a guest May 1st, 2016 223 Never
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- Nordost Demo Mysteries…Solved! Part II
- By Mark Waldrep
- This post is a continuation from yesterday. You can read the first part by clicking here.
- Then I sat through the power cord swap out demo. I sat in the front row of their demo room. The presenter swapped out the power cord to the disc player…and only the disc player. He started with a simple IEC power cord, which probably cost about $1.50. He played about 30-45 seconds of a track from the CD. He stopped the player and turned off the power to the unit. He connected a $200 power cord from the Nordost product line. He powered up the CD player, stood in front of the player, and played the same piece of music once again. The sound coming from the speakers was noticeably louder…by about 1-2 dB. The Nordost guy stood to the side and expressed his satisfaction that the change was immediately obvious and repeatable. The volume setting on the front of the amplifier was the same in each case (unlike the change reported by Patrick…I think the presenter knew me and wasn’t going to risk moving the volume knob). This was proof positive that a “better” power cord results in “better” sound.
- Nordost doesn’t build its power cords to meet certain price points. He explained that the company delineates their products by performance levels. He passed around the transparent power cords so that attendees could see the construction of the cables, the careful windings, the wires that keep the insulation from touching the power leads, and the heft of the $6000 Valhalla 2 cable (don’t you ever wonder about the AC cabling that is inside the walls? Wouldn’t that limit the sound?). The demo continued with successively more expensive cords connecting the CD player to the power strip. And each time the music amplitude associated with the more expensive cable was higher. It was not subtle, however the volume on the preamplifier remained the same (unlike the experience reported by Patrick above). The presenter stated that the expensive power cord “acts like a power conditioner” in removing the artifacts and sonic degradation coming from the wall. Was he saying you don’t need a power conditioner…just a $6000 6-foot power cord?
- It was like a magician’s trick. Somehow the presenter was making a change to the system without turning up the volume. There was more output coming from the speakers after the swap. At first I couldn’t figure it out…until Patrick commented on his experience during an earlier demo. The volume on the amplifier didn’t change but the track played on the CD was never repeated more than once. I found that curious. The Nordost presenter would play some music and then swap the cable and replay the same piece of music. But instead of swapping out a new power cord and playing the same track for the third time, he always migrated to another track. This truck me as strange. Why wouldn’t he simply repeat the track a third or fourth time? At one point in the process, he turned to me as he was selecting the track number on the CD player and said, “I’m not sure which track number I played last?”
- The disc that he was playing was not a commercial replicated CD. It was custom made for their demo. I believe the disc contained two copies of each track. One that was mastered slightly louder than the other. How else could I account for the difference in volume AND the fact that he didn’t go back and play the same track a third time. There were only two copies of each tune on the disc…not three or four.
- I think that explains the increased volume that the audience experienced throughout the demo. The presenter played the same music from a different track…one that was 1-2 dB louder. It wouldn’t be hard to pull this off. In fact, as a former mastering engineer, I could create a custom CD-R that would retain the same track number so no one would be the wiser. I regret not recording the whole session or keeping track of the track number being played. I thought about it before heading upstairs but my wife was using my iPhone to run credit cards at our sales table.
- Like the AudioQuest/Home Entertainment YouTube video earlier in the year, the Nordost demo was simply not believable. Small isolation cones and expensive power cords do not cause an audio system to get louder…if they do anything at all. The companies behind these audiophile products don’t even make that claim. There’s nothing more compelling or noticeable during an audio demo than comparing two music tracks with one louder than the other. If a power cord resulted in an increase in the volume of the output signal then using a Valhalla 2 power cord to connect a lamp to a wall socket would cause it to glow more brightly…and that doesn’t happen!
- As I wrote this article, I went online and read a number of very positive reviews about Nordost cables…including a number that praised the Valhalla 2 power cords. One of them contained this sentence, “The results were stunning. Even with competing systems in adjacent rooms rattling the walls, it was easy to hear the much lower noise floor and improved soundstaging, texture and decay. Cash’s ragged voice sounded like he’d leaned an inch closer to the microphone, as well as pulled off the foam sock.” When a singer gets an inch closer to the microphone, the output amplitude of the microphone goes up. The reviewer was reporting an increase in volume and thinking the cable was the cause…it wasn’t. There are slick published “Guides to High-End Cables” full of glowing reviews and glossy photos of cables. Reading them will cause your head to spin…complete BS.
- Cable vendors and the press that uniformly support them with ridiculous “reviews”, are not being truthful about the relative merits of their products. Overpriced cables…analog and digital…are not worth the money. It’s really that simple.
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