Robert S. Youman
A Suspension of Disbelief
Let's keep it simple and direct. The new Synergistic Research Galileo SX cables are the finest cables that I have used in my system. Over the last two years, I have reviewed or personally auditioned flagship cables from many of the elite well established major brands and also from several new innovative upstarts. Not everything obviously, but except for maybe the Nordost Odin 2, which have a different if not unique combination of strengths and synergies, there is just no comparison. I hope to complete a full evaluation of the Odin 2 in the near future.
In addition, I thought that in various ways the Synergistic Research Atmosphere X Euphoria cables could not be equaled. I was wrong. My recent review of the Atmosphere X Euphoria was extremely positive if not unequivocal, but it was well deserved and appropriate. Again, I have been corrected. The top of the line Synergistic Research Galileo SX takes performance to another level.
Sonus Faber Stradivari Speakers
REL No. 25 Reference Subwoofers
Devialet 1000 Pro Integrated Amplifier
Pass Labs INT250 Integrated Amplifier
Pass Labs XP-15 Phono Preamplifier
VPI Avenger Plus Turntable
VPI JMW 12-3DR Tonearm with Nordost Reference Wire
van den Hul Crimson XGW Stradivarius Moving Coil Cartridge
Aurender N10 Music Server
Synergistic Research Element CTS Cables throughout
Synergistic Research Galileo SX Cables throughout
Synergistic Research PowerCell 12 UEF SE Power Conditioner
Synergistic Research Passive Ground Block
Rix Rax Hoodoo Component Rack
Magico QPod Footers
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 subjective data point of many that exist out there for these components. Please consider my comments and analysis accordingly.
No need to dive in here with too much detail. The Synergistic Research website provides a more in depth description of the latest materials and technologies that support the new Galileo SX design. A nice summary of what is new is as follows from the recent Synergistic Research press announcement and roll-out.
"Galileo SX represents the pinnacle of what we currently know in the field of building audio cables for high-resolution audio systems. We start with complex hand built geometries with Air, Teflon, and Silk dielectrics, pure 99.9999% monofilament silver conductors, 4th generation Tricon geometries, custom designed silver connectors that reduce the amount of material to only what is needed for maximum signal transfer, star point grounding for digital and analogue interconnects that reduces series inductance and noise, new redesigned UEF Tuning Circuits that deliver higher levels of resolution and musicality, and totally new technologies like Matrix UEF Shielding for a lower system noise floor with unparalleled low frequency impact and overall musicality, and a proprietary 1,000,000 volt conditioning process that permanently alters how signal travels through a conductor for more efficient signal transfer as well as a second conditioning process first developed for our Blue Fuses that dramatically improves musicality for ultra resolution without listening fatigue.
And we apply the same UEF Compound first developed for our SR Blue fuses to various components of each cable's design for the best interconnects, speaker cables and power cords we have ever hand build in our California factory."
Like the Atmosphere X Euphoria, I find that the most interesting aspect of the Galileo SX is the elimination of active shielding which has been a mainstay design element since the very beginning of the Synergistic Research brand.
No more wall wart power supplies for each cable. Active shielding has been replaced by a combination of Matrix UEF shielding, ground plane connectivity, and extensive use of graphene materials. Please note that the ground plane connectivity feature requires the use of either the Synergistic Research Passive or Active Ground Block options (please see the website). Attacking the noise floor is still the main driving force behind all of these innovative design choices.
I must also comment on industrial design along with fit and finish. The Galileo SX exudes quality and pride of ownership. Only the very best conductors, connectors, and insulation materials are utilized. The quality of construction is absolutely superb. When you pick up these cables you quickly feel that something substantial is going on here. Yes, they are quite heavy and not exactly the most flexible, but with some patience I was able to find ways to route and dress these cables throughout my system. I also had to giggle, as rarely before have visitors to my listening room commented on the physical appearance of the cables. Again, the Galileo SX are something different.
As a prelude to describing the sound of the Galileo SX, allow me to summarize my configuration choices. After evaluating several options for my system, I ended up using the new Silver UEF Tuning Circuit (additional detail, air, and refinement) throughout rather than the new Gold UEF Tuning Circuit (additional warmth, liquidity, and musicality). A third option is to not use any Tuning Circuit at all. A fourth is mixing Tuning Circuits by component.
I also connected virtually every cable and component in the system to a Synergistic Research Passive Ground Block (except for the speaker cables which do not require grounding). Additional options include not connecting the ground plane at all or mixing and matching by component.
Synergistic Research gives you plenty of ground cable options depending on interface needs. I received RCA and spade terminated cables that allowed me to connect the Ground Block to my Devialet integrated amp, REL 25 subwoofers (which have their own amplifiers), Aurender N10 music server, VPI Avenger Turntable arm assembly, VPI Turntable Analog Drive System (ADS), and my VPI Avenger Turntable motor. Yes, there is plenty of flexibility here if you really want to tweak the sound and attack that noise floor.
My wife is always an excellent source and checkpoint for component evaluation. Obviously, she has pretty much seen and heard it all over the last 15 years in both our listening room, and at dozens of shows, but every once in a while the flag goes up for something special, if not exceptional. We don't always agree, but when we do, I take notice. In her ears I trust.
After a week of burn in, I sat down at my primary listening position with the Galileo SX. I pulled out the Analogue Productions re-issue of Ben Webster at the Renaissance—one of my all time favorite LPs and a recording of clear special merit. I was immediately gob smacked at what I was hearing. I was not more than two tracks into side one, when in walked my better half.
Entering the room off to the side and in the back during "Caravan," she suddenly stopped in her tracks. Just to be clear, she was far from the primary and best listening position where I was seated. When I heard the following comments, I knew that the Galileo SX was an important new component.
"My goodness! I thought that I knew this LP inside out, but there is something scary going on here. I feel like I just walked into the actual recording venue. There is a feeling of space and resolution that I never realized was on this recording. By the way, please tell Ben Webster to stop spinning around and to stand still!" And then that gorgeous smile.
And so, the journey began.
It's an interesting thing (at least for me), that when evaluating new components and seeking specific improvements in your system, many times you know pretty much what you are looking for. Better bass. More detail. Improved harmonics. And so on. When you discover improvements for something that was not all that apparent before, it can be quite a revelation and an eye opener—especially if it can provide a dramatic new emotional connection with the music.
Case in point. My initial impression of the Galileo SX quickly had me focused in on a couple of specific variables. Two words kept coming up in my notes as I spent several hours that first night listening to LPs and music files (both high resolution and CD rips). Those two words were "ringing" and "smear" or the lack of both.
I never noticed that there was something so endemic before, but with the Galileo SX there was a newly found lack of hardness and ringing that just unleashed and more clearly defined the sound. This was especially present for digital recordings of female vocals and strings. The remarkable thing was that there was no lack of musical information in the mids and highs. If anything, like a gushing waterfall, the music continued to surge and flow if not impressively explode with bursts of life at these frequencies. Full bodied palpable harmonics to die for. Dynamics like the real thing. But again, no edge or sibilance that often comes along for the ride.
This smearing thing was also something that never really stood out before. I have found that many components over the years improved the quality of sound stage and imaging, but this was different. The depth, breadth, and height of the recording venue, along with proper distinct images across the sound stage, is something that is easy to hear with the very best components. Some do it better than others. Prior to this, I thought that these variables were absolute strengths of my system. Galileo SX redefined benchmarks for both, and also the expectations for my listening room. You can talk all you want about vivid three dimensional space and locked in imaging, but the Galileo SX are simply spooky in the realism that they can provide.
If we look at the remaining standard audiophile checkpoints, there is not much to say except that most if not all are supported by world class performance. Bass is powerful and weighty with exceptional bottom end wallop and slam. As stated earlier, mids and highs are wonderfully pure and coherent. So many layers of information, yet mesmerizing liquidity and ease. Macro and micro dynamics were as good as it gets at all frequencies. Clarity and scope just seemed effortless.
The net result was very very impressive.
Avishai Cohen, Flood (WAV - CD Rip)
Avishai Cohen is considered by many as the consummate jazz trumpeter with a diverse and very impressive catalog of output. He is a critical member of the family jazz group, the "3 Cohens," and is extremely talented as both a musician and a composer. Flood is very different from a standard jazz trio recording. Released in 2008 on the Anzic label, the disc is based on a poem that Cohen wrote after Thailand was devastated by a disastrous tsunami surge in 2004.
The CD begins with a hypnotic-like slow pace. Several simple chords on piano and an occasional assortment of percussive thwacks on conga slowly but surely lead up to Avishai and his trumpet crescendo. You can almost visualize the horror as the storm begins and builds to something that will eventually bring terror to the entire community.
The sound quality on this recording is outstanding and will play well on any system, but the Galileo SX enhances if not intensifies everything and will quickly have your hair standing on end. Possibly the most realistic trumpet that I have heard on any medium, you get the natural golden splat and edge that always make trumpet difficult to reproduce. Piano is also beautifully recorded with all the proper weight and timbre in the lower registers that seems to be avoided in most recordings. Lastly, those thwacks on conga echo back and forth throughout your listening room like some animal trying to escape its cage. Intense and powerful but also very revealing.
Rosanne Cash, 10 Song Demo (WAV - CD Rip)
Recorded in 1996, this was the first Rosanne Cash release on the Capital label after moving over from Columbia. Still one of my favorites, it can be difficult to find but well worth the effort. Produced by her husband, John Leventhal, this is mostly a simple acoustic effort with some backup, but in many systems both the vocals and guitar can sound mighty strained. The Galileo SX transforms all of this and brings out the best of the recording. One track that is especially revealing is "If I Were a Man." In the past, the opening guitar riff stage left can be annoyingly bright. With the Galielo SX we still get all the closely miked detail and dynamics, but considerably more color and appropriate harmonics. The result is almost life-like as now there is also so much more air and ambiance around the instrument. Same results for Rosanne as she stands dead center and between the speakers. Her voice has evolved from a thin grainy one dimensional chanteuse to a three dimensional full bodied leading lady. The Galileo SX now allows Rosanne to more clearly reach out to the listener and make her point. Touché Rosanne!
Fritz Reiner & The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade (LP)
One of the all time great recordings from the RCA Living Stereo label, this Analogue Productions 200 gram re-issue was released in 2013. Fritz Reiner and the CSO were at their peak on this recording, as was producer John Pfeiffer. As an interpreter of these grand warhorses, most agree that Reiner had no peer as the power and majesty of Scheherazade just shines through like no other. The CSO establishes a dream like serenade that will quickly have you shut your eyes and just smile throughout. Talk about emotional connection! Though it's hard to imagine, the Galileo SX brings out even more in this recording. So much texture! So much extension! Layers and layers of inner detail and spacial cues. Your listening room will expand well beyond the speakers and each orchestral section will be more clearly defined. One thing that I always listen for is the bass and cello reproduction in the first movement. Now you can hear if not feel the middle and lower frequencies that these strings can produce. You get the separation and the mass of each section like never before. There is a rich sonic texture and density that can sometimes be lost in the landscape, but not here. Plenty of drama. Plenty of scale and drive. Bravo Galileo SX!
Yes, the Synergistic Research Galileo SX cables are expensive (see examples of MSRP below). Yet, the price has come down significantly from the earlier generation of Galileo LE and Galileo UEF cables. Compared to flagship models from other leading brands, pricing is still extreme, but maybe not quite as outrageous. Don't get me wrong, these price points are not touchable for most of us. Only your ears and your bank account can drive such a purchase decision.
For me, the last few weeks have been a whirlwind listening experience. I was greatly inspired to work my way though a good portion of my LP and digital collection. I was very fortunate to audition a complete loom of Galileo SX in my system (except for the subwoofer cables which were Atmosphere X Euphoria, as Galileo SX are not yet available). As stated above, the results were a game changer. It transformed my system. If cost is not an issue, and if you are into only the very best, the Galileo SX should be at the top of your list for evaluation. Very highly recommended.
One interesting option for those who own the Synergistic Research PowerCell 12 UEF SE power conditioner is to replace the Atmosphere power cable that is original to the PowerCell with a Galileo SX power cable. I experimented with this extensively. As those who follow my reviews know, I have stated many times that the PowerCell just might be the most important component in my system for best overall sound quality. The logic is that this upgrade will impact the entire system as most everything is plugged into and routed through the PowerCell. This is not anywhere near the impact of a full loom of Galileo SX, but it is still a very big step up in sound quality. Just to be honest, I may take this route as a full loom of Galileo SX in not within the RSY budget. I can only dream like most.