Welcome to CANADA HiFi’s Special Nordost Section
Helping You Realize the Full Potential of Your Audio System
If you have upgraded some of the cables in your audio system than you are already aware of the difference that high quality cables can make. If on the other hand, you’ve never tried higher quality cables in your system, we encourage you to give it a try and discover the improvements for yourself. Many music lovers are astonished to discover how significantly better and more realistic music sounds with good cables and accessories in their system. So what’s the best approach to upgrading the performance of your system? Start by doing some research on the topic because not all cables and audio accessories are made equally. While there are a number of very well regarded cable and accessory manufacturers, there are also plenty of manufacturers that make unjustified claims about their products. Before upgrading any parts of your system, we recommend reading articles and reviews from a few reputable sources.
Just as with loudspeakers and audio components, it is always best to audition cables and accessories if possible. Nothing compares to hearing with your own ears whether an audio product or accessory improves the sound of a system. In some cases, certain components and accessories change the sound of a system, rather than improving it, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. In the worst cases, some products actually degrade the sound. A regional show, where dozens of companies showcase their latest gear, is a great place to hear demonstrations of various audio components and cable products. Most audio video retailers will also gladly demonstrate the sonic improvements that a well matched cable can bring to an audio system.
In this feature article, we would like to expand your knowledge on the subjects of cables, power products and resonance control devices. We would like to also introduce you to Nordost, one of the most respected audio and video cable makers in the world, and its wide range of products. Finally we also address some of the common questions that you might have as a music listener and reader of this magazine.
Nordost’s humble beginning dates back to 1991 in Massachusetts, as a cable manufacturer specializing in the audio field, utilizing precision conductor solutions first developed for the aerospace industry. All Nordost product designs have a firm foundation that starts with scientific research and development, and finishes with extremely precise building techniques. The company’s design philosophy is to produce cables that have a low mass design, with an optimal signal transfer and perfect impedance matching. The company understands that cables, by nature are filters. It is therefore their goal to filter the sound as little as possible so that you are left with an impression of the music, not of the cabling. Its first product, the Flatline Gold speaker cable introduced in 1992, is a perfect example of this, deriving technology originally used by NASA for their space shuttle program which resulted in a cable that was extremely durable with a geometry that offered impressively low capacitance and inductance while achieving very high signal speeds. For more than two decades now, Nordost has continued to push the envelope of cable design and technology, in turn improving the performance of audio systems around the world. Today, Nordost offers a full range of analog and digital audio and video cables, as well as numerous power products and resonance control devices designed to improve the sound of audio systems. Nordost proudly designs and manufactures all of its products in Massachusetts, USA.
Now let’s take a look at some of the common questions and concerns that audio and video enthusiasts might have about cables. The topics below are explained thanks to insights and answers provided by Nordost.
What benefits can you expect by upgrading the cables in your system?
Swapping the OEM cables that came inside the box with your component with upgraded cables can go a long way to unleashing the true power of your audio or home theatre system. In a music system, you can expect a number of improvements in the overall level of performance. Nordost cables typically offer a much lower noise floor, allowing you to hear significantly more musical details and a soundstage that stretches wider, deeper and taller - in addition to having a better definition. This means that instruments and voices will sound richer and more accurate. The soundstage will offer more air and you’ll be able to distinguish the placement of the vocals and various instruments within the soundstage as you would in a live performance. Nordost cables also offer an increased coherency in the timing, and dimension.
In a home theatre system, you can expect the same kind of sonic improvements. Additionally when using Nordost’s American-made HDMI cables, there will be less of a delay when switching speaker channels, as well as increased picture depth and dimensionality. As a result you will find yourself more immersed sonically and visually in your movies and TV programming, making the experience more realistic.
Which cables should I upgrade first in my system? A recommended cable upgrade path
Nordost recommends upgrading cables in the following order - power cables, interconnects (digital and/or analog) and speaker cables. Following this upgrade path will help to establish a firm foundation on which you can build your audio or video system. Proper distribution of AC power and ground has the greatest effect on your system’s performance and sets the sonic signature of the system. Your upgrades should follow the flow of the audio signal.
Power lines run for hundreds of miles before reaching your home, and then all throughout your home before they reach your audio equipment. How can the last 6 feet of the power delivery system (the power cable) make a difference in your system?
A better way to think about this, is that the power cable that comes out of your wall is actually the first 6 feet of your audio or video system. The sound that reaches your ears is in fact AC power that has been sculpted by your audio components into musical frequencies. If you feed your system with unclean power what you’ll end up with is sound performance that lacks in many areas. Therefore, feeding clean power to your components is critical and starts with the power cord of your power strip or conditioner.
So how can a Nordost power cable improve the performance of your system?
Our homes are filled with RF interference which can be easily picked up by inadequately designed power cables, which in turn introduces grain and pollution, and raises the source impedance of the AC power. Nordost cables are designed to avoid these specific issues.
At CANADA HiFi we always recommend connecting your audio or video system to a dedicated power outlet in your home. This will provide a clean power foundation for your system, by ensuring that home appliances, lights and other devices don’t share the same power circuits and pollute the AC that you feed into your system.
What is better - a balanced (XLR) or unbalanced (RCA) connection?
There are different ways of implementing balanced connections in audio components and as a result the balanced output performance of one component can vary significantly compared to another. Balanced connections are typically used in sound studios that are often electrically congested environments and where long cable runs are required. In home audio systems we normally use much shorter cables. If you’re not sure what connection to choose, the best thing to do is to let your ears be the judge.
Does the length of a power cable, interconnect or speaker cable matter?
Within reason according to Nordost, the longer the cable run, the better. That’s because Nordost carefully constructs its cables in specific lengths that offer optimal performance. The optimal length of each cable is defined by how a particular cable is constructed, and hence varies by type and model of cable. The exact cable lengths in your system will be dictated by the placement of your components and the size of your listening space.
Does Nordost have a trade up program?
Yes, Nordost dealers do offer a trade up program across its range of products. Please contact your local Nordost dealer for details.
Meet the Nordost range of cables
Nordost offers a diverse range of cable products, well suited for all audio and home theatre systems and budgets. Its cables are arranged into four product families - Leif, Norse 2, Reference and Supreme Reference. Each successive family builds upon the technology used in the previous, improving the performance as you move up the lines.
• The Leif family is comprised of the White Lightening, Purple Flare, LS Blue Heaven and LS Red Dawn products. This series utilizes a solid cable core, silver-plated conductors, FEP insulation, mechanically tuned construction and proprietary connectors.
• The Norse 2 family is comprised of the Heimdall 2, Frey 2 and Tyr 2 products. This series uses all of the above plus Nordost’s proprietary Micro Mono-Filament cable construction, mechanically tuned lengths and patented MoonGlo connectors.
• The Valhalla Reference family consists of the Valhalla and Valhalla 2 products. This series uses all of the above but upgrades to Dual Mono-Filament construction, proprietary Holo:Plug connectors and uses asymmetrical grounding on interconnects.
• The Odin Supreme Reference is Nordost’s flagship family of cables. This series uses all of the above (with the exception of the Holo:Plug) and adds TSC (Total Signal Control) technology and ART (Advanced Resonance Technology).
Nordost resonance control devices - why is resonance control important in your system?
It’s no secret that mechanical vibration degrades the performance of individual components and whole sound systems drastically. One way to minimize this negative effect is through the use of isolation devices, separating the component from outside forces that would harm sound integrity. Nordost, however, takes a different approach to solving this problem. The company believes that the most harmful mechanical energy doesn’t enter the equipment from the outside - it’s generated internally by audio circuits and power supplies in components, as well as drivers and crossovers in loudspeakers. To solve these problems Nordost has developed a range of resonance control devices. Both Nordost’s Sort Kones and Sort Füt units are mechanically tuned resonance control devices that act as mechanical diodes, creating a direct ground path that allows extraneous energy to escape from the electronics. Without these disruptive vibrations, your system will sound more natural and lifelike, your music more lively and engaging. You will be left exceedingly satisfied with the performance achieved by your audio system.
Nordost QRT power products - what sonic improvements can they bring to your system?
Nordost QRT power products are designed to alleviate the impact of poor quality AC power on your sensitive electronics. They accomplish this by limiting the RFI (radio frequency interference) and timing errors associated with the AC line, as well as preventing time delay and distortion of the AC signal. The result is AC power that is closer to the desired “distortion-less condition” all without limiting the peak current that’s required by your electronics. The QRT power product range consists of the QBase Power Distribution Bars, the QX power purifiers, the QV2 AC Line Harmonizer and the QKoil QK1 AC Enhancer. With the use of QRT products in your system you can expect to hear a lower noise floor, an increased image depth with a tighter focus, a wider soundstage, improvement in the overtones, more accurate pacing of the music, a greater dynamic range and a more fluid musical expression.
In a very competitive market, with diverse technologies and designs, what differentiates Nordost’s products from other manufacturers? What advice would you give to consumers who are shopping for cables/accessories?
Nordost puts a premium on research, and thanks to this focus, the company has been able to separate itself from its competitors by introducing revolutionary technologies such as the Micro Mono-Filament construction, the Dual Mono-Filament construction and a variety of proprietary connectors, such as the HOLO:PLUG. Nordost also uses extruded FEP, the most effective insulation in the industry due to its low loss signal and high thermal efficiency, in its cable designs. The company is meticulous in the production of its cables and accessories, and the details that go into the construction of every finished product that leaves its facility.
When shopping for cables and accessories, Nordost advises consumers to “try before you buy”. Nordost is a huge proponent of demonstrating cables so that you can hear the differences that the cables make in your system before purchasing them. Every Nordost dealer is outfitted with the cables needed to provide their customers with a valuable demonstration of Nordost products.
Has cable design & engineering reached its peak? Or are there opportunities for further advancement?
Nordost believes that there is no end to the innovation possible in cable design. Thanks to the company’s unwavering focus on research and development, its team is constantly finding areas to advance the industry and to push the “sonic boundaries”, so to speak. The company is exceedingly enthusiastic about the solutions that they are going to be able to provide to music listeners in the future.
Valhalla 2 Cables: Since the introduction of the original Valhalla cables fourteen years ago, it has become a benchmark for performance in the consumer electronics industry and a great success for Nordost. However, over the years Nordost has been able to develop cutting edge production techniques and technological innovations that both improve the quality and precision of the manufacturing process and propel the capabilities of the products to previously unattainable levels. Valhalla 2 Cables use the company’s Dual Mono-Filament technology, along with an innovative, proprietary connector called the HOLO:PLUG, designed to be the best possible interface between the cable and the component. The combination of these two ground-breaking technologies allows Nordost products to perfectly match the company’s philosophy of low mass design, optimal signal transfer and perfect impedance matching. Valhalla 2 cables are available as analog, digital and tonearm interconnects, as well as loudspeaker and power cables.
Sort Füt: The Sort Füt is a mechanically tuned resonance control device designed to improve the performance of your loudspeakers and audio racks. Its proprietary construction, consisting of four parts, eliminates unwanted mechanical vibration by providing a direct grounding path. This allows extraneous energy to escape from the loudspeakers and racks. Employing the Sort Füt in your system significantly reduces intermodulation distortion, allows propagation of musical information, and increases tonal and textural details that will allow your system to achieve its full dynamic range potential. The Sort Füt is available both as an individual unit and in a Premium Package of 4 units, which includes an adjustment tool, a laser leveling system and detailed instructions necessary to get any system sorted with ease and precision.
Blue Heaven HDMI Cable: When choosing an HDMI cable you want the best picture, the best sound, and complete reliability. The Blue Heaven HDMI cable is your answer. What makes the Blue Heaven HDMI so superior? That’s simple: technology and consistency. Nordost’s proprietary Micro Mono-Filament technology creates a precision wound cable with superb geometrical accuracy and consistency, combined with exceptional electrical and mechanical characteristics for low-loss, high-speed data transmission. Additionally, the Blue Heaven HDMI cable is entirely manufactured and hand-terminated in the USA, allowing Nordost to govern the quality and consistency in every step of the process. The Blue Heaven is the only HDMI cable that can make this claim and it shows clearly in the results - it exceeds the HDMI standard and has gained the demanding DPL Seal Of Approval.
Discover the world of Nordost products online
We invite you to unlock the full potential of your audio or home theatre system by exploring the full range of Nordost cables, resonance control devices and power products at www.nordost.com.