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August 2021

Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine

World Premiere Review!
Vermouth Audio Reference Series Cables Review
Reference Balance Interconnect, Reference RCA Interconnect, And Reference Power Cord
A big box of cables from Bali.
Review By Dwayne Carter

 

Vermouth Audio Reference Series Cables Review Reference Balance Interconnect, Reference RCA Interconnect, And Reference Power Cord

 

  A few years ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing a pair of Vermouth Audio Little Luccas MkII Limited Edition Speakers, along with their Red Velvet, and Black Pearl Cables. They arrived in a large wooden crate, direct from Bali. Meticulously packed and well cared for, the audio cables were individually boxed and wrapped in cloth bags. We were impressed from the moment we began unboxing until the moment we sent them back to Bali.

The delivery of the Vermouth Audio's Reference Series Cables prompted the same expectation. Vermouth Audio sent three of their Reference Series Cables: The Reference Balance Interconnect, Reference RCA Interconnect, and Reference Power Cord.

Inside the thick cardboard box; each Reference Series Cable (or cable pair) arrived in a separate, decorative cardboard box. Inside that box, each cable (or cable pair) was tucked inside a heavy cloth bag, adorned with the Vermouth logo. The Reference Cables for review (the Reference Balance Interconnect, Reference RCA Interconnect, and Reference Power Cord) were made to order, in two and three-meter lengths (for the Reference Power Cord).

Visually, the Reference Cables are stunning. The Reference Series Cables are all housed in a PVC shell and finished in a bright white braided sheath. All the Reference Series Cables are extremely well made and terminated to the finest degree of quality. There wasn't an errand fiber or smudged termination end in sight. Of course, you don't shell out good money just to stare at audio cables, so we put them to work.

 

 

It's All About Power
The Vermouth Audio Reference Power Cord was the first cable to be connected. Vermouth Audio lists the following details for their Reference Power Cord: 

– 39 UP-OCC multisided strands with 2 groups in total (10AWG UP-OCC Copper Conductors)

– Braided Shield

– Noise Rejection Al-Mylar wrap

– Air tube spacer & suspension

– 19.2 mm High flexible design allowing easy installation

– Furutech FI-28 Rhodium with special carbon fiber shell

 

These details do not lend themselves to the actual product you would be holding in your hands. The Vermouth Audio Reference Power Cord is the current flagship of the Vermouth Audio Power Cord line. The Black Pearl, Red Velvet MkII, Rhapsody, and Serenade models complete the Vermouth Audio lineup. Even their entry-level Serenade cable appears to be a beast as well.

The two-meter cable in my hands felt like a five-pound coiled snake. Not wishing to start a war over cable supports (need or needless); I would caution anyone using the Reference Power Cord to pay attention during termination. This thick cable will only allow minimal coiling. Luckily, during my initial test phase, termination was very simple and perfectly spaced between component and power plug. A cracked wall plate (or worse), a component port, maybe in your future, if you do not pay attention during termination.

I immediately googled "cable support plates" for a future purchase.

In my quest to move to a more "analog" setup; my initial amplifier under review was the amazing Audio Research VT80SE stereo tube amplifier (review coming, soon). The Audio Research VT80SE requires a 20 Ampere IEC 12-gauge power cord (supplied with the unit). ARC claims a 20A IEC connector makes a tighter connection than the 15A IEC. Umm... OK?

While not ideal, using a Shunyata Research 15A cable to a 20A component adapter was all that was needed to complete the connection to the amplifier. Carefully plugging the Vermouth Audio Reference Power Cord into the ARC VT80SE, then into my high-end power conditioner and surge protector); the review process could begin. The power cord supplied by Audio Research works fine, but stays a bit too warm, after a few hours of use.

Since all the cables supplied by Hendry Ramli, owner of Vermouth Audio, were burned in for three days, before being shipped; a lengthy burn-in process was decreased from seven days to four. Random playback on my Roon-controlled Demo Playlist provided the needed four-day burn-in task.

Reviewing power cables for their "sonic characteristics" is an easy way to start a trolling war. Either you can hear the difference between cables, or you cannot. If you can hear the difference and it makes and enhances your listening pleasure, then invest in good quality cables. If you can't hear the difference, spend your money elsewhere. An engineer would have the proper equipment (and education) to analyze the subtle nuances between this power cord or that one. Test point after test point. This is not the case for this reviewer. In this instance, my immediate test point was unwanted and excessive heat coming from the cable shell. After seven days of constant play (at various volumes), the Vermouth Audio Reference Power Cord gave off no disenable heat. None. Cool to the touch.

 

 

While not a "sonic characteristic", poor quality power cables can rob the performance and efficiency of your audio components. This is often stated as "…this X-brand cable makes my amplifier sound bad". While no one power cable (or brand) works the same on every audio component; most audio professionals will urge you to toss the cheap black power cable that came in the box.

The second test point was the overall performance of the Vermouth Audio Reference Power Cord when connected to an audio component. In this case, the Audio Research VT80SE stereo amplifier.

When working with tube amplifiers, the slightest change will usually make a difference of some sort. Tube amplifiers (in general) are very sensitive components. The first noticeable change was the bass. During this extended review, Vivid Audio Kaya 45, Avantgarde Uno Fino, and my usual Martin Logan Summit loudspeakers were connected to the Audio Research VT80SE stereo amplifier with the Vermouth Audio Reference Power Cord. With each of the different loudspeakers, enhanced bass performance was easily noticeable. My listening notes also mention clarity in male vocal tracks, but a tightness in the midrange would be a safer observation.

Two positive test points for the Vermouth Audio Reference Power Cord were enough for me. No disenable surface heat, and enhanced bass and mid-range performance are more than you can ask of a power cord. The Vermouth Audio Reference Power Cord remained in place during the entire review process and remains in place to this day. Score another winner for Vermouth Audio.

 

 

Making More Connections
The Vermouth Audio Reference Balanced Interconnect XLR cables were connected next. Vermouth Audio lists the following details for their Reference Balance Interconnect XLR cables:

– Multisize OCC copper blended with rectangular OCC Copper

– Double PTFE Tape protection combine with Cu Mylar wrapped

– Braided OCC copper shield.

– Airtube spacer & suspension

– High Quality & flexible jacket.

– Full Tellurium copper direct rhodium-plated XLR plug conductor

– Telfon Insulation XLR plug

– Carbon Fiber Shell Connector

 

As with the Vermouth Audio Reference Power Cord, the Reference Balance Interconnect XLR cables are a sight to behold. Using the same carbon fiber shell and braided OCC copper shield; the Vermouth Audio Reference Balanced Interconnect XLR cables will catch your eye the moment you pull them from the bag.

The Vermouth Audio Reference Balanced Interconnect XLR cables were connected in place of a pair of (my personal) Audioquest Mackenzie (XLR) cables. As with the Reference Power Cord, the Reference Balance Interconnect XLR cables are very heavy. Care should be taken when connecting them to your system. At 3.0M in length, the Reference Balance Interconnect XLR cables were a bit long, as they were connected from my Wadia Di322 DAC to the Audio Research LS27 preamplifier, which sits on shelves beneath each other. Due to the weight of the cables; once I routed them along the sides of the rack, the length turned out to be perfect.

 

 

Like the Vermouth Audio Reference Power Cord; the Vermouth Reference Balance Interconnect XLR cables are the top of the Vermouth Audio interconnect line, replacing the Red Velvet MkII XLR. Being a fan of the Audioquest product, their cables are connected to 90% of my components. These particular XLR cables (Audioquest Mackenzie XLR) have been connected between my Di322 DAC and Audio Research LS27 preamplifier for several years. Their sonic characteristics are well known to me.

Now, the Vermouth Reference Balance Interconnect XLR cables were in place. The first several listening sessions offered little for me to notate. The Reference Balance Interconnect XLR cables were extremely neutral. That's not a bad thing to be. Not until the third week did the cables start to open. Setting aside the entire day, my demo list was restarted from the beginning. Ed Sheeran's Strong male voice on "Galway Girl", "Eraser" and "Perfect" was first.

Michael Jacksons, "Human Nature" [DSD 2.8MHz] is always a must-play from this playlist, and couldn't have been a better selection. The DSD version of Michael Jacksons, "Human Nature" has a soft (but arresting) de-tuned xylophone track in the background. I have only heard this sound on High-Resolution tracks. It's also less noticeable (or inaudible) on equipment that is incapable of reproducing, very delicate passages. The de-tuned xylophone track was loud and clear.

Reviewing my cryptic notes for that morning echoed the same notes from the final listening session. Fast, transparent, accurate. Controlled and realistic timbre, with tight controlled bass. The need to go lower sent me to the "Thumper" playlist. Linkin Parks "Papercut", "Yeah" by Usher, "Boom Pow" (Black Eyed Peas), "Don't Let Me Down" [featuring Daya re-mix], and "Never Forget You" [MNEK re-mix]) shook the doors. Clean, controlled bass, track after track.

Next, the ladies.In the order of my go-to "Female Vocal List". Norah Jones "Come Away With Me" (24-bit/192kHz), is the first. Her vocals patterns and mid and mid-high range are always soothing to me, and an easy flag (or warning) to my ears; if not reproduced properly. Pinks "What About Us" (FLAC 24-bit/44.1kHz), Alicia Keys "Kill Your Mama" (FLAC 24-bit/44.1kHz) filled the room that afternoon. Pat Benatar's re-mastered (24-bit/192kHz), tracks have made it to the updated Demo List, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" was the first of a dozen tracks played in rapid succession. Kate Bush "Experiment IV" (DSD from the LP 24-bit/192kHz), provided the punch of the mid-range; a throaty/nasal timbre on sustained notes. Combo reproduced her vocal tonalities as expected. The overall soundstage of the room, being a full (and not overly bright) concert venue.

Female vocals can be difficult to reproduce accurately on many systems. Their voices being mostly mid-range in timbre, female performances can come across bland and lifeless, if the mid-range is not being driven properly and accurately. Time permitting, some vinyl would be spinning this evening. But this afternoon required some CD listening.

Removing the Vermouth Audio Reference Balanced Interconnect XLR cables from the Wadia Di322 DAC, the cables slipped nicely into the Oppo UDP-205 Universal player (used as my reference transport). I dropped in the Audioquest Music CD [AQ-CD1027] and played Doug MacLeod's "Rollin' & Tumblin'" (from Come To Find). This song is played during every review and every beat is memorized. As I had spent the morning and early afternoon shacking my walls; my ears rested with some classical works.

"The Planets" by Gustav Holst [The Planets op. 32 and Maurice Ravel Bolero, DDD Digital Masters 5099704478128), Copland: The Music of America [Philip Collins 089408033926 1997], J.S. Bach: The Brandenburg Concertos [Phillips B01LXQBP84] and Pictures at an Exhibition [Mussorgsky by Ukraine National Symphony Orchestra B01K8R6C74] took me into the evening. Finally, ear fatigue had arrived. Spinning wax would wait for the morning.

 

Life Happens...
As life would have it, phono testing would take several days to happen. Disconnecting the OPPO UDP-205 Universal player; the Parasound JC3 Jr Halo Phono Preamplifier took its place. Starting with my usual suspects such as Beth Hart's 37 Days on 180-gram vinyl and Bruce Hornsby and The Range The Way It Is [APRV 30118 and AEXH 44072 respectively]; started my analog listening session on high quality, 180-gram pressings. My taste turned nostalgic and spent the rest of the phono session cleaning and listening to album after album, punk to new wave. The Fixx Shuttered Room and Reach the Beach followed by The Family, The Human League, more Kate Bush, Tears For Fears, Prince, Peter Gordon, The Clash, The Cure, Information Society, and finally Shriekback.

Throughout the days and weeks (into months) of switching between balanced sources, the Vermouth Audio Reference Balanced Interconnect XLR cables provided me with countless hours of transparent, tight, and musically fluid music. Strong mid-range and controlled bass. The Vermouth Audio Reference Balanced Interconnect XLR cables remained in place throughout the shutdown and other life-changing events.

 

 

The Vermouth Audio Reference RCA Interconnect cables were last to be reviewed. Vermouth Audio lists the following details for their Reference RCA Interconnect cables:  

– Multisize OCC copper blended with rectangular OCC Copper

– Double PTFE Tape protection combine with Cu Mylar wrapped

– Braided OCC copper shield.

– Airtube spacer & suspension

– High Quality & flexible jacket.

– Full Tellurium copper direct rhodium-plated RCA plug conductor.

– Carbon Fiber Shell Connector

– Locking RCA plug

 

As with the Vermouth Audio Reference Power Cord and the Reference Balance Interconnect XLR cables; the Vermouth Audio Reference RCA Interconnect cables are equally visually attractive and made with care. They are heavy, handcrafted reference-level interconnects, on par with any of the well-known high-end names. Simply exquisite.

To be truthful, (as reviewers should always be); I wasn't sure how to review them properly. My current system has been connected via balanced cables (with a few HDMI and USB cables) only, for the past three years. It took me a little time (and equipment juggling) to get the Reference RCA Interconnect cables into place. I cannot offer an A/B comparison, as I do not have any unbalanced RCA cables to swap out. Instead, let me describe how they sound.

The Reference RCA Interconnect cables sounded a bit different to my ears, but that is to be expected. I switched to all balanced cables (where possible) because I preferred their sound over unbalanced cables. That isn't to say, that the Reference RCA Interconnect cables didn't sound fantastic. They did.

The Vermouth Audio Reference RCA Interconnect cables have the same characteristics as the entire Vermouth Audio Reference line. Since they use all of the same main parts and design (OCC copper cables, multi-size OCC copper blend, same design pattern, and Mylar wrapping); you would expect nothing else. The Reference RCA Interconnects feature tiger-grip, rhodium-plated locking connectors in its carbon fiber shell. This vise-grip was nothing to play with. Be sure to completely loosen the lock, before trying to remove the cables. Removing the cable too hastily, almost caused a costly repair to my Audio Research LS27 pre-amplifier.

My listening notes read like a summary of my first two review cables. "Overall clarity in the mid-range, extended bass and controlled high-end". "No mud in the vocals". "Neutral and spacious sound space". "Natural attack". The only questionable comment noted was a reference to a comparison to balanced sound. The Vermouth Audio Reference RCA Interconnect cables sounded a bit compressed (overall), compared to the Reference Balanced Interconnect XLR cables. Is that a fair comparison? I don't know. I'm sure there is a 600-page white paper somewhere that will tell us. If that is the only rub I can give these amazing cables, then so be it.

 

Reference For A Reason
Considering the events over the past year; I feel truly blessed. Having a 9 to 5 job (7 to 7 more like it), that allows me to work from home, has been a tremendous relief. Life has not been all cherries and whip cream. Illness and financial hardship appeared from time to time. We survived, as I hope many of you did as well. We are changed, hopefully for the better. Hendry Ramli of Vermouth Audio was patient with me through all of this and did not pester me for the return of these wonderful cables.

Vermouth Audio has always been a joy to work with, and this feeling of pleasure is duplicated in their products. Having reviewed their Little Luccas speakers and previous cables (Red Velvet and Black Pearl Speaker cables); you will find their products to be carefully handcrafted and carefully packaged and carefully presented. This is a rare thing, in this assembly-line world.

The Vermouth Audio's Reference Series Cables, that includes their Reference Balance Interconnect XLR, Reference RCA Interconnect, and Reference Power Cord, warrant your attention. If you are looking for heavy, well-built cables that excel in the critical mid-bass/bass, with wide dynamic range, and controlled performance; look no further.

Ultimately, your choice of cables is critical to the final sound of your system and should be chosen with care and due diligence. It is a delicate balance, that can delight or dismay the listener. Some audiophiles spend their entire lives (and life savings), chasing perfection. Some people will use the cables that came in the component box. To each their own. My ears can hear some differences between cables, and I am willing to pay for the cables that sound better. I also like to show off my system, so I would prefer my cables to look nice as well. You do you.

When searching for premium cables, you should audition them on your own system (when possible). If you live in a country that has a Vermouth distributor, contact them directly regarding an audition.

While Vermouth Audio still hasn't become a household name in the states; they are certainly making some inroads. I'm waiting for Hendry to contact me about doing a review of their first, floor-standing loudspeakers. I don't know if they ever will, but if they do; they will look and sound amazing.

 

 

 

Reference Power Cord

Tonality

Sub-bass (10Hz - 60Hz)

Mid-bass (80Hz - 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz - 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

 

Reference Balance Interconnect XLR

Tonality

Sub-bass (10Hz - 60Hz)

Mid-bass (80Hz - 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz - 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

 

Reference Analog Interconnect RCA

Tonality

Sub-bass (10Hz - 60Hz)

Mid-bass (80Hz - 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz - 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

 

 

Specifications
Type: High-end audio / audiophile cable system
Vermouth Reference Analog Interconnect 
RCA-FT01-Rho-Ho 1-meter pair $898
Add per 0.25-meter pair $162

 

Vermouth Reference Balance Interconnect 
XLR-FT02-Rho-Ho 1-meter pair $1590
Add per 0.25-meter pair $286

 

Vermouth Reference Power Cord 
Furutech FI-28(R) with carbon fiber shell US Plug 1.2-meter $1300
Furutech FI-E38(R) with carbon fiber shell Schuko Plug 1.2-meter $1300
Add per 0.30-meter $180

 

 

 

Company Information
Vermouth Audio
Jalan Saridana VIII No.3
Cargo Permai
Denpasar Utara - 80116
Bali, Indonesia

E-mail: vermouth.audio@gmail.com
Website: VermouthAudio.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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