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With the nearly complete restoration of my Thorens TD-124 MkI—all but replacing the original wooden with a new slate plinth—I have been exploring the sizeable cache of mono jazz and some classical records amassed in recent years. Spinning Billie Holiday All Or Nothing At All [Verve MG V 8329], I played the first few cuts and then replaced the PS Audio P300 with just the Nordost QBase. I kept all power cords the same (i.e. no Nordost power cords yet). When I was about to drop the needle at my standard preamp volume (I usually leave it at one setting for stereo LP playback barring unusual level differences in recordings), I became aware of a lowering of the subtle background electronic noise level of my system. While it was not a huge difference since my system is pretty quiet to begin with especially for tube components, it was enough to give me pause. 

Playing the second cut "We’ll Be Together Again", I heard a definite improvement in Billie’s voice. It was less strained and the electronic background noise level dropped noticeably. The proverbial window got clearer and there was a greater sense of intimacy. Ben Webster’s sax solo on "Sophisticated Lady" was very seductive. Next I simply replaced the power cord on the QBase—a stock cord borrowed from the P300—with the entry-level Nordost Blue Heaven and listened to cut three again. I heard some improvement with richer harmonics on Ben Webster’s sax solo and in Billie’s voice. I installed the Qx4 next between the AC wall outlet and QBase. For these connections I used the supplied Nordost Blue Heaven power cords.

The Qx components contain electromagnetic field generators which according to Nordost work by "limiting RFI and timing errors associated with the AC line." The Qx4 contains four field generators and the Qx2 two. The units are additive in effect and more than one can be used in a system. When Paul was here I played my beloved Benny Goodman Benny In Brussels Vol. I [Columbia CS 8075]. The last two cuts on side 1 "Obsession" and "Brussels Blues" are some of the most exciting live cuts I own on vinyl. We played these without and with Qx4. I commented to Paul that I heard better pace and rhythm as well as a cleaning up of the residual electronic haze in the space between instruments that people report with many power conditioners. When the crowd erupted with applause and hoots of joy at the end of Jimmy Rushing’s energetic performance, I could more easily differentiate between individuals clapping in the audience. Everything was brought into greater focus.

Settling in. When I did a repeat of the A/B comparison with the Qx4 later, I decided to listen to my dedicated mono Thorens turntable rig again with the aforementioned Billie Holiday. On "Sophisticated Lady" the Qx4 gave me the same benefits although this is a slower number where pace is less of an issue. At first I thought I heard a slight thinning of Billie’s voice but I had to leave for an appointment and decided to come back to it later.

With the arrival of my girlfriend Mary for the weekend, I invited her to listen to the Qx4 comparison. Over our three years of dating and numerous hours of listening together, she has improved her listening skills considerably. Listening to the same Billie Holiday cut with the Qx4 we could hear that the bass was cleaner and had slightly more weight. We also heard more information and nuance which was particularly easy with Ben Webster’s saxophone solo. After switching the Qx4 in and out twice more I heard this same effect on Billie Holiday’s voice. Later I determined that this was due to the Blue Heaven power cord between Qx4 and the QBase. Next up was installing the Qx2 between Doshi preamp and QBase. I selected a classical LP, Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies 2+3 plus Enesco’s Romanian Rhapsodies 1+2 [Mercury SR90235].

This recording is full of contrasts in dynamics, tempo and emotion. The energetic dance in Romanian Rhapsody is difficult for many systems with its tremendous energy and massed violins. Since I presently had the Doshi plugged into the QBase using a non-audiophile communications power cord, I decided it was best to first replace that with the Nordost Blue Heaven. In this particular position I actually preferred my commercial power cord. The Blue Heaven seemed to thicken or coarsen the strings and was not quite as resolving. In past experiments with power cords on the Doshi I found it exceedingly sensitive but not generally responsive to audiophile cords. I thus plugged the commercial cord into the Qx2 and used Blue Heaven from the Qx2 to the QBase (making sure to plug it into the primary earth outlet on the QBase).

Soundstage depth and air increased, extending further back as well as in front of the speakers. Yet I was not entirely convinced that every effect was beneficial from putting the Qx2 between preamp and Qbase. I resolved to return to this later. The last but not least QRT component is the Qv2 AC line harmonizer. This cylinder can be plugged into the QBase or any outlet on the same circuit as the system. According to Nordost, "the Qv2’s benefits are complementary, adding to and building on the proven musical advantages already delivered by the established multi-award winning QB distribution units and Qx field generators. The Qv2 applies QRT technology directly to the AC line, introducing a carefully calculated range of harmonic frequencies to your system’s AC supply clocked from the line frequency itself."

Nordost’s literature claims the Qv2 units bring an improvement "in the natural flow and harmonic warmth." I heard this and more. I used a total of four and found that removing just one was missed. While I definitely liked the added warmth, I also heard an increase in midbass power and weight. In fact I was playing a CD with a friend and plugged in two of the Qv2 devices while music was playing. With the first one he said 'whoa' and I could hear from where I stood that the bass note being played immediately jumped up in impact, mid-note, when the metal blades engaged the socket. He also remarked that some of the edge on the cut’s horn was ameliorated. Paul Ritchotte recommends the QBase as the first QRT component for any system. While I would agree, I would also recommend getting four Qv2 cylinders no matter what brand of power conditioner you are using. They are that good.

Herding cats. A couple of audiophile friends were curious to hear the Nordost QRT so I arranged a play date. Between what the two of them owned as well as their connections, I was able to assemble a formidable list of power conditioners. In addition to my PS Audio P300 and the Nordost QRT loaner system we had an Audience Adept Response aR6-TS with Au24 power chord upgrade ($6,550); Bybee Power Purifier v 2.0 ($5,495 plus $3,800 for Bybee power cord); Silver Circle Audio Pure Power One 5.0se ($7,500); PS Audio P5 Power Plant ($3,495 with 2.25m Shunyata Python Alpha power cord $1499);  Sunnycable power conditioner ($5,000 plus Sunny Supreme power cord $2500).