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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Source: Zanden Audio Model 2000P/5000S; Opera Audio Reference 2.2 Linear
Preamp/Integrated: ModWright SWL 9.0SE; Music First Audio Passive Magnetic; Hyperion Sound BEC-P25T

EQ: Rane PEQ55 active merely below 40Hz
Amp: 2 x Audiosector Patek SE; Yamamoto A-08S; Canary Audio CA-308s; FirstWatt F3 & F1
Headphones: AKG K-1000 w. hard-wired Stefan AudioArt harness; audio-technica W-1000
Speakers: Zu Cable Definition Pro; Anthony Gallo Acoustics Ref 3.1

Cables: Zanden Audio proprietary I²S cable, Zu Cable Varial, Gede, Libtech and Ibis; Stealth Audio Cable Indra, MetaCarbon & NanoFiber [on loan]; SilverFi interconnects; Crystal Cable Reference power cords; double cryo'd Acrotech with Furutech UK plug between wall and transformer
Stands: 2 x Grand Prix Audio Monaco Modular four-tier
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S; AudioSector 1.5KV Plitron step-down transformer with balanced power output
Sundry accessories: GPA Formula Carbon/Kevlar shelf for transport; GPA Apex footers underneath stand, DAC and amp; Walker Audio Extreme SST on all connections; Walker Audio Vivid CD cleaner; Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer
Room size: 16' w x 21' d x 9-13' h in short-wall setup, with openly adjoining 14' x 35' living room

Review Component Retail: Evolution Power 1.8 meter $495/ea. | Power Reference III 1.8 meter $1,045/ea. | Audio Reference III Interconnect (XLR) 1.2 meter $1,120/pr; $990/pr for RCA | Speaker Reference III 2 /3 meter pairs $1,100/1,320/pr respectively

For a nutshell characterization, Furutech might rightly be thought of as WBT's elder Japanese brother. Elder and bigger. From in-house designed and manufactured precision connectors to a full line of cables, cords and power distribution products (including even a degausser), Furutech applies scientific methodologies, perfectly sane engineering and pretty fanatical execution to all of its products. Those are not all that well known yet in the US. Certainly not the cables. Previous distribution there was limited to a few non-competing SKUs through cable maker Harmonic Technology. But now Furutech has taken off its corporate gloves. With a revamped and streamlined offering, they have opened their own California sales office. They have signed on ex-Stereophile writer Jonathan Scull aka J10 of Scull Communications as American marketing consultant. They are ready to carve out their very own niche in the hotly contested - um, monster that is the cable segment. (Double pun alert. Before J10 launched his own marketing company, he worked for Noel Lee.)

Before you protesteth too much -- with a Shakespearian "not another bloody cable company, Horatio" perhaps --consider pricing. Furutech's premier Reference line [above] tops out at $990 for a 3' pair of single-ended interconnects. Balanced adds a mere $130. That's their very best and most expensive. Clearly, this company loathes silly shekel shenanigans. Then there's 3M's GC-303 compound. Its claimed effects recall Stillpoint's Carbon-based ERS cloth. Think passive EMI/RFI absorber. The GC-303 variant finds itself applied as chassis lining inside all of Furutech's passive power bars. It also appears on its Reference cables and cords. There it is stealthily tucked into cylinders which cuff the wires closer to one end than the other. Unlike competitors whose shiny barrels routinely add nothing but weight and gussied-up spin factor, Furutech's barrels actually do something. Pertinent to performance that is. Like Mark Hampton's ZCable Z-Sleeves, they act as "zero gauss" tunnels. The passing signal is stripped of whatever EMI/RFI components might have been picked up in a preceding components or in transit on the cable itself. The new Furutech Evolution line of cables duplicates the Reference III metallurgy. Where it differs is that it eliminates the hexagonal GC-303 barrels, uses different Furutech connectors and essentially costs half [$495 Evolution power cord below].

Then there's Furutech's two-stage "super cryogenic and demagnetizing Alpha treatment prior to assembly". It uses liquid nitrogen or helium for immersion temperatures of -196° to -250°C. Step two in the Alpha process exposes these same parts to Sekiguchi Machine Sale Co.'s patented ring demagnetization treatment. That "further enhances conductivity of all treated materials. All metallic parts in Furutech products undergo the Alpha Process treatment. It keeps connectors, conductors and metal parts in a perfectly stress-free, stable and highly conductive state."

Then there are, of course, those proprietary connectors. They often sport phosphor bronze cores for better conductivity and apply Rhodium, silver or gold as plating. AC outlets use Nylon bodies. Furutech also openly champions resonance control. This extends
all the way to how AC duplexes sport their own set screws. Those become mechanically torque-tensioned in what is dubbed Axial Locking System. Or consider how PVC or polyethylene sheaths are inserted into cables and cords for vibration management. Finally but certainly not least, there's comprehensive documentation on electrical parameters for every single product. That's exactly what you'd expect from real engineers who disavow snake oil with its unnecessary diameters, counterproductive stiffness, wacky materials, fruity claims and assorted other reminders of audio fooldom that so often manifest in this particular sector of the hobby.

Furutech conductors are always finely twisted Alpha-OCC copper (Furukawa-issue PCOCC with Furutech's proprietary treatment); jackets are Nylon braids; earth/ground jumpers "bleed interfering magnetic fields to ground and avoid disturbing the main conductor's field"; shields are braided copper, at times reinforced with fiberglass; and dielectrics include PVC, polyethylene and air-foamed irradiated HDPE for lowered capacitance, all depending on application. For their power bar enclosures (e-TP609 shown below), Furutech goes for a special grade of machined aluminum, star-grounding and its own non-magnetic duplexes and IEC inlet. Then they deliberately eschew any and all active filtering. They prefer the passive approach to AC power instead, focusing first and foremost on mechanical resonance behavior.

In short, Furutech seems big on material integrity, down on Voodoo and art gallery pricing and heavy on elaborate test protocols which are shared with prospective buyers in the accompanying literature. For example, those amongst us skeptical about the audible effects of torquing an AC duplex in a passive power strip can at least appreciate how the pertinent performance graphs were obtained at "a room temperature of 16°C and 35% humidity. The e-TP609 was placed on its side with the top plate perpendicular to the test apparatus. The striking instrument hit the duplex from 0.20 meters to yield a velocity of 1.2ms. The measurement apparatus was an FFT analyzer set to 10kHz, with a sampling range frequency of 5600Hz, measurement time intervals of 0.0290625ms, a block size of 1024 and data capture window of 40ms." Once you recognize that the oscillation attenuation of the left graph exceeds the right by a factor of ten, your superior smirk of condescension might just turn embarrassed grimace.

Hence before laughing off Furutech's CD demagnetizer next, read their earnest explanations on how it works first. Then study the graphs they submit for verification. Consider the claim on how CD read errors decrease when the magnetizable 1% of impurities inside the aluminum that's used in disc manufacture are degaussed. As always, feel free to disagree. Reserve your own opinion, preferably formed in situ by actually listening first. Simply don't make the mistake of believing that these folks aren't very serious about what they do. Or how they do it. In fact, they exhibit nearly missionary zeal in how they substantiate claims with laboratory measurements. They're also eminently practical. The degausser's ring magnet approach and open architecture for example lend themselves to treating AC plugs, speaker and line-level cable connectors. Those are applications well outside the obvious Bedini-esque CD treatments (though Furutech doesn't spin the CD but keeps it stationary in the well). Degaussing such metal parts refreshes the second part of Furutech's own Alpha process (cryo treatment in general doesn't wear off with use). The ring magnet descriptor refers to a gradual ramp up/down of the magnetic field. This is different from standard bulk head erasers. Those come on and off instantaneously to purportedly magnetize rather than demagnetize certain sections of their subjects.

The dominance of Japanese and Korean electronics giants Sony, Samsung, Toshiba, Panasonic, Denon, Kenwood, Pioneer and their kind can foster the notion that America not only invented Hi-End audio but continues to define its state of the art. That would be a limited vision. From Koetsu to Stax, Luxman to Accuphase, Oyaide to Furutech and countless others, truly advanced and esoteric audio components and companies continue to proliferate in Japan (and Korea is joining the fray). Just because we haven't heard of them doesn't mean they don't exist. Count Furutech among those Nipponese outfits that have made a concerted effort to remind us - again.

Unlike others in the land of the rising sun however -- i.e. those whose premium ambitions routinely equate to extreme pricing -- Furutech has made a laudable effort to keep its wares reasonably priced. That alone deserves acknowledgment and applause. You get high-level science and true audiophile sensibilities on the engineers' floor where the most persnickety details are sweated over. Yet all this carries stickers that are less esoteric than expected when one applies the more traditional model of how Japanese SuperFi often positions itself.

The Furutech cable sound is easily described as one that completely avoids those peculiar striations that result from highlighting, the providence of certain silver cables that emphasize edge definition for nearly surreal image lock. Such sharp edging then becomes synonymous with etching. It gives a short-lived appearance of exceptional detail - short-lived since such sound is not only unrealistic but fatiguing.

The Furutech cables patently don't cause this. However, they are exceptionally detailed. I can't help but think that the hexagonal barrel innards are at least somewhat responsible for this wealth of clearly intelligible inner detail. Rather than throwing detail at you, they throw out inter-note noise. While the end result might seem the same -- more detail -- the way it communicates is very different. Put plainly, the Furutechs never fatigue even at elevated levels yet they do remain ultra resolved.

Another obviousness is how frequency extremes are handled. For one, there's bass transients. Those are just a skoch plumper than certain ultra-skinny cables produce. Those can create a wiry bass quality that telegraphs speed and extreme articulation but plays second fiddle in the body department for an event balance that clearly favors attack over bloom and fade. The Furutech sound appears to be dead center. There's equal parts leading edge and sustain on either side. It doesn't seem warm per se but rather, not lean - a tiny semantic distinction but very significant to the ear.

In the treble, we come across a similar mellowness. It's not rolled off. It's simply not sharp. Mellowness thus is used loosely here, not to suggest a lack of life, energy or tension but simply a lack of hype or artificial acceleration. If you're looking for stand-out air or flashy upper harmonics for example, these cables won't do it. They are not eccentric in the least. They refuse to shift the tonal balance off-center, neither favoring brilliance over sustain nor body over resolution.

I kept coming back to the enormous amount of inner detail resolved, something brought home even more so by using the Esoteric X-03 in clock mode leashed to the G25U, then feeding the ultra low-noise Bel Canto Design PRe3/S300 combo. That lineup of kit is microscopic to the extreme! The front end brings far-out mechanical speed stability and 1-part-per-million jitter performance in the D/A conversion process to the table, the amplification components exceptionally high S/N ratios. That's detail retrieval done right: reducing noise that masks those details. It's working subtractively. It's removing grime to reveal what's hidden underneath. It doesn't paint over the grime to add something that wasn't there nor does it shift attention away from the grime to a particular thing that makes you forget the grime.

Speculating for a moment on the GC-303 stuff -- I'm certain Furutech has graphs of A/B comparisons with and without the compound --we'd have a similar noise reduction mechanism in place. It extends what's going on inside the electronic boxes to what goes on enroute between them: Bombardment by ultrasonic radiation. Here in Cyprus for example, Glotech Enterprises can install 4096K-down/2048K-up two-way satellite Internet access should you fall outside the city-specific G3 networks or ADSLII reach. "When you make a request from the Internet (i.e. try to look up a web page), the satellite sends your information to the Eutelsat W1 satellite in geostationary orbit 33,000km above the earth. The signal is then transmitted from the satellite to our Network Operations Centre (NOC) in Germany which is connected to the Internet via very high-speed reliable links. Information from the Internet is transferred to the NOC and from there back to the satellite where it is then transmitted back to your PC. E-mail works in exactly the same way."

Spooky, isn't it? We're constantly immersed in such bustling radiation activity that it would melt down our synapses if we had to sort through it. Just because we remain blissfully oblivious without the assistance of detection instrumentation doesn't mean this activity isn't ongoing 24/7. Shielding the delicate audio signal from this constant assault is most vital and the GC-303 compound seems to do its part. The quality of silence between and around the notes -- the level of black if you will -- is indicative of that. It's not an artificial deep-space vacuum silence but something that makes it easy to hear the otherwise subliminal stuff. This ease of far smaller attention demands contributes to the flavor of naturalness that listening with the Furutech cables offers. You're relaxed and things come to you of their own accord

Substituting my skinny Crystal Cable Reference power cords for the two Japanese Ref IIIs in the stepdown-transformer-to two-Walker-Audio-Velocitor junctions where they'd be most audible netted a surprising increase in soundstage spatiality, what I privately refer to as audible space. It's when you have a heightened sense of the physical space that surrounds the performers, especially in the length of decays. That's a good thing in more ways than one. I recently saw how an Italian on-line audio publication had bestowed a Year's Best Of award on my Crystal cords. Performing as they did against what other experts believe to be class-beating standards then leaves nothing under the table for the Furutech cords.

If I had to limit myself to one key term whereby to paraphrase the essential Furutech quality, I'd opt for relaxed ultra resolution. Hidden inside that seed phrase hides that whenever you hear more, you enjoy a simultaneous sensation of increased size. Things sound bigger. Are they really bigger? Or is the space taken up by the apparent soundstage simply more densely filled? It amounts to the same in the end. Hence I'm content to call the Furutechs admirably big of sound. One last noteworthy bonus is that when you light the wick on SPLs, there's no funny business of compression, smearing or skewing kicking in. The sense of big simply gets bigger and bigger and bigger - until your ears give out. That's of course as it should be. Still, the apparent nonchalance and ease whereby this dynamic scaling is handled by these cables does seem somewhat out of the ordinary. Ravers and head bangers take note then.

One last comment has to go to the finish of the connectors, particularly the lockable RCAs and bananas. Tolerances are spot on, the stuff goes in smoothly, locks and unlocks without any undue play to invite knuckle-drag idiocies and peppery curses (to spell it out, the kind of RCA locks you can't remember tightening all that much only to not get loose afterwards despite your vein-popping grip of steel). There's something luxurious and silken about the Furutech connectors. Like fine Swiss watches. This stuff also routes and drapes easily. If it didn't sound good, I'd not mention it as something that wouldn't matter then. But since it does perform to a very high standard, getting the tactile satisfaction and pride of ownership bits thrown into the bargain is worth mentioning.

Final verdict? The Furutech cables are for the mature listener who's beyond flash and not easily impressed. This listener is into balance, scale and the kind of bird's-eye hear-everything-at-once perspective that neither misses the leaf for the tree nor the forest for the trees. That's a good perspective, neither in your face nor too distant. While we're on perspective, I happily confess that like my fellow insaniacs, I peruse reviews elsewhere to stay abreast. The latest cable review happened to be on Jorma Design's best - $12,400/pr for a 2-meter speaker and $7,000 for the matching 1-meter interconnect. That's mighty rarefied air. All but the hardiest would faint from a lack of oxygen. By comparison, the upscale Furutech Reference III line remains priced solidly on terra firma. It's thus a far more relevant discovery for most. While hardly new, it will be news in many Western markets that are just now being developed for this line. Highly recommended for audition and definitely suitable for state-of-the-art systems with this, the best Furutech currently makes. I was particularly impressed with the Ref III power cords, which made a bigger difference than anticipated. More so than usual, the accumulative effect made a big showing of itself, too. Furutech'd all out, the aforementioned scale of things really compounded to go quite beyond what individual constituents -- just the interconnects or speaker cables, for example -- pulled off. Once it's Furutech from beginning to end, the spatial and size benefits are unmistakable. This only reiterates the underlying leitmotif of this review. Shielding from and against noise pollution in cables has become more important than ever - and Furutech has developed a very powerful yet elegant antidote it seems. Bravo.
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