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!

3 thoughts on “The Well-Grounded System: An Update

  1. Mike! I’m kinda confused about something though. You mentioned that the QKORE system is more stable and sounds better than the original ground rod system. Can you explane a bit more on why this is? Is it because the QKORE doesn’t mess with the house’s grounding scheme or something else? Also, for someone not too tech-savvy, how easy is it to set up the QKORE system? Thanks for sharing your experience, really makes me think about how to improve my own system!

    • Thanks for your questions. Firstly, the QKORE System is more stable because it never changes. Ground rods in the earth change their conductivity depend on ground moisture and salinity. I’ve heard of folks watering and salting their ground rods because of this. But it also sounds better because Nordost addresses the resonance characteristics of the system by using special QKORE grounding cables that tend to skim off vibration in your components as well.

      Yes, connecting an additional earth ground to your house wiring can cause problems with the whole electrical grounding system.

      The QKORE system is easy to implement even if you live in an apartment. There are two ways it settles ground issues in your system. One, the primary AC ground is dealt with by connecting to your AC distribution system ground to its own low voltage attractor plate. In Nordost’s case that would be the QBASE range of power distribution and either the QKORE 1 or the AC ground point of a QKORE 6.

      Then each component you have should be connected to a DC LVAP like the QKORE 3 or the DC connections on a QKORE 6. You see, the Qkore 6 is a combination unit that handles both AC and DC ground. The QKORE 1 is exclusively for AC ground connection to your AC distribution system. The QKORE 3 is just for the DC connection to your components by means of audio ground cables that connect to unused connections on your preamp or other components. The QKORE 6 is a combination unit that handles both.

      Proper system ground causes a much quieter system as well as better bass for some reason I can’t explain but is quite audible. – Mike

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