Unceremoniously stacked one atop the other, for an "unconstrained layer" sandwich of three conditioners and speedy rewiring during the listening period, I used the Furutech cord on its mate and my BPT L-9 20-amp terminated cord without Z-Sleeve on the CPC. The BPT 3.5-Sig stood by for comparison, all active components (Cairn, Zanden, Ortho Spectrum, Bel Canto, AUDIOPAX monos, DUO subwoofers) plugged into the review units. The recently returned Walker Audio Velocitor with latest-mod regulation coil was unplugged altogether to avoid the benign passive influence of its Quantum Resonance Module from affecting the electrical circuit and thus introducing an unfair advantage. The same bleed-back effect is true for those Shunyata Research power cords filled with the FE-Si 'Stardust' compound. Just plugging one into the wall without otherwise being connected to actual equipment affects the entire Romex network in close proximity and must thus be unplugged whenever doing even-handed comparative listening.

Louis Winsberg's fiery Jaleo Flamenco hybrid [Sunnyside Communications 3013] with tablas, vibes, marimbas, a plethora of guitar-related stringed instruments, international vocals and a pervasive Metheny-esque modernity found itself in the CD transport and 'play' it was.

Coming off the $2,495 Sig with its obscenely sized balanced power isolation transformer and bag o' designer tricks, what neither 1/5th-priced contender could approach to the same degree was the eerily low but relaxed noise floor; the monster bass control; the confounding image density and explosive dynamics both micro and macro. Granted, nobody in their right or left mind would have expected that. Still, in this constant upgrade chase called High-End, reality checks -- about how much more significantly longer green actually buys you or doesn't -- are one of the fringe benefits the intense exposure to so much varied gear gifts the working reviewer with. In turn, it's one of the truly useful bits of information he can pass on to his readers who, for merely practical reasons, don't enjoy the same opportunities for non-stop in-house comparisons.

Another area in which the far dearer über-conditioner maintained a noticeable lead especially as compared to the Furutech? Keeping things unwaveringly separated and elegant when the volume went up. The e-TP80 became fuzzier, coarser and thicker, clumping together under the same conditions, sacrificing a certain refinement, composure or linear scaling between quantity and quality in the process, meaning that things didn't just get louder (quantity) but also changed a bit of character (quality) where the Signature remained entirely unruffled. After experimenting with plugging various components into the e-TP80's 'digital' circuit, including higher-draw amplifiers to get a sense for its audible signature, I was left suspicious whether this filter network doesn't constitute a relative Achilles heel in the overall design. Even used as intended, for source components, the singing quality of Winsberg's electric sitar carrying the melody over the Indian-style taka-dim vocal percussion grew more static and de-facto, as though somehow bereft of the dancing element; the palmas grew less sharp; Nanda Kumar's tabla rolls less precise; the overall sense of penetrating intelligibility less acute and far reaching, similar to the big and bold yet somewhat fuzzy and lumbering demeanor of lesser push-pull valve amps.

While the dancing element bit may sound unconscionably vague or poetic, it's precisely such indicators of musical flow and gestalt which become the domain of distinction between superior power line devices. It's not frequency domain shifts but issues of timing, of musical energy, of micro-level detail usually obscured, of defogging the musical matrix for more incisiveness and thus better beat coherence, of clearer focus and more unimpeded bass power and dynamic swells. The rhythmic quality in particular becomes a vital constituent for Spanish Gipsy music with its complex compas, especially when compounded by Indian sub-patterns. Compared to the CPC which sounded like a smaller, less muscular version of the 3.5-Sig, the Japanese take on the music was softer, warmer and more rotund, sounding at the same time larger while also less precise and slower, causing me to prefer lower volumes to avoid the onset of its minor blurring effects.

Clearly not all music is as complicated, multi-layered and challenging as Jaleo which, truly, should be characterized as "Pat Metheny emerges from the Gipsy caves of Sacromonte" and will be the subject of a forthcoming music review. Still, it quickly became a potent equalizer which, for this listener, disqualified the Furutech from the serious races in this category of music. While I couldn't go straight into the wall for lack of enough outlets, I was left with the distinct impression that I would probably have preferred such a straight hookup, happily suffering the increase in noise floor in exchange for more pep, tautness and timing accuracy.

Once this particular contribution of the Furutech had been ascertained, it remained obvious no matter what. It thus won't come as a surprise to learn that breathy female vocalists rather benefitted from the slight soft-focus touch when the musical message wasn't primarily delivered on the rhythmic front but by seductive inflection. Hence Mediterranean Lullaby, a soothing compilation on Ellipsis Arts [4290] intended to put the little ones to sleep with tender vocal ballads from around the world, was right up the Furutech's alley.

On balance, and being excused for generalizations, I'd characterize the e-TP80 as a somewhat valve-reminiscent component that shaves off edge, increases glow and expands things to slightly larger-than-life size which, if you add it all up, makes it the perfect antidote for many affordable systems suffering the exact opposite. And affordable systems are most likely to be the natural mates for this affordable conditioner that offers enough outlets to accommodate a complete such setup. Which brings us to the BPT CPC. Despite its affordability, it seems tailor-made for truly expensive systems where its greater honesty, finer-boned finesse, greater rhythmic time keeping ability and stronger focus not on the grande gestures but minuscule constituents all fall into the service of resolution enhancement which, let's face it, tends to be the cornerstone that expensive systems are built upon and assembled around.

To continue the same generalization trend, a character sketch of the CPC might call it the equivalent of a low-powered single-ended transistor amp like the late and great Volksamp by Nelson Pass. It was an improved Aleph 3 and has sadly been discontinued though I have reason to believe that Nelson might shortly revisit this concept about the overriding importance of getting the first watt right. For the CPC, think fleet and ultra-transparent then, without the additional body and weight of the transformer-coupled 3.5 Signature and not quite its drastically low noise floor and accelerated dynamics but with otherwise a clear sonic family semblance. Or call it a really good passive pre. It's clear which out of today's two participants I favored though it bears repeating that the less expensive systems for which the e-TP80 is clearly intended often don't require honesty and ruthless laying bare of deeper layers. Rather, more than anything else, they want softening and taming, plumping up and filling out. And this the Furutech will provide to a 'T'. As always, the cure depends on the disease. You get to play doc and write the diagnosis and prescription. Just don't kill your patient.

Closing today's subject, I should add that a CPC outfitted with the High Current Filter, the Z-Sleeve and one 300VA balanced power transformer would make a great affordable digital-only power provider. As recent experiments with the Velocitor have shown, going full-hog to hard-separate analog and digital feeds in an ultra-revealing system does offer appreciable benefits. Not having to fork over gold bullion to run a transport and DAC on a small separate circuit is a welcome boon to retain cash reserves for software. A properly outfitted CPC in the context of a highly resolving system seems perfectly suited for such applications, giving your digital components their very own power source.

Furutech Japanese website
Furutech US website
BPT website