You’d think the Great Pandemic of 2020 would create the perfect conditions for getting some writing done. Well, if you lived in the Thorpe household, you’d be wrong. Back in July, we decided to invite risk, expense, and chaos into our lives and start some major home renovations. We bashed down some walls to make our first floor into one large open-concept space, re-doing the kitchen at the same time. The second-floor bathroom became a full-on gut job, and the basement powder room (a small room with a toilet and sink, in case that euphemism isn’t shared by the rest of the world) also got some love.
Of course, we added in some since we’re doing that items which stretched the project out. The kitchen was mostly done by the end of August, but with a few items being delayed due to supply-chain interruptions, only now -- Oct. 6, 2020 -- is the project pretty much finished.
So why no real writing during this period? Well, the family bugged out for the in-laws for the first six weeks, leaving me stuck on the top floor washing dishes in the bathroom. The basement was available, but it was taped off with plastic sheeting to protect against dust, and I had to enter via the garage. Also, the planning and design for the renovations consumed me, and I honestly found it hard to concentrate.
But there’s an audio hook to this lament. Earlier this year, Furutech sent me one of their GTX-D NCF AC receptacles, along with the matching GTX Wall Plate frame and 106-D NCF outlet cover. These items were destined for a dedicated line that I wanted to install near my system. Years ago, I had installed a dedicated line in my listening room, but for logistical reasons I didn’t run it all the way to the front of the room where the system is set up. Instead, I had made a 15′ extension cord from 12-gauge in-wall Romex wire with an industrial wall box at the end, and ran that along the side of the room. It worked fine, but was an inelegant amateur-hour solution that had always bugged me.
So, along with the main renovations, I planned in a touch of audio electrical work.
At $280 (all prices USD), the GTX-D NCF receptacle is not cheap, especially when you consider that a standard 20A duplex receptacle can be had for around $5 at any hardware store. However, it only takes a couple of minutes handling the Furutech receptacle to realize that it’s built to a seriously high standard. The conductors are made from rhodium-plated pure copper. The body is cast from nylon and fiberglass, and incorporates Furutech’s proprietary Nano Crystal Formula, a crystalline blend of carbon powder and nano-sized ceramic particles. The cover is manufactured from carbon fiber and the same NCF material. Both the spring system that provides tension to the conductors and the thick brace around the back and ends of the receptacle are made from highly polished nonmagnetic stainless steel.
The GTX-D NCF isn’t installed directly into the electrical box like a common-or-garden receptacle. The $160 GTX Wall Plate frame is screwed into the electrical box, and then the GTX-D NCF receptacle is attached to the GTX Wall Plate. Manufactured from CNC-machined solid aluminum, the GTX Wall Plate makes a sturdy, non-resonant mount for the receptacle. It also makes the whole setup stand just a little proud of the wall. I had to use a shallow electrical box because there’s a cinder-block wall behind the drywall in my listening room, so the extra half-inch afforded by the GTX Wall Plate made for an easier installation.
There’s more to the $160 106-D NCF outlet cover that completes the setup than it seems at first glance. The 106-D NCF is a mirror-imaged sandwich of a number of disparate materials. The core of the sandwich is a nonmagnetic stainless-steel plate. Next to that is a carbon-fiber layer that’s blended with Furutech’s NCF material. Over that is a clear hard coat with a matte finish of NCF coating material. The 106-D NCF is thin but exceptionally solid in the hand. It also looks smashing.
When the time for the installation finally came, things were going a little bit slower than I had planned. I took matters into my own hands.
About ten years ago, a friend of a friend -- a licensed electrician -- installed some pot lights in the basement and ran a power line from the garage for a split A/C unit in our fourth-floor bedroom. I helped on that job and learned a few techniques that I put to good use last year installing pot lights in the living room. So I felt comfortable running the wire to feed the Furutech receptacle setup.
I cut some holes in the ceiling and wall where I wanted to install the outlet and, using my fish tape, started feeding the spool of 12-gauge in-wall Romex cable. I was able to run the line alongside a heating duct, so it only took a half hour to pull the wire from the listening room out to the furnace room that’s behind my right shoulder as I sit writing this. From there it was a straight shot over to the electrical panel.
The only slightly tricky part about this process was dropping the line from the ceiling down through the wall to the opening I cut for the receptacle. I had to fuss around a bit, but fortunately there was enough of a gap to allow me to feed the line through.
I took a stab at wiring the receptacle, taking note as I did of the superb construction of the GTX-D NCF. The screws are protected by nifty sliding covers, so there’s no need to wrap the entire body with electrical tape in order to prevent shorts against the electrical box. Those covers make for a somewhat tight fit into the box I had used, but, with a little encouragement, I could get the receptacle to slide right in.
At this point I didn’t screw the receptacle into the box, as Vic, the electrician who was working on the house, said he’d check my work for me. Just as well he did, because I had connected the ground wire directly to the receptacle, and the building code stated it should run to the box, and from there to the receptacle.
Vic fixed that right up for me, and he also connected the receptacle to a dedicated 20A circuit in the electrical panel. For this I was thankful, as the thought of touching that panel makes me nervous -- I imagined myself pushing the breaker into the panel with a broom handle as I turned my head to the side, tongue sticking out the corner of my mouth.
All that remained for me to do was to patch up the two small holes I had cut at the top of the wall. I did this by wedging a piece of cardboard into each hole and topping that up with some nice, thick Durabond 90 drywall compound. Before we paint everything, I’ll touch up the holes with more drywall compound and wet sand it with a sponge. It won’t be perfect, but it’ll be good enough for me.
In all, the whole process of running this line took me about three hours. As I have become a responsible adult, I had to incur the additional expense of asking Vic to verify my work and do the final hook-up. But on the whole, this was a very manageable project.
Now I had two receptacles on dedicated lines -- the elegant, neatly installed Furutech and my half-assed Hail-Mary extension line. Let’s compare the two.
Aesthetically, there’s no comparison. The complete, installed Furutech outlet looks just fabulous in its stealth-fighter matte-black finish. This setup is rock solid. The male prongs of my Nordost Heimdall power cord slide into the receptacle with a sensuous smoothness, gripped with just the right amount of tension -- not so much that I had to push hard to overcome a gated, abrupt barrier, and just enough to promise a significant amount of surface contact.
My home-built extension cord is terminated with a Hubbell hospital-grade outlet, and it’s a tight, secure fit for the same Nordost cord, but it feels gritty and coarse compared to the Furutech.
To tell the truth, I wasn’t really expecting much, if any, difference from the Furutech upgrade. My old dedicated line did have a break in it, but the two receptacles were of good quality, and the wiring was essentially the same as the new run.
Well, hold on to your hats, ladies and gents, because shit just got real.
It only took one swap back and forth to immediately note the blacker background of my system. Now, this isn’t just a lack of sound. No, my Sonic Frontiers SFL-2 preamp generates enough tube rush that I can hear it two feet from the speakers. But as music began to play, I could feel it emanating out from a deeper soundstage.
While I could discern this characteristic on most music, it was blatantly obvious on sparse, well-recorded albums.
There’s no album that’s more drenched in ambience and atmosphere than Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden (LP, E1-46977). I’ve blathered on about Spirit of Eden for what -- 15 years now? This nugget of coiled tension and cathartic release has been one of my top-five records for longer than that.
From the first notes of “Eden” until it ominously climbed to the big guitar climax, I could hear deeper space, further into the music. I could place Martin Ditcham’s dry, muted snare more precisely in the soundstage. And as the guitar finally lets go, the studio opened further around me and my room receded.
Similarly, when I threw Bill Frisell’s Harmony (LP, Blue Note B003078301) on the table, I found myself captivated by the almost visual impression of the reverberant tails coming off Frisell’s guitar. His crisp picking on “Deep Dead Blue” just shot out of the speakers. Via my old dedicated line there was less of the sensation of watching the music.
There was absolutely zero change in tonal balance -- bass was identical in depth and accuracy, and the highs were similarly unaffected by the new line. That said, I felt I was listening at a slightly higher volume when my system was fed by the GTX-D NCF, which I think I can equate to a very slight increase in system dynamics.
Now, please keep in mind that the changes and benefits I’ve outlined here are slight. The differences between my lame-ass dedicated line with its attendant extension cord and the hard-wired Furutech GTX-D NCF were of similar magnitude to the effects of changing a pair of interconnects. But the benefits were of a far different nature, and the spatial magic of the Furutech receptacle isn’t achievable by other component swaps.
The moral of this story? If everything else in your system is just how you want it, then maybe you should take a glance over at where the rubber meets the road and consider upgrading your wall receptacle with a Furutech GTX-D NCF. And while you’re at it, feel free to get your hands dirty.
. . . Jason Thorpe
Furutech GTX-D NCF Wall Receptacle
Price: $280 USD.
Furutech 106-D NCF Outlet Cover
Price: $160 USD.
Furutech GTX Wall Plate
Price: $160 USD.
Furutech Co. Ltd.
Furutech Bldg., 3-9-1 Togoshi
Tokyo 142-0041, Japan
Phone: +81 (0)3-6451-3941
Fax: +81 (0)3-6451-3942
Elite A/V Distribution, Inc.
Phone: (818) 245-6571