- Written by Michael Jude Galvin
- Published on 17 May 2012
Design and Setup of the Synergistic Research Tesla Series AC Power Conditioner and Power Cables
Not entirely sure exactly what he might end up using in my system, Ted showed up with a Cadillac Escalade full of hardware. At the center of what, to me, was a jaw-dropping mass of cable (à la the snake pit in Raiders of the Lost Ark), was the non-current-limiting PowerCell 4. This is one of the key features of its design and Synergistic's overall approach because at a high level, when current is limited, dynamics suffer. Synergistic also makes the PowerCell 10 which, more than just an additional 6 AC inlets, is claimed to throw a "larger and more liquid sound stage." The PowerCell 4 is claimed to feature a "highly focused sound field" with pinpoint sound staging. Given our discussion on the phone, Ted thought the PowerCell 4 would be more to my liking.
Physically, the PowerCell 4 is a small black box featuring two TeslaPlex SE receptacles, providing four AC inlets. It sits on four of the sharpest spikes I have ever encountered. The PowerCell 4 is not fused or switched because Synergistic has found both come at the expense of transparency. This means the unit does not offer protection from power surges. The PowerCell 4, along with its supplied power cord, are Quantum Tunneled, which Synergistic describes as a "process that changes the way a cable conducts signal at the subatomic level." Synergistic claims that by "applying a two million volt signal to a cable at a specific pulse modulation, and ultra high frequency for an exact duration of time," they "transform the entire cable at a molecular level." All Tesla series products are Quantum Tunneled. Why do they do this? Synergistic claims the benefits are "a lower noise floor and improvements in inner detail, air, low frequency extension, and overall transparency and signal speed." The PowerCell 4 is "fully differential," which means the "hot, neutral, and ground all have their own separate power paths to and from the magnetic cell." Synergistic claims this design results in "blacker backgrounds, improved dynamics and a more holographic soundstage."
The PowerCell 4's stock power cord was swapped for the actively-shielded Tesla T3 SE. Synergistic has a lot of science on its website, including an interesting video on the string theory of physics, but at a high level, the shield carries a DC current with separate conductors carrying the ground signal. Synergistic found this closed circuit design "not only improved subjective performance, but also made our cables measurably quieter, thus improving detail with greater frequency extension." The shield is powered by a small plastic wall wart called the Mini Power Coupler (MPC) ($125). An upgraded version of the MPC ($400) is part of Synergistic's Galileo series and that is what was used throughout the review period on the Tesla T3 SE, T2 SE, and PowerCell 4, which all feature active shielding.
The Tesla T3 SE, T2 SE and PowerCell 4 also feature the ability to insert one of three different tuning modules into the circuit. Don't laugh, but this small metal barrel is called an "Enigma Bullet" and Synergistic claims it allows the Tesla products to actually be three products in one. Synergistic says each bullet has a different sonic balance. For example, while the black sounds warm and rich, the silver sounds open and airy. The grey is somewhere between the black and silver. This was conceived as a value proposition—changing your components does not mean having to replace your cable. An illuminated blue LED on the end of the Enigma tells you it's active. Ted thought using silver on the PowerCell 4 and grey on the T3s and T2s would produce the best sound in my system.
The Tesla T2 SE is the active version of the Tesla T1. Synergistic claims the active shielding offers "significant improvements in sound stage air, layering, detail, and low frequency control and extension" as well as decreasing "the noise floor for a blacker background." The T2 SE is said to improve everything from pre-amps to video displays. The Tesla T3 SE is a high current variant of Tesla T2 SE, with a special 4 conductor "T" Series geometry, and 2 high current Tricon geometries. The T3 is supposed to be the ideal choice for high current power amplifiers and high-resolution pre-amps and digital sources. Synergistic claims its greater resolution over the T2 comes from its twin Tricon geometries. The Tricon geometry is best understood as a lens, which "concentrates and focuses the sonic signal not by separating conductors, but by strategically aligning conductors in a symmetrical geometry that manages electromagnetic fields." I used a T3 on the subwoofer and T2s on the integrated amplifier, DAC, and DVD player.
Synergistic's Quantum Line Strip (QLS) is available in two sizes. The QLS 6 and QLS 9 feature switched Tesla power outlets. While the QLS is supplied with a perfectly-capable power cord, Synergistic says the QLS will perform best powered by a Tesla T3 SE or T2 SE. As its name suggests, the QLS is Quantum Tunneled. I used a Q9 powered by a T3 SE and a Q6 powered by a T2 SE. The good folks at Synergistic burned everything in at their headquarters, so the only thing left to do was play some music.