Review: Synergistic Research resolution Refference X2 active Interconnect
Synergistic Research has some unique ideas about the technology they use in constructing their cables. I must say I’m not terribly fond of the practice, but am sure pleased with the results. I refer to the one by which they use an active, electrically powered network, to ‘shield’ their wires from extraneous interferences.
Regular household current and is then converted to low DC voltage is applied to a mesh cover on the cabling that disallows spurious outside energies or HF waves from affecting the signal passing through the wires. An exra benefit is a dead silent backdrop for the signal inside the conductors.
Trust me here, I’m a bit reticent to adopt the concept that a power cord, interconnect, or even speaker wire needs to be plugged into the household energy supply to work at peak performance. I am indeed. IN my mind it’s the ‘exception’, not the rule. I didn’t take to diesel or rotary engines when they came first into, or back into vogue right off the bat either. I did like the ‘mini’ skirt immediately however.
Everybody’s trying to build the ‘better ‘mousetrap’ so to speak,. So perhaps they are worth at least a listen, I thought. They are indeed worth a listen… or two... or more. I also would recommend you try their ‘active’ shield option when you do. It’s definitely worth the additional expense. Absolutely.
As I have both inactive and active models of the same item and the ‘plugged in’ (actively shielded), perform with a far better level in both harmonics and noise quieting of the background. The lights on the cable ends are either accepted or hated, depending on ones preference. They can also be covered up so as not to be obtrusive or distracting… and come Xmas time, well, you’re ahead of the neighbors already!
Months of listening to the same half dozen albums over and over agin will wear on one’s paitience. Consequently my ‘cable trek’ gowing longer by the week, and my paitience ebbing by the day something had to give soon or the ‘fun’ aspect of this hobby would soon be more a chore than an adventure. Not to mention how confusing it was now becoming keeping track of the different IC’s and their individual character despite all the note taking I did along the way.
Some of the cables were flat out ‘no contest’ entrants, due solely to my personal preferences. Some on the other hand were edged out by a matter of mere degrees. Some were simply a sideways step. The Resolution Refference active interconnects edged out the auditioned competition by just a couple whiskers when it was all said and done and I should say it was not the least expensive of the group, nor was it the most expensive. (see my other cable reviews posted here on Audiogone for a more complete list)
There were two late arrivals that had not been originally planned for. A Nirvana SX Ltd… and a Shunyata Altair Helix.
Having some questions on the SX Ltd., I did try to get in touch with Nirvana, but had trouble obtaining any response from the Nirvana headquarters though. In fact I got no response from Nirvana as to my inquiries. The information on the SX Ltd indicates it is primarily set for low level retrieval information. Sources.
I was unable after repeated attempts to get anything of consequence so I dismissed the curiosity and moved on. Alas I ultimately saw the Nirvana as a lateral move from the MIT Magnum 3 however. IN one respect the Nirvana SX Ltd did surpass the Magnum 3. It was in the depth of the sound stage and the resolution of ambient detail retrieval. The SX provides an ‘envelope of sonic’’ ambience with solid imaging and an organic embrace of the musical content. One minor example of the degree of resolution the SX affords, is in applause. Instead of a thunderous swell of hands clapping together, you’ll hear individual pairs of hands slapping one another, spread about the appropriate portion of the sound scape. It is quite the exceptional performer in a refined unobtrusive way. Very musical and a marvelous treat.
I also found the bottom end to be ‘less than’, in impact and thrust, although definitely acceptable.
Provided you’re not all about the dynamic leading edge of notes having a slicing presentation, the SX Ltd. Is the real deal in allowing a natural flow to the music. It also remains balanced across the bandwidth there is no bloat or prominence anywhere in the tonal spectrum… the bass is no better nor any worse reproduced than the rest of the show. Everything in the presentation is afforded the same even handed distribution. Only the leading edge of the notes are affected. A slight softening, or blunting, disallows extreme attack of notes to be delivered. The SX does this in such a way however as to not subtract from the performance at all, and adds to it’s refined recreation. This is a most listenable cable and that one mark against it does not throw it onto the refuse pile what so ever.
I had at the same time the Altair IC’s from Shunyata. These IC’s may well have been the ones I would have purchased had it not been for the timing of their arrival. They came to me about a week or so after I had committed to purchase the Synergistic Res Refs. Too bad. I’m not saying the Altairs were better than the Res Refs mind you. They have their own way with the music. Very much akin to the Nirvana SX Ltds. In fact… though not entirely alike.
With the SX’s on my CD and the Altair sitting between the BAT VK5i and VK500 w/BAT pk…. The sound was as musical and natural as I’ve yet heard my system sound. Scary real. Certainly the best resolution of sound stage development and ambient retrieval thus far.
The Altairs took on a somewhat different character when the Magnum 3’s were on the CD player. The depth of sound stage and it’s involving resolution didn’t dissipate whatsoever. The dynamics of the presentation did improve a good bit. The color of the music remained. The sonic picture went from one of good focus to one more sharply presented.
The way images were set about the sound scape was thrilling. One disparaging note about the Shunyata Altair was the lack of impact in bass prominence it delivered when added to my rig. Although not a big drop off in that regard, the ‘lessened’ bottom end prominence was noticeable. This less than attribute however did not detract from the overall entertainment factor of the Altair, yet simply was perhaps a result of system matching or just my own tastes in sonics. I did say I would have made the Altair my choice had events flowed differently.
On one of my latest acquisitions, Gordon Goodwins Big Phat Band release of “Swingin’ for the Fences’, the individual instruments are set very plainly and vividly. Way more contrast of the stage and it’s elements. Front to back, side to side, and realistically placed band members and their instruments were cast onto the setting with distinct and solid outlines.
The timber of the music was as natural and sweet as you could ask for in a recreation of music. Not syrupy or Smokey. Clean, articulate, and convincing. The impact of transitions, drums, and the texture of the lower registers were greater with the Resolution Ref in the mix however. The naturalness and ease with which the timberal content of the instruments was conveyed using the Shunyata Altair was definitely nice indeed. Horns, be they reed or brass, were displayed with an unmistakable quality of realism. All three of the components of attack, sustain, and decay were spot on in regard to tone, and the emotional thrust the musician talents allowed.
The Altair was a joy to listen to. It brought color to the instruments, and warmth of the presentation in such a way as to relate both the setting of the recording, (also an attribute of the SX which was undeniable), and an ease with the music. Music simply flowed about the room with a liquidity and pace I found more than involving. It was fun! The Altair also were the lightest and most supple of the bunch of IC’s I tried. Neck and neck for top honors in the looks department too.
One negative statement to be noted was the Shunyata’s time for run in… although not terribly lengthy an effort there, I did notice a fair amount of time was needed to regain ‘composure’ once removed from the system. I’ll attribute that to the fact they were brand new cables and perhaps I didn’t allow for enough initial run in time before making changes…. Although they did have over 125, and very nearly 200 hours before any significant changes were detectable. It only took a few hours before they were entirely ready to go once more, in any event. Regardless the altairs were surely well run in prior to any evaluation taking place.
Remember, I’m about to spend ‘MY’ money here…. If I were spending your money, I’d have taken less measures. Not that I don’t respect your money, but Heh, it’s your money…. Not mine.
While we’re on the subject of ‘re-integration’, it is very important in all fairness I mention the Synergistic Resolution Refs also have a possible yet likewise, subtractive issue. As previously mentioned, the actively shielded models must be both attached to the components, and energized. This energizing part can be accomplished one of two ways, either by use of the ‘Mini power coupler’ (which comes standard issue with the active shielded units), or by purchasing an optional item Synergistic offers that addresses the energizing need more precisely. The ‘Quattro’ Power supply is the optional power hub designed for use with multiple Synergistic active cables. It will supply up to twelve individual interconnects, power cords, and speaker cables. Their website has more info about it, I do not. I’ve no experience with the Quattro so I can not speak about it’s content other than to say if one were to be adding a number of active cables having a place to get them energized is going to have to be addressed… either by using a Quattro, or adding more outlets some other way. A filtered power strip comes to my mind, and is in fact what I’ve done.
Both the couplers and the Quattro, convert 120 AC to a low voltage DC supply. The MPC’s are made for use both in the States and abroad so the pins on the transformers can be inserted into a wall outlet either way… with the transformer ‘tail’ sticking up, (away from the floor), or hanging down towards it. The latter is the preffered method according to Synergistic. I agree.
Another notion here is the DC signal traveling along the cable to the intended device. Keeping those lines free of other signal OR power lines in the system is important. Trust me on that part. Only the interface itself is actively shielded, not the lines transmitting the rectified DC current to them. I did not however, experience any abhorrent issues with the Synergistic wires in use due to their close proximity to other ‘unshielded’ cables. Therefore I felt they played well with others and never induced any noise into those cables with lesser shielding technology.
Of course, it’s important to keep cabling, regardless it’s function, dressed in ones system. I did find if you absolutely have to ‘cross’ wires, do it at a 90 degree angle. This allows for lines of force, say EMF for example to be perpendicular and have less a degree of impact on adjacent signals. It does work for Synergistic actively shielded cabling.
If for some reason the active power supply becomes interrupted, do expect a difference in your sound quality until the shield has had time to rebuild itself to normalcy. Brief interruptions of power won’t take too long to ‘re-construct’ as were my observations. In the case of extended outages of electrical power, say half an hour or more, only a few hours are needed to get the shield into full swing. The shielded versions do provide a deeper ‘look’ into the music and again, I recommend them highly.
Now if they’d just make those lights an optional item, or put it onto the little transformer box instead of the interface itself… By the way, the light is there to let you know the shield is working… it doesn’t tell you it’s working at full strengfth however. Just working. Your ears will tell you when it’s at full tilt.
AS a quick aside, and as further proof for the synergy that comes from a system predominately infused with one manufacturers cabling, I must mention that during my deliverations on the Altair and to some extent the Nirvana SX & SL, and the Resolution Reference, a cadre of Shunyata power snakes was also available and deleteriously intermixed into the system. I will attribute a good portion of the coherence and cohesiveness I found in the entirety of the sonic performance to their presence. Save for speaker wires and one IC, and a a pair of Gold Dragons necessary for the BAT amp, at one time, the system was almost completely driven with Shunyata wire. There was no discounting the synergy they dispensed when they were all working together.
Naturally, I used the cabling I owned to appraise the IC’s and as was previously mentioned, I made my decision on the Synergistic IC’s prior to the arrival of the Shunyata products and just a few days before having to return the Nirvanas. Those few days are etched into my memory banks as the result of that experience.. as quite the pleasant event.
The Resolution Refference X2 provided nearly all the SL and Altair brought to the table. In some respects it offered more. In other areas, it was counted as a touch less than.
In overall staging, the REs Refs held their own, yet were decidedly second place to the Altair. The RR X2’S’s presentation was more geographically forwardly developed. IN all, still well placed and residing at and to the rear of the speakers. Especially in the midrange.
This lean towards more forward prominence in the mids lent itself to a more layered stage. I found this quite appealing. The RR X2’S also have more the pronounced lower register than do the Altairs. The greater impact in the bass and mid bass was undeniable. The RR X2’s’s retain the same sweetness of timber throughout the midrange and upper regions, that the Altairs also possess. Both cables have fine extension and are most refined in those areas of the bandwidth’s extremes.
The RR X2’S midrange allowed for more presence than did the Altairs or SX Ltd. The Altairs balance on the whole was better however than was the Resolution References. In the Dynamics department, the Resolution Reference pulled ahead by a goodly margin, having more striking a leading edtge than either the Shunyata Altair or Nirvana SX Ltd.
The greater dynamic influence the RR X2’S delivered in the mids lent itself to portraying vocalists particularly well. Offering further detail into the voicing and emotion of the performer. Where the Altair excelled was with pure organics. Words were issued with more the natural compliment. This was a tough place to value either cable as both offered quite a contrasting affectation of the recreated event. I could live with either quite easily were that the only difference.
Further comparisons to the SX were similar, though the Nirvana SX always gave that eerie sense of naturalness by way of tone and ambience, but lacked on the dynamic frontier with it’s softer leading edge of transient verve.
The leading edge of note development carried better weight with the RR X2’S. Attack is focused and formed without lag. The RR remains true to the music and captures the harmonic of it solidly and musically.
Free from grain and gloss, Easy and open with good to great upper registry depiction. I never came away from a sitting with the RR X2’S in place that was anything less than simply lot’s of fun.
So what exactly did the RR X2’S do that made them the pick of the litter? Well, it wasn’t any one particular thing, it was in the overall.
Certainly the weight of the bass, the noticeable mid bass improvement, the texture and presence the lusturous midrange provided, and the openness of the refined top end presentation. Deeply black back drops, and well placed imaging with weight and clarity to their respective locations…. and of course, the price.
If I were to have paid full retail I might have looked a bit longer. I tried to keep price out of the mix and did during the assessments. .. but it did have to be addressed eventually.
To be sure, all the cables I listened to were within a couple hundred dollars of each other and in several cases, just mere dollars apart. The Soundstrings & VooDoo Silver Refs, were the least expensive cables tested. Directly thereafter, came the VooDoo Ultralinears at about another hundred in cost. Next highest, was the Nirvana SL at about $600. Following the SL were the M.I.T. Shotgun 2’s, at about $800 roughly. Then came the Cardas Golden Refs and above them the Altairs, Synergistic RR, and M.I.T. Magnum 3’s, all resting in the upper crust neighborhood of cables over a grand a set. All of the aforementioned sets were able to be had for a bit less than their retail price tags by any smart shopper, not just myself. I was never afforded any accommodation or gift for the acquisition of these tested interconnects. That too was important as I wanted new cables in this particular instance, and not preowned. The M.I.T. Magnums would have been the most costly of the group, had I went in that direction, and added yet another MIT Magnum to my mix.
For a time I really wanted to go with the Magnums solely, such were their authority in conveying musical content. (see MIT Magnum review here at Audiogone). It came down to timing and naturally, personal preferences. True, I’m big on bass. Love a good midrange, and a sweet top end. I also tend to lean towards a dynamic rendering of the music as well… but the soul of the music has to be retained.
I see the soul as an amalgamation of ingredients. Principally, ‘color’ is what drove me to buy the Synergistic Resolution Refs.
In addition to the traits I desire in musical recreation, the RR X2’S provided a sweetness of the harmonic that simply grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. It didn’t have the bass authority of the Magnum, or the ambient capturing ability of the Altair & SX Ltd, to the degree they did, but the RR X2’S allowed for the goose bumpy mids, and the involving bass, and an easy treble that captivated and reinforced the fun of listening to music.
Had the Altair arrived sooner, or even the SX, things may well have been different just now. We all know about instances where perhaps things could have been changed by a different sequence of events. That is what remains so interesting about life in general…. It’s linear aspects, and how the thread of events are set.
I prefer to hear music rather than frequencies. The RR X2’S do exactly that. They get out of the way of the music. They allow for emotional content to be reformed in a convincing fashion. They escalated the fun we all look for in musical content, be it live or in our living rooms. They formulate a large and expansive stage that is layered and detailed. In a word, the RR X2’S are “fun” to listen to for as long as you wish.
One other brief note… each time I would be looking to obtain a prospect for my prescribed need the dealership, or manufacturer would invariably ask me this, “How long do you need them?” My reply was always, “Forever man, I’m gonna keep ‘em!”.
Sorry, I just can’t resist that line.
What was the less attractive aspect of the Synergistic Resolution Ref X2?
Pluggin it into the wall outlet. No question. I still don’t care for that part at all.
What else? They are stiff. Stiffest of the lot for sure, but still not the pipe bender types some makers press onto the high end wire scene. The RR X2’S are easily contoured into places and posed no issue regardless the available space they were thrust into.
Anything else? Not really. They weren’t the best in areas of ambient retrieval, but came damn close in that respect, missing by mere inches. Not the most dynamic across the board either, as the M.I.T.s won that battle.
What about Imaging honors? Well almost in that regard too. The Nirvana and Shunyata managed that feature a touch better on the whole of things when all was said and done… and again, by but a smidgen. The RR X2’s imaging did have better weight, but wasn’t articulated quite as well as it’s adversaries did the job. This area was not a big trade off given the amount of the perceived disparity.
Then exactly why get the Synergistic Resolution Refs?
Primarily because I couldn’t find a proper ‘cable mixer’. You know, like a Moulinex or Veg-O-Matic… with which to throw in a couple two or three IC’s and derive the better attributes of them all into just one cable.
Concessions were necessary. I believe you must look at the whole of things in recreating music. There are no perfect solutions. No end all be all for all time. The RR X2’S gave me excellent bottom end performance. Outstanding transparency in the mids. Very good imaging with stunning presence and texture throughout its soundscape. Excellent air and top end resolution without being demonstrative. Very good sound stage reproduction in it’s width and height, with decent rear of the stage detail… and it put me in the first portion of the venue… (maybe second or third row center and not on stage with the musicians).
The leading performers, vocalists, for example were allowed to be set in place as they usually are in reality, a bit more forward of the band. The Synergistic Res Ref x2 active ICs did that very well. All the time. Not overtly, but appropriately and as it should be.
The RR X2’S also allowed for the curious mixing habits of the studio engineer to be realized with some genres of music and thus easily gave another dimension to the production. When the engineer wants to start spreading ‘fairy dust’ about your living room, wear a hat. Unbrellas aren’t very good acoustic devices. The little tinkly bits will be strewn about the room with expansive spatiality. .. and that was fun too.
The Res Ref x2 active wires are quite the solid performer that is well mannered, articulate and professional. Naturally revealing and provides both excitement and organic textures. Transparent enough that upstream changes are readily apparent. Even minor tweaks were heard. Not a show off in any one area, yet shows well im all.
It’s tough for me to say just how great a value Synergistic Research provides given the cost of some of their upper range offerings. Value is where you find it I suppose. It also is determined by just how much you either like or dislike a thing. Value also is an ‘after the fact’ notion. I believe the RR X2’S possess much in the ‘value’ department of high end audio and are most deserved of of the pricing neighborhood they reside in currently.
The absence of references to assorted software used for this review is not an oversight… no pun intended… Personally, I find it presumptuous and to some degree arrogant to mention obscure or eclectic platters a reviewer uses for trial purposes. I’ve yet to want to run out and get the disc a reviewer used to make a determination of a component… nor in many cases have I had the disc they were playing. Pointing to particular inferences to specific passages only provides myopic instances of reference. I prefer to have a broader spectrum of analogy. A deeper palette if you will. It is this broad en approach that serves better to put true aspects of content into perspective. True, I will from time to time denote a particular piece to make clearer associated insights as I have done here. I will refrain most often from that practice as a rule. One needs not give a ‘blow by blow’ accounting to convey the substance of a thing to describe it. This is no boxing match. It’s entertainment. I am also certain others will differ from that view, and it’s their right to do exactly that. This is simply another tact with which to relate experience and arrive at one end. I do trust it was more than a “Hoo boy, that’s a good ‘um!”, as well a a fairer notion of the character of the wires in play herein, and is clearly obtained by the reader.
I will submit a few of the platters used for those who wish to play along… Stanley Turrentines’ “Got Any Sugar?”; K. D. Lang & Tony Bennets’ “A Wonderful World”; Johnny Heartman’s “I Thought About You”; Illinois Jacquet’s “Jacquet’s Got It”; Eddie Daniels “Swing Low Sweet Clarinet”; John Mayall’s “Along for the Ride”; Robin trower’s “Another Day blues”; Four Play’s “Heartfelt, “Fourplay,” and “Elixir”; Allison Krauss & Union Station’s “Live” (SACD); Steven Tyrell’s “This Guy’s In Love” (SACD); Michael John & The bottom Line Band… and other assorted blues, R&B, C&W, Gangsta Bluegrass, and jazz.
BAT VK5i w/Matsushita 6DJ8’s, & Tung sol 5881’s
BAT VK500 w/BAT pk.
Sony SCD xa 777 es CD Player
VSA VR4-JR loudspeakers w/larger spikes
M.I.T. Magnum 3 III RCA 1.5m (source IC)
Nordost Blue Heaven 2m (source IC)
Shunyata Altair XLR 1M
Nirvana SX Ltd RCA
Nirvana SL XLR
Synergistic Resolution Ref X2 Active 1m XLR (MAIN ic)
Synergistic Signature 10 X2 Active bi wires
Synergistic Alpha Quadd series X Active on JR bass driver only.
Shunyata Python Helix (CD)
Shunyata Python VX
Shunyata Taipan helix Alpha (VK5i)
Shunyata Hydra 2 (proposed for amp only)
Shunyata taipan helix Alpha for BAT VK500
VooDoo Black Dragon (UPC 200)
VooDoo Gold Dragon II ((X2 for amp)
Velodyne CHT 10 inch active sub. (preamp outputs VIA Cardas xlr/rca adapter).
PS Audio UPC 200 (slatted for digital & preamp use)
PS Audio Duet
Herbies Audio labs Halo tube rings & iso cups w/Ebony balls
All devices draw power via dedicated 20A ckts through Hospital grade outlets.
Vibrapods & cones supported some sources, filter, and preamp.
After market spikes for JR’s.
Rack is from somewhere a bit south of Heaven… but getting better as isolation seems to be dropping the ambient temperature.
Sony AV 444es receiver
Phase tech PC 10.5
Phase tech PC 6.5
Sony combo VCR/DVD
Synergistic Alpha quad x2 speaker wires
Vampire 10 AWG spool wire for rears.
See my other posted reviews here on Audiogone... AZ Matrix ref II.