|The Vinyl Word
Back Issue Article
Furutech deStat Antistatic Device and DFV-1 LP Flattener
A good stereo system is a wonderful thing. It acts as something of a time machine. The better it does its job the more it allows you to summon long-deceased musicians to perform for you at will. But to extract the most from your system, you sometimes have to invest in tweaks -- accessories not directly connected to your base equipment -- that allow the laser of your digital player or the stylus of your turntables cartridge to read your software better.
Furutech is my kind of accessory company. This company's catalog is loaded with goodies that can -- if the promo literature is any indication -- lift the sound of even the most humble of audio/video systems to a higher plane. Furutech was founded in 1988 in Japan, and designs and manufactures a long line of audio and video accessories, including cables made of a Alpha-OCC copper, power distributors, the deMag disc and cable demagnetizer, a Nano Liquid Contact enhancer, and the subjects of this review -- the deStat antistatic accessory for CDs, SACDs, DVDs (both audio and video) and LPs, and the DFV-1 LP flattener.
Furutechs tagline is "Pure Transmission" and the company goes to extraordinary lengths to meet that standard. Furutech uses a proprietary two-stage process made up of a Alpha cryogenics and then a demagnetization process to improve the signal-transfer characteristics of cables. The company also uses an advanced material called Formula GC-303, which reportedly absorbs EMI in both power distributors and the Reference III line of cables.
Yes sir, Furutech offers a full line of accessories designed to aid you in extracting the most from your music. But do they really work?
The deStat ($360 USD) is a small rectangular hand-held box about 7 7/8"H x 3 5/8"Wx 2 1/4"D that runs on four AA batteries. According to the owner's manual, you should get about an hour per set of batteries. Doesnt sound like much? Well, at only ten seconds a treatment, you get 360 shots with the deStat before you need to replace the batteries. Thats a fair amount of listening. The manual also notes that you should give the deStat at least a minute or two of rest between uses. It has vent openings front and rear for an internal fan that blows air on the disc of choice to clear any stray dust particles away while emitting positive and negative ions to eliminate static electricity. This is all controlled by a large red push-button located on the side. You hold the deStat about four inches above the disc -- LP, CD, SACD, whatever -- push that big red button, wait the required ten seconds and youre ready to go.
The question you must be asking yourself is why eliminating static is so important. Think about it for a minute: Were talking about electronic gear that is attempting to either read the pits on a digital disc or the grooves on a record. Any electrical interference in this sensitive area is bound to affect the sound you hear. After all, anything sonically lost in the front-end can never be recovered later on, no matter how good the rest of your equipment is. By eliminating static charges from the surface of your discs before you begin to play them, you increase the chances of getting a cleaner, clearer read of the vital information right from the start. With LPs this is doubly important, as static can not only create problems for the cartridge but also attract dust to the surface of the record, which is already prone to static attraction. And if you live in a dry area of the world, your problems with static only multiply.
The DFV-1 LP flattener ($1480) stands upright and measures 20"H x 17"W x 7"D and weighs a robust 20 pounds. You flip two latches located on the top to open the DFV-1, which has arms attached that only allow it to open just so far. You then attach a steel spindle in the record's center hole, place the head of the spindle in one of the round slots on either side, and close the DFV-1, being very sure to secure those latches before beginning the flattening process. You then turn the unit on. Using the preparation screen and Mode button you select how long you want the heating cycle to last. You get your choice, which is based on the thickness of the LP: an hour and a half or two and a half hours (cooling time is a consistent two hours). Furutech allows you to choose how long you wish to heat the LP because the weight and/or warping of vinyl records can vary.
You push the Mode button to begin, and then you wait. I suggest listening to some music, reading something (perusing the SoundStage! Network would be an excellent choice), or going out for some exercise. The DFV-1 will beep when the cooling process has finished to let you know its safe to turn the machine off and open it up to remove your (hopefully) now-flat LP.
Heat is the primary cause of record warping, though improper storage can cause it as well. Thus the DFV-1 has heating elements on both sides, and they run around the label and the outer edge of the LP. There are no heating elements over the sensitive grooves for obvious reasons. The DFV-1 works by slowly raising the internal temperature and then, after the heat does its work, ever so slowly cooling the LP down. With its upright stature, storage of the DFV-1 is much easier than if it laid flat.
Static-free and flat?
Lets begin with the accessory that you will use on a regular basis -- the deStat. I tried it with every conceivable form of media -- from CD to SACD to DVD (both DVD-A and DVD-V) to LP. Did it do anything positive? In a word, yes. Was it a night-and-day difference? No, but it was an improvement that was easy to hear if I took the trouble to listen closely.
The first disc I tried the deStat with was the Allison Krauss SACD Now That Ive Found You Collection [Rounder 11661-0325-6]. This is a well-recorded compilation of some of Ms. Krausss early recordings. The SACD is one of the best-sounding recordings in my collection. The instruments are clearly rendered and precisely located. Krauss's voice is ethereal. Yet after a quick ten-second zap with the deStat the disc opened up even more, allowing me to hear more of the recording's personality. I heard a slightly better sense of not just Allison Krausss singing but how that angelic voice was formed -- from inhale to its projection into the soundstage. There was also a slightly better sense of space around voices along with a clearer rendition of the instruments.
Moving to CD, I was treated to much the same results. I picked two discs for testing: Soul Farms Scream of the Crop [Desert Rock Records 26-6] and Jay Boy Adams' The Shoe Box [Rockin Heart Records 7057 2006]. On both discs the bass went deeper with better definition after deStating. Vocals, as with the SACD, were better defined -- especially any harmony vocals. I could more clearly make out who was singing and where he or she stood in relation to the lead vocalist. I heard more of the small inflections of both voices and instruments, which made each sound more realistic.
On DVDs I both heard and saw an improvement. I pulled the new Cream At Royal Albert Hall [Rhino R2 970421] from my shelves, zapped it with the deStat, slipped into the Oppo DVD player and sent the signal to my Olivea HDTV. In its native form this is a great DVD of one of the most-anticipated reunions to come down the pike in a long time. Yet, after the deStat treatment, I was treated to an even clearer picture and crisper sonics. Edge definition was sharper, and color was more truly represented. Plus I got all of the sonic benefits Id heard with SACD and CD. I saw the same improvements in Gettysburg [Warner Brothers T 6139] as well. Colors were more vibrant, cannon and musket fire cracked that much more sharply. Voices, even those in the background, were much clearer. No matter how I sliced it, the deStat made a small but definite improvement with all of my digital media.
But, to me, the real test would come when I tried it with an LP, as that is still, to my ears, the medium that best represents what music really sounds like and the form of software for which eliminating static charges was supposed to be the most beneficial. Until now Ive never had cause to doubt that I was hearing the best my analog rig could produce. So to say I was a bit skeptical as to the deStat's benefits would be a gross understatement.
Well it didnt take more than the first song of the first LP to hear that it wasnt only digital that the deStat could work its mojo on. With Ben Webster at the Renaissance [Analogue Productions AJP 011], suddenly Websters tenor sax sounded more like it was right in my room -- there was that kind of immediacy. Websters breath as it flowed through and around the reed in the mouthpiece was replayed with a startling sense of verisimilitude that made me melt in my chair. I was also treated to cleaner, clearer, more extended highs than Id previously heard with this album.
I spent the better part of one Sunday afternoon pulling out albums to deStat. With Dire Straits' self-titled album [Warner Brothers BSK 3266] once again things were made cleaner and clearer. Ive not heard this album sound better. The same held true on David Oistrakhs Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 4 [EMI C 069-02324]. It wasnt that I was hearing albums anew, more that I was now hearing more of what each LP had embedded in its grooves. Another side benefit of using the deStat was the impression that my albums gained a decibel or two of volume. But why? Perhaps because of what wasnt now present -- an extraneous raising of the noise floor caused by static electricity. Its something that, until its gone, youll never know youre listening to. Youre so used to hearing it that you listen around it. But once its absence is heard its hard to go back.
I now consider the deStat a mandatory accessory for any self-respecting audiophile who wants to extract the best from his music. It brought improvements to both digital and analog media in equal proportions. I plan to keep it around my house so I never have to wonder what I might be missing with any kind of disc I spin.
The LP flattener, if youll pardon the pun, just flat-out works. From the first record to the last, all were made perfectly flat after a spell in the DFV-1. In fact, the first album I flattened was the Dire Straits LP I mentioned above. Ive owned it for years, and though it has always been slightly warped it was never completely unplayable. I guess thats one reason I like record clamps -- they help flatten slightly warped records such as this one. But, hey, I had the warped LP, I had the DFV-1, so why not see if this long-warped LP could be put into pancake-flat condition? So in it went for an hour and a half heating time -- remember the vinyl albums of the 1980s werent very thick. When the two hour cool-down time was up I opened the DFV-1 with more than a bit of trepidation. What did I find? A perfectly flat LP that played through end to end just fine, thank you very much. There was nothing amiss during playback that I could attribute to the workings of the DFV-1. The LP sounded just as it has all the previous times Ive played it -- minus the humps. So we were off to an auspicious start.
Next up was the second LP of the new two-record set of Lucinda Williams' West [Lost Highway LLH0882-2], which I bought brand new. I only discovered the serious warping to the second record when I went to clean it. Why didnt I just take it back? Because I bought it in Maine while on vacation, and I wasn't driving hours to exchange it. Good thing I had the DFV-1. It was time to see if it could work its magic on a thick slab of 180-gram vinyl. I placed the record on the spindle, placed spindle and record in the DFV-1, and set it for its maximum heating time of two and a half hours. Four and a half hours latter I extracted a perfectly flat, perfectly playable LP. Saved! Once again the DFV-1 came to the rescue.
But what of those LPs that become severely warped through some sort of negligence or poor storage -- garage- and estate-sale finds, and albums you find in the corner of your relatives' basements? Could the DFV-1 work its magic on something like that? To find this out, I took an old, long-unplayed and perfectly flat album and left it inside my car on a hot, sunny day. When I looked at it the next day it was warped beyond belief. I wouldnt have dared let my stylus within a country mile of that LP for fear one of those warps, which looked like the final wave in A Perfect Storm, would send my cartridge flying off the record to an early grave. Giving it the full treatment in the DFV-1 brought the LP back to the flat, even surface it had before my little experiment. I could set the LP on the platter and even without the clamp keep the stylus locked in the grooves. Impressive. The DFV-1 had managed to resurrect an album that should otherwise be in the trash.
But are the deStat and DFV-1 worth it?
The answer to that question is like the conundrum of beauty -- its in the eyes of the beholder. Having used both the deStat and LP flattener, I can say that they each worked just as advertised. The DFV-1 flattened any warped LP I threw at, no matter the weight or warping, and did so without damaging the LP in any way I could see or hear. The DFV-1 probably has its greatest utility for dealers or audio clubs, which can keep it in steady use, but if you have a huge LP collection or you frequent yard sales to get your LPs, then the DFV-1 might very well be worth the cost, as it will allow you to pick up for pennies (literally) albums that you would have had to pass on because of warping. Now if only some bright-eyed person could find a similar way to repair scratches.
The deStat also lived up to its billing. It gave me a better view into each recording, and I cant imagine living without it now that Ive heard the improvement it can bring. Anyone can enjoy the deStat, while the LP flattener is for the committed vinylphile who has a large collection or wants never to pass on an album due to warping.
So here we have two accessories -- tweaks -- that work. They will bring you increased enjoyment of your music each time you use them, and that's just what they're supposed to do.
Copyright © 2007 SoundStage!
All Rights Reserved