Synergy

October 5, 2015
 by Paul McGowan

There’s perhaps nothing more important to the success of a hi fi system than the synergy of its parts. We’ve been discussing how the addition of some preamps help the sound of some DACs; a perfect example of the synergistic quality of parts within a system.

The speakers we are playing in our room at RMAF, the YG Acoustics Sonja 1.3–magnificent six foot tall metal sculptures–are sometimes described as clinical sounding. I think it’s accurate to say they reproduce whatever they are fed–without colorations of their own. Paired with the richness of BHK electronics, the fullness of the DirectStream DAC and openness of the MG Audio cables, the synergy between components works. The soundstage, separation of voices within the space, the realism and three dimensionality of individual instruments–proper tonal balance–are just amazing. On the Perlman violin piece, a live recording of many years ago, few have failed to remark that the sound of the violin is the closest they have ever heard to live–something exceedingly rare with reproduced music. While not as overall full and harmonically rich as some speakers, the combination does work by virtue of the synergy of the system’s components.

Choosing cables, electronics, speakers, all require careful attention to synergy of assembled components. You would not want to put lean and mean sounding cables or electronics in the setup we have at the show – you’d exaggerate those qualities and be unhappy with the sound. Yet, on overly fat or exaggerated loudspeakers, lean and mean components might be just the ticket.

It is for this reason that we want to start our systems by building firm foundations – getting the AC power right, for example, the room, speaker positions, etc. Once foundations have been shored up, we can more easily make good decisions about what matches the synergy of our setup for best reproduced music.

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23 comments on “Synergy”

  1. Hello Paul. Your efforts to investigate the effects behind the changes in sound quality and to share your experiences with us are most commendable. However I strongly believe you will never get a result when the parameter ‘sound staging’ which is a fooling effect of the stereo concept is part of the evaluation. I assume listening to mono recordings reproduced by a single speaker will bring you closer to the working effects. For me the most convincing effects for a ‘better’ resulting sound quality by the exchange of a single component are: hitherto unheard details are heard, a curtain or haze hitherto covering the sound is removed, onset/decay of instrument are faster/longer as known from live events. When stereo comes into the game the brain is additionally challenged to construct phantom sources!

  2. Total synergy ( in the ears of the listener ) will bring joy no matter how expensive , or inexpensive , a system may be . I read once that cables should not be used as tone controls but sometimes the careful application of cables can add that last little bit of synergy that gives a system the ” wow ” factor . Even though I use a P10 Power Conditioner in my system I find that with my electricity supply the use of tone controls gives that extra “ah ” factor …this is actually adding something extra into the signal chain but I prefer the sound with the tone controls adjusted to my liking ( to my ears this sounds better or , more correct , preferable ) .I have been involved in hi-fi here in Australia for around 50 years and have had locally made gear plus an assortment from Linn , Naim , Sugden , Musical Fidelity , Unison Research , Pioneer , Yamaha and PSB and found that the amps that rang my bells were the ones with tone controls ( shock , horror ) . Quite a few of current upmarket amps are now including tone controls on their amps and preamps ( Macintosh have a new preamp with a built in equalizer ) ….. see Yamaha , Luxman and D’Agostino integrateds plus there are probably more I can’t think of at the moment . This is only my opinion but I will not be buying another amp or preamp without tone controls ( hint , hint Paul )

  3. Hi Paul, regarding only provide synergy formerly, in the 80s, electronics manufacturers or speakers or reviewers of them spoke of the synergy between the pre and amplifier or between the amplifier and speaker. Today, on the websites of manufacturers and reviewers rarely they speak of it or recommend certain brand of speakers to your amplifier or vice versa. I understand that there is a trade issue and marketing involved. But if manufacturers were directed to the public would honestly maybe even partnerships or strategic alliances to promote another company that are synergistic between their products and the way let your customers happier.

    1. I wish it were that easy, but I suppose it could be. Part of the problem one has with all this is not being able to try enough products to know. And then, being able to help people make that synergistic setup work.

      Imagine for a moment the difficulty of this. Most people do not buy systems from us, they buy bits of systems: a DAC, an amp, a plug, a cable, a Power Plant. I can’t really recommend what else to connect with these unless I can control the entire system–which was kind of the point of the post.

      1. But in some respects it should not be so complicated. I do not say it in all types of audio system elements. For example you. It is doing its value chain from the source (Dac to the power amplifier), but there is with the speakers? (Main part of the team). You know that audio electronics and is in this business. I think it’s easy to find out which brands of speakers would synergy with their teams or at least indicate, I’m assuming, some technical parameters of speakers for correct choice for the buyer.

        1. A copy of a 30 ips master tape recorded on a Studer with a pair of microphones, 33 years ago, at a concert in Switzerland. It’s a stunning recording and a treasure musically and sonically.

          I cannot share it, unfortunately, but a very small group of people are fortunate enough to have a copy.

      2. There actually is a French manufacturer offering a hybrid digital integrated amp that allows the download of a software based bass-management for dedicated speakers, Paul.

    2. When I was first getting into High End audio I eagerly awaited the show reports in Stereophile to learn which electronics were paired with which speakers, though the opinions of the writers were rarely given back in the early nineties. Today, these reports are much more detailed and with many more reviewers giving explicit opinions of the results heard, you can learn a lot from them. Of course actually going to the shows yourself can be even more helpful.

      1. When I read reviews of equipment such as Stereophile and many other, rarely mention that this electronic synergizes with this speaker or vice versa, usually have their reference systems in their own rooms which has sometimes not even indicate the dimensions of this to see if about the size of my living room and have way to compare. At most say this amp tubes paralantes decon requires high efficiency (> 90 db).

        And regarding the Shows, impossible for me in terms of travel costs. I’m at the southern end of the Southern Hemisphere. Over here there are no such rooms shows and representatives audio brands never have a “good foundation” to hear the teams as it should be and know in advance the potential that could get the team later stages when one buys components.

          1. Ha Ha Ha, it was a joke. Not so far. In Santiago de Chile. If something in class A (Bryston pre and power amplifiers).

            To console Paul, I have 1 PS Port (Gold); AC5 perfectwave power cable and balanced interconnect cable Transcendent of 0.5 meters.

  4. “There’s perhaps nothing more important to the success of a hi fi system than the synergy of its parts”

    Paul, how do you recommend achieving synergy other than trial and error? Considering the cost of equipment this can get fairly expensive. For example the YG Sonja 1.3 speakers sell for over $106,000 (not to mention that they weigh over 500 pounds.) The number of permutations of different equipment on the market are so many it would take more than a lifetime to try all of them.

    Congratulations on the BHK amplifier successfully powering these speakers. I read Stereophile Magazine’s review of the speakers by JA himself and this speaker presents an unusually difficult electrical load. Of the three expensive amplifiers he had available, only a $43,000 MBL amplifier was satisfactory. In some regions, the midrange for example, this is a highly capacitive load. There was a problem with voices which became harsh when the speaker played over 100 db which JA attributed to the amplifier clipping. JA agrees that the speaker sounds “analytical” which he ascribes to slightly excessive energy in the 5-15 khz range.

    Here’s a link to the review.

    http://www.stereophile.com/content/yg-acoustics-sonja-13-loudspeaker

    As you know my own analysis of the problem and the solutions to high fidelity sound recording and reproduction is very different from the “audiophile” solution and so although I have not heard them and probably never will, despite the accolades I would never consider going this route even if cost were not a consideration. At any rate, JA agrees with YG’s claim that this is the best speaker in the world….for the month of June 2013.

  5. Interesting topic. Paul, it sounds like you hit a home run pairing the YG’s with the BHK’s. Congrats. The sign of a great amp. I’ve heard that Bill Dudleson of Legacy audio speakers likes to pair his speakers with Coda amps, also very good amps. The topic of synergy leaves me asking myself one question. Does a power amp in the best of the best category still trump an amp that is not as quite as good , but has a little more synergy with a particular speaker brand ?

    1. Dynaudio speaker manufacturer from Denmark designed his own power amp ARBITER some decades ago because he could not find an amp pushing the speakers to their top performance. Either the selling price was most prohibitive or the amplifier market barriers were too strong for a speaker designer Dynaudio never succeeded in the amp business. Today they offer active speakers having integrated the amp and wireless technology from a Chinese supplier.

  6. Im so glad it worked out paul. As you know I stuck my neck way out on that combo LOL.
    With respect to rgallos.IMHO, sistem matching is more important than the sum of the parts.

    I feel that by all means the better amp. may not sound as good with a certain speakerif it’s not the proper synergy. I think we all agree that speakers are probably the most colored piece of electronics in the Audio Chain. That’s why the beauty of the BHK is that you can change the input tube which should give you all the flexibility you need to match it to the speaker and the rest of the equipment.

  7. I also like to put my cables in last.sometimes,just changing the speaker cable alone can do it.

    Reminds me of making my spaghetti sauce .a little more
    Pepper, some more onion powder, just a dash more brown sugar. I never want any of these ingredients to draw attention to itself. And then when you think you have it right, let it simmer and consolidate .(or with Audio equip. let it break in for a while ). It’s a balancing act that’s where The true Magic of the ear behind the system comes in.

  8. Re: more sage advice from Paul

    I agree that there is a certain “synergy” that works between particular components. Recently I had made a comment on another audio forum to this end. I stated that Magnepan loudspeakers generally sounded great with what I consider to be high current amplifiers (+/- 15A capable). I know the times I’ve listened to magnepans in a store or at friends’ places that all drive them with what I consider to be high current capable amp. This just seems to be one of these “synergies” that you mention. And I was clobbered for it (well not quite, but at least battered a little bit).

    This is also why many magazines, and e’zines and reviews warn all to use whatever “recommended components” lists with a grain of salt. One must look at the context of a review and possible recommendations, understanding the reviewers’ preferences and these are somethings that I must reinforce. Buying stuff from some list is a sure-fire way of almost guaranteeing failure. Else the system could end up being an absolute fluke at best. It’s also a reason to support a bricks and mortar store. You cannot dismiss what a salesperson states based on their (usually) long-term use of said products of interest. Maybe there is an unusual match that just seems to work, but maybe shouldn’t.

    I do strongly disapprove of the use of any wiring as a means of balancing the sound of a system. Get the fundamentals correct and then look at interconnects , loudspeakers , etc. A pair of friends love Klipsch loudspeakers if reworked (in their opinion) correctly. I cannot argue with the results, as they both love what their systems are doing for them. Another follows a path similar to mine: I love fullrange drivers (as in single full frequency drivers). Not so much due to some speculation that they are “clearly” superior. Mainly due to my (what I think) is a considerable personal experience with them. An of course with single fullrange drivers go the (perhaps) ideal match with SE tube amplifiers. Every system I’ve heard of that ilk has impressed me and stayed in my auditory memory for some time. These need not be particularly expensive systems: CAD $1000 for a used but reworked turntable, SE tube amplifier kit, passive preamp (regardless what many here have said) small mark Audio driver or Fostex driver, or vintage Oxford driver equipped enclosures. I even have a few old sets of multi-way speakers that have benign impedance curves (recapped Dynaco A25s, LS3/5a-a-likes, Altec Model 5,s and a set of ESS model 8’s, IIRC),

    The question may wise, why? because whatever amplifier setup I’m using may work best with one pair of speakers or another. And I have a few of amplifiers from large (-ish) solid state, to low powered (30 Watts/ch) receiver, to 1.2 Watts/ch SE tubes, to 40 Watt/ch P-P tubes to 125 watt/ch SS,. All have there pluses and minuses, but I tend to believe that if I need particular wirubg to make a system more palatable then something must be changed. Of my favourites are a pair of 12 litre sealed enclosures with a pair of 5.5″ full rangers. Nothing special, but they really do just “work” with almost anything I put in front of them.

    Any “newbies” to the hobby that audio is, should well listen to the advice or suggestions that Paul posts here. Even though at some point it may appear he is pandering, I think not. He is merely expressing what his time in audio has taught him and the direction that he finds himself and his company now in.

  9. Paul mentioned, How people buy different bits of equipment! In my Early days I loved to mix and match different types of Amp’s, DACs, Cable’s, Interconnect’s, speakers, etc. But it wasn’t until I caught fire my beloved Nad 208 amp! Depressed ,My neighbor said he had this KSA krell amp just sitting around collecting dust. So I borrowed it from him ! I was blown away by the speed and accuracy of what I was listening to! So I ended up selling the mix match bunch of stuff I had. And started buying piece, by piece, of nothing but all krell equipments!! Same thing with cable’s, nothing but Audioquest !! To me the krell’s, with the Audioquest cable’s, interconnect’s, are the perfect balance! Well at least too my EARS !! Lol.. Oh , and by the way ,I ended up with Krells Integrated Amp! With all the talk of lately, of what sounds the Best. I believe that less is more!! MHO…

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