VERMOUTH BLACK PEARL POWER CORD
A Humble Start…
Hendry Ramli started Vermouth Audio in Indonesia at 2010 that specialized in ‘connectors, cables and electronics to a loudspeakers’. After much hard work, commitment and dedication, the brand began to receive acknowledgement and standing as a manufacturer of quality audio products at an acceptable price points.
As the head honcho of a company or a captain, I would say that (Captain) Hendry is stirring his ‘ship’ to the right direction. There are way too many high end audio products with an almost unattainable price point to most audiophile. I am not against high priced high end audio products. I knew ‘the cost’ involved (?) and current market situation. However, I knew better the depth of my wallet.
Personally, I have not meet up with Hendry. We only communicated through the social net. He recognized my work here and started to send me some of his products a couple of years ago. He did not pressure me for a quick review but have been very patience with me (I do apologize dear Hendry for this long over due review).
The Black Pearl sailed in…
I asked and received for review, a pair of the Vermouth Audio Black Pearl power cords (hereinafter referred to as Black Pearl). The power cords in question was made up of 29 strands of UP-OCC Copper Conductor that totaled at 11AWG, and were braided for shielding. The copper conductors were suspended with air tube spacer, and the whole cable was wrapped with Noise Rejection Al-Mayar. The design may not be unheard of in high end design cables, but quite impressive for a cable retailing for slightly below US$700/- per 1.2m with high quality power plug from Cardas.
My purpose was to connect them to my residence mono amplifiers, Vitus Masterpiece MP-M201 and the residence stereo amplifier Pilium Audio Brutale Achilles (that required a pair of power cords too). Alternatively, the pair of Black Pearl were used at the Gryphon Kodo Loudspeaker’s two Bass Towers (remained here throughout the review…reason explained below).
(Which) Captain’s Heart
I do value the materials and parts used to make an audio product. That would affect the perceived value of the product or the amount of money that I am willing to pay for it. However, more often than I care to admit, I found myself willing to pay (more?) for the end result or performance of a product brought to the audio system (sad?). By no mean that I am on a hunt for the most expensive audio products out there. I have collected and still used some ‘reasonably’ priced cables from Mogami, Belden, Western Electric (I cannot verify its authencity), DIY cables (unbranded) from fellow audiophile, etc…in term of audible difference or performance in my audio system, they sure aren’t in the league of the higher priced cables. More often than not, those ‘reasonably’ priced cables delivered a veiled presentation that lacked the detail, nuances, contrast, separation, dynamic and energy, that I took for granted from higher performance cables that often came with higher price. However, I still used those ‘reasonably’ priced cables for some audio components that their audio performance did not ‘shine well’ with the higher priced cables (snob?). I believed that some audio components’ “incompatibility” with the higher priced cables, in term of audio performance, was that they as a (better?) conduit exposed certain undesirable elements in their audio performance or musical presentation. Our scientific instruments may not agree with the above assessment but some audiophile, including myself, have more faith in our ears, heart and mind. Therefore, we are willing to pay (extra?) for whichever ‘conduit’ that deliver more music that tickle not only our ears but our soul.
I did not sail into the audio ocean with ‘cannons blazing’ to buy up every most expensive and/or highest performance audio component out there. That is not the way to enjoy this beloved hobby or any hobby. For me, the audio journey (high end audio since 1991) has been a gradual slope with step by step upgrade. Only at recent few years that I have upgraded with a few extreme high end components from Audio Note, FM Acoustics, Aries Cerat, Pilium Audio, Kronos Audio, TechDas, Sperling, etc. I believed that my upgrade to the more transparent main transducers, the Gryphon Audio Pendragon loudspeakers system and then later to the Gryphon Audio Kodo loudspeakers system that actually moved me to more upgrades. They allowed me to hear and experience vividly each addition and/or subtraction of audio component in the system. Here, each move at my audio ladder has been a conscious and educational one. Therefore, the Black Pearls were connected to the most ‘demanding and revealing’ bass towers of the Gryphon Audio Kodo loudspeakers system.
Another Matey’s Visit
Louis Desjardins of Kronos Audio visited me in the middle of this write up. I would say that my audio system and its characteristic were not a stranger to him. The purpose of his visit was to fine tune the suspension system of the Kronos Pro Ltd turntable, upgrade the Black Beauty 12″ tonearm bearing cup and upgrade the standardized clamp. The guests and I were utterly speechless and wowed(!) at the improvement and/or changes to the ultimate audio performance of my system with the tuned Kronos Complete Analogue Solution. Without a second thought, the Kronos Complete Analogue Solution remained the analogue source for this review.
However, what truly impressed me was what followed from that visit. Louis listened to my audio system quite intensively for a number of hours that night. He took it upon himself to demo the Kronos Complete Analogue Solution and every nuances made with my audio system. After that event, the following day at about 9:30am, he called me to share his feeling about my audio system. In short, he was very impressed! I would say that coming from him,…it’s a new HIGH for me!
Of course, I could not credit the whole positive review of the system performance to the Black Pearl, knowing that there were other accompanied high end high priced cables from Skogrand Cables’ Stravinsky, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, etc. However, the Black Pearl did contribute to that whole ‘audio nirvana’, connected to the most expensive audio transducer at my audio den (€280,000/-).
Initially, I have the Black Pearls tested, ran in and stabilized for a few months by a fellow audiophile (thanks Mohd. Ariff) before the review.
What would be my expectation before plugging in those Black Pearls?
I would say ‘nothing’…or hope that it would not be a difficult review (?). Could you imagine an audio component that messed up the whole audio system performance and that you have to live with it till the review was finished…torturous!
As per the above passages, it was obvious that the Black Pearls did not disappoint. On the contrary, I felt no hurry to swap the Black Pearls back to my residence power cords for the Gryphon Audio Kodo Bass Towers, the Shunyata King Cobra (discontinued).
At Arnold Overtures (Reference Mastercuts/Reference Recordings RM-1518) where Malcom Arnold conducted The London Philharmonic Orchestra with David Nolan as the leader, I found clear dynamic contrast with clear and distinct nuances in energy dispersion. Here, the track ‘A Sussex Overture’ which has a difficult ending with the whole orchestra, and all its low to extreme low bass and dynamic came into play. Here, an uncontrolled bass would easily mess up the whole ‘audio carnival’ and summed up as unbearable and annoying. I reckon most audio system would have difficulty to traverse. However, through the Black Pearls in my audio system, I discovered the track’s most climatic passage with all its fanfare of bombastic bass energy was retained, controlled and presented with all its intended glory and direction. Therefore, I believed that the inclusion of the Black Pearls into my audio system did not reduced the intended quantum of bass energy in the presentation.
However, I believed that the Black Pearl was leaner and cleaner sounding compared to the Shunyata King Cobra which could be mid range heavy. It should not be mistaken that the delivery of the Black Pearl has no bloom. On the contrary, I could hear the expansion of a tone to its intended maturity. My note here was that not to expect more. Therefore, at Winds of War and Peace (Wilson Audiophile Recordings/Analogue Productions APC 8823), where Lowell Graham conducted The National Symphonic Winds, the Black Pearl delivered some cleaner and clearer dynamic contrast that would not interfere and not overwhelm the whole presentation. Thus resulted an ease and flow to the whole orchestra presentation.
My usual suspect for the recorded human voice or vocal would be Rob Wasserman ‘Duets’ (MCA-42131). As could be expected from a cable that would not add mid range flavor, I would say that there was no exaggerated bloom at the vocal range of Jennifer Warnes and the same could be said of Wasserman’s bass strings (at the track, Ballad of the Runaway Horse). However, I detected a hint of ‘golden’ refinement, finesse and sweetness at the mid range of the vocal and the bass strings. Here, the sibilances of the vocal would be smoother and more natural. The bass strings’ decay would be more layered and natural.
My next take on vocal would be Radka Toneff and Steve Dobrogosz ‘Fairytales’ (Odin LP-03, 1982) where Ms. Toneff’s voice was presented with that same level of audio ‘golden intoxication’ of refinement, finesse and sweetness. That reminded me of my experience with my Audio Note (UK) Ongaku integrated 211 Single Ended Tube (SET) amplifier. Another audio presentation ‘marvel’ of the SET amplifier was the accuracy and believability of dimension, scale and weight of the recorded musical instruments. Some would argue that it was tube component’s ‘bloom’ character that presented the above. However, the Black Pearl (without that exaggerated bloom) managed to present that ‘tube’s marvel’ on the piano with dimension, scale and weight at a believable, and satisfying level. In addition, the un exaggerated bloom at the piano notes allowed each note to be presented with clarity, fullness and flow.
Lately, I received a wonderful surprise from a fellow Analogue Fellowship member from Seremban, Malaysia (thanks, bro). He presented to me as a gift, Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio ‘Blues For Tee’ (produced by Takeshi Fuji for Three Blind Mice, TBM-41). Those of us whom have followed and/or collected Three Blind Mice (the Label) would recognize Tsuyoshi Yamamoto from the same Label’s top album, Misty (TBM-30). If you love Misty then I would strongly recommend ‘Blues For Tee’. Expect great recording in the custom of Three Blind Mice and faster jazz play.
Here, Tsuyoshi’s play of each note at his piano was presented with the expected clarity, fullness and flow. His piano was presented with the expected and believable dimension, scale and weight. However, I found each musician and his musical instrument, though separated from each other, defined and delineated, but were not clearly outlined and definitely not heavily highlighted compared to some higher end cables.
Therefore, audiophile who expected rigid and solid positioning of musicians within a soundstage may have to look elsewhere. I would add for the Black Pearl that the outline was sufficient to showcase ‘movement’ among the musicians. That ‘movement’ created a sensation that made me imagining the musicians were moving their body while playing with their respective instrument at the recording session. I could not justify or prove that that ‘movement’ was in the recording since it was not there with other branded power cords of higher price. Alternatively, that ‘movement’ could be deduced as an added ‘flair of tunefulness’ or ‘fluidity’ to the audio presentation (Am I hearing the springs suspended Linn LP12’s tunefulness?…possibly).
The Black Pearl to sail?!
The more I listened to the Black Pearl, the more I believed that Hendry, the Captain of Vermouth Audio may have realized the new balance of price to performance ratio for an audio cable. They are transparent and neutral enough for a million dollar audio system!