For your consideration: Synergistic Research Galileo SX Phono cable. But first, let me tell you about my great audio day today. In my quest to lose weight, I am walking two to three miles every day. To treat myself, I often do a loop around town that brings me to Comeback Vinyl, my neighborhood record store and a frequent vacuum of my “excess” cash. The owner Alex pointed me to another Tone Poet album in Lee Morgan’s Cornbread. I love, love, love Lee Morgan. It’s tragic that he left us so soon.
Waiting for me at home was a quite decent analog rig, with my VPI Scoutmaster now modified with the 3D printed tonearm and Analog Drive System. I had installed a new “luxury” phono cable and wondered what the new sound would bring.
At this point, my Wilson Audio Alexia 2s are dialed in and sounding righteous. Right off the bat with the first cut, “Cornbread”, a nine-minute barnburner of ensemble jazz, I forgot about gear and my toes were tapping. The blat of Lee’s trumpet was visceral. Billy Higgins drumming was solid and strong. The sound was just so natural and real. The soundstage was wide and deep, instrument placement precise. Outside of a recent sports car purchase, these Tone Poet albums are my best recent investments.
But as much joy as I have had from the home system the past few months, this playback was different. It had far more resolution and far lower noise levels. The system was transparent to interference with the music. It was as if the system just set the disc in motion and then got out of the way. A full illusion of being in Rudy Van Gelder’s studio was created. The tone of Hank Mobley’s saxophone was as real as what I’ve heard at clubs lately.
Of course, I knew what had changed from before. I knew what was at least in part responsible for the illusion. This was my first exposure to the new Synergistic Research Galileo SX phono cable. This $5,000 phono cable has transformed my analog playback, something I would have sworn was already exceptional. Am I finally hearing all that my VPI Scoutmaster is capable of? It feels like it, which is why I think the SX is the finest phono cable I have ever heard. I’m unapologetically a fan of Synergistic Research designs, but this may be the best thing they have ever done. It’s that good. As to why … well, designer Ted Denny is frustratingly cryptic when it comes down to the secret sauce, but based on other Galileo SX cables I have heard in other systems, the new SX appears to be a new level of quality from Synergistic Research.
Listening with the Galileo SX
Now, I am addicted to this newish analog rig. I go down to my first-floor listening room every Saturday and Sunday and listen to jazz, rock, and classical music. What I am now hearing, every time I pull out an old favorite, is more musical information. I am hearing new things going on in the background. It’s mesmerizing.
Listening to “Most Like Lee”, again from Cornbread, Jackie McLean and Hank Mobley lead the way over a nice bass line from Larry Ridley. As for me, I am in the studio with Rudy van Gelder. I picture Joe Harley, the producer of this exceptional line of remasters, back in San Clemente listening along while downing a craft beer. It’s the sort of immersive experience that amazes and makes me feel good about the system I’ve built over the last few decades. It also makes me feel proud to know people like Joe and Kevin are out there making the world of music a little better.
Getting back to the music, I was inspired to spin again the super “direct to disc” album from Lyn Stanley. Now folks, London Calling is a blockbuster effort. Engineered by Allen Sides and mastered by the fantastically reliable Bernie Grundman, this LP allows me to hear Lyn’s amazing and ever-evolving voice work. These Julie London tracks just come to life. The “direct” nature of the recording and the quality studio work really shine. But what knocked my socks off the realism and detail of Lyn’s voice that had been captured — and recreated. Yes, indeed, the Synergistic Research Galileo SX has “passed” another listening test. Otmar Ruiz’ brilliant keyboard work is spot on. My listening room has transformed from Rudy’s studio to a jazz lounge in Los Angeles…except of course that it is from Bernie’s studio.
Next up was Van Morrison’s The Healing Game. Oh boy. This sounds terrific. Van’s vocals, as well as that of the backup singers, sound great. Pee Wee Ellis’ sax comes through nicely on “Burning Ground”. The driving rhythm has my head moving back and forth. Have I mentioned that Van Morrison is my favorite artist? A lot of his later output is criminally overlooked — but not in my house! “Burning Ground” ends on a sustained note that just fades wonderfully. This album has a tight band and are clearly having fun. As with most Van Morrison albums, he sings at times like he is giving you advice as a friend. The wisdom imparted from this Irish music genius rings true to these ears. I soak it up like a sponge and my toes are still tapping. I can’t sit still. This is far from an audiophile extravaganza but I don’t care as I have been healed. And what I’m coming to realize is that the Synergistic Research Galileo SX phono cable has lifted another level of haze.
I then pulled out my copy of Erasure’s Wonderland from Intervention Records. The clarity of the vocals and punchiness of the synthesizers was wild. This record has a sublime mastering and has always sounded great but there was something a little extra now. More clarity sure but the bounce in the synths was irresistible. Fortunately, there will be no video portion of this review in order to maintain readership. This is pop at its finest and with a sound to match.
What about harder rocking stuff? I pulled out my prized Robert Ludwig pressing of ZZ Top’s DeGuello, perhaps my favorite rock pressing. The opening chords of “Thank You” are powerful. The drums lay in the foundation a few seconds later. It’s simply the best I have heard this album. The vocals are more clear than I last heard and by a good margin too.
Finishing up on an old-school note, I pull out The Pink Panther Record Store Day release. This is a truly spectacular original recording by Al Schmitt captured in all its glory on pink vinyl. A big band playing with sublime clarity and life! “The Pink Panther” track has great dynamics and rendering it well is a must-pass test for me. I want to hear everything! For whatever it’s worth, Mancini is another genius worthy of in-depth listening. The whole album beyond the famous soundtrack comes to life.
Now, why does such a phono cable have such a big impact on sound quality? I think it’s the delicacy of the very small signal being carried over it, and I think it relates to the grounding setup. In this case, we have the “tuning bullets” that come with the Synergistic Research cable, devices that allow one to “voice the sound” to my own system and also my own personal tastes.
But in the quest for more information, I reached out to Ted Denney and asked a few questions about how he created the SX line.
Tell us in general about the Synergistic Research Galileo SX series. I’ve heard these cables in great sounding show systems…but give our readers an idea of what is new and improved. What were the big breakthroughs or changes in thinking that led to the new series?
Galileo SX embodies everything we know in the field of building high-resolution, low noise floor and musical sounding audio cables. To this end we employ new UEF matrix shielding, a new two-stage high-voltage treatment process, a full blue fuse treatment of all conductor and dielectric material, 99.9999% pure silver conductors in a handmade air dielectric geometry, out board grounding of the cables shields to lift noise away from the signal and into a star ground point that can be terminated to either our passive or active ground blocks for a dramatic lowering of your systems noise floor for most Galileo SX cables.
In terms of the phono cable, I was very impressed with the openness and clarity. What did you focus on specifically with the phono cable that led to this performance?
In a word, pure silver, extensive use of UEF technology, air dielectrics, signal directionality is determined for all signal conductors before they are worked into the handmade geometry, outboard grounding of the shields to maximize low noise characteristics which leads to the breathtaking detail and soundstaging of Galileo SX, and new UEF Tuning Bullets that are both higher resolution and more musical then the Galileo UEF tuning bullets they replace.
How are the grounding connections and tuning bullets different now?
For the ground connections we’ve added a new ground plane with a new level of UEF technology, and in terms of the UEF tuning bullets, we’ve completely re-engineered the UEF compound for higher resolution and greater musicality.
We are seeing a proliferation of grounding devices pop up now. You’ve been doing this for years, how do you feel about this? Are the SR grounding devices still unique in the marketplace?
We’re seeing a lot of Synergistic Research technology knock offs popping up in a lot of our competitors products. Take our Tranquility Bases for example, there is now a lower tech implementation of this technology being applied by one of our major competitors, our old active shielding which was abandoned in favor of our higher performance UEF Technology is used in a rudimentary form by one company for a long time now, and an almost exact duplicate by another company and yes, ground filters. To our knowledge none of these implementations are infringing on my patents or if they are, it should make for some rather entertaining industry drama when I find out. As for the efficacy of these knock offs limitations, all that is necessary is a direct AB comparison. I’d say our meteoric rise and increase in marketshare over the past five years has had an effect on our competitors. I don’t see any of these products displacing our marketshare, or hurting our overall sales. We’re on a roll because we are building better products and offering them at more competitive pricing than our competitors.
We’ve had some funny discussions recently about “cable soup” which is what you call a collection of cables in a system from different brands. Do you feel that keeping all cables in one brand additive to the quality of sound?
I actually call this Cable Stew LOL, and yes this plays a critical role in how your system will sound. Let’s say you bought a brand new Ferrari, or Porsche, would you put four different tires with four different wheels of the same size from 8 different manufacturers on the same car just because all eight had a great review somewhere or another? Of course not, but this difference would not be as great as it would between different cables in the same system as there is no standardization between cables like there is between sizes of tires and wheels. It is far more detrimental to the sound of a system to put different cables from different manufacturers than it would be to put different wheels and tires on the same sports car. This is why I have come out with a new line of handmade and affordable interconnects and speaker cables that use the same technologies but scaled down as found in Galileo SX and we call these new world beaters the Foundation Series because they serve as the foundation for a systems performance. When combined with SR Blue Power Cords which employ a full Blue Fuse treatment you get the Synergistic Research house sound. Foundation Series interconnects sell for $599 a meter pair RCA and $650 an 8ft pair speaker cables. And believe it or not Synergistic Research Galileo SX represents an equally high performance to value ratio when you compare these cables to say Nordost Odin 2, or William E Low cables from AudioQuest. With Galileo SX you get superior performance to the most expensive and highest performance cables from our top competitors at 1/2 to 1/3 the price. Personally I’m all about value for money with state of the art performance and this is what I seek to deliver with all my products hand made in my California factory.
Synergistic Research Galileo SX Phono
Lately, I’ve been pondering what makes a product a “reference” piece of gear. I think I have a framework for thinking about what “reference” really means. I think it has to have four components to be called a reference product:
- State of the art sound in its class. At reference level, one expects great resolution but also musicality that the very best products require. When I am in the listening chair, I want to be immersed. If I think about the recording at all, I want it to be things like “I wonder how Al Schmitt did the miking?” I don’t want to think of the gear at all. That can destroy the illusion of the “artist playing in the room.” The Galileo SX was a conduit. Music just flows out of it, and perhaps more importantly, whatever was on that record comes out of it. No more and no less. Great recordings, audiophile or not, sounded lifelike. In the end, that’s really what this is all about.
- Outstanding build quality. On this cable, my impression is that this is the product of a skillful hand. The connectors look and feel like they are very high quality. Two separate and thick grounding cables provide further evidence of the build quality. This cable looks like it’s expensive. Which is good, because it is.
- State of the art features. The tuning bullets were familiar to me as a user of earlier versions on other Synergistic Research products. The ability to “lock in” a sound is pretty cool, and to have whatever choice I prefer level-up the rest of the system is what makes this a reference product. Here in the SX, I find that the tuning bullets have been improved; in a prior version, the warmer “Gold” bullets gave up something in resolution. Not anymore.
- An established company that stands behind the product. For my money, I want a company that provides A+ after-sale support. It helps when there is team that is pushing the envelope. I believe that Ted’s team has shown that they do this, over and over.
It’s not a bold claim to say that this cable handily meets my four conditions, so let me go farther: the Synergistic Research Galileo SX is the clearest, most musical phono cable I have ever used in my reference system. Beyond expectation, this cable has transformed my analog playback. It is my new reference for what my record player is capable of, and as such, it earns my highest recommendation.
For more information, please visit: https://www.synergisticresearch.com/cables/galileo-sx/galileo-sx-phono/
More Synergistic Research reviews on Part-Time Audiophile
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- Synergistic Research PowerCell UEF SE Review