Power Conditioners

Nordost Thor Power Distribution Center

ARTICLE INDEX

Introduction

My eyebrows raised at the very notion of the Nordost Thor. “What in the world is a power distribution system?” I asked myself. “And why in hell’s name should a simple-looking, lightweight box that sends power to six components cost $3,300?”

Hence, when offers to evaluate the Thor for Secrets came my way, I initially ignored them. Even after Harry Pearson of TAS gave the product a Golden Ear Award, and Roy Gregory of the U.K.’s HiFi+ went as far as declaring, “Once you’ve got used to it in the system, taking it out means no music – it’s as simple as that,” I resisted. If I was going to review another power product, I wanted it to be an even better, he-man power regenerator à la the PS Audio Power Plant (whose now-discontinued, highly inefficient P600 is both a backbreaker and utility company profits enhancer) or my then-reference, an upgraded ExactPower 15A.

Then, at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I had lunch with Joe Reynolds of Nordost. When Joe brought up the Thor, I once again crossed my arms, scrunched my face, and declared “No no no!” Joe is quite persuasive, however, when he waxes ecstatic about products he cares about (including products from other manufacturers). Once he had concluded his rap, it was hard to say no.

Specifications

  • Design: AC-in, Optimized AC-out
  • Outlets: Six Grounded
  • Maximum Current Output: 18 Amps
  • Spike and Surge Protection
  • Dimensions: 3.4" H x 17.4" W x 12" D
  • Weight: 13.2 Pounds
  • MSRP: $3,300 USA
  • Nordost

I’m glad I gave in. I have since joined the ranks of reviewers who have declared that life without the Thor is not worth living.

Product Description and Innards

The Thor, a joint collaboration between Nordost and UK “mains power specialist” IsoTek, is a 6-way AC mains power distribution unit. Nordorst claims that its sophisticated circuitry deals with mains noise and voltage spikes without limiting dynamic headroom.

Visually, the Thor is a hardly prepossessing, shiny aluminum box, whose most distinguishing characteristic in front is a brightly illuminated blue logo “on light” on the center faceplate. Due to its brightness, I had found it extremely useful for making my way through our darkened living room at night to open the door for our now departed pooch. I also use it to center my other components on the rack. If you demand total darkness when you use your system at night, you may wish to either cover it over or find out if you can open the chassis and connect it entirely. (I did as much with the equally insistent blue-lit logo on my P600). Frankly, I’ve made my peace with it, in the same way as many have made their peace with “In God We Trust” on the currency of a supposedly secular nation.

On the back of the unit are six high quality three-prong AC outlets, with a separate IEC input on the left. There’s also a green grounding knob for grounding other components, and a fuse box that includes an active fuse and a spare. The unit’s rubber feet can be replaced with other 6mm threaded points or supports. Because I didn’t have Nordost’s own resonance and vibration control devices on hand at the time of the review, I variously used brass cones, Ganymede ball-bearing supports, and Cerapucs. All improve the sound to varying degrees.

What matters, far more than what you see on the outside, is what’s inside the Thor. Rather than paraphrasing Nordost’s standard website rap, I phoned Joe Reynolds and asked for the lowdown. He said the following:

"Our goal in creating the Thor was to come out with a power distribution system that wouldn’t compress the dynamics of the music system. We call it a power distribution system rather than a power conditioning system because power conditioners such as regenerators (that regenerate power from the wall) and filters (that filter noise from the AC line) tend to compress the dynamic range of the system. There are some that compress dynamics less than others. But anytime you take that approach, you’re going to have compression.

"There are three different elements in the Thor. The first is a Quantum X1 module that employs proprietary Quantum Resonant Technology (QRT) that significantly lowers the noise floor in the system. You can actually measure the improvement in the audio waveform of a piece of music with the Thor in place.

"One of the things we’ve found as we’ve tried device after device is that, while they’ve smoothed out things, they’ve also killed dynamics. If the manufacturer is doing their job properly, their amplifiers work properly and quietly without putting another amplifier in front of their amplifier. That’s why we use Quantum Technology to lower the noise floor. We recently showed some of these Quantum devices at CES in Vegas. The more we added to the system, the quieter the system got.

"The Thor also uses the Polaris- X grounding system to completely isolate each component that’s plugged into it. If you plug in an amplifier, there will be no spurious noise from the CD player going back into the system through the amp.

"The unit also uses a very high quality silver-plated circuit board and silver solder. The unit is wired internally with Nordost Dual Mono-filament power cables that include some of the same elements and technology as in the Valhalla power cord.

"The Thor is equally effective in music and home theater systems. It improves picture quality dramatically as well as lowering the noise floor.

"In order to make the unit run more efficiently, there is some resonant control built into the casework. You can attach a set of Nordost Pulsar Point Resonant Control devices. We make two versions: a two-piece aluminum version PP4 ($119/four) that you can thread into components or speakers. We also make a titanium version (PP4 Ti ($499/four) that is even better. There are also Quasar Points ($199/four) that use ball bearing technology.