Until now, all kinds of accessories from the Furutech Booster series relied on non-invasive touch, but this time the Japanese went a step further and decided to plug-in something into an empty socket around our stereo system. Interestingly they decided to pass on the sound path and concentrate on optimizing power and, similar to the Nordost QK1 and QV2 we tested six years ago, their newest accessory in the form of a carbon bullet, being in fact a tube from carbon fiber placed on a plug, should be placed in an empty socket in the power strip/wall supplying our system. So, according to the manufacturer, the only thing it takes to enjoy clear improvement of everything reaching our ears is to have an empty socket where we can plug the accessory in. However despite our best efforts and years of trying Jacek and I have not reached the level of knowledge, that would allow us to draw any conclusions based on pictures provided with the standard press release, so to be able to tell anything sensible about the “power optimizer”, a novelty in Furutech’s catalog, the NCF Clear Line, we needed to have a close look at it. So a listening session, but not using YouTube or Teams, so popular lately, but in the old fashioned way conducted by us in our reference systems, using the units supplied by the Polish distributor – the Katowice based RCM.
From the technical point of view you can see a close resemblance to the passive Nordost QK1 using the LRC technology (Load Resonating Coil). As in the NCF Clear Line we can find two air coils made from enameled Alpha-OCC copper, where the amount of windings was selected based on a lengthy and detailed listening process and comparisons. At least that is stated in the user manual.
Furutech already made us acquainted with the fact, that all metal parts are subdued to a two stage Alpha process, where first there is a cryogenic treatment in temperatures in the range of -250 to -196 °C and then demagnetized. On the other hand, the carcass, which officially is an obvious mixture of nylon and carbon fibers, with a wealth of ceramic nano-particles and carbon dust being the NCF (Nano Crystal Formula) which has anti-vibration and anti-distortion abilities, has a much more complicated, four-layered composition. On the outside it has a specially hardened, transparent coating with a layer of NCF below with a special texture of carbon fibers. Subsequently we reach another layer of NCF and carbon, and finally, sealing off the air pockets, we have an isolation made from Nylon resin and NCF. The pins of the plug are obviously rhodium plated, and the whole is bolted together using special T10 stainless steel screws tightened with appropriate, precisely adjusted, force. Also the cover with the nicely looking company logo is made from NCF resin to allow for maximum damping, but it also has an influence on tonal balance and frequency response. And this all due to the elimination of detrimental electrostatic charges by generating negative ions and converting all the mechanical resonances in far infrared radiation.
So far for the theory, but how does this translate into practice? First of all, the influence of the Furutech NCF Clear Line plugged into the power supply is clearly audible, so any initial concerns about it working (or not) are out of the way. The problem is, that at least in our case, the fact alone of “having an influence” is not the goal in its own, but only a starting point for defining, if this “influence” is a positive or negative one. If it is positive, then we move forward with the review, if not … the tested device returns to the distributor/manufacturer and we do not lose any time on reviewing something, what does not interest us. But as you are reading this text, this must mean, that the Furutech did do something good. And that is the case, the NCF Clear Line does something what could seem contradictive and first glance and first listen. I am talking about darkening of the sound and increasing its resolution at the same time. An apparent example of audiophile paraconsistent logic. Apparent? Yes, as this darkening is only a virtual one, and it just means that the high frequency noises and parasitic artefacts, which direct the listeners attention to the treble, and on the other covering the instruments operating there with a kind of rash mold, were eliminated. The Furutech removes such anomalies, so we do not need to engage our senses to filter them out, or to focus our attention on them, what makes us naturally perceive a broader, more stable picture. The contours of the individual instruments and musicians/vocalists stop putting pins in our eyes and gain a shape much closer to reality. Instead of attacking us with their edginess, we get all the information needed about their shape and size, their “physicality”, while not operating in the realm of hiper-realism, what becomes tiring on the long run. But please do not fear, the sound does not become too sweet, Barb Jungr will not sound like Diana Krall and Youn Sun Nah will not mimic Queen Latifah. None of such things, the mentioned ladies remain themselves in 100%, and their characteristic vocals will not be softened or glazed over, finally we will be able to hear them just like they should be in reality, and not through a certain kind of moire, which distorts their picture.
But I will not use female vocals as an example, instead I will reach out for the prog-rock climates from South Wales in the form of a pugnacious album “Inescapable” by Goldsticks. Do you know it? If not – then I warmly recommend it, but I must warn you, Darran Charles, who is using the microphone, disseminates a lot of sibilants, and the mastering does not try to hide it. The result of this is, that vocal becomes more stingy than the, quite rough and dark, guitar riffs. This should give you an idea of how this sounds. You do not find it appealing? Well, I like this kind of light offensiveness to wake up, but using the titular Furutech made the final result much more civilized, but not by placing a fire blanket on everything, but by going from the basics – like a better microphone for the singer and more thorough mastering at the end. This left the emotional load of the recording not only untouched, but even underlined, while the only element that could cause fatigue gained on quality and nobleness.
And what happened with recordings, where there is nothing to better? For example “Tomba Sonora” by Stemmklang/Kristin Bolstad? It turned out, that the confidence, that everything is OK with the recording is just an impression, as with the Furutech the blackness of the background is even more velvety, the vocalists even more palpable and the only thing, that could possibly not be liked at first glance, is the seemingly shortened decay time of the individual sounds. But when we listen more carefully to what is reaching our ears from the speakers, then it should be fairly easy to learn, that what we perceived as the remainders of the sounds swirling below the ceiling were only the parasitic artefacts, clouding the half-shadows of the stone catacombs. In short – we have the original signal without any of the unneeded luggage coming from power lines being full of dirt from switching power supplies and other devices, that should not even come close to our Hi-Fi and Hi-End systems.
But please do not be deceived and do not believe in the fairy tales, that when you buy the Furutech NCF Clear Line it will somehow magically revolutionize the sound of your system and bring it above many times more expensive competition. The tested accessory does improve the sound and makes it more noble, but you are probably aware of the fact, that to unleash any hidden potential, it must be there already. You cannot get water out of a stone. This is the reason that you should not treat the NCF Clear Line as a life buoy and you should not try to treat the plague with cholera, but reach for it at the end of your system setup. This is a kind of audiophile detailing, which makes something that already made you smile, present itself even better.
System used in this test:
– CD/DAC: Ayon CD-35 (Preamp + Signature) + Finite Elemente Cerabase compact
– Network player: Lumin U1 Mini + I-O Data Soundgenic HDL-RA4TB
– Digital source selector: Audio Authority 1177
– Turntable: Kuzma Stabi S + Kuzma Stogi + Dynavector DV-10X5
– Phonostage: Tellurium Q Iridium MM/MC Phono Pre Amp
– Power amplifier: Bryston 4B³
– Integrated amplifier: Boulder 866 Integrated, Yamaha A-S3200
– Loudspeakers: Dynaudio Contour 30 + Brass Spike Receptacle Acoustic Revive SPU-8 + Base Audio Quartz platforms
– IC RCA: Tellurium Q Silver Diamond
– IC XLR: Organic Audio; Vermöuth Audio Reference
– Digital IC: Fadel art DigiLitz; Harmonic Technology Cyberlink Copper; Apogee Wyde Eye; Monster Cable Interlink LightSpeed 200
– USB cables: Wireworld Starlight; Goldenote Firenze Silver; Fidata HFU2; Vermöuth Audio Reference USB
– Speaker cables: Signal Projects Hydra; Vermöuth Audio Reference Loudspeaker Cable
– Power cables: Furutech FP-3TS762 / FI-28R / FI-E38R; Organic Audio Power + Furutech CF-080 Damping Ring; Acoustic Zen Gargantua II; Furutech Nanoflux Power NCF
– Power distribution board: Furutech e-TP60ER + Furutech FP-3TS762 / Fi-50 NCF(R) /FI-50M NCF(R)
– Power conditioner: Keces BP-5000 + Shunyata Research Alpha v2 NR
– Wall power socket: Furutech FT-SWS(R)
– Anti-vibration platform: Franc Audio Accessories Wood Block Slim Platform
– Switch: Silent Angel Bonn N8
– Ethernet cables: Neyton CAT7+, Audiomica Anort Consequence + Artoc Ultra Reference + Arago Excellence
– Table: Rogoz Audio 4SM
– Acoustic panels: Vicoustic Flat Panels VMT
While observing the audio market, you can say, that we lived to see times, where each and every audiophile or music lover, who wants to reach the best sound possible, is aware, that the tiniest elements have an influence on that. And I do not only think about items that can produce any sound, like the source, amplification or loudspeakers, but also all kinds of accessories from ranging from power through connecting cables to accessories. But what is the reason to list all kinds of tweaks in this text? A very valid one – we will be looking at a device belonging to a category of power cleaners, something many companies have in their catalogs. We have reviewed products from companies like Harmonix or Nordost, and many more, but as you know, that while in theory all those products have the same purpose, our systems can react completely differently on them. This is one of the reasons, that when something unknown arrives from this pool, we are happy to have a look at it. That was the foundation of today’s test, where we will have a closer look at a device plugged into one of the empty sockets in a power strip supplying the current to our system, with the goal of optimizing this power supply. Again this device was created by the hands of Japanese engineers, but this time coming from the well-known company Furutech. It is named NCF Clear Line and was supplied to our listening room by the Polish distributor, the Katowice based RCM.
I will not spend too much time on the construction of the tested unit, as the manufacturer does explain all aspects of the build and that not only the inside, what most competitors deem to be a secret, but also the, quite complicated, carcass. I will just mention, that the key word for this project is damping. All the actions to maximally complicate the construction of the enclosure, its individual components, the amount and the order of the subsequent layers, the materials used from glass fiber through nylon to carbon fiber composites, also all other half-products used have only one goal – to convert all parasitic vibration into heat, for as far as it is possible, what should result in elimination of all kinds of noise and distortion associated with the power line. But this is not all. Inside the tested cylinder equipped with two pins and Schuko type grounding, there is an active section, which does not use capacitors of any kind, or any kind of active circuitry for that matter, but uses only two passive coils, which are cover with a special kind of resin, that should dampen the magnetic resonance. Of course all the mentioned elements of the carcass and the coils themselves were subdued to the well known Alpha process. You can look up all the details on the manufacturer’s web page. I must confess that I am also looking there, everything sounds complicated, but when you look at the published cross-sections it is much easier to understand. If you accept the theories posted there or not, is a completely different story. For me, regardless of all potential pros and cons, the most important thing is the influence of this device being confirmed by testing. If you agree with me on the latter, and would like to know more about that, then please read on about the effects of applying the Furutech NCF Clear Line in my audio system.
I checked the Furutech in two systems. In mine, powered with good current, taken close almost directly from the high voltage transformer, and a second one, in a club for audiophiles, I tend to visit quite often, which is located in an old, post-communist office building. But why am I dividing this test so much? Because the application of the Clear Line gave two different results, in some aspects. Some, as the main goal of using such power utensils, a certain pacification of the sound and adding some smoothness to it, appeared in both systems. Interestingly, in our Soundrebels Official Listening Room, where I have good power coming from a dedicated power line with a separate fuse, nothing else happened, in the club, there was another aspect, that surprised all people present there that night. There was a very clear light shining on the midrange and, to surprise the most all people in the room, the virtual sound stage was significantly deepened. Of course this had its consequences depending on the material listened to. All musical events, besides the slightly different freedom of decay in the midrange, were built on a deepened stage, as we would sit a few rows back. In general the perception of that was very nice, as the music became more volatile. But as you probably anticipate, there is always something in exchange for something else. In this case this was the fact, that the space for the musicians was always deep, and it was perceived differently by different listeners. As initially the stage was already well composed, this was in no way annoying, but each and every disc, even recorded in the studio, invited us for a concert. Naturally, after our hearing adapted to this new way, this became a non-issue, but it remains a fact, that the music gained a general swing every time.
But why am I glorifying this? It is about the fact, that maybe some of you, with your stereo systems, need to have some more distance to the musical event to be able to fully reproduce the reality of the musical world, and this modest Japanese contraption can help with that. Of course there is immediately the question if this will happen every time? Unfortunately already in the beginning of this section I mentioned something, that does not guarantee achieving the same results in every system, as there were not present in mine, and every stereo system is different. Why? Maybe different sound levels produced by the systems, or the quality of the power at input and in the wall – the conductors in the wall at the club are probably about 60 years old. I am not sure of that, but I am sure of the influence of the tested unit on the two systems.
After reading this text you might be sure of one thing, the tested Furutech NCF Clear Line will introduce a tad of calmness into your system. This will naturally influence the amount and quality of the treble, there will be seemingly less of them, but they will be more noble, and due to that, they will not offend you with noise or interference of the power line, perceived as unpleasant distortion. You will get this even if you have good quality power for your stereo – I am thinking about my setup. But taking as an example what the application of the Japanese device brought in the club system, things might go in a different direction. I think about a case, when you live in an apartment, or even a house, but connected to the end of the powerline, a noisy one at best. What will happen? There is only one way to be sure. You have to try it out for yourself. It will for sure do no harm, but it may also turn out to be a finishing touch to your system.
System used in this test:
– CD transport” CEC TL 0 3.0, Melco N1Z/2EX-H60
– DAC: dCS Vivaldi DAC 2.0
– Reference clock: Mutec REF 10
– Reclocker: Mutec MC-3+USB
– Shunyata Research Sigma CLOCK
– Shunyata Sigma NR
– Preamplifier: Robert Koda Takumi K-15
– Power amplifier: Gryphon Audio Mephisto Stereo
– Loudspeakers: Dynaudio Consequence
– Speaker Cables: Tellurium Q Silver Diamond
– IC RCA: Hijri „Million”, Vermouth Audio Reference
– IC XLR: Tellurium Q Silver Diamond
– Digital IC: Harmonix HS 102
– Power cables: Harmonix X-DC 350M2R Improved Version, Furutech NanoFlux NCF Furutech DPS-4 + FI-E50 NCF(R)/ FI-50(R), Hijiri Nagomi; Vermouth Audio Reference Power Cord
– Table: SOLID BASE VI
– Accessories: Harmonix TU 505EX MK II, Stillpoints ULTRA SS, Stillpoints ULTRA MINI, antivibration platform by SOLID TECH, Harmonix AC Enacom Improved for 100-240V, Harmonix Room Tuning Mini Disk RFA-80i
– Power distribution board: POWER BASE HIGH END
– Acoustic treatments by Artnovion
Drive: SME 30/2
Arm: SME V
Cartridge: MIYAJIMA MADAKE
Step-up: Thrax Trajan
Phonostage: RCM THERIAA
Outward size: L 88.4 X W39.5 mm approx.
Net Weight: 69 g approx.
Suggested burn in time 24 hrs.