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Frey interconnect and speaker cables
as reviewed by Victor Chavira
Frey - from Old Norse Freyr: the Norse god of fertility, crops, peace, and prosperity.
Speaker cables, interconnects, and power cords are frequently reviewed items here at PFO. This trend reflects the growing number of new cable manufacturers over the past several years. One of the most respected and successful cable companies is Nordost. I have been user of Nordost products for many years; currently I use Blue Heaven interconnects in my small secondary system and El Dorado power cables in my primary system. When the opportunity arose to evaluate Nordost's latest cables featuring trickle-down technology from their state-of-the-art Valahlla series, I gladly accepted the assignment.
Frey are Nordost's premium product in their Norse mid level line of cables. Frey interconnect retails for $900 for one meter pair, and $2400 for two meters of speaker cable. To put things in perspective, a one meter pair of Valhalla interconnect retails for $3600. Therefore, Nordost's Frey makes advanced Valhalla technology accessible for about one fourth the price.
Frey interconnects feature 26 AWG solid OFC conductors with an extruded silver surface. A lavender colored monofilament thread is then spiraled around the conductors over which layers of insulation and shielding are applied. The speaker cables contain twenty-eight 24 AWG solid OFC conductors in a parallel geometry that is extruded through transparent Teflon insulation. In both cases, the monofilament spiral effectively shields the conductors from coming into contact with the insulating material along 80 % of its surface. Viewing the very fine purple thread through a magnifying glass is fascinating. One can only imagine the Rube Goldberg-like device that perfectly spins the colored thread around each conductor. Frey interconnects are terminated with WBT NextGen RCAs, and their speaker cables are finished with Nordost Z plugs.
Before listening, I should let the reader know that these cables were broken in on an audiodharma Cable Cooker for about 72 hours. (For more details on the Cable Cooker, a PFO Brutus Award and Writers' Choice Award Winner, visit Alan Kafton's site at http://www.audioexcellenceaz.com/.)
The first Frey to go into my system were the interconnects. A one meter length connected my Phillips 963 DVD/SACD player to my Magnum Dynalab 208 receiver. A three meter length relayed signals from my EAR 834P phono section. Ironically, the sources I listen to most often are FM, which requires no interconnect, and my Mac Mini as music server, which is linked with a $30 Monster Cable interconnect. The first musical selection I listened to was "Blackest Eyes" by Porcupine Tree on DVD (two channel DTS mix down). I immediately noticed many more details, greater depth perception, and sharply focused images. The music rocked hard and sounded richly layered and complex. I also noted excellent separation of instruments with complete lack of blending or blurring of sound.
Next, I listened to the Grateful Dead's 1974 Mars Hotel LP. "Unbroken Chain" is rare studio performance that truly showcases the band at their musical best. The song contains excellent musical interplay and musical details such as gently accented chimes, contrasting electric and acoustic guitars, and ethereal vocals by Donna Jean Godchaux. This track is very familiar to me, yet the Frey cables revealed fine details that previously passed below the radar of my perception. The patterns of strumming and the distinct sound of a pick gliding across individual strings, along with layers of voices and percussion, were brought into focus from the periphery expanding my view of the music. More importantly, the musicians and instruments were coherently defined across a three-dimensional soundstage that exceeded the parameters of my listening space.
Clearly, the more than twice as expensive Frey interconnects were a significant improvement over my standard $400 Soundstrings. If Nordost's design goal was to create a truly transparent interconnect with imperceptible levels of coloration for under $1K, then I'd say the mission is accomplished.
The positive experience with the interconnect prompted me to substitute the Nordost Frey for my Analysis Plus Oval 9 speaker cables. The new cables sounded unremarkable during the first few hours of play. Certainly speed and clarity were present in spades, but the music did not sound fully fleshed out. As a result, further break-in with FM background music continued for several days. Gradually, the Frey continued to improve and bloom like fruit that has reached the peak of its flavor. No other component in my experience ripened so radically as a result of extended break in. For example, within a week the classical music broadcast I had been listening to for background music sounded so vivid that I could no longer casually pass through the listening space without pausing to enjoy a concerto or sonata to the end of its movement.
Stravinsky's Pulcinella is a celebratory piece of chamber music. I recently had the opportunity to listen to this music performed live by conductor Jeffrey Kahane and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra at the Colburn School of Performing Arts' excellent Zipper Hall. The 400 seat Herbert Zipper Concert Hall was completed in 1998 and has among the best acoustics of music performance venues in Los Angeles. The most important aspects of the performance were the purity of tone from the orchestra, the undistorted dimensions of space and time, and uncompressed dynamic range. These were the same qualities that Frey brought forth when listening to Pulcinella at home.
For example, the Serenata movement begins with a lovely melody played by oboe. Frey transmits the true timbre of the oboe and orchestra better than any cable I've had in my listening room. The Vivo movement starts with a humorous burst of trombone. The trombone is situated toward the right rear of the orchestra. The brassy trombone is the primary voice in this part of the ballet. The trombone's laugh-like line is scored to project over the orchestra, rather than blend into the fabric of a chord. Frey preserves the trombone's space and time relationship to the orchestra and recording venue. No set of components in my experience can successfully reproduce the uncompressed dynamic range of an orchestra. However, with the Frey cables in place, my system rendered soft shadings and large scale dramatic swings with effortless aplomb.
During my review time with Frey I viewed several DVDs, the most notable of which was Pride and Prejudice. With its elegant dialogue and classically inspired soundtrack, Pride and Prejudice is movie that I thoroughly enjoyed. Dialogue sounded clear, natural, and expressive. The piano plays a minor role in the film but a major role in the soundtrack, especially the Beethoven-like, "Dawn" and "Mrs. Darcy." Frey produced piano tones with a precision previously unmatched. Chords and melodies sounded notably more coherent than with my reference. The piano's size and structure were more easily visualized with the Nordost cable.
An unpleasant consequence of audio reviewing is being left with the unsettling thought that one's system is not performing to its maximum potential. A fine new product comes in, and the next thing you know you're thinking about upgrading. My current stable of cables and interconnects are quite good and of high value. However, the Nordost Frey products are technologically and sonically superior. The goddess Frey offered me a taste of the best sounding cables available as opposed to the best that I could afford. Frey interconnects and speaker cables are the most transparent and least colored components I've ever had in my system. They are a perfect reviewer's tool, capable of communicating the sonic signatures of components and source material.
The Nordost Frey is a rising star to the top tier of cables and receives my highest recommendation. I will regret to see them go. Victor Chavira
Frey speaker cable