it’s a truth There is a common belief that there is little point in reinventing the wheel. Even those who try to update, modernize, or otherwise overhaul the concept of the wheel, we can probably all agree that they have nothing.
However, once the conversation turns to invention, just slightly less useful and less perfect than the wheel, all bets are off. The desire to improve an invention, or (more likely) just to add a point of difference, in the hope that your variation on this particular subject will be different, always seems strong. This brings us to Syng Cell Alpha, no particular coincidence.
On the surface, you might imagine that Syng’s Cell Alpha (a California-based company partly the brainchild of ex-Mac Big Cheese Christopher Stringer, an industrial designer with over 1,400 patents) is another wireless speakers. A big, expensive, unusual-looking wireless speaker, yes — but still an easy change on a theme. But you are wrong.
According to Syng, Cell Alpha can make recorded sound “tangible” — that is, perceptible by touch. Syng itself exists “to change the human relationship with sound” and “to turn listening into a multi-sensory experience”. Hurry up, there’s more.
“When we are able to hear, touch and see sound, it triggers the innate human desire to control and manipulate the sounds around us,” Syng said. If Syng’s claims about the Cell Alpha are nearly accurate, it’s safe to say this isn’t just a variant on the wireless speaker theme. This will be the only time I’ll be able to touch or see a sound while complying with the law.
“Look at the sound”
The speaker itself is a rather large frustum, and it’s designed like “no front and rear, and no left or right.” Most of its innards can be seen through the clear plastic cabinet. In this regard, the Cell Alpha is more than just the iconic Apple iMac design. Syng suggests that the Cell Alpha can create a deep, wide soundstage in any given space, no matter where it’s positioned within it—it’s equipped with a very extensive speaker array for that.
On the almost spherical flat top and bottom, there are flat, force-balanced 165mm carbon fiber woofers to handle low frequency response. Syng thinks Cell Alpha can go all the way up to 30 Hz. Since the speaker is designed to stand on a pole or hang from the ceiling, the bottom woofer (when the speaker is upright) has a hole to accommodate the pole, with a second surround to allow for unobstructed excursion.
Spanning the 300mm diameter cabinet is what Syng calls a “three-tone” structure. It is a circular array of three coaxial drivers, each with a horn mounted at a 120-degree angle to the next. There is a 19mm soft-dome tweeter at the throat of the 76mm inverted-dome midrange driver, and a coaxial driver handles mid-range and high-frequency information. It is because of their careful positioning, combined with “three-channel audio” digital sound processing, that Cell Alpha intends to deliver the impression of the sound source point from any position relative to it. Each of the eight individual drivers uses a discrete Class D amplifier module.
Assembling the Cell Alpha is not difficult. You’ll specify the type of support you want – this test was done with a three-piece floor pole that elevates the speaker to 122cm, but you can also choose a desktop stand or ceiling mount – and then it all fits together nicely . The stand even integrates a small control ring from which you can adjust volume and pause playback.
Setup is also no longer difficult. Just download the Syng Space app from the Apple Store (which promises an Android alternative at some point), place the speaker where you want it, and let the app run its very brief room calibration routine. Then, wherever you are, Cell Alpha is ready to deliver all the sound to you. Anyway, that’s the theory.
Setup and sync
Syng Spaces is a good-looking and stable control app, but it can be kindly described as “simple”. Once set up, you’ll see options to stream from Spotify Connect or Apple AirPlay 2. The Cell Alpha uses Bluetooth to connect itself to your local network, but after that Bluetooth is no longer an option. No problem for the Apple-centric among us, and a big one for those who love Android (and there are countless of them).
There are two USB-C inputs on the speaker, so physically connecting other source devices isn’t a problem (as long as you have the necessary connecting cables and adapters, of course). Syng will sell you a “Syng Link,” which lets you connect an eARC-enabled HDMI socket to one of the Cell Alpha’s USB-C sockets and bring your TV into the speaker’s track. Considering how much you’re spending on the speaker in the first place, that seems nerve-wracking to me. The cable can be hidden inside the pole where it sits like the Alpha’s main power cord.