The Well Grounded System
How I Learned to Improve My Sound and Love the Earth.
Significant sound system upgrades often cost thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars. The upgrade I am about to describe costs a fraction of that and delivers a performance improvement that you never thought you could get from your existing components.
It was one of those rare things that happens when you don’t see it coming but floors you when it occurs. It all started when Nordost introduced a new cable product: The QLINE Ground Wire. The QLINE is designed to work with the company’s QBASE power strip and take maximum advantage of the focused star grounding feature of this power and ground distribution system by creating a secondary ground for your hifi system. But what real difference could adding a secondary ground make? If you are familiar with Nordost’s foundation theory, you will see that this product perfectly reinforces the importance of a system’s foundational elements and how crucial it is to get this right. This got me wondering just how well my system was grounded.
The QLINE utilizes Micro Mono-Filament technology, and a 10 AWG, silver-plated 99.9999% OFC stranded conductor, with FEP insulation. It comes fitted as standard with a spade lug for the inside connection to the QB8 and a type of termination that fits into a standard ground rod connector fitting.
After a quick inspection, I found it would be easy to use an existing intrusion into the house from an incoming cable line that was right behind my Nordost QB8 power strip. My house is a ranch on a slab foundation, so it was pretty simple to install a ground rod just behind my wall outside.
I went to my local big box hardware store and spent a total of only $15.00 on a copper clad, 8’ ground rod and connector. After some precarious moments pounding it in from atop a ladder, I was ready. I was able to use a 2 meter QLINE ground wire to connect my QBASE to the ground rod.
Let’s back up just a moment first, and explore some of the long-held axioms of a properly grounded system:
“Connect a clean ground to your system and you’ll hear an obvious drop in the noise floor with blacker backgrounds, less grain and more vibrant instrumental and tonal colors.”
“A simple and cost-effective addition to any Hi-Fi installation which leads to a significant reduction in sonic pollution.”
“The purpose of a good ground is to provide a safe path for the dissipation of static charges, EMI and RFI signals and interference.”
Knowing that all of these things are true did not prepare me for what I heard. After warming up the system for a few hours, my wife and I were ready to do an A B comparison; both with and without the ground wire connected (I often evaluate new equipment with my wife Stephanie). After listening to some selections for a time without the ground wire connected I then attached it to the QB8.
Some of our comments from my notes after hooking up the ground wire:
Steph – “Well, that sounds different”
Me – “Better bass”
Steph – “More like live music, less like HiFi”
Steph – “You can hear her singing more easily, understand words better”
Me – “No doubt about it. Larger soundstage, more depth to the image”
Me – Definitely better stereo separation and dynamics, especially with micro-dynamics in the bass”
Never in my life as an audiophile have I experienced such a profound improvement in system performance – in ways that I did not expect – for so few dollars!
If installing a separate ground rod isn’t practical in your situation, a copper cold water pipe (if it’s copper all the way to the meter) makes an excellent ground as well. Just make sure you bypass the meter if you are connecting it to the house side.
The use of a dedicated, clean, low impedance connection to ground fits perfectly with the Nordost multi-outlet power distribution units, the QB8 and QB4. The external ground post tied into the focused star ground topology with the QLINE creates a solid earth connection and minimizes noise and general sonic pollution. It’s an easy solution to achieve solid ground, and it sounds fantastic!