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NCF Clear Line RCA & XLR

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac late 2020 with Ventura 13.4, 40GB RAM, Audirvana Origin, Qobuz Sublime, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, LHY Audio SW-8 network switch, Sonnet Pasithea DAC; Cen.Grand DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe; Active filter: icOn Gradient Box at 80Hz/4th-order hi/lo-pass; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos, Goldmund Job 225; Headamp: Cen.Grand Silver Fox; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Qualio Audio IQ w. sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Carbide Audio footers; Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL or Kinki Studio Earth; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Shanling M3 Ultra, Soundaware D300Ref; DAC: Denafrips Terminator Plus 12th Anniversary or COS Enginnering D1; Preamp/filter: Vinnie Rossi Signature L2 or icOn 4Pro with 4th-order/40Hz hi-low pass; Amplifier: Crayon Audio CDA-1.2; Loudspeakers: MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini, Dynaudio S18 sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF + Akiko Audio Corelli; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win10/64; USB bridge: Singxer SU-2; Headamp/DAC: Auralic Vega; Amp: Enleum AMP-23R; Speakers: EnigmAcoustics M1; Headphones: Final D-8000
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: Shanling M3 Ultra; DAC: iFi iDSD Signature; Active speakers: DMAX SC5
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m

Review component retail: €258/ea RCA, €385/ea. male/female XLR

Idle mind. Devil's workshop. Open i/o. Noise. It's the rationale behind 'shorting' plugs. Wherever they terminate an open RCA or XLR, they disable stubby antenna action to better shield internal circuity against EMI/RF noise. The thinking is that unused connectors are always in use; just not by signal but airborne noise. That devil never sleeps. By implication home-theater receivers with more sockets than sense require a small army of such helpers to seal up fully. Among others, the catalogues of Ansuz and Nordost already offered such parts. Now Furutech have joined their ranks with the NCF Clear Line RCA and male/female XLR. NCF is shorthand for NanoCrystal Formula. It generates negative ions and has piezoelectric damping properties. As such it factors in Furutech's best AC distributors and filters, power plugs and RCA/XLR cables. Aside from NCF, carbon powder too embeds in the nylon/fiberglass bodies of today's devices. Their pressure-sealed barrels then contain small ceramic capacitors coated in a damping compound. They create one more passive noise barrier. The assemblies even undergo the company's usual two-stage cryo and demag process. As to what they are, Furutech call them line optimizers. Purpose and MO are crystal not esoteric. Launched August 1st, Furutech offered me a first look. Finding open connectors among our systems would be easy. So would stuffing some to check on the difference. To be sure, ultra-high frequency noise isn't audible per se. It's not the hum of a ground loop or the faint hiss of a power supply bleeding through a tweeter. With noise beyond our hearing threshold, it's about how it modulates the audible signal or burdens processes like D/A conversion. For uncompromised sound, combating electro smog as the all-pervasive radiation of appliances and wireless data transmission has become key. Be it galvanic or light-based isolation of critical sub circuits, AC filters, separating dirty power supplies from clean signal paths, running dedicated ground boxes or a standing charge on a dielectric… today's performance audio attacks out-of-band noise on many levels. The underlying math is basic. Less noise = more signal.

Common sense won't look for more primary sounds. Those we already hear. Instead we peer into the shadow realm of ambiance where recorded reflections light up space behind images. Improved signal-to-noise ratio can manifest as higher contrast. It can take the form of truer timbres whose finest highest harmonics step into the light. It can enhance textures with contextual fill. That's back at recorded reverb which dresses sounds that otherwise remain more stark or stripped. As such assignments like today's work in shades of grey. It's not about crass black 'n' white. Just so, many tiny things add up to eventually trigger our grey matter. How soon depends on our system's resolution; and how attentive we listen. That also sets how we care. Even where people do hear differences, some still don't care. When one has multiple hobbies and interests, 'good enough' keeps things manageable. Here Furutech's latest would seem more for us obsessive types. So let's momentarily go off the rails.

Read backwards, rail spells liar. Rail could be a good thing like a train to a sunny holiday resort; or a bad thing which we must vehemently rail against. Though lying is generally bad, telling a wife beater that we just saw his fiancée drive down right when she really sped off left is good. It's all relative. Which brings us to a doozy John Darko asked a week back. "Is there a reasonable budget to buy a hifi; or is it all just down to disposable income?" By reading this you're online to enjoy access to music, be it free YouTube/Spotify content or paid subscriptions. At its most basic, a complete hifi now means active speakers with WiFi, Bluetooth or USB. From Audioengine to Kii, those span from $349/pr to €16'000/pr. Which to pursue isn't just about disposable income. Neither should it be obsession alone where to finance a special acquisition, cash-strapped punters tighten belts elsewhere to seemingly shop beyond their lifestyle. Just so, obsession is a major determinant which can override all reasonable budgetary concerns. What people obsess about differs. One guy's ace street bicycle is another gal's designer wardrobe. To afford them, both might be perfectly happy to live on cheap junk food or in a funkier part of town. Obsession is its own reason. To anyone not similarly afflicted, it often looks nuts. But before we cast stones, who doesn't have at least one area in life that's of special importance? It could be food, drink, smoke, travel, clothes, garden gnomes, cats… the list is endless.