacy, focus and ease that was addictive. I sat down for more.
The French speakers were being driven by an equipment rack that included a Simaudio Moon Neo 380D DAC with Mind Streamer ($5,550),
Simaudio Moon Neo 350 DPP preamp ($4,400) and
Simaudio Moon Neo 400M monoblocks, ($8,600 a pair). Also on hand was a Pear Audio Kid Howard turntable with Cornet 2 tonearm ($4,999) and
Lyra Kleos cartridge. Doing its best with the hotel’s sketchy power was the Nordost Quantum QB8 power distribution center ($1,399), as well as
Nordost Frey 2 signal and power cables. Supporting the electronics were
Quadraspire Sunoko isolation racks ($395 per shelf).
Michael J. Marko, regional sales manager for Nordost, explained to me that all of his company’s cables are still handmade in Massachusetts.
“The Valhalla 2, our flagship, came out last year,” he said. “The original took 14 years to develop. It took us 12 more years to find a way to improve it. The new cable is a big leap forward.”
Valhalla 2 features silver-plated, solid-core (said to be 99.9999999 percent pure!) copper conductors. The construction is impressive as well, with 28 individual wires arranged in four groups of seven.
Each flat wire is wrapped with a filament and surrounded in its own coat of FEP insulation that produces a dielectric that’s 80 percent air. New, proprietary hollow-plug conductors also were created.
Pricing for Valhalla 2 is $9,799 for a two-meter interconnect ($1,100 for each additional half-meter) and $11,849 for a two-meter pair of speaker cable ($1,500 for each additional meter).
The Frey 2 is said to bring some of the Valhalla 2’s advantages to a lower price point. Frey 2 uses 22 silver-plated, 99.99999 percent-pure, solid-core conductors.
Pricing for Frey 2 is $2,090 for a two-meter interconnect and $2,925 for a two-meter pair of speaker cable.
My impression of Nordost over the years is that it cannot be matched for speed, detail and microdynamics. The latest models, judging from what I heard in the AudioVision SF room, are now also rivaling the best out there for bass extension, pitch definition and refinement. They are at the top of the list for my next upgrade.