Reviews, Awards and Videos
Synergistic Research PowerCell SX
“An overview of Synergistic Research’s product line will find something from a continuum of ‘mild’ to ‘wild’. The divide is probably most noticeable between products in the signal chain – like the PowerCell SX tested here – and those outside (like the brand’s Acoustic Dots). In fact, if you dig a little deeper, they are all part of the same developmental Unified Energy Field concept, and those who ‘get’ Synergistic Research will just counter that some struggle to intuit the company’s whole systemic concept and just stay with the parts connected to the hardware. There are a lot of parallels between Synergistic Research and those making an ever-more intricate system approach to sound reproduction; it’s that Synergistic Research goes deeper down the rabbit hole than most.
The PowerCell SX power conditioner features conditioning and filtration technologies drawn down from the company’s no-longer-available flagship Galileo SX PowerCell. This means six active electromagnetic cells fed by the Galileo SX’s power supply. These cells are improved over previous editions (trickle-down from the Galileo SX once again) and are a good source of power filtration (almost four times beefier than its predecessor) and EMI/RFI suppression.
That’s not all If filtration, interference suppression and the consequent noise floor lowering were the only roles allocated to the PowerCell SX, it would still be relevant. But this is just the start. However, things get a little more ‘out there’ in Synergistic Research’s classic style after this. First, it uses the company’s Orange Capacitors and Purple Duplex power inlets. Then it adds field generators, bringing the PowerCell SX in line with the company’s other UEF-based line. However, 24k Gold UEF circuits are drawn from the Galileo SX this time. That brings a next-gen level of fine-tuning to the PowerCell SX.
From here, the PowerCell SX adds a Schumann Resonance Generator to power and bias its active EM cells. A who in the what now? Schumann Resonances are low-frequency electromagnetic waves, caused by lightning discharges creating resonance between the surface of the earth and the ionosphere. Estimates say there are about 2,000 thunderstorms on Earth at any moment, and the EM resonance they create makes a set of spectrum peaks at 7.83Hz, with harmonics up to 33.8Hz. This Schumann Resonance has been dubbed the Earth’s ‘heartbeat’, and the frequency is also generated in the PowerCell SX.
There is also provision to ground the PowerCell SX to a Synergistic Research Active Ground Block without using a power outlet. You also get a back-lit, semi-transparent power meter on the front panel. This is similar to the Ghost Meters used by Audio Research, but this one lacks the glowing tubes behind the glass. Still, it looks great!
Determining whether using the Schumann Resonance Generator and the like adds anything tangible beyond the PowerCell SX’s intrinsic performance as a good conditioner is a bit of a tough call. If you get what Synergistic Research does, these are core elements in building a superior-sounding system. You’ll know then, that the PowerCell SX and all its component parts result from extensive blind listening tests by Ted Denney and the Synergistic Research team. As a result, you’ll consider the PowerCell SX as a core part of a Synergistic Research approach to system optimisation. If not, you are still left with a good-sounding conditioner.
Foundation or not? I am using the PowerCell SX in either an entirely non-Synergistic Research treated system or at most one with the Foundation SX cables (tested in Issue 217) and the Black Box bass resonator (tested in Issue 214) in the system. As a result, I will separate the PowerCell SX from its additional field-effect claims, as much as possible. As they are intrinsic to the properties of the PowerCell SX, that’s a big ask, but at least I am trying not to place it in an entirely sympathetic system. Nor, for that matter, will I place it in an entirely unsympathetic system (such as mixing Synergistic and Shunyata, as they are like the Sharks and Jets of brands with ‘Research’ in the name, but with less dancing).
The PowerCell SX on its own does a lot for a system. Sure, it has the ‘none more black’ dark backgrounds and low noise presentation found in many good conditioners, and it leaves the sound in a good dynamic and rhythmic place, as befits some of the best in ‘best for conditioners and filters. The ‘first, do no harm’ maxim is honoured surprisingly infrequently with power products, as many lean out the dynamic shading as they clean up power chow. The non-current-limiting PowerCell SX is one of the rare exceptions, and for that alone, it gets into the top tier and deserves high praise.
Where the PowerCell SX begins to step beyond ‘high praise’ is its ability to correctly deal with tonal densities of a note, the raw vibration that ensues, and to separate one from another. This gives the music a sense of harmonic and timbral structure that is often robbed by the juice and not fixed in many conditioners.
I made a rookie error here; I mistakenly thought the PowerCell SX was boosting the size and depth of the soundstage. However, on closer listening, it was more than a combination of better silences between the notes and the PowerCell SX’s ability to tease out the structure of the music gave the impression of greater soundstage depth and width. That said, there was a feeling that music was unleashed from the cabinets more when the system was harnessed to the PowerCell SX.
Joie de vivre Most of all, however, the PowerCell SX simply brings out the joie de vivre in a recording. In making the track more engaging, it makes it more impassioned… no matter the music.
Now, back to the Synergistic Research concept album. Not only does the PowerCell SX work in that context, I’d argue it should be the beachhead for the Synergistic invasion. It brings a sense of order to even the least chaotic power, and that makes it hard to put back in its box.”
Alan Sircom - Hifi+ - November 2023
Synergistic Research Foundation SX Series Cables
“They were very detailed and dynamic with stellar bass and beautiful harmonics. I really could find no fault with them and they were very musical. They were just superb cables that got out of the way and allowed the harmonics to pour out. It was hard to pin a character on them as they were very neutral sounding in this combination. A stellar interconnect that deserves an audition.”
“the ultimate question is whether the Synergistic Foundation SX cables contribute enough to the musical experience and bring the listener closer to the musical event. I have found them to be so musical that I will be asking Synergistic Research for an extended evaluation so a few friends of mine can see how they compare with their costly cables and use them in future reviews. They are very good musical components and deserve an audition.”
Jeff Wheaton - Secrets of Home Theater - October 2023
“With her unique voice, jazz interpretation, and dynamic range, Rickie Lee Jones’ lyrics are a challenge to follow. It’s not a record I’ve listened to a lot, so I have to follow the lyrics on the record jacket. With the Master fuse, I was able to lay the jacket on my lap and pretty much follow the song just by listening. If you know that record, that’s saying something. On more familiar material, whether it be CD or LP there was an unmistakable increase in resolution right from the opening bars as well as an increase in transparency. The combined result was the most realistic sense of the musicians being in the room, or me being in the concert hall, that I have ever experienced in my listening room. The better the recording quality, the more real the musicians.
Macro dynamics were more explosive, not because of a feeling of a blacker background, but because the air of the recording (or recording venue) was so clearly revealed. Hot-rodding my vintage Tekton Design subwoofers last month provided a clearer window into the ambient room tone of recordings. The Master fuse tightened the deep bass and improved the timbre of standup bass, large drums, and low organ notes. Deeper listening revealed micro-dynamics and inner detail — tonal shading, if you will, that were simply not hinted at with the Purple fuse. It was as if I had installed a new phono cartridge that was reading the music from an unmolested area of the groove. And these were not newly-pressed audiophile LPs. The Master fuse simply upgraded my entire LP collection.
The attack of the notes was more instantaneous — particularly noticeable in the bass but never was it etched, incisive, or irritating. Sibilance in Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes” was virtually banished. The impact on pace, rhythm, and timing resulted in endless toe-tapping. My Kharma speakers are eminently listenable, to begin with so there was nothing I thought needed “fixing” …save for that pesky Paul Simon CD. With the addition of the Master fuse, I was chuckling with delight at the newfound musical wealth not from just the speakers, but the entire system.“
-Rick Becker - EnjoyTheMusic - 2023
I heard improvements on all audiophile parameters you can come up with. Not just a tighter layer or a little less sharpness or something, but the overall reproduction was, as if by magic, a level higher. Hard, sharp edges to the sound were gone, the low was more colorful, clearer and faster, the dynamics had clearly increased, the background was even quieter, the middle had more body and timbres came across more authentic.
There was more information to listen to, but where that often leads to some restlessness or even listening fatigue, the entire sound image came across as more relaxed. Music of every genre suddenly spouted effortlessly from the speakers and that obviousness immediately invited you to listen for a long time. The effects of this fuse gave me a feeling of recognition, like: yes, this is how music should sound! I think everyone recognizes that. In my report to the importer I said that it seemed like all other fuses add a bit of distortion and this Master Fuse does not for the first time.
John from Poland - HIFI.NL - July 2023
Synergistic Research Atmosphere SX Euphoria series cables
Based on my experience, the newer Atmosphere Euphoria SX cable series improves upon the already outstanding series, not in any subtle way. These newer cables represent the evolving innovation and technological improvements from a company continually exploring ways to improve its current success. Importantly what this means to the user and devoted fan of their products is an opportunity to experience incremental improvements over time without needing to abandon your existing SR cables completely. Bottomline: Things keep improving, and from my experience with using various SR cable products, the increase in cost associated with these improvements typically represents a solid value proposition. And for those who might be new to SR and these cable products in particular – I believe you will be impressed—highly recommended.
Bill Wells - StereoTimes - January 2023
“It becomes clear why the fine-tuning of placement matters almost the moment you put the Black Box in the room. Ignoring the bass for a moment, careful tuning snaps the soundstage into sharp focus, adding significantly to the air around instruments within that stage. We can’t ignore bass for too long as that ‘snapping’ into focus has a significant impact on soundstage solidity. Instruments that were seemingly ‘floating’ around the stage are now so ‘planted’ in 3D space, you’ll feel like watering the musicians. This is helped by a distinct sense of improved midrange clarity and even high-frequency extension.
And it’s now that we get to that bass; the Black Box excels at defining the shape and texture of bass notes, whether they are bowed, plucked, struck or electronically derived. Bass notes don’t just ‘start’ and ‘stop’ with greater precision; the physical ‘thereness’ of bass sounds are so precise you will be more able to recognise the difference between both instruments (like a Fender Jazz and Fender Precision bass) and the different style of otherwise very similar players. And, as ever, it’s outstanding at portraying musical intent; letting the musical presentation of the audio equipment do what it does best.
Alan Sircom - Hifi+ - December 2022
Synergistic Research Atmosphere SX Excite series cables
As expensive as the Atmosphere Excite SX series may seem to many, those who thought they needed to spend a lot more to get this level of sound quality may be pleasantly surprised. You will quite likely discover, as I did, that cables of this quality bring out more sound quality than you thought your mid-priced gear was capable of delivering. All three of my moderately priced source components delivered far more than I thought possible. Buy higher up the ladder if you wish, but don’t be surprised if your new cables beg you to buy better components or commandeer the living room as your personal listening salon.
At some point, later in life, we acquire fine components, realizing that they will become our “forever” amp or loudspeaker. The Excite SX cables qualify for that status for me. I wish I had reached this level a decade ago. But in the case of Synergistic Research cables, who can really say “forever”? Ted Denney and Synergistic Research are showing no signs of slowing down their creativity or technological innovation.
Rick Becker - Enjoy The Music - April 2022
Synergistic Research FEQ Carbon
“OK folks - we all know that when a newer, updated version of a familiar product is released, often it’s met with a bit of skepticism and possibly doubt. So when during a recent email exchange with Andy Wiederspahn (i.e., SR’s right-hand person), followed quickly by a phone call, he mentioned that the former FEQ X4 unit had been recently updated and he’d like to know if I’d be interested in checking it out. Also, being aware of the positive effects of the now discontinued unit, my response was — absolutely. Anyway - what I wasn’t prepared to experience is something that totally caught me off guard. Without question, once installed in my reference system and per instruction - left turned on for an initial period for the unit to settle in and acclimate to my listening environment - the newer FEQ Carbon unit immediately let me know it’s ability by providing a noticeable improvement over the older unit.
First and foremost, the FEQ Carbon device simply helped to more completely saturate the entire sound field and by enhancing the sensation of openness and dimensionality including width, height and depth. Additionally, my listening room took on the proverbial sensation of the walls simply falling away. Beyond this - the sound simply poured forth more effortlessly and natural than before. Interestingly, in addition to the immediately noticeable enhanced organic texture to both voice and instruments, the bass became a bit more robust, not in a negative, forward-sounding way, but with enhanced impact and umph. Throughout the midrange - there was a greater sense of presence and with a wonderful sense of fullness. Bottomline - the new FEQ Carbon literally impacted (and enhanced) the entire frequency spectrum and in a most enjoyably musical manner.” - Review forthcoming
Bill Wells - Stereotimes - February 2022
Synergistic Research Purple Fuse
The sonic changes to Synergistic Research Purple UEF fuses were immediately noticeable in several ways, with other benefits revealed after the initial flurry of changes. The first change is an increase in smoothness and refinement in the midrange and especially in the high frequencies. The higher frequencies are less congested and restricted too, which makes the top treble appear to have a greater extension. All of which is heard most readily with solo female voice or piano, but unless your record collection is made up of white noise, catfights and people running their fingernails down chalkboards, you’ll hear it regardless.
After that initial impressive change comes the other benefits in short order. Perhaps predictably (at least for those who’ve heard fuse-free Schuko plugs in their system), there’s a distinct sense of music rising out of stillness and calm; the absence of a subtle background hash that too often gives the music an electronic sheen. However, you also notice that the imaging has improved, mostly in terms of image stability but also in soundstage size and precision. Dynamic range is improved too, again perhaps a part of that removal of background hash. In systems that are already dynamically powerful sounding, the worry could be that it would send the sound over the top and into exuberance; in fact, the sound just seems to expand a little, a little like you just got access to a better master of the music.
-Alan Sircom - HiFi + - February 2022
“I’ve got this title on Music Matters and Blue Note Classic vinyl. One of my favorites, so I know it well. With the Ethernet Switch UEF leading the way, we have something very special here. I was amazed at the amount of dynamic headroom and lifelike immediacy, all without the typical digital glare that seems to be the norm when streaming. Even piano, which when recorded by Rudy van Gelder can sound so feint and heartless, has just the right amount of sonic texture and impact. Trumpet and tenor are properly burnished and full of attack. This is digital done right.”
“There are products that can be considered just the icing on the cake. This is not that. The Ethernet Switch UEF provides a dramatic step forward for streaming and digital performance. It is an important component and without question a real game changer. Congrats to Synergistic Research for another outstanding design and for the superb product execution.“
-Robert Youman - Positive Feedback - December 2021
“From the opening seconds, I could feel the atmosphere in the venue. The music had a clarity, presence, and natural feel that, for the first time, made me think there was something worthwhile to streaming music. The sibilance was finally controlled. The soloists were so realistic I could feel something like their personalities in their voices. Musicians were solidly placed in realistic, identifiable positions on the soundstage. Jackson Browne sounded like I had heard him on my reference CD & LP rig. And the applause came from real people in the audience.“
-Rick Becker - Enjoy The Music - November 2021
Synergistic Research Galileo SX Ground Block
“My apologies for some of the hyperbole, but along with the Synergistic Research Galileo SX PowerCell, the Galileo SX Ground Block is possibly the most impressive new product that I have reviewed in the last couple of years. I have mentioned many times that the PowerCell might just be the most important component in my entire system. Now, there is some definite competition. Though each have different functions, both can offer something similar in terms of impact. Both provide a rising tide that can lift all boats.
With the Galileo SX Ground Block in place, I stopped critiquing the sound and was able to just focus on the music. As a typical audiophile, this is always a challenge. Bottom line. The emotional connection and level of personal satisfaction has never been better in my listening room! That’s the biggest compliment that I could ever offer. If you are seeking state of the art performance, the Galileo SX Power Block is a must audition. Innovative design. Superb execution. Wonderful results. Highly recommended.”
-Robert Youman - Positive Feedback - April 2021
Synergistic Research Atmosphere X Series Power Cables.
Atmosphere X Alive - “Playing Night Train by the Oscar Peterson Trio, I immediately heard a firmer sound with increased separation between the instruments with this cable in place. Peterson’s piano tone had noticeably more sheen to it, while Ray Brown‘s bassline displayed greater solidity. Pitch definition was better, too. I have been using a pretty good specialist mains cable with my current reference Moonriver amplifier, but this design delivered noticeably better sound, giving worthwhile improvements in clarity and overall definition. Rhythms were more pointed, and there seemed to be greater space around the notes.”
Atmosphere X Excite- “I heard improved timing and more subtle rhythmic inflexions. Returning to my original power cord, the sound went a bit flat and matter-of-fact, lacking presence and projection. Changing back to the Excite Level 2 improved clarity and immediacy; everything was pin-point focused and better detailed. My Musical Fidelity suddenly seemed to be sounding a whole lot better. Or was I imagining it? I switched power cables back and forth several times just to make sure I wasn’t fooling myself, but each time I went back to the Synergistic Research cable, the improvements outlined were apparent.”
Atmosphere X Euphoria - “Finally, moving on to the Euphoria Level 3, and once again I heard more of the same. I made out a firmer bass line and more articulate piano playing. The decay of the notes seemed more evident, and overall the sound had noticeably greater subtlety, finesse, and delicacy. There was something more, as I felt more drawn into the music. Suddenly, I’d be aware of how a cymbal was struck or how a series of piano chords was phrased. The music had greater emotional meaning and felt more communicative.”
~ Jimmy Hughes, Stereonet
2020 Positive Feedback Brutus Awards
The Synergistic Research PowerCell SX
“With the PowerCell SX swapped into my system, the sound was spectacular, the space produced was immersive, the percussion was thundering, the guitar was densely textured, and the bandoneon was liquid and breathy. The PowerCell SX infused sheer physicality and visual solidity of the production that always kept my attention from the start of each cut… you are in the recording space. There was also an astonishing level of heightened resolution and significantly lowered noise floor that manifested itself as tranquility with the music emerging from a darker backdrop “
“The SR PowerCell SX and Galileo SX power cord are engineering breakthroughs that are well made, deliver on their promised performance, and have taken my system to a level I never thought possible. Ted Denney pulled out all of the stops on this iteration of the PowerCell. Although the admission price is high, the increase in overall system performance in relative terms justifies the cost. Far worthy of a StereoTimes “Most Wanted Component” award recognition… My new reference.“
~ Mike Girardi, StereoTimes, December 2020
The 17th Annual Positive Feedback Writers’ Choice Awards for 2020
The Synergistic Research Tranquility Pod
“I began the review with Miles Davis Kind of Blue album, which is one of the all time great jazz standards and which is revered by many jazz fans as one of the greatest jazz albums of all time. I have heard this album well over a hundred times, and every time it never fails to remind me of the genius of Miles Davis. However, when listening to this album with the Tranquility Pod activated, it helped increase the presence of Miles Davis’ horn in my listening room with nuances and subtleties emerging to the extent that I am now able to better connect with the emotions and mood that Miles decoded into his music.
Next up, was the Shirley Horn album You Won’t Forget Me. This is an exceptionally intimate album that belongs in every audiophile’s music collection. Shirley Horn has this incredible ability to make you feel that she is singing only to you. Her lush, husky voice caresses your soul in a way that few divas can. With the Tranquility Pods in the equation, the noise floor was perceptibly lower, allowing Shirley’s voice to come through with more presence and texture. Even when her voice is barely above a whisper, the increased dynamic contrast made it sounds more full, voluptuous, and evocative. Every track in this album comes through with an extra dollop of seductiveness than I have ever heard before. “
~ Malcolm Gomes, Positive Feedback
The Synergistic Research UEF Record Weight
“I could detect more dimensionality and timbral accuracy to the whole performance. The guitar sounds sweeter and more detailed while the percussion sounds tighter and with better PRaT. There is no doubt that the UEF enhances the level of listening enjoyment and reduces listening fatigue quite substantially.”
“In comparison to the UEF, the Shun Mook has slightly more focus and makes the music tonally a bit richer. However, if I had to choose between the two, I would opt for the UEF because, to my ears, the enhanced stability that it renders to the sound stage trumps the improved focus and tonality of the Shun Mook.”
“If you do not have one of those fancy 5-figure or 6-figure price turntables with those crazy heavy platters, you owe it to your ears to try out the UEF. There is a good chance that it will make your turntable sound like you just upgraded it to a model that sports a significantly higher price. If it does not, you can always avail of Synergistic Research’s no fuss return policy.”
Malcolm Gomes - Positive Feedback – Issue 111 - September 2020
Above and Beyond - The Synergistic Research PowerCell SX Power Conditioner
In my earlier reviews of the PowerCell 12, I stated that the PowerCell might just be the most important component in my entire system. The basic logic is that “all boats rise when the water rises.” This famous quote by John F. Kennedy could not have said it better. The PowerCell SX reaffirms this logic and takes it above and beyond.
When every component is plugged into the PowerCell SX, the performance of each is improved along with the aggregate performance of the entire system. “Synergy” is the word that often comes to mind (please excuse the pun in this case). Nothing is throttled back—including the amplifier. This is important, as amplifiers are often the chink in the armor for many power conditioners. Not here. The music just flows.
Using the same logic, when you feed the PowerCell SX with a Galileo SRX power cable, you get additional if not substantial results across the board. See my review of the Galileo SRX HERE. The combination is a killer—almost as if some type of Venturi effect has been realized. Bottom line, you just cannot ignore the results and the value of the bundled price mentioned above when combining the Galileo SRX power cable and the PowerCell SX. This is the configuration that I used for all the comments in this review.”
Will the internal struggle to reach nirvana ever end? Probably not. As much as we like to complain about the journey, this is what provides much of the joy and interest in this hobby. The PowerCell SX has the ability to get us amazingly closer and without major upgrades to the rest of the system—closer than any other cable or power conditioner that I have heard in my listening room. The PowerCell SX clearly pushes the envelope. It’s only July, but I now have my first nomination for the annual Positive Feedback Writers’ Choice Awards. Highly, highly recommended!”
Robert Youman - Positive Feedback – Issue 110 - July 2020
Synergistic Research UEF Record Weight - Aspired to Inspire
“As stated earlier, everything can make a difference. Compared to no record weight at all, the VPI Signature did a fine job of bringing out a significant level of detail and extending the sound stage in all directions. For the price, this is still an excellent option. However, the Signature offered nowhere near the abundance of fleshed out information and effortless liquidity as that of the UEF.
It’s not clear that the Shun Mook is still out there and generally available for purchase. Said to be manufactured from a rare dried ebony wood from Africa, it has acquired a very loyal following over the years. Extraordinarily expensive at $4800 and difficult to track down, I was finally able to find a few European dealers on the Internet. I was also recently informed that The Cable Company here in the USA carries the product line. An audiophile friend shipped me his Shun Mook for use in this comparison. He claims that it was purchased more than 10 years ago.
Bottom line, the Shun Mook was also extremely impressive and added a bit more warmth and color over and above the UEF, though it did not provide the killer level of micro and macro dynamics of the same. This enrichment of the sound was not simpatico with my system needs and my personal taste, but I could see that it might be a better fit for others. Be careful though, apparently there are many knockoffs out there.
Up until now, the HRS ADH was the bench mark for my system. Like the Signature and Shun Mook, the ADH had plenty of dimensionality and drive well beyond having no record weight at all. It managed to dig out an additional layer of harmonic texture and presence that for years was very satisfying to my ears. Bass performance in particular was both tight and weighty—a very nice combination.
I would have never noticed a lack of anything until the UEF entered the team picture. With the UEF, there was now a more clearly defined sound stage with even more layers of inner detail. Performance at both ends of the frequency range had an urgency and flow that had my head spinning. Mids were even more seductive and tangible. Tone, timbre, and pitch were spot on for a variety of instruments and vocals. The number of goose bump generating spacial cues now seemed endless. I clearly discovered a new bench mark!
Robert Youman - Positive Feedback – Issue 109 - May 2020