The ability to “hear” cables, or rather the courage to admit to yourself, that something so insignificant as a piece of wire may change anything, and in fact does change the sound of the system it is plugged in, becomes for some people an opportunity to broaden their horizons, and in some more drastic cases, starts another attack of “audiophilia nervosa”. Another step further is the influence of “confection”, something that may be just a simple plug or a jewel-like masterpiece. In this review, however, we will concentrate on … power. This area can be approached in tiers; first you can start with standard cables supplied with the electronics, then you can pass through DIY ‘high-end’ made from Lapp cable and Shurter or Bals plugs, ideal for a concrete mixer and end with dedicated products from audiophile masters of metallurgy.
For quite some time I am using the Furutech FP-3TS762, terminated with the FI-28R and FI-E 38R plugs, in my own system, with great success. The reason for that is its construction – with a diameter of the conductors being 3x5.2 mm (4.93 mm2) it is possible to power amplifiers of 1.5 kW, and when such a dragon would suffer issues related to current capabilities, for sure that would not be caused by the Furutech cable. The tested cables, despite their attractive looks, are from the same “bulk” category, they can be purchased from a spool and are terminated with the chosen plugs by the dealer, or you can do it yourself, however they have a bit different construction than my cable. The blue FP-3TS20 is made with conductors with a cross-section of 2.16mm2, and the dark green FP-ALPHA 3 is significantly thicker – 3.94mm2. This difference in cross-section does not, however, translate into a significant difference in the ‘thickness’ of the cables, as the FP-3TS20 has about 14.3mm and the FP-ALPHA 3 15mm. The reason for that is quite simple – the 3TS20 has cotton isolation besides the Teflon one, while the Alpha does not have it and is also not shielded. Those cables are available for some time already, and the main reason for the current test are the new plugs, FI-48R (IEC) and FI-E 48R, which were only recently introduced to market. All conductive elements are made from PCOCC copper, rhodium plated and then cryogenically treated and demagnetized in a process called Alpha. Like all plugs from the Piezo Ceramic series, also the 48 use nano technology, carbon, nylon and polycarbonate inserts to control vibration and the carcasses are made from non-magnetic steel, what inhibits resonances of the plug. Does this matter? I would say – yes. My previous experience with the anti-vibration ring Furutech CF-080 and the cables Oyaide Tunami, available in two versions – GPX and GPX-Re, which have only different plugs (and price) showed that clearly. To cut things short – details matter.
Having at my disposal the integrated Electrocompaniet, as well as the tested separates from Alluxity and two digital sources, I could find the key to success, or find a situation, where the influence of the power cabling would be regarded as negligible. The problem is, that despite many attempts, the second scenario remains purely theoretical, for as long as I can remember, as the changes introduced by cabling are indisputably audible, only their intensity can be bigger or smaller. That was also the case now. Knowing, that the cables supplied by the distributor were properly burned-in, I allowed them one day for accommodation in their new environment and then, day after day, I noted my observations.
While my FP-3TS762 is very rarely used with low power devices, the two tested models were to be “profiled”, as neither the distributor or the manufacturer, did provide any guidance on that. With the powerful and heavy, yet compact, Alluxity power amplifier, replacing my power cord with the Alpha 3 resulted in a slight diminishing of the volume of the sound, with shifting the accent from the lowest octaves to the turn of the bass and midrange. Limitation of the spectacularity of the sound resulted in calming of the whole spectacle, there was less adrenaline, but as a whole it remained energetic. Motility did not change, only macro-dynamics, in a small extent, what resulted in a narrower stage on discs like the symphonical “Bolero! – Orchestral Fireworks” (Ravel/Eiji Oue; Minnesota Orchestra) or the gold pressed re-master of the “Gladiator” OST (Hans Zimmer/Lisa Gerard). The resolution of the highest frequencies was absolutely fine, but without special fireworks, that would overwhelm the listener with a vast amount of unheard details. It is worth mentioning, that the background was great, dark and velvet, what gave the recordings more pureness and thus the virtual sources were drawn with clearer lines. Plugging the Alpha into the preamplifier turned out to be the bulls-eye – full momentum returned to the sound, freedom and the sound stage returned to previous size. Also the contours did not change, so the balance between detail and musicality remained. In general we could talk about a flat characteristics with a slight rounding of upper frequencies, what can be beneficial in systems with an too offensive treble. It will make the sound less nervous and devoted from irritating peaks and sibilants. And this sound will get pleasant and not annoying (will it hiss or not hiss).
Experiments with digital sources (Ayon/CEC) were not dishonorable for the Alpha, but it turned out, that in this role, the blue brethren 3TS20, is better.
While the Alpha was tested starting with the power amplifier and gradually moved to the sound sources, I started testing the 3TS20 with the players. First notes of “Bolero! – Orchestral Fireworks” immediately put the cards on the table … a four of a kind aces. The treble became illuminated and slightly hardened. In music there were some flashes, crystals of shining sweetness, and this without an audible cooling of the rest of the sound spectrum, which quickly followed the leading treble. The midrange was nip and tuck with the treble, after being additionally saturated, it did not allow the treble to catch full attention of the listener. The vocalists and solo instruments received an additional light source, which helped to cut them from the background sounds. The whole gained three-dimensionality and holographic imaging, while the lower frequencies, which were favored earlier, now got better controlled. The character of the mentioned changes was the same in case of the preamplifier and the power amplifier, although the bridle set by the 3TS20 on the Alluxity Power-amp One seemed to be too tight, what resulted in a slight limitation of the performance of the unit. If I would start testing with this power cable, I might have lost those observations somewhere along the road, but when moving to it from cables being much more spectacular with an apocalyptic repertoire (“The Planets” Hols/Zubin Mehta; LA Philharmonic) I felt as if somebody would add an electronic lock on a Mitsubishi Evo, or a Nissan GT-R, much below the capabilities of the engine and the car. But in all the cases, where bass needs to be controlled better and more disciplined, and please believe me, there are a lot of products on the market, that have issues in that aspect, the cure in the form of the 3TS20 may be very desired.
With the integrated ECI-5 the differences were not as clear, but my taste was served better with the FP-ALPHA 3 powering it, while the Ayon was supplied with volts by the blue 3TS20.
As you can clearly see from the text above, or at least I hope you see it, during the two weeks of testing I was able to place the cables in such a way, that they could best present their assets. You could also say, that I was able to adjust them to my taste. But the whole game with hi-fi is not about configuring a system based on heard opinions, but to use them to make an initial selection, and the decision about purchase should be made only after you have made listening tests in your own system. And when we are talking about the tested cables – Furutech, a bit perversely, offers cables with different sound signature at a similar price level. But when you look at this from a distance, it seems to make sense. Building the sound based on the company trademark, dynamics, it gives to options to a potential client, allowing him to make an informed choice, which cable to put where and what is the goal to be reached.
- Furutech FP-3TS20: 1,0 m - 2 230 PLN; 1,5 m - 2 415 PLN; 1,8 m - 2 530 PLN; 2,0 m - 2 600 PLN
- FP - ALPHA 3: 1,5 m - 2 665 PLN; additional 0,5 m - 295 PLN
System used in this test:
- CD: CEC CD3N
- CD/DAC: Ayon 1sc
- Digital source selector: Audio Authority 1177
- Stream player: Olive O2M; Dell Inspiron 1764 + JRiver Media Center; Lumin
- Integrated Amplifiers: Electrocompaniet ECI 5, Ayon Crossfire III
- Preamplifiers: iFi iTube; Alluxity Pre-amp One
- Power Amplifier: Alluxity Power-amp One
- Speakers: Gauder Akustik Arcona 80 + spike extenders
- IC RCA: Antipodes Audio Katipo; Neyton Neurnberg NF
- IC XLR: LessLoss Anchorwave; Organic Audio; Argento Serenity "Signature" XLR
- Digital IC: Fadel art DigiLitz; Harmonic Technology Cyberlink Copper; Apogee Wyde Eye; Monster Cable Interlink LightSpeed 200
- USB Cables: Wireworld Starlight; Goldenote Firenze Silver
- Speaker Cables: Organic Audio; Neyton Hamburg LS; Signal Projects Hydra
- Power Cables: Furutech FP-3TS762 / FI-28R / FI-E38R; Organic Audio Power; GigaWatt LC-1mk2; Furutech FP-3TS20 & FP - ALPHA 3 z wtykami FI-48R (IEC) i FI-E 48R
- Power distribution board: GigaWatt PF-2 + LC-2mk2; Amare Musica Silver Passive Power Station
- Table: Rogoz Audio 4SM3
- Ethernet cables: Neyton CAT7+
- Accessories: Sevenrods Dust-caps; Furutech CF-080 Damping Ring; HighEndNovum PMR Premium; Albat Revolution Loudspeaker Chips
„Cablelogy”, called also voodoo, has a lot of adversaries in the audio world, what makes it a difficult topic for a reviewer, especially when the only fact accepted by those people, is that without cables there will be no signal flowing from one device to another. And all theories about their different influence on the final effect are just fairytales. But there is also a large group of audiophiles, which heard with their own ears, that the above in not fully true, and exactly for this group we are trying to catch and describe their influence on a stereo system. I am aware, that not in all systems we can observe that influence, but having a very transparent set, and knowing its sound by heart, such differences are usually possible to define, what can be confirmed by the sheer number of cable companies on the market.
One of the most recognizable cable manufacturers in the world is the Japanese Furutech, which offers also a lot of other gadgets, often from the edge of sanity, like: vinyl straighten devices, de-magnetizers, ionizers freeing the audio gear from static electricity and lots of plugs and sockets. To date I had only contact with the loudspeaker cables and interconnects from the Reference III series made by this company, so to catch up, I took for testing two power cables terminated with newest plugs, just introduced to the market. Introduction of this new plug line resulted in creation of two new entries in the cable catalog: Furutech FP-3TS20 +FI-48R (IEC) + FI-E 48R in a blue sheath and Furutech FP-ALPHA3 +FI-48R (IEC) + FI-E 48R colored green. Besides using different technological processes in processing the conductors in the two cables, what you can read on the web page of the Polish distributor – RCM Audio, when you take the cable in your hands, you can hear the sound of cotton used as an isolator (together with Teflon) in the blue cable. Regarding the handling, I was happy to see, that both cables are quite flexible and can be easily placed behind your audio rack. Both cables cost about 2000-2500 zlotys for a 1.5m length, so for a seasoned audiophile, this is far from outrageous.
Two products from the same price range, and only one piece of each, while I have a system full of separate units, created a mind breaking amount of possible combinations. Fortunately I could quite easily find where their influence was biggest and smallest, and this turned out to be the power amplifier and the DAC. Of course other devices also showed their influence, but the two mentioned devices will serve the purposes of becoming the guinea pigs of the test. The power cords were plugged in one by one, first to the power amplifier, then to the DAC, what combined with the reference Harmonix allowed to see the full picture of introduced changes. I will not write too much about such controversial products, especially taking into account kilometers of cables between the power plant and our homes, but I will tell you everything I heard like a confession to a priest. At the same time I invite the skeptics to read reviews of other products, where they can find things of interest to them.
Thinking about how products from the same price level can differ, I started with the green cable, hoping that I hear some differences. To refresh my reference, first I played a few notes of a representative and known by heart piece using my Harmonix cables, just to make the switch a few minutes later and allow the power amplifier to draw current via the green sheathed cable. My initial concerns were quickly alleviated, as the changes were audible from the very beginning. My amp is quite sensitive to power, and showed it very clearly during a recent test a of a power strip. Like it did this time. If this is good or bad depends on the target system, where the tested power cable will be used. Anyway, the changes I heard went in the direction of putting more weight and slightly loosening the bass. There was no mudding, but the sound became visibly heavier, what can be the panacea for “thin” recordings. Another aspect that was immediately thrown at my face, was the moving of the stage to the line of the loudspeakers, with bringing the musicians slightly closer to each other. To have this idea for the sound make sense, the treble was slightly darkened. It is still very readable, but a slight fog appeared, which is no longer perceivable after a few minutes, and often it does not allow the treble to stand out from the crowd. Too much freedom in the upper frequencies could shatter the way of bettering the sound adjusted to a given taste. With this approach the Furutech allows to increase the lower frequencies a little, and because often lack of weight in the lower octaves is accompanied by slight clamorousness, we can have two things taken care of at once. The same cable (FP-ALPHA 3) connected to the digital to analog converter behaved similarly, but with a slightly different final effect. With a similar mass of the low end of the spectrum, the stage became less crowded, and the artists had more space around them. In addition I got more resolution and breath in the music. Fortunately this was not too spectacular, and did not massacre the balance of the sound spectrum, yet the perceived improvement in readability of the sound compared to the combination with the power amp, allowed for greater insight into the recording. Two devices, differing in the amount of current drawn, showed two faces of one product, being the Furutech FP-ALPHA3 +FI-48R (IEC) + FI-E 48R. This can only confirm the generally accepted rule to conduct final listening test in your own system, because “blind” purchase (which in fact happens very often) may cause the buyer become disappointed.
After those surprising observations I plugged in the second, blue, cable, terminated with the same plugs as the first one (FI-48R (IEC) and FI-E 48 R), nicely swishing with the cotton insides while doing so. In theory it is the same conductor as in the first one, only the manufacturing process is different – will it then have a different influence on the audio system? I have to disappoint the skeptics, the influence of the FP-3TS20 power cable on the Reimyo electronics was completely different than of the ALPHA cable. While the other cable puts weight on the bass, this one goes in a different direction, lighting up the midrange with a slight opening of the treble and minimal slacking of the sound contours. This increases the blackness of the background increasing the amount of information and air in the music. Also stage depth increases, which now reaches further than with the predecessor. But the most surprising thing is, that this blue power cable does not differentiate the influence with regard to the power taken by the attached device. It did not matter if it was the power amplifier or the DAC, it was constant in what it did, and in both cases it underlined the vocals by re-arranging the upper midrange. The whole sound became a bit lighter, but this is a consequence of the constructors trying to balance the spectrum, directing this product to a different client. It is widely known, that each system has different requirements, and trying to accommodate this, Furutech proposes different products at a certain price level, with different sonic profiles. To confirm my findings I listened to a vast number of CDs, changing the cables during listening, and I was relieved, that each and every disc only supported my observations.
These few days with the Japanese products were the time of ongoing surprises, in the positive meaning of that word, as they showed, how different means of treating a conductor may change its influence on the powered system. It is true that different isolators were used, and most probably, the geometry of both cables is also different, but for the cable atheists this is still just a copper cable, which is designed to provide current to an audio device, and nothing more. And yet in this price level we have the ability to polish our jigsaw puzzle, which should have been absolutely neutral to start with, however in real world often needs small corrections. So knowing the system owned, a potential buyer should think about what he expects and what he needs, to direct his attention to a certain model from the Furutech portfolio. Looking at the catalog of that company, we will see, that even the most discerning audiophile will find something for him. If he is not fully aware, where are the shortcomings of his system, then there is a possibility to test a few different models. Even if he decides not to choose anything, experience from listening will remain, which will for sure prevent wrong decisions when buying new components and will allow to save money.
The system used in the test, a complete set of Combak Corporation.
- Separate DAC + CD player: CDT - 777 + DAP - 999 EX
- Tube preamp: CAT - 777 MK II
- Solid state power amp: KAP - 777
Speakers: Bravo Consequence +
Power cables: Harmonix X-DC-350M2R Improved Version
Speaker Cables: Harmonix HS 101-EXQ (mid-high section); Harmonix HS-101 SLC (Section woofer)
IC RCA Harmonix HS 101-GP
Digital IC: Harmonix HS 102
Table: Rogoz Audio
Accessories: Antivibration stand for the power amp by Harmonix TU-505EX MK2, Harmonix Enacom improved for AC 100-240V; Harmonix Tuning Room Mini Disk RFA-80i
drive: Dr. Feickert Analogue "Twin"
arm: SME V
cartridge: Dynavector XX-2 MK II
- Phonostage: RCM „THERIAA”