Furman Sound: Passion for Protection and Performance
This man is electric. More than electric, this man is electricity. The strongest, purest current snaps through him and charges the entire room. We crowd around, unable to fully maintain his flow, but also unable to withdraw. John Atkinson and I settle in closest, occupying the front row. JA follows securely along, constant flickers of acknowledgement and wonder emerge, illuminated moments of understanding and interest. At the same time, however, running in the opposite direction, I feel almost as though I'm being rude too deeply occupied at scribbling these notes, my pen powered by his words and ideas, moving faster across the page than I want it to go, I can't even look up to meet his eyes. And his eyes, these ice blue darts, they're the blue of a glowing front panel. The man is plugged in.
He's as intense as some of the most beautiful music we've heard at the show, sharing his ideas with a conviction appropriate for song, and punctuating his lyrics with a clap of the hands and a fist into palm: "When that power comes through," he says, "BAM!"
"Can I stop you for just a second, Garth?" JA holds up a hand, a gentle interruption. "I'd like to take your photograph. You've got the passion."
"Sure, John, sure," he kindly acquiesces.
We're in the Furman Sound suite at the Residence Inn, a short walk away from the madness of the Las Vegas Convention Center, and Furman's senior product engineer, Garth Powell, is discussing the company's newest lines of power conditioners.
Powell has been connected to the high-end since he was sixteen, working at a hi-fi shop. He has an idea of what the hi-fi enthusiast wants. "At Furman, we've never been the slickest marketers, but that's not our priority. We want to make sure the technology is really there, not just for protection, but for purity, as well. We're targetting 'mission-critical' customers, those who will not excuse failure."
He explains that Furman provides "non-sacrificial" surge protection. Their "Extreme Voltage Shutdown" technology, coupled with their metal oxide varistor, ensures that there will be no components damaged at the hands of an unexpected surge. "There will be no down-time," Powell says, "No service calls. This is absolutely critical. The last thing a user should worry about is power."
Besides his background in hi-fi, Powell is also a professional jazz musician with a deep respect for the music and a desire to reach the greatest possible performance. "I have absolutely no time for an audio system that's not performing to its fullest capacity."
On display were Furman's Elite series and their new Reference series "i". Prices for the Elite series range from $379 for their Elite 15 to the $1099 Elite 20 PF, and $899 for the Reference IT-7 to the $3500 IT-20. All of Furman's products are said to provide surge protection, while lowering noise, to offer increased low-level detail.
"When you listen to an amp," Powell continues, "you're listening to its power supply I guarantee you and, by extension, you're listening to the power coming from your wall. Power is atrocious no matter where you live. I don't care if you're in a gated community or a ghetto, we're all equal in terms of the power we're receiving in our homes. Despite all the progress we've made over the years in every area of technology, we haven't done a damn thing for our AC infrastructure. This may be fine for your toaster, but it's not fine for your high-end audio equipment."
Despite the week of long walks along show floors, from exhibit to exhibit, John and I leave the Furman suite feeling energized. One can't help but catch a bit of a shock when confronted with the kind of passion Garth Powell emits for music and performance.