Ted Denney's Excellent Adventure

Ted Denney at the 2003 CES. (Photo: John Atkinson)

As I had been impressed with Ted Denney's Synergistic Research cable, I thought that asking him for 25,000 words on his thoughts on cable design and performance would be an appropriate accompaniment to my Symphonic Line Kraft 400 amplifier review.

Ted Denney: Two important things to start off with: First, no one cable can perform musically in every system; second, price is not a guarantee of performance. For example, in your system, Jonathan, I recommended our Phase 2 Mk.V—not the more expensive Resolution Reference—to run to your amps, because they're more suited to that application. The Reference interconnect is designed for a different kind of component, like the tubed Jadis JA 200s.

You have to find a cable that works with a given set of components, so what we do is develop different sets of cables designed to complement or bring out the best possible performance for these different types of components. In some cases, our entry-level cable, the Alpha Series, can outperform our most expensive cables, provided they're properly matched.

Jonathan Scull: How does your customer typically choose the right cable at Synergistic Research?

Denney: We have a book available at all of our dealers called The Synergistic Research Explorers Guide. Your readers can give us a call and we'll send it out to them. It outlines every cable we make and which components and price level they're designed to work with. The other thing we do for our customers is, when you go to an authorized Synergistic Research dealer, you can fill out a form that allows us to run a diagnostic on your system.

Aside from determining the equipment, we ask important questions about the way the system sounds: how it soundstages, its general timbre, if it's forward, dark, bright, the placement of the speakers, and the general acoustics of your listening room. The dealer faxes this information to us, and, based on the information provided, we fax back a recommendation of what will work given that particular system. So, in essence, we'll match a complete set of cables to anyone's system, and do it right here at the factory.

You see, it's not a question of price points, or the more money you spend, the better it gets. Designing at progressively higher price points is inherently a flawed concept. It's true that, as the associated equipment gets more expensive, it allows us to do more—either by hand-building them or by careful materials selection. You can't do that at a lower price point. But anyway, since we optimize the cable for a particular application, you can get a cable that works best for your system without spending a ton of money!

Scull: Let's hear about the materials selection.

Denney: First, we select cable geometries for a given cable based on the engineering requirements or the transfer characteristics of the target components. For example, if we supply an interconnect for a broad-bandwidth solid-state amp, like the Kraft 400s, we'll make a heavily shielded cable. If we're going into a tube amp, we'll do an unshielded cable that's extremely low in capacitance. Then we build several versions of that cable using different materials, listening for their contribution to the sound. With us, there isn't a standard hierarchy of materials, with silver and Teflon, for example, at the top of an almost infinite list of possibilities.

Scull: What are the typical materials found in your products?

Denney: We don't use any pure silver or copper in our interconnects—it's all alloys. They have better measurable characteristics at 1GHz than do silver or copper, and in subjective listening tests seem to have a more developed midrange and are texturally more complete. We picked up that technology by working with aerospace engineers.

Scull: Is the wire silver-plated?

Denney: It's coated with a preparatory alloy that prevents it from oxidizing. It also improves high-frequency transfer at the surface, where these frequencies propagate. However, our speaker wires are pure copper—it simply sounds the best.

Scull: How about the dielectric?

Denney: We use foamed polypropylene and modified polyethylene.

Scull: 'Scuse me, Ted?

Denney: Yeah, we've changed the chemical compounds slightly. We like polyethylene because it has a dielectric constant almost equal to that of Teflon; but in our listening tests, it sounded much more developed both spatially and texturally, where Teflon alone sounds somewhat thin and bright by comparison.

Scull: And the jacket material?

Denney: On our more expensive cables, we use a handmade, woven jacket that acts as a dissimilar surface that dissipates vibration. We also use polymer cores and cotton shafts to suppress conductor resonances. On the lower-cost Alpha Series, the jackets are vacuum-sealed over the conductors and dielectrics to suppress the conductor resonances.

Scull: In what configuration do you make your cables?

Denney: We use solid-core, stranded, and Litz conductors, combining them to get the best performance. You know, Jonathan, you can't build a symphony with just one instrument!

Scull: Can I quote you on that, Mr. Denney?

Denney: Yeah! You get a more complete presentation by combining different technologies—that's why we use subjective listening tests when selecting materials. Earlier you asked about the dielectric—I want to tell you that sometimes we actually pass the signal through two separate modifications of a polyethylene dielectric. In many of our interconnects, one type seems to have the right character for upper frequencies, while another will flesh out the bass and the lower midrange.

Scull: I see...

Denney: And, you may ask, why do we build some of our cables by hand?

Scull: Yes, I may ask that...

Denney: Well, we make the less expensive Alpha interconnect on a machine—the Alpha Sterling goes for $150 with silver, and I want to tell you, it costs as much to build as anyone's silver cable, which they might sell for $500 or $600. Just because you build a cable out of silver and Teflon doesn't automatically make it worth 10 times its weight in gold! But we also make handmade interconnects that take over an hour to build just for one pair, which we then run through some tests and give a serial number to.

When we build 'em by hand, we can scrutinize the materials through listening tests before putting them in the cable. Whenever I get a new spool of conductor material, we build a test assembly and listen to the signal in one direction, then flip it around and listen in the other direction. I mark the spool with the direction of the cable. What direction they wind up in the cable itself is dependent on which cable it's going in. It may run in either one direction or another! In many cables, we'll run it in one direction in 6'-and-under lengths, and flip it around for longer lengths. If we made it all by machine, we couldn't do any of this.

Another thing: We may run the signal wire in one direction and the ground wire in the other. Whatever sounds best. When we build our most expensive stuff, the Resolution Reference, sometimes it's murder to find a spool of cable or conductor material to build it with. People want 'em, but we can't get the materials that have the sound for it.

Scull: Okay, Ted. That's 24,998 words—two to go!

Denney: Thanks, Jonathan.

Scull: That's it!

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COMMENTS
ChrisS's picture

Did Ted Denney take his products off the market and close up his business after that?

GeorgeHolland's picture

The bigger question is , why didn't he defend his "honor" in court after all the blustering he did online? After all, if he had been able to show how fantastic his products were before the public then think of the increased sales and the satisfaction of showing up that darn pesky skeptic. i think his inaction spoke for itself.

ChrisS's picture

People buy his products, use them, and enjoy them. What more is there?

What you imagine for other people, Georgie, isn't reality.

Alexei Petrov's picture

What more is there? How about a business based upon truth and not snake oil lies? How about selling products that affect the sound instead of being scams? How about having enoughh dignity to make products that do something instead of just being subjective nonsense that does nothing? How about not charging thousands for a stupid cable, bowl,power cord that is nonsense. People that sell these snake oil items don't even have respect for their customers, they laugh and take their money and come up with even more stupid crap and the fools buy those too.

ChrisS's picture

"...products that affect the sound..."

Have you spoken to Georgie about...products that affect sound....products that do something...?

How did you uncover the truth about scams, scam products, snake oil, subjective nonsense, and stupid crap?

How do you know these things?

Testing?

Alexei Petrov's picture

Since you seem to like questions, how do you know they aren't scams and legit? Testing?  NO you admitted to owning none of them. Faith?  Faith in what, the average slob to come on here and say "I just spent $2000 on some fancy cables and boy howdy do they sound good!" The manufacturer themselves? Yeah lets ask them since they are going to be so honest.  Yeah that really makes it legit surprise Reviewers? Please. The only "testing" they do is subjective "Lets switch cables once and write a review" Science ignored along with how to do a proper test.

Honestly there isn't any hope for you if you have no idea how to weed out the good from the bad.

[flame deleted by John Atkinson]

ChrisS's picture

You mean I have to own the International Space Station to know if it's real or not? I better start saving up.

ChrisS's picture

What a sunny dispostion you have... Can I can call you Mr. Sunshine?

You seem to have as much going on in your head as Georgie! Are you guys sharing?

As I've said, I have no issues with these products. What you offer, without reference to good scientific information or personal experience, is your opinion.

How does the average slob measure "stupid crap"?

Glotz's picture

Guys like these doesn't have an opinion... just a ton of hot air with no experience, listening or otherwise.  They're flamers, flaming this site for many years.  

Ted's products prove themselves every day in the marketplace, unlike the shifty examples he gave of basically defunct companies.  

The psychotic nature of those rants are unacceptable, and amount to spam on this website.  

I guarantee the same person is using both Alexei and George by himself to pretend he has anyone to agree with him. Seriously wacked. 

I think people like him just realized that he'll never succumb to purchasing nice-sounding gear, so he wants to take out on everyone else, claiming none hear differences in cables, whether they are Audioquest, Cardas, MIT, or even Synergistic.  The multiple reviews by multiple magazines and websites are all just lies in their minds.  They just want his money like the rest.  There is no good music to enjoy, no additional value to be had by owning their products.  

I thought the Tesla series loom was astonishingly good sounding, (and expensive for me now), but that's for adults- that experience music and are open to ACTUAL research.. like listening to music, instead of just talking about and around it. 

These guys still don't have any experience listening to any of this, so whatever they say has no weight nor merit of any kind.  

Again, talk like this is just for haters.  

Glotz's picture

That if you polled every owner of Synergistic gear, I bet EVERY ONE of them would tell you they love their cables/gear/purchase! 

These guys are trying to 'SAVE' us from ourselves!  They are trying to prevent SCAMS for the betterment of society!

Pretty ironic all of their words amount to nothing, for no-one. 

That is the just the pure honesty, sweetness towards fellow man, and the courage to stand up to... to... to... even they don't know.  

No one needs them, no one wants them, and no one respects people ranting like this.  

ChrisS's picture

Thanks for your posts!

I unashamedly admit that I'm making a sport of flaming the flamers. I twist and turn their own twisted comments to show the lack of logic and science in their posts.

My time as an undergraduate studying developmental psychology (the development of thinking in children) and statistics was eons ago, but I still find how people think fascinating. All these posters provide a rich goldmine of material to study- I try to figure out who they are, how they think, and respond to them provocatively to try to get them to reveal more about themselves. If I were still a student just reading these recent posts, I could easily come up with a paper on "The Psychology of Scamming".

On the lighter side, I find their posts great fodder for comedic responses.   Some unknown, famous person may have said, "When faced with the adversity of absurdity, the absurdity of irreverence may be the only cure..."

Unfortunately, I do resort to a level of malice in my responses to these posters just to underscore the abusive attitudes they often express, as I am really against bullying of any kind, especially on-line bullying of kids.

Then again, quite often, these guys just don't understand science! Which is frustrating, because SCIENCE is EASY!

Anyways, I appreciate your posts and your understanding of our engagement with audio products and our musical experiences and of those who can't figure it out.

Look forward to reading more from you!

Glotz's picture

Absolutely Rock On!  

Malice is a good thing for those that deserve it. Unwarranted insults and misguided attacks derserve much the same... only with more irreverence... and substance.  

The sad thing is these guys who hate in the false spirit of caring really caused the death of Stereophile's forums.  It is interesting to see a dearth of monthly issue forum posts.

It is also infuriating to see the News posts littered with sarcastic and hate-filled responses to SM or AB, for instance, as it really puts much of the staff on edge when someone wants to level a thoughtful criticism about a particular review or viewpoint. 

Personally, as a long-time gamer on the PC and consoles, I think it would be very interesting if you looked into what makes children cheat, and how a lack of pride reduces their character in life (how it may lead to other forms of dishonesty, like lying and stealing (with parents or teachers, etc.).

It is epidemic on every system, and to play any competitive FPS game online, one would be hard-pressed to find a single room where there are not 90% cheaters, who hack the game software, and generally find a way to 'fit in' by cheating with their mates and peers.  I am very interested in learning how their false sense of pride and poor character is developed by interviewing these kids (and adults), and how they deflect their guilt with 'humor'.  It's almost as if they are delusional, and their perception of cheating is almost nil, and seeing the responses on the console forums reinforces my impression that there is a serious psychological disconnect occurring somewhere. Moreover, over 10 million kids do it, so it has a far reaching effect if one looks their development and character over the long haul.    

Buy hey, researching these earless, flat-earthers here, is just about as interesting, if not exhausting, as their vast stupidity is ceaseless. 

Alexei Petrov's picture

[Flame deleted by John Atkinson]

So far I haven't seen anyone use science to describe what Ted Denney builds or give us any examples how science applies to his uhhhhhhhhhhh crap.

John Atkinson's picture

So far today I have deleted a bunch of postings from you, Alexei Petrov, that were nothing more than namecalling and flames. I'd rather be listening to music this weekend than policing this website, so I am giving you a formal warning: if you continue to behave in this manner, I will disable your account.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

John Atkinson's picture

John Atkinson wrote:
[To Alexei Petrov] I am giving you a formal warning: if you continue to behave in this manner, I will disable your account.

As Alexei Petrov continued to post flames and personal insults, I have blocked his account from being able to post comments to this site.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

keremz's picture

Over the years I have bought a full set of cables, Acoustic Art system, Powercell 2 and a Tranquility base from Synergistic Research and have been very happy with them ever since.  I listened, tested and decided that I liked what I heard. So whoever says Synergistic's stuff is no good, well I dont agree with you. You dont have to agree with me but a least I own, use and enjoy them on a daily basis. 

ChrisS's picture

As you added these cables, etc. Did the sound change even after all the gear was in place?

keremz's picture

With each step/ add on there was an improvement on stage, resolution, depth, clarity. It was amazing to hear the difference after adding Acoustic Arts and then the Tranquility base which seems like snake oil to a lot of people. Trust me they made big differences. The Acoustic Arts are amazing, as you add more base and sattalite units you hear the sound improving step by step. A deaf could hear these differences easily. :))))

ChrisS's picture

Just wondering... Have these improvements remained constant once you added the units, or have you noticed any changes or fluctuations over time?

keremz's picture

Obviously you hear more of the change at the begining and over time you get used to the sound and the only way to hear a difference is if you change something in your system   But I can easily say this each time I do a demo with the Acoustic Arts or the Tranquility base to my friends they go nuts.  :)))

ChrisS's picture

I haven't had the chance to chat with anyone who have these products, I appreciate your responses!

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