When “grounding” an audio system, the first thing that audiophiles do is make sure that their AC receptacles are in order. This is a great first step! It is vitally important that the AC line and load wires on all receptacles being used in your hifi system are correctly phased and properly grounded.
However, if you really want to address earth ground, the most practical and worthwhile upgrade is to install a dedicated circuit for your audio system. This step should be followed by installing a separate, external ground path to an external ground rod. Each of these solutions provides a path out for unwanted, “spurious” currents that circulate through the circuit and add noise to the system. Unfortunately, these measures ONLY address earth ground, and don’t do a thing to address signal ground.
Signal ground becomes a problem whenever currents are generated during transmissions between devices in a system as a result of the small differences of potentials in those components. In order to rectify the background noise and loss of low-level details caused by contaminants on the signal ground, you need to elicit the help of an artificial ground. An artificial ground is a sink of impedance lower than the house earth ground, so that high-frequency noise on the signal ground will drain away, leaving a clean reference behind.
Signal ground can be addressed two ways. The first option is to use an extremely low-impedance cable to connect the signal ground access point on the termination to the ground pin of an unused wall socket. However, the second option is far more versatile – a passive grounding box. Nordost’s answers to artificial ground are their QKORE Ground Units, a series of parallel grounding devices which can either separately provide an artificial “clean” earth for the primary side of the power supply (earth ground) with the QKORE1, and the secondary side (signal ground) with the QKORE3, or can address both the signal and earth ground together with the QKORE6!
If you’ve yet to explore Nordosts QRT products, now’s the time! QRT Power Products and Audio Enhancers are specifically designed to improve your audio system by alleviating the poor-quality AC and DC power on your sensitive electronics, providing everything form proper grounding to synchronizing the electromechanical resonances of your components. Like all Nordost products, QRT solutions are easy to demonstrate in any system and the performance improvements that they bring to your music are immediate and unmistakable. However, we recognize that for some people, sitting in on a demonstration can be intimidating. Often times, listeners appreciate knowing what to listen for when they sit down to audition a product.
While it may be impossible to pinpoint the exact effect that each QRT product will have on your system, (due to the fact that each system is different based on the components that its comprised of, and how those components interact with each other) we still want you to have an idea of what to expect. To do that, we have listed some of the sonic effects that you can expect to hear when introducing each QRT product into your sound system!
A: During the manufacturing process, as insulation is extruded over the conductors, gases can become trapped. This, combined with the high electrical charges often found in new cables, can result in a brittle and bright sound that lacks the detail and depth desired for music reproduction. When cables are burned-in, the trapped gases are dissipated and small impurities in the conductors’ metal begin to act like a diode, favoring current flow in a particular direction.
Q: What changes are audible in a system when cables are properly burned-in?
A: Your system will be capable of producing a fuller and more natural sounding performance. You may also notice an increase in the detail and nuance in the music, as well as a greatly improved dimensionality in your system’s soundstage.
Q: How is using a designated burn-in machine better than using your system to naturally burn-in your cables?
A: Naturally burning-in cables within your system takes an extremely long period of constant play time. Additionally, the music that we listen to can never expose cables to the complexity of signal or the frequencies that a burn-in machine is capable of.
Q: How often should you burn-in your cables?
A: Minimally, you should burn-in your new cables when they are first purchased. However, if cables are left unused for a prolonged period of time they become stagnant and should be reconditioned accordingly. Even through everyday cable use, electrical equipment experiences current leakage, imparting a charge onto your cables. By having your cables treated with a burn-in machine, you are conditioning them and allowing the charges to neutralize once again.
At Nordost, it is our goal to be a resource to our fellow music lovers and provide you with the information you need in order to make the most of your home hifi system. To do that, we offer downloads on a variety of topics that we think will help them to do just that. Our newest such download will give much needed information on turntable set-up.
A correctly set-up turntable, tonearm, and cartridge can make a world of difference when you sit down to enjoy your favorite vinyl. With this in mind, we have put together a series of helpful hints to properly set-up a turntable. This Complete Turntable Set-Up Guide includes information on turntable adjustment and maintenance tips, accessory recommendations, a comprehensive breakdown of turntable components, and even gives step by step cartridge mounting and alignment instructions. Each one of these topics will help you achieve the best possible sound from your analog-driven system in no time.
You can now find the Complete Turntable Set-Up Guide both on the Downloads page of the Nordost website, or right here!
With theaters closed across the nation and streaming services rising in popularity more rapidly than ever, cinema fans are spending less time in ticket lines and more time upgrading their current entertainment space into a state-of-the-art home theater. While it seems as simple as going to the store and buying the biggest TV with the highest quality display and calling it good, many have found that it takes careful consideration to replicate an authentic cinema-like experience. Factors such as lighting, audio, acoustics and comfort all play a substantial part in creating the ultimate home theater. That’s why we’ve reached out to the experts in home theater systems from New York to Austin to provide you with some tips for creating an authentic cinematic experience at home. So sit back, grab some popcorn and learn how to create the home theater of your dreams.
Invest in quality equipment
When it comes to the ultimate home theater, the screen and projector can make or break the experience. Home theater projectors need to have at least a 500,000:1 contrast ratio to make the “dark scenes” truly dark and suspenseful. Otherwise, the blacks will appear grayer, than truly dark. In addition, silver or gray screens help increase the contrast ratio, while still providing a bright and colorful image. If you like scary movies, this tip is for you! – Go Outdoor Movies
Replicate the real thing
To build the home theater of your dreams, it should be as close to reality as possible. Recreating the movie experience as intended. At Bang & Olufsen, we strive to recreate the experience as the Director intended for the audience to have a true, life-like adventure; nothing more, nothing less. – Adam Rejino, Manager at Bang & Olufsen SOCO
Ensure your screen supports your projector’s resolution
Ensure that the screen you pair with your projector actually supports the projector’s resolution. There is a lot of bad information and false claims out there about a projector screen being “4K Ready” or “4K Compatible”, but that does not mean that it will actually resolve 4K. A screen surface needs to be texture-free in order to not distort the geometry of a 4K pixel (which is 4x smaller than a 1080p pixel) and ensure that you get the full fidelity from your projector. – ProjectorScreen.com
Take advantage of integrated smart home tech
Homeowners going beyond the ‘norm’ and pushing the boundaries of the home-cinema space have started using integrated smart home technologies. By connecting all in-home devices such as speakers, projectors, televisions, LED lighting, and security systems over an encrypted network to an intelligent control system, the user gains the ability to see the advanced functionality of the home. The possibilities in this space are limitless. Imagine pretty much anything you would want to do is activated via voice or wall-mounted touch screen. Specifically, in the home cinema space, we’ve seen this integrated tech being used for :
Voice-activated lighting control
Zoom enabled cinema rooms
Augmented reality and reactive video programs
Advanced sound space control
Voice-activated audio presets
While no amount of tech in a home cinema is a replacement for a grand design, homeowners looking to push the limits are having these networked smart systems installed in their cinemas and their entire homes. – Limitless Sights and Sounds
Incorporate sound-absorbing materials
What would a cinema be without the curtains getting pulled away from the screen? Use heavy drapery textiles covering the screen when you are not watching a movie, and let the draped curtains move from your screen to the sides when viewing. The sound-absorbing draped curtains will help to improve the sound quality tremendously in your home theater. Still too sharp sound and/or sound waves that are bouncing around? In addition to the curtains, we would recommend adding some sound-absorbing wall tiles, panels, ceiling tiles or a rug. – Unika Vaev
Make your smaller home theater sound like a larger room through the use of our absorption and diffusion technologies. You can have a low – frequency definition equal to your voice and music using our proprietary carbon and foam technologies. Your voice will stay on-screen following the action and your music will fill your room for all to hear. – Acoustic Fields
Take acoustics into consideration
Do not forget to consider acoustic treatment when planning your home theater project as the best speakers on the market can sound horrific in a room that is not properly treated. Multiple sound sources (speakers) produce a lot of sound energy especially when combined with subwoofers, and many home theaters are in small rooms with lengths and widths less than 30 ft which can be problematic if untreated. Each sound source and corresponding surface needs to be accounted for and treated with proper absorption or diffusion. The most critical areas to treat are the first reflection points in order to eliminate noticeable echoes and the corners of the room where low-end bass waves tend to congregate and cause problems. – Sound Assured
Don’t underestimate the power of quality audio cables
When building a HiFi or home theater systems, homeowners often overlook quality audio cables. Cables are the link that ties your system together, ensuring that each of your thoughtfully purchased components is performing to their maximum potential. However, the most important cable of them all is the power cord. Poor quality power cords are often the limiting factors in a system, polluting it with noise introducing electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequencies (RF). A high quality, optimally built power cord, on the other hand, is designed to be less prone to (and even reduce) noise, resulting in an automatic upgrade to any A/V system—a must-have in all systems! – Nordost Cables
Choose ambient light rejection materials for your ceiling
When it comes to creating your ideal home theater, Elite Screens recommends using one of their popular Ceiling Ambient Light Rejecting Materials such as the CineGrey 3D/5D in a dedicated home theater environment for the following reasons:
1) Angular reflective material does not scatter light in the room
2) Improves black levels and color purity for an enhanced contrast image
4) ISF Certified material provides accurate color reproduction – Elite Screens
Invest in comfortable cinema seating
Look for features in home theater seats that are focused on total comfort, such as powered headrests and lumbar. Your neck and back will thank you after hours of binge-watching. Attachable accessories that wirelessly charge your QI-enabled phone on the armrest or cradle a glass of your favorite wine are common additions to our customers’ home theater seats. – 4Seating
We all know that vibration is essential to music. It is, after all, the way that sound travels from our loudspeakers to our ears. However, vibration can also be extremely damaging to sound. Unwanted vibrations from any source have the ability to alter sound, causing distortion, disrupted imagery, and even timing issues to the music you’re trying to enjoy. Typically, when people in the hifi-world talk about the “negative vibration” in a system, they use it as a blanket statement. But to really understand what is happening and, more critically, to address the problems in your system, it is important to distinguish which type of vibration you are talking about: external or internal.
External vibrationrefers to any vibration from the environment surrounding your system that could transfer to, and impact, your loudspeakers, components, or audio rack, therefore affecting the sound produced. Air conditioners, household appliances, uneven surfaces, foot traffic, and outside noise or vehicle rumblings can all have an impact. This even means that elements of your own system could be the cause of negative, external vibrations, ie. if the bass from your subwoofer is causing your components to shudder… that is harmful external vibration.
Internalvibrationconcerns the vibration that is generated from within the components themselves. The inner-workings of audio equipment is composed of transistors, capacitors, wires, circuit boards, and power supplies. Each of these elements produce some sort of mechanical energy and, as a byproduct of that energy, resonate. Those tiny internal resonances accumulate and have a real and audible impact on the performance of the components they construct and the sound that systems as a whole produce.
Our product specialists receive questions on a daily basis about Nordost products, their application, and hifi in general. We thought that we would take a minute to share some of our most recent and frequently asked questions about the QKORE here, so that everyone can get the answers they are looking for!
Q: The literature indicates that the QKORE1 is designed to be used with Nordost’s QBASE AC Distribution bar. But can the QKORE1 be used with other distribution bars in the market?
A: The QBASE is designed so that when the QKORE is attached through its binding post, the ground pin of the input is drained out BEFORE any contaminants on the AC line reach any components. If the distribution bar you would like to use with the QKORE has a similar design to that, it will work fine. However, we cannot speak for how other manufacturers design their distribution bars, so we cannot guarantee the same results.
Q: What are you supposed to do with the “mono ground” binding posts on the QKORE6 if your system does not include any monoblocks?
A: The mono ground binding posts connect to the same LVAP as the other 3 Ground binding posts that address the secondary side of the power supply. Therefore, if you do not have monoblocks in your system, you can use these two binding posts to connect any other component in your system. The thing that differentiates the “mono ground” binding posts, and makes them ideal for use with monoblocks, is that they are connected to identical-length wires, which connect to the exact same point on the LVAP. We have also found that in addition to monoblocks, front end components with separate chassis, like a DAC and a clock, benefit from being hooked up to these two specific binding posts as well.
Q: Can you connect loudspeakers to a QKORE?
A: No, you should not connect your loudspeaker to a QKORE. This could result in a short circuit to your amplifier. However, if you are using an ACTIVE loudspeaker that requires a power cord, it usually means that there is an amplifier inside of your loudspeaker. If that’s the case, then you can connect the loudspeaker to your QKORE. But keep in mind, when you do this, both loudspeakers should be connected to a QKORE unit separately.
Q: Do you have to use Nordost’s QKORE Wires to connect your components to the QKORE?
A: In theory, the QKORE will work if you connect your components using a different manufacturer’s wire. However, you would only be getting half of the benefit. The QKORE not only has an electrical approach, but a mechanical approach. By opting out of using the QKORE Wire, especially if you are going to be replacing it with a stranded cable, you will not be benefiting from those mechanical aspects of the QKORE.
There is a misconception in the hifi industry that grounding a system is just one of a multitude of “minor tweaks” that can be made to a system to marginally improve its performance level. However, this mindset completely underplays the transformative results that proper grounding will bring to a system, as well as the ubiquitous nature of the interference that impacts EVERY sound system.
Interference that impacts the power domain is all around you, constantly bombarding your system. Your AC power lines are contaminated with electrical surges, pulses, and switch-mode hash from home appliances, plug-in chargers, light dimmers, and fluorescent and LED lights. Even the air is polluted by radio frequency interference (RFI) and electromagnetic interference (EMI), levels of which are increasing due to the prevalence of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cellular signals. While you may not be able to hear the noise from these interferences on their own, the effect that they have on your audio components is unmistakable, muddying the playback, collapsing the soundstage of your system, smearing the timing and pacing of music, and making the performance less engaging.
There are a couple of ways to address your system’s grounding in order to free your components from this electrical noise: external ground rods, low-impedance cables to connect your signal ground access points, or passive, artificial ground units (like the QKORE). Each one of these options have their own merits. However, once your system is properly grounded, there are several improvements you can count on. The image separation of your system will be greatly improved, exposing nuances in dynamics and accent markings that would otherwise have been missed. You’ll also experience a tighter, deeper, and more authoritative bass. However, the most noticeable change will be a dramatic drop in your noise floor which will provide a quieter, ‘darker’ background, resulting in a wider, more lifelike soundstage.
If you have been following this blog, then you already know the remarkably detrimental effects that unwanted vibration can have on your sound system. Smeared imaging, timing errors, and musical distortions are only some of the negative side-effects that hifi enthusiasts live with when they don’t defend their components, loudspeakers, and audio racks from an incessant assault of errant vibrations. Many times, vibration goes unchecked because system owners aren’t willing to invest in the sometimes costly audio accessories designed to address this problem. However, there are a few small, easy adjustments that you can make to your system that will help to greatly reduce the effects of harmful vibrations, without having to spend a cent!
1. System Placement:
For aesthetic reasons or special constraints, you may want to hide your audio equipment, or shove it into the corner of a room. However, system placement can play a critical role in the amount of vibration that you are introducing into your system. Avoid placing your audio equipment in corners, behind speakers, or within the same space as household appliances like air conditioners, washing machines, etc. By simply positioning your audio rack in a relatively isolated but open location, you will drastically improve the audible performance of your sound system.
2. Steady Surfaces:
Obviously, the ideal place to rest your audio equipment would be on an audio rack, purpose-built to minimize vibrations. However, if that is not an option for your listening room or your budget, make sure that whatever surface you choose to hold your components is a sturdy surface that doesn’t shake, rattle, or move in any way. If it has the ability to be leveled, all the better!
3. Avoid Confined Spaces:
Resist the urge to neatly tuck your bookshelf speakers inside your actual bookshelves. Avoid placing your speakers or equipment in box-like, confined spaces that could cause resonance or vibrations, like shelving units or cabinets. These confined spaces act like echo-chambers, bouncing vibrations straight back into your speakers and impacting their performance.
4. Leave Space:
When placing your loudspeakers, make sure that they are minimally two to three feet away from your equipment (preferably resting on their own stands or dedicated surfaces). The sound emanating from you speakers is vibration in itself. When those vibrations hit your components, there is an audible impact. The more space you allow between your speakers and audio components, the more space you are introducing to allow for those vibrations to dissipate into the air, without doing any harm to your equipment.
By now some of us have been home for a couple of weeks, some a couple of months… but we all have at least a couple things in common: we all have some extra time on our hands and are looking for ways to make our life at home more enjoyable. That is why we have put together a list of 5 easy practices and/or products that will get your system sounding great for little to no cost!
1. Level Your Components
Make sure that your electrical components and loudspeakers are as level as possible. Be precise. In the case of loudspeakers, they should be leveled both horizontally and vertically. Ensuring that the tweeter, mid-range and woofers are vertically aligned, so that the cone and tweeter disbursement is coming from the center vertical line, makes a big difference! And don’t forget to check that your speakers are stable and not rocking on their stands or feet.
For more details about leveling your speakers, as well as other speaker placement tips, please download our Speaker Set-Up Guide.
2. Get Your Speakers Tight
Hours, months, and years of intense listening sessions, constant vibrations in the speaker cabinet, and even dry air will cause a screw or two to become loose. Make sure to check that binding post connections, and the bolts that hold each driver to their baffle aren’t loose, and tighten any screws that need it. Just be careful not to overtighten, as this could lead to a stripped thread!
For more affordable speaker upgrades, please see this blog.
3. Reduce Static Electric Charge
Static charge build-up on components, cables, carpets, and speakers can do everything from flatten perspectives to inhibit the dynamics of a sound system. In order for your system’s performance to be at its best, use an anti-static treatment to eliminate those static charges. Simply spray a small amount of Eco 3X onto a cloth and wipe down the jacket of your cables and the area around speaker drivers to reveal a more relaxed and natural soundstage.
For more information on other ways to clean your cables, read this blog.
4. Try An At-Home Demo
Many hifi dealers may have been forced to temporarily close their store locations. However that doesn’t mean that you can’t still try our products in the comfort, and safety of your own home! While you might not be able to bring in heavy loudspeakers for a trial, there are plenty of lighter, more manageable audio components that are perfectly suited for easy transport and home auditions. We may be biased, but we know for a fact that all of Nordost products are perfect for at-home demonstrations. Call your local hifi retailer to see what you can demo today!
For a step-by-step guide to successfully audition hifi cables in your own home, read this blog.
5. Upgrade Your Streamer
When we aren’t enjoying our music, many of us are spending a lot of our time streaming television and movies. For those of you that use an Apple TV media streamer, or any other streaming device powered by a figure 8 power cord, there is an easy, inexpensive upgrade that is sure to take your streaming to the next level! Nordost’s entry level Purple Flare Figure 8 Power Cord is the perfect solution for your Apple TV. The Purple Flare Power Cord uses Nordost’s technology to construct a high-speed, low-loss power cord that will allow your streamer to produce a picture worthy of your system.
For more information on the Purple Flare Power Cord, read this review.