[we’ll be adding more photos as soon as I find where Neli has put all the Origo cables :-)]
Speaker Cables 1
OK. At this point we switch to speaker cable shootouts. We compare the ODIN to the PRIME, as the ORIGO was not able to make it to this shootout due to a slight difficulty with respect to someone forgetting to bring it. 🙂
Nordost ODIN speaker cable
* ODIN on the main towers.
PRIME interconnect. Valhalla speaker cable on the bass towers.
Eva Cassidy: Easy, relaxed dynamics. We [Neli and I] are not used to this [we had PRIME on the main towers for 2 – 3 years now]. XRAY Vision – can see into the music more.
Chinese Female Vocals: More dynamics. Open and clear. Less resolution. Less fill (especially on voice).
Radiohead: More realistic dynamics. Better PRaT.
Note the ‘Less resolution. Less fill (especially on voice)’ above. I suspected that this was because the ODIN speaker cable was expecting the higher resolution that an upstream ODIN interconnect would bring to the party [and we have noticed synergy between the ODIN cables and their brethren before]. So we replaced the PRIME interconnect with the ODIN interconnect.
* ODIN + ODIN with Valhalla on the bass units.
Radiohead: Amazing depth. More forward. Jim: less irritating [Jim is not exactly partial to Nordost cables, though he has been tempted by ODIN a few times]. Lots of musical threads to follow with my ears. More sibilance [So say my notes, though on the next song they say the opposite. We certainly killed it once and for all at the next shootout or so [see below] when Dylan was one of our test songs [actually, several Dylan songs – it was wonderful. Yes, even the harmonica :-)].
Chinese Female Vocal: Wonderful, wonderful tone. Less body on the cello. Wonderful voice. The top 1 or 2 experiences I’ve had hearing a voice like that. Less evenly distributed throughout soundstage. Cello had more detail. Better flow. Better PRaT. [did the cables just need to settle? These songs have a lot, a LOT, of sssss’s in the words, don’t they Alex and Teck? :-)]
Eva: Jim: Not engaging. He was right, Eva sounded bored. I wondered if it was just this song, because if we are hearing so far into the song, we might be able to hear that she really was tired of this song – it might be the 100th time she has sung it this year or she is hungry or something. The next song was better; she was more into the song [Bridge Over Troubled Waters]. You could hear that she liked some parts of the song better than others. Is this real? Am I nuts? Or is the system not quite stable and is having weird affects that make the subtle cues as to the mood of the singer kind of random?
I, personally, think it is indeed real. But I am not sure I want to know that the singer is bored. Frank Sinatra was bored from say, 1962 to the day he died [to my ears]. All of his songs sound like he was just earning a pay check. How many other singers also just go through the motions?
Interlude. Jorma Design No. 3 speaker cables
We later compared the Jorma Design No. 1 [in the Valhalla price and performance range] to their No. 3 speaker cables, their least expensive
No. 3 had less resolution, less body, less fill, less color and less subtleties. But it was a reduction in performance across the milieu that was ‘in kind’ – it still had all that Jorma Design approach to music.
Neli: not as side-to-side stable.
Tone is good. Decay is a little fast, anticipatory pause is a little foreshortened. Imaging a little less precise.
We were really happy with the No. 3’s performance. No bad behavior. It still sounded a lot like the No. 1 [and presumably their No. 2, which is between the No. 1 and the, uh, No. 3], just thinner.
Speaker Cables 2
We kept the Valhalla on the bass towers and ODIN is the interconnect on the crossover. The primary purpose of this shootout is to evaluate the performance of the Jorma Design Origo speaker cable.
Current pricing circa this date for 2.5m (not responsible for errors, blah blah blah): No. 1 $6,485 ($9,800 bi-wire). Origo: $10,300 ($19,825 bi-wire)
* Jorma Design No. 1
[one step below Origo][comparing to ODIN speaker cable, which is on the speakers now, and to a large degree PRIME, which has been on the speakers for years and with which we are very familiar]
Dylan: Soundstage blotchier. Good separation and attack. Harmonic a little bright. Needs more resolution to be less bright.
Radiohead: Thinner sounding. Good presence. No where near as smooth. Much less resolution. Less full – but leaves a nice sense of airiness. Thinner voice.
Jorma Design Origo speaker cable
Jorma Kaukonen [I bet Neli just played this to drive me nuts here by having two Jormas to deal with :-)]: The attack and decay was much more fleshed out. I would say ’rounder’ but that has become synonymous with an attack and decay that is sloppy and uncontrolled. This is well controlled and there is lots of resolution within the attack and decay themselves. Fuller. More real. More harmonic color. Images have more body. More resolution with respect to the images hanging in space. Clean. A happy cable like the PRIME. Much happier than the No. 1.
Radiohead: Lighter than PRIME [we will see]. Good drama and anticipation. Thinner? The voice is pretty [by which I must have meant that the cable is lighter on its feet, highlighting the little affectations of the voice as opposed to the guttural and solidity]. Neli: better PRaT. More solidity. Kevin: Subtle transitions more complete and are therefore more emotionally revealing.
More nimble. Thinner. Less fully fleshed out soundstage, imaging and harmonics. [OK, here I am already comparing it to the PRIME, as remembered]
Dylan: Harmonic pretty good. Almost enjoyable [hey, most of this post is verbatim from my notes, including that. I’ve always thought Dylan’s and Neil Young’s harmonics were very difficult to render properly unless a person really WANTED a headache].
We played 3 tracks from Dylan each time during this shootout. on track 3, there is a ‘chuck’ing/scraping of the strings of an electric guitar that was very irritating and unrecognizable for what it was with the No. 1. Later in the shootout, it was much more evident what it was, and there was actually different harmonics hearable within the ‘chuck’ sound itself.
Neli: More PRaT, clarity, dynamics, separation and detail – the more rhythmic lines make beat more evident. [OK. Neli and Kevin (Jim wasn’t here for this shootout) both started giving me long impressions talking very quickly, and at the same time would talk to each other in a manner not loud enough for me to hear what they said (we played all of this shootout fairly loud. We started loud, and then to keep it fair, we had to keep it loud.)]
Layla (LP): Somebody said turn it up! And it was me 🙂
Still unbalanced and not enough resolution on the guitar [note this comparison is with the No. 1, we played Layla while we were getting settled(?)]. Kevin: Heard a lot more. Neli: Duane Allman versus Eric Clapton, can hear different emotion, pain, anguish.
More separation, resolution. More confusing with so much more detail [Kevin and Neli disagreed with me. But this song is all about lots of confusion with a voice and piercing guitar rising above it all. Or so I think, anyway. And my feeling at the time was that more resolution brought the confusion too much into the domain of the voice and guitar.].
Jorma Design PRIME
Dylan: Voice much more real. So much more body, many more subtle details. It’s a party! Everybody ‘must get stoned’! The emotion and meaning behind Dylan’s words was not apparent [to me] before. His songs are mostly made up of catch phrases, and sometimes whole sentences, that stand on their own and the music and Dylan’s intonation emphasis this. Kind of like Eva above, his emotion changes a lot during a song – but in this case, he is mostly talking to us – and this works because many people have slightly different emotions about each different thing they talk about during a conversation; and even within a single topic, the intonations will vary.
Trumpets sound great. The harmonics cuts through and rises above it all. So much more information in the voice – you can hear what he is meaning as it changes word to word – and he is having a great time vamping a lot of the time. He is having fun, making fun, poking fun, and speaking to us, not singing to us – which is communicating at a different, more personal level.
Piercing harmonica is almost a parody of being musical – it is slightly comical it is so piercing. This is kind of what harmonicas are meant to do.
Kevin: More trademark nasality in voice.
The change to Prime was like moving from and old CD player to LP: much more real and ‘more of a presentation’, this was like a real show was happening in our room. At this point, for me, it was more fascinating than engaging. It was like hearing Dylan for the first time [the first time I really heard Dylan, that I can remember, was at a party in the University student ghetto in 69. Couldn’t figure out why everybody must have stones thrown at them. I was 11 at the time.]
Kevin: Keeps PRaT. Adds Refinement
Neli: Little more laid back than Origo.
Next song: harmonica has so many inner harmonies. Chucking on the guitar is now apparently fully rendered.
Jorma Design PRIME
Kevin: More space.
Me: So much more detail around each note
Neli: More nuanced [I gave her a hard time for such a common description. 🙂 She came back with better layering, better density, and fuller bass].
Me: LOTS more ethereal. Sounds a lot more like music than reproduced sound.
Kevin: greater depth of sadness
Me: Violins really apparent and present
Kevin: biggest gap yet between Origo and Prime. [This started some debate as to whether we all agreed on this – or whether No. 1 to Origo was biggest jump in performance. They are both large gaps and, whereas Kevin held his position, I am not so sure].
[My suspicion is that because PRIME handles nuances better, and because Radiohead is nuanced music, that the Prime sounded especially well on Radiohead]
Neli: More organic [Now I REALLY gave her a hard time :-)]
The voice came over much more as a real voice. Echo in concert hall much more evident. The compression in the bass is more evident as well [this evolved into me going on – no, I had not been drinking, but sometimes I seem to act like it anyway – about how these Cream and Clapton-like anthems are just going to be like this; a mass of sound with people and guitars shouting with all the emotion they can muster, just to be heard. Their trademark understated anthems. Very unpretentious]
Neli: More body to Clapton before Duane came in [I think that is what she said – maybe I HAD been drinking and didn’t know it]
Kevin: Clapton by himself, more emotional and desperate.
Neli or Kevin: Piano tells harmonic story here in its decays.
Me: tweets at end of song have a dimension, they appear in various locations in the soundstage, and they each move off the stage in different directions.
So at this point, we have ODIN interconnect and PRIME speaker cable. We are liking it. Hey! We say, “Let’s try ODIN speaker cable on the bass units instead of the Valhalla!”
* ODIN on bass towers
Jorma Kaukonen #9 Big River Blues: Bass more prominent. More open, more integration between main towers and bass towers [which we previously didn’t think needed to be any more tightly integrated]. Bass not as tight, but much more natural. Another layer of gauze removed?! Decay in hall better.
Radiohead #7 [on in Rainbows. Why I wrote the tracks down now and not many hours ago, who can tell]. Less compressed. Smoother? More PRaT.
Best I’ve heard this song sound. A nice ease; bass not needing to be turned down.
Dylan: Decay better in drum, and better hall ambiance. Greater ease to the whole thing – less compressed. Bass more part of song – better integrated.
Kevin: Improves menace and lurking feeling.
Me: More ACCESSIBLE detail in harmonica; can now focus right in – mind no longer has to deal with ignoring bass problems. Somewhere during the night, the harmonica became one of my favorite things to listen to in these songs – so many harmonies – so rich.
Kevin: More extension on harmonics. Somewhere in here, Kevin became an advocate for the idea that it was not only bass that was improved, but the entire spectrum of sound. I eventually proposed a hypothesis that the crossover was being affected by the ODIN cables in a positive way, that the blowback from the bass towers was now a more positive influence on the crossover, which affects all frequencies. The other hypothesis, that the bass frequencies being better influences other frequencies at various multiples of their frequencies, is also out there on the table for us to ponder as we switch back to Origo once again, but on the bass towers]
* Origo on the bass units
replacing ODIN, with ODIN upstream interconnect and PRIME on the main towers
More compressed, and less open, not as much separation. More bass texture, rounder, more definition. Music further back in hall.
Neli: Much leaner. Was Valhalla better?
Brain fried from listening to so many things. I personally can’t remember that far back. What we do is put the ODIN speaker cable back on the bass towers. The next day we rearrange several things to put the ODIN power cord on the crossover/bass-amp. This caused another jump in ease and openness and separation. Perhaps not as much as we hoped, but the PC is still in its position because currently that is the most optimum place we know to put it.
And that concludes the report of the findings at our shootouts at this time. Thanks go to Rick and Jim, especially Kevin, Dan, and, uh, oh yeah, Neli 🙂
What fun was had by one and all. Have to do another one of these, and soon.