Auditioning the Synergistic Research MiG Component Footers

October 15, 2013


Synergistic Research is known in the high-end audio world for creating some rather esoteric products. It comes as no surprise then that their MiG (Mechanical Interface Grounding) component footers are surrounded by controversy. A simple Internet search reveals rave reviews from audiophiles claiming they’ve infused new life into their components, while several more hi-fi enthusiasts who rely on scientific testing and precise measurements to validate any tweak swear there’s no way these things can make a difference. While they’re caught up in heated debates, I’ll simply listen for myself.

Synergistic Research claims the MiG component footers “deliver vast improvements to all systems.” After spending some time with them in my system and in The Sound Lab, The Sound Apprentice and The Music Maestro (The Spirited Uncle M) have some notes to share.

What’s a MiG?

Looking like simple tiny chrome bowls, Synergistic Research says the MiGs “re-tune a component’s mechanical resonance, while providing a lightning fast drain of mechanical energy to ground. The result is a much larger soundstage with a lower noise floor for blacker backgrounds. Other benefits include sweeter highs with extended air, a more layered and relaxed mid-range, and deeper, tighter bass. MiGs are especially beneficial when improving the performance of digital components such as transports, D to A converters, CD players, and even digital clocks.”

Now, it wouldn’t surprise me if your eyebrows are raised higher than Steve Urkel’s pants after reading that, but it’s only fair to hear them out before jumping to any conclusions. Synergistic Research suggests two setups to fine-tune your system’s performance:

“When two MiGs are placed ‘round side up’ and one MiG is placed ‘round side down’ under a component … you hear a more ambient soundscape that is especially pleasing when room acoustics are somewhat ‘live’ or undamped. You may also prefer this combination if you like a slightly more liquid presentation, or if you often listen to large orchestral works. When two MiGs are placed ‘round side down’ and one MiG is placed ‘round side up’ under a component … you hear an immediate pin-point presentation of images. This combination is especially pleasing in rooms that are very damped, or for people who prefer intimate recordings, such as small scale jazz.”

Can three tiny resonating bowls intended to drain the vibrations from your components seriously make a difference to your system’s sound? Let's take a listen.

Notes from The Sound Apprentice

Honestly, I was excited to try these footers; I won these things—I never win anything! Excitement aside, Synergistic Research’s claims had me expecting great things to happen after introducing these into my entry-level system. Angels were going to emerge from the sound waves and sing sweet songs into my ears as they carried me off to Audio Nirvana, or something like that. Since I am still here to write this, that didn’t quite happen.

Unfortunately, my first night of listening was uneventful. I popped a favorite disc into my Sony DVP-S9000ES that usually sits on three EVA/rubber vibration isolation pads to tune my ear with a couple of tracks. I started my MiG listening session with the 28-pound copper-clad chassis of the Sony sitting on them in the “pin-point” positioning, and… nothing. Not a change. Could that be?

I switched back to the EVA isolation pads for a track. Yep, sounds the same. So I repeated the process in the “ambient” setup only to hear… nothing. Four times I went through the process and the only thing that changed was that I grew more impatient waiting for the gods of Audio Nirvana to sweep down into my listening room.

Naturally, I had to ask, “Am I doing this wrong?” I called it a night, disappointed that my prize from the acclaimed (and often controversial) Synergistic Research seemingly did nothing for my hi-fi system.

The following evening, with my gear thoroughly warmed up, I set out with Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue to challenge my listening skills again. With the EVA isolation pads back beneath the solidly-built Sony, I listened to the entire album to really let my ears settle into the groove. Lights turned down, eyes closed, I tried to “stare with my ears” as The Spirited Uncle M would say. I focused on the brushes circling the snare drum, the sound of Davis’ spit passing over the reeds and the hair on the back of my neck was standing up with every wail of his and Coltrane’s horns (Damn that is a great album).

Seeking to squeeze the most detail out of my system, I started the second round of MiG testing in the “pin-point” positioning. This time I thought I heard the slightest change in clarity; the brushes on the snare didn’t sound as smothered by the tape hiss still present in the remastering, and the horns seemed to have a bit more brass, as if the MiGs introduced a dash of “sizzle” into the system. Placebo effect? Expectation bias? Maybe I’m just crazy?

I sampled the MiGs in every possible configuration that evening, but I couldn’t hear a difference from one position to the other. That was troubling. Synergistic Research says there should be an immediate and pronounced difference in the system’s sound depending on the MiG setup. I decided I needed to leave the MiGs in place for extended listening.

A few weeks later I was listening to the Deftones’ latest album Koi No Yokan, a poorly-mastered album (IMO) that’s hard to enjoy on revealing equipment, when I decided to replace the MiGs with my EVA isolation pads again. In doing so, I thought I noticed a slight drop in clarity and separation throughout the dynamic range. During the song “Rosemary” for example, at 1:28 the kick drum seemed to enter with less punch and the guitars seemed to lose a bit of their precision. But I’m talking about subtleties here; so subtle, in fact, that I am challenged to definitively conclude that I heard a change at all. But that raised a new question: How would they perform in a far more revealing system?

First Impressions from The Spirited Uncle M

The Sound Lab was set up to audition the MiGs beneath a Linn Ikemi CD player paired with a Herron Audio VTSP-1A/166 tubed line stage preamplifier, Pass Labs Aleph 30 solid state amplifier, and a pair of B&W DM602 speakers. Each piece is also individually isolated on dedicated stands. The Spirited Uncle M chose a test track his sensitive ears know well: “C-Jam Blues” off of Dave Grusin’s Homage to Duke.

TSUM describes this as being one of the best recorded and mastered jazz albums in his collection. Every instrument maintains excellent separation and gusto without ever being harsh or overpowering. “What can $150 little metal balls do for it,” he asked (keep in mind TSUM does use SR power cords with certain devices).

The MiGs were tested in their “ambient” position first. TSUM noted immediately that something wasn’t quite right: “It sounded thin right off the bat. When the horns kick in, it’s a really tight chorus and it just sounded thinner and brighter than it should, and the bass should really have had more gusto to it.”

After listening to the track again with the Linn Ikemi on its stock footers, TSUM noted that the sound returned to being “just right, full and solid.” Speculating that the MiGs pushed the sound the wrong way because the recording is very accurate and the room is acoustically treated, he repeated the listening process with the MiGs in the “pin-point” position. This time, TSUM noted that the familiar meaty sound of the Linn Ikemi remained mostly intact, but something else happened. “I heard something else going on; it’s almost like the MiGs were amplifying the sound, but the sustain was missing and everything sounded over-the-top.”

Final Thoughts

Absent of calibrated testing equipment, we can only offer a recount of what our ears perceived. Meaning our conclusions are entirely subjective. Despite Synergistic Research’s claims of vast system improvements, we didn't experience the magic of the MiGs.

I was convinced great things would happen when using the MiG component footers, but I instead found myself challenged to hear the slightest changes throughout the entire listening experience, both in my listening room and in The Sound Lab. While I do believe there was a more noticeable effect in The Sound Lab, I can't define it as an improvement, nor can The Spirited Uncle M. A person who passionately spends countless hours critically listening to his equipment, he summed up his experience like this: “When you live with a Linn Ikemi, and then you put something else in with it, you’re like ‘Eww.’” Not scientific, but blunt honesty nonetheless.

We can only hypothesize that any impact from these, if there is one at all, will be entirely system-dependent. If you’re curious about these footers, I would suggest demoing them before making the purchase. I’m a believer that only your ears can decide what’s best for your system.

“Snake oil, smoke and mirrors make up 90% of high-end audio, but when you find that 10% of reality, it is worth its weight in gold (only your golden audiophile ears know for sure).”
– The Spirited Uncle M

Test Systems (TSA; TSUM)
Speakers: Axiom Audio M3v3; B&W DM602
Amplifier: NAD C 326BEE Stereo Integrated Amplifier; Pass Labs Aleph 30
Preamplifier: N/A; Herron Audio VTSP-1A/166
CD Player: Sony DVP-S9000ES; Linn Ikemi
Interconnects: Wireworld Equinox 3+; DH Labs Silver Sonic Air Matrix
Speaker Cable: Gotham Cable 50040; Kimber Kable 8TC

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15 comments

  1. So you win a set of MiGs and this is how you repay the company? Really? Not only that but you go out of your way to poke SR in the eye with a sharp stick by posting a link on AG to your otherwise unknown blog? Bad form young man, bad form.

    Now for some insight from a veteran audiophile. Everything is system dependent and in your case, your system may be lacking due to your interconnects, speaker cables and power cords as well as acoustics and less then high end components and speakers. The fact you don't list cables in your system description tells me A. you have not yet experienced just how vital cables are (for if you had why are they not listed?) or B you don't believe in cables and therefore don't fee it necessary to list them (in much the same way I do not list what I had for breakfast on my system lineup).

    Now to the MiGs, I've used them in a high end system with other Synergistic Research products (cables, power cords, Tranquility Bases and so forth) and in my system, they perform as advertised and do so at a fraction of the cost of other footers I've tried through the years. Of course my results are not your results but I would NEVER poop on someone who gave me something for free and then insult them by promoting my having pooped on their head as you did with your AG posting; something you are doing for your own self interest. Listen, you are new in the game of audio and life. Call it Karma, bad energy, or simply doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, but the bottom line, what comes around goes around. If you choose to treat people who show you kindness and charity with rancor for your own short term gain you will reap what you so in the long run.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous,

      Thank you for the response. SR is no stranger to controversy or criticism in the audio world; this post is about a single product in their vast line up. As I disclosed in the final thoughts, the people at SR are very pleasant to deal with, they are friendly, answer questions quickly, etc., but that doesn't mean I would or should recommend these footers to my target audience -- people just getting into hi-fi, or hi-fi on a budget. I even encourage people to try them first, because, as you and I both stated, it is very likely their performance is system-dependent.

      Why post a review like this? Because it generates discussion that would hopefully help others interested in the product make an informed decision. In audio, more often than not, results are subjective. Your ears vs. mine, etc. It's good to be able to get opinions on how products perform in different setups.

      This has nothing to do with "pooping" on SR or being hostile to them at all, because I too have seen and heard other products of theirs that are phenomenal quality, but I personally don't think these footers live up to the marketing, and I tried to present that opinion objectively. I still thanked them for running the contest and providing these to me, it didn't stop me from emailing SR photos of the MiGs that I took that they said they liked (saw on Facebook) either. But, when I share my experiences, I intend to be honest. Any Google search will yield you several more results of people either praising SR or saying they are full of hocus-pocus.

      I can inform you of cables, and I can also update the post with them:
      My system is connected to a Monster Power HTS 5100 power conditioner. The Sony is using it's stock power cable. The NAD is using a PS Audio Jewel power cable. Interconnects are WireWorld Equinox 3+. Speaker cable is Gotham Audio 50040 terminated in gold bananas.

      My Uncle's system is more complex and it's likely he will pop in and confirm the setup that was used. Speaker wire is Kimber 8TC. Interconnects were DH Labs Silver Sonic Air Matrix. I believe the power cords were the JPS Labs Digital on the Linn and a Shunyata Research on the amp and preamp (not sure of model).

      Seriously, thanks for taking the time to respond. Constructive feedback is what will make this blog get better.

      If you want to share suggestions on how you setup the MiGs and what you heard, that would be helpful also. Thanks again.

      Delete
  2. "I personally don't think these footers live up to the marketing"... in your system.

    The point is, your system contains what I call "cable stew" or, different interconnects, speaker cables and power cords from different manufacturers. Not a good thing where performance is concerned nor will your current set up allow you to experience the full measure of components, speakers and musical content of your files, CDs and records.

    Perhaps you should contact the people at SR who were nice enough to give you a free gift and see if they will loan you the rest of what your system needs to be truly high resolution. Since you are putting yourself out here as an "expert" complete with a soapbox of your own creation, they just might loan you what you need to write a real review. Who knows, we all just might learn something.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for following up. Correct, I stated that these didn't perform in my system, to my ears, and suggested they would be system dependent and should be demoed before buying.

      Nowhere have I claimed to be an expert. Through the blog's title, description, 'about' page, and my other posts I have made it clear that this is a new endeavor of mine where I am sharing my personal experiences. That said, it would be great to have some "experts" share their expertise as the blog progresses so myself and readers may learn tips and techniques.

      Cabling is one of those areas I have quickly learned is surrounded by heated debate, but your suggestion of using cabling from the same manufacturer throughout your setup to get the best synergy is not falling on deaf ears. Thanks for sharing that tip.

      And I will message SR to see what they suggest and share any information they make available. Thanks again.

      Delete
    2. YO CABLE STEW, lets post what type of audio gear you are using in your system to determine the validity of your claims. Free gifts are company tax deductions they really don't care about what people think, the bottom line is profit. Audio Maniacs for the Good of Music

      Delete
  3. I wish you the best as you venture from apprentice to master. Audio is a road with many twists and turns :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Come on CABLE STEW, show some BALLS (MIGs) Inquiring minds want to know. Audio Maniacs for the Good of Music

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous poster and the Audio Maniac, let's try to keep the discussion civil and constructive so everyone can learn something here.

      Delete
  5. Hi Derrick,
    What are those cool looking blue cork isolation pads in the picture with the MIG's. Are they a special product you found that gives the MIG's a run for their money? Please elaborate on this product and give us your testing results and advice. Boris

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those are the EVA/Rubber vibration isolation pads mentioned in the article. They are meant to decouple an object from the base it sits on to reduce vibrations traveling in/out. I may do a write-up about them in the future when I have more isolation products to compare them to.

      Delete
  6. Different anonymous here:

    I won a set of these on ebay and tried them in assorted configurations under a number of different components in three different systems ranging from around £2k to £45k. The results were consistent, unanimously agreed on and repeatable - no change.

    I'm a great believer in isolation products, I use Aurios, Sonority Design, Pro Audio Bono, Sound Dead Steel, Yeil Spike Will, Black Ravioli, Townshend, Voodoo Airtek and Russ Andrews Torlyte under components in my systems. All have some effect or another. The MiGs? Nothing we could hear.

    SR make good fuses though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

      Delete
  7. Hi Derrick,

    I'll be happy to purchase the MiGs from you. Could you email me at shsohis@hotmail.com to discuss further? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can email me through the green email button in the top right corner of the blog banner. I sent you a message, but received no reply.

      Delete

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