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Synergistic Research Atmosphere Level 4 Interconnects and Speaker Cables

06-28-2015 | By Robert S. Youman | Issue 79

Atmosphere RCA Interconnects

Synergistic Research continues to be one of the driving forces in the high end audiophile community. Teaming up with several industry leaders at the various audio shows throughout 2015, their showrooms have been receiving admirable praise and feedback—and deservedly so.

No longer just a cable manufacturer, their continued growth has been impressive while making a significant impact and statement to the global market place.

CEO Ted Denney and his crew have been strategically rolling out some extraordinary new cutting edge products without slowing down. I am amazed how there is a constant drive and passion to develop new technologies in a market where some say nothing ever really changes. You will not hear any "orange is the new black" criticism here.

Recent introductions were primarily based on their innovative active shielding designs and supporting proprietary circuits including UEF (Uniform Energy Field), HFT (High Frequency Transducer) and FEQ (Frequency Equalizer) implementations. Please see the Synergistic Research website for technical descriptions and associated products that include interconnects, speaker cable, digital cables, power conditioning, resonance control, and isolation. Synergistic Research has been very effective in providing trickle down technologies and advancements throughout their diversified product portfolio.

The newest family of products from Synergistic Research focuses on ground plane tuning. This includes the Atmosphere Level 1 though 4 interconnects and speaker cable that hit the market earlier this year. For this review, I will concentrate on the Atmosphere Level 4 design and execution. And of course, there is the sound. All I can say is, WOW!

Review System

  • Magico Q7 Speakers
  • Pass Labs INT-60 Integrated Amplifier
  • Playback Designs MPS-5 CD/SACD/DAC
  • VPI Aries Extended Turntable
  • VPI 12.6 Memorial Tonearm
  • Van den Hul Frog Cartridge
  • Synergistic Research Element CTS Power Cords
  • Synergistic Research Atmosphere Level 4 Interconnects and Speaker Cable
  • Synergistic Research Powercell 10 UEF & FEQ - PowerCell Equalizer
  • MIT SL-Matrix50 Interconnects and SL-Matrix90 Speaker Cables
  • SRA VA Turntable Isolation Base
  • Rix Rax Hoodoo Component Rack
  • Magico QPod Footers

Caveat Emptor

System synergy and personal taste are critical when evaluating high-end audio products. This review is based on my subjective requirements, my subjective ears, my specific system and my specific listening room. This combination is only one data point of many that exist out there for these components. For further insight into my personal biases, click on my name in the byline. Please consider my comments and analysis appropriately.


The Atmosphere series provides a whole new direction for Synergistic Research and again demonstrates the out of box thinking that keeps them ahead of the pack. Active shielding is no longer utilized—a key component of all their cables since 1998.

Progressively higher performance is provided as you move up the line. Levels 2 through 4 implements an external ground connection for all shielding. Therefore, everything is connected direct to ground and not to your components power supplies and speaker crossovers (less noise). Levels 3 and 4 add UEF ground plane tuning modules for tweaking the sound and providing a better match for your system needs. Level 3 comes standard with RED tuning modules and Level 4 gives you both RED and BLUE tuning modules for additional flexibility.

These RED and BLUE ground plane tuning modules are not compatible with the original Enigma and newer UEF active shielding tuning circuits. The Enigma and UEF are for legacy products with active shielding only. The RED and Blue are used for ground plane tuning only.

The two different flavors of ground plane tuning modules can provide the following sound characteristics:

  • RED Tuning Module: Warmth, Liquidity, Musicality
  • BLUE Tuning Module: Refinement, Detail, Focus

The actual physical design and manufacture of the loom for both the interconnects and speaker cable is quite extensive. All are handmade in their California factory. I rarely find this for other manufacturers, but Synergistic Research proudly describes each element in detail on their website for all four levels. That includes specifications for copper and silver conductors, cable geometry, dielectric implementation, solder content, shielding techniques, and connector types. Even build and burn-in times are listed.

Atmosphere Speaker Cable

Lastly, please note that for power cord applications, the folks at Synergistic still feel that the best sounding solutions are active shielding solutions. This is primarily due the unique relationship between high voltage, AC and direct current active shielding. For that reason, we do not have Atmosphere power cords to evaluate. If you want your system to be 100% Synergistic Research, please see the Galileo, Element and Tesla series of power cords for your system and budget requirements.


One of my go to cables is the Synergistic Research Element CTS. Active shielding is an important design feature of this series. They consistently provide some the most engaging music that I have experienced. The UEF active shield tuning circuits add that last bit of flexibility that can help you voice your cable to specific system needs. Build quality and performance from top to bottom are tough to equal.

Substituting the Atmosphere Level 4 for the CTS Element was a considerable step up. I was surprised by the results as the price points of the Atmosphere series is appreciably less than that of the Element series (see pricing below). Better sound for less money from the same manufacturer?  My goodness, how often does this happen?

I preferred the Blue tuning modules for my system that drives the Magico Q7 speakers. The Level 4 Atmosphere cables retained the speed and dynamic verve of the Element CTS, but the sound stage and imaging improved significantly. For example, when listening to small quartets or chamber music recordings, I could now see even further back into the recording venue and sense virtually every movement and inflection of each musician. The noise floor was now even a deeper blacker platform of silence. I thought I had reached the limit with the Pass Labs INT-60 integrated amplifier, but not so. Spatial queues were unleashed and defined with a startling immediacy and presence.

The Atmosphere also added a certain amount of harmonics and roundness to the sound that was very appealing—even with the RED tuning module. I was getting more weight and slam on the low end and additional sweetness on the highs. Mids were lush and romantic without losing the proper texture and inner detail of the very best recordings.

Synergistic Research has hit this one out of the ball park. Compared to the CTS Element, which was one of my well established benchmarks, the Atmosphere Level 4 is now the new gold standard in this price range and significantly beyond. There are several flagship cables at two to three times the MSRP that have been left in their tracks. I predict that the competition will soon be scratching their heads and scrambling for better answers.


Oliver Nelson - The Blues And The Abstract Truth

This Impulse SACD reissue by Analog Production is an absolute killer. Originally released in 1961, most historians consider this to be composer and arranger Oliver Nelson's crowning achievement. The all star lineup includes some of the finest musicians of that time: Oliver Nelson (tenor saxophone), Eric Dolphy (alto saxophone), George Barrow (baritone saxophone), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Bill Evans (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Roy Haynes (drums).

Long an audiophile standard, I was thrilled how closely this SACD compares to the original LP release. Though larger in scale, many consider this to be similar in style and stature to Kind Of Blue by Miles Davis. The universally acclaimed Stolen Moments is my favorite track and has been recorded and performed by a variety of artists including Phil Woods, J.J. Johnson, Frank Zappa, Ahmad Jamal, Booker Ervin, and the Turtle Island Quartet. Nothing compares to this Oliver Nelson production.

The Atmosphere cable brings out the very best in this highly admired trilogy of saxophonists. Timbre and tone are spot on. The harmonic progressions for the solos from Hubbard, Dolphy, Nelson, and Evans (in that order) will inspire you. There is a sense of space and air that brings me back to that original LP again. The rhythmic vitality of the music comes at you in wave after wave of sound as the Atmosphere cable lays it all out across your listening room in a wonderful holographic like experience.

Mary Black - Babes In The Wood

Mary Black is one of the premier Irish vocalists to ever hit the American shores. Released back in 1994 on the Gift Horse label, this CD was a very popular hit in Europe and found its way to my listening room after hearing it demonstrated at the then 1995 Winter CES in Las Vegas—the very first in Vegas if I recall correctly. It has continued its residency in my top 25 CD listening stack ever since.

The track that will forever haunt me is The Dimming Of The Day penned by Richard Thompson. BTW, if you really want to connect on an emotional level, check out the YouTube live studio recording and video with Richard Thompson, Mary Black and Dolores Keane trading verses. It's a stunner. Man, can this guy write and play guitar! Highly underrated as a singer too. One of my all time favorites.

Analytical and strained in a poorly balanced system, never have I heard this CD sound so rich and palpable. The Atmosphere cable sheds a nice light on Mary as her voice seems to scale new heights with plenty of ambiance and drama realized from the recording venue. The deep black noise floor accentuates every nuance. This is an excellent demonstration disc, yet for me, I think of it as one of my favorite recordings for just the music and performance alone. The heartfelt response from most listeners is difficult to ignore. A triumphal combination from any perspective.

Synergistic Research Atmosphere Level 4 Cables

Malcolm Arnold - English, Scottish & Cornish Dances

Originally pressed by Decca and released in 1979, this Lyrita LP has received more and more attention over the years for exceptional engineering and superb interpretation by the conductor and orchestra. Recorded by the renowned Decca Engineer Kenneth Wilkinson, it gained significant notoriety when included in the "HP (Harry Pearson) Super Disc List" via The Absolute Sound magazine. HP also named it to his exclusive "Best of Bunch List" of favorite classical audiophile recordings.

I am told that the original is the one to have, but I am very pleased with my Nimbus UK pressing from 1994. It was also released on various CD reissues by Lyrita and Nimbus that includes additional Irish and Polish dances.

Malcolm Arnold and The London Philharmonic Orchestra are at their best here. The English dances are the standouts for me. Lithe and lively with plenty of colorful interplay, these tracks will set the mood for some compelling listening.

The Atmosphere cable affords us a huge sound stage that reaches out in all directions of the recording venue. The level of transparency and breath taking transient speed is impressive.

There is a tremendous depth and separation between the musicians. The weight and authority of the orchestra comes through in a dramatic fashion like the real thing. Strings are particularly rich and vibrant with plenty of jump factor. Another winner from the original Decca team, yet the Atmosphere interconnects and speaker cable can double your pleasure.

Final Thoughts

It's difficult to ignore the success of Synergistic Research over the last few years. Their product line continues to grow in both scope and ingenuity. The technologies and designs are beyond the norm, but the proof is in the listening. When utilized properly in virtually any system, your ears will verify that something very special is going on. From active shielding to ground plane tuning, I applaud their passion and commitment to finding new ways to experience state of the art sound. Based on price and performance, the Atmosphere Level 4 interconnects and speaker cable are just their latest grand achievement. My guess is that there is more to come. The very highest recommendation! Robert S. Youman

Atmosphere Level 4

1 Meter XLR Interconnects $3095

1 Meter RCA Interconnects $2495

8 Foot Speaker Cables w/Spades $4995


Just after completing my review, FedEx arrived with a nice little surprise from Synergistic Research. Peter Hansen, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, wanted to make a point and this was certainly an excellent way to do it. He let me slip into a bewitched and bedazzled state with the Atmosphere Level 4 cable before presenting me with another important option.

Grounding Block B

The Synergistic Research Grounding Block ($599) allows for multiple star based ground connections to several components. It also provides UEF technology to a grounding block for additional performance improvements. This includes all of the Synergistic Research products that have ground interfaces: Atmosphere Series interconnects and speaker cables, Tranquility Base isolation platforms, the FEQ Frequency Equalizer, and the Atmosphere Wave Generator.

Even beyond their own products, Synergistic Research states that the Grounding Block can improve the performance of any component with an active circuit. This includes amps, preamps, DAC's, USB devices, and turntables. These ground connections can be made at most analog inputs or outputs, USB inputs or outputs, and chassis ground terminals—including connect to ground terminals on turntables and tone arms.

When you purchase the SR Grounding Block you will receive the following grounding cables at no charge:

  • 4 each (4 ft) ground wires – enough to connect up to 2 pairs of Atmosphere series interconnects
  • 2 each (8 ft) ground wires – enough to connect 1 pair of Atmosphere series speaker cable 

For now, let's focus on the Atmosphere Level 4 cables and what I personally experienced in my system. I compared the performance with and without the Grounding Block. The difference was immediate and not difficult to articulate. I noticed an even greater level of definition and bloom across all frequencies—a tough combination to achieve. Highs in particular had less grain and whiteness with additional dimensionality and texture. I was also struck by the sense of ease if not the natural musicality of what I was listening to—regardless of music genre. It reminded me of the feeling that I get when struggling to drive an inefficient speaker and swapping out to a megawatt monster amplifier. It just felt more right.

The Grounding Block deserves another round and evaluation with connections to the other components in the system. I will keep you posted! Robert S. Youman

Synergistic Research

17401 Armstrong Avenue

Suite 102

Irvine, CA 92614

(800) 578-6489