November
2021

Country of Origin

Japan

Lineflux 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 Soundaware D30Ref SD card transport & USB brdige; Preamp: icOn 4Pro SE; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos, Enleum AMP-23R; Headamp: Kinki Studio; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Aurai Audio Lieutenant with sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Carbide Audio 'medium' footers, Audio Physic Codex Cube Audio Nenuphar 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: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Soundaware D100Pro SD transport; DAC: Kinki Studio; Preamp/filter: icOn 4Pro + 4th-order/40Hz hi-low pass; Amplifier: Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox 3awf, Dynaudio S18 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: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win7/64; USB bridge: Audiobyte Hydra X+; Headamp: COS Engineering H1; Headphones: Final D-8000; Powered speakers: Fram Audio Midi 120
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl SD-9 transport; DAC: Denafrips Terminator; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Simon Audio; Loudspeakers: German Physiks HRS-120; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m

Review component retail: €2'130/1.2m/pr

Alphabet soup translator. NCF RCA. The first three letters abbreviate Nano Crystal Formula. It's what in its 2nd gen Furutech employ in select products like upscale power plugs and distributors. Its primary function is that of noise trap. Other companies like Akiko, Shunyata and Verictum have their own formulae so the principle is well understood. NCF's secondary function is as "generator of negative ions to eliminate static". Not leaving good enough alone, Furutech then add nano-sized ceramic particles and carbon powder for damping in the piezoelectric realm.

Translating RCA has more options. It can be London's Royal College of Art. Until 1969, it also was the Radio Corporation of America. It's since become shorthand for a hifi plug which the same RCA Corp invented in the 1930s. So it's a very old piece of legacy tech which is still with us. Now we've hit pay dirt. Furutech gave the ancient connector a rethink. They just introduced their first-ever RCA plug with NCF, the CF-102 NCF. It's said to offer "a dramatic reduction in noise, improved imaging, focus and soundstaging." In this $210/pr plug the tube pin is of a one-piece construction formed of rhodium-plated OCC injected with NCF. The connector housing is a multi-layer affair "in which a hybrid of NCF and 3K silver/carbon fibre layer onto nonmagnetic stainless steel. A special set screw ensures firm contact between connector and conductor. The solid-core Alpha-treated OCC conductor encases in double-layer shielding, a high-grade polyethylene dielectric and a composite sheath with resonance damping nano ceramic and carbon powder."

Having reviewed numerous NCF-enhanced power cables, distributors, cable lifts and plug-in noise traps which I now use in two systems, I've been a firm N-liever. That had me wonder when this clearly effective material would show up in low-level signal conduction. That time is now. With Furutech's vast parts catalogue, there's something for everyone including DIYers wanting to roll with this plug. Furutech's first interconnect with it is today's Lineflux NCF. It launches 8 years after the original Lineflux without NCF hit the market. Cable Ø remains 13mm, standard length 1.2m. In Furutech's own words, "NCF delivers improvements in soundstage depth and  focus, harmonic retrieval and tonal balance." In my words, NCF's inclusion lowers the noise floor. Planktonic data otherwise caught up in it rise to the surface of audibility. At least that's the promise I read into it. With my prior NCF exposure, I didn't think it was empty. To be sure, I signed up. Was I betting on a plankton-filtering whale or small-time tinhorn?

In the upscale audiophile cable sector, the bling of massive plugs, heavyweight dampers and overkill girth plays to a bigger-is-better audience. Whilst Furutech's first NCF RCA plug is finished to a 't' to risk being lumped into the same bling drawer, it's got real engineering and material science in its corner. Likewise for Furutech's first NCF interconnect. It's modestly dressed, of standard girth and doesn't sling exotic geometries or rare metals, just quality solid-core copper and uncompromised mechanics. To my mind it shows a conservative detail-obsessed Japanese mentality not into excess. Still, perfectionism means a product that, though destined to hide behind components, is built to pride-of-ownership standards. That's properly upscale just not silly. Common sense says that we want components/speakers of high resolution to drill down into the micro realm of noise reduction we can realistically expect from these NanoCrystal² Formula applications. But common sense also says that cables make no difference. So perhaps common sense won't be quite enough to tackle this latest Furutech cable?

… to be continued…