Review sample provided by Vermouth Audio
Retail prices (with Furutech FI-E38 Schuko or US plug):
1.2 meter: $1,300.00 (additional 0.30 meter: $180.00) (+ tax)
Bali may not be the first country one thinks of as a high-end cable producer but as I wrote in my first Vermouth Audio review when covering the Reference interlinks, some very fine audio cables are produced there.
The core of this cable is comprised of 39 multisize OCC strands with a total 10AWG conductor size, wrapped using Air Tube spacers and suspension in an Aluminum-Mylar wrap and a braided shield. Connectors are the Furutech FI-28/FI-38 with custom Carbon Fiber shells. For a 19.2mm thick cable, it is actually pretty flexible.
I’ll first be assessing the cable using both of my systems, starting with the main system using the Kroma Audio Carmen speakers, CH Precision C1 DAC, and A1.5 amp, as well as the Bricasti M21 DAC and M15 amp which are also staying over for review.
Main system with CH Precision C1 + A1.5, Ayon Stealth, Antipodes CX + EX, Melco N1ZH, and Kroma Audio Carmen
The Vermouth Reference is not a typical high-end power cable and I mean that in the best of ways – it is not of the hyper-detailed and threadbare kind, rather the opposite. In a way, the Vermouth sound as I have come to know it so far stands out, particularly for its bass performance. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean to imply that the bass would be excessive or overblown. In this case, the bass is the first thing that one notices because it is so impressive yet so right: solid, taut, well-defined, and super-energetic, and I hear this with the interlinks as well as the power cable. As with the interlinks, the superb bass does not stand on its own, rather, the presentation builds from this solid foundation, transitioning to an equally solid and lively midrange with an impressively acoustically convincing timbre and ending in an energetic and accurate treble. As I write about these three areas it is important to note that they are not perceived as separate entities but make up a completely coherent, highly energetic, “live”-like sound.
Bricasti M15 amp on a visit for review
As with the interlinks, at first, the cable does not appear to be as refined, as airy, or as fluid as many of my usual cables and if I’d stop listening there, that might inadvertently be counted as a negative in terms of treble performance. In a quick comparison, you might indeed say that the Vermouth is a little dry and does not provide the same amount of treble air and fluidity as Belden and Furutech cables. As it would turn out, though, the cable just needs 30 minutes or so to settle after having been connected in position. Indeed, listening for longer, I started to notice that the treble became less “square” and gained fluidity, to the point where I really could no longer call it dry. It can still be dry if that is on the recording but, likewise, fluidity was also at hand whenever it was needed.
Compared to Belden 19364 with Bals schuko and Oyaide 004 connectors and Furutech Alpha 3 with Furutech FI28/FI38 connectors, the Vermouth Reference can sound a little dark at first. This is due in part to it requiring some time to settle after having been re-patched but also it really does have a tonal balance that is slightly tilted to the fuller and darker, rather than the thinner and airier.
You could also turn things around and conclude that the Belden emphasizes the treble too much and that’s actually a likely conclusion for people that have bright sounding systems. On balance, though, having listened to a large number of cables, in an absolute sense, I think it is fair to say that the Vermouth Reference is a little bit dark. But it’s subtle enough to be able to get accustomed to and you do get a hell of a lot in return. The important thing to keep in mind is that, in audio, everything revolves around system synergy.
My main system has gone in a very different direction than with the Wilsons with the addition of the Kroma Carmens. Tonally fuller, much more even-handed and absolutely never edgy or bright, it seems to prefer clean and very neutral sounding cables and that’s why Belden power cables work very well for me.
In this system, I found that the Vermouth Reference Power cable could sometimes make the sound a little bit too dark although there was always also an aspect of it needing some time to settle after having been handled into position. In general, I found that the cable works best with components that are themselves open and lively sounding, such as the Aqua DAC. Then again, the unforced and decidedly non-edgy sounding Bricasti’s responded very differently: the M21 DAC became a little bit too smooth and rounded and lacked some sparkle while the M15 amp actually became less smooth and got a more solid and powerful bass and an overall more propulsive and expressive delivery. The C1 DAC, finally, benefitted from all the Vermouth positives but decidedly less significantly, while I was really surprised to find that the fluidity and air in the treble remained largely unchanged when from the Belden’s delivery. Many manufacturers claim that their power supplies are impervious to external influences but perhaps the C1 really has its power supply set up such that it does not respond as heavily to power cable changes as some other components do.
A general point that I want to make is that, although dependent on the cable’s design, the influence of a power cable has the potential to travel through the power distribution block and into other components which goes some way to explaining why one can still hear a difference even when connecting a power cable to components that are supposed to be immune to this, such as CD transports and music servers. A power cable is never really heard in isolation. Testing them can lead to really unpredictable results and therefore it is important to always just try out various configurations when trying to decide for yourself if a certain cable works well in a given situation.
Secondary system with Xavian Perla Esclusiva, Ayon Spirit III, Aqua Formula xHD, Antipodes EX, and Sw1x LPU-1.
The Secondary setup is comprised of Xavian Perla Esclusiva speakers, powered by an Ayon Spirit III amp which is fed by an Aqua Formula xHD DAC and an Antipodes EX server running Roon. In this system, the Vermouth Reference really came into its own.
When connected to the Aqua Formula xHD DAC instead of the Furutech Alpha 3 with Furutech FI28/FI38 connectors, the Vermouth Reference was immediately very impressive for the sheer amount of solidity and real-life credibility that was now present in the sound. As with the components in the main system, the Vermouth is a little darker at first but pretty soon you realize that this might be the case but it also has a significantly better definition which makes individual sounds much more distinct.
Another aspect of this cable that is absolutely striking, especially in this system with the positively tiny Xavian speakers, is its ability to more accurately portray the dimensions of the instruments on the stage. This, I think, is a result of its unusually solid and well-defined bass, which tricks the mind into hearing more definition in the foundation of acoustical instruments such as pianos, leading to the breathtaking Bob James and Joe Sample performance mentioned above.
I noticed in all the combinations that I made that the pace and rhythm really is very strong with this cable. As I’ve explained in various other articles before, I tend to focus on melodies in the bass and whereas many other cables provide a smooth sound with very fluid treble, more so than the Vermouth, which can have a nice forgiving aspect, nearly always these other cables are nowhere near as crisp and articulate in the bass as the Vermouth. And even if they are, the Belden being a pretty good example with respect to that aspect, their overall sound tends to be leaner, sometimes A LOT leaner, than the Vermouth. That, I feel, is one of its most obvious strengths: to be very crisp and articulate as well as solid and tonally full. Following bass lines is made super-easy with this cable and thanks to its strong rhythmic aspects, the cable has a thoroughly enthusiastic delivery.
Most impressively, in this system as well as the main system, was the Vermouth’s way with percussive sounds that span the upper bass and lower midrange, such as a piano. By this time, the Vermouth had thoroughly spoilt me with its amazingly lifelike sound and going back to the Furutech or the Belden in this system, neither of the other cables sounded right to me anymore.
One assumes that same-brand cables always work together perfectly but this is absolutely not a given. In this case, however, they do, and then some. During the final section of this review, when I used the Vermouth power cable as well as the interlinks in the secondary system, the brand managed to impress me even more than it did when I listened to one or the other.
When the Vermouth Reference cinch interlink was added to the mix, the two cables proved to make a superbly synergistic match, making for an even more credible “live”-like performance that made it hard to listen to the music passively.
What’s more: the Vermouth cinch interlink’s highly controlled sound was counter-balanced by the Vermouth power cable’s fullness and sonority, making for a sound that was more neutral yet even more convincingly real than when using only the interlink or power cable.
I was particularly taken by the dual grand piano track Alone Together from the album Dancing on the Water performed by Bob James and Joe Sample which I’ve not heard this absolutely gobsmackingly realistically before. There’s just more wood, more steel, more virtuosity, more of a lyrical performance, simply more of the actual music. And that feeling counts for much more than an extra bit of fluidity or the last bit of treble air, certainly when these aspects invariably come at the expense of what makes this cable sound so very right.
The Vermouth Reference power cable is quite unlike typical high-end power cables. It is not lean and bright, overbearing in detail, and certainly not analytical in a negative sense. Rather, it brings a very welcome solidity and natural tonal fullness along with a full and solid, yet highly accurate and well-differentiated sound that makes many other cables sound either too creamy or too lean.
Manufacturer: Vermouth Audio