Nordost Odin Cables

Reader K. Reid asked for a profile of ultra-high-end cables from Nordost, and I'm only too happy to oblige. At the pinnacle of the company's extensive product range is the Odin line, which includes power cords, tonearm cables, analog and digital interconnects, and speaker cables.

Of course, all cables are useless unless the equipment is supplied with power, so let's start with the Odin power cord—after all, if the AC-power signal isn't up to snuff, the gear won't perform its best, or so they say. The Odin power cord uses six close-tolerance, 16AWG, 99.99999-percent oxygen-free copper (OFC) conductors, each covered by an 85-micron layer of extruded silver and suspended in a dual micro mono-filament matrix—two twisted strands of fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP) are helically wound around each conductor to precisely space it from the insulating sleeve. Finally, the entire structure is enclosed in the company's proprietary TSC (Total Signal Control) shield.

The claimed result is a new level of power-transmission efficiency combined with superb mechanical damping and rejection of external RFI/EM interference. And the cost? A 1.25-meter length is $11,000, while 2.5m is $16,000, and 5m is $26,000.

Starting at the beginning of the audio signal path, the Odin tonearm cable is designed to transport the miniscule signals from a turntable tonearm—often a thousandth the amplitude of a CD player's output—without causing irreparable harm. This cable includes a dedicated ground wire and uses four 23AWG, 99.99999-percent OFC conductors with extruded-silver sheathing in a dual micro mono-filament TSC design, which is said to tightly control the dielectric characteristics and increase mechanical damping, resulting in increased audible transparency and dynamic precision as well as a lower noise floor. A 1.25m length will set you back $10,000, and each half meter more adds $2000 to the cost.

Analog interconnects are essential in any A/V system, and Nordost offers Odin interconnects in single-ended and balanced varieties with RCA and XLR connectors, respectively. Both types use eight 23AWG conductors of 99.999999-percent pure OFC clad with extruded silver in a dual micro mono-filament TSC design. These cables can be yours starting at $14,000 for a stereo pair 0.6 meter long; add $2000 for each half meter of extra length.

Most audiophiles have at least one digital source in their systems, so they need digital interconnects as well. Available with 75Ω RCA or BNC or 110Ω XLR connectors for S/PDIF or AES/EBU devices, respectively, the Odin digital interconnect uses all the same design elements as the company's other flagship cables, though the 75Ω version has only one 16AWG conductor, while the 110Ω model has two 18AWG conductors and two 22AWG drain wires. A 1.25m length of either version costs $10,000, while 2.5m is $13,000 and 5m is $19,000.

The last electrical leg of an audio signal's journey is the speaker cable. Using 24 20AWG conductors with the same construction parameters as the other Odin cables and available with either spade lugs or banana-pin connectors, these are arranged in four flat groups of six wires each to allow bi-wiring or bi-amping. A 1m stereo pair costs $20,000, and each additional half meter adds $3000.

You could easily spend six figures to connect all your gear with these cables, so the big question is how much improvement do they realistically provide? They've garnered glowing reviews in the audiophile press, but I contend that any improvements are most noticeable when the rest of the system is similarly ultra-high-end—anything less will drown the effect of the cables in other problems. But if you've got the audiophile itch—and the scratch to match—I'm willing to bet you can't do better than Odin.

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COMMENTS
Scott Wilkinson's picture

A spirited exchange, indeed! And yes, the Randi $1M challenge is still waiting for someone to take it up. Pear Cables started to, but then backed out; the details can be found at tinyurl.com/24ojlt. Michael Fremer was involved in that incident; in fact, he was going to be the listener in the test. And I must point out that he wasn't the one who backed out; Pear decided not to provide any cables for the test after all. According to Fremer, Randi then proceeded to unfairly bad-mouth him in addition to Pear, so the whole thing fell through, which really bums me out, because I'd love to have results from a real double-blind test. I'm running out of characters, so more in my next comment...

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Regarding double-blind tests, Fremer told me about a couple of other such efforts he's been involved with, one evaluating the difference in sound of several power amps and the other comparing the sound of speaker cables; in the latter case, none of the listeners knew that the only difference between A and B was the cables. In both cases, which involved a large number of listeners with varying degrees of experience, the statistical result was no better than chance, but experienced listeners such as Fremer and John Atkinson were reliably able to discern differences and, in the case of the speaker cables, pick the more-expensive ones. So it seems that experience counts for something in double-blind tests.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Jon, here's a link to the Wall Street Journal article about the cable test in which Fremer and Atkinson participated: http://is.gd/aRNVH

james's picture

Yeah, I'd love to gather a group of "learned", "experienced" audiophiles and watch them consistently discern ANY cable on the market over 14/16 AWG stranded, shielded, copper wire. Further, "Any improvement there might be will be audible only if the rest of the system is top flight" is simply a cop-out that is squarely aimed to eliminate 99.997% of the populace from participation in this dialogue, as not only are billions dashed from a monetary standpoint, but even those WITH the financial means typically have as much sense and would never dream of spending ten, twenty, or 100 + times the amount to extract not a bit of a performance increase. So, you're (handily, of course) left with an unbelievably narrow sliver of the population who really only "convince" one another, and the balance of us dolts, are seemingly left without rebuke, due to the aforementioned "criteria". What a clever little ploy. Now, let's get to those ABX's.

james's picture

I read the article, and wasn't moved by any of it, by the way. Who knows what qualified the "philes" as "easily" picking out the more expensive cable? Perhaps the criteria was as rock-solid as the gentleman who picked out his line-conditioner over the wall-outlet TWO out of THREE times. Yes, TWO out of THREE times, folks. Besides it (the high end speaker cable) only bettered the sound "5%"! You can't make this stuff up, lol!

Jon's picture

thank you scott for the link! interesting. still makes me wonder why someone who claims to be able to tell the difference in cables and even comes up with a % of how different they are doesn't take up the offer of $1 million from Randi. jon

Eric's picture

Michael Fremer, I reread your post on my expensive high end Quad Core Intel PC with 24" monitor and it read so much better than when I read it at work on my $500 Dell notebook. The words really jumped out at me this time. What a difference! The better quality components really brought out your point much more clearly. Even though it's the exact same words reproduced identically through a digital internet connection, it was like reading your post in a beautiful open field blooming with wild flowers. I must say I will never read this site on that cheap laptop again. Well played sir.

Anders's picture

Amazing how stirred up many get on this post, surprising when the blog is "Ultimate Gear". I guess Valhalla has produced these cables because there are people willing to buy them. There will always be wealthy people, and some for well-deserved reasons. If they spend a ton of money on speaker cables, or buy a Lamborghini, or an über-designed watch, up to them. On the topic itself, I was at the annual high-end show here in Stockholm 6 weeks ago and listened to tens of millions of dollars of gear from multiple manufacturers. One set-up entirely connected by these very Nordost Odin (power, signal, even tone arm cable). Speakers: Wilson Audio Sasha W/P, Turntable: Brinkmann Balance, Amps: Aesthetics, etc). The room was acoustically tuned. In MHO, this was the best sounding system on the show (stunning TSTL), even with much more expensive speakers in other rooms. Odin's contribution to the pot is of course not known, as it was not an option to request recabling with Monster & comparison auditio

Anders's picture

Just to finish off my piece above: I believe all that listened to the system was stunned by its natural sound, but as the entire shebang of gear came from price points that roughly exclude a similar percentage of the population as the Odin's % of copper being oxygen free, one could easily question the "sanity" of so many other components in this system beyond the cables (the tonearm, the pickup, the turntable etc). One thing is true: If one would change all components, the sound would change. All agree. Change speakers: Yes. Change turntable: Not all would agree. Change cables: not many. I hope you guys get regular high-end shows in decent vicinity where you live so you can put your ears to gear that Scott writes about here. It's fun, even if I personally would face bankruptcy + divorce if I would buy only the Wilson Sasha, and be content with Monster. It's like the fascination of seeing a real Lamborghini in action, even if will never be mine... Keep it up Scott!

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Anders, many thanks for your kind words and insightful comments! You clearly "get" what I'm doing in this blog, which is purely for geek fun!

ASalutetoLeibovitz's picture

Just a thought

The REAL Joe Blow's picture

Why on earth would you spend ~$10,000 per meter POWER CORD? The power company delivers power to your house with *miles and miles* of standard copper cable of questionable origin; you have several dozen meters of standard 14/2 NMD-90 copper cable that came from Home Depot going from your panel to the outlet. You'd have to be insane to think that putting in this kind of cable for the last meter or two is going to make any difference whatsoever!

thepcguy's picture

Tom Nousaine versus Jack Summer http://www.vxm.com/21R.64.html

Catswold's picture

"High end digital cables." LMAO! Digital signals are nothing but 1's and 0's, basically sending either an "on" signal, or an "off" signal. Those signals either arrive at their destination and the message is carried or they do not. If they do arrive then the original message, with full original fidelity arrives at the other end to be processed in whatever manner intended. If they do not, then nothing works. Beyond that the material used whether platinum, silver, gold, or lowly copper or aluminum will have absolutely no effect on the signal. You are more than welcome to spend your life savings on a high dollar digital cable, but if you do, the only one you are fooling is yourself. These vendors will gladly deprive you of your money and laugh at you all the way to the bank. The truth with analog signals is slightly more complex, involving resistances and capacitance, but the essential truth is just the same. Double blind testing invariably shows there is no discerna

our martin's picture

You notice the jump to odin cables when you pair them with the very best..i use mine with a krell cypher evolution 2 preamps(stereo pair)evolution 1 monoblocks(stereo pair)westlake audio tower sm1s krell fbi with wilson audio thors hammer subs(stereo pair)mcintosh mt10 turntable and naim nds with a 555 power supply.. all krell gear connected through cast everything else odin(interconnects power cords speaker cables) and i use a nordost thor power unit..words can't describe how good they sound together..sounds heaven sent..I'm willing to bet HigherFi that they can't do any better than this!

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