Nordost Blue Heaven Tonearm Cable + Review
Jay Garrett investigates a tonearm cable with customisable grounding…
Blue Heaven Tonearm Cable +
$629.99 (1.25 metres)
Nordost's Blue Heaven range is the company's most varied within its Leif entry-level cable line, which also includes the White Lightning, Purple Flare and Red Dawn families. We have covered its RCA and original tonearm cables, but the range also features S/PDIF, Ethernet, USB, headphone, power, speaker and subwoofer products.
The latest Blue Heaven tonearm cable came as part of the Nordost Tonearm Cable + updates that brought additional detachable ground whips, something that first appeared on the Nordost Valhalla 2 Tonearm Cable + launched at the High End Show, Munich 2019. Nordost says these silver-plated ground wires, complete with Micro Mono-Filament technology, connect to the cable's shield, serving as additional ground loop prevention when needed. Furthermore, being removable, you can find which combination suits your system best.
Blue Heaven Tonearm Cable + uses a twisted pair design using silver-plated 99.9999% OFC solid-core conductors to create left and right channels, individually shielded to eliminate inter-channel crosstalk. Additionally, there's a separately shielded, silver-plated bond wire wrapped in Micro Mono-Filament, which runs alongside the left and right channels to minimise noise from the line. It's a very well-made product and quite flexible, even the section sporting an attractive translucent blue sheath, which made for easy connection to my equipment without feeling like I'd wrestled with a constrictor.
The review set sent to me was a 1.25 metre length (add $90 for additional half-metre) terminated with MoonGlo Straight RCA connectors; however, straight or 90० low-mass MoonGlo 5-pin DIN, or XLR terminations are also available (Add $50 for 90° MoonGlo DIN connector). This new version is visibly different from the original iteration due to the left and right cables at either end no longer being wrapped in a black outer case. I am informed that the new end caps do the job of the previous heat-shrink sleeve and allow enough space to give a mechanically stable point to mount the ground whip socket. Hence the new splitters are closer in design to the Weisline ones than the original Blue Heaven and house the connection for the additional ground wires.
Nordost advises you to 'add to taste', as far as the Detachable Ground Wires are concerned. First, it's suggested that you play music without any attached and see how things sound. Following that, try inserting one of them to your cable at the end closest to your turntable, then after removing that one, try connecting the one closest to your phono stage. Then, try both plugged in. Finally, based on your findings, configure whichever set-up has the least noise in your system.
Plugging the Blue Heaven Tonearm Cable + between my VPI Prime turntable and YBA PH1 phono stage's moving coil channel, I started with the fixed ground cables attached to the posts on both phono preamp and turntable and set the platter spinning. There was some mild hum once I upped the volume of my Gryphon Essential preamplifier beyond 17. It wasn't obtrusive, about the same level as I get with my current Weisline tonearm cable, and barely noticeable once I have music playing, but not ideal.
I repeated the tests with every combination of grounding cable, fixed and detachable. During these tests, I discovered that attaching just the ground whip at the turntable side drastically reduced hum, letting me push the volume up even further on the preamp before it became noticeable. This led me to try the same experiment at the phono stage end, yielding even better results.
In the end, I had the primary ground wire attached to the grounding post on the turntable and the whip and fixed grounds connected to the phono stage. With this combination, I was able to ramp up the volume of my Gryphon amplification to 26 before I could hear any discernible noise from the low output Sumiko Songbird through the moving coil channel of the YBA phono stage. For me, this was fine as I rarely venture beyond 22, which is above halfway to maximum output at 42 – which is, of course, the meaning of “life, the universe, and everything”!
Right from the off, this Blue Heaven tonearm cable proved an improvement over the original. It produced an even more musical, engaging and detailed soundscape, no doubt in part due to the lower noise floor, which encourages you to turn the music up, as well as making listening at lower volumes much more rewarding. Indeed, staying within the Gryphon pairing's 'green bias zone', which puts it into Class AB mode and is handy when having the music at 'background' levels, I felt I was getting more than usual when playing LPs at conversational volume.
The Blue Heaven Tonearm Cable + is more versatile than the original iteration because it lets people customise and optimise the cable grounding required for their particular systems. This design proved highly beneficial for me when using a low output moving coil cartridge, as this produces a lower signal and requires more gain, which increases background noise such as ground hum. Do audition this cable to find out what it can do for your system.
StereoNET’s resident rock star, bass player, and gadget junkie. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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