Sometimes we as journalists are privy to items way prior to their launch. Such is the case with Nordost’s QKORE trio of ground units. I was told about these at CES this year, but was so sworn to secrecy that they appeared as ‘Nordost stuff’ and later ‘Nordost Q Project’ on our internal planning documents. Even Nordost’s distributors will only learn of this product line by reading this review as the devices are released into the wild at Munich High End in the middle of May.
The popularity, efficacy, and use of ground units appears to be a comparatively recent phenomenon. In fact, back in the 1980s, dedicated audiophiles used to create an additional ground to the domestic AC ‘earth terminal’, by running a thick conductor from the system to an earth spike or ground rod buried deep in soil. This requires access to said soil (you need to water this ground rod periodically), and is often impractical to implement. A more recent development has been standalone units that replicate the benefits of an independent ground rod and line.
Thirty years ago, the demand for a separate grounding system was as an attempt to counter the results of noisy power supplies on the same local power circuit (such as the refrigerator) undermining the performance of the audio system. Today, that problem is magnified as ever more products chuck even more high frequency nasties onto the AC line ground in the (otherwise laudable) goal of energy efficiency. Power cords and active purifiers can work to limit these effects on the live and neutral lines, but grounding is a tougher nut to crack. Grounding units and their like leave the electrical ground well alone, creating instead an unpolluted parallel ground.
QKORE is built around three products, all in an almost identical case to the one that houses the company’s Qx power purifiers. The three comprise a QKORE1 with a single binding post designed to connect to the power before the electronics (ideally connecting to something like a Qbase), QKORE3 that includes three binding posts to connect to the electronics (plugging into a spare RCA socket), and QKORE6 that combines the QKORE1 and QKORE3, adding a supplementary set of mono ground connectors, for an all-in-one package or for users of mono power amps. Each one comes with an appropriate green QKORE connector (two in the case of the QKORE6) but additional QKORE cables would be a good idea to include every device in the chain. The QKORE1 with its 4mm banana plug to 4mm banana plug does imply use with a distribution block with an earthing terminal, and Nordost’s QBase range is one of the obvious choices.