Synergistic Research    Quantum Fuse SR 20


This is a review of fuses. Since many insist that fuses cannot matter and others say they matter greatly, I undertake this largely out of personal conviction that they do matter. Also, as most have multiple components, one must choose between evaluating the impact of each fuse introduced one at a time versus replace all reference fuses with the fuses being evaluated. I must say that I find the one by one approach entirely too tedious. In my system, I replace all six reference fuses that I have been using for several years with six of the new Synergistic Research Quantum SR 20 fuses.

For a good part of my audio experiences, I hardly considered fuses, save for the rare blown fuse, and when this happened I went to the electric supply shop or Radio Shack to get the replacement. Lloyd Walker of Walker Audio first brought my attention to fuses, when he strongly suggested that I reverse the direction of the fuse in his speed controller for turntables. Since I knew that he would seldom jest, I heeded his advice. He was right and did have the fuse placed in the proper direction in the unit as I received it. I did spend some time pondering how this could be with alternating current, but it did make a difference so I went on with my life. I did, however, add switching fuse direction to the list of introducing new equipment in my system. This grew complicated when one had an amplifier with multiple fuses. Fortunately, with the SR fuses, I thought, I did not have to worry about this. They are “treated” in both directions and thus were not sensitive to direction.

It was many years later that I experienced my first “boutique” fuses, those by IsoClean. They had a fuse direction arrow on each fuse. If you knew the direction of the hot side through the fuse holder, you could just insert the fuse to point the arrow into the component. I later learned of the HiFi Tuning fuses and compared them with the IsoCleans. I found them directional despite the lack of a direction arrow. Since that time, several other manufacturers have offered specialty fuses.

There is a certain irony in my reference fuses. With one exception, they are all IsoClean fuses that have been ‘treated’ by Synergistic Research on their Tesla Coil. I don’t exactly remember how such treatment and their kind offer to zap them came up, but it made a massive difference to the fuses. I even got them to zap a standard Buss fuse and HiFi Tuning fuses. All were improved. It did not make a silver purse out of a sow’s ear, however. I was so impressed that I strongly suggested that SR work with one of the fuse manufacturers to treat their fuses. Nothing happened after I made that recommendation, which was about two years ago. But when Ted Denney asked if I might be interested in reviewing the SR fuses, I said, “absolutely!”

The Synergistic Research webpage says, “SR Quantum Fuses significantly outperform all other high-end fuses on the market and are guaranteed to deliver a noticeable increase in sound staging, resolution and air thanks to a lower noise floor and blacker backgrounds.”

Since these are many of the attributes that I heard in comparing the zapped and unzapped fuses that I have, I thought I might hear little difference between my reference fuses and the SR Quantum fuses. It might be just that finally Tesla Coil fuses might be available to everyone.

I compared fuses in three components: the H-Cat Audio amplifier and line stage and an Exemplar Audio tube DAC. The reference fuses had been well broken in. I listened to the six cuts, that I normally use in evaluations plus several new cuts from SACDs transferred in DSD to my hard drive by Empirical Audio Legacy. I also added several new 192/24 HD downloads from HD Tracks. In the main system, all the cuts yielded the same impressions. These cuts were:


• Frank Sinatra with Count Basie performing “One for My Baby” from Sinatra At The Sands (Vicy 94366 Japan SHM)



• Holly Cole's “Get Out of Town” and “Train Song,” from It Happened One Night (Metro Blue CDP 7243 8 52699 0 5)


• Ansermet’s “Swan Lake Duo” from This Is K2 HD Sound (UD! FIM K2 HD 078)

• Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis “Stardust,” from Two Men With The Blues (Blue Note Records TOCP-70541 Japan)



• “Stardust" from Rob Wasserman's  Duets, (MCA Jazz 42131).
The SACDs now in DSD on my music server are:

• Stan Getz and Joao Gilbert, “The Girl From Ipanena,” Getz/Gilberto (Verve UCGU-9001).

• “Temptation,” from Diana Krall's The Girl in the Other Room (Verve B0001K9IJ8).

I also used the HD Tracks recording of Ella Fitzgerald’s “A Night in Tunisia,” from Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie!, (HD Tracks, 192/24).

As noted above, Synergistic Research emphasizes the gains in “soundstaging” with these fuses. What I consistently heard was a wide, deep, and more holographic and realistic sound stage, more of a sense of “being there.” This, I think, is most plausible in live recordings. Sinatra at the Sands seems the most realistic I have heard him both in his voice and his placement relative to Basie, the Band, and the audience. Similarly, Holly Coles live “Get Out of Town,” gives the decay and location of the audience with such realism that you have the feeling that you are on stage with her and her band. The Ansermet Swan Lake recording also gives a great three-dimensional feeling with great instrument timbre. The Nelson and Marsalis “Stardust” is also live. Here Willie’s voice is true to form and Marsalis trumpet perfectly captured. Finally, Wasserman’s “Stardust” allows you to gauge the recording studio’s size and very involving.

Synergistic Research also speaks of the resolution of these fuses. I agree. Certainly the ultra high resolution of the DSD SACDs achieves full measure in both used in my listening. You hear everything, musical and not. I should also note that the ripe edge of the Marsalis’ trumpet, the horns in Ansermet’s "Swan Lake", and Sinatra’s 51-year-old voice are all well resolved.

I think both the top and bottom ends are exceptional. The top end on violins is just perfect on Ansermet and the bass is controlled and profound.

Finally, the Synergistic Research Quantum fuses are put on the Tesla coil both directions, which they claim makes them not directional. That would be convenient, but I have found that not true. I find the lettering on the fuse runs opposite of the direction of the fuse that sounds best. This is not a major factor, but with their exceptional realism, it is not one you would want to forego.

There are many ways that fuses can be treated to improve their sound. The better sounding metals can be used, they can be cryogenically treated, they can have vibration dampening, their contacts in the fuse holder can be improved, and they can be treated on a Tesla coil. To my knowledge only Synergistic Research uses a Tesla Coil. Some have suggested that it does much the same thing as does cryogenic treatment. I have never heard a fuse treated with both, but in my experiences, I don’t find these treatments impart anything like the same sound.

I have not had the opportunity to assess gold versus silver fuses and in fact had to ask what the metal was in the Synergistic Research fuses. It was chosen because of the metal, but they did not want to reveal what it was, only that it is very low resistance (nothing is lower than silver). I have heard fuses dampened with AVM paint as well as ones with liquid filling. The stickers on the Synergistic Research fuses do provide dampening. I think there are benefits to be had with such efforts. I have also had some limited experience with the HiFi Tuning Quantum chips for fuses. They are add-ons and do improve the sound. I can only assume that those on the Synergistic Research fuses do the same.

I think the quantum tunneling on a Tesla coil is key to the sound of these fuses, and the consumer can only get it from SR with their third generation Tesla Coil. This, of course, leaves little choice. These fuses are at about the same price point as other audiophile fuses. I am a sucker for the thrill of hearing a sound that suggests I am at the recording venue. These fuses allow my equipment to yield such a holographic image. The sound is open, effortless, defined, extended, detailed, and most importantly realistic.

I had completed this review over a week before one evening when I made a major change. It is common to have gradual improvements in virtually everything as it settles in or breaks in, but the Synergistic fuses have been in for several weeks. I was just listening to music while I finished a novel, when I suddenly noticed a very substantial jump in the precision of the soundstage. I put the novel down and listened to many cuts from a broad range of albums and continually heard more realism than I have heard before.

Highly recommended.

Company Info:
Synergistic Research, Inc.
GMA = 0.75” (5 x 20 mm): Retail $59.95
3AG = 1.25” (6.3 x 32mm): Retail $69.95

Phone: (800) 578-6489