A New World of Deep Listening with the Syng Cell Alpha Triphonic Speaker

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Phil Cho
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Introducing Cell Alpha, the world’s first Triphonic speaker.

I wasn’t quite sure what to think when I first saw Syng’s Cell Alpha speaker. The clear, almost droid-like design seemed a world (and maybe light years) away from traditional hi-fi speakers or x-point surround setups that I had seen before. Syng’s website provided a few clues. “Cell Alpha marks the birth of a new standard in spatial sound. With Triphonic audio, it transforms your space into a field of clear, detailed sound – a fully immersive experience that puts you at the center of your favorite music and entertainment.”

I spent an afternoon listening to a dual Cell Alpha setup with Syng’s co-founder Damon Way. The session featured Suzanne Kraft’s “No Worries,” Slowdive’s “Sugar for the Pill” and The Haxan Cloak’s “Excavation,” along with a few selections of my own including Knopha’s Nothing Nil EP and the tried-and-true classics “I Believe in You” by Talk Talk and Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.”

You’re not just listening to the song, you’re listening inside the song, which opens up an entirely new world of deep listening.

It was immediately apparent that this was not your typical hi-fi speaker. Despite being in a two-speaker configuration, the classic triangle “sweet spot” idea did not seem to apply here. Instead, the Cell Alphas produced a crystal clear field that filled the surrounding space. While the traditional instrumentation of “I Believe in You” and “Fast Car” was produced perfectly, the speakers seemed to really shine with modern electronics, providing pinpoint accuracy in placing wide stereo sounds within the spatial field. I loved the way heavily panned drums and synthesizers seemed to sweep across the massive sound stage like waves. The dark, ambient white noise of “Excavation” was a particular highlight.

The listening session led to an ongoing event series at our Neuehouse residency showcasing the Cell Alpha’s “Super Spatial Sound” on a four speaker configuration. Curated by dublab’s Mark “Frosty” McNeill, the series has featured modern ambient music with Leaving Records’ Matthewdavid and Celia Hollander, spatial dub with The Scientist, and celestial sounds from Mary Lattimore and Julianna Barwick.

Photo by Willow Roth

After a month of listening to a broad range of music through these futuristic speaker pods, I’ve found that the best way to explain the experience is that “it’s like you’re sitting inside of the track.” You’re not just listening to the song, you’re listening inside the song, which opens up an entirely new world of deep listening.

The Cell Alpha is available now starting at $1,799. Join us for our next listening event with Silent Servant and Robert Lane to hear the speakers for yourself or visit syngspace.com for more info and how to purchase.

To dive deeper into the origins of the Cell Alpha, I spoke to the team behind Syng about Triphonic sound and how they’re rethinking the art of speaker design.

The Syng Cell Alpha is the world’s first Triphonic speaker. Can you explain what that means and what the speaker does differently from traditional stereo speakers? 

Triphonic audio is our object-based sonic architecture. It starts with the Cell calibrating to the room that it is in, including wall detection and the position of any other Cells, if you have multiples. The software spatializes the music, while the hardware projects the  sound to the right place in the room. We deliver a listening experience unlike any other; it’s spatial sound out loud without having to rely on content that has been pre-mixed for it. 

Where does Syng’s Triphonic sound sit within the world of typical 5.1, 6.1, 7.1 surround stereo systems? 

Surround formats are limited to a discrete number of channels that require a separate speaker for each one. The Syng Triphonic technology renders those channels in their respective spatial locations by appropriately combining the beam patterns of all available Cells in the system. As a result, it can render all surround formats (current and future) by optimizing the spatial mapping of each channel to a position in the room with a much smaller number of speakers. 

I was really surprised by the clarity of the lower frequencies. I’m used to bigger is  better when it comes to subs… Can you provide more detail on how the force balanced subwoofers work? 

The Cell Alpha subwoofers use extremely powerful motors and have very high excursion capabilities compared to typical speakers this size. As a result we are able to  move more air, more efficiently, than would be expected from a speaker this size.  Additionally, the force balanced configuration prevents unwanted vibration from the  speaker enclosure resulting in cleaner sound. 

I love the idea of creating a space where you can feel and touch the sound. It reminds me a bit of dub sound systems where you feel the frequencies through  your whole body. What were some of the team’s inspirations when designing the Cell Alpha?

The founding principle of Syng is to create a single device, that can cooperate in any quantity and in any layout such that it forms a single sound field, that can play any form of audio content and fill your entire space with precise sound.

From a design perspective, a quote from Christopher Stringer that I think really encapsulates his approach is:

“I don’t ask what shape that I want to impose on a speaker. I ask, what shape does the  speaker want to be? My job as a designer is to get out of the way, to pay attention, find the simple path through the clouds of complexity and artfully embody principle. Speakers are wonderful subjects in that the biggest component is air, so it is an  opportunity to have an expressive design, but what you express is its purpose and our purpose is to shape sound, to distill and find the purest embodiment in support of the founding principle.” 

Obviously, there’s a lot spatially that the Cell Alpha can do besides just playing  tracks. It’s still very early but what are some creative ways you’ve seen the Syng speaker system used so far in spaces? 

From the beginning our thesis was that music was trapped in an aging format that could not support immersive new media experiences due to its lack of flexibility and range. We felt that we could push through this, and create new ways for sound to be experienced. This led to a number of experiments involving the separation of songs into  their discrete parts, and allowing for the listener to apply agency over what they were  hearing through interactive and spatialization tools. Pieces of this will be introduced over  the next year for which we will be sure to keep you informed about.

Syng seems to have a much broader goal of advancing sound. Do you consider  these speakers to be a replacement for traditional hi-fi systems or an alternative?

The problem with traditional hi-fi systems is that while they sound amazing, they are too  complex for the average user, with a steep learning curve. The alternative options on  the market are easy to use but sacrifice on experience and sound quality. Syng can be  an alternative for people who want great sound but a simpler system or a rest of the home addition for people who have existing hi-fi systems.


Website: https://syngspace.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/syngspace/

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