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Synergistic Research Tesla PowerCell & Active Power Cords Review

Power corrupts more than we ever knew! Jack Roberts' quest for clean AC

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Synergistic Power Cell

A Little Luck Along the Way

Without a doubt this has been one of the most fascinating and educational products, or might I say “system of products”, that I have ever reviewed. Reviewing is a lot more work than most readers would ever guess, but every once in a while you hit pay dirt and feel like you’re a really lucky guy. For me, such products as Shindo preamps, Wavac SET amplifiers, Ikonoklast and Teresonic speakers, and the Benz Ebony TR cartridge, have all made me feel really lucky to be a reviewer.

When I think about it, I have spent over 20 years trying to get the AC right in my different systems and, for the last six years, I thought I had gotten it just about as good as it could get. I honestly didn’t think spending mega bucks on AC cables and power conditioners could improve my system enough to matter musically; I was quite satisfied with the excellent Audience power cords and their wonderful little aR1P conditioner. Yes, I liked the similarly priced Shindo premium power cords a little better on their equipment, and I changed from the JC Audio ISOs to the Audience aR1p, because it was better and quieter; but for the most part, it was because I hadn’t heard anything from the mega buck cords and conditioners to interest me. I was so convinced that no expensive cords and conditioners could be significantly better that I wasn’t even looking to review any power conditioners or power cords.

Then, at the 2008 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I went to the Synergistic Research room and I was pretty impressed by their demonstration of the Acoustic ART system, as well as their PowerCell power conditioner. At the show, the PowerCell didn’t make as big an impression on me as the Acoustic ART system; who would have guessed it would be just the opposite in my room. So a few weeks later, when I was asked if I would be interested in going down to southern California to hear Synergistic’s reference system and to tour their facility, I jumped at it. Let me tell you, after I heard what the Tesla PowerCell and power cords did in their system I couldn’t wait to have them put into my system. Even after hearing the results at the RMAF and the Synergistic facility, it still came as quite a surprise to hear what a Tesla PowerCell and a complete set of Tesla active power cords did for the musicality of my system. I must add that I had not expected much of an improvement, and even worse to admit, I hadn’t wanted to hear one. I mean, let’s be honest, who wants to spend more money on power conditioners and power cords when there are LPs, tonearms, cartridges, and SET amps to spend it on?

One more thing I should mention before we get started: I would have never believed there was so much room for improvement in the area of AC conditioning. To put it another way, I never would have dreamed there was so much noise getting into my system through the AC. I now believe if you have anything above an entry level high-end system, the PowerCell will improve your system more than any other similarly priced update to your system, more than the things a source component, an amp, a preamp, or even speakers can do.

In early December Ted Denney, founder and chief engineer of Synergistic Research, installed in my downstairs main system the complete Synergistic Tesla power conditioning system. It consisted of a Tesla PowerCell 10SE and all Tesla Active Power Cords. At both the CES and RMAF, these have caused quite a stir, and as you will read below there are plenty of reasons for this. On the Synergistic Research website Ted says:

“The most important source of one’s music system lurks behind the facings and controls of the audio equipment… Look farther, deeper, back through the tangle of power cords, interconnects, and speaker wire. The source you’re looking for begins at the AC wall socket and beyond. The quality, structure, and efficiency of the AC entering your music play a profound role in the musicality and dimensionality of the music your system can reproduce.”

I don’t know if I would agree that AC is the most important source, but without any hesitation I agree that its condition has a profound effect on the musicality of an audio system; I now know it has a greater impact than I had ever dreamed. I began to discover that AC conditioning made a profound difference in the early eighties. Even since then, my wife has kidded me about my quest to fine “good electricity”. For as long as I can remember, most audiophiles have agreed that their system sounded best late at night. It was also obvious when I lived in Texas, that my system sounded especially crappy in the summer when everyone was running their air-conditioners twenty-four/seven.

Then, by chance I made an interesting observation, some equipment I had sent off to be modified to have beefier power supplies didn’t seem to be quite as vulnerable to these phenomena. About the same time, I heard about people who were using products designed to regulate the power for computers and for medical equipment on their audio equipment. I began to play around with some of these and discovered that they did change the sound, but in the long run I found most of them did more harm than good. I won’t bore you a description of everything I tried, but here is a list of all the products I can remember having tried in alphabetical order: Audience, Chang Lightspeed, Ensemble, JC Audio, Monster, Panamax, PS Audio, Richard Grey, Shunyata, Tice, and, Tripp Lite.

Man, seeing that list in print is disturbing. Maybe my wife was right when she said I was crazy.

Looking at this list, I feel I should point out that I’ve only used two of these in the past six years: the JC Audio ISOs and the Audience. They were both by far the best of all the ones I have tried, and the Audience was much more versatile and less expensive. If you can find the ISOs used, and if you are willing to buy a separate ISO for each component and, of course, a separate power cord for each ISO, the JC Audio ISOs would still be one of the top three. At my house, the ISOs also tended to have a bit of transformer hum when the AC was really acting up. All of this history should give us some perspective as we begin to evaluate the Synergistic Research’s Tesla PowerCell 10 SE and Tesla Active power cords, which set a whole new bar in power conditioning.

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