Synergistic's Black ART

When I reported in our report from the 2009 RMAF that I perceived a degradation when Ted Denney of cable manufacturer Synergistic Research removed his tiny ART devices from the room, it triggered a debate that raged not just in the comments following that report but also in our website forum right up to today. The fact is that these small metal bowls are too small to have a significant effect on the acoustics of a room at frequencies below 10kHz or so, yet they seem to improve the accuracy and stability of stereo imaging and even tighten up the sounds of bass instruments. It is a mystery, therefore, how these devices can work. I have conjectured that perhaps they have an effect on the listener’s state of mind rather than the acoustics, but if so, then I don’t comprehend how that effect can be both repeatable and demonstrable. Whatever they do—if they do anything, that is—therefore, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went into my final room at the 2010 RMAF, the Synergistic room.

A pair of YG’s new two-way Carmel speakers ($18,000/pair) was being powered by an Ayon tube amp and Ayon CD player. The room was completely bare, other than the tiny devices that you can see on the wall above and to the side of each speaker, with other "bass” devices in front of the speakers and on the wall behind the CD player.

Both Jason and I have commented in our reports on the generally problematic acoustics of the small rooms in the Marriott’s Tower, and how other exhibitors had tried to deal with them with Tube Traps, absorbers, and diffusors. All I can say is that in this bare, untreated room—untreated in the conventional manner, that is—the sound of the Carmels was way better than when I first heard them at the 2010 CES. The balance was mellow and musically involving and it was almost as if the acoustics of the room were being sidestepped. The overall sound was not quite at the level of the Revel and Dynaudio rooms that I felt were the best of Show, but it wasn’t as far behind as you might expect.

Ted offered to remove the ART devices so I could hear if the sound got worse, but it was already past the Show’s closing time on the final day. And in any case, I had heard that demonstration last year. I’ll let Shakespeare sum it up: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” And mine, it seems.

David_L's picture

Way to dodge the bullet xD .....No comparison of with/without the magic bowls......well done sir. Ted must have been "disappointed" there wasn't time for a real demo hahahaha.

andy_c's picture

Fraud is quite well known in my philosophy, thank you very much.

Richard Weed's picture

And the fact that those speakers in the picture are $18,000?!!! This room might be the fun house, it's all a distorted waste of time? Ted D. is getting away with not having to have these jokes tested, one excuse after another, shame shame on John. He promised and now back peddles like a politician. John, your first conjecture was it works at MICROWAVE freqs. Now it's on the mental placebo? Any other guesses, to continue not testing? you test speakers all the time in a non perfect room. but these require something purposely built? I smell a big corrupt, lie. Either tell us you know this stuff is junk, and fake, or test it, and prove it works. Ashamed to have made a PROMISE to test?

suits_me's picture

I've heard/tawght I've heard strange things in the audio world, so I don't want to dismiss the tiny, drug test sample bowls out of hand. They're wildly expensive though, right? So many questions....

buddha's picture

Christopher, how was the sound?

Richard Weed's picture

So these are hanging in the Parthenon? but i thought these came from some other group. Tibetian bowls, I guess ted D. doesn't remember which lie he's telling. What amazes me, he makes enough money selling this crap, that he can get a room at the show. I am jealous, he should sell books, the Art of the con. Ted, do you have any Greek urns coming out?

Christopher Klein's picture

The sound in the room was ok. He was using top shelf equipment. The demo material he was playing was classical and some new agey kind of thing. My only complaint on the demo was that he played the track, paused it, took the "bowls" away, told you what you would hear, then continued from where it was paused. My preference for an A/B comparison would be to re-start the track and play the same passage, not a part where the bass was now playing the five chord, a 5th higher than in the previous part of the demo. I would have liked to hear something with drums to hear how attack transients behaved in the room. I did not hear a marked improvement in the sound. I did hear a difference, but in a room with flimsy walls the added weight of the bowls will change the resonance of the walls meaning it will sound different. Again, I will be an agnostic on this. Show me the math. I'm not saying they don't do something, but there is no evidence they can work in the low frequency range at all as far as I can see.

buddha's picture

"....I did hear a difference, but in a room with flimsy walls the added weight of the bowls will change the resonance of the walls meaning it will sound different."

How much did you say those bowls weigh?

They can change the resonance of the walls?

Got any math to back that up?

I am dubious regarding the veracity of that resonance claim. Not endorsing the bowls, just equally dubious about the significance of their "added weight" on a wall being sufficient to alter its resonance.

John Atkinson's picture

"....I did hear a difference, but in a room with flimsy walls the added weight of the bowls will change the resonance of the walls meaning it will sound different."Except that the little bowls aren't fastened to the walls but to free-standing studs :-(

buddha's picture

So, time to start talking about the "free standing stud" tweak?

That's what my wife calls me, by the way.

"Free standing stud," not "tweak."

Christopher Klein's picture

John Atkinson is correct that the ones in the front of the room were on studs. I believe the ones on the side walls were not and the room I got a closer look at the bowls was in the Ayon demo and they were definitely either glued or velcroed to the wall. I will leave it to my boss and mentor to explain the math. He is better at it than I.

Art Noxon, Pres of ASC-TubeTrap's picture

"Show me the math" ..Did you know 5 out of 4 audiophiles can’t do math? Seriously, adding weight to a spring/mass system lowers the frequency. And so "the math" is really how much weight shift goes with how much frequency shift and…can someone hear the shift. Sheetrock weighs 2#/sqft. The moving part of sheetrock between studs on 16" centers will be about 9” wide. Adding ½# to wall increases the weight of the sheetrock. It’s twang tone lowers by square root of the ratio of the weight before and after: ((2/(2+1/2))*1/2 = 0.9. The twang tone of a 9”x16” strip of sheetrock, between the studs will be lowered by 10% if a 1/2# weight is attached midpoint. Typical sheetrock panel resonance is 250 Hz. The octave is 200 Hz with 12 notes and 16 Hz between notes on average. 10% of 250 = 25 Hz. 25/16 = 3/2 = 1.5 notes. Even after 8 hours of hearing loud sound at the show, an audiophile should still be able to tell the difference between the sound of two adjacent piano keys...thanks for the fun..

Tom's picture

There's more on this (and more and better pictures and comments) at

Maloof's picture

Last year I saw Ted do a demo of the magic bowls. He had them in place while music played, then asked if we would like them removed. Sure. What he did, though, was to go and turn off the music, then remove the devices, and then play the music again. In no way would I call this an accurate demo, as enough time had elapsed (way more than the fabled "no more than 10 seconds of time between switching components for comparison" rule), that I could really not tell if there was any difference. It sounded exactly the same to me (though another person in the room claimed to hear a change, but was that because he expected to?) The way to do the test would be while the music is playing so you could hear any real change, not having to "remember" how it sounded before. This is not meant as a dig against Synergistic, I have a pair of their cables and like them, just that the way the test was done (and the results) did not impress me. Maybe he did it differently this year?

DaveNat's picture

I stopped by this room, mostly because I noticed they had the well-regarded Carmel speakers in their setup. I witnessed a round of the demo that Maloof described - where he played the setup with the devices in place, turned off the music, and then removed them, played music again, turned it off, then replaced them, then turned the music on again. I asked him to remove and replace them with the music playing. He said no, "it's harder to hear small changes that way." I didn't hear any change in the previous demos, but perhaps I just didn't have the requisite faith.

Matt Eiffert's picture

A couples shot of whiskey and half a joint will smoke those bowls for way cheaper.

buddha's picture

So, Art, the ART Bowls do have an effect on room acoustics, according to the math!

Thanks for proving that.

How much do your own wall traps weigh? They look heavier than the bowls, must really alter the sheetrock panel resonance, eh?

Donald Dubious's picture

What happens if the bowls are turned upside down? What happens when the FTC makes crooks give facts and specs on the junk they are trying to pawn off as legit stuff. Hopefully soon, and these charlatans will be gone.

audiophile's picture

Wow, I mean WOW. So ASC Tube Traps you sat through the demo of the Synergistic Research Acoustic ART System at RMAF and heard a difference but you are attributing that difference to the weight of the ART devices and not the over whelming evidence that they are actually changing acoustics as reported by Art (your employee) not to mention numerous audio reviewers including Stereophile’s John Atkinson? Really?!!! You do realize they weight only a few ounces each don’t you? I’d like to see your MATH as to how a few device that weigh only a few ounces each can alter an entire rooms acoustics through mass dampening of the walls. Good luck with that. Disclaimer- I am not in the audio industry. I am a consumer who ENJOYS music and playing around with high-end audio. Ass holes who hold audiophiles and our hobby in disdain, not so much.

Arthur Noxon, PE, Acoustical Engineer, Pres of ASC-TubeTrap's picture

It is not accurate to suggest that ASC modifies, cultivates or adds twangers into high end audio rooms. We work to calm down the room, moving it towards the goal that the only sound heard by the listener is the sound that comes from the program material. I did “show the math” that describes what happens when weight is directly attached to the resonating wall. It has since been incorrectly proposed that the same thing happens when the same weight is hung off of a nail that is embedded in the wall. When a weight is attached directly to a wall, the vibrational displacement of the wall also displaces the added weight. When the same weight is hung by a nail and string, or other flexible connection, the in/out vibrational displacement of the wall only moves the nail back and forth. The hanging weight remains still at the other end. Conclusion: Hanging a sound panel off a wall does not add weight to the vibrational movement of the wall and accordingly, does not change the frequency of vibrating wall.

buddha's picture

Ah, roger that. So, the nail is free moving...with the attached weight being a red herring in your product's case.

Did you catch the part about the ART bowls not being attached to the wall?

analogBud's picture

Don't any of you use chemical alterations, wine, beer, weed, crack, anything? What the hell is wrong? They're way cheaper and they change your perception of music–for the better!

audiophile's picture

Arthur Noxon, PE, Acoustical Engineer, Pres of ASC-TubeTrap. So Arthur are you saying the "weight" of the Synergistic Research Acoustic ART Bowels (a few ounces at best) alter the vibration characteristics of walls enough to have an affect on a room’s perceived acoustics while your massive conventional sound dampening panels weighing several pounds EACH which also hang on the wall are not altering the vibration characteristics of the wall? Because of the way they are attached? Because of a nail? (How do you think the ART pieces "attach"?) Again, REALLY?!!! Care to show us YOUR math or are you too busy making up BS to cover for the fact your employee heard and reported on the affect of the ART System at RMAF and then made up “hanging on the wall weight, duhh” to account for what he reported? WOW! You do know that part of the ART System rests on the floor- are those pieces (which also weigh a few ounces) altering the resonance of the floor?

Christopher Klein's picture

OK....There has been a bunch of misunderstanding here and I will write one last entry. I stated that I heard a slight difference in the passages of music that were played. I ALSO stated it was not the same passage played back to back. On top of that the section that was played the second time was in a different range. Yes, some of the bowls were on the floor and some were ATTACHED to the rear and side walls. The difference was negligible at best. My personal feeling is these things can't do anything to ENHANCE the sound of the room. They can create sound and no audiophile wants anything in the room that is not part of the system to create sound. If someone wants to call me at ASC and discuss the merits of Tube Traps or any other legitimate acoustical product over these I welcome the debate. My goal here is not to promote ASC over anything else. RPG, GIK, Real Traps and many others make good products with math and or science to back them up.

Richard Weed's picture

These have the math to back them up. called profits, galore. Ca ching. What a load of crap bowls to change the acoustics of a space. To even discuss this garbage is stupid. Another scam.

Calvin's picture

So many bright people missing the boat entirely. These things work by resonating with frequencies that are pleasing to the ear. The music plays, the bowls sympathetically vibrate and voila, things sound more spacious and inviting. It has nothing to do with wall structure or microwaves (!?) or the passage of Pluto. Yes, rooms these are in do sound subjectively "better", but not nearly enough to justify half their price.

Richard Weed's picture

Yes Calvin, of course it sounded better, everything done ALWAYS sounds better. and that's why, they resonate and of course they make it all sound better, you big dope! More spacious and inviting, please EXPLAIN how, did you come up with that bit of crap? Probably just how Ted D. comes up with his lines of complete BS. so you say at what price are they "worth it". and JA's lack of a complete put down of this kind of garbage, further illustrates how they want to keep peddling crap, cus they need the advertisers, to stay. call it what it is, a scam.