Synergistic Research UEF Record Weight
One great satisfaction as
a reviewer and eternal romantic is when one discovers something new that
significantly enhances the emotional connection to one's music. This can have
even a greater impact when that something is simple and easy to implement. No
unpacking and backbreaking transport to the listening room. No re-arrangement of
racks. No additional expensive cabling. No burn in. No burn out.
Enter The Synergistic Research UEF
Analog front ends tend to greatly benefit from additional fine
tuning with these devices if done correctly and with balance and moderation. You
want control, but you don't want to deaden or over dampen. The correct amount of
pace, rhythm, and timing, along with proper air and ambiance can often be a
difficult thing to lock in. You need to allow for a little bounce, if not
breathing room for the mechanics, or the sound will seem flat and lifeless.
My turntable setup has included a variety of footers, cones,
platforms, and record weights over the years. Those that really stood out were
products from Magico, Adona, Butcher Block Acoustics, SRA, and Stillpoints. Two
of my favorites are the VPI Periphery Outer Ring Record Clamp ($1100) and the
HRS Analog Disk Heavy (ADH) Record Weight ($510). If you can keep that vinyl LP
weighted down and flat without overkill for proper stylus tracking, you will be
amazed at the results. In addition, a nicely balanced amount of resonance
control will be the icing on the cake.
For this review, I will be evaluating the Synergistic Research
UEF Record Weight ($895). This design includes an interesting combination of
unique materials and the implementation of the same UEF technologies that are
utilized in many Synergistic Research products. If you ever wanted a quick and
efficient before and after analysis of what UEF technology can provide, this is
your opportunity. Along with the included HFT (High Frequency Transducer) tuning
devices, the results are immediate and clear.
I will also compare the Synergistic Research UEF Record weight
to the HRS ADH Record Weight mentioned above, the legendary Shun Mook LP Clamp
($4800) and the original VPI Signature Record Weight ($150) that came standard
with my VPI Avenger turntable.
· Sonus Faber Stradivari Speakers
· REL No. 25 Reference Subwoofers
· VAC Signature Mk IIa SE Preamplifier w/Phono Section
· Pass Labs XA100.5 Monoblock Amplifiers
· VPI Avenger Plus Turntable
· VPI Unipivot Fatboy Tonearm w/Nordost Reference Phono Wire
· van den Hul Crimson XGW Stradivarius Moving Coil Cartridge
· dCS Bartók DAC
· Aurender N10 Music Server
· Synergistic Research Element CTS Cables throughout
· Synergistic Research PowerCell 12 UEF SE Power Conditioner
and SRX Power Cord
· Synergistic Research Passive Ground Block
· Rix Rax Hoodoo Component Rack
· Adona Zero GX1 Amplifier Stands
· Custom Isolation Inc. Acrylic Shelves
· HRS Analog Disk Heavy (ADH) Record Weight
· Magico QPod Isolation Footers
The UEF Record Weight was developed in conjunction with our
new MiG SX footers and so shares many of the same sonic traits, including the
ability to dramatically expand the scale and layering of your soundstage while
improving timbral accuracy and tonal density.
During the design phase, we pursued two competing designs simultaneously. One was a record clamp that locked to the center platter pin, and the other was a suspended record weight. Initially, we felt the record clamp would offer better performance but quickly discovered one significant drawback, once locked down the clamp becomes an extension of the platter and this prevents minute variations in lateral and vertical movement, thus compressing the soundstage when directly compared to our suspended record weight design.
We then maximized performance by experimenting with different mass loads in the main stainless steel and carbon fibre body and various leaf spring suspensions that form the connection between the mass of the stainless steel and the tungsten carbon bearings that make contact with the record itself.
Of course, we also experimented with different bearing materials, but just as with MiG SX, tungsten carbon quickly proved superior to other materials like brass, bronze, and stainless steel.
After fine-tuning the mass and the suspension, we voiced the record weight with an internal UEF element and an external UEF option that allows you to choose between two sonic balances in the form of a Red and a Blue HFT specially voiced to deliver air and detail or warmth and liquidity.
When you place the included BLUE HFT on top of the UEF
Record Clamp, you experience more air and detail with a cooler and in some
recordings, a more dramatic holographic soundstage. This is perfect for
listening to artists like Roger Waters or electronic music with dramatic phase
When you place the included RED HFT on top of the UEF
Record Clamp you experience rich tonal warmth and greater liquidity with a
smoother presentation. This is perfect for vocal recordings like Frank Sinatra
and Diana Krall or anytime you want greater warmth and musicality.
Dimensions: 2.9" x 3.2" x 3.2" (HxWxD)
Whether it be due to age or an increasing sensitivity to
distortion and edge, I continue to find that much of what comes through the door
these days for review is amazingly transparent, but just too much in your face
and strained. Yes, I am hearing tremendous levels of detail and attack, but it
can come at a cost. The lack of liquidity and timbral purity can make extensive
listening sessions exhaustive and sometimes overwhelming.
The UEF Record Weight gives you the best of both worlds. Yes, I was hearing more information from the hallowed grooves of my most beloved LPs, but it was with such an organic and natural rendering that in many cases I had to get up and play the individual tracks again and again (which my lower lumbar firmly resists with every attempt). Playback was so transformative that I had to immediately reaffirm what I was hearing.
I don't need to go through the standard audiophile check list
here. See additional comments below. However, I must say that the correctness of
execution was hammered home over and over again. This combination of
dimensionality, physicality, and bloom was quite impressive. You know it when
you hear it. My listening sessions went on for ever. No saturation. No fatigue.
Compared to other options in hand, the UEF proved to not only
provide something new and better, but also the flexibility to find tune for your
system needs. For example, after reviewing several Synergistic Research products
with UEF technology over the years, this was the first time that I preferred the
Red rather than the Blue HFT options. The additional purity and sense of ease
was exactly what I was seeking. Again, the UEF impact on the system was easy to
hear. Just a quick swap of red, blue or no HFT at all brought immediate results.
It's not clear that the Shun Mook is still out there and
generally available for purchase. Said to be manufactured from a rare dried
ebony wood from Africa, it has acquired a very loyal following over the years.
Extraordinarily expensive at $4800 and difficult to track down, I was finally
able to find a few European dealers on the Internet. I was also recently
informed that The Cable Company here in the USA carries the product line. An
audiophile friend shipped me his Shun Mook for use in this comparison. He claims
that it was purchased more than 10 years ago.
Bottom line, the Shun Mook was also extremely impressive and
added a bit more warmth and color over and above the UEF, though it did not
provide the killer level of micro and macro dynamics of the same. This
enrichment of the sound was not simpatico with my system needs and my personal
taste, but I could see that it might be a better fit for others. Be careful
though, apparently there are many knockoffs out there.
Up until now, the HRS ADH was the bench mark for my system. Like the Signature and Shun Mook, the ADH had plenty of dimensionality and drive well beyond having no record weight at all. It managed to dig out an additional layer of harmonic texture and presence that for years was very satisfying to my ears. Bass performance in particular was both tight and weighty—a very nice combination.
I would have never noticed a lack of anything until the UEF
entered the team picture. With the UEF, there was now a more clearly
defined sound stage with even more layers of inner detail. Performance at both
ends of the frequency range had an urgency and flow that had my head spinning.
Mids were even more seductive and tangible. Tone, timbre, and pitch were spot on
for a variety of instruments and vocals. The number of goose bump generating
spacial cues now seemed endless. I clearly discovered a new bench mark!
Hans Theessink, Jeddermann Remixed: The Soundtrack –
"Way Down In The Hole" (Blue Groove)
This LP has reached the top of my play stack and has received
much attention as of late. Hans Theessink is a wonderful guitarist and mandolin
player from the Netherlands. He has a unique vocal style and specializes in the
Delta blues and roots music. With the UEF Record Weight in place, Han's voice
just seems to hang in space in support of a huge raspy three dimensional image.
Background vocalists kick in about halfway through and filled the room well
beyond the speakers. This is a superb recording but the UEF makes it even more
Handel, Water Music – Philharmonia Baroque
Orchestra & Nicholas McGegan (Harmonia Mundi)
One of my favorite interpretations, this LP has been in my
collection since issued in 1988. It has never sounded better. Don't be surprised
that the Engineer is Peter McGrath of Wilson Audio fame and was mastered by Doug
Sax. With Peter, Doug, and an all authentic instrument orchestra, there is some
real magic going on here. The UEF Record Weight brings out more of the natural
sheen and harmonics of both the violins and violas. Even the bassoons and
trumpets seem to have the proper splat and blat like the real thing. You can
feel the rumble and reflection of the recording venue. My oh my. Great Stuff!
John Coltrane, Blue Train – "I'm Old
Fashioned" (Analogue Productions)
Analogue Productions (Blue Note) just reissued this LP on 45
RPM for the second time around. It seems like I have been waiting for two or
three years, but it was well worth the wait. I now understand the $300 to $400
asking price for the first pressing on eBay and Discogs. On my favorite track
"I'm Old Fashioned," Coltrane's sax just seems to float on stage left
with as much burnished texture and air that I can ever remember on any of his
releases. Ditto for Curtis Fuller on trombone. Tone and timbre are flat out
breath taking for both instruments. Paul Chambers on bass has never been much
noticed before by my ears, but here with the support of the UEF Record Weight,
he is clearly more pronounced and dominate. Producer Rudy Van Gelder would be
Voice: (949) 476-0000