Reviews, Awards and Videos
The Absolute Sound, Editors’ Choice Awards
Nine products across five categories.
Power Conditioners - PowerCell 12 UEF SE
Digital Interconnect - Galileo UEF USB
Power Cords - Galileo UEF Digital, Analog and High Current
Audio Bacon Best of 2017
Atmosphere Level 3 Power Cables
The Stereo Times 2017 Most Wanted Components
UEF Blue Fuse and Galileo Series Cables
Atmosphere XL4, UEF Panels and HFT
Reviewed - by Jonathan Valin
by Jonathan Valin (The Absolute Sound, January 2018): “Several issues ago, I told you about Stein Music’s Harmonizer H2 room treatments-little black cubes with battery-powered crystal circuits inside them, which emit an electromagnetic signal that reduces ambient noise and broadens and deepens the soundstage, better disappearing your loudspeakers. According to the H2’s inventor, Holger Stein, this disappearing act is the result of a physical change in the distribution of air molecules in your listening room. How a set of vibrating crystals could bring about such a change-and why that change would result in a seeming expansion of the soundspace, as if the walls of your listening room had been pushed back several feet-is a mystery that even this old mystery writer can’t fathom. And yet…the thing works.
Comes now another room treatment from Ted Denney, head honcho of Synergistic Research, which effects an even more dramatic lowering of the noise floor and expansion of you listening space, with concomitant changes in ambient acoustics, soundstage/image size and focus, spectral balance, and transient response. ”
Those of you who have attended hi-fi shows across the country-from Newport Beach to New York City-may have already witnessed a demo of Denney’s Atmosphere/UEF Panel and UEF Acoustic Dot system. For those of you who haven’t, here’s what the system comprises and how it is said to work.
The Atmosphere XL4 (the latest Atmosphere with “8 times the power” of the original Atmosphere XL) is a cubical pillar containing electronics, activated by a USB bus, that generate a “two-channel, multi wave” RF signal. This RF signal is said to be “modeled and shaped” to counteract the ambient “man-made and solar” RF that Denney contends degrades the sound of every hi-fi system, particularly during the daylight hours-i.e., when the sun is shining. Denney’s reflections on the role that solar disturbance play in creating higher ambient RF are just about as persuasive as Stein’s explanation of how his crystal-filled cues create denser air in your listening room: nonetheless, like the Stein Harmonizer H2, the Atmosphere is audibly doing something that not only lowers ambient noise but also changes the tonal balance and dispersion pattern of loudspeakers and the sonic signature of the room they are playing in.
Sitting on top of the Atmosphere XL4 is a small cylindrical object called an Atmosphere Tuning Module (ATM). There are two different kinds of ATMs included with the XL4-named “Red” and “Green,” after the color of their bottom plates. The modules rest, unattached, in a circular indentation on the upper surface of the XL4 pillar, and can be interchanged at will.
I have absolutely no idea what is inside either of these devices, or how they work with the active electronics in the pillar. What I do know, and what everyone who has heard them in my room or at shows knows, is that when the Atmosphere XL4 and the ATMs are linked via a free Synergistic Research iPad app to one of six sonic “base scene: programs (“intimate Acoustic,” “Holographic,” “Grand Canyon,” “Amplified,” “Ethereal,” and “Expansive”-the first three for use with the Green ATM, the second thee with the Red ATM), the character of your loudspeaker-its tonal balance, resolution, image focus, soundsatge breadth and width and height, transient sharpness, bass definition and impact, etc.-changes, as do the acoustics of your room. What is equally startling-and a little appalling from an observational, much less a scientific point of view-is that these sonic changes are exactly the ones that Denney (or whoever wrote the copy for the iPad app) claims you’ll hear.
For example here is how Denney describes the sound of the “Amplified” base scene: “Maintain[s] the energy of amplified music with sharp leading edges and powerful dynamics. Ideal for live and studio recordings like rock ‘n’ roll, pop, and modern amplified jazz. In the default setting low frequencies are tight and punchy; midrange is immediate with high frequencies that are not overly smooth, or etched. Advanced Settings: “Crunchie” removes any politeness from hard-driving electric guitars, horns, and leading edge transients, leaving nothing but the raw amplified event. “Stadium” opens up the soundfield and is perfect for larger-scale venues.”
Folks, if you choose the “Amplified” base scene (with the Atmosphere XL4 and the Red ATM it is designed for) and play back a rock recording, you will get precisely the sonic attributes that Denny says you’ll get: Tighter, punchier low end, greater midrange presence (along with tight image focus), and a treble with increase sparkle and shimmer but without excessive bite. Moreover, if you dial in “Crunchie” from the “advanced setting” sub menu you will, indeed, get sharper leading-edge transients on guitar, cymbal, snare, and greater impact on bass and kickdrum within a more intimate soundspace, as if you were listening up close in a rock club. If you dial in “Stadium,” you will get the same base-scene virtues within a much more expansive soundspace, as if you were sitting at a greater distance in an arena.
Working independently of and in conjunction with the Atmosphere/ATM system are so-called “UEF”-don’t ask me what the initialism stands for-panels (rectangular frames with black panes coated with a paint that is said to react to sound) and UEF dots (round constrained-layer-like wafers that are also sound sensitive), both of which you white-tac to your walls. (Synergistic supplies instructions on where to locate each of these devices in your room.) If you’re lucky enough to own Synergistics’ superb Galileo UEF wire-which I will review in our upcoming Cable and Interconnect issue-this same technology is built into them, as well. (You can also add Synergistic’s HFT’s-tiny thimble-like objects that act like miniature Helmholtz radiators-to your UEF system.) The UEF devices are used with the Atmosphere/ ATM system, the disappearing act of both room and speakers is kind of amazing.
Even though parts of the Atmosphere/ATM/UEF/HFT system may sound voodooish, these things work, making smaller rooms sound like larger ones and making big multiway speakers disappear in them like two-way mini-monitors. Moreover, the Atmosphere/ATM devices give you options that no other analog room treatments I’ve played with can offer the ability to change acoustics to fit both the music and the venue it was played in. Indeed, in conjunction with Synergistic’s UEF/HFT devices, the Atmosphere/ATM system is so predictable, astonishingly, and completely adept at this, it raises an interesting question: Do you really want to “superimpose” a predetermined acoustic and ambient pattern on each and every piece of music you listen to? Isn’t this a little like passively re-engineering your recordings?
Maybe, it is. That said, Synergistic offers “base scene” choices that are fundamentally source-neutral, and I, for one, wouldn’t want to do without the lowering of noise and the subsequent clarity, definition, and boundary expansion that are part and parcel of the Atmosphere/ATM/UEF/HFT experience.
In sum, most highly recommended (even if I can’t explain it)-indeed, so highly recommended the Atmosphere/UEF/HFT system won TAS’ 2017 Accessory of the Year award.
2017 Product of the Year
Atmosphere Level 4 Cables and PowerCell 12 UEF
2017 PF Circuitus Maximus Award
2017 PF Gizmo Award
Circuitus Maximus Award- The second award goes to Synergistic (aha!) Research, for its latest (2017) line of system enhancements. And that’s a long list; see my Brutus Awards Part the First for the details.
In both cases, everything that I’m looking for is embodied in these products…congratulations to the PASS Labs and Synergistic Research teams for these accomplishments!
Gizmo Award – Long-time readers of PF and PFO know that Harvey Rosenberg (AKA “Gizmo”) was a close friend of mine, and a valued member of the PF writing community for a number of years. His untimely death a couple of years ago was a real blow to fine audio, the loss of a uniquely creative writer. In Harvey’s memory, we have created an annual award that (like Harvey!) will be unique: a one-only-per-year recognition of a person/design that is surfing the edge of audiomania, going all-out to push the frontiers of fine audio. There will be no multiples of this prize… no hard-and-fast categories… and if nobody floats our boat in a given year, it won’t be awarded.”
More than this, my Pacific NW audio friend, now long departed, Terry Cain of Cain and Cain, explained the Gizmo Award at its launch.
For Terry’s very moving essay, please go HERE.
This will explain the award and, I hope, give you a sense of why I chose Ted Denney III of Synergistic Research as its recipient this year.
No further explanation is needed.
SoundStage! - Product of the Year
by Howard Kneller (SoundStage! Ultra, September 2017): “Synergistic Research’s Galileo UEF interconnects and speaker cables are technical tours de force that demonstrate just how far the art of cable making has come since the Golden Enz days of electrical-grade copper conductors and connectors of gold-plated nickel.”
The Absolute Sound - Cable of the Year
“JV has heard a lot of Synergistic Research cable over the years, but Ted Denney’s latest creation, the Galileo UEF, is quite simply the best wire Mr.D has yet designed- better even than the original Galileo, which cost four times as much. Although it is still a bit of a pain to use - because of the various grounding connections required - Galileo UEF is far less of a pain than previous SR wires, simply because the dielectric biasing circuit is built into each cable. (No more wall-wart power supplies stuck in every outlet and power strip of your home.) More importantly, the UEF marks a dramatic shift in SR sonics, coming far far closer to neutral in balance than the darker-sounding originals, without sacrificing any of the speed, color, resolution, or power-range solidity and slam that SR is famous for. A genuine breakthrough for Denney and Co., a relatively good deal compared to some of the six- and seven-figure competition, and a shoo-in for TAS’ 2017 Cable and Interconnect of the Year Aware. (forthcoming)”
The Absolute Sound - Accessory of the Year
Atmosphere XL4, HFT and Acoustic
“Synergistic Research’s High-Frequency Transducers are mini-thimble-sized objects, which you Blu-Tack to your walls and gear: its UEF Acoustic Panels are framed black rectangles, coated with a sonically-reactive paint, that are also strategically fastened to walls around your room. Why would you go to the trouble of doing either of these things? Because the HFT’s and UEFs are actually sonic radiators that generate different blends of harmonics to “sweeten” the sound of loud-speakers and sources. To get them to work ideally, you must also use Synergistic’s Atmosphere XL4 Tuning Module, which produces signals that cause the HFT’s and FEQs to “ring” salubriously (and in different patterns). This may sound like BS, but the HFT/UEF/Atmosphere system actually works. What’s more, it works precisely in the ways that designer Ted Denney says it does, changing room acoustics almost to order. Perhaps the most ingenious room treatment JV has ever used - and certainly one of the most versatile and effective - this SR package was another easy choice for Accessory of the Year. (forthcoming)V has heard a lot of Synergistic Research cable over the years, but Ted Denney’s latest creation, the Galileo UEF, is quite simply the best wire Mr.D has yet designed- better even than the original Galileo, which cost four times as much. Although it is still a bit of a pain to use - because of the various grounding connections required - Galileo UEF is far less of a pain than previous SR wires, simply because the dielectric biasing circuit is built into each cable. (No more wall-wart power supplies stuck in every outlet and power strip of your home.) More importantly, the UEF marks a dramatic shift in SR sonics, coming far far closer to neutral in balance than the darker-sounding originals, without sacrificing any of the speed, color, resolution, or power-range solidity and slam that SR is famous for. A genuine breakthrough for Denney and Co., a relatively good deal compared to some of the six- and seven-figure competition, and a shoo-in for TAS’ 2017 Cable and Interconnect of the Year Aware. (forthcoming)”
Great Audiophile Gifts 2017
Mig 2.0 and Blue Fuses
Dr. David Robinson’s 2017 Brutus Awards
Atmosphere XL4 ATM, Active Ground Block SE system, HFT system, PowerCell 12 UEF SE w/ Glass Top, Galileo UEF Analog and Digital Power Cords, Galileo UEF Speaker Cable, Galileo UEF Interconnects, and Black and BLUE Fuses
“The Powercell 12 UEF made a remarkable change right from the get-go. No need for substantial break-in, either…I heard the greater clarity, lower noise floor, and great dynamic swing immediately. Several veils over the sound, unsuspected until then, hit the road, Jack.
I’ve always been amazed by the first generation Atmosphere that we’d had in this room since late summer of 2015, but the setup of the new XL4 model left me shaking my head at the improvement. Soundstage shifted increasing to soundfield, enveloping me more firmly than ever before. Righteous!
The SR Galileo UEF power cords and interconnects seriously advanced the clarity and the detail of our systems, taking imaging and soundstage depth to places that I hadn’t heard before. And the Active Ground Block SE knocked down distant hash and grain, further enhancing transparency. (More, more, more! Always more!) And those bloody little HFT units! I was familiar with the way that they seemed to extend the sonic envelope, but Ted, the master designer, did things with them that expertly pushed back the boundaries in our listening room. Having three days was really helpful; it gave him time to assess what was happening, and what things could be done to further improve the quality of the listening here.”
By Dr. David Robinson, Editor-In-Chief, Positive Feedback, Issue 94
Writers’ Choice Awards for 2017
When my audiophile buddies ask me for recommendations to help improve their system, it is typically about some specific component. Usually they are all excited about the latest rave review for an amplifier, preamplifier, DAC, cabling or even speakers. Rarely do they look at the big picture. The focus is consistently short term and limited.
These days, my first thought is to redirect their priorities and recommend the Synergistic Research PowerCell 12 UEF SE power conditioner as a first step. In most cases, these have been decisive and unequivocal recommendations based on my past experience with the PowerCell 12 and a variety of systems. Those who have followed my advice have been very pleased.
I have considerable experience with power conditioners over the years, and yes they do have some impact. Until the PowerCell 12, my typical gut reaction was that the sound was invariably “different” but not “better”. In most cases, the end result was performance that could be slightly throttled or truncated in some way. Pace, rhythm and timing (PRAT) was almost always impacted and not for the better.
With the PowerCell 12, all ships rise with the tide. Yes, we have superior levels of isolation which results in an impressive reduction in the noise floor, but all the excitement and dynamic contrast of the recording as originally intended is now laid out for all to hear. In terms of providing clean power, every component in the system has now been maximized for it’s best performance and the results have been very clear.
Before spending one dollar on any other upgrade, I highly recommend auditioning the PowerCell 12. This product has made more overall positive impact on my system than any other component over the last several years! Please see my review for additional information about the cutting edge design and the outstanding sound.
Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2017
Best Sound at Show
Synergistic Research Factory Tour
with Lead Designer Ted Denney
Galileo UEF Speaker and Interconnects Cables
“If all this makes it sound as if the Galileo UEFs do virtually everything at the breathtaking levels of a Zenvo TS1, Bugatti Chiron, or Hennessey Venom GT Spyder, it’s because they do. Of course, for the money, they’d better — although, as I’ve said, the Galileo UEFs are by no means the most expensive audio cables ever made, or even the most expensive that Synergistic Research has ever made.
There are too many audio cables out there for me to be foolish enough to proclaim any one of them the state of the art. And in this hobby, you can never discount the importance of personal taste in sound. Still, I’ve heard a lot of cables in connection with reviews, and heard even more at trade shows, and in showrooms and audiophiles’ homes — I have a pretty good idea of what’s out there. The Synergistic Galileo UEFs are serious contenders for the designation SOTA.”
Howard Kneller, SoundStage Ultra, September 2017
Synergistic Research Galileo UEF Series Cables
“Although the Atmosphere UEF Level 4 cables are excellent cables within their price point, the technology employed in the Galileo UEF cables significantly improved upon the performance of the Atmosphere UEF Level 4 cables. Inner detail, low level musical signal retention, and the ability for the listener to easily pinpoint outlines within a well-defined soundstage were exemplary through the Galileo UEF cables. Instruments and vocals sounded lifelike and not electrically constructed through the Galileo UEF cables. The lower noise floor conferred many benefits in the areas of micro and macrodynamics which for me, is at the heart of enjoying recorded music… I have a new reference.“
Mike Girardi, Stereo Times, September 2017
PowerCell 12 UEF SE
UEF Acoustic Panels
“Ted Denney’s absolutely ingenious and amazingly effective Atmosphere/UEF panel/HFT system is the latest (and greatest) in a long line of Denney-concocted room treatments. Comprising a tall, thin, USB-powered rectangular column with a small cylindrical RF generator on top, a set of black-framed, wall-mounted panels coated with a patented RF-reactive paint, and/or a set of Synergistic Research’s thimble-like HFT’s (High Frequency Transducers), the Atmosphere system generates a variety of very-low-frequency, user-selectable (via an iPad app) RF signals, each of which causes the panels and the HFT’s to oscillate in different ways, masking the noise generated by electronics and resonant objects in your room and, thereby, changing room acoustics dramatically. If the Stein Harmonizer gives you a new room, the Atmosphere gives you 12 different, larger, airier spaces that you can dial up to order. (Review forthcoming)”
Jonathan Valin, The Absolute Sound, September 2017
Hong Kong High-End Audio Video Show 2017
Special thanks to our friend Creevy and Lowther China, SR’s Chinese Distributor
PowerCell 8 UEF SE
Atmosphere Level 2 and 3 power cables
“That the products reviewed here (PowerCell 8 UEF SE, Atmosphere Level 2 and Level 3 power cords) surpass my other Synergistic Research products of only six years ago by such a wide margin attests to the fact that this entire category and Synergistic Research in particular, is making enormous progress through their research and development”
“For my system, in my room, these Synergistic Research upgrades represent an extreme value, bringing out the very best I’ve experienced from my components so far”
“The PowerCell 8 UEF SE and Atmosphere Level 2 and 3 power cords revive the goosebumps with my favorite music and let me feel the bass vibrations through the leather of my listening chair”
“I wouldn’t have believed they could have made such a difference. Combining the two, there is not much sonic distance between my system now, and those costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Rick Becker, EnjoytheMusic.com, July 2017
Los Angeles Audio Show 2017
Demonstration from Lead Designer, Ted Denney
Intoducing NEW Active Ground Block and Atmosphere XL4
PowerCell 12 UEF SE
Synergistic Research has another winner with the PowerCell 12 UEF SE. I was pleasantly surprised if not astonished at the improvement in sound quality over my past benchmark—the excellent PowerCell 10 UEF. Unlike other power conditioners that I have auditioned, the PowerCell 12 UEF SE never feels like it throttles or diminishes the music. Yes, we have superior levels of isolation which results in an impressive reduction in the noise floor, but all the excitement and dynamic contrast of the recording as originally intended is still laid out for all to hear. This one will not be leaving my listening room.
Robert Youman, Positive Feedback, Issue 91, June 2017
Positive Feedback Audio Oasis Award
More Coming Soon