Nordost Red Dawn Interconnects
& Rev II Biwire Speaker Cable

By Robin Lybeck
Pictures by Nordost

Published May 14th 2004


Cables. Few things in highend audio are as controversial as cables. First audiophiles can be divided into two camps; those who believe that cables can make a difference and those who don’t. When we take a closer look at those who actually believe in the sonic benefits (or deficiencies) of cables, we find a mass of different opinions about the materials used in and the principles used to create cables. Not to mention system matching, every serious audiophile knows and respects the importance of system matching. Or do they? Cables range from the standard copper cable included in your basic all-in-one setup to outrageously expensive constructions the size of garden hoses, built from materials that most of us will never recognize. So where’s the sense in all this, where’s the thin line of cable choice drawn?

Of course I don't have an all-encompassing answer to this question. As far as my own opinions go, I do believe cables have an important place in every system and that they do indeed affect the overall sound. When I began my latest "cable testing round", I was aware of quite how much good cables can differ from each other in terms of overall sonic performance, but maybe not fully to what possible extent. This testing process ended with me acquiring two pairs of Siltech interconnects (the brand has been something of a long-time trusted choice in my different systems), but it still left me with my loyal long-time companions, two pairs of Dunlavy Z6, as speaker cable. Not long after this whole messy project had been brought to a momentary halt, I was offered the chance to test a pair of Nordost Red Dawn Rev II speaker cable. I was familiar with Nordost as a brand; having tested some of their cables earlier, but the Red Dawn is the most expensive one I’ve tried so far. Let me be clear in telling You that the speaker cable wasn’t hooked up for very long before I went running for the interconnects to complete the setup. Taking into account the unique construction and nature of the Red Dawn cables, I decided it’s time for to get its first dedicated cable review in some time.


As stated, Nordost has something of a unique approach to cable design. You won’t find any "garden hoses" in their product range, as most of their cables are, well, flat. Nordost claims that their technology is derived from the space industry and gives a significantly higher level of sound reproduction that other techniques. All Nordost cables have solid core conductors, either flat rectangular solid oxygen free copper conductors or fine micro litz round conductors, that eliminate skin effect and magnetic field interactions. The precise conductor spacing (using a only 5mm thick extrusion of FEP) keeps capacitance and inductance on a very low level which, according to Nordost, results in cables that transmit signals at over 95% of the speed of light. The logic behind this is that "faster" transmission results in better accuracy and clarity of sound. And clear they are, but more on that later.

All Nordost cables are handcrafted, and all loudspeaker cables are by default terminated with "Z Plugs". This is a lightweight banana plug that produces a very tight fit with the speaker terminals of the component it’s connected to. Even though I had my suspicions about using banana plugs, I have to say that the connection I got with the Nordost cables rivals that of any of the spade-equipped cables I’ve connected to my speakers so far. Even though Nordost will supply their cables with spades, the Z-plug supposedly preserves the low inductance and capacitance of the cable and is thus the recommended choice.

According to Nordost, their cables are also extremely durable thanks to the FEP coating. This despite the fact that they look a bit "flimsy" when lifted out of the box. Once I got used to the fact that the cables actually can be handled normally I had no further problem in this area, except for the fact that the lightweight material wouldn’t settle on the floor like I wanted. As a whole the Nordost Red Dawn cables made a good impression as far as build quality goes. And that’s to say the least. It’s also fair to point out that Nordost offers a lifetime warranty for all their models.

The Red Dawn speaker cable consists of 19 silver-plated OFC (99,999999%) conductors, and is said to carry musical signals with up to 94% of the speed of light. The interconnects use 20 conductors per channel, with the same material choice as the speaker cable. The Nordost website provides quite a nice amount of data on the cables and their specs, a nice thing in a world where many manufacturers offer nothing more than fancy pictures and nice marketing talk.


At first I only received the Red Dawn speaker cable for review. I connected this one, picked up my jaw from the floor after the inital impact, and then listened to music for a week. However good the setup sounded I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing, so I picked up two pairs of Red Dawn interconnects from the local dealer. All of the cables were demo examples, so no additional burn-in was necessary.

I run my Dunlavys biwired, so the configuration of the speaker cable was ideal. I connected the single-wire end to my Audionet AMP I power amp, and the biwired banana plugs to the terminals on my SC-IV´s. Like I already said, the connection achieved by the Z-plug left nothing to be desired. And even if I’ve always been a supporter of sturdy spade lugs for cable termination, I must say the Z-plugs really made life easier, as the cable terminals on the SC-IV´s (and all Dunlavy-models) are recessed into a small "cup" on the back of the speaker. This is really a pain when connecting heavier, less flexible cables. Given Dunlavy´s present state of affairs we’re quite unlikely to see any improvements in that area, so I’ll just have to live with it.

The following step was to replace my Siltech interconnects with the Red Dawns. After figuring out how the RCA´s worked the installation was easy, with very good connection as a result. I still prefer the locking WBT´s of the Siltechs to the "springy" RCA´s of the Nordost cables, but as far as connections go I think both will do their job just fine.


Wow. That was my specific first reaction when the first notes of music wafted out from the speakers and into the room. At this point I was using the Nordost Red Dawns as speaker cable, but my own Siltechs as interconnects. The musical presentation was better defined, more transparent, airier, and more detailed. The details were most evident in the treble, a traditional Achilles´ heel for the Dunlavys but a strong suit for the Audionet-components. The audible changes in the bass and midrange were smaller, but at the time they also felt very significant. My first impression was definitely that the Red Dawn were better cables than my Dunlavy Z6´s in every conceivable way.

After listening to the superbly extended, detailed and clear treble and excellent overall sound for about a week it was time to replace the Siltechs with interconnects from the same Red Dawn-series. I had expected more of the same wonders that I experienced with the speaker cable. Time would show me that this was partly true, but that the result was in fact a very two-bladed sword. The bulk of the testing was done with Red Dawn-cables as both interconnects and speaker cable, only at the end of the review period did I switch back to the Siltechs.

I don’t really have a collection of "reference recordings" that I use specifically for reviewing equipment, but some records have, for one reason or another, found themselves in the top-loaded mechanism of the ART V2 more often than others. Some of these records are also the ones that are interesting to take a closer look at by now....

A long-time favorite of mine, Charles Lloyd´s "The Water Is Wide" (ECM 1734 549 043-2), is an otherwise nice recording, but one with some excess sizzle to the cymbals from time to time. With the Red Dawns in the system, the overall presentation of the music had excellent detail and air, but the excessive sizzling had become bit more prominent. On the other hand, the drummer’s brush stroking the membrane of the snare drum had never been so clearly rendered before. The piano also had a slightly harder edge than usual. While this was in no way annoying by itself, when combined with the slight treble sheen the music tended to sound a bit colder than it had before the change of cables. This was also evident with the sound of the guitar, which was good in itself, but a bit fuller when the Siltechs were in the system. Still, the soft exclamations by the band members drew me into the music just like before, so I was still far from having an artificially hard-edged sound on my hands.

The next one to come along was Pink Floyd’s "Division Bell" (EMI 7243 8 28984 2). Even though this is a Pink Floyd-record without Mr. Waters, and even though it only features mediocre sound and some quite artificial soundscapes, I can’t help but like it as a whole. There’s something inherently special in most Pink Floyd records, and this one also has some of it, so it’s been spending countless hours in my different setups. With the present setup and the Red Dawn-cables, the music sounded even more eerie and spacious than before. Low-level resolution, especially in the upper register, was the best I’ve heard from this disc in my listening room so far. The bass was dry and very tight, but ever so slightly weaker in impact than with the Siltech-cables. David Gilmour´s vocals were also a bit more recessed than usual, and sounded a bit thinner, but not alarmingly so. Still, the ambience of the whole recording was transferred into the listening room in a way I’ve rarely heard before, while the individual instruments and elements of the music stayed very precisely focused.

Paul Stephenson once again sounded ever so polite on his album "Light Green Ball" (Stockfisch SFR 357.6023.2), which has been given a fantastic sound by Stockfisch mastering guru Günter Pauler. Especially the sounds of the guitars are very special on this album (and on many other Stockfisch-albums). While the guitars again sounded like they were lacking a bit of "body", the sound of the guitarists´ fingers on the strings brought a very authentic feel to the whole music. During this listening session I also suddenly noticed that the huge Dunlavy had all but disappeared, so naturally did the music float into the room. The voices of the lead and background singers were also nicely separated.

One thing I realized was that some of the minor quibbles I’ve had with the sound more or less disappeared when I switched back to my Siltech interconnects but kept the Red Dawn speaker cables. Basically the sound gained a bit of midrange fullness and warmth, as well as some bass impact, but without losing any of the brilliant top-end sparkle I had gotten so impressed by at the very beginning of the review period.


Overall impression: Very clean, fast and detailed with a slightly analytical nature. Not prone to veiling or softening high frequencies.

Balance: A tad to the bright side, with an extremely lean and quick lower register.

Resolution: In the treble it’s the most detailed cable I’ve ever heard. Excellent performance in the midrange, even if the Siltech-cables used for comparison seem to be able to dig out some extra minor details. No quibbles about the bass, excellent resolution.

Transparency: Excellent result with my present setup in my present system. Can’t imagine this cable sounding very veiled in any system, though.

Realism: Hard to define regarding a cable. Did not seem to add or subtract anything from the music in any significant way.

Treble: As stated this was the strongest point of the Red Dawn in my system. Excellent treble clarity, nuance and extension. With some recordings it was almost "too much of a good thing", but in this case the recording was just as guilty as the cable.

Midrange: Natural, if somewhat cool reproduction. Some singers and instruments placed at the midrange frequencies seemed a tad more recessed into the soundstage. That fact was more prominent when both the interconnects and speaker cables were used.

Bass: Taut, fast, lean. I’ve heard more bass impact with other cables, but the Red Dawn’s speed and lack of excess roundness also made an impression.

Dynamics, visceral impact: No dynamic restrictions were apparent. Excellent reproduction of transients, but was bettered by an inch in this area by the Siltechs.

Soundstaging: Spectacular, I’ve seldom had such a focused soundstage combined with the kind of layered depth I had during this test. Even with large orchestral works every instrument seemed precisely placed on the stage, with no "wandering". The airy sound also helped the speakers in the "disappearing act".



  • Resolution, especially in the treble
  • Transparency and soundstaging
  • Image focus and clarity
  • Z plugs on the speaker cables

Points to develop:

  • Slightly cool and recessed midrange, apparent with vocals. Midrange resolution not quite as spectacular as the treble.
  • The extremely lean lower register might result in a "thin" sound with some setups.
  • Probably needs careful system matching in order not to sound too clinical.

Cables have been likened to many things; "spices", "tone controls" etc. One thing that remains apparent through it all is the need for careful consideration before inserting a new cable into a system, especially when considering the costs associated with many cables these days. I am very happy to have tried out the Nordost Red Dawns, they certainly did not disappoint. My system has a sound that can probably be described as a bit to the "cool" side, with the Audionet-electronics and Dunlavy speakers. That might very well be the reason for the seemingly cool midrange and somewhat lightweight bass. On the other hand, the Red Dawns gave me a top-end resolution and sparkle that I’ll dearly miss. The Red Dawns might not be the premier choice for anyone looking for traditional-looking, heavy cables, but anyone looking for high-quality connections and signal transfer should give them a try. If you feel that your system lacks that last bit in treble extension, or if it sounds stuffy and veiled, then the Nordosts probably represent a good place to start. If, on the other hand, you have an overly analytical presentation, then the Red Dawns might not be your cup of tea. In my case the best combination was with the Red Dawn speaker cables and the Siltech interconnects. For me this points to the possibility that the Red Dawns and the Siltechs are on a similar level in terms of overall performance, but slightly different in character. This review period most certainly sparked my interest for the even more advanced and expensive cables in the Nordost range, I am hoping to audition them one day.

But let’s state it once again, with cables the rule should always be "try before you buy". In my opinion the Red Dawn Interconnects and Speaker Cable are definitely worth that try.

Associated equipment

  • Cd-player: Audionet ART V2 standing on Solid Tech “Feet of Silence”.
  • Preamp: Audionet PRE I G2 standing on Solid Tech “Feet of Silence”.
  • Power Amp: Audionet AMP I on DIY amp stand (2 x 50 by 60 cm granite slabs, 30kg each, with damping rubber feet in between. Whole stand supported by Soundcare Superspikes)
  • Speakers: Dunlavy SC-IV on Soundcare Superspikes.
  • Interconnects: Siltech SQ-80 G3 (cd-preamp), Siltech ST-48 G3 (pre-power amp).
  • Speaker cable: Dunlavy Z6 x2 (biwire)
  • Mains cable: Custom made Supra LoRAD for all components.
  • Mains filter/distributor: Siltech Octopus with SPO-20 mains cable.
  • Equipment stand: Sound Organisation 90cm wide 2-shelf stand for cd-player and preamp. Stand supported by 8mm spikes placed on Target vibration-reducing feet.
  • Room: ~20 Square meters. House construction: wooden frame, tile outer wall. Excellent bass absorption, no significant room resonance under 100Hz (measured).
  • Room treatments: 4x Svanå ABCyll absorbers placed at first reflection points. Large bookshelf covers entire back wall. Heavy rug on the floor between the speakers and the listening spot. No TV or screen between the speakers, projector screen (96” Da-Lite) ceiling-mounted and retracted during all listening sessions.

Musical selection:

  • Charles Lloyd: The Water is Wide (ECM 1734549043-2; 2000)
  • Pink Floyd: The Division Bell (EMI 7243 8 28984 2 9; 1994)
  • Paul Stephenson: Light Green Ball (Stockfisch SFR 357.6023.2; 2002)
  • Allan Taylor: Hotels & Dreamers Stockfisch (SFR 357.6028.2; 2003)
  • Sara K.: Water falls Stockfisch (SFR 357.6025.2; 2002)
  • Hugh Masekela: Hope (Triloka GCT80232; 2000)
  • Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances; Eiji Oue; Minnesota Orchestra (Reference Recordings RR-96CD; 2001)
  • Rimsky-Korsakoff: Scheherazade; Fritz Reiner; Chicago Symphony Orchestra (JMCXR-0015; 2002)
  • Blue Man Group: Audio (Virgin 7243 8 48613 2 2 CDVUS177; 1999)
  • Rammstein: Mutter (Universal 5496392; 2001)
  • Oscar Peterson: A summer night in Munich (Telarc CD83450; 1999)
  • Jacques Loussier: The Bach Book (Telarc Jazz CD83474;1997)
  • Jacques Loussier: Satie - Gymnopédies, Gnossiennes (Telarc Jazz CD83431; 1998)
  • Sophie Zelmani: Precious Burden (Columbia COL 489733 2; 1998)
  • Tori Amos: Scarlet´s Walk (Epic 508782 2; 2002)
  • Soundtracks from “The Thin Red Line”, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”
  • + Others

Product specifications:

Speaker cable

  • Insulation: Extruded FEP
  • Conductor: x40 varied and balanced
  • Material: 60 microns extruded silver over 99.999999% OFC
  • Capacitance: 8.7pF/ft
  • Inductance: 0.13uH/ft
  • Propagation delay: 94% speed of light


  • Insulation: Extruded FEP
  • Conductor: x20 varied and balanced
  • Material: 60 microns extruded silver over 99.999999% OFC
  • Capacitance: 8.9pF/ft
  • Inductance: 0.12uH/ft
  • Propagation delay: 94% speed of light

Price (Finland, incl. 22% vat):

  • Speaker Cable, 3m biwire: 1958€
  • Interconnect, 1m RCA: 592€

Manufacturer: Nordost,







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