Two Sides to Vibration

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 vibration refers 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. 


Internal vibration concerns 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. 



To learn each of these harmful vibration types can be addressed, check out some of our previous blogs on anti-vibration techniques: Three Ways to Address Vibration Control and Four Easy, Free Ways to Address Vibration In Your Sound System.

You can also download our comprehensive guide: The Importance of Vibration Control.


Questions and Answers (QKORE)

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.


Sonic Properties of Nordost Technologies

Auditioning audio cables is probably an important part of your buying process. You deserve to know what you are buying, understand the differences between the products you are considering, and hear how those differences will impact the performance of your sound system. 

At Nordost, we have a wide variety of products which incrementally improve as you move up our range. By visiting our website and talking with your authorized Nordost dealer, you should have a good understanding of specific technologies incorporated into each of our product ranges. However, when it’s time to sit down and evaluate how each one of those technologies impacts your sound, you may still need more direction. 

In order to help you make better sense of what you’re hearing, we have listed some of the technologies used in our cable design with notes on how they can be identified from a sonic perspective. 


Solid Core Conductors (as Opposed to Stranded)

Look for increased textural aspects in the music, especially in the mid-tones. You will find that the instruments sound more life-like. Another thing to notice is a perceived increase in volume, especially when comparing power cords. 


Adding Conductors / Increasing Gauge Size

Pay special attention to timing. This can sometimes be heard in the drive and dynamic realism of your music. 


Mechanically Tuned Lengths

This brings a darker background to the table and a smoothness to the sound. It strips artifacts and gives the music a sense of “correctness” that wasn’t there before. 


Micro Mono-Filament

Higher signal speed means less time traveling through the cable, and as a result, less loss of information. This translates to an increase in detail and nuance in the music. You may notice this in the emotion that comes across in a performance, particularly in the vocals. Also pay attention to the soundstage, which will start to lose its defined boundaries. 


Dual Mono-Filament

Even faster signal speed means even more information. Listen for decay times in instruments, as well as additional realistic qualities of both instruments and vocals. You will also find the rhythm and pacing of the music to be more precise. 


HOLO:PLUG® Connectors

Pay attention to your system’s soundstage. You should notice a much wider and deeper soundstage, as well as an overall smooth tonal balance. This can also be heard as spatial awareness of the instruments and singers. There may be a 3D element to your music and soundstage. 


TSC Shielding

With 100% silver shielding, TSC provides even more defense against EMI and RFI. There will be a blacker background and noticeable noise reduction that will especially affect the low-end. This often translates into more realism and coherence in the performance. You may notice that small nuances in the music start to come to life.


Why Does Grounding Matter?

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. 

To learn more about grounding your system, see our download: The Importance of Electrical Grounding in Audio Systems


Nordost Technologies Explained

Nordost is a technology-based company. Over the nearly 30 years in which we have been contributing our world-renowned audio cables, power products, and audio enhancers to the hifi industry, we have differentiated ourselves from the noise through our technology.  We are confident that our groundbreaking proprietary technology and unique and precise manufacturing practices are directly responsible for the success of our products. To understand Nordost, and to understand Nordost’s products, you first have to have a clear understanding of the technology that we have developed over the years and use as the defining features of our cable ranges. To clarify those technological capstones, we have put together a brief explanation of some of Nordost’s technologies to help you better navigate our product offerings.


MICRO/DUAL MONO-FILAMENT WRAP

Mono-Filament technology refers to Nordost’s patented process of separating the conductor from its FEP insulation. During production, each conductor is intricately and uniformly wrapped in either a single strand (Micro), or a twisted pair (Dual) of FEP Mono-Filament, before being encased in an extruded layer of high quality FEP. This highly precise process allows every conductor to be surrounded by its own air dielectric. This revolutionary insulation process is directly responsible for the dramatic increase of signal speeds and excellent mechanical damping found in Nordost cables.


FLAT SPEAKER CABLE DESIGN

Due to the intricate extrusion process that Nordost employs, we are the only audio cable manufacturer able to achieve a flat cable geometry in our speaker cables. The flat nature of Nordost’s cables enables the following benefits: an increase in signal transfer speeds, the elimination of strand interaction, the optimization of the mechanical spacing and layout of conductors, a decrease in skin effect, and a reduction of physical surface contact.


MECHANICALLY TUNED LENGTHS

By analyzing the natural resonances of conductors, we have derived a proprietary formula to determine the optimal length of each cable, according to their unique geometry. By ensuring that the conductors are cut to these specific lengths, we maximize the sonic performance of our cables, eliminating timing errors.


HOLO:PLUG® CONNECTORS

These low mass, high end, connectors are designed to seamlessly fit the internal geometry of each individual cable that they house. HOLO:PLUG® connectors are the perfect marriage of electrical and mechanical tuning, allowing Nordost to have complete control of our highest quality interfaces—not only of the cable itself, but from end to end.


TOTAL SIGNAL CONTROL

In utilizing TSC shielding on our Supreme Reference cables, we are able to maintain the integrity of signal transfer while protecting our cables from the electrical pollution produced by RFI and EMI. When paired with our patented HOLO:PLUG® connectors, TSC provides 100% total shield coverage without the rigidity that is associated with other shielded cables.


Questions and Answers (June 2020)

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 here so that everyone can get the answers they are looking for!


Q: Can I wire my system with cables from different ranges within the Leif family? 

A: Yes. You can definitely wire your system with a mix of cables from the Leif range. Our cables all have the same design philosophy, so while products improve due to added conductors, gauges, and technologies, they all have the same sonic signature. This allows you to budget your cables accordingly, and upgrade piece by piece when needed. 


Q: What is better: short interconnects or short loudspeaker cables?

A: The signal loss on Nordost cables is very low due to the use of extruded FEP insulation and Mono-Filament technology. Nordost cables can run over longer distances with less signal loss than regular cables. However, when planning a system set up, it is wise to keep lower level signals such as tonearm cables and analog interconnects relatively short.  It is better to use longer loudspeaker cables as these typically have much more current and voltage being provided by the power amplifier.


Q: Why do Nordost 75 Ohm digital cables come with BNC to RCA Adaptors? 

A: The correct termination for true 75 Ohm impedance is a BNC connector, due to the mechanical spacing of the center conductor relative to the outer insulation. We have found that keeping the integrity of the 75 Ohm cable with a BNC termination and using an RCA adaptor always provides better sonic results.  It also means the cable can be used easily as a clocking cable, which typically uses BNC connections for superior performance.


Q: Power cords can’t make a difference after the miles electricity travels in wires to get to my house. 

A: While they are not audio-grade, the cables used to transfer electricity through the grid and to your home, are actually a significant gauge. The “choke point” usually does occur in your home. Not only that, but it is very important to try to minimize the effects of artifacts, EMI, and RFI that are introduced to electricity on its journey to your home and continue to be introduced from your home appliances. 


The Well-Grounded System: An Update


By Mike Marko

Five years ago, that sunny day when I first pounded in that ground rod and attached the Nordost QLINE ground wire to my Nordost QB8 MKII power distribution system was an absolute revelation.  The sonic improvements were unmistakable: in general, there was not only better timing to the system, but, specifically, far better bass definition.  However, a problem was lurking.  By adding an earth ground to the electrical wiring in my house, I actually unbalanced the grounding scheme of the house and the entire neighborhood.  You see, in my neighborhood there is only an earth connection at the pole that supplies power and ground to groups of homes at a time.  After looking up the electrical code (always a good thing, especially before a project like this!) I found that, in my case, adding an earth ground at the house was not a good thing. To complicate things further, ground rods also vary in their conduction to the earth.  Ground moisture and salinization affect this conduction, so performance often varies. But I loved the sonic improvements!!! So: what should I (and you, dear reader) do?

Enter the QKORE.  The QKORE is Nordost’s ground-breaking (pun intended) system for establishing a quiet ground reference for stereo systems – Unlike other grounding options, it does not violate the electrical code and is easy to employ even in high-rise homes.  The QKORE system utilizes Low Voltage Attractor Plates (LVAP) that act as an artificial earth ground to Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) and Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) so these nasties are totally attracted to the LVAPs for dissipation.  All without the bother of an actual conductor in the dirt with far more consistent performance!

The QKORE system goes one step further in addressing ground noise, which can be generated after the power supply in any given component.  This noise is insidious.  It masks low level detail, much like a noise masking system in an open-plan office.  The idea of noise masking is to generate enough of a noise pattern – modified white noise – so that, in this analogy, one office-person’s noise doesn’t intrude on the acoustic space of another. It is highly effective too.  The low-level noise distinctly generated by loudspeakers above a suspended ceiling makes it very difficult to hear the person next to you; all the while, the noise, itself, is inaudible.  This also happens in your system when ground “noise” masks the low-level signals one is fighting to hear.  Like the ambience and reverb decay in your favorite music hall or the intimate feeling of a small jazz club or a great studio. 

So, while the primary ground reference can now be established by connecting an LVAP to the incoming AC ground, the QKORE can also now attack the DC noise generated by the components, themselves.  Nordost calls this the secondary ground connection.  It is accomplished by using special QKORE grounding wires that use common audio connections to link the ground after the components’ power supply to its own LVAP.  These audio connection QKORE ground wires only connect to an unused ground connection at unused input or output connectors, like RCA, BNC, XLR, RJ45, etc. 

The QKORE 1 deals with just the primary AC ground noise and connects to your power distribution strip.  The QKORE 3 is solely intended for secondary ground DC noise utilizing audio connectors on the components themselves.  The ever popular QKORE 6 is a combo unit with two LVAPs that do both jobs in one unit.

But, you may ask, “How does all this compare to my original ground rod system?”  Well, let me say unequivocally that the QKORE solution sounds far better and is far more stable, day in and day out.  My system has never sounded consistently better and the low-level resolution and bass performance are out of this world!


Purple Flare— The perfect upgrade for the Bluesound NODE 2i

By James Davies of Absolute Audio

Any review of a product in context of the Bluesound NODE 2i will read like a love letter to the NODE itself! The NODE 2i is brilliantly engineered and executed; designed with audiophile sensibilities but with the features and form factor to appeal to a much larger consumer base, the NODE 2i perfectly bridges the gap between high performance audio and mass appeal.

For my review, I decided to use the NODE 2i “full monty”: I hooked the unit directly up to my power amplifier, using the NODE 2i’s streaming services through its built in DAC chips and digital volume control. I did not want to spoil or flavor the performance, nor did I want to introduce too many variables, which only prove to confuse things. In fact, using the NODE 2i in this manner gave me the chance to directly compare an otherwise bargain priced, single box, source/preamp (the two most critical items within a HiFi system) to my much higher priced, separate components. All cabling within the system was a combination of Purple Flare Interconnects and Speaker Cables, and Blue Heaven Power Cords. All components were connected to a QB8 power distribution bar, used in conjunction with a QKORE1.

The immediate impression the NODE 2i makes on the listener is of a very large scale sound for such an affordable piece. The sound-stage is both wide and tall, though with a relatively shallow sense of physical depth. This is not to say that the NODE 2i is flat sounding — just that its presentation is more on the forward and energetic side of things. At no time did the NODE 2i sound brash or unrefined. Tones and timbres, if not perfectly neutral, certainly never sounded anything other than correct. This is an area where affordable digital HiFi often shows its cards: the sound must be voiced to be appealing, but often ends up sounding grossly colored in some fashion. This is not the case with the NODE 2i — its sonics are otherwise unobtrusive.

After listening to the NODE 2i for several days I then swapped out its factory supplied two prong power cord for the Nordost Purple Flare Power Cord. I have to admit I am somewhat biased in favor of the Purple Flare, as I have firsthand experience with it, used on my AppleTV and Samsung TV. In both cases, the visual image was far more vibrant than when used with the factory power cords. I certainly expected the Purple Flare to bring improvements to the NODE 2i, but I wasn’t entirely sure in what ways.

With Purple Flare plugged in, the NODE 2i retained its overall appealing character. The sound was still energetic— fast and powerful. My “consumer” ears heard a further improvement of the NODE 2i’s overall sound. What was immediately apparent to my “audiophile” ears was that the higher and lower frequencies now had greater delineation. While this type of improvement is hard to quantify, it is important to stress that music in real life has a “continual” sound, where frequencies extend as far as the environment allows, rather than the more abrasive frequency roll off that electronics inevitably perform. While this more continuous presentation now allowed me to listen longer at higher volumes with less fatigue, it also represented a more natural overall sound at all volumes. Large scale and complex music had less confusion with the Purple Flare Power Cord in place.

The NODE 2i has a very present upper midrange, which is why I think it sounds so appealing and energetic. If a product were to couple this with less well represented higher frequency band, the presentation could become uneven and brash. While I alluded before that I would not characterize the NODE 2i as brash sounding per se, with the Purple Flare installed, the sound was certainly even smoother.

The NODE 2i’s bass frequencies are the only area where I could ever be truly critical—certainly not of the performance at the price—rather in terms of absolute resolution. The bass is somewhat compressed, giving the NODE 2i a great sense of punch, but without the dry control and heft of much more expensive digital components. With the Purple Flare in place, bass frequencies too are improved, gaining a degree of that dryness, which better represents natural bass instruments, without loosing the NODE 2i’s characteristic punch.

Things got really interesting after leaving the Purple Flare Power Cord in place for over 24 hours. When I returned to my system to listen further, I was presented with a more “liquid” presentation I’d not yet attributed to the NODE 2i. Frequencies across the range had more weight to them (in the sense that frequencies would sound closer to this in real life). However, where I was now most impressed was with a new found sense of physical depth to recordings through the NODE 2i via the Purple Flare. While still retaining the initial impressions of width and height, the sound of the NODE 2i was now more complete in all plains.

Depth of stereo image is something I normally exclusively attribute to higher end electronics. It is arguable that no one other than the recording engineer has any concrete knowledge of how much depth any one recording should have. The same goes for image specificity, width, height, and overall scale. I did not engineer any of these recordings and I am certainly not an authority on how they should sound 😉 but I’ll take any little improvement that further provides the illusion of a live performance.

What is so impressive about the NODE 2i combined with the Purple Flare Power Cord is how close their combined performance was to much, much more expensive equipment. The NODE 2i is a clearly well engineered component whose full potential can be easily realized with the affordable Purple Flare Power Cord.

Optimize Your Subwoofer with These 3 Simple Upgrades

  By Bjorn Bengtsson

Subwoofers usually get overlooked. During the development of our latest Blue Heaven Subwoofer Cable, we realized just how little TLC is typically given to the subwoofers in sound systems. Often the complaint we hear is that subwoofers don’t integrate well enough, when listening to two-channel music. At Nordost we understand the tremendous value of high-quality audio cables, power products and resonance control, and once people hear our demonstrations at industry shows, or in retail showrooms, they understand the importance of these upgrades as well. However, whenever people begin to consider upgrades to help improve their subwoofer, we hear a lot of “buts”:

“…But what’s the point? The amplifier inside my subwoofer isn’t as good as the amplifier in my dedicated main speaker.”

“…But the interconnect would have to be so long—my subwoofer is too far away from my preamp. “

“…But why change the footers? My subwoofer already came with its own set of feet.”

I’m sure that all of these arguments sound familiar. I do have one more “but” for you however:

“…But these arguments are exactly why you need to consider making upgrades to your subwoofer!”

Let me explain:

1) Power Cord Upgrade

If the amplifier in your subwoofer isn’t as good as the amplifiers in your primary loudspeakers, it’s imperative to optimize its situation, in order to allow your subwoofer to succeed. This can easily be done by upgrading the power cord feeding the subwoofer. A really good power cord is essential to ensure that the built-in amplifier performs at its absolute best. With quality AC feeding your subwoofer, you will finally be able to enjoy those powerful, low frequency notes in your music, and not be stuck experiencing them as just a rumble.

 

2) Dedicated Subwoofer Interconnect

The price of long-length interconnects may be daunting. However, at longer lengths, having a high-quality cable is of the utmost importance. The longer a signal is trapped in its conduit, the more damage and signal-loss will be experienced, especially if that signal is being transported in a substandard cable. When dealing with subwoofers, which are typically placed far away from the rest of the system, you are introduced to a series of real challenges that a good, purpose-built subwoofer cable will have to overcome. If these challenges aren’t addressed properly, the signal will arrive “tired”, very distorted, and riddled with phase problems.

 

3) Resonance Control

In terms of mechanical optimization, low frequencies create a hostile situation. Unfortunately, the footers and spikes that come with subwoofers were not designed to efficiently drain the cabinet of detrimental vibrations generated by those frequencies. When trapped within the cabinet, these vibrations will negatively affect the driver(s) in your subwoofer, making the sound have an undesirable, muddled and boomy quality. Upgrading your footers and spikes with a product that addresses resonance, like the Nordost Sort Füt, will help minimize these harmful effects and maximize the performance of your subwoofer.

Subwoofers are worth paying attention to, and just like any other component in your system, the attention that you give them will make a huge difference! If you make these changes, you will be able to impress both yourself and your audiophile buddies with seamless low frequency integration, without any rumble. When done right, a properly optimized subwoofer will allow you to enjoy low frequency sound that will make the legs of your trousers flap, your eyes blink involuntary, and your chest cavity resonate with your favorite music…

A Rooftop FM Antenna and a Hopping Mad Mom

By Steve Greene

What’s the worst thing in your parents’ mind that you did as a teenager?  Wrecked the family car shortly after getting your driver’s license?  Got your girlfriend pregnant?  Maybe you threw a big, noisy and messy party at their home while they were away?  Well, my teen transgression was much nerdier, but it did have the benefit of teaching me some important lessons: wires make a difference, and grounding is important.

What could I possibly have done, you ask?  Well, my parents, who rarely ever left town without us kids, decided to finally take a long weekend away from us.  They took advantage of a weekend special of dancing, dining, and lodging at a hotel about 100 miles away.  After all, they thought, I was at home from college and my sister had just turned twenty-one, so surely we could look after my twelve-year-old brother.  What could go wrong?  We were trustworthy kids.  I had recently purchased my first quality stereo component, a Pioneer QX-8000 quadraphonic receiver, which I was obsessed with. So when I came home from college I’d be sure to hang around at home with my stereo, watching my brother, and staying out of any trouble.  What they didn’t know was that I was bothered by a bit of multipath distortion on my favorite FM station: Georgetown’s WHFS, home of very popular DJs Surf and the Weasel.  I loved that station and the progressive and psychedelic rock they played!

I had started receiving and collecting both Lafayette Radio and Allied Electronics around age eleven.  I’d pour through them from cover to cover every year, numerous times, dreaming about what electronic gear might lie in my future. It was early Saturday morning, and I had a hunch that I knew what might solve my multipath distortion problem. I had recently read an article in High Fidelity Magazine about a dealer in upstate New York who had installed an FM antenna on a customer’s roof.  The article was quite detailed explaining how to safely mount a mast and antenna securely, as well as the importance of grounding the antenna. So I headed to Lafayette, with their latest catalog in hand, in order to check out their FM antennas and accessories.

My bedroom system 1975 -Pioneer QX-8000 and Alliance rotator box

I had a plan. My bedroom was on the corner of the first floor of our house, and my Dad had a nice, sturdy ladder. I was going to drill a hole through the side of the house in order to bring the twin lead to my QX-8000 in the bedroom. I knew the 6-element Finco FM-4G was $17.15, while the 10-element Lafayette FM “double driven” model (with a whopping 10–foot boom) was just $11.95.  Plus, I’d need about 50 feet of 300 ohm twin lead at $2.29, a five foot antenna mast at $1.49, heavy duty 4” wall brackets at $4.78, several wood screw insulators to hold the twin lead where it would run down the wall from the roof, a lightning arrestor, and a ground rod and ground wire for another $9. Then, the piece de resistance, I would need a plastic tube about 3/4 inch in diameter and about 13 inches long for $1.19. As I totaled up my expenditure in my head, I realized I was going to have more change left over from the $50 I had burning in my pocket (part time jobs really pay off) if I bought the bigger, but cheaper, Lafayette antenna instead of the Finco!  The total would be about $35 plus my labor (yes, I’m referencing the 1973 Lafayette catalog, that I still have, to confirm these prices!).  I paid the cashier, loaded up my goodies in my hand-me-down Corvair, and headed back home.

While the installation took me way longer than I expected (about four hours) the FM antenna was finally installed.  I had completed the job safely, only teetering on the roof once during a sudden gust of wind, but the sturdy mast saved me when I grabbed hold of it!  I also realized that I had to shove some gunk into the tube entering the house, so that it wouldn’t be a direct path for insects.  Wadded up bubblegum seemed do the trick…but I later changed that to insulating foam.  The Pioneer QX-8000 sounded great on FM, although I was surprised that the signal strength meter didn’t show much of a jump in gain.  However, since the multipath was highly reduced on WHFS, I was pleased over all.

I could hardly wait to show my parents my big accomplishment when they returned home Sunday afternoon!  I didn’t have to tell them, though.  When they pulled up in the driveway my mother instantly saw the antenna and shrieked, with hands to her face, “oh my God, Bob (sounded like “Bawb” with her New England accent), he’s ruined the looks of our house!”  No amount explaining how much better my FM reception sounded could calm my mother down.  You’d have thought I’d painted the house orange (which “Bawb” later did, although it was supposed to be “Harvest Gold”…but that’s another story).  I could tell my father was slightly amused and, I hoped, impressed enough with my newfound antenna installation skills that he could stave off the punishment my mother was demanding in exchange for her loss of curb-appeal.

The following week my father revealed my punishment: buy them a TV antenna with Alliance U-100 rotator for the TV in the family room.   The real punishment was not, however, my financial outlay for that purchase.  The real punishment was that, despite my proven new-found skills, I was not allowed to help—but watch my father install their new antenna to a vent chimney on the roof, standing in the backyard, poised to call for help if he fell.

My mother, upon seeing the new, added structure shooting from the vent chimney was further horrified.  But, our Montgomery Wards color TV (our first color TV!) now had a fantastic picture with no ghosting on any channels.   Even she had to admit that the antenna effected a huge improvement to their television viewing.

Dad's curiously short antenna mounting - the punishment antenna

However, much to my surprise, he had only mounted the antenna about one foot above the rotator!  He could have mounted it another three feet higher!  What was up with that! Surely you want to mount an antenna up as high as possible for best reception and lack of interference.  I guess that was his one consolation to Mom; make it a teeny bit less noticeable from the front of the house.  My antenna, on the other hand, could be seen from any angle in the neighborhood!  I was so proud!  Oh, and the ¾ inch hole I drilled through the wall of the house to run the antenna wire through the plastic tube?  Well, my Mother never saw that until they sold the house and retired to Florida a few years later.  I had proudly shown that piece of work to my Dad who stated at the time, “pretty nifty…And NEVER show that to your Mother”.  It was hidden from view behind my stereo equipment thank goodness.

But folks, that’s not the end of this story.   I mentioned at the beginning that this experience taught me a bit about wires and grounding.  How so?  Well, after settling in a bit with my new antenna system for my QX-8000, I became a bit underwhelmed by the RF gain.  (I still have the QX-8000 although it’s languishing in my attic, lonely).   I decided that maybe I should have bought the more expensive, albeit shorter, Finco FM4G antenna.  So, off to Lafayette I went about six months later and bought one.  I decided that two is always better than one, so I replaced the five foot mast with a ten foot mast and mounted both antennas on the same mast, one pointed towards metro Washington DC, and the other towards Baltimore.  I added another twin lead wire to the new Finco and installed a “knife-switch”.  (Remember those?  They looked like a mini version of the switch Dr. Frankenstein used to bring his monster to life).  The knife switch allowed me to switch between the two antennas depending on which station I wanted to listen to.  The new twin lead connected to the Finco antenna had some kind of foamed insulation, so I experimented by switching the wires where they connected to the two antennas on the roof to compare the wires.  I discovered the slightly older wire actually had better signal strength.  My first realization that wires do make a difference!

I didn’t think she’d notice, but soon Mom wanted to know why there were suddenly two antennas where there was formerly only one.  She complained about this until I finally decided that the Finco FM4G was a better antenna than the Lafayette antenna—it was more selective and had better gain despite being shorter, better tuning and spacing of the elements no doubt.  “Hmmm,” I thought, “Save up a bit more money and I can take down the Lafayette and put an Alliance U-100 rotator on that mast so I can aim the Finco in any direction.  No more need for a second antenna.”  And that is what I did!  This change also eliminated the knife switch, meaning there was one less junction for the signal to pass through.  Eventually, I even tried using a coax, shielded 75-ohm cable versus an unshielded 300-ohm twin lead for less noise pick up. However, since that also means you lose a bit of signal strength, I eventually settled on the twin lead.  My multipath worries were eliminated by the use of the rotator, and I could relax without further modifications to my FM antenna set-up.  Being a big Red Sox fan, I often tried to listen to games at night on AM with the QX-8000 receiver, but the noise level was often too annoying.  I discovered that by running a ground wire from the AM antenna ground tap on the back of the receiver to the FM antenna’s ground rod outside, I could improve the AM performance pretty dramatically.  This provided a much, much lower noise level so that the signal I was seeking could emerge from the background.  A proper ground is a must in an audio system, and I can’t overemphasize how much that will take the performance of your system to an even higher level.

My Finco FM4G and Alliance U-100 on Mom - Dad's roof circa 1975
This is why I was so excited to work with Nordost’s QRT Power Products. Our QRT QBASE distribution bar helps establish a common ground in your system and eliminates ground loops. I had thought the QBASE was the end-all-be-all in grounding, until we released our QKORE products last summer.  The QKORE dramatically reduces the noise level in a system by creating a clean, artificial earth, which has a dramatic and positive effect on the sound—bass becomes tighter, extends lower, and becomes more powerful.  The overall image moves further out into the room and extends beyond the boundaries of the speakers.  It’s really quite dramatic, and has to be heard to be believed! For my mother’s sake, I wish I had those products when I was a teen, I could have hid them much better than a rooftop antenna!

Oh, and speaking of my old FM antenna set-up at the old family house—out of curiosity, I drove by that house on a business trip… and lo and behold, the FM antenna and mast were still mounted on the roof!  Strangely enough though, no twin lead-connecting cable could be seen.  I guess there are no audiophiles living there anymore!