Power cord shootout: Nordost vs NVS Sound vs Elrod

Power cord shootout: Nordost vs NVS Sound vs Elrod

It really wasn’t that cold.

Or really that icy.

Our driveway did, however, have residual ice left over from the February record snowfalls. But Kevin, who we invited over as a tie breaker, is an avid skier, so we thought the driveway, very steep with a hairpin turn at the top, would be safe for him – that he’d be able to make it up to the top.

He blames what happened on being blinded by the setting sun. That, being suddenly blinded at the top of the driveway, it was just the most natural thing to do when he gunned the car aiming for where he remembered the driveway curve to be.

Woulda worked too, except that the snowbanks on both sides of the hairpin turn were massive, reducing the width available for a car to make it through unscathed.

So he ended up running into a snow bank (no damage to the older Nissan Sentra) and then proceeded to back up, sliding around some, getting his car going nowhere – and situated in that, hopefully unfamiliar to all you, sideways direction at the top of the driveway. Since going backwards would have him and his car [Becky, don’t read this part] sliding down the steep mountain-side a good ways, and going forward got him nowhere with just lots of whining spinning tires, he came up to the house to roust us up to help.

After removing as much ice as possible from in front of the car, he was able to proceed and join us at the little shootout. Anti-climatic I know (thankfully).

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In many ways this is a lame shootout: We are comparing a roughly $10K PC (Nordost ‘Odin’) with a roughly $5K PC (NVS Sound ‘Silver Inspire’) with a roughly $2500 PC (Elrod ‘Statement Silver’). Totally mismatched, but you can discern the character of the power cords, a character which will be found up and down their product lines.

And we thought it was fun. Hopefully you will too. 🙂

The system consists of the Acapella ‘Atlas’ loudspeakers, the EMM Labs MTRX amplifiers with titanium faceplates, Audio Note U.K. M9 Phono preamplifier, DAC 5 Signature DAC, and CDT-Five transport. All on a HRS ‘MXR’ equipment rack.

In this system, the best place to compare power cords is on the preamp (the preamp power supply box of Audio Note M9 Phono). The amp, the EMM Labs MTRX amplifier, has 30 amp IEC connectors, not the standard 15 amp’ers that our power cable contestants all have.

Our test CD tracks were an orchestra playing Mozart, a cut off of Dire Straits ‘Brother in Arms’, and a track off of a Black Keys album.

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After using Odin power cords for a month or so, we started the shooting…

COMPARED TO THE NORDOST ODIN….

NVS Sound – Silver Inspire | BLACK KEYS

[Neli and Kevin wanted to wait until we heard more songs before voicing an opinion. I have no such compunctions :-)]

Mike: More suspense; less dynamic; less loud; less brash; more like music; more engaging; sucks you in more; kind of like Kharma speakers; more emotionally exciting; still an edge to the sound of this song; closer to the musician’s intentions; not as clear sounding

NVS Sound – Silver Inspire  | DIRE STRAITS

Mike: More PRaT; more laid back; less separation; more focus (better imaging) on voices; more presence of voices; [I wrote down that in many ways, this was like tube (NVS Sound) versus Solid state (Nordost)]

Kevin: Good separation; detail; harmonics; possibly more fatiguing (!? I did not experience this, and can only think that the nature of the un-broken-in sound of the Silver Inspire was causing Kevin to have to listen harder to hear the same details that the more dynamic Odin made very easy to hear – and that this extra amount of concentration required was fatiguing him. This conjecture is based on other conversations occurring during and after this shootout)

NVS Sound – Silver Inspire  | DIRE STRAITS

Neli: Not as big, open or relaxed; singing just for the listener [an effect very Acapellish, where there is a special intimacy between listener and the musician]; less of an edge

Mike: Odin a little better at low volumes; NVS more beautiful

IMG_3960-elrod-statement-silver-powercord

 

ELROD – Statement Silver | Mozart

Mike: Clearer, simpler, rawer, less resolution, harmonic timbre issues? Not as accurate, not as much going on in the music.

Kevin: Weightier, not as much detail, especially apparent in the lower frequencies

Neli: Starts to question whether the NVS Sound was broken in [I thought she had burned it in, but apparently not. So mostly just 4 days at CES on a lower powered AN DAC 5 Signature]. Elrod more open and dynamic

ELROD – Statement Silver | Dire Straits

Mike: more open, more slam, imaging quite a bit fuzzier, rougher sound, clumsier presentation, and has a little edge to the sound.

Kevin: Bass more muddled, but weightier

Neli: Bass not as detailed

ELROD – Statement Silver | Black Keys

Mike: Rougher voices, and ‘hi-fi show sound’. Sour notes, good bass beat otherwise

NVS Sound – Silver Inspire | BLACK KEYS

[Back to NVS to see if our impressions are holding stable]

Happy sound. Anticipation. Suspense. Not as open or dynamic.

Perhaps we should break it in and try again? That is the plan. We then returned to the Odin.

Conclusion:

The NVS had more beauty and presence and engagement compared to the Odin, but was not as clear, dynamic or open sounding. Both had an incredible amount of resolution and detail.  The Elrod was a real trooper, but was rough and clumsy sounding in comparison to the other two [at 1/4 to 1/2 the price].

We are proceeding the break in the NVS Sound and will repeat this shootout… to see if the Silver Inspire gets closer to the unworldly clarity and dynamics that the Odin provides us…. most likely when the driveway is not quite as icy. 🙂

 

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Heart and Mind Ratings of Common High-end Audio Gear

[UPDATE Sept. 07, 2017]

[Most of the scores for major gear remain untouched 4 years later. I removed many items which are no longer being made or whose companies have gone out of business :-(. I also updated some of the values as I have become to appreciate that the level of detail offered by some of the better tube gear comes a lot closer to that offered by solid-state these days and it is often those subtle details that help entertain the Mind – ergo higher mind scores. 

Going through these numbers again – and yes, I have many more items to add, but – it seems apparent that for long term enjoyment one might consider choosing well-balanced vis-a-vis mind vs. heart components or at least design well-balanced systems from a mix of less-balanced components.

Realize also that Boy Toys, whose only claim to fame is that they do BIG, and GeeWiz Wonders whose only claim to fame is cool gadgetry, are not  represented well by the Heart vs. Mind scores, since their appeal does not have to do with how they sound… BUT it still might be useful to rate them on a similar table, or in this table, so people can figure out just why someone is raving about X and whether it has any relevancy to what you, personally, are looking for at all]

In order to help describe what we think are the key differences between the Audio Note U.K. Gaku-On and Lamm ML3 amplifiers we came up with semi-subjective rating that has to do with how much the characteristic sound of the amp appeals to one’s mind versus how much it appeals to one’s heart.

We will now try our hardest to apply this same approach to all sorts of other gear. However, it seems like perhaps a change might be useful here. Instead of just rating things based on a simple HEART < —– > MIND scale we will instead try and rate Heart and Mind separately, on a scale from 0 to 10.

One reason why these kind of ratings may be really useful is that people who like the quality of the sound to affect their Heart really hate sound directed at their mind. And visa-versa. Really hate. Spending lots of time to let everyone know how much they hate a particular component or system when what they are really saying is that they do not like the fact it is Mind-centric (or visa-versa).

Mind-centric sound is often called ‘sophisticated’, or ‘high resolution’ or having ‘lots of inner detail’. This is completely UNRELATED to the possibility of the sound being ‘cold’.

Heart-centric sound is often called ’emotional’ or ‘involving’. This is completely UNRELATED to the possibility of the sound being ‘warm’.

[NOTE: real world values are very fuzzy and depend heavily upon the music played and system the component / cable is in, and, for Audio Note components, the tubes used]

Name Heart Mind
———– amps ———–
Audio Note U.K. Gaku-On amp 10.0 7
Lamm ML3 amp 7 10.0
EMM Labs MTRX amp 6 9
Audio Note U.K. Kageki 2A3 amp 9 6
Audio Note U.K. Kegon Balanced amp 8 7.5
Audio Note U.K. Kegon amp 9 6
Lamm ML2.2 amp 7 7
Acapella LaMusika [top-of-the-line smooth, tonally correct solid state w/ micro-dynamics] amps 5 8
———– speakers ———–
Acapella Apollon speakers 8 8
Acapella Triolon Excalibur speakers 8.5 7
Marten Coltrane Supreme I speakers 4 10.0
Kharma Mini Exquisite speaker 8 6.5
Wilson Alexandria II, XLF speakers 6 8
Wilson MAXX III speakers 5 7
Acoustic Zen Adagio speakers 6 4
Audio Note AN/E SPe HE speakers 8 5
Audio Note AN/E SEC Signature speakers 7 7
Sonus Faber Stradivarius speakers 7 4
Sonus Faber Extrema speakers 7.5 4
———– cd players ———–
Emm Labs XDS1 CD player 7 8
Esoteric K-01 CD player 4 8
Audio Note Level 5 digital 11 8
Audio Note Level 4 digital separates 8 7
———– cables ———–
Nordost ODIN interconnects 7 9
Nordost ODIN speaker cables 7 8
Tara Labs the Zero GOLD 7 7
Nordost ODIN power cords 8 9
Nordost Valhalla interconnects 6 6
Audio Note Sogon cables 8 4
Audio Note brown PALLAS interconnect 7 9
Audio Note black PALLAS interconnect 7.5 4
Stealth INDRA 4 7.5
ELROD classic (average) 6.5 4
ELROD new (average) 7.5 6
Pranawire (average) 9 4
———– preamps ———–
Audio Note M10 preamp 9 7
Audio Note M9 preamp 8 6
LAMM LL1 preamp 5 7
LAMM L2 preamp 5 6
———– phono preamps ———–
Audio Note M9 phonostage with S9 step-up transformer 10 8
Lamm LP2 phono preamp 6 6

Rated 0 to 10 and we are assuming they are in a system that really shows off their capability. There are a lot more components and things we can rate, but this is hopefully a decent start.

OK. You all know this is just my Wild Eyed Opinion. But I think most people would agree that the relative values here are close and in proportion to what we experience when we listen to these things.

There are, you know, components with a value of 0,0 and we won’t point fingers but it is an interesting state of affairs for those that own them. The more educated we are about the REAL comparative performance of our gear the less chance end up with stuff that is not what we are looking for.

From this table, one can see why the Gaku-On amps on the Coltrane Supreme speakers was such a significant system. Even though the ML3 on the Supremes was awesomely intense and deeply subtle, the Gaku-On on the Supremes whacks ya, you poor defenseless listener you, over BOTH sides of the head. A roller-coaster ride to wheresoever the music takes you.

This kind of pairing of opposites works well for the most listeners, I think. Like the Edge NL10 amps driven by the Audio Aero Capitole player – it entertains both sides of the brain. On the other hand, there is something kind of special about well-balanced components, components who heart-centric rating is close to the mind-centric rating.

It seems, looking at things here, that some gear uses either some warmth and/or dynamics and/or well-integrated micro-dynamics to appeal to the Heart.