Synergy - how to get there

We talk alot about system synergy as being a highly important factor for audio bliss but seldom discuss the process of achieving synergy. I would love to hear others thoughts.
Here are mine: Perhaps the easiest way to start is a recommended system in your price range from a audiophile friend, new or used from audiogon, or a great dealer. Then live with it for at least six months. Then begin to experiment, changing one thing at a time and leaving at least six months between major component changes. It really takes time to hear the effects of change throughout your entire music collection and personal moods. Be attentive to room effects throughout the process. Big smiles of satisfaction even weeks after making a change are a good sign you are on track. Change can be suggested by what you feel you would like more or less of, for example more detail, resolution or microdynamics or perhaps more warmth and bloom, or less stridency. Both source and speakers are where I tend to start, so that you have decent signal in and can hear effects with sufficient resolution through decent speakers. Avoid getting too bogged down in putting energy initally into wire or tweaks. They do effect things a good bit but are helpful more after you have the basic source, pre, amp, speaker combo down fairly well. What do you all think?
1) Don't try to offset one problem with another.
2) Each component should sound good on its own.
3) It is hardest to get a good speaker, so find a speaker you like first and modify the sound with different amps. Also easier to swap out amps than speakers since speakers are bigger and more likely to be damaged.
before trying to achieve a synergy, it is important to define the term.

any definitions ?

is synergy essentially, a "sound" that some one likes ?
Synergy: The mutual compatibility, the combined action of different elements or gears toward an expected result: sound
Have you received the AH preamp yet Gammajo?
Is it synergestic or not?

John, have recieved the AH preamp and it gave me just what I was looking for and got me thinking about synergy. See AH thread for mini review - terrific peice of equipment
ther definition of synergy might be when the whole is much more than the sum of the parts.Joe
My experiences tell me that you can achieve synergy, or lose it, with just a single cable change on one component. Focusing just on my CD Player, changing one thing at a time and letting it settle for a couple of weeks each time, I lost much of my musical enjoyment with a change in power cable, a change in wall outlet (yes broken in), and a change of interconnect.
And that is just for my CDP.

In my cable quests, I have resisted the urge to change amp, speakers or CD Player. Instead I have focused on maximizing the sound and musical enjoyment of the equipment I have.

Hello all, Gammmajo says: "It really takes time to hear the effects of change throughout your entire music collection and personal moods. Be attentive to room effects throughout the process. Big smiles of satisfaction even weeks after making a change are a good sign you are on track".

Yes that is very true. Due to this it is very difficult to extract all a system is capable of if things are changing all of the time. Here is my way of achieving synergy. One of the things that you have most control of is the volume control. This is what I do, I keep the volume control set at the same level for every LP (every LP is played at the same volume level, I never change the volume level for any recording), every time and any time I listen. Thats right when I start listening I adjust the volume control upwards slowly to warm the system up. This gives the tubes time to stabilise, the platter has time to spin freely, and the dynamic drivers time to warm up also. This takes about 45min to an hour and the system is at its best within 2 hours where it really does not improve after that.
What this does is manifold. One is the reference level of listening as I tune my system to 83db at 1000hz. This enables you to listen at a reasononabl level for all recordings and you soon realise which recording engineer got his levels correct and the one who did not. This gives plenty of headroom for dynamics and variations in recording levels.
Secondly it gives your ears a reference as you listen to the recording at the same level every time therefore enabling you to hear subtle changes in sounds without being affected by volume changes.
Another effect is the system to room interaction as this method encourages you to set the room acoustics and the bass levels to a neutral point in the room that is correct. This way you adjust the bass level or crossover points (if adjustable) and even speaker positioning that is optimal for this reference level. Otherwise if you listen to the same recording at different levels it will sound different and you can or will adjust the system to a moving target, which is difficult to hit.
Of course this only works if you are activly listening to the music not using it as background music. There are other points to consider and reasons for doing this but that is enough for now.
Bob - you have an excellent point that variable volume means a moving target. So one needs to be careful during evaluation time. One reason for waiting so long to make changes is to have a few months between where you can simply enjoy the music, which I think resets one's sensitivity away from purely analitical and more toward how the music also effects you emotionally and open's ones intuition about what to do next which can save years of effort.
Hi Gammajo, Yes, for myself, since I only listen all out, it is important that the volume be set correctly. My suggestion is that when you do indeed sit down to listen that the system is set at a reference volume. This is something that takes awhile to find and in the beginning it itself can be a moving target. Ultimatly this is how I feel you can get your system to be at its best in terms of dynamics and frequency response. If you do listen non-critically do not attempt to adjust your system in any manor if you believe that the "one volume theory" is going to work for you.
You are also correct in your assement of not changing components or system tuning for a time period. It is important for you to get a handle on the sound and also a chance to listen to the music without driving yourself nuts and spinnning round in circles. Great advice
P.S. This is mainly my "theory" though I have seen some references to it elsewhere on the net, though never here. I developed it though my constant listening sessions over the last couple of years and it does indeeed work very well for me. That being said I have never been able to convert anyone so I my be totally full of.....
Also here is a question for you how does one compare one recording against another if the volume changes and therefore the bass response of the system, room interaction or just the recording especially with LPs. How does one compare a system against another or even a new piece of equipment if you change the volume level by 3, 6 or 9db (or whatever) and have no audio memory of the sound at a reference level. There are many (other) implications in "my" theory.

I wonder how accurate we are at maintaining a level volume sense. Perhaps we are pretty good at it naturally. We tend to modulate our speech to what is comfortable for others to listen to, and we have a keen sense if someone is talking at above or below average levels. We need to do this to determine the meaning and nuance of speech communication. We also use volume as a cue to judge distances. So we may be good at playing music night upon night at the same level without need for electronic instruments to tell us the db.
isn't synergy the same as "i like the sound of my stereo system ?" also, what is considered a synergistic stereo system by one person may not be considered synergistic by another.

thus, it would seem that synergy is connotation for asystem whose "sound" pleases a listener. this means a stereo system is not inherently synergistic because its status is detrmined by the listener, rather than by any qualitative considerations.
Often to me it is more consensual. Yes, the system owner is most important but often other people also are entranced by an excellent (synergistic system). It can be appreciated of people having way more expensive systems, as being exceptionally wonderful at its price point. It calls all who hear to sit down and listen.
Hi, I think that synergy has more to do with making your systems components work together the best that they can. You cannot make your system sound like something it is not capable of or make it sound like someone elses system even if you have the same components. So I guess that its "I like my system because I have made it to sound the way I like to listen and have the componets act in synergy with each other".
I try to offer info which can help on this musical journey not to hinder anyones progress down that road.
hi acoustat6:

there are two parts to your comment. the first concerns creating a "sound" that pleases the owner. the second deals with synergy of components. isn't there a redundancy here ?

the existence of a synergy is determined by the listener. if a listener perceives a synergy than there is a synergy.

the fact that other listeners disagree only means that synergy is based upon perception and since people hear differently and have different tastes there will be disagreement as to whether synergy is present or not present.

what does it mean to say that components work well with each other , if it does not depend upon taste and perception ?

this hobby is based entirely upon subjectivity. yes, there are objective measurements, but those measurements do not necessarily correlate with preference.
Hello, I think what I was trying to get at was that a system of components can get to a level that is optimized perhaps as best that it can be, within its limitations that are inherent in any design. Secondly that a good listener can bring out certain good points of a system to improve his listening experience and also suit his listening goals and preferences.
I don't believe in so called 'synergy'.
From a science standpoint, synergy might be defined as the combined effect of the parts yielding a greater difference than the summed effects of the individual parts. In science, perhaps unlike audio, studies often deal with real, measurable number$. For instance fertilizer A may cause an increased corn yield of 5% per acre. Fertilizer B may also cause a 5% increase in corn yield. If both fertilizers are applied together, one might expect a 10% increase, but if the increase in yield is 40% or 50%, that is a synergistic effect. As an audio example, maybe amplifier A has a sort of dark, mellow "British warm" sort of sound. With most neutral speakers it could be considered flawed. With a different speaker that has a bright character that would not be favorably reviewed with most amps, maybe that amplifier A would match very well, and the two together could make a very good sounding pair. That would be a synergistic system. Two lesser products each with some shortcomings match disproportionately well with each other. In reality, all/most components have flaws and when a set matches well, or has synergy, it sounds better than it really should. To paraphrase from Rocky Balboa regarding Adrian, (no, I have no desire to see the current version). "I have gaps, she has gaps. Together we fill each other's gaps" Pretty corny huh?
synergy is just a word. instead of focusing on what the word means, one might be wiser to try to attain the sonic presentation consistent with one's preference and not be concerned as to whether one's components are synergistic with each other.
I think words such a synergy are useful in focusing our intention into action. Synergy can help us pass on a product that is very well rated by others becuase it does not match well our systems needs (such as small speakers in a large room), and lead us, for example, to try the Magico's in a smaller room which might be more synergistic with them.
Dice the word: Syn= "with" or "together" and ergy (or ergon in the Greek) = "deed, action, accomplishment, work"

The term is justifiable in describing the fact that certain components simply sound better together than other combinations.

The concept of synergy is transferable to relationships; in a round-about way the synergy of audiophile/spouse relations has been discussed here at times.

However, let us not believe that there is a magical, wondrous effect from certain combinations of components. You get what you get from each one, and when a superior combination of components results, you get great sound. Now, is that particular combination better than any other given combination? That's where the individuality of audiophilia comes in, much like personal preferences for art. So, in the end, it is my contention that all of us form our opinions/preferences based at least in part on someone ELSE's concept of synergistic sound.
Hi Doug, Well said. My main reference to synergy is fine tuning all of the components, as they are single components within a system, but if you get it correct the whole is more than the sum of its parts. You can obtain this by tweaking each component in relation to each other by manipuating its various features (controls, tonearm/cartridge parameters, room tuning, volume, crossover points and levels etc). Maybe some people dont believe in tweaking?
Acoustat -- what you're referring to is setting up a system correctly (TT setup, xovers, relative amplitudes, etc). This is absolutely essential.
Tweaking usually refers to an additive (or subtractive) intervention on components which are supposedly design-optimised already. This is not absolutely essential -- but is reportedly beneficial sometimes...:)