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"Great balls of lightning!"... The Tesla Series Cables from Synergistic Research
Having been fascinated by the personal history of Nicola Tesla, I was intrigued and a bit skeptical when I learned of an ultra high definition cable series named after this iconic genius. A call to Synergistic Research put me in touch with the very cordial and confident Ted Denney III. Ted is the principal of Synergistic Research and chief engineer of its cable designs, including the actively shielded Tesla series. Ted offered cables for review and insisted on coming to my studio to personally evaluate my system's cable requirements and install said cables. His intention was to ensure proper installation and the most synergistic system match possible. It was refreshing to learn that for him this did not necessarily mean utilizing his top or most expensive cables, even if cost was no object. It took two minutes of conversation to get that Ted is passionate about achieving world class sonics and musicality and he is on a mission to share what that experience sounds like.

I was intrigued enough by the Tesla Series description to pay a visit to the Synergistic Research factory. On arrival, the affable Eliott Nomensen, assistant engineer and head of technical support, gave me the tour of the facility. Elliot really piqued my interest when he informed me of Synergistic's patent-pending conditioning process called Tesla quantum tunneling. To demonstrate its effect on cable performance, we first listened to a pair of untreated interconnects in Synergistic's ambitious in-house music system. The sound was unusually open, detailed and spacious. We then entered a small room where I thought I might be witnessing a bit of mad science. In front of me stood a six-foot tall Tesla coil topped with a reflective metal sphere the size of a basketball. The untreated interconnect was then suspended by clamps which held one RCA connector in close proximity to the sphere and the other end close to a huge copper grounding rod planted in the concrete floor. Elliott offered me protective ear covers and then flipped a switch. A deafening crackle ensued and 2 million volts arced like lightning to the RCA connector, through the cable and into the grounding rod. We returned to the listening room to reinstall the treated interconnects and listen for changes in sound quality. The sound was still lovely but obviously more open, three-dimensional and liquid. I was dumbfounded. Quantum tunneling works.

The top of the line Tesla Apex cables are meticulously built by hand, employing pure mono crystal silver and a "silver matrix alloy" as conductor materials. The cables are constructed with proprietary "tricon and acoustic geometries". In addition to the selected conductor materials and geometries, Tesla Apex cables also employ a unique new "zero capacitance active shielding circuitry to eliminate phase anomalies throughout the bandwidth in signal transfer".

While the sound of Synergistic Researches in-house system employing Focal speakers was impressive, I was hesitant to form any opinions before hearing these ambitious cables in my own familiar system. A week after my factory visit, Ted and Elliott appeared at my studio with a stack of Tesla cables.

As a familiar reference, I played a favorite track "If You Never Come To Me" from jazz vocalist Kurt Elling's Night Moves [Concord Records/CCD-30138-2]. We then began installing the Tesla Apex interconnects cables, trading them in for the Townshend cables previously installed. With the Tesla Apex interconnects connected, the piano, bass and Elling's tenor voice hung in the air with unprecedented ease, resolution and presence. A few moments more and I realized I was hearing so many new subtleties and nuances that it was pointless trying to identify them all. The organic wholeness of the music experience pretty much overwhelmed any specific detail or trait. Then we installed a pair of Apex interconnects between the passive pre and the digital server. This produced even more resolution, spaciousness and transparency.

When the speaker cables were installed, I simply had to grin. The music flowed with more clarity, dynamic agility and tonal richness than I thought possible from my system. To use the "lifting of veils" metaphor would be a laughable understatement. Sliding back a heavy fabric curtain better describes the experience. Keep in mind that we had previously been listening to some exceptional cables. I was now listening through cables of an altogether different league and these Teslas were at least 150 hours away from even starting to settle in.

It was clear at this point that if cost were not an issue, choosing between the surveyed cables was now a no-brainer. The Teslas were unquestionably the supreme leaders occupying a resolution realm of their own. I must also emphasize here that they are, in fact, from an entirely different and higher price category as well.

Having far surpassed my previous cable expectations with interconnects and speaker cables, I was of course very curious to hear what additional sonic improvements could possibly be reaped by exchanging my reference Harmonic Technology Fantasy AC-10 power cords for Tesla Absolute Reference cords with "Tesla quantum tunnel conditioning".

One by one, Absolute Reference power cords were traded in to power the tube mono amps, digital source and finally, to the two Quatro power supplies for the system's active shields. With each power cord installed, there were marked improvements in resolution, dynamics and spatial layering until the cumulative results were nothing short of staggering. By using all actively shielded Tesla cables, background noise from this inky black background was non-existent. The resultant level of detail resolution and dynamic range was a completely new experience. The already expansive sound field now seemed unrestrained by the speakers or the distance between them. Music seemed to hang in space, related to, but not from the loudspeakers. As Ted Denney explains it, the system-wide synergy created by Tesla cables preserves the integrity of the signal from the source to the speakers without phase anomalies so that all of the music and all of its spatial layers are fully revealed.

If the recording demanded it, instruments were now solidly localized several feet beyond the outside edges of the speakers. Likewise, perceived depth of the recording venue could be profound. As a demonstration of these capabilities, Ted played the electronica track "Is Jesus Your Pal?" from Polydistortion by Gus Gus [4AD/DAD7005CD].

Here the soundstage width and depth verged on the psychedelic. Not only did some notes emanate from well beyond the bounds of the speakers, but also from clear behind my listening position as in a 5.1 surround recording. While spectacular, I found this phenomenon alarming. I wondered for a moment if I had been partially duped all along by an exotic Tesla effect rather than truthful music reproduction. To resolve my question, I played a favorite recording I knew well. This was Andy Bey's achingly beautiful "Willow Weep for Me" from the album Blues Ballads and Bey [Evidence/22162].

In this intimate recording, the jazz vocalist accompanies himself on piano in a small room. The sheer palpability of his voice and authenticity of piano tone, timbre and dynamics was a shock. I have listened to this recording countless times but suddenly I was really hearing Bey just as he must have sounded to those present in that little room. I was now there too, with all of Bey's vocal inflections, breath and emotional expression revealed. The very meaning of that music was permanently changed for me. My eyes welled up from the experience. I felt exhilarated and grateful to hear this musician's beautiful gift. All disbelief was gone. The Gus Gus vs Andy Bey experiment answered my soundstaging question. Gus Gus was actually reproduced exactly as intended, with all of the mindbending and immersive spatial effects that can only be synthesized in the studio. On Bey's track, the diminutive scale of the little
recording room could not have been rendered more truthfully. My listening room became Bey's recording room with every ambient nuance and detail.

Experiencing the paradigm shift that the Tesla cables represent has caused me to rethink not only the meaning of my favorite music but also how emotionally powerful and authentic music reproduction can be. This has been one of the most pleasant readjustments I have had to make in recent memory. What had been a cable conundrum is no longer. In fact, at this very minute the Teslas are doing the improbable job of delivering all of the music with all of the sonic goods I have searched for. Now I just have to find a way to afford these cables because the idea of returning them is a sad one. As the Synergistic Research website states so aptly, "Tesla Apex Speaker cables are no compromise cables for the listener who wants it all".

Yesterday it would have been difficult for me to imagine the Tesla cabling system getting much better, but today the Synergistic Research guys returned to my studio with several new innovations in hand. The new Tesla Hologram A and D power cords, the newly developed replacements for the Absolute Reference power cords, the new Enigma valve power supply for active shields, and the Powercell, a patent-pending power conditioner that employs groundbreaking Tesla inspired technology.

My initial impressions of the Hologram power cords are that they add noticeable air, resolution and refinement to the overall sound. Any hint of grain that may have been present with the Absolute Reference power cords is gone. The Holograms manage to offer an even more focused view into the spatial layers of the music, which makes new Hologram moniker an apt one.

The Powercell employs a unique patent-pending technology that managed to clean up my RF polluted A/C as well as any power conditioner I have auditioned, and delivered the music with noticeably greater dynamic range than my present reference.

The unexpected stunner of this preliminary listening session was the new Enigma valve power supply for the Tesla active shields. The unit is switchable between a 1944 Western Electric 323A mercury vapor rectifier and the 1933 GE 4B27 Tungar argon vapor rectifier. The Tungar tube excelled at conveying ambience and was extraordinary with orchestral music. The Western Electric tube had an incisiveness and density that I particularly liked on smaller scale works. As impressed as I had been by the performance of the Enigma at RMAF and at the Synergistic Research facility, I was not expecting the magnitude of change I heard in my own system. There are certain "magical" qualities of palpability and just plain you-are-there-ness that the best single-ended triode amplifiers are famous for. With the Enigma powering all the Tesla cable system's shields, this kind of magic became fundamental to the listening experience. The tonal color of every sound was fully saturated and more vivid. Notes sound as though they are illuminated from the inside giving them real life akin to real instruments and voices. I cannot get over the fact that the Enigma is not even in the signal path! I am hoping to understand how it induces these tube-sound characteristics through the A/C mains. Perhaps this phenomenon is partly unexplainable, hence the name Enigma? A full review will be forthcoming.

Synergistic Research website