You have to hand it to Nordost. While many audiophiles are still hotly debating the degree to which wire and various tweaks can improve a system’s sound, the Massachusetts-based company just keeps doing straightforward A/B tests at each major stereo show. Nordost’s demos are refreshingly light on technical theory. Instead, staffers rotate different cables, cords and isolation devices in and out of a top-shelf system.
This exercise allows listeners to make a simple decision. It’s like being at the eye doctor and asked as lenses are being swapped; “Is it better with or without?”
At the Los Angeles Audio Show, Nordost was letting attendees evaluate the effectiveness of its new QKore grounding units.
Grounding? Wait a minute, you might think. Isn’t that taken care of by that bottom pin on my power cord?
No, according to Nordost – not completely, anyway. The company found that a lot of the noise in even the best hi-fi systems comes from issues related to power.
Most audiophiles have battled a ground loop at one time or another. Those gremlins can produce a hum loud enough to make a rig unlistenable.
There’s another kind of problem, though – one that may not be as obvious at first. That’s sonic pollution from airborne sources such as wi-fi, Bluetooth and cellular signals.
“A poor, or ‘unclean,’ ground causes more performance imperfections than most people realize,” according to Nordost’s engineers.
Enter QKore, a line of devices that draw noise and stray magnetic fields to an artificial ground point, while at the same time providing a ‘clean’ path for components.
QKore 1 ($2,500 USD) is designed to work with Nordost’s QBase ($1,600 USD, essentially a very advanced power strip), providing an alternative ground to the primary power supply,
QKore 3 ($3,500 USD) has three binding posts to attach components, and is intended to compliment the QKore 1.
Nordost also offers the QKore 6 ($5,000 USD), an all-in-one solution that plugs into the distribution block, as well as handling three components and a pair of monoblock amplifiers.
The grounding units were making their U.S. debut in LA. Nordost installed them in a system that included Simaudio Moon electronics and Sonus Faber Amati speakers. Cable was Nordost’s Valhalla 2.
The demo began with no QKore devices installed. A representative cued up Johnny Cash’s version of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.”
The track sounded very good, which would be expected on a system of this caliber.
Then one QKore device was inserted and the song was started again. Immediately, there was an improvement. Cash’s vocals sounded even more ravaged, the noise floor dropped and reverb trails were more prominent.
A second QKore was added and it was like switching from coarse focus to fine focus on a microscope. Everything got clearer and sharper.
From this admittedly short listen, it appears the QKore units will be one of those tweaks that won’t need any mumbo-jumbo to sell. I’d be interested in trying them in a longer formal audition.