Power Conditioners

Nordost Thor Power Distribution Center

ARTICLE INDEX

 

Set-Up

Although Nordost didn’t have to convince me, the company stresses that the quality of the power cable connected to the Thor affects the sound of the entire chain of components. In my case, I used Nordost Valhalla power cables. The main trick, when using stiff power cables in a relatively small space, is managing to plug everything in without yanking the lightweight Thor off its supports.

At a recent demo of Reference Recordings’ new HRx master recordings, Prof. Keith O. Johnson shared some priceless information. Keith explained that a key reason that power cables sound much better days after they’re plugged in is that, if their insulation is plastic, tiny bubbles can form when the plastic is bent. These negatively affect sound, and can take awhile to work themselves out. The Teflon coating on Nordost cables is less susceptible to bubbling, but is also affected. This is why Nordost cables always sound better the day after they’re plugged in.

The sound of power cables that use metal foil insulation, such as those by David Elrod, is especially affected by bending. No wonder Elrod asks people to let his cables settle in for 96 hours before critical evaluation.

I also replaced the stock fuse that comes with the unit with an audiophile grade fuse.

Listening

I was using a modified ExactPower at the time the Thor arrived. Modifications included removing the resistors and iron ferrite clamps in the unit that were designed to minimize if not eliminate noise transfer between components. A simple before/after listening comparison confirmed that while those items did lower noise, they also obscured detail and negatively impacted color. I also changed most outlets to the exceptional outlets from Sound Applications, and switched to an audiophile grade fuse. I have no doubt that I would have achieved additional improvement by changing the internal wiring. Yet, with all that work, the ExactPower could not do what the Thor does straight out of the box.

To use the Thor, I removed the ExactPower from the system, plugged everything in, and fired things up. I didn’t wait 24 hours to listen; I just went right to it. While I suspect that the solder joints and wire in the Thor require a good 50 or more hours to break-in, and am certain that everything sounded better the next day, the effect of the Thor on my system was so remarkable that I didn’t need a day to tell the difference. To use language that will certainly make my age clear, the thor blew my mind.

The first word that immediately came into my head was "coherence". I had long experienced what I considered a fine audiophile soundstage. In orchestral music, for example, the violins were in their place, the cellos in theirs, the timpani back on the left, and the brass blasting on the right. On jazz vocals, the singer was in the middle, and the support arranged around him/her and in the rear. When my system was tuned properly, it was easy to pinpoint exact instrument location. There was a goodly amount of air and clarity, and everything hung magically in space. It didn’t for a moment fool me into believing I was sitting at a live concert, but it was very, very cool.

The Thor, however, took music reproduction to an entirely different level. Within minutes, I felt that everything I had heard before was merely play-acting.

What changed? Images that had previously floated in their correct little spaces in that classic, somewhat disembodied “audiophile way” now seemed to hold together in a far more realistic manner. They weren’t simply arranged or staged; they belonged together.

Sounds also took on increased presence, solidity, and meaning. Strings weren’t doing merely doing their thing on their left while brass and percussion were blasting away on the right, with the brain working to hold it all together. Suddenly, everything was all of one piece. Not squished together, with sounds piled on atop the other. Not neatly arranged in a soundstage that is nothing like the real thing. Everything cohered in a manner that proclaimed “music” rather than “audiophile experience.”