6 Steps to Successfully Audition HiFi Cables in Your Home Sound System

If you have had the opportunity to visit hifi audio shows in the past, hopefully you are familiar with Nordost demonstrations. For over 25 years, Nordost has been exhibiting at shows around the world and performing cable comparisons for the public. We maintain that consumers should audition the components that they are interested in before they make a purchase, and cables are no exception. While hearing cable demonstrations at a hifi show, or in a dealer’s showroom, can be a fun and informative experience, sometimes it is not enough to determine what is right for your home system. By arranging at-home auditions, you are able to hear what benefits, or drawbacks, specific cables bring to your sound system, using your own components, in your own listening room.  However, if you are going to compare cables, there are a few guidelines to follow in order to ensure that you perform a successful audition.

 

1) Identify your area of interest

Although your ultimate goal may be to do a system-wide cabling upgrade, in order to do a fair comparison, you should identify one area to focus on at a time. For example, perhaps the first thing that you want to look at is the interconnect between your CD player and preamplifier. This will help you isolate and identify the resulting audible differences, as you perform your comparisons.

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2) Request Demo Cables

Make sure that when inquiring about taking cables home from your local audio dealer for comparison, they give you cables that have already been used in a system for a considerable amount of time. Before a cable sounds its best, it must be broken in, due to gases that can be trapped in the insulation, and the high electrical charge that is inherent in new cables. These negative characteristics change after the first 100 hours of play time or “burn-in”. Another thing to note when picking up your demo cables from a dealer is to pay attention to cable length. When making comparisons between one brand, make sure that the cables are the same length, as that can greatly affect the sonic properties of the cables. When you are cross-comparing cables from different companies, the design philosophy of a cable will impact which length sounds “best”. Nordost, for example, uses a low-capacitance design that sounds better with longer lengths of cables (up to about a 5 meter length).

 

3) Re-familiarize yourself with your system

Now that you have identified the cables you will focus on, and you have collected burned-in demo cables of uniform length from your dealer, it is time to change… nothing. Although it might be tempting to get started right away, take some time to first reacquaint yourself to your system as is. Put on some music and listen to your system with a critical ear: point out the characteristics that are unique to your system, identifying aspects you like, aspects that you find lacking etc.

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4) Musical selection and listening

The genre of music you select for auditioning cables is entirely up to you. However, it is important to choose tracks that you are familiar with. One of the most enjoyable aspects of comparing and upgrading cables, is discovering nuances you have never heard before in a piece of music that you have listened to countless times! Once you have decided on a number of tracks that you are familiar with (you should choose a few different pieces, especially if you are going to be doing a number of comparisons, so that listening fatigue doesn’t set in), make sure to play each cut of music for only 45 seconds to 1 minute before making a change. If you listen to a song in its entirety, you may forget the details in the beginning of the track. We find that 45 seconds is just enough time to get into a piece, without waiting so long as to take away from the comparison.

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5) Switching Cables 

Once you listen to your 45 second piece of music, it is important to switch out your cables as quickly as possible, in order to minimize the time between the comparisons. When conducting your switch, make sure that all other variables remain the same. If we stick with the assumption that you are changing the interconnect between your CD player and preamplifier, put your preamplifier on mute (or change the input to effectively mute the preamp) but do NOT change the volume or power down your system. If you are comparing power cords, you will have to power down, but make sure that your volume remains the same throughout all of your comparisons.

If your system includes tube amplifiers, they take some time to become linear, so unfortunately you will have to wait for them to warm up in order to perform a fair comparison.

 

6) Switch Back

Once you have repeated this process until you have completed all of your A/B comparisons, switch back to your original cabling to remind yourself how much of an impact one cable can make within your entire system.

 

Although you have now finished your comparison process, that doesn’t mean your audition is over. It takes time for cables to settle into your system. We encourage our customers to reinstall the cable that you are most happy with from doing the initial comparison, and live with it in your system for a few days to really understand what this addition will bring to the overall performance of your system.

Pictures from Nordost Nation! March 2017

Nordost is lucky to have such incredibly loyal and enthusiastic customers! One great way that our fans let us know that they are happy with the work that we do is by sending us pictures of their Nordost products in action. Here are a few photos that have been shared with us recently. Feel free to send us pictures of Nordost in your system, via Facebook, or #nordostcables on Instagram, so that we can continue to share them with the whole Nordost family!


 

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HembioConsult has this system outfitted with Norse 2 cables and Sort Füt under the speakers!

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In this HembioConsult system photo you can see Frey 2 Speaker Cables at work, along with a QB8 and an assortment of Nordost Power Cords.

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Hifidylle Pascal Rougier has Valhalla 2 Speaker Cables, as well as Sort Sort Kones, QV2, and QK1 units on display.

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Olivier Stoessel shows off his Purple Flare Interconnects with his DAC 89 NUFORCE – “perfect sound!”

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HIFI TOURS – Amplitude has a great system set up with Heimdall 2 cables, as well as a QB8 and QX unit.

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ADHF in action, demonstrating how Nordost cables can completely revolutionize the performance of a hifi system!

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Looks like Hifinesse is ready to demonstrate the different power cords in Nordost’s line! Plus, they’re using Frey 2 Speaker Cables supported by our Sort Lifts. You know it must sound amazing!

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Our Heimdall 2 Headphone Cable is connecting Woo Audio’s WA7 Fireflies to some Beyerdynamic headphones!

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Gabby Amram (@gsoundquest) shared this shot of the Nordost Blue Heaven and Heimdall 2 Headphone Cables

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@hifialex took these shots at the 2017 Montreal Audio show in the Mark Jones room. Our Valhalla 2 Cables helped this system sound terrific.

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@my.hifi is listening in style with his Sennheiser headphones, McIntosh amplifier, and Nordost Heimdall 2 Headphone Cable!

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@my.hifi is plugged in and ready for listening!

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@savisystems_perth took this great, dramatic pic of our Blue Heaven Speaker Cables!

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We love these Valhalla 2 unboxing shots from @thelaukamp!

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@thelaukamp is showing how to use Frey 2 Speaker Cables with Norse Bi-Wire Jumpers!

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@absoluteaudioyyc linked up with Nordost’s Bruno de Lorimier for some fantastic events, showcasing the power of Nordost. #makemusicbetter

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@phillipwangusa is sporting our Heimdall 2 Headphone Cable with his Oppo PM-2s!

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Sunday morning listening at @jwmacoustics808 is in full swing with Nordost Red Dawn!

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@jmwacoustics808 uses Nordost cables to get the most out of their stunning Shaman amps

Dealer Spotlight: Overture Audio

By Mike Marko

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Since 1989, Overture Audio, under the helm of Keith Moorman, has served the audio and video needs of southern, Lower Michigan.  Their commitment to excellence and first rate customer service is unmatched in the region. With top notch demonstration facilities, some of the best brands in the business, and a dedicated, no-pressure staff, you can be assured of a fair and competent demonstration.

Long time staff members Tom Jankowski (TJ), Tom O’keefe, and Craig Johnson are all seasoned professionals dedicated to the finest in customer care.  I’ll let Keith describe the advantages and benefits of his crew:

“Just like the equipment we sell, Overture Audio’s staff puts us well ahead of the competition. Unlike the steady stream of rookies you’ll see at the mass merchandisers, we have been doing this for a long time. I’ve been selling audio and home theater here in Ann Arbor since 1981, and everyone working here with me has been at it as long as I have or longer. Overture Audio is very proud that several of our alumni have gone on to careers with some of the best manufacturers and distributors in the industry.

We’re not just resting on all that experience, though – technology changes too quickly for that. We continue to receive in-depth training from our manufacturers, both in our store and at their facilities.”

They currently have the entire range of Nordost products from our reference Valhalla 2 to White Lightning, as well as a full range of Sort System resonance control devices and QRT power purifying devices, on hand for immediate listening.  Overture has hosted many Nordost events over the years in their state-of-the art demonstration facilities.

When they opened their new location on Stadium Boulevard in Ann Arbor in 2013, Overture Audio designed four different environments that are used for demonstrations. The lobby is 24 feet wide and over 40 feet long, and they always have a simple, great sounding system set up in that space, along with an excellent headphone and computer audio demonstration area. Off of the lobby, there are three purpose-built rooms for two-channel and home theater demonstrations.

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These rooms are designed to represent typical sized listening and viewing environments. Studios A and B are identical medium-sized rooms – approximately 21 feet by 14 feet with 9-foot ceilings. Studio A is used for home theater demonstrations, as well as two channel auditioning. Studio B is dedicated to only 2-channel audio, and is usually the busiest room in the store. Studio C is a considerably larger space – roughly 25 feet by 17 feet with a 10-foot ceiling. This is where larger 2-channel systems are demonstrated, but it’s an excellent room for a projector-based theater as well.

Keith says further:

“We’d also like for you to know that no one at Overture Audio is paid a commission on their sales. Our staff is salaried, which results in a laid-back, low-pressure atmosphere that’s impossible to achieve in a commission-based store. We believe that our customers benefit when there isn’t any financial motivation for us to recommend one particular product over another. And last, we think it’s beneficial for our customers to be able to talk to several different salespeople if they wish, without having to worry about stepping on anyone’s toes.”

Nordost will be sponsoring another event later this year in Overture Audio’s cutting edge facility.  Check back for dates and times and find out what the locals have known for decades.  The next time you’re in Ann Arbor to sample the local arts and sports scene, drop by Overture Audio for an experience you will not soon forget.

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www.overture-audio.com

Phone: 734.662.1812
email: mail@overture-audio.com
Fax: 734.662.1928

Store Address:
Overture Audio
2460 West Stadium Blvd.
Ann Arbor, MI
48103

Nordost will be at High End 2017 in Munich!

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Nordost is thrilled to be exhibiting at the High End 2017 show in Munich once again, held at the MOC May 18th – 21st. Every year, the High End show is a wonderful opportunity to show our customers the groundbreaking projects that we are working on: 2017 is no exception! Be sure to visit us in (Halle 4) Atrium 4, Room E114 to be the first to experience the truly astonishing advances that Nordost is bringing to the hifi audio market. As always, Nordost’s very own product trainers will be making cable comparisons and demonstrating Nordost QRT power products throughout the show. Join us in what will prove to be a very exciting and highly anticipated show for Nordost.

Nordost Playlist – April 2017

Nordost is lucky to have a wonderful team of representatives and product trainers who travel around the world educating and demonstrating the effects of Nordost’s products. As part of these demonstrations, it is our job to find an interesting and diverse selection of music to showcase our cables, power devices, sort system and accessories. Whether at shows, visiting our dealers and distributors or even in our own listening room in our headquarters in Holliston, we are constantly getting asked what music we are playing (or if our audience is not so bold to ask, we can see their Shazams working overtime). So we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to share our favorite songs of the moment. Some may be classics, some may be brand new, some may not even be to your taste, but one thing is for sure …it’s all great music.

Here are some of the songs that we will have on rotation this April.

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  1. A Sunday Kind Of Love—Etta James—At Last
  2. Just Like You—Bosley—Honey Pig
  3. Red-Eyed And Blue—Wilco—Being There
  4. A Rose For Emily—The Zombies—Odyssey And Oracle
  5. Blind Ambition—Sophia Bastian—Blind Ambition
  6. Freedom Is Free—Chicano Batman—Freedom is Free
  7. Baldamore—Hadouk Trio—Utopies
  8. Feel It Still—Portugal. The Man—Feel It Still
  9. Chanel—Frank Ocean—Chanel
  10. Saturnz Barz—Gorillaz—Humanz

Come see Nordost at AXPONA 2017!

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Nordost is pleased to be a part of Axpona this year, held at the Westin O’hare in Chigago Friday, April 21– Sunday, April 23. Visit us in room 446, and take advantage of this great opportunity to experience live demonstrations and cable comparisons, featuring Nordost’s extensive range of products. While at the show, make sure to see us at our sales booth in the Market Place to check out our special show offers on select Nordost products.

Dealer Spotlight: Ljudmakarn

By Bjorn Bengtsson

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Ljudmakarn, or “Sound Maker” in English, has a long history of supplying the people of Sweden’s capitol with the highest quality products available on the hifi market. Since this Stockholm staple was founded in 1973, it has gone through several different phases, changing as the industry changes. In 1999, when mass-market mall audio shops started to invade the hifi scene, the owner, Mr. Kaj Lundberg, decided to move away from low-priced, entry-level products, and began to invest in high-performance devices.

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In order to sell these exclusive hifi products, you need to be able to provide passionate, compelling demonstrations and a friendly, knowledgeable staff. Ljudmakarn boasts several demo-ready systems (wired with Nordost cables) in their two-story shop. However, visitors are encouraged to book a demonstration in advance, so that the staff can customize a system tailored to their needs. Kaj and his staff believe that whether the perspective customer is interested in speakers, components, or cables, it is important that they feel confident that the demo system they are listening to has been carefully put together to highlight the product in question. If you would prefer an at-home audition, the Ljudmakarn staff is more than happy to accommodate that as well. 

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At Nordost, we are very grateful for the nearly two decade long partnership that we have enjoyed with this loyal retailer. Over the years, Nordost has been invited to present at several organized events at Ljudmakarn, both dedicated to Nordost products alone, as well as events that are in conjunction with other high performance audio manufacturers. We’re looking forward to 20 more years working together!

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“Taking The High Ground” Chasing Ground Noise From Your Hi-Fi System

By Anthony Chiarella

For all the times we improve our HiFis by upgrading components, some of the most satisfying enhancements are absolutely free. And perhaps no other “Tweak” offers as much sonic benefit as chasing ground noise from your sound system.

Back in the days before streaming—or even CDs—most of us suffered some sort of ground noise from our analog rigs. Between the low output of moving coils, the high gain of phono preamps, noise leakage from turntable motors, etc., most pre-digital audiophiles needed to roll up their sleeves and chase hums and buzzes from their systems. Typically, this was (…and still is) accomplished by using ground wires to connect the tonearm and/or turntable to the preamp chassis.  However, there were also occasions where certain cartridges needed to be placed at a great distance from power transformers, not to mention that certain cartridges wouldn’t work with some turntable motors.

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The scenario above illustrates an extreme case of grounding issues, but, to some degree, EVERY system is prone to the effects of component grounding. This means, of course, that EVERY system can be improved by paying careful attention to grounding.

For starters, let’s understand the problem. A three-prong electrical cord carries the positive (+) and negative (-) legs of the AC voltage, while the third wire is “Earth” which typically connects the chassis to true ground, which, in theory, reaches through the foundations of your home and into the earth itself. Simple, huh? Problem is, the walls of a typical house contain a birds’ nest of wires—electrical and otherwise—and some of your outlets might not make a proper, solid connection to ground. To complicate matters, not all components are grounded in the same manner, while some are not grounded at all! Throwing together bad household wiring and components, with different grounding schemes, creates a “Perfect Storm”, which allows hum and noise to pollute your system.

Fortunately, there are simple and effective solutions to grounding issues. Let’s start at the AC outlet. In most systems I’ve seen, the single biggest problem is the quality of the AC outlet. Think about it: we spend a fortune on AC cords and power conditioners, and then plug them into a decades-old AC socket with corroded conductors (which probably have little “grip” or connection integrity), and we expect our systems to sound their best? For under $15, a 20-amp, Hospital Grade AC outlet will vastly improve power delivery. Why? Well, first of all, these receptacles are much more robust than the sockets which were installed when your house was built. Heavier metal conductors (which, given the fact that they’re brand new, are corrosion-free), thicker insulators, made of superior dielectric materials, and the fact that “Hospital Grade” sockets are designed to grip the blades of the AC plug more tightly, better prevent life-saving machinery from being accidentally disconnected from the outlet. Simply put, there is no more cost-effective means of improving your system than replacing your AC receptacle.

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Just as important, you’ll need to make sure your AC receptacle is installed correctly. The positive, negative and Earth wires must be connected to the proper terminals on the AC receptacle. This can be easily accomplished with an “AC Receptacle Tester” which is available at any hardware store. I bought mine on Amazon for under $7.

So, for under $25 (combined cost of AC Receptacle and Tester), you can dramatically improve the quality of the AC that reaches your system and ensure that your system is properly grounded. Congratulations! You’ve just established a foundation for greater system performance. You’ve also eliminated most of your system’s potential grounding issues! (CAUTION: working with AC power and your home’s electrical system is potentially hazardous. Please consult a licensed electrical contractor.)

Once you’ve optimized your AC, it is time to look at your power distribution. A common mistake is to use a cheap “outlet strip” intended to connect a computer, printer, etc. These devices have terrible contact integrity, tiny-gauge wiring and—worst of all—current-robbing, noise inducing surge suppression and protection circuitry.

Now, take a look at your components’ AC cords. Are they all three-prong, or are some of them two-prong varieties? We’re trying to determine if you’ll develop “ground loops” due to a combination of grounded and ungrounded components. Plug all your components into the outlet strip and power-up your system. With no source playing, and using a normal volume setting, put your ear close to each speaker. What do you hear? A gentle hissing sound is ideal, as it suggests that your system is properly grounded; on the other hand, any sort of hum indicates grounding issues.

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To address ground problems, you can introduce a product like Nordost’s QBASE into the system.  Instead of using any sort of filtering or conditioning circuitry, which could adversely affect power delivery, Nordost’s QB8 creates a “Star Ground” topology to optimize system grounding and minimize hum and noise, while its shape and construction are designed to control resonance and further improve sound.  The real key to a product like this, is it controls ground flow between components.  We can all tell how signal flows throughout our system (For example, we know the signal goes from our turntable, to our phono stage, to our pre-amplifier). What we don’t know is which direction our ground is going; although, we can pretty much tell it goes in the direction of the component with the lowest chassis impedance— meaning sometimes it can flow directly opposite of the signal creating noise and hum.  As an entry point into Nordost’s AC power system, the QBASE can offer dramatically quieter and more lifelike sound quality, because it forces ground to flow in the direction of the integrated amp or pre-amp.

Ground optimization is truly a triumph of brains over bucks. With careful attention to the quality and proper wiring of your AC Cords, you can achieve a dramatic improvement in the sonic production of any system!

Nordost at the Sound and Vision Bristol Show – Recap

It was great to take part in another Bristol Show, the UKs longest running audio show!  This year, in the Nordost room, show goers were able to sit through several demonstrations, including Sort Kone, QRT, USB and Power Cord comparisons. Thank you to all of our friends in the industry who decided to wire their systems with Nordost cables, and to our wonderful distributor, Atacama, for representing us so well! If you weren’t able to make the show, here are a few images of Nordost cables in action throughout the weekend.  


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ELAC had their system wired with Heimdall 2:IMG_0352IMG_0179 IMG_0212


Esoteric used Valhalla 2 cables to help their room stand out:IMG_0370IMG_0251IMG_0211


Musical Fidelity used a combination of Tyr 2 and Frey 2 cables:IMG_0334IMG_0305


Quad used a wide array of Nordost cables, from our Heimdall 2 Ethernet Cable to our classic Blue Heaven Power Cord:IMG_0196IMG_0192IMG_0153

Nordost Playlist – March 2017

Nordost is lucky to have a wonderful team of representatives and product trainers who travel around the world educating and demonstrating the effects of Nordost’s products. As part of these demonstrations, it is our job to find an interesting and diverse selection of music to showcase our cables, power devices, sort system and accessories. Whether at shows, visiting our dealers and distributors or even in our own listening room in our headquarters in Holliston, we are constantly getting asked what music we are playing (or if our audience is not so bold to ask, we can see their Shazams working overtime). So we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to share our favorite songs of the moment. Some may be classics, some may be brand new, some may not even be to your taste, but one thing is for sure …it’s all great music.

Here are some of the songs that we will have on rotation this March.

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  1. Hearts Don’t Break Around Here—Ed Sheeran— ÷ (Deluxe)
  2. Ne Me Quitte Pas—Wycleff Jean—J’ouvert (Deluxe Edition)
  3. Green Light—Lorde—Green Light
  4. Conceptual Romance—Jenn Hval—Blood Bitch
  5. The Pacifist—DJ Vadim, Yarah Bravo—USSR: The Art of Listening
  6. Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)—Ruby Amanfu—Standing Still
  7. Block Of Ice—Thee Oh Sees—The Master’s Bedroom Is Worth Spending A Night In
  8. Keep Your Name—Dirty Projectors—Dirty Projectors
  9. Slide—Calvin Harris ft. Frank Ocean and Migos—Slide
  10. Levo—Recondite—Iffy