REVIEW: NORDOST LEIF BLUE HEAVEN TONEARM CABLE
We wanted to discover more about Nordost cables, and so we have started with the Leif Blue Heaven tonearm cable, here’s what we thought.
Leif Blue Heaven
Cables are curiously controversial things when it comes to the hi-fi fraternity. However, this is not going to be the time for debate. Frankly, we figure if you are here reading about a £300+ 1.25m tonearm cable that you are actually interested in how it performs against another, albeit less expensive cable. If we have figured correctly, welcome.
Now, Nordost will need little introduction since it grabbed the headlines back in 1991 for its flat audio cables that borrowed heavily from technologies initially engineered for the aerospace industry. Don’t be fooled by the company’s naming convention though. This is no Nordic cable company with links to a Viking heritage. Nordost’s cables are proudly handmade in its Massachusetts-based facility. Even the most basic designs are produced using exact, meticulous procedures that ensure the exceptional quality that Nordost has come to represent.
The Leif range is Nordost’s entry-level series that includes the White Lightning, Purple Flare, Blue Heaven and Red Dawn lines.
Leif Blue Heaven Design
Nordost tells us that Leif cables are constructed using silver-plated, OFC solid core conductors. The conductors are then treated with Nordost’s FEP (Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene) extrusion process, where each LEIF conductor is individually enclosed in FEP insulation. This technique dramatically reduces the dielectric properties of the cables and increases signal speeds and accuracy in signal transfer. Additionally, Leif cables are designed with a mechanically tuned construction that optimises the dimensions and spacing of conductors to reduce dielectric effects even further.
The Blue Heaven tonearm cable consists of 4 x 24 AWG silver plated 99.9999 OFC solid core conductors and a 26 AWG drain wire. For those into figures, capacitance is rated at 45.0pF/ft and inductance at 0.046μH/ft. The cable has a 98% shield braid.
The cables are well made although lack some of the flash and sparkle that some other brands employ and so may look a tad plain in comparison. However, we have all heard the saying “all show and no go”, right?
The cable we were sent is terminated with high quality, RCA ends. For an extra £50 you can have a 90-degree DIN plug should your tonearm require such a connection. Other than that, you can have your Blue Heaven tonearm cable terminated with straight DIN, RCA, or XLR connectors as standard.
Blue Heaven Tonearm Review
For the past couple of years, the cable plugged into the back of the turntable here is a well-made individual pair that retails now at around £80. So, although not a huge jump, we are still looking at an additional investment of £250 which is not insubstantial to many of us.
We plugged the Leif Blue Heaven tonearm cable into our VPI Prime and then commenced with the suggested 60-hour burn-in.
It was interesting to hear the cable’s character change over time as it opened up. After almost a month of playing records with the Nordost cable attached it was time to return to our original cable for a while.
As well as the VPI Prime fitted with a Cartridge Man Music Maker III the Blue Heaven was plugged into the phono stage of our Musical Fidelity M6si and the YBA Genesis PH-1 phono into a YBA IA3A integrated amplifier (review coming soon). It has also spent some time plugged into the phono stages of an Arcam SA10 and SA20. Speakers were mostly Marten Duke 2 with a pair of Revel Concerta2 M16 also joining the party.
Blue Heaven Tonearm Cable Sound Quality
Swapping our regular interconnects with the now ready Nordost ones, the difference was immediately discernable. In fact, we swapped the cables back and forth quite a few times to make sure we weren’t merely ‘wanting’ to hear a difference.
The opening piano bars of Eat The Elephant by A Perfect Circle sounds more substantial and more realistic when compared to our usual cabling. The attack and decay of the instrument sounded more organic. The same could also apply to Maynard’s vocals too. Further on into the track, we sensed that the soundstage was also somewhat more expansive.
Leftfield’s Inspection (Check One) only went to confirm our suspicion that the soundstage had also increased. There was now more clean space between the notes, especially with the YBA PH-1 in the chain.
Top of The City by Kate Bush demonstrated the improved treble extension and clarity in the upper-mids.
Slipping on Radiohead’s remastered OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017 we picked out the ambient Meeting in the Aisle and the still huge Paranoid Android in particular from this triple vinyl offering. The Blue Heaven again proved that we weren’t just imaging everything we noticed before. Instruments are better defined, background noise had been further reduced, allowing more clarity to either end of the frequency scale. In short, a wholesale improvement on what we were using before.
Spending over £300 on a cable is never going to be an easy move to make for most of us. That said, as we are improving our review rig, it stands to reason that those links between components are also enhanced.
The Nordost Leif Blue Heaven tonearm cable has made a noticeable difference to the sound quality we're getting from our turntable. We didn’t think that our VPI Prime could sound much better, but the Nordost cabling has proved us wrong. We do recommend you invest in your cables and the Blue Heaven range isn’t silly money. We are impressed.
The only thing worrying us now is that we have also taken delivery of Nordost’s Heimdall 2 tonearm cable. Stay tuned to see if it makes as much difference again.
For more information, head on over to Nordost.
StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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