Embedded in feeling closer to timbre shifts was tonal motion. Music moves horizontally across different dimensions. One is pace/tempo. Against typical beat markers, one can play against its regularity for extra interest; insert odd metering; speed up or slow down the basic progression. Another is dynamic motion. It comes to a grinding halt in wall-of-sound productions mastered to be always maximally loud. It gets most varied in grand orchestral or movie scores which traverse extreme dynamic range. Yet another is phrasing where staccato and legato plus mixed values change articulation. Then there's tonal life from greater harmonic shifts. In all cases, subtle but ongoing changes create movement. Its irregular fluctuations offset sameness. Even tracks with little melodic or harmonic development, perhaps no beats even to seemingly float, needn't drone on as though going nowhere. Their interest can be a different kind of motion traversing tonal terrain like a pointillist painting seen close up. You can't make out shapes or depth but there's an overabundance of color everywhere. That motion makes tone feel more elastic and nimble. It has half, quarter and smaller shadows. That domain gets less constant, monotonous, monochromatic and staid. We no longer motor down Emotion Highway on tonal cruise control.

From big words of theory & concept to subjective relevance in the seat led me upstairs next. Once more I sidestepped the bigger speaker system for a still more minimalist headfi system of even higher resolution. That could focus down maximally on Furutech's difference delta. The downstairs opponent had been a 1st-gen Crystal Cable leash, making for a very noticeable offset. Now it was a 2020 Grimm Audio SQM so far more current effort. Perhaps not surprisingly, this made for a smaller though still appreciable offset. Again the Lineflux XLR was the only analog interconnect in the mix. Headphones again meant the lowest distance losses, zero room interference, just marginal reflections down from many meters to mere centimetres and with these open-baffle ribbons, no energy storage. With the Dutch cable forwarding balanced analog signal, there was more emphasis on transient prickliness so apparent speed; and less on the magnitude of color values. The Japanese link felt marginally softer on the uptake where sounds first rise from silence; then more developed on the blossoming sustain portion. To my ears, this shift invariably registers as less incisive so rhythmically less edgy; but richer of substance.

Interestingly, the tit-for-tat braking effect—less speed for more timbral temperature—was less than the color-palette gains. It wasn't exactly something for nothing since by contrast, the Grimm did feel a bit snappier so slightly front-loaded on the attacks. In popular parlance it's more edge-of-seat listening because subjectively, our attention leans forward. But it was less of the usual trade where to get something, we give up something else. The Furutech didn't feel at all ponderous, slowed down or sunk back into plumptuous pillows. It felt just a tad more settled then harmonically more filigreed and worked out. Downstairs this overtone advantage hadn't been subtle. Upstairs the juxtaposition was closer but the turn of flavors the same.

To my ears then, NCF's resolution enhancements for low-level analog signal don't work in typical ‘no detail missed' mode where detail associates with sight so imaging, soundstaging, focus, edging and mapping. Standard colors are never heard, only seen. Tone colors are only heard, never seen. As such they don't seem to factor with more audiophile detail. Yet what should we call more color gradients if not more detail? It just operates in a different area than the more visual details. I already laid the groundwork with my earlier notion of tonal motion. You won't be surprised now when I say that with the Furutech, the sounds' comings and going felt more elastic. It was more cantabile than staccato. The same happens with enhanced microdynamic shading. It creates more ebb and flow, more waxing and waning. For listeners primarily keyed into imaging then dynamics, noticing this wave-like rippling also in tone could seem alien at first. It's there though. We just need to tune our attention into it.