Synergistic Research Reference AC Coupler:
From the Synergistic Research's Web Site:
Reference A/C Master Coupler :
by Andy Wiederspahn | Feb 4, 2010 | Reviews, Uncategorized | 0 comments
Do Power Cords Make a Difference?
Reprinted from: The Absolute Sound, Volume 21, Issue 111
In the case of Synergistic’s original
A/C Master Coupler, the answer is yes — unequivocally, resoundingly, and
oh my, yes. The original A/C Master Coupler was a breakthrough product,
a true High End classic that defined what an AC cord could do for a
system. Suffice it to say that when Ted Denney said that his Reference
model was “as much better than the original couplers than they were
compared to a stock power cord,” I was more than a bit intrigued. I’d
heard rumor of cord that bettered the original Master Coupler — the
insanely expensive NBS for example — but never actually encountered one.
Cords that sounded different, yes — better, no.
The Reference Coupler is similar in
design and construction to the original — two stranded conductors, one
for each AC leg, with the shields combined and used as the ground.
Unllike the original, the Reference coupler uses a double shield of gold
and silver instead of a single copper layer, silver- matrix conductors
instead of copper, standard rather than foamed polyethylene as a
dielectric. Cosmetically, the Reference is distinguished by its use of a
silver, rather than black, mesh sleeve. The IEC and AC plug are the
same as those used in the original.
Though my experience with the Reference
Coupler has been for the most part positive, I found it to be the least
satisfying of the Synergistic products I’ve tried. Partly, I think, this
is because it has a tough act to follow. In most ways, and in most of
the systems I’ve used it in, it did improve on the original’s
performance. When I replaced the original Master Coupler feeding the VAC
CPAI Mk II preamp with a Reference, I actually wondered if the original
had lost some of its magic over time. A comparison with the stock cord
confirmed that no, the original Master Coupler was working just fine. It
was just that the things that it did so well — removal of inter-image
grunge, sharpening the leading edge of transients, tightening the bass
and cleaning the highs, better elucidation of image edges — the
Reference did even better. So what’s the problem? One is that the
original A/C Master Coupler was truly revolutionary, capable of changing
a system in a very fundamental way. Starting from the originals, the
Reference Coupler is just somewhat better. Like I said, a tough act to
follow. For $250, you absolutely cannot do any better than adding one of
the original A/C Master Couplers to your system. For an additional
$350, I’m not certain that upgrading to the Reference Coupler is as good
A second niggling difficulty I have with
the Reference Couplers is that they aren’t as universally applicable as
the originals. I have yet to find a piece of equipment that didn’t
benefit greatly from the use of a Master Coupler. I even joke about
taking one to work and using it on my girlfriend’s scanning electron
microscope to see if the resolution can be improved. If you think High
End audio gear is overpriced, imagine what a two-times improvement in
the resolution of such a device might be worth. The Reference Coupler
seems to be more narrowly applicable. I’ve found that it has a tendency
to make inexpensive solid state and digital gear sound worse,
accentuation any upper midrange edginess and drying out any semblance of
warmth in the upper bass and lower midrange. It has worked beautifully
with a wide range of tube gear and with Audire’s Class A solid state
gear, and the Accuphase DP55 CD player was a good match as well. On the
other hand, I’m concerned that the Reference Coupler proved to be a bad
match for the Spectron Model 10 preamp, which is a super-fast,
super-detailed, ultra-wide bandwidth design. I’d suggest particular
caution with equipment which tends toward the yang side of neutral. With
a Reference Coupler, everything is cleaner, faster and sharper, but the
tonal balance often seems to be shifted too, tipped slightly upward
with a bit of lightness and whiteness in the lower midrange. With the
bulk of the gear I’ve had, it hasn’t often been a problem, but try
before you buy. In summary, the Reference Master Coupler is a mostly
successful attempt to improve on a High End classic. Like many sequels,
however, it breaks no new ground but rather attempts to distill and
further accentuate the qualities that made the original a benchmark. In
doing so, the Reference Coupler has become more narrowly focused and
moved closer to adding a sonic thumbprint of its own — a set of
characteristics that may mesh well with some systems but not in others.
When it works, it works very well indeed, but too often I found myself
thinking of it as a means of altering the sound of a component as much
as improving it.
Beyond any doubt, Synergistic Research has become one of the serious
players in the High End cable industry. Regardless of how you judge the
validity of their design goals and philosophy, their top models are
unquestionably reference-quality products. Taken individually, the
Resolution Reference speaker cable and Designers’ Reference
interconnects are very close to neutral, and do an excellent job at
hiding their slight characters and deviations within the fabric of the
music. They do everything well and are particularly adept at recreating a
seamless soundstage populated with beautifully sketched images,
admittedly a key components among my listening biases. Their slight
deviations from neutrality offset and balance each other well,
fortuitously or by design, resulting in a cabling package that has
worked spectacularly well in every system I’ve tried. TAS
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