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Reviewer: Jay Fisher
Source: VRS Audio Systems Revelation hard disc digital player, Antelope Audio OCX Masterclock
Preamp: Serious Stereo Passive Attenuator (Tribute autoformer version)
Amps: Electronluv 75TL single-ended triode monoblocks, Melody 2A3 monoblocks
Speakers: Great Plains Audio 604 8H-II drivers in homebrew 10 cubic foot mass-loaded transmission line cabinets; full range driver Nagaoka-designed back-loaded horns with Fostex 168ESS drivers
Cables: Synergistic Research cabling includes T3 UHG Power Cord, Tesla Absolute Reference Power Cords, Tesla Apex Speaker Cables, Tesla Apex Interconnects; also Auditorium 23 Speaker Cables, Skywire 1400 interconnects, Harmonic Technology Cyberlight P2 interconnects, Harmonic Technology Fantasy AC-10 power cords
Stands: Michael Green Deluxe JustaRack, Lovan Sovereign Rack w/mods
Powerline conditioning: Furman Elite-20 PF I Ultra-Linear
Sundry accessories: Realtraps Mondotraps and Realtraps Microtraps, Symposium Svelte platforms w/ Symposium Rollerblocks, Timbernation cherry amplifier platforms, Sound Quest Isol-Pads, Audiotop Connect-Workstation
Room size: 22' x 22' x 9'
Review component retail: $4000

In the 6moons cable survey highlighting the Synergistic Research Tesla cable system, I briefly mentioned the manufacturer's Powercell for AC conditioning. During the cable evaluation process, the Synergistic Research guys brought their Powercell prototype housed in a plywood chassis to my studio for a brief audition. The sound was head-turning but I was not able to keep the prototype long enough to draw firm conclusions for the cable survey. Since then, Synergistic Research has provided a current production unit for review. This new version is the culmination of three generations of Powercell developments.

The Powercell 10 chassis now sports a clean minimalist design fabricated in high-gloss black acrylic composite chosen for its resonance isolating traits and for its freedom from electromagnetic interaction with the conditioner's "Active EM cell". This EM cell is the heart of the Powercell technology for which Synergistic Research has multiple patents pending. The device works "outside the signal path to condition AC current with differential electromagnetic fields".

The Powercell 10 provides five isolated circuits to five duplex aka "Teslaplex" AC outlets for a total of 10 outlets and the capacity to isolate up to five components or five pairs of components. These circuits ensure the isolation of analog components from digital noise contamination.

All of the Powercells undergo Synergistic Research's proprietary Quantum Tunneling process, the same process applied to their Tesla series of cables. During Quantum Tunneling, for precisely controlled intervals, an enormous purpose-built Tesla coil emits arcs of up to one million volts at 5 amperes zapping through the Powercell's IEC input, EM cell, circuits and exits through the outlets to a lightening rod. The tunneling process purportedly alters the molecular structure of the conductors and conductive parts, optimizing electron pathways for optimal conductivity and flow. Regardless of the mad science appearance of the process, multiple before-and-after demonstrations on cables demonstrated to me that the process does in fact work with results that are not subtle.

I have not provided photos of the Powercell's insides because I could not access the interior of the chassis. The unit comes sealed with no means of access to the consumer, save the use of a saw, which would of course void the warranty. Synergistic Research made it clear that this measure had been taken to protect what they believe is groundbreaking technology with applications that reach beyond home audio. I can tell you however that while touring the Synergistic Research factory, I took a peek inside a complete but unsealed Powercell and was struck by the conspicuous absence of transformers, chokes or capacitors of any kind. Inside the Powercell chassis lives the active EM cell perched on resonance draining supports. The cell is about the size and proportion of a large book. Other than the cell I noticed the blue active shield indicator LED, a DC coupling socket for the cell's active shield power supply, an IEC input socket with wiring to the cell and then five sets of wires running in parallel from the cell to the 5 Teslaplex AC outlets. There is no on/off button because the designer has eschewed the use of any unnecessary switches which might compromise ultimate sonic performance.

Synergistic Research declined to provide a white paper or technical specifications beyond the information available from their website so prospective Powercell owners will have to rely on their ears exclusively to determine whether the Powercell is right for them. Fortunately, Synergistic Research and its dealer network make auditions easily accessible, including no-risk home auditions. When I asked Synergistic Research designer Ted Denney to describe in layman's terms what the Powercell does, he shared the following analogy which I paraphrase: "Imagine the electrons in your incoming AC lines like molecules that make up water flowing through a long aqueduct that twists and turns through the landscape. As the surging water encounters the bends and drops along the way, the water molecules are bounced around often and violently. They become agitated, turbulent and noisy. Within the continuous current, the molecules move in relative chaos. Now imagine this water flowing into a deep lake. The movement of the molecules becomes calmer and reoriented. On the other end of this lake is an opening to an outgoing trough. The outgoing water in that trough is clear and flows smoothly and efficiently. In this new state, more current can move more swiftly. As in the lake, the actively shielded Powercell's differential EM fields create an environment that transforms the chaotic electron behavior by aligning the electrons for optimal faster current flow."
Past Auditions and Tradeoffs
One of the primary reasons I am drawn to high-efficiency speakers (100dB+) is their exceptionally wide dynamic range. They can produce clean sound with the unrestricted dynamic range that is essential to convey much of the emotional power in music. It's no wonder then that I have endured a quasi love/hate relationship with most of the power conditioners I e encountered. I appreciate the smoother cleaner sound they elicit but remain frustrated by the dynamic restraint and reduced air they seem to impose on the music. It's as though the baby got thrown out with the bath water. Why should any of the musical life get filtered out along with unwanted noise? Returning periodically to a direct wall socket connection after extended listening with a power conditioner proves to be an informative experiment. Usually, there is an immediate increase in body, bass energy and liveliness that is appealing. Unfortunately, that initial appeal quickly evaporates when the accompanying grunge, a flatter soundstage perspective and poorly defined bass become apparent. Because my studio/listening room is located in an EMI/RFI-rich neighborhood (there is a radio station and a city college 2 blocks away), I have been grateful for the noise-lowering benefits of a power conditioner. Over the last two years I listened extensively to several highly regarded conditioners in my system including the Chang Lightspeed CLS Reference MKII, Running Springs Audio Jaco, Audience Adept Response 1Rp and the Furman Elite-20 PF I Ultra-Linear. I ultimately settled on the Furman Elite 20 for its particular synergy with my system. For the last year, I was content with how the Furman reduced grunge and lowered the noise floor. The bass became more controlled and the overall sound was smoother, particularly in the sweeter, less sibilant treble range. Unfortunately, the smoother sound and the blacker background came at the cost of what I perceived as a slight decrease in overall musical vitality. With my studio's polluted AC, this seemed to be an acceptable tradeoff.