Synergistic Research Tranquility Base

Device Type: Active power component conditioner
Dimensions (H x W x D): 1.5” x 18.5” x 16"
Weight: 15 pounds
Availability: through Authorized Dealers and Online Retailers
Price: $1,995 /each as reviewed
Manufacturer’s website: www.synergisticresearch.com

Meeting Tranquility
At the last CES, numerous visitors to the Synergistic Research room were commenting on a new base for computers and components that improved their sound when they were simply placed on the base. My curiosity was aroused with these reports. Could a computer’s sound that is fed to a DAC be significantly improved by simply placing the computer on a base? Given the number of audiophile tweaks that exist, I entered this testing with quite a bit of skepticism. After all, I have tried numerous stands including those from Symposium and Back Diamond Racing with limited success when used on my laptop. Toss in some Shakti stones and fancy footers with again, limited improvement, if any. But having previously met Ted Denney of Synergistic Research, I knew that he was not in the habit of exaggerating his products capabilities.

Synergistic Research’s Tranquility Base represents the latest application of Ted Denney’s EM Cell Technology. Ted Denny, lead designer at Synergistic Research, created the EM Cell to perform line conditioning by passing AC through an electromagnetic cell. This patent pending technology works outside of the signal path to condition alternating current with differential EM fields. The first product to utilize this technology was the PowerCell line conditioner initially demonstrated to the public at the RMAF 2007. Ted believed that he could apply a variation of his EM Cell technology while the signal is still in the computer to reduce noise and distortion by placing it under the computer. Ted originally designed the Tranquility Base to condition computers, but discovered that the sound quality of all audio components improved when placed on this base.

The Tranquility Base comes in three different sizes:

Tranquility bāsik

• Level 1 Active Signal Flow Control
• 7 layer laminate mechanical isolation
• One set of MiG resonator footers
• 17 inches wide x 14 inches deep, 1″ tall
Tranquility Base
• Level 2 Active Signal Flow Control
• Level 1 Passive Ground Plane
• 9 layer laminate mechanical isolation
• Two sets of MiG resonator footers
• 18.5 inches wide x 16 inches deep, 1.5″ tall
Tranquility Base XL
• Level 2 Active Signal Flow Control
• Level 1 Passive Ground Plane
• 9 layer laminate mechanical isolation
• One set of MiG resonators and one set of BIG MiG resonator footers
• 20 inches wide x 23 inches deep, 1.5″ tall
• Amp stand for large stereo and mono block amplifiers
• A direct replacement for shelves on large Grand Prix racks
The retail prices are $995, $1,995, and $2,995 respectively. I will be reviewing the $1,995 model.

The Tranquility Base is a very attractive piece of industrial design. It has a dark acrylic top and bottom with a brushed aluminum rim. 6 MiG footers are provided to improve mechanical isolation of the Base and component; 3 are placed under the Base, and 3 that are placed under the component that sits on the Base. By inverting several of these feet, the resultant sound can be fined tuned. On the back panel of the Base are 3 receptacles. One is for a ground wire provided with its own AC wall plug. The 2nd is for one of 2 Enigma Bullets used to fine tune the active sound of the Base. The last is for the power supply called a Mini Power Coupler (MPC). An upgraded MPC called the Galileo is available for an additional $400 that has upgraded internal components. I used both the standard MPC and Galileo MPC for testing.

Given that this is an active product, it makes testing effortless to perform. Power can easily be removed from the Tranquility Base to determine if it is having a positive effect on the sound quality. I placed my 17 inch MacBook Pro on the Base with 3 MIG footers under the computer and 3 under the Base. I connected a Wavelength Audio Crimson USB DAC to the computer, and an external Thunderbolt drive that housed my music library. Software used was Audirvana Plus 1.3.9.5 Beta for Direct Mode / Integer playback for OSX Lion and Pure Music 1.86.

I originally posted a review of the Tranquility Base at Audio Asylum last March. After being invited to write for AudioStream, I decided that I would like to write a follow-up review of this product after living with it for four months. There is a definite advantage in being able to live with a component for an extended period of time when you are trying to discover the specific qualities of an addition to your system. Often, you can be overwhelmed with the new sonic qualities heard in your system when a product is first introduced. Having the opportunity to let things settle out is a definite plus for this reviewer.

Listening Results
The first impression I had when listening with the Tranquility Base was an enhancement of the size of the soundstage. Not only was the width and lateral extension beyond the speakers increased, but the front to back depth as well. On some recordings an increase in height was also heard. This was not an exaggeration or distortion of the soundstage size, but simply an opening up or expansion of the recording’s acoustic space.

One excellent recording that allows one to hear all of these soundstage elements is Reference Recordings HRx 176.4/24 The Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances with Eji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra. While the CD version and the 96/24 download available from HDtracks display a good soundstage, the HRx is truly revealing. The Tranquility Base allowed this recording to project a huge side to side stage with excellent front to back reproduction and I was also able to perceive an increase in soundstage height as well. Turning off the Base resulted in a contraction of the soundstage with a loss of acoustic space. It was really quite startling to turn the Base on and off.

I then played Mel Torme Swings Shubert Alley, an HDtracks 192/24 title, which benefited greatly from the Tranquility Base’s soundstage enhancement. This is a wonderful 1960 recording with great sound and a significant acoustic space. I owe Michael a big thank you for this recommendation. With the Tranquility Base off, the soundstage did not extend much beyond the speakers. With it on, the orchestra opened up with an almost holographic reproduction of Mel’s voice along with the wonderful Marty Paich arrangements.

One interesting thing I heard with the Tranquility Base was that it seemed to move instruments and voices forward in the soundstage with the removal of a veil that was clearly heard without the Base. Instruments and vocalists were better defined and had more presence with the Tranquility Base.

Synergistic Research states that the Base will create a drop in the perceived noise floor. My listening tests confirmed this claim. The Netherlands Bach Society's Bach Magnificat, 192/24 download from Channel Classics, is a wonderful recording of an early music ensemble with vocalists in a large acoustic space. One could hear the air surrounding the instruments and singers more clearly with the Tranquility Base. Carol Kidd Tell Me Once Again a 192/24 download from Linn Records, provided a fine example of the lowered noise floor. This is a recording of Carol Kidd singing with an acoustic guitar accompaniment. With the Base, the background was darker with improved focus and detail of both voice and guitar.

Bass was also enhanced with the Tranquility Base. It seemed to be more powerful, dynamic, and better controlled. The HDtracks download Fourplay Fourplay 96/24 was a good example of this. The track "101 Eastbound" has a strong bass line that benefited from the improved definition and dynamic impact.

The Tranquility Base performed its magic without hardening or brightening the sound. Synergistic Research stated that use of the Base results in smoother more extended highs. While I did perceive an enhancement to the highs with the Base, the effect was not as apparent as the previously mentioned sonic improvements. One possible explanation of this is the use of the Silver transformers with the Denominator ESS Sabre DAC module in my Wavelength Crimson. The ESS Sabre module that Wavelength Audio designed greatly reduces high end digital hardness while improving detail. The Silver transformers are simply amazing in reproducing detail with reduced sonic glare. But I’ll have more to say about this when I write a review on the Wavelength Crimson HS DAC/ Denominator with Silver transformers.

One other quality of the Tranquility Base is its acoustic isolation properties. As I previously mentioned, the Base is actually two products combined. I tested the acoustic isolation properties with the Base turned off. The mechanical isolation of the computer was diminished if the computer was placed on the Base without the MiG isolation feet. The soundstage became smaller and bass response less prominent. One should definitely play with the MiG configuration to achieve the best sound for your system.

The Enigma Tuning Bullets provide another fine tuning feature. The Silver Bullet is airy and very open sounding with a large soundstage. The Grey Bullet is warmer with less air and soundstage size. I preferred the Silver Enigma Bullets in my listening sessions.

I also want to discuss the sonic differences of the MPC power supply provided and the upgraded $400 Galileo MPC. While the included MPC does a splendid job, the Galileo did sound better. The soundstage was bigger with the Galileo and every quality I previously discussed was enhanced with its use. This is from the Synergistic web site concerning the Galileo MPC:

“We start with a standard MPC, and gut its interior, discarding the capacitor, circuit board, and diodes. Next, we Quantum Tunnel the transformer’s primary wind in the direction of signal (electron) flow, followed by the secondary wind, again in the direction of signal flow. Finally, we replace the MPC’s standard capacitor with a custom, Quantum Tunneled Zap Cap™, and four Quantum Tunneled high-speed diodes. The entire assembly is then point-to-point wired, replacing the standard circuit board. The entire circuit, lead wires, and all contacts are then Quantum Tunneled in the direction of signal flow.”

Final Thoughts
Synergistic Research advertises the Tranquility Base with a picture of the bāsik unit with a Mac Mini and Western Digital hard drive sitting on the Base. At $995, this might just be the affordable application of this technology that satisfies most users. For bigger audio components and computers, the larger units will fill the bill, albeit at a higher price of admission.

One final note; I did notice an improvement in the sound the longer the Tranquility Base was plugged in. This break-in period lasted for about one week. The sound became more spacious with improved bass as break-in occurred.

After living with the Tranquility Base for four months, I have come to the conclusion that it is an indispensable component in my audio system. The other day I replaced the Base with a Black Diamond Shelf with cones to see if I was deluding myself with this fancy component. After an hour of listening, the Tranquility Base had to be put back into my system. I have no doubt that we will be hearing more about the Synergistic Research Tranquility Base as other audiophiles discover this unique product.



Associated Equipment

COMMENTS
Wavelength's picture

Steve,

The obvious questions is why does this effect the sound? If you are using a USB Async DAC with Thunderbolt connected Library and bukoo of memory with PM in memory mode. Then how does the computer effect the bits in a way to make the sound stage and musical experience better?

Gang,

This is the question I ask myself everyday. A ton of people I design for and even many of the reviewers think I am crazy to ask this question.

I think a review like this shows us that we are not testing and looking at the big picture enough. Seven years ago when I started making USB DACS I thought like most of you that the data gets to the dac better than SPDIF does so it will work no matter what.

I should know better, everything makes a difference and maybe we can share the ride here with the puzzle that torments my brain.

Thanks

Gordon

Regor Ladan's picture

"maybe we can share the ride here with the puzzle that torments my brain."

Nah, no thanks.

slim's picture

how does the computer effect the bits in a way to make the sound stage and musical experience better?

Maybe the bits are not affected at all but only the neurons? After all, the T. Base is an active device, and the human brain is known to be susceptible to very small changes in its electromagnetic surroundings.

The bits are a means of transport along the way, but what we hear, i.e. our perception, is all in our brains.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

Maybe the bits are not affected at all but only the neurons? After all, the T. Base is an active device, and the human brain is known to be susceptible to very small changes in its electromagnetic surroundings.

In that case, wouldn't it be the case that if you took the Mac off of the Base, you'd still hear a difference?

slim's picture

In that case, wouldn't it be the case that if you took the Mac off of the Base, you'd still hear a difference?

but not necessarily - might just be the combination of base and Mac in close proximity that changes the EM field just right to be perceived as "veil removed".

Great suggestion for a test, though. Could also try to put the base on top of the Mac.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

We can get Ted Denney to share his thoughts on the "why"? I'd be very interested....

robpriore's picture

This is the third call for a scientific explanation of the improvements claimed by this device.  Transparency of data helps to distinguish between what's real and imagined.

Steven Plaskin's picture

A friend sent me this today after reading my review:

I DEMAND that you not only give a detailed explanation of how this product works, from several advance-degreed physicists, but that you also provide the raw data from the extensive double blind testing you performed with a group of >1400 listeners on this.  Otherwise your conclusions and observations are prima facie invalid.

 

If my demands are not met within 48 hours, I will cancel my subscription to this Audiostream rag and will expect a refund.

 

CG's picture

It seems to me that this is really simple.

If you are interested in a product like this, or any other, the first question should be whether you like it.  If you do, then you might consider purchasing it.  If not, end of problem.

If you decide to purchase it, you might question whether the price is worth it to you and if it fits into your budget.  If it is and does, then buy it.  If not, then don't - end of problem, again.

Questions about the science behind the product only really matter if there is a safety, health, or environmental concern.  My own observation is that people usually get bothered about this if they have doubts about their own choices or if they suspect they are being ripped off.  If I understand right, the thing about the vaunted free market system is that people are allowed and encouraged to sell products for the price they choose.

deckeda's picture

Well put, CG.

hotsoup's picture

A friend? Reads like a ransom note.

But I understand the skepticism. This product/review left me utterly gobsmacked. Or, in youthful internet parlance, "lol wut?"

Stephen Scharf's picture

I wonder if your friend would actually know how to analyze said data, if actually provided. I'm a molecular biologist that teaches Design for Six Sigma to molecular biologists as well as engineers, and I am always rather shocked at how poorly most scientists know how to properly analyze and interpret data in such a way that it provides insight into resolving a hypothesis with a statistically significant p-value. Hell, most of them don't perform statistically valid measurement system analysis before gathering data, and wouldn't know a proper Design of Experiments (DOE) if it smacked them in the face. 

On another note, I'm rather surprised you only put the Macbook on the base. Why not the DAC as well? 

Steven Plaskin's picture

I did test the Tranquility Base with my DAC and had postive results. I am thinking of getting another Base for the DAC and will report my findings at that time.

Thanks for your comments.

Regor Ladan's picture

Hmmm.

Part of me feels a product like this is way out of place for a review on AS.

The "cheapest" model is a grand, 30% more than a Mac Mini.

Something like this is going to appeal to the most well heeled of C.A. converts...

like successful podiatrists. :)

I would file this under 'fringe". This is my opinion. 

Playing devils advocate, it also may illustrate that a computer is really a horrible source component, with its noisey switching power supply etc.

I would bet my bottom dollar this would have no where near the effect with with a Bryston BDA-1 or a T&A streamer, with linear power supplies and properly laid out circuitry. 

Hmmmm.

Steven Plaskin's picture

It's good to hear from you Regor. I enjoyed your posts at the Asylum. There is a good chance that I might get another Tranquility and use it on other components. Perhaps a future update if I follow through.

Regor Ladan's picture

Thank you, I appreciate your current AA posts about O/S updates and changes to your system.

BTW, I was not in any way question if the TB works. I would not doubt it does...but as I said if indeed it does work, it calls into question using a consumer grade computer as a source feeding a DAC via USB. USB Dacs do not reject noise. And there IS noise in a computer. It is kind of like polishing a turd...with $2000 polish.

I have found the best digital connection, and the one that is used in the majority of professional situations is AES/EBU.

Regor Ladan's picture

Steve, do you have an official AS email where we can send you questions, requests for advice..etc?

Your set up is beyond anything I have seen, and your expertise is impressive.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

Part of me feels a product like this is way out of place for a review on AS.

You and I obviously have a difference of opinion regarding what is or is not out of place on AudioStream in terms of price. And I believe I have a leg up on you in this department ;-)

As AudioStream grows, our coverage will necessarily expand. And this expansion will not be price-prohibited.

Regor Ladan's picture

It is no so much about price..I you have reviewed far more expensive DACs and streamers. 

I repeat: This is FRINGE.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

And I agree, this is fringe (I just don't feel the need to shout about it ;-)

Regor Ladan's picture

Another item I think would be fair to point out. Steve has indicated on other forums he purchased this product.

Not really a fair "review" since one would only naturally justify the money they spent.

We ALL would and HAVE all done this. 

Steven Plaskin's picture

Actually, the product was delivered by the VP of Marketing at SR, Peter, directly to my home  for evaluation. I don't live very far from the factory. I only purchased it after I decided it was something that I wanted in my system.

I try to work with my local dealers as often as possible so I can try things out before purchase. Given that there was no local dealer, Synergistic Research helped me out. But I did eventually pay the Cable Company for this component. They had my charge card on file.

Regor Ladan's picture

Hi Steve:

Thanks for the info. Appreciate your transparency.

I did not realize Synergistic is in Southern California. 

slim's picture

I would far more easily write fairly about something I bought than about gear I'd have on loan.

(must say "would" because I own everything I listen to)

We ALL would and HAVE all done this. 

(but can say: never HAVE)

Regor Ladan's picture

then forgive my over generalization if it does not include you.

there have been many debates about this. 

oh, yeh I own everything I listen to also. Nothing bought without

auditions from local dealers. 

slim's picture

i reacted to your post was the fact that we have more than once been confronted with over-generalizations (or call it unprovable allegations) from your side.

IMO, such does not comply with the etiquette of this (or any other) forum. (Neither does it get us anywhere.)

Regor Ladan's picture

Get over it.

Or as Bobby D once said....

"You talkin' to me?" :)

Michael Lavorgna's picture

What a great cure for all those hi-fi purchases people are unhappy about - just write a review and you'll fall in love!

Steven Plaskin's picture

That's a good question Regor. Michael and I did discuss this, but nothing was decided. We'll get it worked out very soon.

 

Thanks for the compliments.

Steven Plaskin's picture

Regor,

 

You can reach me at: splaskin@ymail.com

Regor Ladan's picture

Very kind of you Steve. Will not abuse the privilege!

gorkuz's picture

"Maybe the bits are not affected at all but only the neurons? After all, the T. Base is an active device, and the human brain is known to be susceptible to very small changes in its electromagnetic surroundings.

       In that case, wouldn't it be the case that if you took the Mac off of the Base, you'd still

        hear a difference?"

Yes, if you stayed physically close enough, should something like the Schumann Resonance effect have been unannouncedly been slipped into this device by Mr. Denney. That would still work within the transmitted radius regardless of whether the computer or other device was directly on the base or not. The SR effect has shown up in a couple of audio products I'm not hearing too much more about lately but is known to affect your reception of what you hear, rather than the quality of what is played. "Tranquility" is a nicely chosen name with other referrents, but your tranquility is pretty much exactly what the (correct) Schumann Resonance frequency affects, interestingly enough. Other Schumann - related frequencies...not so much, even to the point of violence, it was discovered some time ago. SR effects are not difficult or expensive to generate. Or if it is a different EM effect, then "Slim's" suggestion of putting the base on top of the computer may be an amusing thing to try...or closely next to it, etc.

What would definitely be affected by removing a computer from the base would be vibrational isolation/or resonance retuning (two frequently confused terms that do not mean the same thing by a long shot), which, from my own experiences, definitely does affect a laptop and quite strongly. The effect, interestingly enough, is just what Steve Plaskin describes upon the soundstage, plus improved image focus...hmmm... Only I was able to do this for peanuts (but not using any, no, I have not found peanuts to be useful in audio except as a snack, albeit one might ask Joseph Josephs if he experimented with peanut M&M's vs plain ones... ;>)  )

So it is the other, "active" qualities (and, let's face it, the nice cosmetics)  that I hope cost this much, and there is no engineering explanation of these "EM" cells in this article so I cannot ascertain what is engineering here and what may be hype (not to accuse, the info is simply not there). The word "Quantum" as applied to audio has a very bad fishy smell to it, and always sets off my BS alarm a-screamin'. Not to say that Quantum tech is BS, either, it is not, or Denney's application of it is, just the hype/abuse of that branch of physics by some, ahem, other of the less scrupulous in this industry. Perhaps Denney has put it to good and legitimate use, I'm just crying "heads up", not "foul" here, and "fringe" is a nice waffle leaving room for engineering proof, as opposed to audible proof - two different things, and not necessarily dependent on self delusion. I believe in both, but it is audible proof that is final. If you can't hear what engineering says you should, that engineering is not significant. If you can hear it, but can't explain the engineering, it's the explaining that is lacking, so drop the egocentrism that prompts many engineers to stick their noses into Flat Earth and put effort into figuring out why instead doing the doubting Thomas act. Yes, I'm an engineer.  Lots of items in audio work audibly in some manner - just not for the reasons given by the manufacturers, or post-invented by users to form "new wive's tales"! Engineering proof should be more rigorous and involve explaining the real engineering reasons for why something works, without nebulous mystical hand-waving or suggestive evasions, much less the typical glowing text invented by ad writers lacking technical training and  no real clue as to what they are inventing. Engineering-grade proof is a bit rare in hi-end audio. And not understandable by all without for-laymen explanations, nor desired by some who prefer mysteries. I don't, and would be pleased to hear a bit more about the technology used. If I was thinking "bunk", I wouldn't be terribly interested in knowing more about it.

IK / KW Audio

 

Steven Plaskin's picture

My goal was to determine if Synergistic Research's performance claims for the Tranquility Base were valid. I found that the Tranquility Base did have a positive influence on the sound when a computer was placed on it.

If one examines the marketing press for many high end products, including DACs, adequate engineering explanations are just not given. Does this mean I should not review the products?

gorkuz's picture

Steven,

            "Does this mean I should not review the products?"

No, of couse not, and no such thing was expressed or implied. You satisfied your goal as stated and, IMO, did just fine, and thank you. I just wish manufacturers would supply more, as I do if asked. There are quite a few who would like to know, and can understand. This is from my wish list.

But the suggestion to examine proximity effects (not my original suggestion - tongue in cheek or not) is a valid request for follow-up, humorous intentions aside. As is mine of trying simpler (true isolative) vibration isolation under the laptop and comparing the results to the Tranquility Base for value and general information.

Please note that by isolative I am being specific and refer to the mass confusion rife in the "footer" industry. Hard or pointy devices ("tiptoe" cone or otherwise pointy types) do not fit this description - those are resonance retuners, not isolators. The simple fact that such are described by the diametrically opposed terms "coupling" (which is precisely what those are) and "decoupling" (which would be isolative and usually of a "compliant" nature) equally often points out how little understood the subject is. No footer can be both, they are exclusive terms, yet I frequently see similar or identical objects described as often by one as the other (sometimes even in the same text!) and that just can't be, especially if applied to simple conical or spike types. Physically more complicated types like the Stillpoints offering are a bit more complex to label as they can feel hard but use dissipative physical paths so they cannot properly be labeled "couplers". But that's just another pet peeve of mine and if you would like to try comparing something that can only be called isolative and simply obvious enough to need no technical explanation I can help you, just contact me by PM.

The point is to to see how much of what the T. Base does is vibration isolation (/absorption) and how much is from the more esoteric EM effects claimed, and how those relate to the costs involved. I would think this should be interesting to readers, and, of course, me, since I am certainly not about to spend $2K without knowing this when I've achieved similar effects (from description only) for a tiny fraction of that cost and don't know anyone with one I could borrow or visit to hear for myself.

IK / KW Audio

 

Steven Plaskin's picture

I agree with your desire that manufacturers supply more info especially when asked.

I did compare the physical isolation properties of the Tanquility Base with the power turned off. I found it superior with its MIG feet than the Symposium Ultra with Supercouplers or the Black Diamond shelf with Black Diamond Cones under the computer.

Naturally, when the power is restored to the Base, things improve again.

In the end, you really need to borrow one to hear it in your own system.

Thanks,

Steve

stevebythebay's picture

Got my hands on a Tranquility Base from my dealer in Berkeley - Music Lovers. Didn't expect much by placing my late 2014 Mac Mini and Thunderbolt attached drive with AIF files on top. Boy what a difference it makes. Appreciably lowered the noise floor of the system and expanded the soundstage in all directions. Additionally, each source of sound, from vocalist to instrument and the room cues became more clear and focused. Yet another winner from SR.

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