Nordost Sort Isolation System

A Trio of Options

Equipment report
Categories:
Equipment racks and stands
Nordost Sort Isolation System


Sort Lift
Logically, lifting speaker cables off the floor would not necessarily bring noticeable sonic benefits, but I have found that it usually does. And the means for getting them off the floor does seem to affect sound quality, too. I will leave it to others to speculate about the possible reasons for this effect (static build-up, dielectric interference, vibration reduction) and to critics to dismiss the whole idea as pseudo-science and condemn cable lifters as “snake oil.” All I can say is that I prefer to get my cables off the floor—all cables. Sort Lift will work with speaker cables, both the flat ribbon sort (à la Nordost) and traditional round ones, as well as with power cables and interconnects. I used them solely with round speaker cables.

Over the years, I have tried DIY wood blocks, ceramic cups, purpose-made foam lifts, and ones made of high-carbon-content plastic. All were better than leaving the cables on the floor, but they all also had a common shortcoming—the cables were easily nudged off their lifts. Nordost has solved this problem. Each Sort Lift has a heavy metal base, two flexible, opposing, vertical loops, and two small horizontal spring-loaded support cables, all of which form a rather tall three-point-contact “cradle” into which you slide the cable from above. The audio cable maintains its secure position even if it is jostled. Ingenious.

Positional stability is well and good, but what about any sonic improvements?

With Sort Lifts deployed in my system, the soundscape opened up with a greater sense of air and space than with no lifts at all. I had the impression that Sort Lift was, indeed, allowing more subtle spatial cues to come through. I was able to get a clearer picture of “a chorus in a hall” in Morten Lauridsen’s “O Nata” from Lux Aeterna [Hyperion], for example. I also noted a slight reduction of tone color. Some recordings benefited from the open airiness of Sort Lift, while others seemed to lose some of their impact from that apparent reduction in tonal density. The round speaker cable I used has a diameter of about 1.35", so the Sort Lift might have gripped a cable of this thickness too tightly to work as intended.

I compared Sort Lift with Shunyata Research’s older model Dark Field Elevator v2 ($295 for 12, now replaced by the DFSS model) in both my system and in my audio buddy’s. In my system, the DFE v2 pretty much maintained the same tonal characteristics without cable lifts, but simply improved overall resolution and background quietness, although more subtly than Sort Lift did. In my audio buddy’s system, Sort Lift reduced background noise and enhanced upper-frequency information as it did in my system, but also notably increased liveliness, transient crispness, and overall musicality and resolution. His listening room has hardwood floors, whereas mine has carpet over concrete slab. He uses Cardas Clear Beyond speaker cable; I use Shunyata ZiTron Anaconda (which has its own internal static-reduction technology). The DFE v2 influence on both systems was subtler. The Sort Lift effect was more obvious. Whether either one will appeal in your system is up to you. Sort Lift really elevated (no pun intended) my friend’s system performance to a degree that I did not think was possible by means of such a seemingly simple device.

Entire Sort System
Nordost sent enough Sort Kone AC, Sort Füt, and Sort Lift to kit out my entire system. So what did it sound like? Clean, coherent, calm. The background noise was, indeed, reduced all around. Musicians’ positions in space and the overall sonic envelope were fleshed out very well. All good things, except I couldn’t shake the feeling that some of music’s inherent sparkle and verve was also reduced along with the background noise. This could be because of the effect of a full system’s worth of Sort Kone ACs, as I had the same impression when I evaluated the Sort Kone models separately. I believe the performance of all vibration control devices is highly system dependent and also affected by the supporting “ecosystem” (rack, shelving, room, etc.) Your preferences may differ from mine.

Conclusion
Nordost has taken a logical approach to vibration control: Create an effective mechanical ground path for spurious vibrations within components to drain into their supporting structures. The sonic results can vary greatly depending on a myriad of factors, such as the resonant characteristics of interfacing component and supporting structures. All of the Sort Systems products appear to be well made and should hold up over time. Sort Füt impressed me the most, and its Premium Package does offer some useful additions. A qualified recommendation with the proviso that you should audition Sort devices in your own system before you buy.

Specs & Pricing

Sort Kone
Type: Vibration-control cone placed under electronics
Weight limit: 100 lbs. per unit
Height: 2.2"
Prices: AS $69, AC $84, BC $149, TC $369 (each)

Sort Füt
Type: Threaded vibration-control feet mounted under audio racks or speakers
Weight limit: 200 lbs. per unit
Height: 2.75"
Price: $350 (each), Premium Package $1500, Sort Lock $179 (four), Sort Kup $299 (four)

Sort Lift
Type: Signal and power cable lifter
Height: 3.30" (raises cable about 1" off the floor)
Price: $599 (pair)

NORDOST CORPORATION

93 Bartzak Dr.
Holliston, MA 01746
sales@nordost.com
(508) 893-0100


Associated Equipment
Analog source: Basis Debut V turntable and Vector 4 tonearm, Benz-Micro LP-S MR cartridge
Digital sources: Ayre C-5xeMP, Esoteric X-01 D2, HP Envy 15t running JRiver MC-20, Hegel HD30
Phonostage: Moon by Simaudio 610LP
Line stages: Ayre K-1xe, Hegel P30
Integrated amplifier: Hegel H360
Power amplifiers: Gamut M250i, Hegel H30
Speakers: Dynaudio Confidence C1 Signature, YG Acoustics Sonja 1.2
Cables: Shunyata ZiTron Anaconda signal cables, Nordost Heimdall 2 USB, Audioquest Coffee USB and Hawk Eye SPDIF, Shunyata Anaconda S/PDIF, Shunyata ZiTron Sigma power cords
A/C Power: Two 20-amp dedicated lines, Shunyata SR-Z1 receptacles, Shunyata Triton v2, and Typhon power conditioners
Room treatments: PrimeAcoustic Z-foam panels and DIY panels

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