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.