SME Synergy All-In-One Turntable Page 2

The cartridge comes pre-fitted and aligned in the Synergy tonearm, which itself is already mounted. The obvious caveats about placing the deck on a level surface a good distance from your loudspeakers apply, but overall the deck proved surprisingly unfussy. Duly set up,

it's a pleasure to look at and to use. Surely the finest sounding turntable package in the world, this is a stellar performer. Certainly there are no rough edges, or any of those mechanical 'uncertainties' that lesser decks may exhibit.

sqnotePure Polish
The SME Synergy has a natural ease that makes everything seem effortless and unforced, yet by no means bland. Far from it, because this is a seriously insightful machine, performing an archaeological dig on whichever LP you care to play. It ferrets right down to the foundations of the recording, yet still manages not to sound forced or forensic. There's a fine line between a turntable being a transcription device and a musical instrument, and the Synergy gets this balance right.

Its standout characteristic is 'polish'. Cue up any average pop recording, and it's as if it has been pressure-washed then buffed up with an exotic Carnauba wax. This isn't down to any particular euphonic coloration on the Synergy's part, rather it's as if a layer of distortion has been stripped away. Music sounds easy and effortless with a velvety feel.

For example, ABC's 'When Smokey Sings' [Absolutely; Neutron Records 842 967-1] is a slick late '80s pop song but hardly one of the world's great recordings. Drop the stylus into the groove though, and the track comes alive with a vibrancy and shimmer that one so rarely hears, with the keyboard stabs glinting away in the middle distance. Every strand is separated out, yet it's all delivered in such an unfussy way.

Despite being an unabashed smoothie, the Synergy has real muscle. You'd think that anything so refined would lack brawn, but the turntable served up copious amounts of low frequency energy – way more than I've heard from almost any other vinyl front-end. The deck's bass has a mastertape-like quality, apparently indifferent to the kinetic struggle between the cartridge and record groove.

Eerie Trick
No matter what condition the disc is in, the Series IV/ Windfeld Ti sticks to the groove like a limpet and keeps the bass rock-solid. My 12in single of the SOS Band's 'No One's Gonna Love You' [Tabu Records 4Z9 05121] is hardly the best surviving example, and its production sounds forward with chiming mid '80s digital synthesisers. Yet this deck scavenged out great tracts of bass synthesiser and gave serious impetus to the drum work. It didn't quite exhibit the transient speed of the finest and costliest high-end direct-drive designs, but still it was still closer than fans of the latter might imagine. The result was a taut and funky bass that thundered out of the loudspeakers, making the song riotously good fun.

The Synergy's excellent speed stability pays dividends across all types of music. It's able to play that eerie trick of letting you mentally slow the record down to almost a standstill, as you take in everything that's going on in the mix. It gives you the chance to hone in on anything, as if you're hearing the multitrack master in the studio with your hands on the faders.

Uncannily Spacious
On the retro electro of Nu Era's 'Lines Between Us' [Geometricks EP; Omniverse OMNI1201], I found myself able to tap my feet along to the hi-hat cymbal, snare and rimshot sounds as if all other strands in the mix had been erased from the recording. I then enjoyed the bass synthesiser noodling up and down, then the lead keyboard playing its melody with heady abandon.


Another highlight is the excellent soundstaging that made Beethoven's 'Pastoral Symphony' [Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Karajan; DG 2531106] such a joy. My 1977 pressing may not be the choice of classical music cognoscenti, but is uncannily spacious all the same. The Synergy set up a vast recorded acoustic, stretching far left and right while falling back a good long way. The orchestra, set in the Philharmonie, was reproduced in all its glory, with a scale rarely heard from vinyl sources at any price.

Within this, image location proved superb – reminding me of my experiences with the company's great tonearms. The effect was rather like the auto-focus on a digital camera locking on to the subject – things fall into place and make complete sense, not just individually, but as a whole.

SME has out-engineered itself with the Synergy. Its combination of refinement, detail, stability and scale ensures that this turntable sounds just sublime.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Any nerves that SME aficionados may have had about the company searching out less specialist customers should be calmed by the Synergy. Rather than pandering to populism, it makes excellence just that little bit more accessible. The company's superlative build remains intact, performance isn't compromised, yet it's obviously easier to set up and use. And, yes, it does sound greater than the sum of its parts.

SME Limited
Supplied by: SME Ltd
01903 814321