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The Beatnik visits Synergistic Research

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Jack Roberts Beatnik's JourneyIt may have been Monday November 24, 2008, but I felt like a time traveler to 1939 as we landed in Long Beach, California. I disembarked down a ramp and out the back of the plane straight out onto the tarmac, and leisurely walked into the terminal. I went upstairs to the “Airport Restaurant and Bar.” I sat at the beautiful art-deco, burl walnut bar and looked out through the solid-glass rounded wall as other airplanes landed and took off. I swear I thought there were movie stars there partying and just enjoying the glamour of air travel. Then I remember my uncle taking me to a place just like this in Pensacola, Florida when I was a kid for no other purpose, but to eat and watch the planes land and take off.

Now, why am I sharing all this with you? Well, because I’m a sentimental sucker when it comes to good memories and it was part of my “Back to the Future” trip on a fall Monday in 2008. I didn’t know I was going “Back to the Future”, but I guess things like that happen when you get that close to Hollywood.

Truth is, it was a day trip to see and hear all the musical things they are doing at Synergistic Research in Irvine, California. I had heard the wonderful effects their Acoustic ART room treatments had on the system at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. I was looking forward to hearing the ART demonstration again, as well as hearing the Tesla cables, and their new Tesla PowerCell.

Eliott Nomensen, the assistant engineer and head of technical support, met me there and gave me a very thorough tour of the facility.

To my surprise, though, the whole place was just a little overwhelming. When I went into the room where the Tesla machine was located, there was the one for performing the Quantum Tunneling on their cables; I thought surely it was 1985 and I was in ‘Doc Browns’ lab and maybe at any moment I would find myself in some other century. You can see this machine at work on a video at:

Elliot demonstrated the effect of Quantum Tunneling on cable performance by first playing music through a pair of untreated interconnects in Synergistic’s in-house reference system. The sound was open, detailed, and very nice sounding. Then Elliot took me back to the room where they installed the surprisingly tall Tesla coil topped with its reflective metal sphere basketball on top.

The interconnect we had listened to was then suspended by clamps which held one of the connector in close proximity to the sphere and the other end close to a huge copper grounding rod planted in the concrete floor. Next, 2 million volts arced like lightning to the RCA connector, through the cable and into the grounding rod. Then we returned to the listening room to listen to the treated interconnects. The sound was still nice but more open, three-dimensional and liquid. I admit it, I was shocked that Quantum tunneling actually worked.

By the way, in the room where the reference system was playing there were only two tubes. One was the coolest looking and bluest/purple tube I have ever seen; it is a mercury vapor rectifier tube used in the Enigma. Well, like always I’m getting ahead of myself so let me take a moment to describe the reference system used at Synergistic Research.

It starts with a pair of JM Labs Alto Nova BE speakers place well out into the room. They were driven by a single-chassis, dual mono Audire Parlando pure class A amp. The preamp was the T+A 1230 r, and the source was a Forsell Air Reference Mk II DAC along with Forsell’s air bearing transport. Regrettably, for the day I was there was no vinyl source despite the rather large LP collection in the room.

Now comes all the Synergistic Research products that connect their reference system. Let’s start with the power cords; there were two Hologram Ds for the Forsell digital, a T2 for the T+A pre amp, another Hologram A for the Audire amplifier. That brings us back to the too-cool blue/purple tubes of the Enigma, the valve power supply for the Active Shielding of all the cables, including interconnects and speaker cables. All of this was plugged into a TESLA PowerCell 10SE for AC power conditioning.

Room acoustics treatments were Synergistic’s own Acoustic ART System, along with a pair of Shakti Holographs, Cathedral Panels, as well as some light dampening at the first-order reflection points. There was also some dampening between the speakers on the front wall, with no dampening directly behind the speakers. There was light dampening at the rear wall, and some Acoustic Systems cylinders in all four corners. Other tweaks included Black Diamond Racing Carbon Fiber Shelves, Black Diamond Racing Carbon Fiber cones, and a few Shakti stones.

I dare anyone to say this wasn’t a well-tweaked system. It was also the best all-transistor, all digital system I have ever heard, as well as the best I have ever heard JM Lab speakers sounded. To be honest, when I walked into the reference room and saw the JM Lab speakers and all the transistor amplification, my first thought was, “this is going to sound like a great stereo.” I just didn’t expect much more, but when Eliott fired up the system I was shocked by how easily the music got out of the speakers. I was hearing real musical flow and great PRaT out of a system I never expected that from. Then Eliott began to turn off the active loading and removed the PowerCell. Lastly, he took out the Acoustic ART System. All of a sudden the system sounded more like I was expecting; the sound had trouble getting out of the speakers, the scale was less realistic, and the sound just wasn’t as alive. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was still a great sounding stereo, but it had lost transparency, soundstage size, and dynamics.

My “Back to the Future” day ended with me flying back home and eagerly awaiting my opportunity to hear what the Synergistic treatments could do for my system, stay tuned for more.

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