T.H.E Show Newport 2015: Synergistic Research HT Carbon Headphone Transducer

About eight months ago or so, Synergistic Research came out with a product called HOT ($299)—which stands for Headphone Optimized Transducer. It says nothing about what it does or how it works on the HOT product page, just that "HOT maximizes your enjoyment with increased resolution and smoothness in the world's most holographic headphone experience."

Chatting with Elliot Nommensen about how the device work got me a little farther down the road. He said the HOT, and now its replacement HT Carbon, works as a "parallel filter" that cleans the audio signal. According to Nommensen, the passing audio signal induces a response in the surrounding material that is able to somehow further interact with the incoming audio to reduce noise and clarify the audio. Unfortunately that doesn't really give me much of a handle on exactly what's going on as I've never heard of a device that could do such a thing. But that, and the resulting controversy, is nothing new to Synergistic Research.

The HOT certainly did make a splash in the headphone world. Quite a few reviewers did praise its performance, but there was also some threads (here and here) on Head-Fi where objectivists uttered a resounding "BOOOOO!" In fact, here's a post where the device was disassembled, and another post where materials inside were chemically analyzed. Things got so spicy that Synergistic's owner and cheif researcher Ted Denny got drug into the dialog.

Sheesh, don't need any Sriracha sauce on that one.

Needless to say, I'm just going to keep an open mind and ear. Elliot will be sending me an HT Carbon and a Tranquility Base to play with during my upcoming month assembling and listening to some of the world's best headphone gear. I'll get back to you with my thoughts. 'Til then, I'll leave you with Elliot explaining the gear in the video.

Click here if you can't see the video.

COMMENTS
Seth195208's picture

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Seth195208's picture

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Seth195208's picture

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Tyll Hertsens's picture
Ha ha ha ha!
tony's picture

you hafta do this.

Levi & Beers probably promised the guy some kind of review if he did the show.

Seems like it would be hard to find the open space in Motorcycle Season to pan this established "dry bed".

You promised so you gotta do it.

Betcha we'll never hear one peep outa you bout this stuff.

Just saw a new BMW Bike, way-nice, ten times the cost of the A&K 380. A ride all the way round the USofA is about 14,000 miles. The road calls. Then there's a New Zealand adventure and Southern Europe along the Med.

Hmm, what to do?

Tony in Michigan

ps. you're fellow traveler: the AnalogPlanet Herb Reichert described the Schiit/HifiMan system as "More vivid, detailed and considerably more exciting than any of those giant boxes were conjuring upstairs" . He was reporting the Newport event! That right there shows that nobody is editing his work.

xnor's picture

Or is it a $2 low-pass filter to "slow down" your super-duper fast amp, which you bought because it's so d#mn fast in the first place?

Masters of irony catered to by the masters of scammery.

drblank's picture

Cables, by themselves are filters. These devices are doing what MIT Cables spearheaded a long time ago. They build very high precision parallel filter to fix the problems inherent to just the wire by itself. It's proven technology and they have done many types of measurements to prove that it does do something. IT essentially, if designed properly, will enable the cables to become more neutral and not have as much negative effects on the signal.

If you are using the placebo effect, then you are using your own line of scammery to act like they don't work.

$2 to make? No, usually these companies mfg the product for about 1/10th the MSRP, and the dealer typically pays about 1/2 of MSRP. Remember, dealers have to make a profit and so do the mfg. They have to design the filter, they use VERY high precision passive components that they also have to hand match, and those components cost a fortune, even in the quantities they are purchasing these components, they probably have to throw away a lot of passive components that simply can't match to the specs they need. Kind of what happens if you want to get high quality tubes that are perfectly matched, they end throwing a percentage of what they purchase to be able to get matched sets that are sellable. The components they throw away add to the cost to mfg.

Now, this type of product is probably the easiest to hear what differences there are.

I would probably try these and MIT Cables' Vero products to compare.

BTW, i have not bought into Synergistic's other products, but these are based on research that has been proven to do something. Parallel filters is not a new thing, it's just new to the headphone market.

xnor's picture

Thank you for posting that.

I looked at MIT patents, and there is one that describes a trivial low pass filter - basically a single inductor added.
Wow, this should increase price of a cable by a dollar.

But wait a second, it says this should be at the end of the line near the load ... oops Synergistic Research's adapter looks like it plugs into amplifiers at the other side - far away from the load. Fail!

But wait a second #2, what is the voice coil of any headphone? A giant inductor, much bigger than MIT's suggested inductance! So this filter does nothing.

But wait a second #3, even if we ignore all the previous fails and assume that tiny amounts of HF noise make it through the voice coil - a headphone does not reproduce such frequencies.

But wait a second #4, let's assume that a headphone could reproduce 1 MHz and up ... no human hears or perceives such frequencies, especially not at such low levels. (It's not feasible you could hear that noise even if it was in the audible range, because it would by masked by the actual audio signal.)

drblank's picture

the patents describe the basic patent. Now, MIT uses custom components that are very high precision and they use a High Rel Impedance tester and they match the components down to a 1/100th of an ohm and capacitors to a very tight tolerence. They aren't buying cheap passive components from a cheap supplier. They are having CUSTOM capacitors and resistors made specifically to the ratings they spec. These components cost significantly more, just the raw components, then they have to have the high rel measurement systems, trained people (in the US, BTW) test, assemble, etc. They wind their own inductors. Now, if you look at their cheapest cables, they have at least 3 filters per cable, and they have to have custom wire made per their other patent and specs and that wire can NOT be made by just any wire mfg using any old cable winders. They are VERY precise tolerences, again, increasing the costs. Your problem is you've never worked at MIT's factory, or have even been to MIT's factory to see a factory tour. nor have you physically seen their costs broken down. I have been to their factory and know people that have worked their. Their cost to mfg are VERY high, plus they have to have markup and then the reseller has markup. Your problem is you have this myopic idea that they use cheap components, untested, and slapped together in China, because the crap you buy is made that way.

Are you sure you are looking at the right patent? They have patents for power cables which are slightly different than the patents for speaker cables (which a headphone cable is) and interconnects. Don't confuse the two. MIT has more than one patent. Plus, they also have patents either granted that they haven't listed, or have patents that have been submitted but not yet approved since it takes several years to get patent approval. MIT has cables that have up to about 155 filter networks in each box. Now how much do you think ti would cost to make a high precision stereo eq with 155 bands per side that's made from the highest quality components? A LOT OF MONEY. Go look at a mastering eq, like a GML and look at the price of those boxes with only 5 bands of eq, and price it without the power supply.

A speaker isn't JUST the voice coil, you forgot the rest of the speaker. The speaker is a transducer that takes an electrical signal and transfers it to a mechanical device. But the size of the coil doesn't necessarily negate the cable. Seriously, your logic is so flawed I'm laughing at how basic and wrong your logic is.

The frequency range of the cables isn't in the 1MHz range, they are tailoring each filter to a specific filer that's within the audible range of hearing.

You are basing your information on flawed logic. Seriously, Go to MIT Cables factory, get a factory tour and spend time asking questions instead of using flawed logic.

Where you will hear the most differences is in the range within hearing as that's where MIT Cables focuses on. What Synergistic is doing, I have no idea, but I can only assume they are just creating a slightly different filter design, but still a filter design. I have no idea how many filters they are using, but MIT uses at least 3 per channel (matched) for their basic cables.

Heck, why don't you just try them blind folded while someone else changes the cable and adds and removes the dongles? Wouldn't you hearing a difference validate that the technology works?

The Synergistic looks like it plugs into the headphone jack and the other end the headphone cable plugs into the filter.

When you look at the MIT's patents, make sure you read ALL of them and apply which patents apply to which product. Some of their patents apply to digital cables, some apply to analog speaker/interconnect cables, and some apply to power cables or power conditioning products, please don't confuse them.

xnor's picture

I guess you've never been to a water shaker .. eh homeopathy factory either.

Do you even know what a passive filter can do? Basically low pass (attenuating highs) or high pass (attenuating lows).
Basically "destroying" part of the energy of a signal by turning it into heat.

What do you want to attenuate, and why?

Have you understood nothing of what I wrote above? Nothing? That even if the filter works nicely attenuating tiny amounts of noise at >1 MHz it does not have any significant effect on a headphone driver?

Are you sure you are looking at the right patent?

Yes.
Send me a link to yours if you think I'm not.

MIT has cables that have up to about 155 filter networks in each box.

Citation needed. In other words: where is the evidence for that.
And what's the reasoning behind that other than catering to placebophiles?
What on Earth do you need to attenuate so much using crappy passive filter networks?

A speaker isn't JUST the voice coil, you forgot the rest of the speaker. The speaker is a transducer that takes an electrical signal and transfers it to a mechanical device. But the size of the coil doesn't necessarily negate the cable. Seriously, your logic is so flawed I'm laughing at how basic and wrong your logic is.

You have NO idea what you're talking about, do you?
And you understood nothing of what I wrote above, did you?

A speaker is a transducer that converts electrical into mechanical energy, and not into a "mechanical device".

I didn't say that the coil negates the cables. That doesn't even make any sense. My logic is flawed?? Heh, you're a troll.

The electrical components of a speaker model are in fact the inductance and the DC resistance of the voice coil.

The frequency range of the cables isn't in the 1MHz range, they are tailoring each filter to a specific filer that's within the audible range of hearing.

So they are degrading sound quality by attenuating in the audible range?

WOW. And this admission is coming from someone who has worked in their factories? Wow.

Why would any reasonable person buy such a cable?!

drblank's picture

The thing is, these filters are not wired in series like an EQ. IF you pass frequencies through a cable, they don't all pass at the same level. It's far more complex than what you are talking about because they aren't wired in series. If they were wired in series, then yes, but they aren't, they are wired in parallel.

Go do some more reading, it's a VERY complex subject matter that can't be fully discussed in a message blog.

Go visit their factory and do a factory tour, read all of the interviews that they done with Bruce Brisson and yes, he won't discuss things that are trade secrets because they want to protect certain things.

There are several videos on YouTube where he's interviewed or at RMAF panel discussions, he's been interviewed by various publications over the years. But he's only discussing HIS research. But judging from the information on the Synergist product, it appears as a very similar product. I just don't know how many filters they are using.

xnor's picture

Do you know anything about filter design? Apparently not.

You write pages long posts with nonsense but cannot answer my simple questions. As expected..

So you have a crappy passive complex filter network that turns a cable into the most inflexible EQ ever devised. 155 passive components and the signal will be distorted like crazy. Great.

Again, why would any reasonable person buy something like that? You gotta be crazy, especially considering the prices.

drblank's picture

wiring filter networks in parallel in the manner in which they doing DOES NOT distort. I think your fundamental problem is you are thinking about an EQ wired in series vs wired in parallel. There is a big difference.

drblank's picture

The thing is, these filters are not wired in series like an EQ. IF you pass frequencies through a cable, they don't all pass at the same level. It's far more complex than what you are talking about because they aren't wired in series. If they were wired in series, then yes, but they aren't, they are wired in parallel.

Go do some more reading, it's a VERY complex subject matter that can't be fully discussed in a message blog.

Go visit their factory and do a factory tour, read all of the interviews that they done with Bruce Brisson and yes, he won't discuss things that are trade secrets because they want to protect certain things.

There are several videos on YouTube where he's interviewed or at RMAF panel discussions, he's been interviewed by various publications over the years. But he's only discussing HIS research. But judging from the information on the Synergist product, it appears as a very similar product. I just don't know how many filters they are using.

xnor's picture

If you are using the placebo effect, then you are using your own line of scammery to act like they don't work.

I'm not using the placebo effect. SR and other scammers do and the sad part is that there are foolish enough people to buy (into) it.

You can hear all the warning signs in the video above. Some pseudoscientific babbling about "cleaning the signal" and "you have to try it" etc.

They have to design the filter, they use VERY high precision passive components that they also have to hand match, and those components cost a fortune

That's more nonsense.
Parts with tight tolerances to match the ideal values given MIT's patent are cheap. We're talking cents here. You can go fancy, then it's $1.

But the matching here is pointless anyway due to the reasons outlined above.

Another case in point: some headphone amplifiers also have similar filters on the output. The cost is a couple of cents per channel.

I would probably try these and MIT Cables' Vero products to compare.

I'm sure YOU would.

BTW, i have not bought into Synergistic's other products, but these are based on research that has been proven to do something. Parallel filters is not a new thing, it's just new to the headphone market.

Hahaha, please show me the research.
Show me the papers in the scientific journals.

This whole thing is a scam. Every audio device built to known standards has filters on the input, inside, and possibly even on the outputs. Every voice coil acts as a filter. Every transducer (loudspeaker, headphone, in-ear ..) acts as a filter.
So please, stop it.

But hey, maybe this ludicrously expensive SR HT jack does degrade sound quality audibly .. who knows.
I'm sure the biased placebo reviews will pop up - you gotta justify a $300 adapter, that doesn't even seem to have gold-plated contacts, somehow.

:D

drblank's picture

you can cut or boost certain frequencies, right? Well, they have to design their filters specifically with the actual cable in mind. They have to perform a battery of measurements and they have to perform a variety of calculations to determine what filters they need to create. In some cables, they "over articulate" certain frequency ranges, which results in distortions. Some frequency ranges are "under articulating" where they have to essentially boost to create a more neutral articulation curve.

If you look at their most expensive speaker cables, they have switches where you can tailor their "articulation" curve to match your system and your personal preference. Why do they call them articulation curves? They take measurements along the audible range, the put those measurements in a spreadsheet and compare against an articulation index. Articulation indexes have been around since the 40's since Bell Labs started to perform research in this area. Over the years, there are different types of articulation indexes that have been created and used. They have used articulation indexes for designing telephone systems, which Bell Labs did, then ASC does articulation measurements when figuring out room treatment, there are articulation measurements that the hearing aid mfg use, and MIT applied that to designing cables. If a range of frequencies over articulate, the result that you hear is a distortion of some sort and in many cases it's audible. If it under articulates, then you don't hear that frequency range as clearly. All MIT was trying to do is make a variety of cables at different price points to create a more "neutral' cable so you hear what you are supposed to, or another way of saying this is that the cable doesn't distort or damage the signal as much. Obviously, for those that are fortunate to have very good high end systems and pristine listening environment where they can hear more detail, they offer the more expensive products that have more detail since they are putting more filters to get more fine tuning, if you will, of the cable. They also want to be able to lower the noise floor as much as possible, they also have to deal with phase, etc. So they really do a lot of research to make sure that the cables do as little damage to the signal as possible so it reduces distortions and other problems that damages an audio signal.

Yes, ALL equipment in a stereo system is a filter, the cables is probably the weakest link in the chain.

Well, try the product to see for yourself if it damages the sound. The only way to tell is to listen to the product. So by all means, try the product in the dealer before you plunk down the money. Obviously, companies have to give you your money back if returned in a certain time frame. But I would definitely try them before i buy them and I would definitely compare agains the MIT Vero products as they have a variety of different dongles or cables. Some are for more enhanced bass, some are more for reference, etc. so they do it because they know that people have different headphones that sound differently and that people have their own personal preference. Some people like more bass definition because they listen to music that relies on bass, some want a very neutral cable for other types of music etc.

For me, I use MIT and Transparent cables for my stereo because they are the only two brands that I've tried that don't give me ear fatigue, other cables that I've tried gave me ear fatiuge. Ear fatigue is typically due to distortions in the upper mid range frequencies.. So, for me, I can't listen to my system for extended periods of time if there are those types of distortions. I've never had ear fatigue with MIT or Transparent cables, but I have with other brands. So, based on my experiences and knowing that MIT is leveraging the same type of technology in their headphone cables, that's probably something you won't have to worry about.

How long do you listen to your headphones before experiencing ear fatigue?

The only way I justify spending money is by listening to the product and judging for myself. I don't always justify spending money, just because of a review or because someone tells me. I do my own judging.

What you should be spending more time is listening to the product and basing your jdugements on those listening tests that making assumptions. You know what they say about making assumptions? You make an ass of yourself. So, don't make assumptions on something you haven't even tried. Who knows, you actually might change your mind if you did. I thought the same way you do about cables until I heard the difference first hand and based on that experience, and others that followed, I have a different viewpoint on cables. Cables CAN make it sound better or worse or have no difference, but there are a lot of factors that have to be taken into consideration. Listening levels, quality of recordings, ability to hear the differences, experience in understanding what to listen for, time taken, equipment used, etc. No one has tested every cable with every combination of equipment under every condition, so we have to test what we have with whatever cables we have access to.

No, I don't believe that this product is a scam. Yes, I believe that some of SR products might not have much validity to it because I have not seen any measurements to validate the technology and they are very vague on describing the technology, but parallel filters in cables is over 20 years old and I have experience (positive) with other brands of parallel filter technology in cables so for me, It's not a big deal. I can assume they probably do work, but I would compare to the MIT Vero product because they can design the filters differently or use more or less filters which will change what we hear.

xnor's picture

This shows that you have no clue.

There is no over-articulation and it is ironic that you use the words "there is distortion" when earlier you spoke of passive filter networks with >100 components. LOL.

Passive components, especially that many, will cause loads of distortion.

Are you really that deluded or just a very persistent troll?

Yes, ALL equipment in a stereo system is a filter, the cables is probably the weakest link in the chain.

Wow.

You just outed yourself as the worst troll I've ever seen on IF.

Here's a very simple argument that even you should get:
Don't you even know the expression "wire with gain" for the ideal amp? Notice how it doesn't say "wire with hundreds of passive components for severe distortion and gain"?

I'm stopping this here. It's pointless talking to a devout "believer" that has unshakable faith in scam products.

On last thing though:

How long do you listen to your headphones before experiencing ear fatigue?

I prefer different headphones for different situations, and none leads to fatigue regardless of price ($50 or $500, doesn't matter).

I can listen the whole day (several hours at work, the rest of the day at home) without needing any scam products.

All I use is basically a crossfeed I developed (a version is freely available on hydrogenaudio) for music to reduce the fatiguing unnatural stereo separation and all my headphones are equalized and modded for comfort.

Bye.

drblank's picture

you are still thinking incorrectly. You are thinking of a multi band eq which is wired in series. These aren't wired in series, they are wired in parallel, so it does NOT affect the signal directly. it affects how the cable stores and releases the energy at different frequencies. You really need to get off your brainwashed understanding of a in series EQ vs in parallel filter network.

xnor's picture

Ahahahahhaa, so clueless and still trolling.

From their own patent:

an inductor L1 coupled in series with the line 5 between the source 2 and the load 3

And it doesn't matter if you sum the output of several (parallel) distorting passive filters - the output will still be distorted and there will be a loss of energy.

LOL, you are calling me brainwashed?! YMMD again. :D

drblank's picture

which patent is this from?

xnor's picture

The series inductor is from 5,142,252.
See this comment that debunks this nonsense, especially in the light of SR's product.

6,658,119 deals with instruments with high output impedance connected to the input of instrument amps - this is not applicable here. Still, it just describes simple RC in parallel which DO distort magnitude/phase.
Otherwise it would be completely pointless.

7,242,780 is similar to 6,658,119.

drblank's picture

You add eq? Some of us don't like adding eq. because it can create artifacts, distortions, phase issues. Modded for comfort? That's got nothing to do with what they are selling. This isn't a comfort device.

Some of us don't like adding dsp, EQ, or anything because it can artificially change the signal and they don't all work that well. I certainly hate using eq. I think it's creates more problems than they fix.

xnor's picture

I use different types of equalization to linearize the output of a speaker - because speakers are the weakest components in audio reproduction, not wires as only a wackjob would suggest.

As such, it actually reduces linear (magnitude and phase) distortions and does not create artifacts if used properly. There's mechanical, electrical, digital ... EQ.
Headphone designers are limited in the voicing (e.g. mechanical EQ) of their headphones.

What I do is flexible, inexpensive, accurate and not based on scam products.

That's got nothing to do with what they are selling.

WTF?
YOU asked me a personal question about my fatigue with headphones. This question has nothing to do with scam products which you endorse, and now you're surprised about the answer?

Why do you ask? More trolling?

I think it's creates more problems than they fix.

That's because you're completely clueless, which you've clearly demonstrated here over and over again.

drblank's picture

but you don't know. Why don't you do more research and find out rather than GUESSING. You are just guessing with no valid proof to back up your claims.

drblank's picture

Finish your software, and get top mastering studios and recording studios, multiple awards from various audio publications and high end audio equipment mfg praising your products and THEN I might listen to you. At least companies like MIT Cables has done that, repeatedly. I don't think recording studios like SkyWalker Sound, which does recordings that are highly regarded due to their sound are going to use a product that adds distortions or doesn't work. So, until you can get similar credentials, then you are simply some fool that wastes time developing software, that STILL isn't finished, and STILL isn't good enough to attract any users that are willing to pay for it.

There are other software companies that develop crossfeed software or hardware by companies like SPL that fix issues that you are talking about. But I don't know much about this personally because I don't use it as I currently don't use headphones. I'm looking at headphone based products because I'm in my research mode because I plan on buying a set of headphones and I will try various cables and dongles and other related products at some point in the future. Whether I buy this product, or an MIT product or a SPL product or some software has yet to be determined. but there are highly regarded studios that have been using cables with parallel filters for about 20 years and they aren't complaining.

I think you are just very insecure person that feels threatened by cable mfg because YOU don't design cables for a living, you don't have the necessary test equipment to even understand what is involved with cables and some of these companies are doing things beyond your level of intelligence and you feel threatened.

xnor's picture

So you admit again to your complete ignorance.
Case closed.

And again (copied from another response where you posted the same BS):
YOU moron asked me what I personally use and how I deal with fatigue - I answered your question and that's the ONLY reason I mentioned crossfeed.

drblank's picture

and plenty of people would rather just buy a cable or a dongle to remove ear fatigue. So, let people use what they want.

xnor's picture

But it doesn't reduce any of the problems that cause fatigue I mentioned. Actual, real problems in sound reproduction with headphones.
Not imaginary problems that you and similar people are trying to fix with placebos and con products.

drblank's picture

Making up stories about products you've never even used. Simply go back to HydrogenAudio forum.

Bye bye. You should try these cable products WITH your software to see if you hear any difference. I think that when these products hit the market and there are enough people playing around with various software that someone is bound to try that combination.

When I get my headphones, I plan on trying MIT's products and possibly the SR product to compare and if I buy one of them, maybe I'll try some crossfeed software to see if there is any difference, improvement with one or the other or both. Personally, I don't think you can fix problems with software that are present in cables since the cables are sent the feed from the software, then to the DAC, pre amps, amps, and then to the cables. It just seems logical that you CAN'T fix all of the problems and that better cables might very well improve the sound quality WITH or WITHOUT Crossfeed software. I think you should conduct more listening tests to see if these products work with your software and see if there is any improvement. But since you haven't done that, you shouldn't comment on it.

xnor's picture

But I'm not interested how you waste your money, what scams you support, or what you think is possible or not when you admitted to your own complete ignorance several times.

Simply go back

I know that you people like to censor when you're out of stupid arguments, but I will not go away.
Also, hydrogenaudio is not the place I could "go back to" because I didn't come here from there.

You didn't provide any of the scientific research papers, and you quickly changed the topic when your own line of reasoning converged on double blind testing.
You just keep on asserting nonsense without a shred of evidence.

Unblank your brain, drblank. Read this and ideally the whole thread again, as unbiased as possible.
I don't know any other way to pull you back into reality.

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