Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. – John Lennon
'spare time' has been in the negative range for many
months, HiDiamond and Nordost have been very patient for the delay in
getting their reviews done. Those reading this will have to realize I'm going to
move fast and furious so keep up! I feel honored to have the opportunity to
review the Nordost Heimdall 2 headphone cables, HiDiamond AES/EBU Big One
digital cable and JH Audio Roxanne IEMs. All three of these are incredibly well
made and are built to the highest of quality standards. The smallest of details
in construction were well thought out and each one should bring you many years
of reliable use.
Nordost Heimdall2 Headphone Cable
The Nordost Heimdall 2 is made with 32 AWG 7/40 conductors that are individually insulated and twisted using Litz construction. Nordost also used Aramid fibers into the overall cable design to ensure reliability, durability and of course furthering the sound quality. You can buy the Nordost Heimdall 2 headphone cable in a wide variety of plug termination options to ensure they will work with a wide variety of headphones. You also benefit from various end connector adapters, so if you use two or three different brands of headphones you can easily plug-n-play to your hearts content while also saving money by not having to buy a separate cable for every headphone you may own. If you need more overall cable length, they also sell a two meter extension cable for $599.99, though I like to keep my cables short and sweet.
As for the sound of Nordost's Heimdall 2 headphone cables and
my prized Audeze LCD-3 'phones... wow! As used within my 1 of 1 Steampunk
edition Audeze LCD-3, they really brought about some nice improvements over the
stock cable. Whilst the stock cable is quite good, by substituting the Nordost
Heimdall 2 my ears heard more depth within the details of dynamic gradients.
Bass was also a touch deeper yet still very tight and tuneful. The big gains
were in the uppermost frequencies, where cymbals and bells shimmered a bit more
harmonically natural. I can hear why other reviewers have been raving about the
Nordost Heimdall 2 with other models of Audeze's excellent planar magnetic
headphones. Nordost's Heimdall 2 are a very worthy investment for a relatively
reasonable price too plus you can easily use them, via adapters, with other
brands of headphones too. So headphone junkies take note, the Nordost's Heimdall
2 is one cable to rule them all. Furthermore, you can get them in standard
stereo or special balanced configuration for those of us fortunate enough to
have balanced headphone amplification. What more could you ask for? Love 'em!
HiDiamond Big One AES/EBU Digital Cable
HiDiamond has earned many awards in Europe over the years and have met owner Salvatore at the Milan show in Italy quite a few times. He is a smart, charming gentleman who has many years of experience designing and manufacturing cables. When he offered for me to review their Big One AES/EBU cable I was at first hesitant as do not use that connection much; generally using S/PDIF coax or USB for most things. Since my fave DAC, the Gryphon Audio Kalliope (reviewed here), handles AES/EBU it was time to use that digital input and give it a go.
HiDiamond's Big One digital cable is made with their 4VRC
copper cooking... for four times in order to obtain a reduction in values of
inductance, capacitance and resistance. It is also mixed with graphite!
HiDiamond feels that graphite is a great way to block the noise generated inside
of a cable, yet without introducing noise. For those who feel cable mechanical
noise is a myth, have personally heard it in a few different systems. If you
tapped on a cable it would clearly thump through the loudspeakers. Sounds crazy,
I know, yet have heard it for myself and it is true. HiDiamond boasts that their
insulator of XLPE is 100 times better than normal Teflon and thus the cable,
overall, provides greater linearity and low amplitude of the sine wave, which
results in “the naturalness of musical signal emission”. Unlike RCA
S/PDIF that takes some engineering prowess to achieve a true
75 Ohm impedance, AES/EBU's 110 Ohms via XLR is a bit easier to accomplish.
Cable impedance mismatch can cause signal reflections (which are very bad for
signal transfer, see Wikipedia).
This is part of the reason why I hate the RCA connector folks. In addition, what
idiot would design a connector that connects the positive signal before
the ground? As you can see from the connectors, they are very high quality and
the carbon fiber brings about the look and feel of fine Italian art meets high
technology. I love the style and flair of Italian design!
Normally one expects things to get all happy at 100 hours of
burn-in, yet then was advised more is better... up to 500(!) hours for the
HiDiamond Big One to fully settle in. i borrowed a Bryston BDP-1 and fed
that to the Gryphon Kalliope as could do comparo's in a variety of ways. After
much switching and trial and error, analyzing the HiDiamond Big One was tougher
than first blush. Won't bore you with all the input swapping and USB plus my
custom in-house handmade S/PDIF cable to the Bryston.... plus the HiDiamond
AES/EBU to the Kalliope direct. Let us get right to the point. The
HiDiamond is a very smooth, musically involving cable. There is a richness in
natural texture that never sacrificed detail. Dare I say this, it was almost
as if you added a top quality NOS triode within the signal chain. Think along
the lines of NOS Bugle Boy or perhaps Telefunken here. Not romantic and lush
300B types, more like a VT4C/211 or mesh plate... Top-to-bottom cohesive sound
structure meets harmonics as perhaps only the Italians can do it. If you use
AES/EBU, you really should try the HiDiamond Big One for yourself. Just be sure
to give it plenty of time to break
JH Audio Sirens Series Custom Fit Roxanne
You probably already know about these amazing custom IEMs so won't bore you with technical details. More cyberwords have been typed about how great these are and, in fact, frankly, I am hard-pressed to better say it than Scot Hull did within his comparo of the Ultimate Ears UE 18 Pro, JH Audio Roxanne and Noble Audio Kaiser K-10. Whilst i don't have the Kaiser K-10 IEMs here, i highly agree with pretty much everything Scot says about the UE18 Pro and JH Audio Roxanne IEMs, so read his review. Yes, you read that right! One reviewer saying another guy did a great review so read his and not my review... and the Earth trembled and shook and a miracle just happened right before your eyes. Hey, Scot did an excellent assessment and, frankly, he rocks. What more can i say?
Ok, well if you insist. The only points I'd like to add is that when mastering I use the UE18 Pros and when enjoying music I use the JH Audio Roxanne custom fit IEMs. Never felt the need to make any adjustment to the bass potentiometers, ever. They were perfect right from the factory to my ears. So if you want analytics, the UE18 Pro is the go-to. If you want to enjoy the music, then get the JH Audio Roxannes. As for Noble Audio, am still waiting for them to send me a set after being fit for them within this video during RMAF 2014 and we'll see how they sound once they arrive. Scot Hull has a set of those. Before I forget, the source used during my IEM review is the staggeringly impressive Astell&Kern AK240. Holy c&@p that lil DAP/PMP is seriously stunning sounding. The Roxanne and AK240 combo is my new straight-ahead reference for portable audio player duties. The Roxanne and AK240 have already provided many hundreds of hours of musical bliss, and give me a bit more time and I'll be able to say thousands of hours.
As always, in the end what really matters is that you...