Delivered in transparent plastic boxes just like light bulbs are except with extra folded-paper instructions, my two samples went straight upstairs. Having here just reviewed another power tweak—BOP's Quantum Field—I'd seen that with things plugging into the power line, active filters like our Puritan PSM-156 can confuse the issue. I'd thus replaced that with a passive Furutech RTP-6, an unfiltered 6-outlet power distributor which sold for $800 when new. It was still installed so…
Soundaware D100Pro SD transport⇒Denafrips Terminator DAC⇒Bakoon AMP-13R⇒Acelec Model One with Franck Tchang super tweeter and LessLoss Firewall for Loudspeakers
… into its two open sockets plugged my two NCF Optimizer samples. Unlike a half-empty salt shaker with added rice grains would or earlier Shunyata power cords which behaved like a rain stick hung upside down, these cylinders contained no audibly moving grains. The powdered compound inside was either packed tight, a solid liner or of such fine and light consistency as to not register.
As a parallel device, the NCF Optimizer is 'seen' by your home's entire power network. Still, we're told of a proximity effect. The closer it plugs into where your hifi gets its power from, the more potent. Like raw absorptive mass for bass traps, more is more with this concept. These devices can stack endlessly which is to say, parallel massively to bring more and more crystalline volume to bear on the transformation of HF noise. After a day, there's no more break-in, just plug 'n' see more, unplug 'n' see less? That was the question. According to Marc Phillips' review, it'd be easy to answer. "It's one of those products like the $60 white belt from Rega and the $85 The Cap body mod for the Denon 103 where you hold it in your hand and wonder why it costs as much as it does. Then you hear the effect such a product has on your system and you say to yourself that this is the best $60/$85/$249 you've ever spent in audio. If you're still skeptical, it's easy to ignore the sales pitches and fawning over-the-top accolades and just try one. Real quick. Plug it in. Sit and listen. Unplug it. Listen again. I'm not going to argue with people who haven't done the work and I won't approve any dismissive comments about crazy tweaks. Just listen for yourself and decide. I've decided yes and I'm keeping it."
Quite. It's admittedly easier said than done when your entire 6-outlet passive power strip only costs £150/£300 like Titan Audio's Nyx/Helios. Now €250 for a salt shaker to fit into a far bigger spice rack is disproportionate. But in a different context, it slips then settles right in. Either way, the before/after experience easily appreciates Marc's sentiment. For once there's truth in advertising. This really was an instant lights on/off, on/off affair. So what did the Clear Line harmonizer do?
I heard it primarily as more specific soundstaging especially with front-to-back sorting. There was greater organizational clarity for the overall structure of imaging. When focusing on what made it so, I saw higher microdynamic contrast. With it the difference between space—made audible by very low-level recorded reflections aka reverb—and the sounds themselves arising in said space was more marked. It's casually referred to as higher image pop.
Simultaneously the empty space was more alive with subliminal data. We can't see truly still crystalline and bottom-less water. What we do see are subtle movements, distortions and shadows within it. Those make the O² visible. Like it, the Furutechs resolved more shadowy movements in space to make its presence more tacit. More audible space as the substance of emptiness—no, this ain't Zen—and more concrete placement of objects within that space… those were the Clear Line gains. And one more thing. Without the barrels, the musical picture clearly felt more stark or dry. With the barrels, there was more juice or moisture.
Didn't this equate to geeking out over plankton? Was I like a famished white whale who cruised for a meager meal by filtering through vast quantities of virtual nothing for nano bits? Not. While undeniably low in amplitude and happening between/around the musical lines, taking away that plankton then returning it was easily noted and appreciated. As Mark found, once you've heard it then heard it taken away, you won't want to deny yourself if you can at all avoid it. This really was one of the easiest assignments I'd conducted in a long time. Anyone can do it over just 15 minutes. The effects are instant and just as instantly eliminated.
If it's this little work, I might just have to stay with this reviewing gig for a bit longer. Easy does it once in a while. Of course next could be a DAC with 16 different digital filters. Then retirement would look sweet again. But for today, here's cheers to a very happy tweak that does exactly what it say on the tin.
NCF. No Cynical Fun just because—ay caramba!—you won't be able to remain a tweak cynic when you hear this!
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