Synergistic Research PowerCell 10SE Mk II

The Best I’ve Heard?


 January 2011


It is not easy to tell a Synergistic Research PowerCell 10SE Mk II from the original, which has been my reference unit. The new unit’s AC power cord was upgraded to a Tesla SE Precision AC cord with three alternative AC receptacles for the charging circuit-one silver, one grey, and one black. Also the new Mk II is nine pounds heavier. Finally, the blue led on the back showing the PowerCell is charged is now a plug in rather than a chassis mount. But I can say you can easily hear the differences, at least after four or five days.

I have found the original PowerCell to be the best AC device for some time now and in this review will merely compare the old and the new units. I guess I could have compared the Mk II with no AC conditioning, but that would have been very difficult. I had all ten outlets of the original PowerCell used for the power cords to all electrical components and one used to two daisy chained Quantum Line Series outlet boxes with all of these fifteen outlets used primarily for the MPC chargers for my cabling. Simply, I did not have another outlet box to accommodate the AC cords plugged into the original PowerCell. Please do not take anything I say here as disparaging to the original PowerCell 10SE.

I did no prior conditioning of the Mk II, but rather put it directly atop the original, as that allowed as quick a comparison between it and the original as I could. This did somewhat disadvantage the Mk II as the original was atop Synergistic Research MIGs in the pinpoint configuration with two Mana stands beneath it. I sought to offset this bias by later removing the original and placing the Mk II in its place.

After a final listening to the original PowerCell 10 SE on selected recordings, I transferred the components to the Mk II, which had been plugged in for a short time. Of course, all components had to be shut down during this transfer. After about an hour to allow everything to settle down, I listened to the same selected recordings. My first impression was that the two sounded very much alike, but that the Mk II had a more extended and sweet top end. Brass instruments were most benefitted. I then listened for three hours to various digital recordings and heard some improvement, including a marked rise in the height of the soundstage, a happening that always surprises me.

Difference Between the Original PowerCell and the Mk II

All PowerCells use Active Electromagnetic Cells to condition the current. The PowerCell 10SE Mk II uses silver as well as the original copper plates, moreover, the Tesla SE Active Power cord allows, “voicing” the shielding to the user’s taste. The silver AC receptacle is described as “open, airy, and dynamic.” At the opposite end, the black AC is “rich and warm,” and I would add has more bass. In between falls the grey AC receptacles. At various points in my listening I tried the black AC and only once the grey AC. In the end, I much preferred the silver with the black least preferred. It is certainly listenable but never approaches realism in my system. The differences between the three AC receptacles were not subtle, and I suspect users may disagree about which they prefer. The original PowerCell 10 SE had this choice made for them by Synergistic Research.

The PowerCell 10SE Mk II comes with the standard MPC (Mini Power Coupler) to charge the fields. As I had been using the Galileo MPC on the original, I did so also on the Mk II other than in my initial listening secession. The difference was not subtle either. I would urge buyers of the Mk II to buy the optional Galileo MPC. Finally, although Mr. Denney urges users to get the new TeslaPlex SE wall outlet. I did not. Seeking to a close comparison between the original and Mk II, I used the original TeslaPlex.

Listening Sessions
My listening sessions use four primary recordings. First is Holly Cole’sIt Happened One Night Metro Blue (CDP 7243 8 52699 0 5); Frank Sinatra with Count Basie, Sinatra At The Sands (Vicy 94366 Japan)SHM; Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis Two Men With The Blues (Blue Note Records TOCP-70541 Japan); and This Is K2 HD Sound (UD! FIM K2 HD 078). The first is an outdoor performance when Holly Cole’s voice was great and the sound stage well defined. Sinatra and the Basie orchestra were in fine fiddle this evening and were especially captured very accurately on this Blu-ray plastic disc. The Nelson and Marsalis recording has solo performances with the instrument well mic’d and quite dynamic. Finally, the FIM Ultimate Disc has varied cuts that allow evaluations of percussion (chiefly Christopher Hardy’ Touch and Pachelbel’s Canon in D), symphonic works (Ansermet’s Swan Lake Duo and Habanera’s Fantasia from Carmen) and vocals (Esther’s Kinderpiele and Nah Youn Sun’s Heart of Glass).


The PowerCell 10 SE Mk II clearly has a lower noise level than the original. You hear more detail and more resolution of the timbre of instruments, ambience in the recording venue, especially in the Cole and Sinatra recording, and decay of bass and chimes in both Touchand Pachelbel. The string tone of violins and basses in Swan Lake Duo were very real with precise timbre. Most notably on thePachelbel the musician noises and position in the recording environment are quite noticeable and real. All of this detail, musical or not, leant realism to these recordings.

Secondly, the Mk II is even more dynamic than the original, which far exceeded the dynamics of the multitude of devices I have used for cleaning up my increasingly noisy AC. Marsalis’ trumpet is just sassy and loud but real and often startling. The marimbas in thePachelbel and the chimes on Touch are the very essence of percussive. The tumbrel accuracy is another improvement in the Mk II. On the Swan Lake Duo, the basses in the last part have real tonal differences and multiple locations rather than being just an ill-defined single note. The drums on the Nelson and Marsalis recording sound real and the shimmer on the bells in the Pachelbel is outstanding.
Finally, there is the soundstaging. The recordings as well as most others I have tried draw you into them or envelope you in their soundstage. It is almost as though channel separation is increased. Here the Nelson and Marsalis is the best example. Each of the instruments has a very precise location and depth. You are also quite aware of the location of the audience. This is also true of the Sinatra recording. The audience is quite evident and noisy, and even when the Basie orchestra is quiet, you are aware of its presence.

I did remove the Synergistic MIGS from under the PowerCell and did lose some of these characteristics. Like everything else with current moving, vibrations of wire within an electromagnetic field induce signals within those wires having nothing to do with the music. You need to isolate this unit from vibrations as with every other component.

Please remember that I am not comparing the Synergistic PowerCell 10 SE Mk II with no AC conditioning. All of the effects that I note would be greater relative to no AC filtering. Frankly, I would not have wanted to do such a comparison. I stand by my very positive reaction to the original PowerCell 10 SE. It was the best I had heard up to that point. The PowerCell 10 SE Mk II is, however, clearly better.
There was a twice as expensive Galileo PowerCell 10 SE released at this 2011 CES.



Synergistic Research PowerCell 10 SE Mk II.

Price: $5000 (includes the Tesla SE Precision AC cord and a dual lead MPC).
Telephone: (800) 578-6489


norm luttbeg

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