Random Noise 9




Polytheistic audio

Finally! – stem-to-stern Nordost. The recent addition of two BlackNoise line filters from Systems and Magic (photo right), www.systemsandmagic.com, allows me to use the five Nordost power cords I’ve on hand for evaluation: four Vishnus and one Brahma. (My association with NuForce, Systems and Magic’s US distributor, casts a shadow over my good opinion of these Italian imports. I’ll say no more about them.)

The Nordost presence: two quartets of Quasar Points elevate a pair of NuForce Reference 9 SE amps from the low wood cabinet on which they and the Integris CDP sit (for Integris info, www.aurumacoustics.com). The Brahma power cord links the CDP to the Modelo Extreme BlackNoise filter. Two Vishnu power cords link the amps to the Modelo 2500 BlackNoise filter. The remaining two Vishnu power cords link the filters to their respective wall outlets. Linking CDP to amps, balanced Valhalla interconnects; the Tyr speaker cables stop at Series 8 Wilson WATT / Puppies. A third quartet of Quasar Points has been replaced by a trio of steel spikes Derrick Moss, the CDP’s designer, included with an upgrade of a remarkable component.

So what’s all this about polytheism – paganism even! – over at Nordost’s HQ? The names say it all. Vishnu is a top-shelf Hindu deity. The Brahma power cord owes its moniker to the third member of the Vishnu-Shiva trinity. But wait! Lest we suspect that Nordost’s principals hail from South Asia, a change of scene brings us to Valhalla, home of the Nordic gods, for the fate of which, try sitting through Wagner’s Götterdämerung. Prominent among this superhuman crew is the war-god Tyr, Thor’s second-in-command. The locale shifts for Quasar, the immortal destroyer who, with Lipitor, stomped through one of those Saturday-morning TV cartoons my kids used to watch. I could be wrong. The memory’s not what she used to be and even the kids are getting on.

Ask any philosopher. Belief in the existence of immortals is an article of faith. (A survey reports that a large number of Americans believe in angels.) Anyway, confining our remarks to the sweet spot, faith takes a back seat.

The Valhalla interconnects and Tyr speaker cables have been in the system for some time. To repeat an earlier observation, they’re superb. As mentioned, with the arrival of the BlackNoise filters, I’ve been able to employ the full review complement of Nordost power cords. Before my amps acquired their Version 2 circuit boards, NuForce’s standard-issue power cord came with a ferrite (a toroidal collar for RFI suppression). The two after-market Aurum-Cardas power cords I’d been using with the amps are also fitted out with ferrites. (The Cardas Golden Reference power cord’s Aurum difference resides in the wall plug and IEC connector only.) NuForce’s V2 boards render ferrites less of an issue, allowing me to go with the ferrite-free Nordost Vishnus.

In first checking out the BlackNoise filters, I used the ferrite-clad Aurum-Cardas power cords from amps to filters, making several Vishnu substitutions over the course of time. At an early point along the way I became aware – for want of a better term – of a dullness, a slight thickening of the sound. It was distracting. I removed the filters, going from the CDP and amps directly to the wall. That wasn’t the problem. Reinstating the filters, I continued alternating between the Aurum-Cardas and Vishnu cords, deciding finally that the system truly flourished in Nordost’s start-to-finish embrace. I can characterize the difference in terms of resolution and tonal balance. In matters of taste, my preferences tend toward exquisite detail. Nothing pleases quite so much as “entering” a recording’s world.

As a postscript, really, to a sweeping impression, I heard similar differences in comparing the CDP’s ferrite-free Aurum-Cardas power cord with the Brahma, my preference settling once again on the latter. The Cardas Golden Reference power cord has a deservedly excellent reputation. I don’t mean to imply night-and-day dissimilarities. For the audiophile, perceptions of improvement – of playing to one’s listening tastes – however subtle, leave a powerful impression. My heart belongs to Brahma, here and in the afterlife.

While it certainly might have been the ferrites that muddied the waters, I’d still like to venture a generalization. There’s a consistency to the upper reaches of Nordost’s product line. Interconnects, speaker cables, and power cords conform to a standard that places maximum value on openness, transparency, and air – in a word, lucidity, sacrificing nothing of midrange liquidity and low-end songfulness.

Finally, when you’re listening for differences with however many subject cables in the mix, you are listening to a system, an entirety, a whole. Nordost cabling, wall to Wilsons, leaves me utterly satisfied, and I’m close to seeking psychiatric help. I mean, really, this is no way for an audiophile to feel. Where would I get the cheek to spout next time out about something better yet?

Hello, doctor….

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More years ago than I care to think about, I began my adventures in hi-fi as a tutored skeptic. I was encouraged to believe that audiophiles were a loopy, restive lot given to exotica at which my coach laughed loudly and long. Wandering among the rooms of a hi-fi show in a New York City hotel, we stopped at a table on which lay a high-end version of a lowly power cord. Coach sneered so lustily heads turned to check out the source. A power cord?! And look at the price!

Yes, a power cord. In the sweet spot, most everything matters, emphasis on most. And that raises a question. Was Will Rogers serious? (“I bet you if I had met him and had a chat with him, I would have found him a very interesting and human fellow, for I never yet met a man that I didn’t like.”) You’ve probably wondered, as have I, about subjectivist audio journalists who find something to love in everything they cover. Brace yourself, reader. I offer me, an authentic, board certified, generally supportive subjectivist, as a countervail.

Acoustic Revive is one of those Japanese niche enterprises specializing in audio-video oddities, typically the work of a modest, soft-spoken fellow the cognoscenti revere. I earlier reviewed three Acoustic Revive items I liked enough to buy: a digital-disc demagnetizer, negative-ion generator, and virtual ground. For information about Acoustic Revive, link through its American distributor, www.lotusgroupusa.com, where you can read headman Joe Cohen’s remarks. They’re interesting. Joe’s a true enthusiast.

       

The two Acoustic Revive items here covered are the PSA-100 Pure Silk Absorber, consisting of a wad of silk fluff, and the QR-8, an octet of adhesive-backed smoky quartz resonators about the size of thumbtack heads. I had two packages of these to play with, and one of the silk.

I don’t lay claim to extraordinary hearing. (Had I a pair of young man’s ears, he’d probably want to kill me for what I’ve done to them.) I distributed little white clouds about the room, under and around the speakers, cabling, electronics and elsewhere during several listening trials, positioning the dots likewise where the leaflet suggests. (I took my cue from the illustrations. The texts are in Japanese, my command of which resides on the dark side of the moon.) I heard no difference for better or worse. As a practical matter, were the silk wool a ticket to sonic paradise, I’d still be reluctant to mess up the listening-living room with a scattering of dust-friendly puffs. Yes, the silk can be concealed, but not entirely. The quartz dots are another matter. Too small to intrude.

So there you have it, a report no one could possibly characterize as positive. Or negative, really. Perhaps folks in their twenties and thirties would hear an effect – something. If you’re curious, see what Joe has to say.



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Brahma Power Cord, 2 meters, $1500
Vishnu Power Cord, 2 meters, $660
Nordost Corporation
200 Homer Avenue
Ashland, MA 01721 (USA)
Telephone 1 508 881 1116
Fax 1 508 881 6444
www.nordost.com