Synergistic Research Convinces

There’s nothing like an active AB demo to convince that something major is going on with Synergistic Research’s increasing arsenal of mind-bending products. In one comparison, Ted Denney and Peter Hansen turned on and off the two Tranquility Bases ($1995/each including MiG supports) which were placed under their Computer Audio system and Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum integrated amp ($2195). The difference in clarity, three-dimensionality, a lower noise floor, and image size was striking. Having a similar effect was turning on and off the Active Shielding on the company’s SR Active Firewire 800 cable ($595).

When everything was called into play, including a host of carefully positioned Synergistic ART Resonance Control devices, the sound that these boys were getting from relatively inexpensive components rivaled in size, depth, air, and immediacy that from far bigger and more costly speakers and components in way bigger rooms. Equally impressive was the sheer quality of the sound, which portrayed colors of instruments with uncanny accuracy.

Other components in the system included an Apple Mac Mini equipped with Amarra ($1000), Synergistic Research’s “The Music Cable” all-in-one upsampling DAC with hardwired SR Element Tungsten Active IC and Tricon Analogue Active USB cable ($3595), and a pair of Nola Boxers ($1500) positioned on Sound Anchor stands ($730) and augmented by two REL T5 subwoofers ($699/each). While the total cost of the system was hardly bargain basement—adding in all the cabling, power distribution, a SR PowerCell 4SE with included Element Tungsten power cable ($1850), and all the ART devices, the expenditure approached $32,000—the demo left me thinking that if one were to call into play all of Synergistic’s devices and cabling in a far larger system, the results might be even more mind-boggling.

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GeorgeHolland's picture
What I find mind boggling is

What I find mind boggling is the amount of time given to these so called  mind bending products. I would prefer for Stereophile to test these products using traditional methods instead of the yearly fawning over these items. Continued reports like this year after year by mainly the same person by the way just contibutes to the publics confusion when they are never given testing to see if they really work or are they just the usual subjective fawning. Please Stereophile, either do some real testing on these or stop these subjective reports.

John Atkinson's picture
The mind does indeed boggle

GeorgeHolland wrote:
Please Stereophile, either do some real testing on these or stop these subjective reports.

First, please note that J. Gordon Holt founded Stereophile 50 years ago on the premise that the primary means of judging an audio component was by listening to it. I hardly think it necessary to abandon that philosophy because some readers object to it. While I have significantly expanded Gordon's concept that the subjective testing should be supported by measurements since I took over form Gordon 26 years ago, I have no idea what should be measured with the Synergistic, Stein, Belt, or Quantum devices. I suspect that they actually have an effect on the _listener_ not the system, but if that effect is repeatable, then it is, of course, real.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

JasonVSerinus's picture
Mainly the same person

The last time John Atkinson and I checked, which was five days ago, we were anything but the same person. If you do a search of the archives, you will discover that both of us have commented on Synergistic Research's various devices in previous show reports. Note as well that while I, in the past, have blogged the Stein boxes, and reported on the differences I've heard, they were reviewed in Stereophile by Sam Tellig, and blogged in this report by Stephen Mejias.

Note as well that all of us are subjects, not objects. Hence, we embrace our subjective observations, and, while attempting to maintain a degree of critical objectivity, share them freely as the opportunity arises. Since the experience of music itself is subjective, our approach seems entirely appropriate. 

mrplankton2u's picture
This trend is very troubling.

You have a reputation for candor, technical savvy, and adherence to scientific objectivity that is well deserved. Unfortunately though, I've noticed a trend in Stereophile towards more and more subjective blather that is now reaching what seems like an absurd, extreme level. The numerous unsupported and in many cases ludicrous claims for products are growing in number and in the outrageous audacity of the claims. As a publication, Stereophile can't have it both ways. It's credibility is tied to what it publishes and the degree of objectivity it maintains with advertisers and non advertisers alike. You have to accept the fact that people (like myself) will be highly skeptical when you attempt to draw a clear line between what you do with the products you review and test - and the rest of the products that are "reviewed" by others. When the magazine endorses through frequent publication numerous outrageous claims by "reviewers" under its employ without posting strong disclaimers in each instance, it loses credibility. And regardless of your efforts to the contrary, it doesn't change the bottom line. Credibility is lost. As the saying goes, credibility is hard to build up and easy to tear down. I don't think most people will take your suggestion very seriously that essentially: "as long as the reviewer keeps getting the same impression or alleged experience", that the mere reporting of that experience is sufficient to establish its veracity. As a famous politician once said - "trust, but verified". In other words, one leg of the magazine cannot maintain one standard of objectivity while another leg is allowed to get along with a completely different standard. Credibility overall suffers at the point of the weakest link in the chain.

John Atkinson's picture
Credibility?

mrplankton2u wrote:
Unfortunately . . . I've noticed a trend in Stereophile towards more and more subjective blather that is now reaching what seems like an absurd, extreme level.

Really? Are you a subscriber, because I am not aware of any such trend. Perhaps you are reading a different magazine? Almost every full review is accompanied by a comprehensive set of measurements and reviews of cables, footers, tweaks, etc are relatively infrequent.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

mrplankton2u's picture
That's a pretty evasive response, John

Obviously, you know I wasn't referring to your reviews but the "reviews" and commentary of others that were endorsing products with questionable value where impact to sound quality was concerned. As for calling cable "reviews" actual reviews in the context of what you do with speakers, amps, and the like - that is what gets to the heart of the matter. I looked for a single review of speaker cables by you going back as far as I could and could not find any. However, what I did find were comments challenging the "reviewers" of said products for real data (numbers) beyond the subjective words. Stephen, when challenged by a commentor, even had the audacity to suggest in a recent cable "review" comment section that words possessed more value than numbers. 

As I indicated elsewhere, I'm not trying to suggest that Stereophile dispense with subjective analysis altogether. Hype and enthusiasm can be considered a legitimate part of any trade magazine that is devoted to evaluating a given industry's products. I'm not strident or irrational enough to suggest that they don't serve a particular purpose or function. What is key, and I think you know this and have been artfully dancing around the issue, is that in order to maintain objectivity and hence - credibility, the magazine might need to do a better job of drawing lines of demarcation between areas where pure, unsupported, subjective opinion is permitted and where opiinion is expected to be supported by some degree of independently verifiable evidence or science. Right now, no such demarcation appears to exist. And that doesn't bode well for the magazine's credibility overall. Also, by association, that tends to harm rather than help the credibility that you've built up over the years.

John Atkinson's picture
Shifting the goalposts

mrplankton2u wrote:
John Atkinson wrote:
mrplankton2u wrote:
Unfortunately . . . I've noticed a trend in Stereophile towards more and more subjective blather that is now reaching what seems like an absurd, extreme level.

Really? Are you a subscriber, because I am not aware of any such trend. Perhaps you are reading a different magazine? Almost every full review is accompanied by a comprehensive set of measurements and reviews of cables, footers, tweaks, etc are relatively infrequent.

Obviously, you know I wasn't referring to your reviews but the "reviews" and commentary of others that were endorsing products with questionable value where impact to sound quality was concerned.

No, that's not what I know. Your criticism, which I repeated above, specifically said "in Stereophile," from which I inferred you were talking about the paper magazine, not show reports on our website or comments in our forum or in responses to postings like this one.

Quote:
What I did find were comments challenging the "reviewers" of said products for real data (numbers) beyond the subjective words. Stephen, when challenged by a commentor, even had the audacity to suggest in a recent cable "review" comment section that words possessed more value than numbers.

Comments in show reports are not "reviews" nor are they taken as uch by readers (other than yourself, of course). Instead, they are informally obtained opinions expressed by the magazine's writers. I see no reason why this should bother anyone, nor do I think it brings Stereophile's reputation into disrepute, as you suggest..

Quote:
As I indicated elsewhere, I'm not trying to suggest that Stereophile dispense with subjective analysis altogether.

Well, that's a relief! :-)

Quote:
In order to maintain objectivity and hence - credibility, the magazine might need to do a better job of drawing lines of demarcation between areas where pure, unsupported, subjective opinion is permitted and where opiinion is expected to be supported by some degree of independently verifiable evidence or science.

I disagree. Any such line is arbitrary and ultimately meaningless. We offer our opinions for readers to accept or ignore. If someone feels the manner in which we form our opinions is flawed, then they are welcome to ignore what we say, and are free to say why, as you are doing here. But I see no compelling need for me, as editor of a magazine with a stable circulation, to abnegate my own philosophy in favor of yours.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

JohnnyR's picture
Mr Cop Out Strikes Again

"I disagree. Any such line is arbitrary and ultimately meaningless. We offer our opinions for readers to accept or ignore. If someone feels the manner in which we form our opinions is flawed, then they are welcome to ignore what we say, and are free to say why, as you are doing here. But I see no compelling need for me, as editor of a magazine with a stable circulation, to abnegate my own philosophy in favor of yours.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile"

Oh hi pal, I see you are still up to your old "excuses" ploy but then we, in the real world expect that from you till the day you die. Nothing new here folks, just move along , nothing to see. Oh I meant MEASUREMENT wise and using basic scientific means of wanting to find out  the "how" and "why" these magic cables, bowls and "Tranquilty Bases" (snicker)  "work". I personaly think Neil Armstrong should haunt you and Ted Denney for using such a historic name for these foolish fraudulant devices, but hey that's just me talking. Good to see that JA NEVER admits to any wrong doing. I can Google him and not come up with a single instance where he admits to making a mistake..........EVER. 

Rayman's picture
"adherence to scientific objectivity" is a failed ideal.

There are benefits to empirical evidence but there are limits to this way of knowing.

Few things can be proven beyond a doubt.

 

This is one of the lessons of the scientific revolution.

Ironically a university degree demonstrates the limits to knowledge and the extreme difficulty of gathering valid evidence while learning one hell of lot of things.

Result... the subjective is perhaps the best method of knowing.

I credit John Atkinson for having the correct balance between the objective and subjective.

Synergistic Research Active Firewire 800 does not make any sense but it works.

Will I stop using it because an objective scientific case can't be presented?

NO!!

GeorgeHolland's picture
So in other words, plenty of

So in other words, plenty of subjective say so and very little or zero testing. Great. An effect on the listener but not the system?  Must be magic then. Thanks for clarifying the reasoning for not bothering.  Maybe JohnnyR was onto something about you two and Synergistc Research and magic bowls and excuses? I find this road you both have decided to take troubling in that it appears testing is important but at the same time you can't be bothered or don't know what to test. Amusing sirs amusing.

burnspbesq's picture
Let Me Suggest a Solution, Mr. holland

Find your nearest Synergistic dealer, go there, and listen.

GeorgeHolland's picture
No thanks, if I need make

No thanks, if I need make believe, I'll just clap my hands and Tinkerbell will appear.Do you, yourself own any of their products? Please do tell us all about them if so,

mrplankton2u's picture
Let me suggest a different

Let me suggest a different solution. Either the "reviewer" or manufacturer make the most menial attempt at explaining what the "magic bowls", "beads" or whatever do to the sound that is arriving at the listener's ear lobe - or don't bother publishing the nonense. Without even attempting to do this, reasonable people don't know whether Stereophile is trying to play a joke on its readers or its writers have actually lost their collective marbles. Repeated vague proclaimations that it "improves the exerience" in some way are both patronizing and insulting to everyone except the most gullible, uninformed, or deranged among us. 

I don't think a magazine such as Stereophile has to completely abstain from engaging in the ridiculous, absurd, or in some instances - humorous nonsense that might be (hopefully a small) part of the hobby. But it should draw a clear line by placing such nonsense in a special section - perhaps labled "Mystic Corner". Interspersing this bunk with the rest of the "content" that "normal people" rely on for accuracy and objectivity casts a pall over the entire enterprise - making it all essentially useless fluff entertainment.

RB's picture
The value of show reports and shows

It seems some people read show reports looking for absolute truth when in fact the writers spend precious little time in each room. Their comments are a far cry from what they might write after living with a product during a full review process. But even then, it is still not an unequivocal truth because their system, their room and the music they play is never identical to your own. It's the old Heisenberg Principle coming into play again. Show reports and reviews are merely a springboard for you to get out of your listening chair and investigate the equipment yourself. If you don't have a local dealer you need to travel. Football fans and NASCAR fans do this all the time to watch their teams and drivers. Certainly the proliferation of major audio shows is offering us unprecedented opportunity to see and hear gear in higher concentration of space and time than the brick and mortar businesses in even the largest cities can offer. If you've got the interest, you'll find a way to get to one. I've seen blind people and others in wheelchairs navigating the hotel rooms.

The other major development at shows is the effort of more manufacturers to offer us comparisons of different levels of their products, be they cables, footers, DACs or speakers. This is an excellent way to experience the effects and differences of different levels of gear. I hope this trend continues as it has been very helpful in developing my listening skill. I've experienced A-B comparisons of a room treated with the Synergistic Research bowls and appreciated the contribution they make to the music. Same thing with their Enigma cables. There is a company that will loan you these products for a modest fee if you really want to find out for yourself. Doing so would likely relieve a person of the angst they feel while sitting on the sidelines of this great hobby, writing letters to the editor, waiting for measurable scientific proof or the results of double blind testing. In the mean time, maybe we should all go out and buy another LP, or download, if you must.

GeorgeHolland's picture
Sorry but, relying upon the

Sorry but, relying upon the dealer or manufacturer of said products is not a reliable way to test a product. Do you know that there are numerous ways to alter response of a system by changing the phase and frequency response? Elevating or reducing the frequencies in certain frequency bands will make the sound more spacious or appear to come from different locations.Simply changing the phase on one speaker by 180 degrees will guarantee a profound change in both. A switch can accomplish this easily and switches can be silent.

Mr Atkinson has outright suggested that these products affect the listener and not the sysytem. You believe that? This is in the realm of voodoo and magic.Mr Denney has a terrible record of making claims on the Stereophile forums and other audio forums and never being able to prove those claims. Search for the Acoustic Research System bowls and read how just an attempt to get both Denney and Stereophile to simply test them, ran in several threads and lasted for over 2 years with zero results. Mr Atkinson claimed Denney never submitted any for tests. I guess simply borrowing some from Mr Serinus, who had access to them numerous times over those years didn't come to mind.

When did it become the reader's obligation to do the real world testing of these "mind bending" products instead of Stereophile doing what they already do for speakers, amps, preamps and DACs? I'm thinking that perhaps it's the same reason they don't or "can't" do tests on cables and  power cords. Can't be bothered. So if they throw out superlatives year after year for certain products but never bother to test them, take the well known advice of "buyer beware" and "there's a sucker born every minute".

burnspbesq's picture
So, Mr. Holland

You don't trust your own ears?

That's bizarre, and a little sad.

Why are you involved in this hobby, anyway? You seem to have lost track of some fundamentals. Is it, or is it not, about enjoying recorded music?

GeorgeHolland's picture
Oh I trust my ears and eyes

Oh I trust my ears and eyes and common sense. Seems if all you want is spoon fed what to buy, then by all means trust Stereophile to shove whatever it is they like down your throat. If all it takes is a pair of ears, then why does JA bother doing real tests on amps, preamps and speakers?  Couldn't he just borrow Mr Serinus to tell him what he is hearing also?  Think about that.

mrplankton2u's picture
Your suggestions are clearly

Your suggestions are clearly a tried and worn out attempt at avoiding the issue. People read the magazine and others like it to obtain a valuable opinion that can be trusted about products in the marketplace. If the standard evasive response:

"don't you trust your ears more than the numbers?"

had any value, than why would anyone need a magazine that publishes trustworthy information by supposed experts? They could just go find the nearest dealer and let their ears decide for them.  Clearly, the magazine only has value if the information published can be trusted. And the usual, "trust me, I know what I'm talking about" doesn't do anything to bolster that trust. When someone can produce actual data results that back up the opinion - like flat frequency response and excellent directivity control in the case of a loudspeaker - an assertion that the speaker maintains good imgaging properties is far more believable and the credibility of the person doing the asserting is bolstered. If there is nothing to measure or no technology exists to record actual data that would suggest a difference, then don't expect reasonable, rational people to accept on face value your

"trust me, I know what I"m talking about" assertions. 

keremz's picture
Synergistic Magic

I was suprised and thrilled to see that Synergistic used Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum amp at the RMAF, as I have the same amp and the Tranquility Base, Acoustic Art and Synergistic cables. 

 

Mr Holland, as a user all I can say is that yourself is always the best reviwer. And one other thing I can say s that Synergistic products works. All you need are a pair of ears to hear what they do. Theres no need to argue with 50 year old magazine. Just go snd listen to Synergistic and you will see ( hear) what they are talking about.

I strongly suggest less bitching and more listening for your health. :)))

GeorgeHolland's picture
Please see my above reply to

Please see my above reply to Mr burnspbesq.It applies in this case also.Always nice reading such a cordial reply but it seems common here when you disagree with the status quo. Have fun "listening" to your equipment, I myself will be enjoying the music instead.

JohnnyR's picture
Wowsey Doozie

Keremz has personally donated his hard earned money to Ted Denney and got NOTHING in return other than a hearty laugh behind his back from Ted. Enjoy those make believe "audio" devices. Please contact me for some really nice devices I have come up with too. A real bargain at only $1000 each and the best thing is they fit in a normal sized envelope for easy shiping!

Pro-Audio-Tech's picture
Nola Boxers

All concerns aside here I like to enjoy my music too...

Call me simple but I liked the little Nola Boxers in this room. For the money they are a sweet speaker.

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