Synergistic Research Transporter Ultra SE

Device Type: Power Supply for Synergistic Research Active Shields
Dimensions (H x W x D): 4 inches x 17 inches x 8.5 inches
Weight: 14 pounds
Availability: Authorized Dealers
Price: $2,895
Site: www.synergisticresearch.com

Equipment Used in Evaluation: MSB Technology Analog DAC with Analog Power Base, Early 2011 MacBook Pro 2.3 GHz Quad Core i7, 16 GB RAM, Samsung 840 Pro SSD, Promise Pegasus Thunderbolt Drive 8TB, GRAID 8TB Thunderbolt Drives. Audirvana Plus/OSX Mtn Lion, JRiver, JPlay/Windows 8 Pro 64. Interconnect cables: Synergistic Research Tesla Apex LE, and Tesla Precision Reference LE. Speaker cables: Synergistic Research Tesla Apex LE. Power cables: Synergistic Research Element C.T.S. Digital, Tesla Hologram D, T3, and Precision AC cables. 2 Synergistic Research Tranquility Bases, USB Active SE cable and Thunderbolt Active SE cables.

It was back in February 2008 that several of us took a drive to the Synergistic Research Factory in Irvine, CA. We had the good fortune to meet Ted Denney, lead designer at Synergistic Research who provided me with my first musical experience with Active Shielding. Ted came across as a very enthusiastic designer who enjoyed sharing his ideas about the new products he was developing; many of which have since come to fruition. Ted then took us to a large room with a terrific sounding system where he demonstrated Active Shielding with his cables by enabling it and then turning it off. Everything sounded much better with the Active Shielding enabled. I also remember him demonstrating a 2 tube Active Shielding power supply called the Enigma. It was fascinating to hear the sound change when Ted powered the cables with one tube and then the other. He also demonstrated a prototype of the PowerCell AC line conditioner. Suffice to say, I was very impressed with Synergistic Research’s implementation of Active Shielding with their cables.

What Does Active Shielding Do?
According to Synergistic Research, active Shielding reduces the negative influence of reactive capacitance (signal and cable interaction) and reduces the effects of the RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) and EMI (Electromagnetic Interference).

The process as explained by Synergistic Research:

“Our first experiments with Active Shielding began early in 1996, and involved the placement of batteries in a static circuit, with the positive anode of the battery tied to a conductor running the length of a cable, and the negative anode of the battery tied to the shield. These initial prototypes subjectively improved performance in the high frequencies. However, they also increased the noise floor (especially on long runs), with the positive conductor running the length of the cable (and not being terminated to signal or ground) thus acting like an antenna picking up RFI and EMI.”

“We then experimented with closed circuits, where the shield carried a DC current, with a buffer circuit between shield and ground and separate conductors carrying the ground signal. This closed circuit design not only improved subjective performance, but also made our cables measurably quieter, thus improving detail with greater frequency extension from top to bottom. Since a closed circuit draws current, we could no longer use batteries, as this would drain a battery in a matter of hours.”

The Power Source
Each cable or Synergistic Research product that utilizes Active Shielding or the Active Shielding power source comes with a Mini Power Coupler (MPC). A Mini Power Coupler converts AC to DC in a modified AC wall wart. Mini Power Couplers provide the correct voltage requirements needed to accomplish Active Shielding in all Synergistic Research Active cables / products.

Synergistic Research offers an upgrade from the standard MPC called the Galileo Mini Power Coupler. The Galileo MPC significantly improves the performance of the Active Shield with increased soundstage, detail, bass control, and dynamic contrasts. I have experienced these improvements when utilizing the Galileo MPC in my previous reviews of the USB Active SE cable and the Tranquility Base (see review). The price of the Galileo is $400 and can be purchased with single or dual leads.

Synergistic Research decided to develop a product that would simplify installation with systems that had multiple Synergistic Research products, and at the same time, improve upon the sound quality of the Galileo MPC. The result of this research was the new Transporter Ultra SE.

The Transporter
The Synergistic Research Transporter comes in 3 models. The basic Transporter has an acrylic case and offers 14 outlets for Active AC cables and 20 outlets for active digital cables, active interconnect cables, Galileo Universal Cable Cells, and Tranquility Bases. 9 Quantum Tunneled leads are provided that are 1.25 meter long. Additional leads and lead extensions can also be purchased. The unit also comes with 3 fuses that are the SR20 Quantum fuses. The Transporter has 2 isolated power supply transformers that separates the 14 AC cable drive from the 20 outlets for interconnects, etc. The Transporter comes with a 6 foot Core AC cable. The cost of this unit is $1,995.

Speaking of the SR20 Quantum Fuses, I placed one in the MSB Technology Analog Power Base for the Analog DAC and I did notice an improvement in the sound. The sound was fuller with a larger soundstage and better definition from top to bottom. I recently received an e-mail add from Walker Audio and noticed that they now use the SR20 Quantum fuses in their products. I found this to be a nice tweak that does seem to improve the sound quality of components.

The Transporter Ultra
The Transporter Ultra has the same features as The Transporter, but has an aluminum case and Synergistic Research’s Ground Plane technology that is found in the Tranquility Base and PowerCell 10SE Mk III AC line conditioner. The Ground Plane technology further reduces noise when compared to the Galileo MPC. No AC cable comes with this unit. The list price for the Transporter Ultra is $2,295.

The Transporter Ultra SE
This unit is identical to the Transporter Ultra, but adds a 5 foot Element Tungsten AC cable. The Element Tungsten AC cable sells for $900, but is added to this model with a savings of $300. The total cost of the Transporter Ultra SE is $2,895.

The only Synergistic Research product that outperforms the Transporter Ultra SE is the new EnigmA Dual Valve & Solid-State Power Supply for $11,000.

Revisiting the USB Active SE with Enigma Tuning Circuits cable
Recently I reviewed the Synergistic Research USB Active SE with both the standard MPC and Galileo MPC (see review). I did find that the cable sounded its best with the Galileo MPC and overall, this USB cable was an excellent performer. My task now was to compare the sound of this cable using the Transporter Ultra SE in comparison to the Galileo MPC. Truth be told, I was expecting a small improvement with the Transporter, but the actual difference was anything but subtle. It was quite considerable.

The perceived noise floor with the Transporter Ultra SE was much lower than that heard with the Galileo MPC. With this decreased noise floor came a large increase in the soundstage both in terms of width and depth. But the most startling finding with the Transporter Ultra SE was how multiple voices and instruments were now more clearly delineated in the acoustic space with a reduction of blurring or congealing of the sound. I was simply astounded at the resolution the Transporter was allowing the USB Active SE to achieve. I have yet to hear any another USB cable achieve this degree of unraveling complex musical passages in the reproduction of a large acoustic space. Focus and detail emerged from a “blacker” background that at the same time had a greater sense of general ease to the sound. The sound was less “digital sounding” with a reduction in hardness in the midrange and high end.

Listening to Keith Greeninger’s Special Event 20 from Blue Coast records in DSD128 revealed immediacy to Keith’s voice and guitar playing that was exemplary. The reduction of noise placed me in the acoustic environment of the recording venue. Moving back to the Galileo MPC resulted in sonic blurring and diminished focus.

Dynamically, the Transporter Ultra SE had it all over the Galileo MPC. Paul Simon Live in New York City 24/48, displayed a considerable “jump factor” and palpable dynamic contrasts. The Galileo MPC sounded compressed when compared to The Transporter Ultra SE.

Bach Motets with the Netherlands Chamber Choir (Channel Classics ) 24/192 benefited greatly when using the Transporter Ultra SE. The voices of the choir were better resolved, focused, and the sense of the acoustic space was more clearly revealed with the Transporter. Being very acquainted with this recording, I felt that I was experiencing a new recording when using the Transporter compared to my previous listening with the Galileo MPC.

The San Francisco Ballet Orchestra performing Delibes (Reference Recordings) 24/176.4 was transformed by the use of the Transporter. The ultra-low silence helped to produce a magnificent soundstage that was one of the most realistic orchestral recordings I have ever heard. The Galileo MPC, while sounding good, resulted in a collapse of the stage with a relative congealing of the instruments. Detail reproduction was diminished as was the “air” around the instruments when using the Galileo MPC.

The Tranquility Base and Thunderbolt Active SE Cable
I am using a Tranquility Base under my MacBook Pro and the MSB Technology Analog DAC with Analog Power Base. I’m also using the Synergistic Research Thunderbolt Active SE cables for my GRAID 8 TB drives. The findings were similar as those found with the USB Active SE when comparing the Transporter Ultra SE to the Galileo MPC to power the Tranquility Base and Thunderbolt cables. I also compared one of my pairs of Synergistic Research Tesla Apex LE interconnects with the Transporter and then the Galileo MPC. The results were consistent with those found in the other products tested. The Transporter’s sonic strengths were easily identified when placed on all of these components.

The PowerCell 6 SE
Synergistic Research provided a PowerCell 6 SE AC line conditioner to evaluate along with the Transporter Ultra SE. This product is a 6 outlet power conditioner that includes an Element Tungsten AC cable for the price of $2,595. I first conducted my listening sessions with the Transporter plugged into my Shunyata Hydra V-Ray II with Cobra CX AC cable. After several days of listening with the Shunyata, I replaced my power conditioner with the PowerCell 6 SE. The Transporter supplied the power to the PowerCell 6 SE’s active circuit.

The PowerCell 6 SE was superior in its sonic performance compared to the Shunyata. The background silence increased as well as the size of the soundstage when using the PowerCell 6 SE. Resolution and detail were superior with the PowerCell as well. Images in the soundstage seemed to have more weight. The PowerCell 6 SE was complimentary in a positive way to the Transporter especially when the active circuit of the PowerCell 6 SE was driven by the Transporter. Please do not consider this a formal review of the PowerCell 6 SE, but just some initial impressions.

Summary
For those of you that own Synergistic Research products, it is going to be very hard to ignore the new Transporter Ultra SE. I found that it not only significantly transformed the Synergistic Research USB Active SE cable, but every other Synergistic Research cable and active device plugged into it. What makes this product a “best bang for the buck” is that my total system benefited in a very positive way from the introduction of the Transporter Ultra SE. All of my Synergistic Research interconnect cables, speaker cables, AC cables, digital cables, and Tranquility Bases were elevated to a higher level of performance when being driven by the Transporter Ultra SE. The Transporter Ultra SE has become an essential part of my system.

COMMENTS
Archimago's picture

Steve,

Care to open up this Synergistic Transporter unit and showing us what's inside?

Beyond the jargon and hype, sounds like just a bunch of wires connecting the output from a AC adaptor to me.  All for $2000+.

Regor Ladan's picture

What a shock...it transformed your system to new heights....give it a break.

$2000 bucks for power distribution and maybe some filtering?

Synergistic plain and simple makes elegant solutions in search of problems.

Steven Plaskin's picture

I get the impression that neither of you fellows have ever heard the Transporter or even have Synergistic Reserach products. Informed comments?

But I guess I'm here to inform some and entertain others.

Thanks for reading the review.

Regor Ladan's picture

I have sat through two dozen Synergistic demos, run by T D himself.

His products are well made but massive over kill...cables with fuses???? I have NEVER been impressed by the sound of ANY of his systems. 

T D uses classic snake oil techqniques and is basically a carnival barker.

The sad part is, he does not need need to do this. His power conditioners and other stuff are very good.

Most of his products defy logic and would have engineers shaking their heads with his approach. But..its a free market.

Archimago's picture

WRONG, Steve,

I have "heard" the Synergistic active shielded interconnects, power cables, speaker cables, ART system, and Tranquility Base.

No difference in 3 different systems >$30,000 each with analogue and digital. The most "non-difference" was with the Tranquility Base. Cables can be hard to A-B and one could argue about the best placement for those ART things. Still have no idea what's in that Tranquility Base.

Therefore I don't think it's unreasonable to ask what's inside this "Transporter" thing that makes it worth $2,000 since it sounds like a glorified AC adaptor with maybe some filtering as the poster above suggested.

Steven Plaskin's picture

i have had a number of perople over to my home that have heard the Tranquility Base and have been impressed with the results. Numerous audio reviewers have also postively commented on demos of the Tranquility Base at hifi shows.

But I respect your views, but don't share them.

 

Archimago's picture

I have no issue with the subjective opinion. That's fine and I can respect that as well.

However, as the title indicates, I (and perhaps other readers) feel a bit concerned about your numerous Synergistic Research "reviews".

You've already stated that you hope to "educate" and "entertain". Do you seek to critique as well? When I read a book, movie, restaurant review or some of the well written reviews in Stereophile, I get the sense that the reviewers wrestle with the products...  Ask questions about the nature, unique function, and ultimately VALUE. I'm not sure I see it here or the other Synergistic reviews. If you seek to "educate" with basically telling us what's in the box and "entertain" primarily with a few descriptions of music you like, is this really what the readership should expect of a "review"?

As a reviewer, aren't you trying to straddle the line between what's best for the company and your readership? If it even appears to be primarily for the benefit of the company, then these "reviews" might as well be product announcements at worst and possibly useful "infomercials" at best.

This is why I asked about opening the box. Since your review tells us nothing that we can't read from the company website, it might do your readers some good to take out your screw driver and let us know if the components inside this relatively unattractive (IMO) box contains at least a nice transformer and other high quality parts.

Steven Plaskin's picture

I have no problem with what I wrote. If you think I'm biased towards Synergistic Research, read my review of USB cables. I did not come out saying that Synergistic's cable was the best. 

You have repeatedly tried to bring down those of us that base our reviews on what we hear. One just has to go to Audio Asylum to see what you have been up to. You post tests and reach conclusions on your blog that are basically worthless. Your measurements are arrived at with test equipment that is inadequate for the job. A reasonable conclusion cannot be derived from these measurements. Worse than that, most everything sounds the same to you.

So what we agree on is that you think my work stinks, and I think yours does as well.

Archimago's picture

Hmm, getting a little defensive with just some observations about the purpose of "reviews"!?

Look, one can go to the Asylum for YEARS and obtain very questionable advice... At worst, I don't think I'm adding to any more unsubstantiated beliefs already out there!

Since you bring this up, whether the information I post on my blog are "worthless" or "stinks", I leave it to the readers of the blog - they're my thoughts and results, freely provided for discussion... Hopefully it empowers the average audiophile out there to bring a bit of science and logic back to the table as informed consumers/readers. I encourage folks to present information/evidence if my opinions are inaccurate and am open to accept anything including being wrong, but as Truzzi said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. I digress...

I note that you did not comment on the role of critique in reviews nor the question of what's inside this thing. Are these comments or questions unfair to ask of a hardware reviewer of expensive high-end audio?

Steven Plaskin's picture

At least 3 or 4 engineers, one a well know designer of audio equipment, found your measurements to be worthless; hence your conclusions just as worthless. You do no one any favor calling your views "science".

As for the Transporter, this is not as easy to disassaemble as you would think. And even if we look inside, do you honestly think you can arrive at any conclusion how this power supply actually sounds in relation to the Galileo MPC, or the standard MPC without actually listening to it? 

 

Steven Plaskin's picture

I don't know of any cable Synergistic Research makes that has fuses. The fuses I reviewed are in the Transporter Ultra.

 

Regor Ladan's picture

Sorry...I meant those "tuning bullets"....

Steven Plaskin's picture

I would like to clear the air concerning my reviewing at AudioStream.

I do this job beacuse I love this hobby. I have been writing reviews here for about 11 months and the amount of money I have earned over this period would not cover my personal health insurance costs for one month. I earn my living as a podiatrist-foot surgeon. I'm not in-the-pocket of any manufacturer. Not everyone who has loaned me equipment has been  totally happy with my reviews.

Another reason I write for AudioStream is Michael Lavorgna. I think he is one of the finest reviewers in the audio industry. When I speak to industry people, they have nothing but praise for Michael. One manufacturer told me that I write for the A team ( I have not reviewed any of his products).

With Michael's help, I have been able to be the first to report on exciting products like the Light Harmonic Da Vinci and the MSB Technology Analog DAC.

I also take on products that others will not tackle like the Synergistic Research Tranquility Base.

I don't expect everyone to agree with my findings, but they are honest and represent a great deal of work.

And I owe a big thanks to the readers that make all of this possible.

Regor Ladan's picture

Hi Steve, thanks for the post.

I for one know with absolute certainly that you only report what you hear and that you have absolutely nothng to gain by dong ths. I enjoy your work.

If I do log on "complaints" it is only because I think some of the stuff your review are fringe products that really are the last place audiophles should be allocating resources...oh after..speakers, amps, DACs, music..etc.

Any way, keep up the good work.

The Synergeristic product under review fails the "perceived" value test  for ME personally that Robert Duetsch wrote about it the opening editorial of Stereophile.  He noted there is percevied value and "real" value. Of course I would not know the "real" value because I don't own one. Note I said fails the test for ME, not everybody.

If you wore red and gold robes, walked on water and could hear a pin drop in a hocky rink you would still not please everyone. :)

Archimago's picture

Despite the disagreements, Steve, let me say that I feel no ill will towards your work, towards Synergistic or any other company, etc... Debates can get heated, but that's part of the fun in debates and disagreements - hopefully ultimately to draw out all worthy viewpoints and facts/ideas. It's a free market and if products are good, I believe the "invisible hand" will reward those deserving.

My questions and comments are the same as I would ask of any reviewer. As Regor said, these products are on the fringe. I appreciate your willingness to take on something like the Tranquility Base for example, but it is because of the nature of this type of product that the reviewer must be more critical of the component's purported benefits and help the reader appreciate what value it does or does not add to the system. That IMO is the burden of being a reviewer for the trust that others place on your opinion.

Steven Plaskin's picture

Thank you for your comments Archimago. 

The nice thing about the products I review is that potential customers can listen or borrow these components from their Synergistic Research dealer or on-line dealer like the Cable Co. 

Often, I cannot get the technical questions answered that I pose to the manufacturer. In fact, this is a very common experience for me. But that doesn't stop me from reviewing the product, because in the end, its all about what it does and how it sounds.

When you suggested that I was a shill for Synergistic research, that sent me over-the-top. The fact is, these guys are making products that are quite "different" from other gear offered for sale. I thought that the readers at AudioStream would enjoy reading about these products.

I do the best I can with the information I have to work with. These resources are not always optimal, but I am able to provide an honest opinion on the products I review.

Steve

Steven Plaskin's picture

Thanks Regor.

CG's picture

The following is only my opinion...

For the most part, reviews of audio gear are like restaurant reviews, movie reviews, concert reviews, car reviews, and a zillion other reviews.  That is, they convey the opinion of (usually) one person and how they reacted to whatever is being reviewed. Hopefully, the reviewer has a reasonably wide range of relevant experiences so that his or her opinion has some basis for comparison.

That's it.  And, that should be enough.

Any measurements that might be attached may or may not be important to anyone considering the reviewed item, for purchase or not.  If you think lap times for a Porsche at Laguna Seca is important for your consideration, by all means go for it.  Never mind that the tires on the car, the track conditions, the driver's skill level and priorities probably are not the same as yours in your daily commute.  Same for THD measurements in the audio world.  Or a chemical analysis of that great chocolate mousse.

For myself, even if the Synergistic Research products are even better in actual use than what Steve has described, I wouldn't purchase them.  Why?  Too much loot for a hobby like this.  At least for me.  After all, this isn't curing cancer in children.  To be fair, I feel exactly the same about Ferraris.  But, I do enjoy reading about them and am glad that some people can enjoy them.

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