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AXPONA 2017: Synergistic Research

I’m really excited to share a report on Synergistic Research (“SR”) as I’ve recently had some of this gear installed to great effect in my own system.  Stay tuned as I will be finishing a full review on these devices in the next week or two.  It’s quite funny in a way as a few years back I was actually thrown out of a RMAF room by Ted Denney after asking some critical questions (Ted says I deserved it).  Nonetheless, I’ve gone from a skeptic to believer based on more first-hand experience with the SR products.  The issue with some of these devices is that although we hear them work, we don’t always have a scientific explanation of why they work.  I will address that in my upcoming review.  In the mean time, I’m staying off audio forums with arm-chair engineers. 😉

Scott Walker Audio and Synergistic teamed up to present, in my humble opinion, the best sounding medium-sized room at AXPONA.  I’m not a natural fan of Magico speakers but I do appreciate their uncanny resolution.  The trick is making it musical.  I’ve thought for some time they might have accuracy at the expense of musicality but the SR room disabused me of that notion.  Packed from morning until evening, Ted Denny did his typical layered demos whereby he does A/B comparisons with his UEF devices included and not included in the playback chain, patiently moving from one device to another so the audience gets an idea of how each improves overall sound.  I’ll share some impressions on what sound difference I heard personally but first let’s talk system details.

Speakers were the latest Magico S5, Mark II, being driven by the Centaur II power amp and Pictor line stage controlled by Constellation Audio‘s Revelation series.  For digital Ted leveraged the spectacular Berkeley Alpha DAC Reference Series 2 fed digits by the Baetis Reference 2 music server.  The sound was present, quick, clean and yet musical.  Again, not sharp sounding or etched like some events where I heard the Magicos in the past.  The system synergy was working very well.  The sound was cohesive from top to bottom and supremely musical.  Percussion was breathtaking.

Of course, the Synergistic Research value-add and real show news is a holistic approach that involves  comprehensive of component and room support through cables and accessories.  Ted brought his latest technology including:

  • All Galileo level (the SR flagship) cables to every analog, digital, power and speaker cable.  These are bulky but flexible arrays of silver cable with wires at one end that connect to ground plane devices and also tuning devices that allow one to tune to more detailed or harmonic dimensions by simply attaching various tuning “bullets” or small, colored cylinders not much over an inch in length.
  • Powercell 12 UEF SE, Ted’s flagship line conditioner with a switch that enables the active circuitry to be turned on and off.  This is the so-called “Lucy Version” named after Ted’s girlfriend.
  • Tranquility Bases.  This is component support that includes active EM cells to help signal transmission inside the component that is resting on it.
  • Isolation provided by his spherical MiG 2.0 devices.
  • Ground plane isolation via his grounding planes whereby every cable and component is thoroughly grounded.
  • Atmosphere XL – iPad controllable room acoustic treatments via a tall, slender black tower with the green Atmosphere tuning module.
  • HFT tuning devices which look like thimble-sized horns and come in X series, 2.0 series, and standard and when placed on speakers improve soundstaging and other dimensions.
  • Black Box – a bass control module that improves bass interaction with the room.
  • UEF Acoustic Panels – hidden behind full walls of SR branding wall coverings.
  • One Vibratron – room treatment device hidden behind the wall coverings to help further with acoustics.

Ted had a medium-sized room which made it even more difficult to show off the impact but it worked fine anyway.  Indeed, the clarity and musicality impressed many at the show.  As I have gone up the high-end audio ladder to higher resolution gear, I am finding that these “tweaks” used in a wholistic manner really can have a substantial improvement on a rig’s overall sound.

Take bass, for instance.  Ted played us a track from John Campbell, Down in the Hole.  Very deep, guttural vocals.  Sounded wonderful with lots of deep, black space and oodles of presence.  He then takes two Black Boxes out of the room and everything gets smeary, less defined.  We are now missing the space and the clarity of the bass in the track.  He then brings one of the Black Boxes in and some of this is restored.  Next he plays the same track and brings in the second Black Box.  Everything is back.  It’s not subtle but these boxes are small, two-thirds the size of a shoe box, maybe?  How can that have such an impact?  The Black Box is said to tune the harmonics such that every multiple of 20 hertz improves.  Remarkable.

Equally interesting is Ted’s Atmosphere XL device.  This is a two-channel, multi-wave RF field generator.  You download a free app from SR for your iPad that has preset “scenes” configured.  Listening to jazz? Set the controls for a more intimate setting and the presets get the XL tower to control your room acoustics in a manner favorable to small ensemble jazz.  Cool stuff.  And it works in every room via the RF generated.  It tailors the size and scale of your soundstage.

The Powercell is intriguing too.  Ted’s rigged a special version of it where he simply added a switch to turn the active components on and off.  In the “on” position, there was definitely more clarity and presence to the presentation of music.

Ted played a cut from an Asian trade show called “Japanese Roots” by Take’ Dake’ with Neptune.  This track of percussion and asian influences was quite mesmerizing.  I’m sitting in this smallish room but the SR system has dissolved the room walls.  If you close your eyes in the demo, there is no indication there is a wall three feet away.  It’s just open and spacious feeling.  The soundstage has width and depth.

There really is too much to cover here in a show report so stay tuned as I ready a more detailed review and talk about my first-hand experience with the Synergistic products.  It transformed my system in a very positive way.

But for now, I can happily attest that the SR room was one of the top five rooms at AXPONA and easily the best small to medium-sized room that I heard.  Bravo Ted, Andy, Scott and team on such an accomplishment!

AXPONA coverage generously provided by NOBLE AUDIO.

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About Lee Scoggins (39 Articles)
A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Lee got interested in audio listening to his Dad’s system in the late 70s and he started making cassettes from LPs. By the early 80s he got swept up in the CD wave that was launching which led to a love of discs from Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs. Later while working on Wall Street in the 90s, Lee started working on blues, jazz and classical sessions for Chesky Records and learned record engineering by apprenticeship. Lee was involved in the first high resolution recordings which eventually became the DVD-Audio format. Lee now does recordings of small orchestras and string quartets in the Atlanta area. Lee is a serious music collector and his current system consists of Audio Research Reference electronics and Magnepan speakers.

4 Comments on AXPONA 2017: Synergistic Research

  1. Lee Scoggins // May 29, 2017 at 10:50 AM //

    P.S. A google patent search turns up the following:
    https://patents.google.com/?inventor=theodore+denney

  2. Lee Scoggins // May 29, 2017 at 10:47 AM //

    A couple of things to keep in mind.

    1. The best thing to do is explore. Try to visit the demo and judge from yourself if you like it. Ted’s demos only involve removing one item and then putting it back so it’s a pretty good way to hear for yourself the sonic impact.

    2. Many people’s opinions on tweaks has been formed listening to lower resolution systems. The more resolution one’s system has, the better the results. Try to find a good system, if you don’t already, have one to experiment on.

    3. Find an audio vendor with a money back guarantee. That way you have nothing to lose. SR offers several 30 day guarantees I believe.

    4. A good set of “tweaks” will be cumulative so even is there is a subtle effect, it can be important when combined with others. With SR, things like the grounding system, cables, MiGs, and powercell make a substantial difference. The HFT devices also helped my Magnepan speakers a good bit.

  3. Austin // May 8, 2017 at 2:05 PM //

    Surprised you are so easily fooled or bought off by Sr.

    It’s snake oil. Go try and find the patents he claims. Better yet… Do a blind test which he won’t allow in his room.

    • This is very easy to say, but I visited this room, too. Some of SR’s tweaks were subtle to the point of “why bother”. Some was not.

      As always, our position with tweaks is: caveat emptor. But dismissing tweaks out of hand without personal experience is just as foolish as buying-without-trying.

      Do your own homework, and no, I don’t mean “talk to your buddies on an audio forum”. Be empirical: do the experiment yourself.

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