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RMAF 2017: Scott Walker Audio and Synergistic Research Bring the Goods

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The last couple of years I’ve been attending many of the domestic shows and finally made my way to the excellent LA Audio Show which was great fun.  But the last few shows, I have been a bit intrigued by a new “business model” of dealers teaming with manufacturers and actually doing consumer business with the inclusion of a room of gear on “static display” next to the “live” demo room next door.  The theory is that with a strong demo, consumer interest is piqued so why not complete the show experience and allow the audience to purchase some of the featured gear to try? Ted Denney of Synergistic Research has been teaming up with Orange County dealer Scott Walker Audio for a while and the results have been terrific. At the LA Show, they sold more than six figures of gear during the show, a record for them. At RMAF, Ted and Scott sold more than double that!

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RMAF 2017 coverage is proudly sponsored by Noble Audio.

This is interesting to me as the number of dealers across the country is not that large and perhaps these important regional/national shows create an opportunity for both learning AND sales. I believe there are three ingredients to success here.  First, you need someone who can set up a strong demo both in technical terms and also be a charismatic presenter of the technology. Second, you need an effective product so the enhanced performance is obvious. Third, you need a great dealer/partner.

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The first ingredient of success, of course, is a great demo.  Ted has a challenge in that the technology behind some of his gear is quite advanced and not easily explained in technical terms, nor understandably does Ted want to reveal trade secrets. So the ultimate proof is in the listening and this is where Ted’s demos shine.  First, Ted starts off with some excellent demo tracks fed into an Aurender server that feeds his sublime Berkeley Reference DAC which in turn fed a Soulution amplifier connected to Magico S5 Mark 2 loudspeakers.  By itself, the system has dynamics and resolution “out the hoo-haa” as my friend Bob Levi might say. But the key is how the Synergistic foundation takes it to a whole other level.  For his demos, Ted pulls out all the stops and he is trying to clearly show what his products can do.  The demo room is configured with much of his line.  Here is a list of room devices in play:

  • Flagship Galileo UEF cables everywhere
  • Tranquility Bases under the electronics
  • MiG isolation devices under the gear
  • HFT tuning devices expertly placed on the Magicos
  • UEF panels on the walls
  • Latest Atmosphere XL4 tower creating “room scenarios” which are acoustic treatments controlled by Ted’s iPad app that can change to suit the music being played
  • Specially modified PowerCell 12 UEF SE that has UEF effects that can be turned off
  • Active Ground Block technology that grounds both components and cables

So the demo begins…Ted selects some music and it starts flowing.  I hear detail, dynamics and effortless sound.  An Eva Cassidy track has oodles of presence. I wish more than ever that she was still alive and making records. Instrument separation is terrific.  Soundstage is deep and wide.  All the audio nerd boxes are checked.  This was simply one of the best systems I heard at RMAF.

But Ted has just 25 minutes to demonstrate the newer products so he begins by shutting off four key devices: the Atmosphere XL4 Tower, the PowerCell UEF circuits, the Active Ground Block, and finally the Tranquility Bases under the gear.  Ugh, the sound goes downhill immediately.  It’s now more lifeless, the sound field seems phasey and compressed. People in the audience on both visits look at each other like, “what happened?”

Ted turns the PowerCell back on.  A little better, more presence.

Ted then turns the Active Ground Block on.  Ah, a lot better noticeably lower noise floor, things are cohesive again, the phasey sound is gone.

Ted then turns on the Tranquility Base circuits. Everything is open, alive, uncompressed.  The music is flowing again.

Ted finally turns on the Atmosphere XL4 which sends radio waves to activate the UEF devices in a way that change the sound field.  We are back where we were. Natural playback.  Some of the best Magico sound I have heard.

Now things get weird in the second half.  Ted had a monolithic, composite-based Atmosphere XL4 (go big or go home, no?) in the middle of the room connected to an app on his iPad.  The Atmosphere can radiate frequencies that literally change the sound field in the room.  There are numerous settings (literally millions are possible) but Ted has created six or so common room modes.  There is even an “Ethereal” setting for big sound field recordings like a Roger Waters album. The “Intimate Acoustic” setting offers a club-like setting for jazz and acoustic performances.  Each setting is obvious in performance.

The second ingredient is effective products and the SR offers excellent performance (review in the works).  This year, the new item was a ultra-Limited Edition hand-built power cable to commemorate Synergistic’s 25th year in business.  A beautiful piece of audiophile craftsmanship, this cable requires a full week of manufacture by hand and uses pure “six nine” silver.  It has a laminated full length electro-magnetic cell that the company has never attempted before. All this labor and high parts cost lead to a $20K price. Strictly limited to 100 total units, the cable is presented in a beautiful case.  Steep investment, no? Ted has already sold 60+% of the line and is sold out well into 2018. Wow.

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The demo is so intriguing that you want to go next door and try some of the products at whatever budget you have which brings us to the third ingredient in the mix, Scott Walker Audio. Scott had brought along some of his colleagues and creates a relaxed environment to look at and touch the products from the demo as well as the rest of the line.  He sets up the room next door with tables covered in white cloth around the perimeter of the room.  On each table is Ted’s collection of power cables, Galileo and other audio cables, isolation devices called MiGs, grounding technology, Atmosphere room tuning devices, other acoustic devices like UEF panels and HFT devices, PowerCell line conditioners, etc.  Pretty much the whole Synergistic approach.  Scott’s team is more than happy to get participants started on their first product or perhaps add to their existing Synergistic inventory.

I spoke to Scott Walker to find out how Ted and he met . It turns out that Scott had a Synergistic power cable that had broken.  Scott noticed that Synergistic was very close by in Irvine and decided to schlep down to the factory for faster service.  As Scott was seated in the lobby, Ted stopped and asked if Scott was being helped, then they got to talking. Later on, Ted convinced Scott to become a dealer, then Scott grew Synergistic sales and added more lines like Magico, Harbeth, Constellation and Soulution. Finally they decided to partner on audio shows even those outside of the Orange County market.  Over time, Ted’s line has expanded and technology as advanced and they have both built a loyal community of fans including celebrities like Jimmy Fallon and Tom Cruise. Scott comes across as a calm professional, customer-oriented guy and has superb knowledge of the product line. Given the knowledge that Scott has accumulated he can pretty much handle any question in the “static display” room.

The net results is that Ted and Scott have created a great experience here.  They even sold a bunch of those Limited Edition power cables. Nice work guys and congratulations on the results.

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About Lee Scoggins (57 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.

1 Comment on RMAF 2017: Scott Walker Audio and Synergistic Research Bring the Goods

  1. Clark Johnsen // October 31, 2017 at 12:33 AM //

    Good article, thanks, Lee.

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