February
2021

Country of Origin

Japan

LAN-8 NCF

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz, Tidal, Denafrips Terminator+ clock-synced to Gaia/Avatar, Soundaware D100Pro SD card transport; Preamp: Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature with Elrog ER50; Power amps: LinnenberG Liszt monos; Headamp: Kinki Studio; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Cube Audio Nenuphar; Aurai Audio M1 [on loan]; Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; 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: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room so no wall behind the listening chairs
2nd system: Source: Soundaware D300Ref SD transport; DAC: Denafrips Terminator; Preamp/filter: Passive Preamplifier icOn 4Pro SE w. custom 4th-order/40Hz hi-low pass;
Amplifier: Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers:sound|kaos Vox 3awf, Zu Submission sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan];  Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~4x6m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win7/64; USB bridge: Audiobyte Hydra X+; Headamp: Kinki Studio Vision THR-1; Phones: Audeze LCD-XC on Forza Audio Lab cable; Powered speakers: Fram Audio Midi 120
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: Soundaware A280 SD transport; Integrated amplifiers: Schiit Jotunheim R or Bakoon AMP-13R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a, Audeze LCD-2, Final Sonorous X & D8000, HifiMan HE-1000; Loudspeakers: Acelec Model 1
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: £120/0.6m to £260/5m, 7.5/10m by request

Furutech's familiar NanoCrystal² Formula aka NCF—or as the moons have it, Not Cynics Fit—has now migrated into the plugs of the firm's new and very purple Category 8 LAN network cable.

Unlike their posh NCF-enhanced AC plug siblings can when optioned with flagship cords, these RJ45 don't push their cable's pricing into the depleted upper ozone layer. A 5-meter run goes for £260. That's more than Computer Avenue CAT5 by the yard but for the high-performance sector still very affordable.

CAT8 means 40Gbps transmission speeds and up to 2'000MHz bandwidth. Cynics object that for audio, it's overkill with no relevance to the task at hand. For our purposes, my ears are the deciders. They do the listening, not theories. Versus CAT7, cross talk and noise specs for CAT8 are further improved.

Furutech's LAN-8 NCF uses 24-gauge silver-plated OCC copper and triple-layer shielding with aluminium foil and copper braids. It comes standard in up to 5m lengths, up to double that by special request.

From a newsroom posting on the same day when this gig inked, "Innuos just released their new PhoenixNET network switch for networked audio [€2'749]. Having started with improvements to the Ethernet ports' clock on their flagship Statement server, Innuos have taken the concept to the next level with a completely new switch design focused on just audio. This targets noise, clock precision, power and vibration management. HF noise is reduced by using no switching regulators but high-end isolation transformers for each Amphenol RJ45 port without an  LED but further EMI treatment.

"Derived from the Innuos Statement streamer, a 3ppb 25MHz temperature-controlled crystal oscillator runs off its own linear power supply and connects directly to the network switch chip. Two independent linear power supplies with Mundorf caps power the clock and motherboard while CNC-machined aluminium footers contain a compound tuned to the chassis' resonant frequency. The RJ45 ports also decouple from the chassis by silicone rings."

Like USB audio and S/PDIF before it, networked audio whereby A/V data pipe in off the cloud via router to distribute to sundry playback hardware has gotten big luv from purpose-designed solutions. If you don't do WiFi, that includes cabling. Hello 'audiophile' LAN wiring which, depending on router to hifi stretch, might have to go the distance. For our music iMac in the main rig, that's 30 meters. For today's review, I only asked for 6 meters to bridge the divide from router in the utility closet to work desk in the entry hall.

Not having given that stretch any attention since I replaced  a standard CAT5 with a SOtM CAT6 run, I was curious. What if any musical crumbs did I still leave under my desk?

The LAN cable hits my HP Workstation's network card from a generic TPLink router. Then digital music outputs via USB to a battery-powered Audiobyte Hydra X+ reclocker. That spits out dual S/PDIF to a COS Engineering H1 DAC/headamp for headfi and a pair of Fram Audio Midi 150 actives for premium desktop speakerfi. Given the ace Romanian reclocker—Count Dracul sucking jitter blood—I wondered. How much could gussying up the preceding cable to the PC still improve the sound? Would it make any difference at all? If one wants to know, the only valid way is to try. And I wanted to know.