Nuforce A/V Cable Roundup 
Home Theater Accessories AV Cables
Written by Andre Marc   
Thursday, 08 October 2009

Nuforce of Milpitas, CA is an established high end audio company now known for a wide variety of products. They make a music server, the MSR-1, a line of mobile audio products, preamplifiers, speakers and most well received, Class D “switching” amplifiers.  They also make a variety of cables. This includes analog interconnects, speaker cables, digital interconnects, Toslink optical cables, and last but not least, HDMI cables.

The new Nuforce cable line is the subject of this review.  That includes the Speaker Cable SC-700 ($324 8 foot pair), The IC-700 Interconnect ($199) 1M pair, RCA), Precision 75-Ohm Digital Coaxial Cable (1M, RCA, BNC $99), Toslink Cable ($69 1M), and HDMI Cable ($99, 2M). I must say that it is rather brave of Nuforce to throw their hat into the ring, as the audiophile cable market is quite saturated.  Based on the list prices of the Nuforce cables, I suspect they are going to try to appeal to audiophiles who find the very notion of interconnect, speaker, and digital cables that cost thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars, absurd. I’m one of those audiophiles.  The fact that one can buy a pair of interconnect cables for as much as a compact car tells me something has gone terribly wrong.

After all, no matter how exotic, cables are all made of the same basic materials. A conductive metal, usually copper, or less often, silver, with a dielectric and an outer jacket, with RCA or XLR connectors. That’s the simple version of cable design. Of course, the grade of copper or silver can vary. Sometimes more exotic material like gold gets mixed in. In recent years, OFC (Oxygen Free Copper) has been a huge buzz word as oxygen can cause copper to oxidize, affecting its performance. Silver is not as affected by the oxidization.

Focused

The quality and origin of the connectors can make an enormous difference. Some companies make their own custom line of connectors, or use high quality OEM parts from companies like Neutrik or WBT. The outer jacket material, or shielding, usually has a variety of purposes. First off, it physically protects the conductors from the elements or trauma.  They also shield the conductors from RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) or EMI (Electro Magnetic Interference). Many cable manufacturers tout their cable geometry, the configuration in which the actual conductors are wound, as being superior. Some feel simpler is better, while others use very complicated helix variations.

Lastly, cable electrical properties vary, the most important aspects being resistance, capacitance, and inductance. These properties will determine, among other things, how any given set of cables will react and perform in your system. Auditioning said cables is vital to determine if there is synergy.

What makes cable shopping a nightmare for many audiophiles is the sheer number of cable manufactures who claim to have solved that ultimate riddle: “How do you pass the signal from component to component, or from amplifier to speaker, with the least amount of signal loss, degradation, or coloration?”.  Every high end cable company seems to have their own solution; some more outlandish than others.  A few companies attach network boxes to their cables in effort to reduce the antenna effect, limit bandwidth, and allow the cables to perform better with longer lengths. Some claim to “cryogenically” treat their cables, some use active voltage with either batteries or power supplies, or in the case of one high end designer, with tubes!

Set Up and Listening:

First up was the Nuforce RCA terminated Focused Field analog interconnect. It features OFC, double shielded, with, according to Nuforce, low loss dielectric for minimum signal loss and maximum signal integrity. The cable’s finish and overall appearance was impressive, not just for a $199 interconnect cable, but any price point. I connected the 1M length first in my secondary system, consisting of a vintage Revox power amplifier, Belles preamp, and Spendor speakers. Some might find this system slightly on the warm side.  When I plugged the Nuforce cable in between the preamp and power amp I immediately noted a vividness and an increased perception of leading edge transients.  Bass seemed alive, and there was a general excitement to the sound in comparison to my usual cables, the Transparent “The Link” interconnects ($85, 1M). This is generally a system I use for late night listening, at lower volumes, for relaxation. I must admit the added zip was welcomed.  By the way, the Nuforce interconnect and speaker cables are both directional cables. There are arrows on the outer jacket that act as a guide.

FF

I then connected the pair in my main system, first between my Audio Research preamplifier and my Audio Research tube amplifier.  I experienced the same type of zip, speed, and overall transient response that I found previously appealing.  I then connected the cable from my Naim CD player to the preamplifier and got the same results.  Images were solid, fast, and bass was tight.  These cables bring a definite, elevated level of quality to the table for the price and, without question, punches above its weight class.  It’s not just “good for the money”. It’s good.  But how does it compare with other, slightly more expensive cables?


On hand, I had a QED Qunex interconnect (Approx $300, when available) and a Transparent Music Link Plus ($375). The Nuforce and QED were very, very close, to the point of being neck and neck. I did feel the Transparent offered a deeper sound stage, with a bit more of a relaxed, natural presentation.  There was a bit more space around instruments. I had to listen very critically to hear these differences. It must be noted the Transparent is almost double the list price of the Nuforce.

Next up was the Nuforce Focused Field speaker cable. Nuforce claims this cable will optimize the performance of not only their own switching amplifiers, but also traditional linear devices and even tube amps. The speaker cable is made up of four conductors, two that are 12 AWG OFC and two that are 18AWG OFC. Other materials involved are polyethylene jackets and PEX dielectrics. The cable geometry is a bit unique as the conductors are stacked with layers of insulating material. In this arrangement, Nuforce claims that their “sandwiched” construction is superior, significantly reducing interactions with the magnetic fields of associated equipment. They also claim the cable’s low impedance diminishes interactions with variations in speaker impedance, resulting in better overall performance.

My review sample came with gold plated banana plugs, which incidentally I prefer over spades (also available).  First, a word about build quality. It is extremely good. This is a rugged cable and should last a lifetime with proper care. This is a very substantial speaker cable for $324, and certainly more than I was expecting as I unpacked it. I connected it in my main system, from my Audio Research 50 wpc tube amplifier to my Harbeth Compact 7 monitors. I would say that my initial impression was that it had many of the characteristics of the interconnect, but perhaps more balanced and laid back.  I heard no omissions, defects, or colorations at all.  In comparisons to QED Genesis Silver Spiral (Approx $500), there was very little difference between them besides the QED being a bit warmer in the upper mid bass. A comparison to Transparent Music Wave Plus ($775) was even tougher, as I could not discern much of a difference. Both were allowing the music to flow uninhibited, with solid imaging, and natural presentation.  The Transparent is more than double the cost of the Nuforce.


Moving along in the lineup, I hooked up the two digital cables: the NuForce Precision 75 Ohm Digital Coaxial Cable in BNC or RCA terminations and the NuForce Toslink Digital Cable. The coaxial cable is $149 for a 1M length. The cable uses a silver-plated copper core and a silver-plated copper shield as well as a solid Teflon dielectric. Nuforce claims their design rejects vibration, mechanical noise and is very low in jitter. Jitter is actually an important aspect of digital cables that is often over looked. The ability of a cable to transmit information free of timing errors is essential.  The Toslink cable is $69 for 1M.

In many high end audiophile circles, Toslink optical connections were considered “inferior” in the past. But much has changed. High quality optical cables designed with more advanced materials have been accepted by many previous doubters.  One clear advantage of an optical connection is that it is not affected by RFI/EMI interference.

The obvious use for these cables is with a music server and external DAC.  You could also use them for feeding a CD transport to an external DAC or multi-box CD player set ups that provide a separate chassis for the DAC, transport, and even the power supply.  The general consensus is that 75 Ohm coaxial connections are superior in this regard.

I personally prefer a Toslink connection between my Logitech Squeezebox and my outboard CIA DAC.  It’s strictly a personal preference. Other uses for digital audio cables are for home theater set ups, for connecting cable boxes, DVD players, or HDTV’s to multi channel receivers and amplifiers. I used the Nuforce cables for all of the above and found them to be excellent performers. The construction quality is superb. This maybe even more important in the digital arena as users are more likely to connect, disconnect and reconnect digital cables more often than analog cables. The portability of digital audio and the fact that cable boxes, DVD players, and TV’s often get reassigned to different rooms around the house. I am certainly guilty of that practice!

My final cable to test out was the Nuforce HDMI cable ($99 for 2M). Only recently having purchased a High Definition TV, I never explored this type of cable as an alternative for my audio.  HDMI stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface and is a compact audio and video interface for transmitting uncompressed, high bandwidth digital data.  Basically, it is how the cable box, DVD player, and home theater components now interface with your TV. The quality of cable can have a distinct impact on the quality of the sound and picture in your home theater set up. Jitter, as mentioned above, is one reason. But the overall cable construction and the quality of the internal components are a huge factor. Switching out the HDMI cable supplied with my Oppo 981 universal DVD player, I immediately noticed a clarity and sharpness in the TV picture that surpassed the supplied cable.  Mind you, the supplied cable was generic, but certainly well made.  The Nuforce cable is well shielded and low mass. It is very easy to maneuver around complicated set ups and is quite flexible.

Conclusion:

The Nuforce line of cables is very attractively priced, well made, and really have no discernible flaws that I was able to detect during my testing sessions. The cable in the line that I felt suffered a bit in comparison to more expensive makes from other manufacturers was the IC-700 interconnect.  I preferred the Transparent in my main system, at almost double the price, but as noted, this was with very critical listening. System synergy will determine your results. The Nuforce digital cables are a real achievement to me.  If you do some research, you will see digital cables from a variety of high end manufacturers that are offered at very exotic prices. I’ve seen coaxial, BNC, and even USB cables that cost as much as an audiophile component! That being said, and expensive digital music server set up with cheap cables is akin to putting cheap tires on a Porsche.  But there is a point at which you are paying for fancy jackets and manufacturing processes that may not affect the sound quality, but are figured into the final price.  Overall, the Nuforce cable line offers a high level of performance for a low entry fee into the realm of audiophile quality sound.

Audio Setup 1

 

CD Player: Naim CD5x with Flatcap 2X
Preamp: Audio Research SP16
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55
Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES
Cables: Kimber/QED/Acoustic Zen (AC)/Transparent (AC)

Audio Setup 2


CD Player: Marantz 5003
Music Server: Squeezebox 3
DAC:CIA VDA-2 with XPS
Preamp: Belles Soloist 3
Amplifier: Revox A722
Speaker: Spendor S5e
Cables: Kimber/QED/Transparant/Shunyata(AC)/PS Audio(AC)

Home Theater Seup

DVD player: Oppo 981 Universal Player
Home Theater Receiver: Cambridge Audio 540R
TV: Vizio
Speakers: Paradigm Monitor 9, Paradigm Atom, PS Audio subwoofer
Cables: QED, Shunyata, Kimber, PS Audio

Company Info


www.nuforce.com
356 South Abbott Ave
Milpitas, CA 95035
Office: +1-408-627-7859, 1-408-262-6777

Manufacturer NuForce





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