Home Demo Faceoff: Nordost / Audioquest / Transparent


I have just received home demos of 4 popular sets of high-end cables: Nordost Valhalla 2 and Frey / Audioquest Firebird Zero and Bass / Transparent Reference.  I'll be determining what to pair with my existing gear:
-B&W 803 D2-Gryphon Diablo 300, with internal DAC module and Phono Board-Mac Mini (soon to be replaced by an Innuos Zenith Mk III)-Audioquest Diamond USB cable-Van Den Hul D-352 speaker cables (while great for the price, these are why I am upgrading)

First up: Audioquest Firebird Zero Single Wire with Jupiter Jumpers and Audioquest Hurricane High Current
Definitely far more high end sizzle and an improvement over my cheap "reference" Van Den Hul cables.  Far, far more high frequencies come through but not at all harsh or shrill.  Everything at the top end has opened way up.  Sound is immersive with instruments fully formed in 3 dimensions.  Bass is incredible - lots of low end growl and detail as well.  Would describe the sound as "lush".  While everything sounds good as you can tell, overall nothing wowed me.  It was simply a few degrees better than my current cheap cables.  There was one negative aspect:  vocals did not sound quite as solid or natural as with my cheap cables.  Vocals were not "focused".  Also, there is an overall smidgen of a sense of the sound being mechanical - not organic.  It is more of a sense than something I can hear and pinpoint, but it is not 100% natural sounding.  Would still take these over my current cables, but they are not perfect.  Thought it may have been rooted in my speakers or Mac Mini, but then I heard the Nordost cables and realized my gear was not causing the slight off-ness I was detecting.  But before getting to the Nordosts, I tested the Audioquest Firebird Zero + Firebird Bass in biwire configuration.  Guess what?  More natural sounding, slightly, with overall more confident and solid tones, including vocals but apparent across all frequencies.  Bass is tighter and punchier.  Overall no change in transparency or detail, or dynamics.  While bass was more solid and punchier, as were all tones, there was not actually any more bass than the single wire version.  Overall control seemed tighter.  Is it worth the cost to biwire the Firebird?  Hell no.  The difference is incredibly subtle, and I would not suggest that people pay the money (although things could be different on your gear vs mine).  But the difference is one that I notice and it mostly solves the one weakness I sensed in the single-wire Firebird.  My wife also described that she noticed all the same differences I heard between the single-wire and bi-wire Firebirds, and she didn't know which configuration she was hearing (it was "blind").

Next up:  Nordost Valhalla 2 with Valhalla 2 Jumpers and power cord
Holy crap.  Now these wowed me.  First and foremost - I get very focused (and stressed) with testing gear and questioning and testing the validity of my own thoughts on what I hear.  Because of this I never get out of "testing mode" when I am testing.  These cables made me forget I was testing.  I just got into the music and wanted to try more and more songs that were not even in my test queue.  How do they sound?  Shockingly full of high frequency detail and treble openess, with a warm full, inviting mid and low end.  AND:  shockingly fast sound.  There is just so much high end detail coming through - and it is cool and crisp, not sharp and harsh.  The overall sound is just so natural - this combined with the fastness of the pace made it seem like the beat was faster than I recalled for each track.  Listening to these all of a sudden made me realize how artificial and awkward my system sounds with the Audioquest gear.  With the Nordost's, it is just so free flowing and natural - analogue-like.  Vocals are way better centered, and it gives a better impression that the vocalist is actually in front of you.  Sibilants in vocals are so much more pronounced, as are all upper frequencies, however there is absolutely nothing harsh about them and they are in fact very satisfying to listen to.  They are balanced by a warm and inviting midrange, with good bass.  It took some time to get used to all that upper end transparency, and actually "trust" that the sound would not become grating or harsh.  But it NEVER did, and I quickly learned to appreciate the high end detail rather than cringe and be afraid that suddenly things might get shrill sounding, which again they never did!  I just can't get over how different these sound.  Because of the fastness and high end detail, vocals have so much more life and energy.  Completely energized, as if the vocalists are actually more into the performance!  The one slight quibble is that the Nordosts don't have as much bass as the Audioquests.  Next I thought of pairing the Audioquest Hurricane power cord with the Nordost Valhalla 2 speaker wire to see if I could claw some of that Audioquest bass back while keeping the benefits of the Valhalla 2's.  The bass came back!  It was absolutely stronger and more present with the Hurricane power cord.  However.  A slight bit of the unnaturalness I mentioned also came back when using the Hurricane.  While the bass was great, overall I much prefer the natural sound when using the Nordost Valhalla 2 power cable. It is just overall easier to listen to and more satisfying.  So far the Nordost Valhalla 2's are leading the race by a longshot.  Not to mention, the Nordost's are far easier to install and are way more forgiving than the super stiff and unweildy Audioquest Firebird cables.

I have not yet tested the Nordost Frey's or the Transparent Reference cables.  I will shortly and will post my findings in the next few days.  But now I'd be shocked if the Valhalla 2's can be topped.  One final thing I would say:  the base gear in my system is quite rich and full sounding (Diablo 300 and D2 version of B&W 803's), so it is possible the Nordost's are the perfect balance for my system.  I could also see it being possible for the Nordost cables to become too much of a good thing in a different system to mine, in particular a system that already emphasizes high frequencies.  But on my system these cables sound fabulous.













nyev
But on my system these cables sound fabulous.
Well, that's all that matters.  Sounds like you have found a nice balance in your system.  I'd be interested in your thoughts on the Tranparent cables.  

Interesting results and glad to hear you found the right match for your system.
"But now I’d be shocked if the Valhalla 2’s can be topped."

nyev-since the cable thing is completely suvjective,I’ve found things after the Heimdall become increasingly subtle.

Definitely a YMMV,gear dependent call. I had the opportunity to even use Odin II in my system. Having a a $20K power cable in your system also made me think...yes, I think there is something that sounds better, there has to be?...I just don’t know what!!!

I have Heimdall/Frey from the wall to speakers. My wallet is grateful I didn’t go any higher.


Luckily, I’ve had enough experiences trying very expensive gear that I thought sounded terrible in some way or other.  So I feel like price is not a bias.  My dealer actually suggested I try the Frey as well as the Valhalla 2’s, as he thought the Frey’s were a better value.  The reason I’d be surprised if the Frey’s or Transparent’s will beat the Valhalla is simply because of how much better I liked the Valhalla’s over the AudioQuest Firebird’s, even when the Firebird’s were bi-wired.  By the way, the bi-wired Firebird’s would have cost more than the Valhalla 2’s, so there is an example where a lower cost option easily bested a higher cost option.

One thing I always do is question my own perceptions.  I listened to the Valhalla 2’s again today with fresh ears.  They were just as musical, free flowing, detailed, and easy to listen to as last night.  By the way I stayed up to 6am testing and going back and forth.  The one thing I do wonder is whether some might consider the sound of the Valhalla 2’s to be “etched”.  I don’t think so, but it is possible others might.  While the AudioQuest Firebird sound I would describe as “lush”, the Valhalla 2’s I would say are a “Natural and Dry” sound by comparison.




To expand on my prior comments, Audioquest’s Firebird/Hurricane sound, to me in my system, is lush but somehow restrained in a way that I can’t quite put my finger on, with absolutely incredible bass.  Maybe the bass is a bit too incredible.  In contrast, Nordost Valhalla 2 is dry, warm, detailed, lightning quick, and absolutely effortless.  

In short the Nordost is contributing a positive difference of a similar scale to what I found my Gryphon Diablo 300 amplifier had over many, many amplifiers and preamps that I tested at a similar price point.  This is no subtle improvement.  The scale of the difference is the equivalent of finding a perfect source component or amp for your system. No power cord or cable skeptics could deny this type of difference in sound.
I had AQ Firebird Zero a month ago for a home audition. Despite the cost of the Firebird, I found the Clarus Crimson to be a better fit in my system. The Firebird was ever so slightly cleaner, but the Crimson has better separation, bass, and overall musicality. 
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Given the comparatively low price point of the very highly rated Clarus Crimson, I’d love to test these but not possible near me I’m afraid.
Sound like a fun trial. What age of Transparent Reference are you using? MM1, MM2, Gen. 5? And are they calibrated for your equipment? The Problem with demo the Transparent is they calibrate it from the Reference level up. Having the right calibration for your equipment from the dealer is hard to find. The Calibration does improve the sound. I have demo the reference calibrated and un calibrated speaker cable and XLR. You can hear a difference between the 2.
Good luck
Hello again
I should have asked could you post the price of the cables you are demo (new price). It would be easier to evaluate if they are all close in price.
Not 100% sure of the final prices including the power cords.  But if look up these particular cables, you will see that all of these except the Frey are essentially one rung down from the top of the line from three top brands.  I should point out that the AudioQuest Hurricane power cord however is two down from Audioquest’s top of the line power cord.
nyev, if you are going to replace your speakers in not so distant future you might have to replace speaker cables as well.
Try Wywires Platinum too, or even Diamond. Wywires company doesn’t generate much noise like Nordost, Audioquest and Transparent do but it has high reputation among some of those in the know.
I recently got their Silver interconnect and this $800 cable sounds truly excellent. Believe me, I am very particular when it comes to cables.
From your description I can tell that neither the Audioquest nor the Nordost got the balance right in your system, despite that both had certain strong points. Based on what you said I woudn’t even consider either of them.
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HI
I have auditioned too many high end cables to mention in my same system for over the last 2 years. I will state with absolute honesty the best cables that are trully transparent to the source and electronics are the Townshend Audio F1 Fractal Reference cables, Max Townshend was the first to use the cyro treatment to wire which has been copied the world over, the new process is called Fractal wire, still has the cyro treatment but Max has found away to improve the performance of cyro and its called Fractal the process is done in the USA and costs 5000/6000 for 1 kg. I strongly recommend a home audition in your system of the F1 Fractal cables, you will find the speed and transparency of the Nordost but with added naturalness and dynamics. I use it and so does many reviewers in the UK, it is definitely a fit and forget cable loom without the need to try anything else. There are no matching power cords at present but Max has been designing one for the last 4/5 years. The Fractal Reference speaker cables were 40 years in the making, they were launched 14 years after the Isolda speaker cables, which for the money betters nearly everything out there, The Fractal wire is the end of the road for me, I trust my ears and know my system, plus I i have tried to many different high end cables to mention, including Odin. I could of paid for the Odin if it bettered the F1 Fractal reference, but in my system it didn’t. Townshend Audio sell direct world wide and have been manufacturing High End Audio for nearly 50 years. You should all check out their products, they are world class.
Thanks for the advice. Unfortunately I’m rather limited in trying demo cables with my equipment at home because of where I live. For that reason, I cannot try cables from Wywires or Townshend. In fact, there are only a couple of other brands I could try which are not of interest. Cableco’s lending library doesn’t help, as I live in Canada and according to their site they only lend in the US.

I’ve now completed my testing of the Nordost Frey 2 and the Transparent Reference. Here are my findings:

Nordost Frey 2: First thing I tried was pairing the Frey 2 power cord with the Valhalla 2 speaker wire to see the difference from the Valhalla 2 cord. For the first minute or so, I couldn’t hear a difference between the power cords. But I realized I was only focusing on frequency response at first. I went back and forth and found that with the Valhalla 2 cord, vocals and other tones were far more open and 3D. Overall however, when I switched to a full Frey 2 power cord and speaker cable, I was impressed! Much better than the Audioquest Firebird (biwired!) to my ears. I am thinking I am becoming a fan of Nordost. I would be happy with the Frey 2’s. Good bass, natural and relaxed sound, not harsh, good timing. However, when I switched back to the Valhalla 2’s, everything opened up, and I realized the Frey’s sound is a bit compressed in comparison. Vocal energy increased with Valhalla 2’s and everything was more lifelike and 3D. More like the singer is in the room with you. But still. You can’t go wrong with the Frey 2 for the money, and to me it beats the more expensive Audioquest Firebird/Hurricane hands down in terms of being more natural and enjoyable. Still, I cannot unhear the Valhalla 2’s now.... I’m just glad I have not tried the Odin 2’s!
Transparent Reference: Right off the bat I was impressed. Much more natural sounding than the Audioquests. Overall, these produced the "largest" sound of the cables I’ve tested. Better bass than Nordost, and high frequencies are completely open and not harsh at all. After listening to the Transparent’s across a variety of music types, I was very impressed with how big, open, and natural they sounded. One aspect that I found quite shocking is just how "clean" everything sounded. I don’t know how else to explain it; maybe the noise floor was lower or something? I just kept noticing this quality - I’d say this was the Transparent’s most striking quality. However, I did notice that some music with a lot of upper mids and high frequencies could take on a slightly harder sound. Almost too clean of a sound perhaps? In thinking about what I was hearing, I believe the Transparent cables may actually be the most "transparent" of all the cables I’ve tested, in terms of actually just disappearing and letting the source material, amplifier, and speakers speak. I definitely have a high appreciation for these cables. At one point, I was dismayed as I was thinking this race would be very, very close between the Transparent Reference’s and the Nordost Valhalla 2’s, which would mean a lot of work A/B testing.But. When I went back to the Valhalla 2’s, wow. Immediately it was a comforting, inviting, warm and detailed sound that was just SO musically satisfying. Not as much bass, and not as big of an overall sound, and maybe not as squeaky clean, but who cares. These are just engaging and during the testing, these were the cables that made me want to quit testing and just listen to music - which as I said is exactly what I did until 6am last night. One reason I think I like the Valhalla 2’s so much, and moreso than the Transparent’s, is that there is a definite warmth and smoothness to the midrange, despite being insanely peppered with "inner detail" and lightning quickness. Maybe this warmth and smoothness means the cable is doing more than it is supposed to in terms of adding its own signature. But I really like these qualities so I’d rather have them there. One thing I hadn’t mentioned about these: the dynamics and slam of midrange percussion is the best of the cables tested. There is a rhythm, impact, and drive to the midrange, while also being velvety smooth, and this just enhances overall musicality.

In short the Valhalla 2’s seem like an old, warm, inviting, favorite pair of jeans. The sound is both welcoming and inviting.

So there it is. Results:
1st place: Nordost Valhalla 2
2nd place: Transparent Reference
3rd place: Nordost Frey 2. Because of the price and also the overall sonic presentation, I’d likely pick these over the Transparent References. But the Transparent’s are undoubtedly more capable.

4th place: Audioquest Firebird (biwire) and Hurricane. This was the big surprise. Audioquest was WAY behind all the other cables I tested. And I wanted to like them. One thing I am wondering: I’m told these were among the first cables to be subjected to AQ’s new factory burn-in process. I am wondering if either 1) dealer was mistaken and these were not actually burned in, or 2) this new burn-in process doesn’t quite go all the way, meaning that these cables may not actually be fully burned in? I guess I’ll never know, but I was rather disappointed in these.
I’m sure there are many other cables out there that I would like, but I don’t have access to trying anything else, and the Valhalla 2’s actually give me far more than I was ever expecting. I was not actually that excited about upgrading cables until I heard what these can do. Now I am excited. Just not about the cost...




Also Inna, you raise a good point about a potential future upgrade of my speakers, and having to change the cables again.  I did consider this, and I have a couple of thoughts:
1)  You can say the same about the amplifier and other components.  Everything has to be matched.  So, the way I am looking at it is, if and when I upgrade my speakers, I need to find some that match ALL other components in my system, and that includes cables.
2) This next sentiment will probably pass: After listening to my system with the Valhalla 2's, not to sound cliche but to me this seems like audio nirvana.  It actually makes me NOT want to upgrade my speakers for fear of losing the qualities I am currently enjoying so much.  Of course, this will only last until I hear something better, but that's the way it goes.  Like I said, I'm just thankful I have not tested Odin 2.  It briefly crossed mind to ask the dealer for an Odin 2 demo power cord, but NO!  Not going there lol!  It's a slippery slope.
Either way, I don't actually think I'll need to upgrade my speakers for quite a while now.  I'm extremely happy with the sound with the Valhalla 2's.  And I still have an Innuos Zenith Mk III streamer that is on the way (back-ordered), so I'm expecting an improvement over my Mac Mini when this finally ships.
One of the very few here who did things right in comparingentire sets, the only way to hear cables as manufacturers intend.  :)
Thanks Douglas.  But I have to credit one of the three dealers that lent me the cables for insisting that I test full sets from each manufacturer!  
You will have fun trying an audiophile server. Digital sources have as much variance sonically as any component or sets of cables. Try at least 3 different power cords on it. 


 


@nyev,

Thanks for posting your feedback. You’re spot on with your assessment of Valhalla 2 and Frey 2’s. I believe Frey 2 sits at sweet spot within Nordost cable line. It seems Frey 2 offers 85% of Valhalla 2’s performance. Have you thought of mix n match the Valhalla 2’s and Frey 2’s to achieve best balance between performance and value? Obviously if you can afford Valhalla 2 all around, more power to you 😊

I am invested heavily in QRT system and looking forward to Nordost cable audition in next few months, I cannot afford the whole Valhalla loom but thought of starting with Valhalla 2’s PC between wall and QX4 and then to QB8. Rest of the source components on Frey’s 2 PC and IC’s. If I could afford it, maybe Valhalla 2 PC on preamp as well.

Congratulations on your purchase of Innuos Zenith Mk III streamer. 
Great great write up.  Thanks for sharing nyev!  I’m going to put nordost and transparent on the list of cables I will have to try.
Yes I’d say that is correct Lalitk that the Frey 2’s offer 85% of the performance of the Valhalla 2’s. Maybe even 90%. So yes from that perspective, a good value.
One point about the Transparent’s. They are "calibrated" by Transparent for your particular amp. My demos came from Transparent after being calibrated for my Diablo 300. Not sure exactly what they are calibrating when they do this - probably impedance. If you change your gear, Transparent will re-calibrate your cables for free, for life.
If you are an audiophile and value transparency above all else, of the cables I tested the Transparent’s are for you (they are also engaging and enjoyable as well). If you are an audiophile and value musical engagement above all else, then the Valhalla 2’s are for you with their satisfying warmth, drive, and quickness. They just make the music come alive way more than anything else I’ve heard.  And if you want the highest value, then the Frey 2's are a great choice.
The only loser in this test, unfortunately (and unexpectedly), is Audioquest.  Maybe due to my gear or my tastes.


Also regarding budget - unfortunately my original budget topped out at the cost of the Valhalla 2 speaker cables only - not the power cord as well. And, I have a new (but burnt in with 425 hours on it) AQ Hurricane which unfortunately I’m now dissatisfied with, outside of its excellent bass. Will have to sell. Might have to save up a bit for the Valhalla 2 + power cord, as now that I’ve heard it, I don’t think I can live without! I keep being thankful I’ve not tried Odin 2....  Either way, I'm set on the Valhalla 2 combo.


I did try mixing and matching the Frey / Valhalla’s. I found that the increase in performance (which was moreso with Valhalla power / Frey speaker than the other way around) provided more openness of mid and upper tones with more space around the tones. But the difference was not large enough to justify the cost. If I went Frey 2 I’d go all Frey 2. The more significant jump in performance comes when you go full Valhalla 2.  That last 10-15% in performance takes it from a great sounding system to one that is transcendent.  It is hard to believe that Odin 2 can go further, but others have validated this.  Whitecamaros went on about how much of a positive difference the Odin 2 power cord on its own made.  I've seen pro reviews say that Valhalla 2 is about 85% of what Odin 2 delivers, and if the jump is the same as what I found between the excellent Frey 2 and the Valhalla 2....  Well I can't even imagine that.  The pro review I saw mentioned that most aspects of the Valhalla 2 are the same as with the Odin 2, other than the Odin 2 having a greater sense of openness.  The funny thing is, I'd say exactly the same thing about the jump from Frey 2 to Valhalla 2.  Frey 2 provides all the same frequency response and detail of the Valhalla 2, as well as offering the same overall sonic presentation, but Frey 2 is just a bit more closed in or compressed.  Also Frey 2 may not have the same lightning quickness.  This is not a criticism of the Frey 2, and not something you notice unless you listen to the Valhalla 2.






Just imagine what Gryphon separates would do..
Yeah really a good thing I haven’t heard those too.....

I really didn’t start out looking for an integrated, but after getting one, with an integrated DAC, I appreciate the elegant minimalism vs a slew of boxes and even more cables. Just more elegant, and I don’t feel I gave up anything at all vs spending an equal amount on separates. In fact I think I got more vs separates at the same price, which is precisely why I ended up with the Diablo.

Having said that yes Gryphon separates I imagine would be in another realm of performance.....

It also proves how much performance one can get out of reasonably good speakers with great electronics and cabling. Even with the same source.
I hid my credit card and forgot where it is because there is still previous generation Gryphon Diablo 250 for sale here for $6.5k or less. The alternative to it for similar price could be old Gryphon preamp and old Mark Levinson Class A amp. Hmm..which one would be better ? Would probably depend on speakers and taste.
Yes, I was surprised that I didn’t “max out” the performance of my speakers.  Before my cable testing I thought that I may not hear that much of a difference between high end cables if my speakers (and source for that matter) were limiting performance rendering differences in cables irrelevant.  But that appears to not be the way it works, as the differences were very, very noticeable between all cables I tested.

There seems to be a problem with my Innuos order; the company does not seem able to ship their new streamers anymore.  Also, online they stopped selling them.  Seems they are having major issues with production of their new models.  Dealer said they have quality issues on the faceplates (they are catching the issues in production QA before being released).

Because of this, it may free up some funds to put towards my cable purchase.  My back-ordered Innuos is the same dealer as Nordost which makes things easier.  I know traditional theory says it makes sense to upgrade the source before cables...  But you guys didn’t hear the difference the Valhalla 2’s made.  I know upgrading from my Mac Mini will make a difference too, but I’ve not seen anyone reporting a difference on the scale I’m seeing with the Valhalla’s when they move to a dedicated streamer.

Part of the reason I’m so stuck on this upgrade now is that it is not just an increase in performance.  The overall sonic presentation just matches what I specifically am looking for.  Perfect mid bass and mid range slam with great rhythm, warmth and presence, with very crisp detailed and open highs with high energy vocal presentation.  With sibilants you get a pleasant “ssss” instead of a harsh “shhhh”.

Just found out the power cord costs more than I thought!  Not good.  I may choose to go with the Nordost Reference jumpers instead of the expensive Valhalla 2 jumpers to save some cash.  I will test the difference tonight as my dealer confirmed I can keep the demos one more day.






A very good write up!Your descriptions were easy to understand and really relatable.Many of us I imagine were nodding our heads in understanding when you mentioned "a cleaner sound".Congrats on finding just the right cables that allows you to relax and enjoy the music:)
Nice review nyev.  I have an all Nordost system with a mix of Valhalla2 and Odin1.  While you are at it you should ask your retailer to let you demo Sort Fut and Sort Kones (TC)....I also have an Innuos Zenith mk2 SE that I really like.  I had an Aurender but sold it and much prefer the Innuos.  It's worth the wait.
Okay, with multiple individuals, on a HiFi equipment forum of all places where people discuss gear that costs more than cars, basically going “whoa dude, slow down, that’s too much money”, that is giving me a reason to be concerned :)

As such I tried pairing the Transparent Reference power cord with the Valhalla 2 speaker wire.  The  Transparent cord is WAY less expensive than the Valhalla 2.  And guess what, it worked!

While I definitely heard a bit less space and breath around vocals, the bass and focus that was missing with the Valhalla 2 cord came back!  And I still had the accessible warm sound from the Valhalla 2.  I actually think I like the sound slightly better this way.

I did not notice a difference switching between the “cheap” Nordost Reference and expensive Valhalla 2 jumpers, after switching back and forth a few dozen times and imagining I was hearing differences.  Maybe I did hear some differences but I couldn’t quite  pinpoint them.  It is possible the much cheaper Reference jumpers were thinner in the mids, which made them seem like there was actually better separation of tones.  Again not sure if I was imagining this.... So another place I can save.

Finally, I did one last test of my Audioquest Hurricane cord vs the Transparent Reference cord to further pinpoint what I don’t like about the Hurricane.  In short I found the Hurricane to be a bit bloated by comparison.  Bass not as tight, upper frequencies were missing, and there was a slight accentuation in the mids that can be annoying.

So unexpectedly Thecableco may be shipping me a demo of the Audience au24sx cables, which I didn’t think was possible as I am in Canada.  These cables along with the Clarus Crimson’s are the only two cables left that I’d really like to try before committing to the Transparent/Nordost combo.  Seeing as it seems I will get to test the Audience cables, I think I need to find a way to demo the Clarus Crimson’s...
Just a few comments regarding Valhalla 2 cables. Against my better judgement I recently was enticed by a big discount to purchase two power cords and 2 interconnects. The Valhalla replaced a very fine set of AQ Fire interconnects. I thought the Fires were the end of the road until I put in the Valhalla. The overriding difference was very easy to distinguish. The Nordost produced a larger vocal image that was projected forward with respect to the soundstage. This effect simply made vocals and the sound in general quite exciting to listen to. Frankly I was a little scared of Nordost because of prior general comments that their cables were lean and not that musical. This would never be said of V2. Never.
I mixed the two power cords with Shunyata Sigma to great effect. However one big caveat. The V2 is demonstrably less weighty sounding than the Sigma. No doubt about it. Therefore breaking the rules I mix and match in order to get weight and excitement. It took some time but I have it set up to my taste. I personally think that using all V2 power cords would be to lightweight to satisfy.
So summation is that V2 makes music more fun to listen to by projecting vocals forward in a natural way much like some tube amps. All audiophile boxes are checked. Would I recommend anyone spending this kind of money on cables? I can’t do that even though they are the best I’ve ever heard. Just too expensive. But they are really good as they absolutely should be.


Hi 4425, wow, you described the EXACT same experience I had comparing the Valhalla 2’s vs others. I didn’t phrase it that way but you are spot on describing the slightly forward presentation while still being warm and musical but with less bass.

I found that replacing the Valhalla 2 power cord with other power cords while keeping the Valhalla 2 speaker cables completely solves the bass issue, at the expense of losing a hair of detail in the mids and high frequencies.

I am now testing a few more cables from TheCableCo - Audience au24 SX as I mentioned, and at their recommendation Synergistic Research Atmosphere Euphoria X. With these two sets including matching power cords, I will also be testing one power cord model up from both brands.

Synergistic is interesting as they said they (TheCableCo) have first hand experience with it being paired with Gryphon at shows. And, it is quite interesting in that you can tune the shielding with different attachments to change to a cool, balanced, or warm presentation. Also it only costs $200 more to upgrade to biwire.

For Clarus Crimson it may be difficult for me to test. I found a dealer who can help, but Clarus told him I’d need to buy the cable, at list price, and then return it. This is not a problem in itself, but as I’m in Canada I’d need to pay import duty. If I return it, I don’t know that I’d get back the import duty. Not to mention, I’d lose the 5% deposit from TheCableCo for borrowing their cables and then not purchasing from them.

To to make matters a bit more complicated, Clarus told my dealer their pricing is going up by 50% June 1st as they have not raised prices in 5 years. So while I’d really like to test Clarus it may be too difficult.


I listened to the top of the line nordost power cord  (17k) in axpona being compared to audioquest storm (800$)
Just like you guys describe nordost , very transparent but definitively too much treble. The system was vandersteen quatros driven by audio research. Without a doubt a more musical system than B&Ws which to me are a little on the analytical side. 
I would take the audioquest any day!!!!!
thank u for the report
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Aren’t the Valhalla cables $12,499.  These cost more than your speakers?  Do people in this hobby spend more on speaker cables than their speakers?  I wouldn’t be able afford these.  This must be a very wealthy group.
Not to muddy the waters of this excellent report but add a suggestion to others and their budgets... there has been no mention of the fine Nordost Tyr 2 model.  My dealer, who has a great ear and listens to this stuff all day long, characterized the Tyr 2 as the equivalent of the Valhalla 1.  It'a construction is very similar to Valhalla and may be the value purchase of the Nordost high end.
I've ended up with AQ's Hurricane power (after my personal shootout of eight power cords from my collection, Cable Company and the Nordost dealer up to $4K) and Nordost's Tyr 2 speaker cables.  IC's are Wireworld solid silver.  All of this is system dependent.  I'm running Conrad-Johnson's best Pre and Power with a dCS Debussy DAC.  All good.  Thanks and enjoy!
Just read Larry's comment above.  I would add, with a bit of effort, you don't need to pay full price for Nordost cables.  And, most high end models are available cheaper yet on the used market.  But, to Larry's comment... In the end it's about your money and your ears. 
Thanks All, I am definitely taking everyone’s input into consideration.  The Valhalla’s are actually quite a bit lower than why Larry quoted after the dealer discount.  Also I only need 6ft per side so that helps.

But due to input from others I am being cautious and testing more cables from Audience and Synergistic, to see if I can achieve the same result at a lower cost.  Like I said up-front, all cables cost too much!  But maybe the Valhalla 2 prices are a bit too much.  Hopefully I will get good results with the other options.

 I still have the AudioQuest Firebird biwire demos and have been listening more to them.  Which are actually the priciest combo I’ve tested, in the biwire configuration way more than Valhalla 2 in single wire configuration.  Which is not a fair price comparison but just to show that more dollars doesn’t translate directly to improved sound.

The AudioQuest cables are capable but I just can’t get past the feeling of sluggishness and lack of high frequency openness....  Also they are far and away the most difficult to work with of any cable I’ve tried.  They are big and unwieldy.
Fun thread to read and thanks for sharing your detailed a/b comparisons. I agree with post above that Tyr2 can be the sweet spot in the line-up for some.  Per my communications with Nordost:  Tyr 2 is based on V1 but a little better. We changed the winding of the mono-filament so the conductor doesn't spiral anymore and the cable is about 10-15% better than V1.

My cable swapping has led me to a mix currently of Frey2, Tyr2, and Odin1 PCs, Tyr2 ICs and V2 speaker cables. I really enjoyed the added warmth and openness that the Frey2s and Tyr2s introduced (had moved up from Red Dawns and Heimdall2s).  I do not feel my system lacks bass at the moment.  Would have loved to have experimented with an entire 'loom' of say V2s, but unfortunately, could not.
Question for Valhalla 2 / Frey 2 or Tyr 2 owners, do you find speakers cables are the hardest cables to work with? I found them to be pretty stiff and possibly pose a bit of challenge in tight spaces. 
You may want to check these out. Under the radar, Fantastic product - may be the last cables you ever invest in. 

THALES
http://www.tonarm.ch/
http://www.aaudioimports.com/ShowBrand.asp?hBrand=30
I started with Audioquest when I first started this hobby. I moved into 
some Nordost products, and found them to be very detailed but limited bass. I then invested in Transparent cables. They were my go to for years until I was introduced THALES. I never looked back. A fraction of the price of everything you auditioned -.  IMHO - definitely worth checking out.
The High Fidelity cables are the WORST I have ever heard.  I am a beta tester for GroverHuffman cables and have found that in multiple systems, they sound BAD.  Not good and not just mediocre.  I've heard Nordost, Cardas, Shuyata, Transparent, Synergistic Research, Wireworld, Triode, Kimber, Audioquest, Kubala Sosna, Jorma et. al.  Sometimes the higher end cables require matching to components when they sounded good, other times, I heard mediocre sound from high end Transparent and Nordost.  No, by far the worst was High Fidelity cables.  Huge magnets in the signal pathway are a no, no in audio.  
I recently tried High Fidelity CT-2 power cords. I agree with Fleschler.
It's been obvious from the beginning that the first power cord to try for Gryphon Diablo is Gryphon Reference power cord. I would guess that Stage III would work very well too, maybe even better than Gryphon.
Speaker cables you match much more with speakers, Diablo won't care much.
I want to make sure that my prior comment was read correctly that the High Fidelity cables sound BAD, not GroverHuffman cables which in the Pharoah generation of the past several years, are tremendous values and high end cabling for speakers, A/C and ICs.  
I would really like to test the Gryphon power cord and cables.  My dealer said that wasn’t possible.  Guessing Gryphon’s NA distributor is not able or willing to facilitate the demo.  Maybe I’ll try contacting the distributor directly.  But I’m not holding my breath on being able to try these in North America.

Gryphon is one of the handful of companies that are equally respected for their source and amplifier components as well as their transducers.  So it is reasonable to assume they make good cables too.


Also, regarding the Tyr 2, I’d probably just go for the Valhalla 2 over Tyr 2, if I was already about to spend that much.  But hoping the Audience will come through and be what kind an looking for at a lower price when I get to test.

Im also thinking of just going ahead with the Clarus Crimson  purchase, with the ability to return.  Yes I will need to pay import duty and taxes, but after researching I found I can get these fees back from Canada but I need to submit a form and prove I returned the goods.  Pain in the butt but I feel like I won’t have evaluated all possibilities otherwise.  And, the Clarus cost is going way up on June 1st.
@nyev   Are you interested in the Clarus Crimson speaker cables or power cords.  I own two Clarus Crimson HC power cords.  If you're interested, I can offer my perspective.