Synergistic Research PowerCell SX by Mike Girardi
My first experience with a Synergistic Research (herein SR) product was the groundbreaking A/C Master Coupler back in 1995. At the time, I owned a solid-state based system consisting of Adcom separates, Snell E-III loudspeakers, and Monster Cable wires. Eventually, I upgraded to a tube-based system consisting of Golden Tube Audio SE separates, a California Audio Labs CL-15, B&W P5 loudspeakers, M&K subwoofer, and Audioquest cables. In the process of trading and upgrading tweaks and cables with fellow audiophiles, a friend recommended that I try the SR A/C Master Couplers. At the time, SR was the only cable company marketing upgraded power cords. Although I had my doubts that a power cable could impact my system, I had my local dealer supply me with three SR A/C Master Couplers. I installed them on my source, tube preamp, and tube amplifier. With the SR A/C, Master Couplers installed, I immediately detected a lower noise floor with a velvety black background compared to stock AC cords. As you might have guessed, I became interested in replacing my existing speaker and interconnect cables with SR cables. Since then, like most of us die-hard audio geeks that got to have the latest technology within (economic) reason, I’ve taken the cable and line conditioner merry-go-round a few times. Still, I have down selected both components to SR over the last six years. One might say that I’ve been enamored by the ever-evolving Synergistic Research “house sound.”
It’s been said before, and it’s worth repeating: “It all starts at the AC wall socket.” The quality, structure, and efficiency of the AC entering your music system play a profound role in your system’s musicality and dimensionality. The power supplies within your audio components cannot clear the incoming AC of all radio frequency interference (RFI), digital noise, electromagnetic interference (EMI), and other electrical disturbances that household AC brings when it enters your home. It’s simply not their job. This dear reader is the job of the AC line conditioner.
I’ve had three iterations of the highly acclaimed PowerCell in my reviewing system over the last eight years, with each iteration advancing the technology in ac power enhancement. Competition in the world of audio is a good thing. It drives well established, engineering-based, and world-leading audio companies like Synergistic Research to never accept the status quo. The results are new components that dramatically exceed the performance of their predecessor products. As you will see as detailed below, the PowerCell SX line conditioner is far from the exception.
My review will start by baselining the performance of my existing PowerCell 12 UEF with the Galileo SX power cord, which I’ve had in my system for the last four years. The next step will include swapping the PowerCell SX into my system after it’s been burned-in in a second system for 200 hours and comparing PowerCell SX’s performance directly to the PowerCell 12 UEF.
A Comparison of PowerCell
According to SR, the PowerCell SX ($8495, $10,495, or $12,995 depending on the AC power cord) contains over 80% of the technology found in the Galileo SX PowerCell line conditioner ($22,995). Compared to the PowerCell 12 SE (lower tier of the new PowerCell line), the PowerCell SX has Orange capacitors (treatment type) added to its power supply and has both ULF field generator. All rolled active electromagnetic (EM) cells are larger and more densely packed, providing 25% more surface area for an overall increase in EM cell efficiency/energy storage. The PowerCell SX has the following in common with the Galileo SX PowerCell:
Power supply for biasing all six of its internal active EM cells
Harmonic bias frequency of the Earth’s Schumann resonance
The use of 24k Gold UEF tuning circuits internally
Another unique design feature implemented on the PowerCell SX and Galilieo SX PowerCell is connecting both units to the SR Active Grounding Block (review here) through a new dedicated ground connection, which previously could only be connected through one of the existing 12 AC outlets. This new feature results in a more direct link to the ground.
The front panel of the PowerCell SX includes an amp meter displayed on glass with the option of illuminating the interior in a choice of intensities and colors: Galileo White, Dante Red, Synergistic Research Blue, and McIntosh Blue, which I found to be very useful and matching my Ayon Audio components. The top of the chassis also has a glass window to view the internal power conditioning circuit detailed above. Exclusive to the PowerCell SX design are new 12 isolated ground UEF Orange duplexes that receive a full Orange Fuse treatment and are organized into two isolated banks of three, which can be split between analog and digital components.
Lastly, one of the key differences between the PowerCell 12 and both the SX and the Galileo SX is six 9s purity silver throughout the build with almost 59 feet run within the PowerCell SX that includes:
Wiring: All 10 AWG. Silver Matrix point-to-point discrete wiring
Connector Output US: 12 each Orange UEF Outlets (Two-stage Quantum Treatment)
Connector Output International (EU/AU/UK): 12 each Orange UEF Schuko outlets (Two-stage Quantum Treatment) Note: Outlets are Black.
UEF Graphene treatment throughout the unit
Internal “Active” power supply for biasing EM Cells
3rd generation Internal ULF (Ultra-low frequency) Generator applied to each electromagnetic cell to bias AC to the Earth’s Schumann Resonance for a dramatic drop in a system’s noise floor.
Two each SR Power Transformers
Eight each SR Quantum Capacitors in EM Cell power supply and ULF field generator
High Carbon Steel/Aluminum “Ground Plane” chassis
Five New 25% larger XL EM Cell topology acts like a ‘Super Capacitor’ to increase peak current on-demand, allowing components to draw more current than when connected directly to the wall for added dynamic headroom
Internal Active UEF EM Horizontal Plane Cell area: 640 square centimeters, 5 x Internal Active UEF EM Folded Carbon Fiber Cell area: 3605 square centimeters total
Connector Input: 1 each Neutrik 32 amp PowerCon
2 Isolated Output Banks; can be used to isolate analog from digital components
99.995% Pure Silver Ground Strap:
62 square centimeters
Weight and Dimensions: 5.5″ x Width 17.5″ x Depth 13.5″, 28 lbs.
Voltage and current Rating: Input rating US: 20amp/125v
Input Rating International (EU/AU/UK): 16amp/250v
US Version: Rating is limited by the US Outlet rating of 20amp/125v
International (EU/AU/UK) Version: Rating is predicated upon the Schuko Outlet rating of 16amp/250v
Color Me Red
My reviewing system includes the Uptone JS-2 Linear Power Supply for Qnap TS-251+NAS drive, Ayon Audio S-5 Network Player/Preamplifier/DAC, Ayon Audio Odin III Build 4 amplifier fitted Siemens signal tubes, First Watt SIT-1 monoblocks, Cube Audio Nenuphar loudspeakers, Wireworld Platinum Starlight 8 Twinax Ethernet cables, UpTone Audio EtherREN, Synergistic Research Galileo UEF speaker cables, interconnects, and SX AC power cables, SR PowerCell 12 UEF, SR UEF Black outlets, SR HFTs, SR Active Grounding Block SE and UDG cables, SR Black Box, SR MiG 2.0 isolation footers, and PerfectPath Technologies Eden Gates. My listening area is 14ft and 10″ wide with a 9′ ceiling and has a nearly open back wall to 1500 sq ft of first-floor living area.
I’ve recently discovered several of the hi-rez downloads offered by MA Recordings as produced by Todd Garfinkle. Garfinkle’s mic’d, spacious sounding 24-bit recordings have earned him a following among audiophiles even though most exotic “world” music Garfinkle prefers to record is anything but traditional audiophile fare. “Garfinkle’s recordings, produced in acoustically grand venues, create unusually spacious, transparent, three dimensional soundstages on which are placed solid instrumental images possessing technicolor-like harmonics and dynamics.”
“La Segunda” by Sera Una Noche [MA Recordings] recorded at 176.4/24 bit resolution on a Fostex DV-40 DVD-RAM recorder was the first music album used to evaluate the SR PowerCell SX. This music is based on the tango, an Argentinian creation circa 1900 fused from music brought there from Italy, Spain, Germany, and Africa. Tango has the fire of Flamenco, Italy’s romance, and the signature sound of the Germany-originated, accordion-like bandoneón. “Freed from having to analyze the strands, what you have here is atmospheric, smoldering, dramatic Tango-based compositions, mostly sinewy instrumentals, arranged for flute, clarinet (including an almost menacing bass clarinet), cello, bandoneón, guitar and percussion (mostly persuasive) that leave large hunks of open space between the notes and between the instruments. They are as much soundscapes as songs”. With the PowerCell SX swapped into my system, the sound was spectacular, the space produced was immersive, the percussion was thundering, the guitar was densely textured, and the bandoneon was liquid and breathy. The PowerCell SX infused sheer physicality and visual solidity of the production that always kept my attention from the start of each cut… you are in the recording space. There was also an astonishing level of heightened resolution and significantly lowered noise floor that manifested itself as tranquility with the music emerging from a darker backdrop. Compared with the PowerCell 12 UEF installed, the music was less focused and displayed a layer of haze dispersed within the music that occasionally lacked composure. The advantage of having an enhanced grounding scheme and double isolated banks of blue fused treated outlets coupled with the ULF field generator and Active EM cells having a much larger surface area found in the PowerCell Sx was demonstrated here.
“Nama” by the group Puente Celeste is another 176.4/24 bit resolution hi-rez download (MA Recordings) I’ve recently discovered. In 1997, the extraordinary Argentine percussionist Santiago Vazquez (of “Sera una Noche” fame) put together a great group of musicians to collectively create their own unique and sophisticated, yet very accessible musical world. Santiago named the collective “Puente Celeste” (Celestial Bridge in Spanish). TheiUnausic, heavenly influenced by pop, jazz, and world music touchstones. The present group includes the phenomenal multi-instrumental wind player Marcelo Moguilevsky (from both Sera Una Noche recordings), guitarist/singer/songwriter Edgardo Cardozo (from La Segunda), Lucas Nikotian on accordion and piano, Luciano Dyzenchauz on bass, and of course, Santiago playing on percussion, tabla, mbira, as well as guitar and vocals on one track. Set down unedited in April 2010 at the Goethe Institute Buenos Aires, the up-close recording was made using only two custom made microphones. With the significant reduction in noise floor and signal compression afforded by PowerCell SX, transients were reconstructed with superior acceleration, presenting individual instrumental attacks with remarkable clarity. The music’s overall pace and timing became more natural, and the reconstruction of the microdynamics on stringed and percussion instruments. The soundstage bloomed a few feet beyond my Cube Audio Nenuphar loudspeakers’ front plane with the PowerCell 12 UEF. Still, when the PowerCell SX was installed, the soundstage bloomed much farther into the room, with the front wall nearly nonexistent.
It was evident that a significant shift toward truthful timber had taken place on both recordings, especially in terms of stridency, diminished grain, and pitch definition. This was heard in the overall tonality ranging from pitch stability in the lowest octaves to greater clarity in the uppermost frequencies. Every instrument and vocal sounded more organic, while each instrument had a greater sense of sparkle about them. In comparison to the PowerCell 12 UEF, the PowerCell SX exerted greater control over music reproduction. When you’re nodding, tapping your toe, and getting lost in the music, all is well.
The SR PowerCell SX and Galileo SX power cord are engineering breakthroughs that are well made, deliver on their promised performance, and have taken my system to a level I never thought possible. Ted Denney pulled out all of the stops on this iteration of the PowerCell. Although the admission price is high, the increase in overall system performance in relative terms justifies the cost. Far worthy of a StereoTimes “Most Wanted Component” award recognition… My new reference.
Mike’s Associated Equipment
Digital Front End
Ayon Audio S-5 Network Player/Preamplifier
Qnap TS-251+8GB NAS drive
Uptone Audio JS-2 Power Supply
Uptone Audio EtherRegen
Ayon Audio Odin SET stereo amplifier III Build 4
First Watt SIT-1 monoblock amplifiers
Cube Audio Nenuphar loudspeakers
Synergistic Research Galileo UEF speaker cables with Blue Fuse treatment
Synergistic Research Galileo SX interconnect.
Synergistic Research Galileo SX ac power cords, digital and analog
Synergistic Research Galileo UEF Ethernet
Synergistic Research Atmosphere High Definition Grounding cables x 14
Synergistic Research PowerCell 12 UEF
Synergistic Research Atmosphere XL and ATM
Synergistic Research Tranquility Base UEF x 2
Synergistic Research HFTs x 38
Synergistic Research FEQ
Synergistic Research Active Grounding Block SE
Synergistic Research Black Box
Perfect Path Technologies Eden Gates
Perfect Path Technologies Omega Mats
LessLoss Blackbody ambient field conditioner x 2
Custom-built maple wood rack with stainless steel support rod, sleeves, and cones
Marigo Labs Window Tuning Dots
Herbie’s Audio Lab Preamp Ultrasonic tube dampers
Synergistic Research UEF Black duplexes
Synergistic Research Blue fuses
Furutech NCF Booster x 4
Furutech NCF Booster-Signal x 10
Oyaide WPC-Z aluminum mounting frame and carbon fiber faceplates
Two dedicated 20 amp AC lines using cryo treated Romex
Synergistic Research PowerCell SX with Galileo SX power cord, $10,495
Synergistic Research Inc.
11208 Young River Ave.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
Phone: +1(949) 476-0000
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