At a recent Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, one of the most compelling demos that I heard was conducted by the Nordost cable company. Its representatives played a VPI turntable with stock tonearm versus one wired with Nordost cable. Sitting in the row in front of me was one Andre Jennings of TAS, a turntable expert if there was ever one. As I recall, he along with just about every person in the room, shook his head at the difference between the standard cable and the Nordost. It wasn’t even close. Now, if you’re an especially stubborn type, you might dismiss that demonstration as a one-off. But Nordost’s new flagship Odin 2 cable was also featured in not a few other rooms at RMAF and most of them sounded quite enticing—enticing enough for me to covet the opportunity to give them a run in my own system.
My curiosity was piqued not simply because of these demos or because I’m somehow a great fan of Norse lore (company tradition seems to dictate that Nordost name its cables after legendary Nordic heroes, with Odin being at the top of the heap). It was also prompted by Nordost’s announcement of several significant technical advances in the construction of Odin 2. The company has changed and improved terminations for both its interconnects and speaker cables. The interconnects, Nordost reports, consist of ten silver-plated, 23 AWG 99.999999% OFC conductors, each utilizing proprietary dual monofilament technology and precise FEP extrusion. Oden 2 also features a patented, low-mass plus called the HOLO:PLUG. Nordost has also added more conductors to the speaker cables and one black and one white strip that are supposed to help suppress untoward resonances.
Apart from these technical advances, it’s also the case that I was also curious about the sonic evolution of the Odin because of my familiarity with the company’s earlier efforts. When I was an audio newbie, I used a combination of the Nordost SPM speaker cable and Valhalla cable. Then, about two years later, I reviewed Nordost’s Valhalla 2 cable, which I felt in some ways exceeded the performance of the Odin cable. Now that Nordost was debuting an Odin 2, I felt more than a pinch of excitement about its prospective performance.
That excitement was more than merited. The more I listened to the Odin 2, the faster it became apparent that it greatly exceeds its predecessor in every parameter of performance. While the original Odin was a very fast and resolving cable, it continued to suffer from a slight thinness of sound—a tincture of bleaching in the treble. This is precisely where the Odin 2 offered a very different presentation. The startling amounts of inner detail and nuance that Odin 2 reproduces almost creates the feeling that a center channel has been added to a two-channel system.
One of the most striking attributes of the Odin 2 is its vanishingly low noise floor. When I’m driving my car, I often listen to the radio. If it’s summer and the air conditioning is one, I like to play around with the settings. I would liken the almost invisible scrim of noise that accompanies most playback to an air-conditioning system that you forget about for awhile. Realize air con is on, turn the setting lower, and the music emanating from your radio suddenly seems louder. Something similar occurs, I think, when you lower the noise floor in your audio system with a better preamp or cables. Odin 2 does this in spades. With the Odin 2, the notes seem to leap out of the loudspeakers with the tiniest, low-level details excavated with remarkable fidelity. On one of my go-to recordings, Beethoven’s piano trio’s played on the Harmonia Mundi label by Alexander Melnikov, Isabelle Faust, and Jean-Guihen Queyras, the Odin 2 played a vital role in bringing their magnificent performance to life. It did this by allowing the micro-details of a bow scraping the string, the sense of touch on the keys of the 1828 Alois Graff fortepiano, to emerge with exquisite fidelity. You can almost visualize the descending thirds in the second movement of Trio No. 6 as Melnikov’s hands cascade down the keyboard. At the same time, the Odin 2, because of the blackness of the backgrounds, provides a startling sense of dynamics. A fortissimo, preceded either by a pause or pianissimo passage, appears, more often than not, to emerge from nowhere. The ability of the Odin to convey the percussive effects of a piano may be unrivaled, partly because of the transient speed. All of this adds up to a sum of the parts being larger than the whole. The fact is that the longer I listen, the more I’m convinced that it cannot be sufficiently emphasized that micro-detail, particularly on classical or jazz music, is at the heart of creating a convincing simulacrum of an original performance.