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New Schiit SYN - Analog Surround Sound Processor


Major Contributor
Feb 10, 2020


Imagine surround sound that’s easy, fun, and works with everything. That’s Syn. Well, Syn is also a DAC, remote control preamp, and headphone amp as well. Oh yeah, and it won’t become a paperweight when standards change. Head exploded? That’s OK. We’ll break it down.

Surround Set Free
Forget worrying about whether your surround works with the latest standards or if you’ve spent enough Sundays tweaking umpteen 31-band EQs and uploading the latest room correction files because you moved a chair. Plug Syn into the optical output of any smart TV, twist a couple of knobs, and then sit back and enjoy great surround. Or plug in via USB, or use the analog input—Syn provides surround from any stereo source.

Gaming Unleashed
Whether you’re using speakers or headphones, Syn adds another dimension to your gaming. Immerse yourself by adding surround speakers. Or focus in on the tiniest details with crossfeed-like headphone processing. Or move gaming to the living room or media room. We’re not gonna stop you!

Stereo Redefined
Just want stereo? Syn is an exceptional remote control DAC/preamp. With USB, optical, and analog inputs, as well as a fully discrete main stage for the stereo channels and motorized Alps potentiometer for volume control, it delivers amazing quality. Want to try surround? Syn allows you to simply add the surround, sub, and center channels—without touching the mains at all. Try it—it’s pretty amazing!

All On Your Head
Syn also includes a powerful (1000mW) fully discrete headphone amp, as well as a frequency-dependent, crossfeed-like soundstage mixing capability that help combat the “in your head” feeling from headphone listening. Whether you’re looking for a good headphone DAC/amp, or
want the headphone output for late-night movie watching, Syn delivers.

Developed Through Listening
Syn isn’t like any other surround processor. It’s not digital. It supports no standard. Its all-analog processing doesn’t use any steering. It was developed by producing a simple matrix prototype, then tweaking it with analog computing techniques until it provided enjoyable, realistic results. This meant the development of two exclusive controls—Width and Presence—as well as specific headphone shaping and matrix cross-mixing.

So what surround standards does this support? ATOMS? DSDTS? MQANON?
None of them.

How can you call this a surround processor?
Because it creates surround from any stereo source.

How does that work?
We get it. But it’s really no different than the old Hafler matrix idea, which derives L+R and L-R from any stereo signal. But we’ve added a whole lot of tricks of our own. No steering and no delays, so there’s nothing based on any proprietary art. Bottom line, feed Syn a stereo signal and you’ll get:

  • Front Left and Right. Also known as the stereo signal you fed in. You even have the option of running this without any processing at all—in other words, the other channels just add in to the mix, and we don’t mess with the stereo signal at all.
  • Center. Or, Left and right together. This gives you the ability to establish a solid center channel for dialogue in movies and shows.
  • Surround Left and Right. Or, the difference between left and right. This is the natural ambience that’s present in every stereo signal. This ambience can help establish a sense of space and provide surround cues.
  • Subwoofer. This is a filtered low-frequency output you can run to any subwoofer’s LFE input and get extended low-frequency results from.
Matrix surround? That’s it?
Nope. Syn was developed through listening and tweaking—not as in audiophile tweaking, but as in “hey, we’re already doing some analog computing stuff here, what can we do to address some of the weaknesses of matrix while we’re at it?” So we’ve added a bunch of our own tweaks to it, including:

  • Width control. Allows you to pull common content out of the main channels, and solidify the center image when used in a home theater or media application.
  • Presence control. Allows you to better integrate main and center channels, and to tame the forwardness of some mixes. Sometimes it seems like movie sound guys love to have it sound like everyone’s yelling at each other through traffic cones. This is not realistic.
  • Crossfeed-ish. Use the Width control the other way to reduce stereo separation, and you can do some crossfeed-y trickery with headphones. Because Syn senses when headphones are connected and does some frequency shaping on Width only in that instance.
  • Proprietary matrix. It’s not such a simple matrix anymore—we tweaked how some of the channels are combined, and how they combine when you change settings.
What an interesting device, I can't think of another that is like it.
Wow this is really interesting. Nice thinking outside the box. Not as immersive as a real independent surround processor, but still should be nice for music.
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I thought some Australia based company had something similar, may be like matrix surround.
Intresting thing. Solution looking for a problem solved 40 years ago prehaps.
Performance looks decent though the rear surround frequency response doesn't make sense to me.
View attachment 276089
Looks like high low pass filters on surround channels.
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so they invented an analog based Dolby Pro Logic... sort of

obviously its a kind of one size fits all given there's no adjustability

but the MQANON thing is pretty funny
If the DAC function measures well, the price is low enough that it could be fun to play around with.
For $399 a nice toy if you have nothing better already?
Really interesting, I sort of want one to play with. But instead of “low pass sub outputs” wouldn’t high pass mains output be more useful? Most every sub has built-in and adjustable low pass filters. The need is to have the option of shifting the bass to the subwoofer and high passing the main speakers. Still, an attractive product!
Could be a swell way to get headphone output (with crossfeed!) from a TV. And it could potentially breathe new life into pre-HDMI AVRs and separates.

Synthesized vs true surround audio: Gotta admit that I’m intrigued as to whether Schiit’s got something which delivers on the promise of surround without the hassles or obsolescence. Really don’t need sonic trickery like spaceships flying overhead, as that sort of thing quickly becomes tiring.
They have SPDIF input already on it, basic DD/DTS decoding would have surely added some value.
Early April fools? Was sounding amazing up to the point that that it can't do actual 5.1 yet is a surround processor. If you're going to spend the cash on 5.1 speakers why not a processor that can actually do it.

It's a weird throw back novelty device. My old set of Logitech Z-5500 has decoding as well as analog in. If this supported some sort of real multichannel input then a computer with AC3Filter could transcode whatever or decode to analog multichannel.
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further $399 usd gets you part way to a current low to mid range Atmos unit that actually does all this and more

i picked up an Onkyo 7.2 unit for less than this when everyone though they were going bankrupt

i think Schitt are being funny and think theres people out there who are arch and antiestablishment and want to part with $400 for what is going to be a piece of Schitt curio pretty soon.
Looks like high pass filters on surround channels.
It's a low pass filter. My prehaps incorrect thinking is that a large part of ambiance comes from high frequencies. Be intresting to hear what led to them choosing this frequency response for the surrounds.
The article on this is a really good read.

How crazy would it be to make surround out of VYNIL in 2023? o_O
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I guess Schiit had to respond to the current surround sound craze, but I can’t figure out the target audience for this product. It seems anachronistic to the extreme.
From the folks who -- briefly -- brought us the SOL. :cool:


FWIW, my thought -- when this product was in its late gestation and early commercial phase -- was that it was (no more and no less) than the Schiity bros' way of making fun of/flipping the virtual bird to the vinylista. :cool:

I mean, look at that tonearm!
Prof. I. Lirpa* would have been proud. :)

* Head of Lirpa Labs. The annual (beginning of April) reviews of Lirpa's groundbreaking new products in Audio magazine were always eagerly awaited. ;)
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