Acoustic Zen vs. Nordost

I am thinking of changing my Acoustic Zen Satori speaker cables for Nordost Red Dawn. I am not at all unhappy with my present setup, but I am wondering if I could bump it up a little.

My system:
Dynaudio Contour S3.4
Krell 400xi
Meridian G 08 CD
Red Dawn Interconnects
Listen almost exclusively to classical music.

Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.
Jec, I have directly compared these speaker cables in my system and found the AZ Satori to have everything the Nordost Red Dawn had to offer, but were much more balanced top to bottom and were more "musical/organic" than the Nordost wires. I find all the Nordost cables to be very detailed, fast, and transparent but not very pleasant to listen to because of an overall sense of being in your face. Critics, of my opinion, retort that the Nordost wires are so revealing that I'm just discovering some short coming in my upstream gear. I disagree, based on the type of pieces that are in my system, along with hearing other reference level systems with and without the top of the line Nordost wires compared to other wires, including the new AZ Absolute wires. It's all personnal taste/synergy anyways, so take my opinion with a grain of salt and try a home audtion and tell us what your ear's tell you.
Well, everthing depends on your preference, in your system, in your room. But I had red dawn speaker wire and IC. I replaced it with the Satori and matrix ic. In my system, single-ended solid state using newforms r8-2's the AC was simply more full, more musical, more relaxing. The AC has a rather harmoically, and timbre correct presentation in my system. I believe I've had them for 4 years or so now. The red dawn is beautifully made but sounded too leading edge and thin with my ribbons,too little meat on the bones, so to speak. Perhaps in a tube system the red dawn would be better. Just what I heard. I would suggest don't do it but that's just my opinion. Happy listening.
no to the nosrdost, maybe yes to others, better stay where you are.IMHO.
Nordost cables and Valhalla in particular impart an edgy or grainy character I find fatiguing. I don't want to hear all of the resolution and revealing crap espoused by Nordost advocates who use these cables as tone controls to ameliorate other deficiencies in their system. Other brands such as Acoustic Zen, Stealth, Audience, Luminous, Ridge Street, VD, PAD, etc. offer outstanding resolution without the pain. Acoustic Zen is a great choice.
If you are able to, try out Cardas Golden Cross or Golden Reference... see what happens.
Judy426, you state:
Nordost cables and Valhalla in particular impart an edgy or grainy character I find fatiguing. I don't want to hear all of the resolution and revealing crap espoused by Nordost advocates who use these cables as tone controls to ameliorate other deficiencies in their system.
HUH?!! You can't have it both ways! The one thing that you CAN'T do with Valhallas is use them for "tone controls"! They are merciless for their resolution and micro-dynamics. Edgy or grainy...NO WAY! You've got other problems in your system that the Valhallas are revealing. It is you, who are in fact, are seeking to use cables as a tone control. Not that there is anything wrong with using cables to compliment the synergy of a system, or that the other cables you mention are "inferior".

The complaint voiced most often about Valhallas is their thinness in the bass region. I have not noticed this to be true, but again "system synergy" is the key.
I dont buy the revealing statement, that the cable is exposing the system problems.
An experiment can be made. Put a record with one or two instruments that you know the timbre very well. First listen with a cable like the AZ and there is a violin and a cello. Then enter the Red Dawn a the violin and cello are gone. It's like - now you have it, now you dont. And you say that the Red Dawn is telling the truth! Strange.
If we put a better uncoloured cable, we shoul have a more truthful violin and cello, not a fizzi tizzy little thing.
The Red Dawn can do good things in the TIME departement, but others do it too without the TIMBRE problems.
Fatparrot, I am with you. Judy426's system must be edgy or grainy, as all Valhalla does is let in the inherent strengths or weakness of your system shine.
Valhalla in my system sounds warm, dynamic and musical - just like my TT and VTL/cj amps. I have heard Valhalla sounding brittle and bright, however that was something else in the system that was not balanced.

Most other cables have a "sound" that is imparted to the system when ever you insert the cables. Whether that is bass wamrth, treble extension or wahatever it is always consistent to a degree.
These I am afraid are more tone controls than Valhalla ( not that there is anything worng with that :)
See I told you, anytime someone doesnot like Nordost Valhalla the fans of this over priced/praised wire always retort that the "bright/thin/kinda-in-your face" quality is because the Valhalla is revealing whats wrong with your system. The only systems that I ever heard Valhalla sound good in was with tube gear, where their a tone control decreasing the fat/overly warm sound of the tubes. I believe that Nordost is one of the "scared cows" of high end audio, if you don't like it in your system, its not the cable, but something is wrong with your gear upstream.
Seurat, I was referring to the Valhalla not the Red Dawn [which I have also used]. The Valhalla is in another league way above the Red Dawn. However, using either the Red Dawn or Blue Heaven will give one a sense of the sonics of the upper echelon Nordost cables. I have heard that the Red Dawn Revision 2 is superior to the original Red Dawn. BTW, I have heard that Acoustic Zen is also a highly regarded cable in the audio community.

Teajay, have you actually tried the Valhallas [I was somewhat confused by your post]? I tend to agree that Valhallas probably may be more tube friendly. However, I disagree with your premise! At the risk of starting another war, most SS rigs that I have heard have a grainy. etched, or brittle sounding high end when compared to tube rigs. At my last CES [2004], Nordost Valhallas were everywhere! And while reviews should always be taken with a grain of salt, there seems to be a majority of reviewers who rave about the Valhallas. As for your comment that these cables are "overpriced", might I remind you that price and value are relative concepts, and the manufacturing process of Valhallas is rather labor intensive.

But as we all know, synergy is that great elusive "missing link" that transforms a good system into a great one!
Yes Fatparrot, I did a home audtion of the Valhallas, starting with my digital front end all the way through to my speakers. Of all the different cables I audtioned, the Nordost cables were some of my least favorites, even compared to far less expensive wires. If you look up my system here on the GON, I don't think I disliked it because of some weak link that was being exposed by the Valhallas. We both know all our opinions revolve around personnal taste and system synergy, but I still think Nordost wires are vastly overrated and I don't accept the premise their so expensive because they are labor intense to manufacture. Hogwash! The critics say they love them and gave them great market value. I have at least three very good eared audiophile friends who did lengthy home audtions and could not believe how poor the sound to cost ratio was compared to other companies wires. So, I respect your opinion, you heard what you heard no doubt, I just hear it very differently than you.
Teajay says: but I still think Nordost wires are vastly overrated

Bingo!! There is a plethora of choices that offer better sonics at a much lower cost.
Reviews??? Spare me!!!!
After reading the responses to my post, I have just about been dissuaded from the Nordosts. BUT, I still have the upgrade bug.
Would the AZ Hologram wires offer any wothwhile improvement over the Satori? Thanks everybody.
Find a dealer that will allow you to evaluate both of them in your system. It is the ONLY way to know. Pay no attention to price and/or published reviews; let your ears be the judge.
Good listening!!
The Nordost cables with Solid State Gear make me think of the Triangle Speaker Sound. Thin, Fast, yet Mechanical and hard sounding. Completely unenjoyable in my book.

With your system, I would be looking at the Acoustic ZEN, Audience, or even the higher end Cardas stuff...

Teajay, thanks for clarifying that you did indeed try the Valhallas. You state:
We both know all our opinions revolve around personal taste and system synergy...
Bravo! This is one of the simplest yet least understood tenant in obtaining audio nirvana!

So, what do you mean by the term "in your face"?

Why were the Valhallas the least favorite that you and your friends auditioned? Is your negative experience due to the actual sonics, or could your opinion of overpricing possibly have biased your results [this is NOT a put-down of your audio experience or expertise, it's simply human nature! That's why "double-blind" testing is so important for achieving objective results!]

Which AZ model did you chose? What other cables did you think beat the Valhallas? I might try doing a shootout on my own system.
Fatparrot, the reason I used the term "in your face", is twofold: 1) The soundstage in my system moved forward and lost depth at the same time. 2) I found the Valhallas to be very detailed but lacked natural sounding timbres and were somewhat bright in my system. That's one of the main reasons that individuals with somewhat layed back tubey sounding systems found them so appealing in my opinion. I recently upgraded from AZ Silver reference II/ Matrix referenceII and Satori speaker wire to Mr. Lee's new reference called the Absolute and have nothing but sonic pleasure from having them in my system. I posted a review here on the GON if you your interested in more details. Thanks for the fun and friendly discourse on this topic.
Jec...I have compared the Hologram II with the Satori (mono), and in my setup, I find the Hologram II to be more open, offering greater depth in the soundstage, and just sounding a little more engaging. I have not tried comparing the shotgun bi-wire versions.

Note: I am an AZ dealer
Call the folks at and get yourself introduced to the Cable Lending Library.
I've compared Valkyrja, Valhalla, AZ Absolute, and Stealth Indra in a system I'm very familiar with (not my own, but I've spent many, many hours listening to it) and 2 other systems I've listened to quite a bit. From what I've heard, the AZ Absolute is roughly equal in quality to the Nordost Valkyrja, though depending on the system, either could be a better match. Looking at Teajay's system, I'd guess the AZ would be the better match, based on what I've heard. However, I preferred the Nordost to the Acoustic Zen in all 3 systems. I've only heard the Indra in one system, but in this case it was an order of magnitude better than any other cable I've experienced.

The Acoustic Zen Absolute did some things very well... it's more dynamic than the Valhalla, though I'm not sure I felt the added dynamics sounded entirely natural to my ear. They do some instruments very well, especially acoustic guitar. However, they added an annoying edge to vocals that I didnt like. That edge on the vocals alone would be enough for me personally to rule them out, but I felt the Valhallas were better in almost every other category.

When it comes to cables, I don't think there's ever going to be an absolute best. System synergy and listener taste are far more important than anything else. Even in a hypothetical system with no weaknesses, some listeners are going to prefer colorations of the sound, and some no coloration at all. My preference is Stealth Indra, followed by Nordost Valhalla. I feel these cables let the music through with no detremintal effects (Indra) or very few (Valhalla). I am not aware of anything I can recommend more highly, but if your tastes differ from mine it's entirely possible that you may hate both.
Steve01s4, I'm confused by your post...Was it the AZ Absolute or the Nordost Valhallas that added the "edge to the vocals"? Why did you prefer the Indiras over the Valhallas, in the systems that you auditioned? [Your stereo set-up is quite impressive, BTW!] Also, you list Nordost Quattro-fils as your IC's, and SPMs as your cables. Still using them, or have they been replaced with something more to your liking? And you might try upgrading your Devil Duckie to the Purgatory Penguin, which is the cryo'd version :-)
SteveOls4, thanks for sharing your opinion regarding your experiences with the Nordost, AZ, and Stealth cables. Just three questions and a statement concerning your post:1) What gear composed the system that you listened/compared the three wires on? 2) What is in my system gear wise that made you believe that the AZ would be a better match than the other wires? 3) You are the first person that I know who has ever stated that AZ sounds "rough" on vocals, which happens to be one of the cables great strenghs, so what music/vocals did you listen to when audtioning the different wires? 4) The statement. Do you realize that the Nordost/Stealth cables cost around 4 to 6 thousand dollars more than the top of the line AZ Absolute cables! They better sound better for the price difference, but this would go back to my postion regarding that Nordost is a seriously over priced regarding cost/performance ratio and the Stealth cables make the Nordost almost seem like a $ bargain. So, besides the always present factors of personnal taste/system synergy I would still suggest that Nordost is very overpriced when compared to performance vs. cost ratio when compared to other great sounding wires. Hope to hear from you regarding my questions, I will thank you in advance and wait for your response.
The thread seems to be getting away from the question, namely Acoustic Zen against Nordost Red Dawn. Well I changed from Red Dawn to Acoustic Zen and have never looked back. I agree with other posts, the cheaper Nordost are fast but dry and tonally bleached out. The AZ cables have body, accuracy right across the frequency range and a rich tonal palette. I agree with another post, you can tell a cello from a violin. Ultimately, cables are a very personal thing, AZ are really excellent, but it's down to your ears and system in particular. To compare AZ Silver or Matrix reference against the Valhalla, is'nt really fair, the price differential is huge, even for the Absolute. As to the question of changing Sartori to Hologram, I would say no, they are basically the same but voiced for different speakers. Excuse me if I'm wrong, but Hologram for 2 ways, Sartori Shotgun for 3 ways. I use the Hologram with AZ jumpers and am quite happy.
As others have said, I think Nordost are overhyped, especially in the UK and HiFi Plus in particular, who seem not to realise there are any other top grade cable manufacturers. As for the power cables, well at least the Vishnu, deeply unimpressed
I just can throw in my spare comment. I use(d) AZ Silver Ref. II and replaced it with Nordost TYR recently. TYR smokes the AZ in every aspect although the AZ is a great cable. On the same high level (compared to TYR) but slightly different is the new Shunyata Antares Helix that I use as well.
I used Red dawn interconnects, not speaker cables and changed to Acoustic Zen, but Silver reference and Hologram, not matrix. I have heard up to SPM in another system. I agree with the concensus(some on the Nordost side though), it is no contest, the Acoustic Zen is a clear winner. The Nordost are fast, but that is it for me. The Zen are much richer, the Nordost seem tonally bleached in comparison. I have always thought that Nordost are expensive and overhyped, but as ever, cables are a matter of personal preference. As an aside, I find the Silver reference a big step up from Matrix