It seems no secret in the industry that reviewers do not flock in droves for the chance to review cables. It is understandable as the difference from one cable brand to the next can generally be very subtle, unless of course, we are talking about the difference between an 18-to-20 gauge zip cord at $.35 a foot and a Nordost Odin at $28,000 for 2 meters. It is difficult to speak to something that can be so subtle. Aside from those cataclysmic differences most often cables of very similar pricing can, according to some opinions, sound so much alike as to be indistinguishable one from another. There have been a flurry of audiophiles on the internet these days who are very vocal about their view that all the discussion and hype around today’s audiophile cables is all voodoo magic, snake oil, nonsensical hype or simply put, a bunch of BS.
That is not to say there are no significant differences in design, construction and style. There is enough to spawn a veritable slew of cable manufacturers. One thing is absolutely certain and that is audiophiles will find enough differences to justify undying loyalty to a singular brand, construction or material. Until recently, I really did not feel any particularly intense attachment to any cable brand, but now I have developed a definite fondness for my reference cables and a renewed interest in cables as a whole.
Presently it is very easy to spend as much on a complement of mid-priced cables as I spent on an entire system 15 years ago. Some of this can be attributed to inflation, that all of the gear was used, and the balance to the general advancements in cable technology and complexity. Along with that increase in technology comes an increase in price. My reference cables retail for around $15,000-16,000 for speaker cables, 5 sets of interconnects and as many power cords. They are worth every penny but not everyone can purchase that level of cable. So what about those that want and appreciate an upper-level cable but cannot quite swing a price that is the same as a second mortgage! Well that is what this article is really about.
*Those who are in the know are most likely familiar with Furutech. They make fantastic power distribution and conditioning boxes, power cable connectors, uber quality power outlets and other OEM products, as well as their own line of cables.
Here is some of the promotional info on Furutech:
“Furutech, founded in 1988, designs and manufactures an extraordinary range of A/V cables made with extremely high purity OCC single-crystal oxygen-free copper. They have several complete lines of analog and digital, power and coaxial cables available in terminated and bulk quantities. They make a wide range of highest quality OEM A/V connectors and other signal transfer parts including power, speaker, IEC and specialized Furutech Pure Transmission outlet receptacles. All metal components are treated with Furutech’s proprietary 2-Stage Alpha Cryogenic and Ring Demagnetization Process during manufacture that ensures the lowest achievable levels of distortion and noise.
Furutech offers a full line of elegantly engineered and designed power distribution and filter components made with an attention to detail found nowhere else. Furutech knows each and every part of the chain, no matter how small, is as important as the next, so they lavish maximum attention on all aspects of AC power transfer. As with cables, the separate parts go through the complete Alpha Process, and also benefit from the effects of GC-303, an applied material that absorbs EMI (Electromagnetic Interference). Our Reference Line of cables and interconnects also include this anti-EMI technology.
Furutech’s multistep and highly specialized techniques result in extremely low-noise, fast and undistorted signal transfer that begins with the incoming AC mains power, an important factor overlooked by many. According to Furutech their total awareness of the smallest details involved in optimizing AC power delivery allows their Pure Transmission power distribution and filtering components to deliver a greater sense of power, dynamics, and resolution, with cleaner, blacker backgrounds and a larger, more stable soundstage, vivid tonal colors and deeper extension at both ends of the frequency range. Delicacy, refinement and nuance shine through, along with micro- and macro-dynamics that leave you breathlessly engaged. Video displays of all types exhibit greater, sharper resolution with less ghosting, color shift, “snow”, or vertical and horizontal lines.
Attention to every aspect of the recording and playback chain led Furutech to introduce the remarkable DeMag LP & Disc Demagnetizer, an essential component for any serious audio and video enthusiast. It quickly and effectively demagnetizes optical and analog media using Ring Magnet technology that ramps the power up, then down. It should also be used to demagnetize connectors and cables! PC-2 Pure Disc Cleaner and small-particle Nano Liquid Connector Treatment are available for those perfectionists looking for the ultimate in sound and image quality. xxx
At Furutech, everyone is passionately devoted to reaching the highest watermark in reference-grade A/V cables, OEM parts and accessories for home and car audio where Furutech maintain a very strong presence. Furutech’s mission is building the absolutely best products imaginable whatever the effort involved, and offering them at a price/performance ratio that deeply satisfies every purchaser. Furutech’s Pure Transmission Design Concept improves every element of signal transmission, from the AC to the speaker.”
For consideration is an assortment of the new DIY cables as follows:
FP-3TS762 shielded power cable, $83.52/m
FI-28MR-series connector, $98 each
A/C cords made from FP-3TS762 shielded cable and FI-28 R-series connectors. Furutech’s largest-gauge (12 gauge) shielded OFC power cable, terminated with top-line FI-28MR for the power head and FI-28R for the IEC. The cable is $83.52/M, connectors are $98 each. A recently introduced, 10 gauge FP-Alpha-3 unshielded cable is now also available.
RCA Interconnects made from UP 2.1 balanced audio cable comprised of Furutech’s top-grade Alpha OCC copper and top-line FP-106R (Rhodium plating) connectors with filament pin connectors for better internal contact. The cable is $40.10/M, connectors are $32.81 each.
FP-106R, $32.81 each
FP601M R connector, $71.59 each
XLR interconnects made from UP 2.1 balanced audio cable and FP 601M R & FP 602 F R connectors. The cable is $40.10/M, 601MR connectors are $71.59 each and 602FR connectors are $85.90 each.
FP-602F R connector, $85.90 each
FS Alpha OCC speaker cable single-wired, $114.54/m
The single-run speaker cables are made from FS Alpha speaker cable, top-of-the-line Alpha OCC speaker cable (13 gauge) and the Bi-wire cable is made from 13 gauge U-4.1 T and is terminated with top-line FP-201R (rhodium plating) spade lugs or FP-200BR bananas. FS Alpha cable is $114.54/M; U-4.1T is $23.86/M, 201R spades are $17.91 each, and the 200B bananas are $17.30 each.
FP-201R spade lugs, $17.91 each
FP-200BR banana plugs, $17.30 each
So there you have a rundown on Furutech and the down-and-dirty on this line of quasi do-it-yourself cables.
The next question of course is how do they sound?
Prior to putting these cables into my system, I removed my reference XLOs and put in a full set of older Kimber Cable cables that are more in line with the Furutechs in price. I began my time with these cables by inserting a singular pair, one at a time, into my main system to gauge the performance of the cables. The cables were not very burned in when I got them so at first listen I was not all that impressed. I decided to let the cables burn in for 30-40 hours each to let them really break in and breathe. I set about doing other things for the next week running the cables in two other smaller systems and ran them 24/7 for about 4 days. When I returned the cables to my main system the difference was quite noticeable and no longer was it a mere ho-hum affair. The cables easily beat the Kimber Kable Monocle XL speaker cables and Hero interconnects. The first thing I noticed was how they delivered the top-end with a beautiful balance and a certain delicate touch. They were open and seemed a bit relaxed in their presentation totally lacking any harshness or grain that can often accompany new cables. I can best describe it as saying they were simply musical. I say “simply” because as audiophiles and writers we are often so focused on the gear and coming up with new and more interesting ways of saying the same things, that we often miss the forest for the trees.
In essence, we focused on the gear and not the music. While I understand that many of us out there in audio land are a bit suspicious of the term “musical”, in the context of this review it does not mean that the sound is rolled off, overly sweet or devoid of details. With these new Furutech DIY cables, quite the opposite actually! As I began to systematically replace all of the interconnects in the system with the Furutechs, the sound continued to flow in an open, airy and very detailed way. They have a very solid and extended top-end and an incredibly seductive midrange. Their strength seems to be delivering nuance that increases the enjoyment of the music. This meant to me that the quality of the cables was on par with any other cables I have had in my system. While these cables are anything but cheap they do provide a very high level of sophistication and quality at a comparatively low price. While they do not exactly equal or exceed my reference cables, they do come close. In fact they come closer than their price would ever lead you to believe.
As is my habit, I began by listening to a number of tracks from Eva Cassidy’s album Songbird (Blix Street/Hot). Many people describe Eva’s voice as angelically perfect and one of the most controlled and yet powerful female voices of all time. Listening to her is an experience that can transcend the notion of simply listening. Her voice can move you to become part of the music when it is delivered through the right gear. With some components and certain systems, I have heard this same recording delivered with a definite graininess and harshness in the top-end. This makes it a great test record as it is easy to spot these characteristics in less-than-stellar systems. Auditioning “Over the Rainbow” the Furutechs handled the changes in dynamics and the shifts of power she puts behind certain phrasing with the utmost respect and delicacy! It was not only easy to hear the subtle shifting of her breathing but also to feel the air move around you as she ramped up the power in her delivery.
Using these cables in a system with poor quality components and some metal cone drivers could be somewhat problematic and fatiguing such is the ability of the Furutech to reveal all those subtle and not so subtle nuances. These cables are anything but subtle and laid back and will impact the sound of components wired with them. If your system has flaws or does not have strong inter-component synergy it could be problematic. Lesser cables can mask a lot of these issues and still provide a reasonable listening experience. But once you wire up with cables as revealing as the Furutechs you may be faced with having to make some other decisions. Right out of the chute, I would say it is best to audition these cables in your system if at all possible.
Once I put the speaker cables in I would never have given a second thought to putting the Kimbers back in. The same expansiveness and detail that I heard when I first put the interconnects in was there in spades when the speaker cables rounded out the ensemble. Now everything seemed to contain an extra layer of depth and the sound field was just that much bigger. Air in the upper end was dramatically increased and the speed that created instantaneous delivery of detail was even more abundant. This was starting to leave the Kimber pairing way behind and climb much closer to the XLO territory than the price should have allowed.
The Furutech cable does an admirable job of avoiding any hint of over-sharp edge definition that can often be mistaken for detail but ultimately turns fatiguing. The soundstage was quieter, which allowed for low-level information to create more natural and less artificial sounding highs and smoother midrange delivery. During a number of quieter passages the noise floor was lowered to the point that I was able to hear a lot of complex harmonics in the music without it being overwhelming or boosted in any way.
Bass transients also seemed a bit fuller and more tuneful as in nature. Listening to Tom Jones–yes the same hip-swiveling, pelvis-thrusting Tom Jones of yore and still one of the most powerful voices to ever commit to vinyl or any other medium for that matter–belting out “24 Hours” from the album of the same name (S-Curve Records), the thunderous bass was never an aside to the music but rather an intricate part of the “musicality” and body of the melody. Heard as well as felt, this bass delivery was sweeter than when listened to through the Kimber combination. Balanced between attack, bloom and fade, this was some of the best and most enjoyable bass I have heard from any cable.
On more spirited music like Joe Satriani’s “Flying in a Blue Dream” from the album of the same title, (Relativity Records) the cables did just as admirable a job of delivering his scorching electric guitar pyrotechnic runs against the delicate acoustic rhythm guitar of Galen Henson. They play against a very steady and deliberate rhythm section of drums and bass guitar from Stu Hamm and Jeff Campitelli and it is a real hat trick to experience the four musicians in proper perspective and sense of separation. The Furutechs came through with flying colors, blue to be precise!
The Furutech speaker cables, as I spec’d them with large spades at the amplifier end and expandable locking banana connectors at the speaker end, is my preference. These cables are fairly flexible and will no doubt loosen up as they get used, but initially they were a bit on the stiff side near the terminations. If I had one complaint about the stiffness it is with the power cords. They are very, and I mean very, stiff compared to the other cables, and rather difficult to get into tight spaces right out of the box. Other than that the cables in general are a delight to work with.
The cables and terminations scream quality but in an understated way. No tomfoolery to dazzle the eye and influence anyone into thinking that there is more here than meets the eye. What you get is high quality components put together in a sensible package that does not attract attention to anything other than providing fine reproduction of music. No fire hose diameter cabling or off-the-chart fashion statements and materials. What you get is a wealth of inner detail that is delivered smoothly and without fuss.
A Bit of an Unplanned Twist
During the review period I was able to get my hands on a very different pair of amps and matching pre-amp. This caused some delay in the review as I wanted the opportunity to review the cables in a system about as far from the sonics of my reference gear as possible. The amps in question were the behemoth $23,000 Shengya 600s and their matching preamp. At 300-plus pounds each and delivering 600 watts per channel of class-A solid-state power I thought it would be interesting to see how the Furutechs handled the job. Without turning this into a Shengya review, suffice it is to say the cables handled the change with poise and class.
The Shengya amps are becoming more widely known in the west and they have a decidedly non-solid-state sound to them. Make no mistake, they are not overly warm or lacking in the slam or punch of a normal solid-state power amp; but like so many newer designs they are not grainy or edgy. Matched up with the Furutech the sound has been just as pleasing to my ears as it was when they were mated with the Jolida 211-powered Music Envoys. Whatever you think about the Music Envoys or Chinese amps in general, the sound is simply stunning with either, and the Furutech delivers every ounce of musical joy that the electronics can muster. What they did for me as a reviewer was demonstrate the differences in the two amplification systems and showed me the minute detail differences between the two.
I think that is quite the statement about the cables’ ability to deliver the goods. Perhaps there is not much more to say than that! I highly recommend the Furutech Do It Yourself cables. You have control over how much you want to spend, how they are terminated and you get a lot more cable than you actually end up paying for. Bravo and well done to you, Furutech!
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