The Jour­ney to Higher Qual­ity Au­dio With Nor­dost Leif Ca­bles

Fol­low­ing the Ideal Path to Up­grad­ing Ca­bles. Part 3 of 3: USB In­ter­con­nects and Speaker Ca­bles

NOVO - - FURUTECH - By Suave Ka­jko

Ire­cently watched English in­die band ALT-J per­form at Echo Beach in Toronto and what an in­cred­i­ble sonic and vis­ual ex­pe­ri­ence this was. Their unique style of singing makes it near im­pos­si­ble to make out any of the lyrics but that didn’t pre­vent me and all the other con­cert go­ers from singing along. The mo­ment ALT-J hit the stage and started play­ing their first song, the hairs on the back of my head stood up. I danced the night away with my friends and some 5,000 other ALT-J fans. It was an un­for­get­table night that I’ll re­mem­ber for a long time to come.

While it’s im­pos­si­ble to fully repli­cate the per­for­mance and at­mos­phere of a live mu­sic show at home or on your head­phones, those who truly love mu­sic strive to come as close as we pos­si­bly can. Get­ting there means se­lect­ing the most mu­si­cal au­dio com­po­nents you can af­ford and con­nect­ing them with good qual­ity ca­bles that al­low the sig­nals to flow be­tween them, with­out adding or sub­tract­ing any­thing to the sound.

Wel­come to part 3 of a 3-part se­ries in which I take you on a step by step jour­ney dur­ing which I sug­gest the best or­der of up­grad­ing OEM ca­bles and ex­plain what im­prove­ments in sound you should hear with each step. For the pur­pose of this se­ries I se­lected the Nor­dost Leif Blue Heaven range of ca­bles be­cause it de­liv­ers tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits, it is at­trac­tively priced, and of­fers ex­cel­lent value for your money. If you fol­lowed my ad­vice in the pre­vi­ous two is­sues of NOVO, your mu­sic lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ence should have jumped up a cou­ple of lev­els. If you missed parts 1 and 2, you can read them on our web­site at http://novo. press/the-jour­ney-to-higher-qual­ity-au­dio-

with-nor-dost-leif-ca­bles and http://novo. press/the-jour­ney-to-higher-qual­ity-au­diowith-nor­dost-leif-ca­bles-part-2-of-3.

What or­der should you up­grade ca­bles in? The best method is to fol­low the power / sig­nal path: start with the power cords, then re­place the in­ter­con­nects and last but not least the speaker ca­bles.

In parts 1 and 2 of this ar­ti­cle, I up­graded the stock OEM power cords and ana­logue in­ter­con­nect ca­bles with the Blue Heaven power cords and in­ter­con­nects. These up­grades al­lowed me to achieve a con­sid­er­ably bet­ter sound out of my sys­tem. I was pre­sented with a qui­eter back­ground; crisper, ex­tended high fre­quen­cies; and tighter, more ar­tic­u­late bass fre­quen­cies. The vo­cals and in­stru­ments had an im­proved pres­ence, while the width and depth of the sound­stage in­creased. The com­bined re­sult was a sound that was more nat­u­ral and mu­si­cal, a few steps closer to what I’m used to hear­ing at a live per­for­mance.

With the power cords and ana­logue in­ter­con­nects up­graded, it was time to turn my at­ten­tion to the dig­i­tal USB in­ter­con­nect and the speaker ca­bles. To refresh your mem­ory, my test setup in­cluded a: ModWright In­stru­ments LS 100 preamp and KWA 100 amp; Jeff Row­land Con­tin­uum S2 in­te­grated amp; Raidho C 1.1 speak­ers; Sonos sys­tem; Brys­ton BDA-1 DAC; and Gold Note Giglio turntable. While I nor­mally use higher-end Nor­dost and Sko­grand ca­bles with these com­po­nents, the great thing about us­ing high-end au­dio gear with en­trylevel ca­bles is that the gear is so trans­par­ent, it al­lowed me to truly “hear” the per­for­mance of the ca­bles.

Think that all USB ca­bles sound the same be­cause they trans­mit a dig­i­tal sig­nal? That’s what I used to think as a bud­ding au­dio en­thu­si­ast too. That is, un­til I was en­light­ened by lis­ten­ing to demos at au­dio shows and try­ing USB ca­bles in my own sys­tem. The Blue Heaven USB 2.0 dig­i­tal in­ter­con­nect cable ($249.99 US, 1 meter, type A to B) sports four con­duc­tors, pre­cisely wound, dou­ble shielded with care­fully cho­sen di­men­sions to op­ti­mize dig­i­tal sig­nal trans­mis­sion. Nor­dost’s pro­pri­etary FEP and Mi­cro Mono-Fil­a­ment con­struc­tion en­sure low di­elec­tric loss, while min­i­miz­ing cable

in­duced tim­ing er­rors - some­thing that is es­sen­tial for good qual­ity dig­i­tal play­back.

With the Blue Heaven USB cable in place, be­tween my lap­top and the DAC, I was re­warded with a fur­ther low­ered noise floor, which re­sulted in a wider sound­stage, with more pre­cise po­si­tion­ing. This im­prove­ment was most no­tice­able with well recorded acous­tic al­bums, jazz and clas­si­cal mu­sic. The abil­ity of a mu­sic sys­tem to paint an ex­pan­sive sound­stage is a char­ac­ter­is­tic that I place a lot of value on, be­cause a sys­tem’s abil­ity to prop­erly re­solve the in­stru­ments and vo­cals within a sound­stage can go a long way to mak­ing record­ings sound closer to live per­for­mances. An­other cou­ple of ben­e­fits I heard from the up­graded USB cable, were in­creased tex­ture and a more nat­u­ral de­cay in vo­cals and in­stru­ments. Thanks to these, both in­stru­ments and vo­cals sounded closer to what you ex­pect to hear in real life, deep­en­ing the mu­sic lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

For the fi­nal stage in the cable up­grade jour­ney, I up­graded the stan­dard “spool” speaker wires in the test sys­tem to the Blue Heaven speaker ca­bles ($734.99 US, 2 meter pair, ba­nana plugs). The flat pro­file of these ca­bles isn’t just for looks, this de­sign is Nor­dost’s an­swer to low re­sis­tance, ca­pac­i­tance and in­duc­tance, which are com­mon lim­it­ing fac­tors of tra­di­tional speaker cable de­signs. This cable’s ge­om­e­try and con­duc­tor spac­ing re­duces di­elec­tric ef­fects, which in turn al­lows them to achieve a greater dy­namic re­sponse, phase ac­cu­racy and de­tail when play­ing mu­sic.

Com­plet­ing the cable loom with the Blue Heaven speaker ca­bles pushed the sonic en­ve­lope an­other few notches for­ward and brought re­fine­ment to just about ev­ery im­prove­ment that each of the pre­vi­ously up­graded ca­bles of­fered in­di­vid­u­ally. All of the record­ings I lis­tened to of­fered co­pi­ous amounts of mu­si­cal de­tails and played with out­stand­ing dynamics. Florence + the Ma­chine’s “MTV Un­plugged” al­bum sounded re­mark­ably mu­si­cal and filled with emo­tion. It took me back a cou­ple of sum­mers when I saw Florence Welch live at the Mol­son Am­phithe­atre in Toronto. With the speaker ca­bles in place, her voice sang with an im­proved pres­ence, re­veal­ing finer sub­tleties. Gui­tars and other string in­stru­ments also pre­sented in­creased de­grees of tex­ture. Clas­si­cal pieces such as “Holst: The Plan­ets” on the other hand sounded larger and richer, and as a re­sult more en­gag­ing and life­like. Ev­ery­thing about the mu­si­cal pre­sen­ta­tion sounded more re­fined and re­al­is­tic.

But all good things must come to an end. Writ­ing this ar­ti­cle was a bit of a quest back in time for me, back to the days when I was ab­sorb­ing knowl­edge like a sponge about high-end au­dio and build­ing my first proper mu­sic sys­tem. The fact is that even 14 years into pub­lish­ing a mag­a­zine about au­dio, I’m still learn­ing new things about au­dio all the time. I hope that shar­ing my knowl­edge with you has opened your eyes to just how im­por­tant of a role ca­bles play within an au­dio sys­tem. You could pur­chase the best au­dio com­po­nents in the world but if you con­nect them with lousy ca­bles, you’ll never be able to hear their true sonic po­ten­tial. If you’re look­ing to step up the per­for­mance and en­joy­ment of your mu­sic sys­tem, give the Nor­dost Leif Blue Heaven ca­bles a try - your ears will thank you and your feet will make you dance. To learn more about Nor­dost ca­bles, check out www. nor­dost.com.

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