Syng Cell Alpha triphonic wireless speaker

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to test what promises to be a revolutionary new wireless speaker: the Syng Cell Alpha. I was really looking forward to it. The first speaker from a startup founded by a 22-year Apple design veteran with a focus on spatial sound and a claim to be the world’s first three-way speaker? Count me in.

It took a bit longer than planned to actually get the review up – summer holidays, Covid-19, a new job and house building projects got in the way – but here it is.

A speaker that looks like the death star on a stand

Unboxing the Syng Cell Alpha is an experience. The speaker is unlike anything else out there. It’s a large, clear plastic ball with a sliced ​​top and bottom (these surfaces are flat and the professional end of the 6.5″ woofers. The bottom also has a connector for power and the included table stand ( floor mounts and ceiling mounts are optional The middle of the sphere is carried by a circular beam forming device.

There’s more than a passing resemblance to the Star Wars Death Star, but it’s also a state-of-the-art device.

Clear plastic (or acrylic or whatever the material is) can show scratches, smudges, and was definitely a magnet for dust and pet hair, so be warned that you might be doing extra cleaning with one of these. Also, I’m not saying this will happen in the Cell Alpha (and in most rooms it wouldn’t be a problem), but just be aware that historically, clear plastic has had long-term discoloration issues when exposed to the sun for extended periods.

Regulation

Assembly is relatively simple. Route the cable through the base, connect it, then screw the base to the bottom of the speaker. It is heavy, compact and stable.

Next, you need to register the speaker. At the time I had the review unit, the installer was iOS only, with an Android version coming soon (this may still be the case). The speaker uses Bluetooth during setup, but cannot stream audio via Bluetooth.

After going through a registration process and connecting to your Wi-Fi network, the fun begins. The app helps optimize the sound based on the speaker’s position in the room, making use of the Cell Alpha’s built-in microphone array. You can then virtually move the speaker around the app’s room, which changes how the sound is projected. The app also has basic treble and bass controls, as well as an option to choose between “Reduced” and “Standard” bass. More on that soon.

Implementation

This is where the rubber meets the road. Is this speaker really worth $2399?

Placed on my desk, the Syng Cell Alpha three-way speaker performed significantly better than any single wireless speaker I’ve tested to date in terms of pulling off the illusion of multiple speakers filling the room. Almost every seat in the room is in a sweet listening spot. Using the app, you can also virtually move the speaker through space.

The speaker also produces sound that puts most wireless speakers to shame, but may be bass-heavy for some. Even with the bass on “Reduced” in the app. If you’re used to the high-energy tuning that many headphones and portable speakers use, you’ll be familiar with the approach. The thing is, someone paying $2399 a pop for a speaker can expect a more neutral sound. It just doesn’t work as well for some species as it does for others.

Personally, I enjoyed it and was very sad to see the review sample go. And I must say that Syng Cell Alpha was like a magnet for my children. Most speakers I test get a nod from teenagers. But I had all three of them sitting here at the same time, watching the top-mounted woofer pump as they played Cicada’s remix of Depeche Mode’s ‘World In My Eyes’ loud and over. They declared it the coolest speaker ever.

While a pair of Cell Alphas would undoubtedly do an even more convincing job, a single speaker still produces some impressive sound, including quite convincing surround sound.

Syng Cell Alpha Key Specifications:

  • 3-way 3-way speaker system with 8 drivers, including dual 6.5-inch woofers in opposing configuration, 3 horns in circular beamforming
  • Frequency response 23Hz to 20kHz
  • Control ring for system volume and play/pause
  • 3 microphones for automatic room equalization
  • Multiroom audio support
  • Dual band 802.11ac
  • Supports Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect
  • Bluetooth 4.2 (installation only)
  • 2 x USB-C inputs
  • The optional Syng Link cable supports eARC HDMI
  • Includes table stand
  • MSRP $2399

About Connectivity

From my perspective, the most heartbreaking decision the Syng team made with Cell Alpha was about connectivity. It’s not wireless (although Bluetooth would be a nice addition to the Wi-Fi speaker for convenience) – my beef is with wired connectivity options. The only option is a pair of USB-C ports. There are no 3.5 mm AUX inputs and RCA inputs. This is a very capable and stylish speaker that cries out to be connected to a turntable. The company recognizes this and its promotional material even shows a rig with a turntable.

But the only way you can connect is to find a turntable or Phono preamp that offers a USB-C output. These aren’t exactly common. There are some that offer a USB Type-A or Type-B output for connecting to a computer for ripping vinyl, but who knows if a USB-C converter thrown into the mix would work.

I asked the Syng representative why they decided to equip the Cell Alpha speaker with only USB-C ports. This is the response I received:

“As additional connections can come at a cost of complexity to the system and product identity, Syng has left the door open for listeners to enjoy their particular needs through their USB interface while choosing to avoid the trappings of technology products. Instead, Syng embraces the simplicity and elegance that best suits the domestic environment he designs for, alongside furniture and lighting.”

I suspect a big piece to the puzzle is that Syng’s founder was a longtime designer with Apple — a company that had a thing for pushing USB-C at the expense of all other ports on its laptops for many years…

It’s too bad, because a Syng Cell Alpha or two plugged into a good turntable would make a killer, solid, modern-looking record listening setup. It shouldn’t be that hard to do this.

I should mention that connecting to a TV is via the optional Sing Link USB-C to HDMI cable.

Recommendation

When the Syng Cell Alpha review unit first arrived, the speaker was priced at $1799. That meant a pretty exclusive club of potential buyers. Since then, the price has shot up to $2399, making it an even tougher sell. And that’s for just one speaker. It’s one of the most expensive I’ve tried.

The bottom line is that the Syng Cell Alpha is a very nice wireless speaker. Perhaps the most futuristic I’ve ever had the chance to try — both in looks and spatial audio magic. However, the strong bass presence may not be for everyone, and the lack of wired connectivity options is limiting.

If you have the budget and these issues don’t bother you, the Syng Cell Alpha is definitely a statement wireless speaker. Personally, I’d love to have one on my desktop, but there’s no way I’m getting past this purchase beyond my significant other.

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