October
2020

Country of Origin

Japan

NCF Booster

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo boost, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz Hifi, Tidal Hifi, Denafrips Terminator Plus, Soundaware D300Ref SD transport & USB bridge; Preamplifier: Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature with WE VT52/300B or Elrog 50/300B; Power amplifiers: LinnenberG Audio Liszt monos; Headphone amp: Kinki Studio; Headphones: Final D8000; Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Cube Audio Nenuphar; Aurai Audio M1 [on loan]; Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL3000; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, LessLoss C-MARC Entropic cords 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; Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Second system: Source: Soundaware D100Pro SD transport; DAC/pre: Denafrips Terminator or COS Engineering D1; Amplifier: Bakoon AMP-13R or Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: Acelec Model One w. Franck Tchang magnesium 360° super tweeters, Zu Submission subwoofer, LessLoss Firewall for Loudspeakers; Power delivery: Furutech GTO-D2 NCF; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Room: ~4x6m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win7/64; USB bridge: Audiobyte Hydra X+; Headphone amp: COS Engineering H1; Headphones: Audeze LCD-XC; Powered speakers: Fram Audio Midi 150
Upstairs headfi system: Source: Soundaware A280 SD transport; DAC: Auralic Vega; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Headphones: Raal-Requisite SR1a
2-channel video system: 
Source: Oppo BDP-105; DAC: Kinki Studio; Preamp: Wyred4Sound STP-SE II; Power amp: Pass Labs XA-30.8; Loudspeakers: German Physiks HRS-120; Room: ~6x4m
Review component retail: $220 NCF Booster Signal; $149 top clamp (shallow concave); $135 curved cradle (deep concave); $135 flat cradle (flat blade); $40 shaft bar mix 8L4S (extender set)

Lift. Elevate. Rise.

Applied to cables, these three words all end in small tweaks lined with forum ridicule. The tweaks could be free paper cups from Starbucks. They could be the costly engineered solutions from Furutech above or Shunyata at right  The underlying notion is that freely suspended cables perform better than those which snake across the floor. Recently Roger Skoff, ex chief of cable firm XLO, published a small piece on this contentious topic. He'd found a YouTube video whose presenter measured a cable's capacitance on the floor, then lifted up more and more sections of it. He accompanied each incremental lift with another measurement. Voilà, the cable's measured capacitance value kept lowering as more and more of it length was elevated.

It's an uncontested fact. Of all dielectrics or insulators, the best is none. Zero is hero. Hello fresh air. When God still used cables—she's gone wireless since—Tara Labs took the air dielectric cable to the max. This became a naturally very dear vacuum cable. God has unlimited funds. Mortal reviewers like Jonathan Scull who actually heard it said it did the opposite of suck. Back to cable lifters, Skoff's article suggests a reason for why they work. By surrounding a finished cable with air on all sides, we don't add to its self capacitance by making our floor an extension of the dielectric.

I've experimented with jerry-rigged Ikea elevators. Then our listening den had exposed concrete floors, later generic wall-to-wall carpeting. The synthetic fibers definitely benefited even if the main cause was probably an escape not from Alcatraz but their static field. The concrete floor benefited less. Later I received eight Audio Physic magnetic cable isolators. By then our big system was on parquet floor and is so once more. Now I hear no difference. Having said gizmos, I simply use them for cleaner routing. Since reading Skoff's article, I've gotten suspicious. Is this German device too low to the floor, the latter still too close to the cable?

In lieu of their cable risers, I reviewed Furutech's GTO-D2 NCF passive distributor. NCF is short for Nano Crystal² Formula. It's Furutech's take on a piezo-electrically active powdered compound. Akiko Audio, DR Acoustics, Shunyata, Synergistic Research and Verictum all have their own formulae. Furutech's enhances their top sockets, outlet plates, connectors and power distributors. Their NCF-enhanced passive distributor had outperformed our older plain Furutech passive. Their two NCF Clear Line parallel 'filters' had proven unexpectedly efficacious. As Caelin Gabriel's ferrite compound factors in the bases of his Shunyata DF-SS cable risers, NCF figures in Furutech's whose segmented risers allow different heights. That suggests that their action isn't limited to just the extended air dielectric effect. The nano compound adds ultrasonic noise attenuation and static removal, the weighted top piece mechanical damping.

Furutech's Graeme Coley had originally solicited me for a review of their cable risers. Given my Audio Physic past, I'd switched him to a GTO-D2 NCF. Why revisit cable lifters if I'd buried the subject long ago? Dead is dead. Zombies only roam in Hollywood.

Now I doubted my knee-jerk reaction. Skoff's article had added a very plausible explanation to the riser aspect. With it, a question rose on my Audio Physic tweaks. Might not Furutech's variable height going well beyond theirs – um, elevate the difference delta to suddenly matter? That wasn't yet counting the additive NCF action I already knew from the GTO-D2 and Clear Line. When I thought back on exactly why I'd turned down Graeme the first time, it's because then I'd still viewed his Boosters as purely mechanical lifts. In my mind I'd belittled them as overkill Starbucks cups done up in metal just to spend unnecessary coin. In hindsight, I had actually overlooked their piezo-electrical aspect and not even considered what added height might do. Was it time I revisited the subject, a possible rise of the living dead be damned?

Graeme was game again. So was I. Here I'll add that some solutions are purely mechanical. Others like Synergistic's above add 'proximity activation' of proprietary solutions; in their case whatever is inside those red 'tuning' dots. Furutech and Shunyata add high-frequency noise traps. Shunyata favor a soft suspension, Furutech go hard. Furutech champion a broad contact patch, Shunyata and Synergistic a minimal edge. Only Furutech's erector-set solution allows height changes, then let's one combine flat and concave cradles in various ways to account for different cable diameters, sleeve entire power plugs, even support multiple cables on different tiers. I've seen cable lifts done up in wood or perspex. DIY could go wild on many other materials. Even folks with two left thumbs could tie up some dry twigs into mini tripods.

Clearly, this game has many variations. Is one a loser if one goes all square on the subject to refuse to play at all?

Ever since I installed Hifistay's Mythology X-Frame rack in our upstairs system, its resolution has shot up to magnify differences it previously couldn't. Did this make room for the potentially finer action of cable elevators to now matter and make their point? My mind had broadened sufficiently to allow for that eventuality.

Old dog, new tricks? Sometimes chains need to be yanked to find out.