Ted Denney, and Synergistic Research's Powercell

A few months back I found myself dissatisfied with the sound of my system. I had just moved into a new apartment in Irvine, and I noticed a change in my system’s sound: it felt a little constricted, and foreshortened. In other words, the soundstage wasn’t as wide or as deep as I would have liked. My Temptations were toed-In, so I adjusted them, but that only provided a minor improvement.
Furthermore, I felt the noise floor wasn’t as low as it could be; I wasn’t getting the bass extension I should, and the treble didn’t have the top-octave air I was accustomed to.
Having only moved to Irvine three months earlier, I needed to find an audio dealer in the area to help me out, so I decided to crack open the Interwebs and see who was in the area.
While I was looking, I noticed that Synergistic Research was headquartered near me. I thought, "What the hell, I'll give them a call. Maybe they can recommend somebody." In one of those rare cases of serendipity, Ted Denney answered the phone.
First off, I was struck by how incredibly nice he was. A lot of designers of high-end gear are either crazy introverts or snobbish egomaniacs (a few are both, and are constantly tearing holes in the space-time continuum, which has become quite a problem). However, much to my delight, Ted was the exact opposite of the aforementioned types.
He asked me how he could help me, so I told him how I wanted to get into computer audio, and about the difficulties I was having. After patiently listening to me whine, he began asking me questions about my system: the gear I had;what kind of sound did I like; my musical tastes, etc.
After about 15 minutes discussing what I was trying to achieve, he suggested something that caught me off guard: “The biggest improvement I could make to my system was to clean up the AC power running through it.” I’m paraphrasing here, but it was something along those lines. He suggested that I try out the Synergistic Research Powercell SE MkII, and see what I think.
I had been using Shunyata products for years in my system. At the time I was using the Shunyata V-Ray for my conditioning, and their Python power cords on all my gear. I had always been happy with them, so I was a little skeptical when he suggested I take a listen to the Powercell SE MKII.
He invited me to meet him over at his office/factory the next day, so that I could hear the Powercell. This brings me to something very important about my first experience with Ted: first, he didn’t have one bad thing to say about Shunyata, which is atypical in the audio industry. Second, he told me that they were coming out with a new model of the power conditioner, the MkIII, but it wouldn't be as good of a match for my system, as the MkII.
At that moment, I knew he wasn't just another designer trying to sell me on his product line. Instead, he actually cared about what was best for my system, rather than just making a buck. We ended the conversation talking about PC gaming, FPS, etc. I didn't know if I was going to like the sound of his gear, but he was definitely a cool guy.
I arrived the next day, and was greeted by Ted’s head of marketing, Peter, as well as the rest of the staff. Everyone was incredibly friendly, once again challenging my stereotypes about people in the audio industry.
Peter brought me into their listening room, gave me a through explanation of Synergistic Research’s unique philosophy behind the design of all their products (including a prototype of their soon to be released d.a.c. – the Music Cable).
I was a little skeptical at this point. How could a pair of older speakers, a bunch of cables with wal warts, a power cleaner, and a tiny box (the Music Cable) sound better than my system?
While I sat down in an arm chair situated in the middle of the room, Peter pulled out his iPad, pressed the screen a couple of times, and my jaw hit the floor. A saxophone emerged from the darkness, as notes filled the air in front of me. Then the rest of the band kicked in, and I was positive I was listening to a master tape.
The soundstage was enormous, every note was crystal clear. The music was incredibly detailed, but never analytical sounding. The noise floor was so low, that the soundstage was enourmous. It was as wide as it was deep, and extremely transparent.
The music was detailed, dynamic, and exciting yet it never sounded analytical. The sound as a whole, was warm and cohesive, with no one frequency drawing attention to itself.
Most importantly, after a few minutes of listening, the system obliterated my skepticism with its musicality. After a few minutes I found myself lost in the music.
Ted came in at that point, and explained in great detail why his line of products was like nothing I had heard before. We talked at great length about the S.R. Powercell 10 SE Mk II: He explained how it use of an active, silver electromagnetic cell, and other design innovations that conditioned the power coming from the wall, but never limited it (There is a lot more to it, and I recommend reading about the design online.)
Unlike a lot of high-end power cleaners, the Powercell comes with the Tesla SE Active power cell, plus three Enigma Bullets (black, grey, and silver), each of which produces subtle changes in the active shield’s voicing, allowing the home user the ability to adjust the S.R. system to his or her own personal tastes. It also comes with an MPC, and a Tesla Plex SE receptacle.
Ted explained that it was a prototype, and that the Music Cable wouldn’t be available until after C.E.S. Besides, he remained adamant that the Powercell was the piece of equipment that would produce the greatest improvement in my system.
Ted arranged for a Powercell SE MKII to be dropped off at my home, so I could audition it in my system. I thanked everyone for being such gracious hosts, and went home excited to hear the Powercell in my own system. Even though the demo at his studio was amazing, I still wasn’t completely convinced that it was going to best the Shunyata V-Ray.
A Synergistic rep showed up the next day with the Powercell and a few sets of Synergistic Research MIGs (they’re used for vibration reduction and, to my surprise, profoundly improve the sound of any of the pieces I’ve put them under).
The rep hooked the Powercell up for me, and we started off listening to some of my favorite CDs. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The Powercells effect was so profound that I thought I had bought a completely new system. Everything I had heard while at Synergistic Research the day before was increased by a factor of 100. I couldn’t stop listening to my CDs (keep in mind that I’m an “analog first” audiophile). The sound filling my room was otherworldly.
Next we put on some vinyl. I chose Duke Ellington’s Jazz Party in Stereo. The needle hit the groove, and the orchestra was in my living room. The first track has a timpani in it that had always sounded incredible to me, but the band in the background was muffled. Now the whole orchestra filled my room, and every time the timpani was struck I felt like there were notes floating in the air around me. I closed my eyes, and sat back as the music transported me to the concert.
Last, I always thought my system had an ink black background. I don’t know how Ted did it, but the Powercell MkII SE made the background produced by the V-Ray sound like a dark grey. The noise floor was so low that I heard new things on every recording I listened to.
My system had greater bloom, there was greater pitch definition in the bass, microdynamics became much more audible, and transients had such a sudden attack and decay I was actually startled a few times.
Needless to say, I gladly traded in the Shunyata V-Ray and Python power cord without hesitation, and not only am extremely happy with the Powercell, but I also have purchased two more Tesla SE Precision active power cords for my amps, the Tesla Tricon active USB cable, the Music Cable DAC, and a QLS 9 power strip.
Synergistic Research is a company that is ahead of its time. They put out products that push the boundary of what’s possible in high-end audio, at the same time providing the consumer with tremendous value for the money.

I forgot to post this in the above piece, but I buy all of my Synergistic Research products from Scott Walker of Scott Walker Audio.

He's a fantastic dealer, and I recommend giving him a call if your in Orange County, and interested in trying anything from Synergistic Research.
Why would Ted say that the Powercell MKIII would not be as of good match for your system as the MKII when SR advertises MKIII as a significant improvement over the MKII? It sounds a little fishy....as if he was just trying to make a sale of the MKII before its obsolescence when the MKIII is released...

First, I want to say, thank you for reading my article.

I understand your skepticism. When it comes to high end audio it's hard not to be cynical. I'm the biggest cynic in the world, and it takes a lot to earn my trust.

Now, to address your question: Ted easily could have had his dealer sell me the MkIII. They were ready to go, and in the end I would have spent more money on the new version: it was actually in his best interest to sell me on the new model.

Maybe I wasn't clear, but Ted spent along time talking to me about my system, and the components I had, and I made it very clear I didn't want anything that was going to change the overall sound of my system.

It came down to the fact that Ted was familiar with the components I had, and he simply felt the MkII would sound better in my particular system. He said I could demo the MkIII, but felt I would be happier with the MkII.

Keep in mind, I am one of the few people who own the Messenger MkIII Preamp with the phonostage. It's an all tube preamp that's designed for people who love the sound and detail of analog recordings. It's truly a magical piece that will transform your system.

Ted is familiar with the Messenger,and it's unique sound. I was clear with him that I didn't want to screw up the warm, analog sound of my system.

Furthermore, because every system is unique, there are times when a previous model sounds better in a particular system. It has to do with the way it's voiced. That's all there is to it.

Trust me when I say that I've been around long enough to know when someone is trying to pull one over on me.

I chose to put the MkII into my system, over the MkIII, and you know what, Ted was right. It was voiced perfectly to my system; the overall sound stayed the same, there was just more of it.

The Synergistic Research Powercell SE MkII lowered the noise floor so much, in conjunction with the Tesla Precision Power Cords, that all the low level details in the music suddenly appeared. The little details are the ones that transport you into the recording studio of your favorite band.

Yo2tup, I really appreciate your comments, and if your ever in the area, let me know. Your more then welcome to come over for a listening session. Bring over your favorite components, and see what you think.


Justin Javan

Nice write up, thanks. I have my feet in both camps, with a Shunyata Triton and all Anaconda power cords (various generations), but Synergistic Research (Apex) Speaker cables. This combo works really well.

First, thank you.

That's an interesting combo. It would be fun to hear the difference between the Powercell and the Triton in your system.

Personally, I have the Synergistic Powercell, and power cords, but Tara Labs for my interconnects and speaker cables. They make a great combo, but I am curiouos what the Apex line would sound like in my system.

Rgs92: I also have SR Apex SW. What was your reason not to go with the SR Powercell and SR power cords?

Nrostov: Justin: what is your gear currently?

Is it me or we experiencing a major battle between Synergistic Research and Shunyata for the minds of audiophiles lately? Looks like both companies are the main pretenders for the throne of the most advanced and coolest cable/power company in Hi End.
Antonkk: Competition between SR and Shunyata has always been strong and healthy for a long time. Both companies seem to be doing okay as "pretenders" for well over a decade. Labelling them both as such obviously means you've tried both extensively and found a much more advanced and cooler brand at a fraction of the price that blows away both. Care to add some value to your posts by naming the "real contenders"?

My understanding of the situation from the people I know in the industry is that there have been some people on the Shunyata side posting negative things about Synergistic.

Whether that's the case or not I do not know for a fact.

In my case, I wasn't really aware of Synergistic Research until I called them. Of course I had seen there products in magazines over the years, but I let my subscriptions to the two major ones lapes a while ago.

Furthermore, I hadn't done any real upgrading to my system for a couple of years, so I wasn't paying attention.

I just wanted to clarify, because my motivations for writing this article were because I was so impressed with the differences between my Shunyata gear and Synergistic Research's line.

I hope the above clarifies where I'm coming from at least.

Nrostov, I couldn't disagree with you more about your dealer...as for the shunyata vs synergistic research comparison, power conditioning still has a fair amount of voodoo involved...not much proof to back it up but a lot of claims...i think a lot of power conditioning is voiced...in other words there may not be a lot of science behind why something is done the way it is done but the end result sounds better than the original so the product is marketed as a success...it may just be an ear pleasing EQ. I've read that Shunyata has developed a measurement tool which can finally provide some proof that our AC affects the end result...of course a tool built by the same guys who sell the remedy might seem fishy to some.

For me, i just use a PS Audio Quintet, mostly for protection, but I have started to look into more advanced power conditioning myself...I'm not yet convinced but that might change. YMMV of course.
At the time of writing I'm torn between puchasing an entire Elements/Powercell line and Shunyata ZTron/Triton line. So any A/B comparisons would be highly appreciated!
If you contact the factory we will arrange for you to audition the proper SR cables to match your system and I'm sure Grant can likewise facilitate an audition.

May the best cable win!

Yours in music,
Ted Denney III
Lead Designer, Synergistic Research Inc.
Antonkk, you should really try full systems with each brand, call it a "shoot out" in your own system. These are all passive devices that don't have "sound" per se, they only interact with the components to make sound. So you really won't know what will be BEST for you unless you try them at home, which you can do using the Cable Library at The Cable Company.
I believe that Antonkk lives in Moscow. That makes a couple of suggestions noted here tricky.

Yeah, there is a russian dealer for Shunyata but sadly not for Synergistic Research.
Best tweaks I have ever added to my system. I only have the first generation Tesla Powercell 10SE and when I purchased it I had 5 fellow AZ Audio club members over for a listen; I had the Audience 12T with top of the line power cord. I played music and then asked if I could swap out the Audeince so they could hear the Powercell (I had it plug in, warm and ready to go). We swapped units and I relished the dropped jaws and the " I can't believe this is the same recording we just listened to!" comments from all. The sound is for real; anyone who has tried one has never sent it back. Two of the five bought units; the others are saving for one. I encouraged my most skeptical friend in Orange County to try them and he sheepishly admitted they destroyed his top of the line Shunyata Hydra and PC's. He dumped all the Shunyata's and bought 3 Powercell 10SEs from Scott Walker. I later purchased the Speaker Cells and the sound continued to get even better! I plan to buy another Powercell just for my mono amps. I heard the Tranquility bases at CES this year and was floored! Most unbelievable sound with them I have heard and for me, Ted's room with his Powercells, Tranquility bases and ART system was easily in my top five of rooms for musicality. Anyone who honestly listened and wasn't biased by another bigger name that advertises a lot would have come to the same conclusion. This stuff must be tried. Don't buying any other conditioner until you give Ted's a very good listen. I am a believer!
Agree with the positive assessments of the Powercell. And it does not limit current. Made a very nice improvement in my system. Would also recommend the tesla se outlet which comes with the Mark II powercell. Curious to try the Tranquility bases...
Even though the Powercell's are not current limiting, I have found it loses dynamic compared to plugging big mono amps directly to the wall. I have found that using the 10SE Mk-2 to run everything and my big monos to a seperate spur gives me the best result.
Is this an advertisement?

I found out the same thing, I have the SE 10 and it seems like the dynamics are reduced and was pondering on what my next step would be, but will take your advise as I did think about doing the exact remedy you took.
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^^^ Snake oil as compared to what, exactly??