[SoundStage!]Synergizing with Greg Weaver
Back Issue Article
July 2000

Quantum Physics Takes a Holiday – The Quantum Products Symphony Pro

Several months ago, Doug Blackburn brought you a full review of the Quantum Products Symphony, a rather unorthodox power conditioner. The Quantum Symphony products are said to be effective because of something identified as QRT, or Quantum Resonance Technology, rather than the more conventional methods of AC conditioning and/or filtering. QRT is said to work on the sub-atomic level to "align" your electricity, somehow making it more conductive and more efficient. I leave it to you to ponder the operational principals of QRT as outlined in Doug’s review and at Quantum’s website. Beyond these, all I have to say is that this isn’t your father’s power conditioner, Synergizers, and in fact, it doesn’t try to be.

While in Montreal at the Festival du son et de l'image last March, I chanced to run into Bill Stierhout, the proud papa of Quantum Products, who was showing the new Pro version, big brother to the original Symphony, in one of the rooms with which I was associated. At $599, the Pro is said to offer "stronger Quantum Resonance Technology" (whatever that really means) over the regular Symphony, as well as incorporating a universal power supply, IEC AC power cord, and custom laser-engraved brass end panels. I can only surmise how much more effective this unit would be over the wall-wart-powered Symphony, but it is much more handsome with its gold front panel and green pilot lamp. The very first time I heard a demonstration, it took me both by surprise, as I didn’t expect it, and left my mouth gaping, much to the amusement of the showgoers in attendance at the time.

Even though for this first impromptu demonstration, which amounted to the Quantum boxes simply being switched off, I was standing off to the extreme rear right of the soundstage, the changes wrought by simply disengaging this little boxes were quite fascinating. Once the room traffic lessened as the crowds diminished, I grabbed the sweet spot. While playing music I was completely unfamiliar with, the young man in charge of showing this room switched the Pro off. Imaging and focus just fell apart. Voices lost their body. Instruments became more homogenous, in terms of both a shift in timbre and a de-localization within the soundstage. The overall system output seemed quieter and less dynamic.

This demo prompted me to spend a little more time with Bill, questioning him at some length about the products. I asked him to ship me one. I just had to see what it would do in my system.

Pro theater

When the box arrived, a mere 5.5" wide, 5" deep and 1.5" tall and weighing in at all of about 3.5 ounces, I inserted it into my home-theater system first. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I thought that I would let it run in a bit with my evening’s digital television viewing. I plugged it into the Monster Cable HTS-800 and sat down to watch a film on HBO. After about an hour had passed, it dawned on me that I was getting a really great picture, and I then remembered that I had added the new box. I decided to switch it off.

What the? How could this be? The picture was suddenly less detailed. Color less vivid. Objects less defined. Depth more foreshortened. What the heck! I turned it back on. Now this time I watched more closely as slowly subtle details in the image became more obvious, the spectrum of colors more vibrant, the blacks blacker, and the whole picture took on a more three-dimensional aspect. The improvement on the broadcast picture from my digital tuner was wonderful. Using a broadcast-movie soundtrack to try to make judgments about sonic performance just didn’t seem too sound a plan; time for a DVD.

I fired up Luc Besson’s very well-done rollercoaster ride, The Fifth Element [Columbia 82409]. The video AND audio performances were noticeably improved. Though I’ve watched this movie at least a dozen times at my own Warren Street Cinema, I was seeing more detail, more color, more life, more dimension, more everything. The Pro seems to allow for better saturation of colors, more depth of field to the image, greater detail, starker contrasts. It does something else that I can't quite put my finger on. I can best describe this effect as an overall sharpening of focus, though that doesn’t really accurately define it.

What about the audio track? I skipped to 90 minutes into the film -- the scene where the Diva is performing while the Fifth Element is beating up the Mangalores searching the Diva’s stateroom. Just wonderful! I’ve played this segment for many visitors to try to show just why they might want to invest in a nice home theater and have consequently come to know it inside out.

Even in my modest home theater, the Pro offered quite a transformation. The Diva’s voice was more focused and seemed more dynamic as she covers what seems like a ten-octave vocal frequency sweep in the middle of her aria. The locations of things like the sounds of fists hitting home, bullets flying, foot falls and even shell casings hitting the floor were more localized and more discreet. Bass seemed to go deeper with more control, midrange was cleaner -- more clear, treble was more extended and offered a more lifelike decay. Good show, literally and figuratively!

Pro music

Out of the theater and into the two-channel system. After about ten minutes I began to notice almost every aspect of the presentation was noticeably better. Things like the amount and quality of the space in and of the recording, more razor-sharp instrument placement and focus, heightening of musical dynamics, significant lowering of the noise floor, and overall clarification of the entire musical view. While its individual effects may be seen by some as subtle, the elements it affects and the resultant improvements wrought are anything but. The enrichment it affords to the character of attributes like the acoustic of the venue, the apparent noise floor, micro and macrodynamic events, truth of timbre (especially through the upper mids), overall clarity, focus, and the complete flow of the musical event are captivating.

I cannot say that I noted the performance of my theater to be noticeably improved when the Pro was engaged 40 feet away in my two-channel room, nor did the two-channel performance seem significantly elevated when the Pro was inserted into my theater. The reason I mention this is that dB brought up this welcomed aspect of the Symphony’s performance in his full review. I was hopeful of noticing such collateral improvements, but have to honestly say that they were minimal at best in my application. This may be due to the specifics of the wiring in my older home, as both circuits are completely independent of each other.

I was also unable to verify Doug’s observation of the doubling of the QRT effect when using two (or more) in a system, as I only have one on hand. I can say without reservation that what this one Symphony Pro did on its own was significant. This diminutive little box lights up the stage and significantly heightens emotional involvement, whether it be using a home-theater or dedicated two-channel system.

Is the Symphony Pro for everyone? I can’t say. I will tell you that the better the system I hitched it to, the more significant the effect. I cannot recommend this paradox of physics highly enough, and I hope you will seek it out for a home demo if at all possible. I can tell you that the myriad of improvements it offers, while perhaps quantifiably small when taken individually, are overwhelmingly engrossing. While I don’t claim to know exactly why it works, I can tell you that without a doubt, QRT succeeds at its purpose magnificently. Once you insert a Symphony Pro into your system, be prepared to leave it there. You will sorely miss it if you remove it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

...Greg Weaver
gregw@soundstage.com   

 

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