Ted Denney, the chief designer and owner of Synergistic Research, may be one of the more polarizing figures in high-end audio. Having sat through any number of his demos, both at audio shows around the country and in my own home during meetings of the Bay Area Audiophile Society (BAAS), I am certain that Ted in no way intends to create a storm of divided opinions. Yet create controversy he does. Each release of a new Synergistic Research product, and virtually every positive product review or report of his show demos generates enough combative posts to keep many a forum very, very active.
At the center of the storm is Ted’s ever-accelerating stream of boundary-pushing products. Given that Ted keeps their inner workings close to his chest, as it were, and will only discuss their technology in general terms, each additional product further excites those who demand absolute and incontrovertible “scientific proof” over what anyone else’s ears may suggest.
Ted pushed his first major button when Synergistic Research released the Acoustic ART Real-Time Analogue Room Treatment System, which Dagogo’s Jack Roberts proclaimed, “does some very special things for the sound of a room.” Ted began to develop the system after observing first-hand how Tibetan Prayer Bowls alter temple acoustics. I’ve had the complete system in my about-to-be-sold home’s large 21.4(L) x 24.5(W) x 9(H) listening room for a number of years, and the with/without/with demo that Ted conducted in my home for members of BAAS blew everyone away.
It didn’t stun me as much, because I had already sat through several ART demos at audio shows, and reported on them for Stereophile. But it did lead me to dispense with my Shakti Hallographs, and instead rely on a combination of ART and tuning pillows.
Nor did Ted stop with ART. Not necessarily in order of appearance came cabling with active shielding, Tranquility Bases that sit under components, the Transporter that increases the effects of both of the above, HFT (high frequency transducer) and FEQ (frequency equalizer) devices that affect room acoustics and the sound of cables, the XOT crossover transducer, and, most recently, UEF Tuning Circuits. These newer products employ Synergistic Research’s patent-pending UEF (unified energy field) technology, which Ted considers a paradigm shift of sorts. That he will not reveal the science behind UEF technology drives some people bonkers, to the point that the last thing they want to do is listen to his products. In fact, when anyone does, and dares declare the devices effective (as I am about to do), they respond with vehemence usually reserved for religious or political zealots who want to purge the world of evil by any means necessary.
This review will address three Synergistic Research products, all of which I now use in my system: the Tranquility Base / Tranquility Basik, Transporter SE, and UEF Tuning Circuits. Given our projected move to temporary quarters and then to a new home, I have yet to try the HFT and FEQ devices and XOT crossover transducer in my reference system.
From the Designer
Synergistic Research’s range of products is so great that it’s hard to keep track of their acronyms, let alone what each does. Hence, for purposes of this review, Ted and I had a long chat about the ongoing evolution of the Synergistic Research product line. Here’s the word, directly from their designer:
Beyond our cables, of which we consider the power cables the most important because the AC signal, rather than your CD player, turntable, or computer is your true front end – all of your components essentially take that AC signal and convert it to a complex signal – we suggest someone begin with our 4, 6, and 10-outlet PowerCell line conditioner. Adding it to the system gives an immediate and palpable benefit.
Then you need to care of your room acoustics. To improve room acoustics and system performance, adding a couple of HFT 5-packs ($299 each) plus the FEQ ($995) will produce an immediate benefit. These were our very first application of our UEF technology. For the cost of one satellite resonator in the ART system, you can get 5 HFTs and create a grid on the wall behind your speakers. This makes an unbelievable difference in sound with things about the size of an Oxford button. The plug-in FEQ, in turn, supercharges the action of the HFTs. and also has its own stand-alone benefits.
The Tranquility Base and Basik are based on the same Synergistic Research electromagnetic cell technology that was first implemented in the PowerCell line conditioners. Both Tranquility products eliminate fundamental distortion in the circuit that results from amplifying the signal. They do so by addressing the electromagnetic fields inside the component that form around transistors, integrated circuits, D-to-A chips, power supplies, and things of that nature.
Even as you’re amplifying a signal, the EM fields inside components change and distort it. The Tranquility products essentially actively condition the electromagnetic fields inside a component by nullifying their effects.
When you turn on the Tranquility Base and connect its ground plane wire, you actively condition the signal inside the component that rests upon it, and eliminate a fundamental source of distortion that has never been addressed before. To my knowledge, there has never been another active electromagnetic platform that conditions the signal before it leaves the component.
The Tranquility Base gives you a lower noise floor, which is heard as more detail coming out of a blacker background, better dynamics, and a much more dimensional and realistic soundstage. The Base also provides mechanical resonance isolation and control in the same way that a dedicated Stillpoints rack or Black Diamond Racing Shelf would.
The Tranquility Base all by itself, even when it’s not turned on, provides mechanical isolation that makes components sound better. Other isolation platforms isolate components from resonance. Some also create a direct path to ground for mechanical vibration. The Tranquility Base does all of that, plus it actively conditions electromagnetic fields inside a component.
The Tranquility Basik only has the active electromagnetic cell in it. The Base, which is larger, offers greater mechanical isolation and also has that little ground plane wire that you plug into the wall. With the Base, not only do you actively condition the signal, but you also provide a passive ground plane that allows noise to shunt immediately to ground.
Our ground plane technology is proprietary. It creates a drain for EM noise so it can immediately find ground by essentially creating a uniform relationship between ground and the fields that exist within a circuit. And since you don’t want to pass the ground through another ground plane, e.g., in the PowerCell; the Tranquility Base sounds best if you create a direct path by plugging it into a grounded outlet.
When all is said and done, every component in a system emits energy. You can either have random spurious fields, or you can align them. Both Tranquility products condition the signal before it leaves the component. The more you condition the signal, the more you align the energy fields from component to component. Thus, the more Tranquility Bases you add, the more you align the energy field under your components; the more components you have aligned, the more the effect grows.
The Tranquility Base is housed in a cast aluminum frame. We pour molten aluminum into molds, cool it, and then machine it. The Base is extremely rigid around entire edge and entirely underneath. Within them are several layers of dissimilar material, including the active electromagnetic plane and the passive ground plane. Everything is held together by proprietary epoxy that is put into a hydraulic press under several hundred pounds of pressure until it becomes a laminate. This creates a fast drain to ground for a hard drive or a transport via the Synergistic Research MIG equipment support devices you place underneath the Bases.
If you’re looking for an isolation platform, or you’re a computer audio person looking to remove grunge from your computer or server, you can put it and maybe your DAC atop one or two Bases, and they’ll transform the sound of computer audio and hot-rod your front end. If you place a spinning hard drive on a table or even your rack you’ll feel the vibration. If it’s resting on a Tranquility Base, which is supported in turn by three MIG footers, you can put your hand on the table and no longer feel the resonance of the hard drive.
You can use the Bases under very heavy equipment, such as your 160 lb. Pass amps. I can run over them with a 7000 Cadillac Escalade no problem. They’re bullet proof. I could shoot one with a 32-calibre handgun round and put the video on YouTube to demonstrate it.
Ted informs me that because the Tranquility Base has a passive ground plane and additional mechanical isolation, while the Basik has less mechanical isolation and no ground plane, Synergistic Research sells 10 Bases for every Basik.
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