Synergistic Research – Atmosphere X Euphoria AC Powercords, Speaker Cables (Level 3) and Reference Ethernet Cable
2018 was a particularly interesting and revelatory year for me whereas my reviewing activities included various types of cable products – specifically power cords, speaker and power conditioning units. For me – the insights gained through auditioning and evaluating these products was enjoyable, enlightening and quite rewarding. Importantly, each of these products helped to enhance the overall musical enjoyment I experienced from listening to my reference system and basically – that’s what it’s all about.
Beyond the actual tasks associated with auditioning these different products, I also had the pleasure of on-site visits to the manufacturing facilities of each product along with meetings with the persons responsible for their actual design and development. These experiences were truly informative, insightful and entertaining as well. For this particular review, my efforts are focused on the Atmosphere X Euphoria series cables from Synergistic Research (SR). I actually first heard mention about the emerging design and development of this newer cable series while attending the AXPONA North America Show in April 2018.It was during this event where Mike Giradi, StereoTimes colleague, and long-time user of SR products, facilitated an introduction to both SR President Ted Denney as well as his right-hand person Andy Wierderspahn, Director of Operations.
Thanks to the introduction – initial conversations started at that time regarding where it would be best for me to start my journey for reviews of these newer SR cables. It was then when Wierderspahn first recommending that I actually start with the newer PowerCell 12 UEF SE. His reasoning was that as the PowerCell serves as the hub for providing clean, noise-free power to all components connected to it. His further comments were that my overall assessment of the newer SR cables would benefit from having this newer unit in my system vs. my older SR PowerCell 10. Who was I to argue this logic and soon arrangements were made for me to receive this unit. For my assessment of the SR PowerCell 12 UEF SE, see my review of the PowerCell 12 UEF SE (reviewed here).
Interestingly, the original Atmosphere line of cables has been out for a number of years and has garnered a fair amount of positive press. So just what the heck was the newer Atmosphere X Euphoria series of cables all about? In discussion with both Denney and Wierderspahn – clearly the focus of the new design was based on both direct feedback from current and previous users as well as various listening panels that were assembled at the factory for critical listening and assessment of various design changes being introduced to the newer cable series. I suggest you check the SR website for additional details regarding this process and also to learn how emotional discernment factored into the decision-making, not just a person’s ability to hear acutely well (i.e., golden ears and/or the like). Beyond this – Denney maintains a rigorous testing and evaluation procedure, for all products, to further insure optimum performance as the products go through the various development stages to completion and final production.
During various conversations with Denny – it became quite apparent that he maintains a very aggressive pursuit of evolving the design of his cables for the most effective ways to address issues around greater transparency and lowering the noise floor. These are very important factors in providing a cleaner, clearer, more open soundstage that ultimately allows recorded music to flow more naturally and communicate more authentically. Music literally has a sensation of coming to life in a moving, emotional and dynamic manner with a see-through quality that allows harmonics to be rendered beautifully. As I described in my SR PowerCell review – Denny and his team are persistent in this pursuit and the results speak for themselves.
Ole’ Happy Day – Products Arrived
Finally several packages arrived and being as anxious as I was, I quickly retrieved these products from their shipping containers and installed these new cables into my system. Even with the Quantum Tunneling burn-in procedure performed at the factory, based on past experience, I knew that it would very likely take some time for these products to fully burn in and settle down before sounding their very best. During a late evening telephone conversation with Wierderspahn – he confirmed my suspicion and suggested I be patient. Trusting his judgment, I put my system in repeat mode for continuous digital playback signals running through it. Over the next 24 hours, there was a subtle but noticeable change. At the 48 to 72 hour mark, the sound was improving even more. I then left my system in continuous play mode for the next two to three days. The level of improvement was quite noticeable with the sound becoming very musical and with definite signs of promise for even better sound to come. Interestingly, something significant happened during the extended time of burn-in with the cables coming much more into their own with the sound of my system greatly improved over earlier listening. By the way – I should also mention that for the power cords – I used the analog version for my linestage/preamp and high current power cords for my amplifiers.
Shielding via Tuning Modules
Interestingly, with the advanced technology incorporated into the newer SR cable series – the company has moved from the earlier wall-wart type of devices for their patented active shielding approach. The newer series cables have eliminated these somewhat cumbersome devices and now use various types of tuning modules (i.e., red, blue and gold). These small devices are literally connected to the cable and vary by the type of cable they are used with (i.e., interconnect, speaker or power). Specifically they are designed to allow the user to tweak/refine the overall sound for their respective system. These tuning modules provide additional detail, air and refinement or warmth, liquidity and musicality. Based on my experience with trying different tuning modules, it really didn’t take long to determine which ones I preferred for my system. Even though I was able to easily discern a difference when switching between tuning devices, I often felt that the differences were relatively minor. I also suspect that due to the wide range of system configurations (i.e., solid state, tubes, analog, digital, dynamic speakers, horns or planar type speakers, and also listening room dimensions), the preferred combination of tuning modules will vary accordingly.
The really good news is that at no time did I ever find that by altering these devices did I experience a sound that was anything other than superb. Whether using the tuning module for additional air/detail or warmth/liquidity it was more about not just what I was hearing but also the way the music felt to me. Kind of a head vs. the heart type of approach and for my tastes, I typically prefer something a bit more of a visceral and emotional connection to the music (i.e., soul of the sound). Specifically what I experienced was that the red module provided a bit more energy, impact and dynamic kick. Along with this was a more natural tonal balance. For acoustic upright bass – with the red module, the sound was full, tight, round and yet highly articulate. Piano was percussive with weight. Cymbals sounded more natural, not quite as bright but also open and naturally metallic sounding. I could go on and on about the way different tuning modules sounded but suggest you refer to the company’s website for additional detailed information. Suffice it to say – this is matter of taste and definitely not a “one-size-fits-all” type of approach. Additionally, power chords are different animals than speaker cables so it really makes sense having options available with these various tuning modules.
OK It’s Now Play Time……..as in: Listening, Listening and Luvin’ It
Now with lots of playing time under my belt and the cables fully broken in, I was now able to fully appreciate the level of overall sonic purity provided. In a very real sense – these newer Atmosphere X Euphoria cables essentially extended the type of sonic transformation of my system rendered by SR PowerCell 12 SE UEF. The overall impact was both wonderfully positive and profound. Definitely nothing subtle. At this point – my juices were flowing and my ears more than ready for the onslaught of some intense listening sessions. Additionally, in order to share my excitement, I alerted a number of good friends, primarily avid music lovers and a few audiophile types, who are familiar with my system. Over the years, this has been a regular practice of mine and something that I find an excellent way to get honest, constructive feedback to help either validate my findings and conclusions.
Later in the process of this review, I received the companion Reference Ethernet cable from SR. After adequate burn-in time, somewhat surprisingly – the difference with this cable vs. my stellar reference Ethernet cable was quite obvious and in a very positive manner. Bottom line – this cable was a very welcome addition that easily complemented the enhanced overall performance of my system with the other SR cables recently put into place.
As I assembled a number of my favorite recordings, I included both instrumental and vocal jazz. This varied from saxophone, vibraphone, piano, guitar, Hammond B3 organ as well as male and female singers. Starting off with long-time favorite jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal’s outstanding recording titled Blue Moon, the performance was highly percussive, energetic, dynamic and with lots rhythm and swing. With the full complement of SR Atmosphere X Euphoria cables in place there was a very noticeable improvement in the jump factor for this recording. The acoustic pressure was more solid with improved presence and realism. Along with this, the piano was more fully flushed out with a greater sense of organic texture and more evident sustain. Complex musical passages were more unraveled, clearer and more intelligible. Along with this was a wonderfully enhanced spatial, open, holographic sensation with lots of depth, width and layers of sound.
Next up was Bill Charlap’s piano recording entitled Stardust. On the selection The Nearness of You, the sound was lush with a beautiful, natural tonality, warm rounded acoustic bass including gentle cymbal and brush work. Ballads tend to reveal true musical artistry (and musicianship) and this recording was no exception. Moving to another wonderful jazz pianist – we then listened to Bill Evans on his recording titled Everyone Digs Bill. Checking out track 11, Some Other Time, there was a quiet background space filled with wonderful music emerging. The attack and sustain were very much in evidence including a highly percussive yet gentle, delicate rendering that is characteristic of this artist’s style.
Moving on to some of my favorite jazz vocalists, and in no particular order, Kurt Jelling’s superb recording titled Nightmoves and Mary Stalling’s recording titled Manhattan Moods were all rendered with such wonderful musicality and emotional shadings that at times I felt as though I was listening to these recordings for the very first time. The primary differences this time was the fact that the SR Atmosphere X Euphoria power chords, speaker and Ethernet cables were all in place. Definitely the differences weren’t subtle despite having loved the sound with my previous cables. The Atmosphere X Eurphoria cables simply raised the bar and took me to another level of musical enjoyment.
Again my past experiences have sensitized me to the impact of synergy of different components as well as cables. With these newly developed cables from SR – there seems to be a higher degree of consistency that ultimately provides for a seamless and more natural sound overall. Here are some other examples of what I observed listening to recorded music performed by superb artists, each of whom I’ve had the opportunity to hear live in concert. With Kurt Elling’s recording titled Nightmoves – on the selection titled The Waking, it is a combination of beautiful vocals paired with outstanding acoustic bass to produce truly pretty (and sensuous) music. On Mary Stalling’s recording, selection titled You Go To My Head, she has an excellent band backing her up with some absolutely gorgeous harmonica playing included. Again – the cables performed in such a way as to remove themselves from the sound rendering a highly authentic musical experience that was chilling at times.
Back to acoustic jazz – on Steve Nelson’s recording Brothers Under the Sun, track #5 “It Never Entered My Mind” – his vibes are highly resonant and shine brightly while in the background the piano, acoustic bass and drums are all accurately rendered with high degrees of musical realism. Another wonderful performance is that of Charlie Haden on his recording Quartet West featuring Ernie Watts. Specifically on selection titled Body & Soul and My Foolish Heart – Haden’s bass solos are clear, articulate, full, distinct and masterfully performed. Ernie Watt’s wailing saxophone adds to the serene beauty of this recording and easily casts a mystical spell while listening. Following these artists was guitarist Randy Johnston. On his recording titled Detour Ahead, his rendition of A House Is Not a Home including Joey D. Francesco on Hammond B3 organ exhibited a palate of rich, harmonic colorful sounds. Throughout these listening sessions there was a noticeably high degree of coherency, transparency and tonal accuracy across the full frequency range. In my opinion – this is a testament to how the designer voices their products for this type of consistency and high levels of sonic integrity to the performance.
Appearance & Brief Technical Overview
Purely from a cosmetic perspective, both the analog and high current power cables have an impressive look and feel, fit and finish if you will – one of sophistication and being sturdy at the same time. Their attractive black mesh outer housing is complemented with the tuning modules attached in a tidy/functional manner. The connectors are snugly fitted to the cables and include a clear plastic protective jacket wrapped around the end of the connector mechanism and partially on to the cable itself. All in all – nothing wimpy looking or feeling about these power cables.
Throughout the review period, I had numerous opportunities for either telephone or email communications – typically for the purpose of helping to enlighten me regarding the secret sauce (or magic, if you will) employed by SR for continuously improving its cable and power conditioning products. As with prior cable products, active shielding has been incorporated for quite some time. More recently, SR has employed their more advanced Level 3 UEF shielding Matrix Shielding as well as the Ground Plane technology. According to the company’s website – this helps to lower the noise floor and also enhance holographic imaging. Also on the website is a more detailed description of how these features are designed into the cables along with the companion tuning modules.
Also, of considerable important to the design of the Atmosphere power cables are the extensive use of the highly conductive graphene material. As with the SR PowerCell – incorporating this material with the company’s proprietary UEF technology is a winning combination. Additionally, company’s unique burn-in process of Quantum Tunneling is yet another critical step in achieving the highest possible level of performance from its cables. With this brief discussion, I have merely scratched the surface of the technological advances that are a part of the evolving design of the SR cables. For sure – check out the website for far more detailed descriptions.
Whereas cables are considered as primarily passive devices – nonetheless, their potential impact on the final resulting sound of a high-end audio system has been recognized for many years. Thankfully, the Atmosphere X Euphoria cable series represents a significant advancement and to my ears – enables my reference system to achieve a level of sonic purity that suggests that the designer’s goal of preserving the integrity of the signal passing through a system has been largely achieved. The degree of improvement of the sound of my system, with these particular cables in place, has been anything but subtle. In fact, what I experienced with these cables was very consistent with the overall improvement I experienced with the company’s newer Powercell 12 UEF SE. Improvements were literally across the entire musical spectrum and literally brought to my listening room a heightened sense of sonic realism that helped elevate my listening pleasure immensely. Indeed, the Synergistic Research Atmosphere X Euphoria power cords, speaker cables along with the Reference Ethernet cable are truly wonderful products and I give them my very highest recommendation.
Atmosphere X Euphoria (Level 3) power cord, analog/high current $2,995/$3,395 respectively
Atmosphere X Euphoria speaker cables, 8 ft $5,495
Atmosphere Reference Ethernet cable, $1,050
President: Ted Denney
Address: 1736 E. Borchard Avenue, Santa Ana, CA 92705
Web Site: www.synergisticresearch.com
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