Review of Syn. Res. Galileo Un. Cells & H-Cat X9

Category: Cables

This is really a review of the Synergistic Research Galileo Universal Cell, both Interconnect and Speaker Cells, the X9 version of the H-Cat P 12R line stage, and the Tidal Contriva Discera SE speakers. My having received the SR Cells, the H-Cat, and new Tidal Contriva Discera SEs all in the space of three days, as well as my impatience to put everything at the same time complicated my knowing which change had the largest impact.
After two and a half weeks of breakin and greatly enjoying what I was hearing, I decided to assess the benefits of each. My plan was to remove the SR Universal Cells one set at a time, to swap the X8 H-Cat for the X9 H-Cat, to reintroduce the SR Cells, and ultimately put the X9 H-Cat version once again into my system. I could not compare the Tidals versus my older speakers, the Acapella LaCompanellas.
Most of the evaluations were done with a Mac Powerbook Pro running Amarra driving the Weiss Minerva dac through Firewire. I should say that my amplifier is the H-Cat DF-100.2 Power amp. I also used StillPoints component stands under the amplifier and turntable as well as under the Tidal speakers. Additional isolation is from the Synergistic Research MIGs feet under every component other than the turntable and the speakers. All cabling is Synergistic Research Tesla charged cabling, typically the top Apex line and many had their Galileo MPC chargers. Their Tesla PowerCell 10 SE and QLS-9 outlet strip precede their power cords. All components, other than the H-Cat P-12R line stage, have Synergistic Research “tunneled” cheater plugs where they where plugged in.
My digital music had greatly improved in the two weeks of breakin. Some troublesome recordings, such as Frank Sinatra and Count Basie at the Sands, in the special SHM version had reach a point that I thought I would never experience–Frank sounded very real and plausibly placed on the sound stage with Basie off to his right. One could hear the contacts he had with his mike, the bass information in his voice, his turning his head to look at Basie, and the noises of the audience with vivid placement. Apart from the large band of Basie’s, everything was much closer to “real” than I have ever experienced, including when I attended amplified, “live” performances.
This was true also of several other recordings, such as a live Holy Cole recording and many symphonic cuts on the FIM K2 Sampler. Holy Cole’s stage presence and the openness of the audience before her were truly encompassing. The musicians around her had real presence and precise locations. On symphonic cuts on the K2 Sampler, one could hear the individual violins, the location and decay of bass notes and drums, the dynamics of the music, and the character of the recording venue. Although some effort had obviously been made to reduce the tape hiss on one of the older recordings, it was still obvious now. Finally, cut 16 on the K2 Sampler, Pachelbel’s Canon in D by the All Star Percussion Ensemble was awesome. There is a good deal of studio noise captured, such as musicians moving around, traffic noise outside, and something heavy being rolled down a hall and into the studio. Ones sense of being there is quite vivid.
Much of this “magic” was lost as I removed each of the three sets of Synergistic Research Galileo Universal Cells. The noise level increased, bass definition was lost, the sound stage became less involving and shrank in between the speakers, and the sound became less real. The H-Cat P 12R has a Wave Timing Control, which behaves much like a focus adjustment on a camera, but not an automatic adjustment. It allowed some improvement to offset the loss with removing the Universal Cells.
All that remained was to use the H-Cat P 12R X8 rather than the new X9. While I was somewhat surprised that it sounded so good, I also heard the loss of resolution of subtle details, I heard bass that did not go as deep and which was less defined and a much less precisely defined sound stage.
I reinstalled all of the SR Galileo Universal Cells and again listened. With only the swap of the two versions of the H-Cat being different, there was a loss of the ultimate magic that I heard earlier. The bass was less defined, but the biggest difference was the loss of resolution of many details, many of them not being in the music that had been there with the X9 but not with the X8.
Overall, I think the Tidal speaker play accurately what they receive. The H-Cat X9 line stage is just more accurate in reflecting what is one the recording than the already excellent P 12R X8, and the Synergistic Research Universal Cells vividly portray this detail to the speakers. Each listening I marvel at the totally involving soundstage before me, at the accuracy of the sound of each instrument, especially brass instruments, and at the real presence I hear. Certainly, the Tidal Contriva Discera SE speakers, the Synergistic Research Galileo Universal Cells, and the H-Cat X9 technology all greatly contribute to the best sound by far that I have ever heard. My only regret is that I only got here after over forty years in audio. Maybe this can all be achieved with other speakers, electronics, and cabling, but I suspect not, having never heard it before.
Hi Tbg, thank you for this review, I missed this when I was reading your system thread. I have never heard of the things you mentioned with the K2 Canon in D cut, now I need to go back and listen "carefully"! Out of these three upgrades that you had at the same time, did you also update the Amarra to 2.0? I heard quite a bit more detail and air with the new version, I wonder if it's just me.

I have the same digital setup as you do so I would look forward to hear your comments on the X9 DAC if you will be trying that, although it would be great too if someone can compare the differences between the Weiss Minerva and the new DAC202 that is much more expensive.
Pepperidge, lots of water over the dam since I wrote that. Yes, I have tried Amarra 2, but I am presently using Pure Music 1.45. I like the bottom end a little better and the soundstage is better or more involving.

I do now have the H-Cat prototype (no faceplate and the back panel is off the linestage. for 44.1/16 I much prefer it to the Minerva, but the Minerva and firewire is better for everything else. I have the Weiss Dac202 coming this week or next but have sold the Minerva. I did get to hear the 202 prototype versus the Minerva at CES. The prototype sounded somewhat better, but the production version is supposed to be far superior. Yes, the 202 is now $6700!

Wow, time to think buying European made equipment in Euro! Looking forward to your experience with the 202. Cheers.

This sound can indeed be achieved -- and far exceeded -- by other means.
Sabai, yes much changes in three years. I still use the H-Cat amp and linestage in my Summer home or did so until last Summer.

I don't really have much SR stuff left-only their QLS-6 and 9 power strips and a charged FireWire cable. I guess changing the product line repeatedly is part of their business plan. At the Newport THE Show they had a completely different room than they had at CES.

Thanks for your reply. Your experience and mine are similar in that I have sold off most of the the SR products in my system. And you observed what I also observed regarding SR changing their rooms radically. Although I did not attend the show I read all I could about it and this was something that stood out for me.

I do not know what to make of the recent SR test using a Bose Wave. For the life of me, I cannot understand why they would not demonstrate the FEQ and HFT in an audio system -- similar to what prospective owners of these products would be doing at home.