I’ve been curious about Synergistic Research products since I’ve acquired their Synergistic Research Atmosphere Level 3 HC Power Cord and their BLACK Quantum fuses. These products have brought new life into my system in ways I didn’t imagine possible. It went from a veiled and congested sound to something more quiet, dynamic, vivid, and most importantly, musical.
I met Ted Denney, lead designer of Synergistic Research, at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest back in October, and it was quite the interesting experience. With over 25 years of being in the business, he apparently knows more than a thing or two about psychoacoustics. We traded bits over how the SR products worked, and how I could be getting more out of my system. Ted’s view was that I needed to be working with a full set of Synergistic Research (SR) gear, and having one SR power cable paired with some Shunyata cables, and others were akin to running a Ferrari with four different tires.
At the time, I disagreed. Traditionally, for most audiophiles building systems; it’s not always practical to replace an entire loom of cables, or make big wholesale changes. I believe most guys will build up component by component, going through cycles of upgrades, matching up components to their needs. For example, when I needed to include a second set of XLR cables to accommodate my PS Audio BHK Signature Preamp, I already had a certain sense of what I wanted out of the cables; and as a result, I ended up with a pair of High Fidelity Cable’s Reveal series XLR cables. In tandem with my Audience Au24 SX XLR cables, it gave me the correct balance of warmth, detail, and punch that I was looking for. I guess you can say we agreed to disagree a bit.
At the same time, Synergistic Research pulled one helluva demo at RMAF. They had a room rigged out with their products and proceeded to go through each major line to illustrate how it impacts the music. All in all, the whole demo took nearly 30 minutes and was one of the most meticulous and convincing demos at the show. While it’s difficult to isolate what each component is doing at a show, you certainly get an idea what they’re about. Being a SoCal local, Ted and Andy Wiederspahn offered to set up some SR gear, walk me through the process, and provide some education. That was something to really get excited about, especially when one can experience and break things apart on your home turf.
Months later, we finally got around to hanging out with some duck confit & fine Irish whiskey at my place. We chatted about everything from food & whiskey to industry, life, and everything in between. It was a tremendous experience and also very insightful to get a better understanding of how their products work. And I have to say, the last few weeks with some of their equipment have really changed my views, and this next series of articles will try to articulate that.
Synergistic Research’s approach to understanding energy, sound, and it’s physics is unlike any other company out there. Reading their literature might read like some pseudoscience and not in the kind of texts that traditional audiophile engineers are used to. In conversations with Ted, there’s actually quite a lot of science behind it, and they also have their own proprietary ways of measuring & testing their designs. However, it’s not something they’re willing to readily disclose as that will essentially give away their secret sauce. That’ll drive the objectionists nuts because they’ll debate with you for days why something works and why something doesn’t. What’s missing in that approach is the humanistic nature of music and emotions, and undermines the complexity of the human ear. It’s also why Synergistic Research is so open about their 30-day risk-free trial. Try their stuff, and if you’re not happy; you can go ahead and return it to your dealer. At the end of the day, our best tool is our ears and you should always trust them. If you can tell me how to measure the things we hear with regards to the timbre, soundstage, and musicality; I’ll gladly make those measurements.
This article is going to be the first in a series and will speak to Synergistic Research as a whole, how their components work together, and their recommendations on how to begin to dive in. From there, I’ll post individual articles/reviews talking about their PowerCell 12 UEF SE Power Conditioner, the Active Ground Block SE, and the HFT system in conjunction with Black Box. The individual articles will get into some of the specifics, but I thought it was more important to get an understanding of the whole picture first.
Synergistic Research’s products are very unique and in many ways, requires a tweakers mindset. The aspect I’m impressed (and a bit perplexed by too) is how each of their products works off each other and you seemingly get an exponential return on each product as you layer on more Synergistic Research products. For example, I noted the differences heard in the Active Ground Block in my December purchase. It was quite dramatic and will be detailed in the forthcoming review, but after Ted was done setting up the HFTs and Black Box, I was even more astounded by the greater difference the Black Box exhibited. In a later experiment and much to my chagrin, I unplugged the Active Ground Block and the impact was actually more profound than before. It almost seems as if their technologies are built off each other and developed an exponential return. It’s quite a slippery slope as I have some time scheduled for them to come back and let me audition their interconnects & speaker cables. I’m a little worried about my wallet to that outcome!
With all of this said, one might ask “Where do I begin?” It’s not always practical to make giant wholesale changes to one’s system with all the money being asked to be shelled out. Ted suggests starting with his power conditioning solution. Power hits your system and percolates the rest of the signal path. Makes sense. Note that the high price point of the PowerCell 12 UEF SE ($6,495) does include the outlet ($249.95), and a specially engineered version of his Level 3 Atmosphere cable ($3,395). That essentially makes it cheaper than many of the power conditioners out there and you won’t have to go through the headache of mixing and matching power cords.
Ted then suggests getting into the HFTs and Blackbox because this is the energy coming out of your speakers and where you get the last point of impact before it reaches your ears. The HFTs are actually a fair bargain compared to other types of upgrades you can be making (more details to come on that later).
From a hobbyist perspective, I would actually recommend looking into the Active Ground Block or HFTs first if you already have some form of power conditioning. The idea is that you probably won’t have a grounding solution yet, or something like what the HFT’s do; so going from nothing to something will be more of an upgrade.
In the meanwhile, stay tuned over the next few weeks as I continue to review the individual products.
They’ll be properly linked when completed.
- Active Ground Block SE
- Atmosphere Level 3 Power Cable & Fuses
- Room Acoustics Products (HFT’s, Blackbox, Atmosphere XL4)
- Powercell UEF 12 SE (which includes the Powercell UEF 12 conditioner, a specially modified Atmosphere Level 3 Power Cable, and UEF Black Duplex Outlet)
- Isolation products (Tranquility Base UEF, MiGs)
- Digital Cables (Atmosphere X USB & Atmosphere X Ethernet)