System Synergy and ‘The Holy Trinity’George Moraitis
If you want to set up your audio system for optimum sound, there’s one aspect that I believe is absolutely critical:
I think it’s fair to say that generally speaking, every piece of audio equipment tends to have its own sound. Across the spectrum of what’s available in the market today, there are significant differences in design, topologies, materials & component choices, engineering philosophies, execution of build, and so on. There’s also the phenomena of ‘voicing’ which is simply the designer’s vision for the intended sound of their product, carefully designing the sonics to emphasise a particular set of characteristics over others.
System synergy is matching the components in an audio system so that they compliment each other’s character and combine in their voicing styles to create a desired sound. It’s another manifestation of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Sometimes, audio has these memorable moments where you put some pieces together and you get that wow factor, that MAGIC.
I can vividly remember moments where I heard certain combinations of brands that just had that special OMG factor. Many years ago, I heard a system in Adelaide featuring a Krell KSA-50 power amp driving a pair of Duntech Sovereign speakers and it was superb. Around that time, I also knew people that had those amplifiers and those speakers in other systems and although good, they never reached great heights. Then one day, another Duntech Sovereign owner in Sydney bought a Krell KSA-50 amplifier based on hearing about the Adelaide system and wow! …. that magic appeared again. The synergy between these two pieces of gear worked beautifully.
I also remember a system in Germany featuring Viva Aurora amplifiers from Italy driving Avantgarde Trio speakers that has stayed with me. I heard a few systems in the USA combining VTL Siegfried amplifiers with Wilson Alexandria speakers which also had wonderful synergy. Closer to home, I recently visited a client’s home who has been carefully putting together a unique, immensely enjoyable system featuring three Audio Note stereo amplifiers driving a set of ‘re-imagined’ vintage JBL Everest DD55000 speakers in an active configuration. He was looking to tame a slight ‘PA quality’ in the sound.
I had a feeling that changing his cable may take the system in the right direction, so I replaced the mid-range interconnects with a set of Audience Au24 SX cable and not only did it achieve the desired result but the sound took on a magical quality. We were both gobsmacked, sitting there giggling like children let loose in a lolly shop. I have added that cable to other systems many times but the change was never so profound. Why? System synergy. That was just one pair of interconnects! Audio is full of surprises.
Do you have memories of certain combinations that just worked so well together?
At Nirvana Sound, we have selected our product range using this approach. We actively source our brands not based on their individual specifications and reputations but on how they combine with other products so we can achieve an extraordinary ‘system sound’. We have curated a number of systems that we believe have great synergy that we enjoy demonstrating to clients. I’d like to share one with you that our team has called the ‘Holy Trinity’.
Many years ago, I discovered that I really enjoyed the sound of Ypsilon amplifiers. To my ears, they simply had a way with music that gave me great emotional engagement. Natural, dynamic, compelling. In my travels, I discovered that the systems containing Ypsilon amplification that I most enjoyed all used cable by Stage III Concepts, a small and relatively lesser known company in the US. The great synergy of this pairing was confirmed for me at hi-fi shows and in various conversations with people who’s ears I trusted, had no commercial agendas and had made similar observations.
One day when I was visiting Brian Ackerman at Aaudio Imports in the US, I heard two systems that added a pair of Wilson Benesch speakers to the Ypsilon & Stage III Concepts mix. I was so blown away by the sound that the combination of these three brands achieved, that I made it my mission for Nirvana Sound to represent these three brands, which we had the good fortune of achieving.
There’s always reasons why certain products achieve this synergistic excellence. In the case of these brands, I feel that the simple explanation is as follows. The magic of the Ypsilon sound is mainly derived from the use of extremely high quality custom made pure silver transformers in the gain stages. It gives the sound that open, expansive flow with a natural tonality. The Stage III Concepts are the most ‘sonically invisible’ cables that I have ever heard and the Wilson Benesch speakers are very neutral. It is my feeling that because the cables and speakers have been engineered so well to impart very little of their own character to the system, they simply get out of the way and you can hear the source signal (music) through these amazing transformers.
Aaudio Imports in the USA have also had so much success with the combination of these three brands that they have virtually dropped most other brands from their range. Dealers are now setting up all over the world with this combination of brands because they just work so well together and their clients can hear it. This ‘Holy Trinity’ is also winning best sound at show awards and more importantly, yielding very positive feedback as these brands increasingly appear in serious audiophile systems around the world. Note that there are also plenty of other combinations with a magical synergy, not just from Nirvana’s stable of brands but also many others as well.
That was my personal experience, but what about your journey? Can you remember having a system that just had such good synergy that you regret selling a component of it? Virtually everyone I’ve spoken to has these kinds of stories. I’ve heard many comments like “I should have never sold those speakers…”
Being a subjective experience, there’s no one audio component or system that is going to sound wonderful to everyone, so the key is gaining a clear understanding of what type of sonic presentation works for you. This is where system ‘voicing’ is worth considering. So how can you start incorporating system synergy into your thinking?
Here’s some ideas to consider:
- Can you identify and describe the type of sound that you enjoy?
- Are you aware of certain components/brands that in combination, have produced that sound that you enjoy?
- Have you heard that combination of products sound great in more than one location?
Think about how musically satisfying your system sounds to you right now. If you experience a feeling of great enjoyment and look forward to listening & exploring music whenever possible, then you are already there. Your system is adding value to your life and that should be celebrated. But if there are moments where your system is doing things which breaks that feeling of total musical immersion, then you may be interested in making a change.
Before you take that next step, perhaps have a think about how to achieve a greater synergy towards the sound that you enjoy.