Interconnect Shootout: Nordost Valhalla Neutrix vrs. Valhalla WBT vrs. Audio Note Sogon vrs. Acrolink 7N-DA6100
The test consists of swapping out various interconnects between the outboard crossover of the Marten Coltrane Supreme loudspeakers and the Audio Kegon amps that handle the frequencies above 100Hz. Picutred you can see the gray Audio Note Sogon interconnect in place.
The Acrolink interconnect up close. These connectors are massive, and I believe this the only connector they come with. Very substantial and secure fitting things they are.
These are the two Nordost Valhalla interconnects side by side.
Part of this test was for us to see… hear… the difference between these two connectors. Was it all just hype?
We are not so sure about these connectors. They seem to pick up ground loops like nobody’s business. It is possible, and quite frequently the case, that:
* they are on too tight or too loose, in which case they either appear to be broken (aka no sound comes out) or
* they generate a large ground hum because they are not grounded at all (the area of contact on the target connecting post is dirty? or perhaps they are just too loose), or
* they pick up a small ground loop hum because they are only partially grounded (perhaps the connector is so thin that it needs its own shileding….?)
The WBTs up close
We love these old connectors. You put them on, they stay on. They feel secure. They don’t wear out after many, many uses.
The Audio Note Sogon interconnect
The Audio Note Sogon interconnect
From one extreme to the other:
*** The Acrolink 7N-DA6100 – $4995 ***
Very clean. the cleanist sounding of this bunch (but not as clean as the Jorma Design Prime, at $2K more!). Very detailed and lovely air. Midrange is clean with perhaps a little too quick on the top of the note attack and on the decay. Bass is good.
*** The Nordost Valhalla with the WBT connectors – $4000 ***
Rounder than the Acrolink, more body. Also more veiled than the acrolink. Smoother because of it but there was also a whisp of a feeling of the music struggling to get out.
*** TheNordost Valhalla with the old Neutrix ***
The midrange frequencies are more laid back, a little more veiled. A little less midi- and micro dynamics in the midrange as well, compared with the WBT solution.
How subtle is the difference? In my mind I keep thinking 10% – whatever that means. I think it means that if the WBT was 100% better than it would be twice as good. In the midrange. In terms of these attributes.
In this test we did not get the dreaded ground loop hum with the WBT and we did prefer the WBT solution. The slight increase in resolution and slightly more presense in the midrange – was nice, and appreciated
*** The Audio Note Sogon – $2725 ***
The midrange was quite similar to the Vahalla in terms of detail and resolution, but with more color and subtle harmonic content. The bass was a little muddier than the other cables but a little more natural. The highs not as prestine as the Acrolink, and similar to the Valhalla in quantity but a little more natural in quality – i.e. not so much going for the ability to spotlight each detail in the treble, which I know many people like (including us, sometimes 🙂 ), but instead makes the details more integrated into the overall sound stream.
For this system, in its current state of break in (its making good progeess, finally) with the all Audio Note front end, we left the Sogon in place. It made the system much more musical to listen to, at least at this time.
There is a 5 meter Valhalla interconnect (Neutrix) between the linestage and the amps.
Swapping this out for, say, Sogon, or Acrolink even, would *probably* make the sounds of the various setups with these various cables more reflective of the underlying strengths and weakness of these cables.
[Is this always true? That a system cabled throughout with just one kind of cable will always highlight both the strengths and weaknesses of that cable? I know many manufacturers and dealers say you MUST use just their cable for your whole system to get best results. And I can agree with this if their cable is way better than what is currently in the system.
But what about using various cables as ‘spice’? I know that the word ‘tone control’ is a pejorative thse days, but until we get the perfect wire, all cables, including the lauded Belkin power cords, will be tone controls, like it or not. And so, taking this reality into account, I propose we must carefully, and consciously, spice our system with various cables lest we get something that tastes salty, …or like poop 😉 ]