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Synergistic Research LE Cable, Interconnect, and Power Cords

Some three or four years ago I reviewed what remains the most complex and ingenious cable/power-conditioning system I’ve come across in forty years of audiophilia: Synergistic Research’s Galileo system. Sonically Galileo was the very model of a gorgeous-sounding, very low-noise, very high-resolution cable. Ergonomically, however, it proved to be a bit of a pain—at least it did for a reviewer like me who often switches gear. Ironically, the reason Galileo sounded great and the reason it was relatively fragile were one and the same: its unique architecture.

To refresh your memories, unlike virtually every other high-end interconnect/cable I can think of (save for flat ribbons) Galileo did not use a Litz-like structure of multiple insulated strands of wire twisted, braided, or woven together in a single bundle. Instead, it used individual “air strings”—separate, current-bearing, actively shielded, copper/silver alloy, pure silver, pure gold, or pure platinum conductors that were routed (via LEMO connectors) into and out of free-standing electromagnetic power-conditioning/active-shielding junction boxes (called “Active Mini EM Cells”) that themselves were plugged into “quantum tunneled” Mini Power Coupler power supplies (wall-wart-like devices that provided the DC current for the active shielding and EM power conditioning of the cells and the precious-metal “strings” attached to them).

Obviously Galileo involved a lot of connections and a lot of connectors (twenty separate LEMO plugs for a single set of interconnects). Alas, the more often you plugged these cables in and out of your system, the more physical stress you put on the connectors (and on the solder joints inside the EM junction boxes). When you added the effects of mass and gravity (if the equipment you were connecting to was mounted on a shelf, the wire dangling from the rear of the component would perforce be pulled down by the not-inconsiderable weight of the junction boxes) to so many joints, over time the interconnects and the junction boxes could develop intermittent shorts, making for a very pretty, very expensive, and utterly useless loom of silver, gold, and platinum wires.

Comes now the successor to Galileo, Galileo LE. And I’m delighted to report that the LE version gives you all the sonic virtues of the original in a much sturdier (though every bit as sophisticated and ingenious) package. I’m also delighted to report that LE costs about two-fifths of what Galileo did. That doesn’t make LE “affordable,” of course, but it does make it a lot less money than my other references—Crystal Cable Absolute Dream and Galileo père—and than many other reference-quality wires currently on the market.

Like Galileo Senior, Galileo LE is not just a series of similarly constructed interconnects, speaker cables, and power cords. It is an entire system of wire and power-conditioning products. The main physical differences between it and Galileo are structural. The principles behind both cables (e.g., active shielding, grounding, and tuning of the wire) remain the same, but where Galileo looked like an “exploded view” of a typical cable—with its separate air strings running between free-standing electromagnetic junction boxes—LE looks more like a conventional, braided, single-piece wire.

Looks, however, are deceptive. Each leg of LE interconnect actually comprises three to five individual, pure-silver air strings, each with its own air dielectric and grounding wire (three sets of these strings per interconnect for RCA connectors and five sets for XLRs). Although the strings are braided together into a bundle, each one functions independently and each one is separately hard-wired into and out of two carbon-fiber-encased EM Cells, which are now integral in-line parts of the cable rather than free-standing objects. When these EM Cells are powered by Synergistic’s wall-wart-like Mini Power Couplers (supplied with each cable), they perform the same function that the outboard EM Cells did with Galileo Senior—actively shielding, conditioning, grounding, and tuning the air strings for audibly lower noise and higher resolution and transparency.

I could spend pages dissecting the many new features of the Galileo LE system (including its Enigma Tuning Circuit which allows you to “voice” each cable/interconnect from warmer/darker to lighter/quicker to better suit your system, and Synergistic’s new Transporter Ultra SE power supply which, in concert with the PowerCell 10 SE Mk III power conditioner, provides a tidier, more centralized, and markedly lower-noise way of supplying the juice to the EM Cells built into Galileo LE cables, interconnects, and power cords), but I’d imagine that most of you are more interested in how the LE system sounds than how it works. And here the news is, as already noted, entirely positive.

In my current system, Galileo LE is as good as any cable I’ve heard at any price—which is to say it is among the most gorgeous-sounding and lifelike on the market, capable (with the right ancillaries) of a resolution of low-level detail that is unmatched in my previous listening experience.

 

Take, for example, a piece of music I’ve referenced many times in past reviews: George Crumb’s Four Nocturnes for violin and piano. Like so much post-Bartókian chamber music Four Nocturnes is as much about creating new sounds and textures from traditional instruments as it is about the eerie moonlit nightscape (and moonlight spell) those sounds conjure up. I’ve discussed many of these sonoristic effects before: the explosive Bartók pizzicatos, pizzicatos with glissandos, and pizzicatos with harmonics on the violin; the strumming, striking, plucking, and rubbing of the strings of the “prepared” piano; the rhythmic drumming and tapping on the bodies of both instruments (often—quite amazingly—while they are simultaneously being played in conventional and, occasionally, quite unconventional ways). Half the fun of hearing this remarkably engaging piece is marveling at the skills of the performers and wondering how they can possibly achieve the unique timbral and dynamic effects they manage to produce.

Well, wonder no longer. The Galileo LE brings so much new, previously unheard, very-low-level harmonic, dynamic, and textural detail to light it is almost like standing over violinist Paul Zukofsky’s and pianist Gilbert Kalish’s shoulders with a pair of binoculars to your eyes. For example, Crumb specifies that the piano strings should be rubbed alternately with the tips of the fingers and with the fingernails to produce slightly different timbres and textures. Though other cables certainly reproduce these “string piano” effects clearly, they can leave you in doubt as to how they were made. With Galileo LE you are never in doubt about which parts of his fingers Kalish is using. (Indeed, resolution is so high you can actually hear the sandy catch of Kalish’s nails as they brush the ridges of the piano’s coiled strings.) Similarly, the subtle colors that violinist Zukofsky adds to certain notes by bowing a single string and then, mid-way through the duration of its tone, lightly plucking a second string to add a brief new burst of color to that of the original note (rather like a delayed double-stop) are made clearer than I’ve ever heard them sound before (and this is an LP I’ve listened to a lot).

To be fair, this is not the sort of detail that you would likely hear in a concert hall; it is the result of extremely close and skillful miking (and the extraordinary quality of the rest of the system I’m currently using). But in a sonoristic piece like this one, where the way the music is being made is as interesting as—in fact, part and parcel of—the effect the music is aiming for, such very high resolution is truly illuminating.

Lest I leave the impression that this plethora of detail makes Galileo LE sound analytical, let me quickly add that it is anything but. LE is perhaps the most purely beautiful-sounding cable I’ve heard, and it is just as impressive (and persuasive) on much larger-scale musical moments as it is on tiny ones. Consider the sound of the Count Basie Orchestra going full out on “Steet of Dreams” from Sinatra at the Sands [MoFi]. Like Galileo, Galileo LE has such dense and beautiful color from the bass through the power range and lower midrange, that it gives a big band like this one (or a full orchestra, for that matter) the physical weight and near-avalanche power it actually has in life. It is quite literally thrilling to hear tuttis reproduced with this kind of authority.

As was the case with Galileo, Galileo LE’s remarkable clarity, ravishing color, and realistic dynamic weight are clearly the result of Synergistic’s clever use of air-string architecture and the lower noise floor afforded by the active shielding and tuning of those strings via the in-line EM Cells. However, there is a slight (and I mean slight) trade-off involved in all this electrical conditioning, which I’ve also noted with Galileo père.

While no one would ever call Galileo or Galileo LE “slow” (which is to say, lacking in pace), neither is it quite as incisive and well-defined on the leading edges of transients, or as toe-tappingly tuneful in the bass, as Crystal Cable’s (much more expensive) Absolute Dream. In addition to these differences in speed and timing, I’d also say that the Absolute Dream has (at lower volumes—the difference narrows at higher ones) a slightly wider soundstage than Galileo LE and a somewhat deeper-going low end, though the differences here are very small. Don’t let any of this bother you. Without question Galileo LE is high among the most gorgeous and lifelike cables I’ve heard— and perhaps the highest in very-low-level resolution of timbre and texture. Yes, you do trade a small measure of transient speed and pace for LE’s richer, denser, more beauteous tone color and more lifelike weight and authority. But this is a trade I think many listeners would be more than willing to make, especially when they consider the cost of Galileo LE vis-à-vis the company it keeps. Here is state-of-the-art wire at a price that many companies ask for their second-tier offerings. It should go without saying that I recommend this stuff most highly and enthusiastically. Indeed, alongside Crystal Cable’s Absolute Dream, Galileo LE has become my reference, and will likely be a Product of the Year Award-winner come January.

SPECS & PRICING

SYNERGISTIC RESEARCH, INC.
17401 Armstrong Avenue,
Suite 102
Irvine, CA 92614
(800) 578-6489
synergisticresearch.com

Prices: Galileo LE interconnect, $7500/1m pair RCA and $9500/1m pair XLR; Galileo LE speaker cable, $15,000/8′ pr. (single-wire) and $16,500/8′ pr. (bi-wire); Galileo LE AC power cord, $5600/5′

JV’s Reference System

Loudspeakers: Raidho D-5, Raidho D-1, Estelon X Diamond, MartinLogan CLX , Magnepan 1.7, Magnepan 3.7, Magnepan 20.7
Linestage preamps: Soulution 520, Constellation Virgo, Audio Research Reference 10, Siltech SAGA System C1, Zanden 3100
Phonostage preamps: Audio Research Corporation Reference Phono 10, Innovative Cohesion Engineering Raptor, Soulution 520, Zanden 120, Constellation Perseus
Power amplifiers: Soulution 501 and 711, Siltech SAGA System V1/P1, Constellation Centaur, Audio Research Reference 250, Lamm ML2.2, Zanden 8120
Analog source: Walker Audio Proscenium Black Diamond Mk V record player, AMG Viella 12
Phono cartridges: Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement, Ortofon MC A90, Ortofon MC Anna, Benz LP S-MR
Digital source: Berkeley Alpha DAC 2
Cable and interconnect: Synergistic Research Galileo and Galileo LE, Crystal Cable Absolute Dream
Power Cords: Synergistic Research Galileo LE, Crystal Cable Absolute Dream
Power Conditioner: Synergistic Research Power Cell 10 SE Mk. II, Synergistic Research Transporter Ultra SE, Technical Brain
Accessories: Synergistic ART system, Shakti Hallographs (6), A/V Room Services Metu panels and traps, ASC Tube Traps, Critical Mass MAXXU M equipment and amp stands, Symposium Isis and Ultra equipment platforms, Symposium Rollerblocks and Fat Padz, Walker Prologue Reference equipment and amp stands, Walker Valid Points and Resonance Control discs, Clearaudio Double Matrix SE record cleaner, HiFi-Tuning silver/gold fuses, Synergistic Research RED fuses

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