Cables & Accessory Reviews

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Steven Plaskin Posted: Nov 04, 2014 4 comments
The PowerCell 10 UEF is the latest version of Synergistic Research’s PowerCell AC line conditioner first introduced in 2008. This version of the PowerCell is Synergistic Research’s most ambitious undertaking in dealing with AC line noise. The Power Cell 10 UEF not only adds Synergistic Research’s new UEF technology, but also allows one to employ the FEQ Equalizer first introduced in 2013 with the High Frequency Transducer (HFT) / Frequency Equalizer (FEQ) products.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Oct 23, 2014 19 comments
The Hydra DPC-6 Digital Power Distribution Center is the first power conditioner made by Shunyata Research designed specifically for digital media products. Components such as computers, digital servers, disc-arrays, and cable modems-routers present special problems in terms of noise that pollutes the AC line that is simultaneously serving other audio components adversely affecting the overall sonic performance of our systems. Inexpensive power supplies with their minimal filtration provided with our hard disc arrays and computers produce a significant amount of digital noise. The Hydra DPC-6 electrically isolates these digital devices and provides a firewall to prevent them from polluting and degrading the sonic performance of the audio components sharing the power line.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Jul 31, 2014 135 comments
Synergistic Research’s latest implementation of their Uniform Energy Field Technology, better known as UEF, has resulted in a new product designed to balance close proximity electromagnetic fields in electronic circuits. The product is called the Electronic Circuit Transducer or ECT. These tiny devices, approximately the size of the previously reviewed HFT (High Frequency Transducer), are placed on D to A chips, fuses, near vacuum tubes, capacitors, transformers, op amps, and analog and digital cables. The ECTs can also be placed on the exterior of the chassis to improve the electromagnetic environment of the component. Synergistic Research states that high frequency noise is reduced with a resultant drop in the perceived noise floor. Compression of the sound is decreased with application of these devices on your electronic components. Improvements in clarity and definition, along with soundstage size and air, are claimed to improve with use of the ECTs. The ECTs convert ultra-high frequencies that are found with RFI-EMI circuit board component emissions to more musically consonant frequencies.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Jul 22, 2014 21 comments
Introduction
The 3 products under review all deal with common issues encountered in USB computer audio. Most USB DACs require a 5 volt line (VBUS) in the USB cable to supply power to the USB controller in one’s DAC. Unfortunately, this power line from the computer brings with it noise that can contaminate the audio data leading to degradation of the sound one hears from the DAC. The idea behind the Schiit Wyrd USB Decrapifier is that supplying clean power to your USB DAC, or better-quality USB port power management, can result in improvements in sound and performance. Schiit believes that glitches and dropouts can be prevented using the Wyred USB Decrapifier.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jul 17, 2014 21 comments
Isolation
For my review of the Focal Alpha 50 active speakers, my contact sent along a pair of IsoAcoustics L8R155 speaker stands, "I don't do a single demo without it." A few readers alerted me to the IsoAcoustics stands in the past but at the time IsoAcoustics did not have a set small enough to accommodate my ADAM A3X speakers and it was only until this pair arrived for review that I see IsoAcoustics has the ISO-L8R130 to fit their small footprint. So the idea of trying a pair faded until I admit I forgot all about them. All that's changed now that I've heard 'em.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Jun 10, 2014 76 comments
all photo credits: Synergistic Research unless otherwise noted

When I first heard that Synergistic Research was bringing out a new USB cable, a thought occurred to me. Just how much better could this cable be made considering that the Synergistic Research Active USB SE cable was recently upgraded with the new UEF Tuning Circuits? The Uniform Energy Field Technology Tuning Circuits consist of the gray and silver cylindrical devices that attach to the active shield of the Active USB SE cable and fine tune the sound of the cable. I have found that the UEF Tuning Circuits provide a smoother, more revealing sound with enhanced bloom. But after reading about the Galileo series of cables, I discovered that this series applies Synergistic Research technologies not found in the Active USB SE cable.

Steven Plaskin Posted: Apr 28, 2014 15 comments
Being an audio reviewer, I have the opportunity to evaluate many of the high end USB cables that are manufactured today. While most of these cables are very nice sounding, some of the cables really distinguish themselves sonically. The JCAT USB cable is just one of those very special USB cables that stand out from the large number of high-end USB cable offerings today.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Apr 14, 2014 11 comments
The Overdrive USB DAC/Pre is the creation of engineer-designer Steve Nugent of Empirical Audio. Empirical Audio was formed in 1994 and initially concentrated on the sales of patented cable products designed by Steve Nugent. Steve’s background included a degree in Electrical Engineering with 25 years of digital design experience. His resume included work for the Intel Corp. where he served as a design-team lead in the development of the Pentium II processor. Steve has also been a passionate audiophile for over 39 years and this interest lead him into the modification of other manufacturer’s audio products in 2002. His modifications not only included DACs, but preamps, power amps and CD players / transports. The modification of numerous designs gave Steve a wonderful opportunity to see what sounded best in audio and DAC design. During this time, Steve developed the Off Ramp Turbo USB Converter; a device that offered a USB interface to digital products. In 2009, Empirical Audio ceased equipment modification and concentrated on original computer audio product design.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Mar 10, 2014 14 comments
The Synergistic Research UEF (Uniform Energy Field) Technology Active Tuning Circuits are the new replacements for the Enigma Tuning Circuits (Bullets) provided with the Synergistic Research Element and Galileo Series cables and AC cords, Digital Power Tools, Tranquility Bases, PowerCell line conditioners, and older Tesla Series LE cables and AC cords. The Enigma Tuning Circuits or Bullets were used to fine tune the sound of the Active Shields in Synergistic Research cables, AC cords and active devices. I have previously described the action of the Enigma Tuning Circuits in my reviews of the Tranquility Base (see review), the USB Active SE cable (see review), and the Element C.T.S. Digital AC cord (see review).
Steven Plaskin Posted: Dec 10, 2013 4 comments
Why the Need for a Specialized AC Cord?
The Digital AC-X cord is JPS Labs’ specialized cable for digital components designed to provide a “smoother, more analog environment for audio and video” components. JPS Labs is a manufacturer of a complete line of AC cords, interconnects, speaker cables and digital audio cables. They also manufacture the Abyss headphone, a state-of-the art design that is priced to match. JPS Labs has been in business since 1990 and manufactures their products in East Aurora, New York.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Nov 05, 2013 16 comments
The SOtM tX-USBexp Audiophile PCIe to USB Audio Card
The SOtM PCIe to USB 3.0 Card is compatible with Windows 7/8 and Linux. You can power the SOtM card in three ways; through the 4-pin IDE connector that uses your computer's dirty power, externally using a 9V power supply (like the one that came with your cell phone), or with a high quality linear battery-power supply like the SOtM mBPS-d2s Intelligent Battery Power Supply which I'll also be talking about in this review.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Oct 21, 2013 41 comments
2013 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest Introduction
The Synergistic Research High Frequency Transducer (HFT) and Frequency Equalizer (FEQ) are two new products that were recently introduced at the 2013 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver (see show report). Synergistic Research decided to make a not-so-subtle point by using a Bose Wave Radio placed on a Tranquility Base to demonstrate these new products. Ted Denny III, Lead Designer at Synergistic Research, wanted no confusion that might occur using a high end audio system. Ted felt that if his new products could transform the sound of a Bose Wave Radio, a true high end audio system would experience even greater benefits from these products.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Sep 30, 2013 102 comments
Expensive Ethernet Cables
I hemmed and hawed. I procrastinated. I averted, diverted, rescheduled, delayed, prolonged, and put off reviewing the AudioQuest Vodka and Diamond Ethernet Cables hoping that something would change. Namely, I was hoping someone would be able to tell me why, in no uncertain terms, they do in fact make a difference in the way my music sounds coming through my hi-fi. In many ways and for many reasons I wished they made no difference at all. I wish they were just some audiophile nonsense that I could plug in, listen to, unplug, and simply shrug at their utter ineffectualness. But that's just not how these things work.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Aug 16, 2013 4 comments
iTube
The iFi iTube active tube buffer/preamplifier is actually more than that. The iTube includes two "active correction circuits" that are meant to improve your listening experience, just like the New Old Stock (NOS) General Electric 5670 tube that's hidden inside the iTube's aluminum shell. I suppose purists have already begun the cold sweats as thoughts of tampering with bit perfection outweighs the promise of greater enjoyment. But let's leave theory behind and see what the iTube delivers, sound wise.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Aug 12, 2013 20 comments
The LightSpeed USB cable is Light Harmonic’s latest entry to an ever growing and somewhat crowded filed of audiophile USB cables. Light Harmonic, well known for their outstanding Da Vinci DAC that I previously reviewed last January (see review), has created what they feel is a USB cable that very few other manufacturers can match in terms of bandwidth. Light Harmonic claims that the LightSpeed with its Ultra-high speed differential pair provides 20 times the bandwidth of USB 2.0 high speed. With its 10 GB per second bandwidth, it offers performance that many other high end USB cables cannot come close to. In fact, Light Harmonic has measured many high end USB cables and found that they cannot meet the USB Audio 2.0 High Speed standard of 480mbps. The LightSpeed physically splits the line with separation of the 5V power supply to reduce noise and disturbances of the digital signal.

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