Vermouth Audio are not that familiar a name in audiophile cable circles and have only been founded for some four years or so inBlack-Pearl-Loudspeaker-Cable 2010, though Hifi Pig did review their Black Curse interconnects back in 2012.  They originate from Bali, which again doesn’t have a reputation yet for producing top flight audio products, but if we take Vermouth Audio founder Mr Hendry’s opinion as valid, then all that is set to change in the not too distant future.  The Black Pearl speaker cables for review here are at the top of a three model speaker cable range comprising the Black Pearl, Black Curse and the Red Velvet, in descending order.  Similarly, they produce a range of interconnects with the same model designations, along with Black Curse and Red Velvet power cords, plus a Black Curse integrated amplifier.

When it comes to buying cables, most audiophiles I reckon will use three simple criteria as their initial  judgements for their intended purchasing decision:

  • Firstly, they will use their eyes.   It has to look right and fit for purpose, because more often than not this is how we first encounter our objects of desire, as photographs in various publications or indeed an internet based source.  If it doesn’t look “right” then it’s probably not even going to appear on anyone’s short-list of candidates for audition.
  • Secondly, with their ears.  Ears are used to decode how much details and resolution is available from the cable in terms of bass and treble absolutes and that all-important midrange clarity and naturalness.  Does it excite?  Does it offend?  Is any part of the sonic spectrum lacking? Does it suit the hi-fi system and listening environment? Will the overall presentation the cable gives provide long term satisfaction?
  • Finally, with the brain which decides whether or not the cable represents an investment in sound quality over the return in terms of cash outlay.

And so, I will attempt to apply those three criteria on your behalf dear reader to the Vermouth Audio Black Pearl speaker cables submitted here for review.

Appearance

In terms of appearance, the Black Pearl cable rates highly in my estimation, better in fact than the majority of cables with any pretensions to being high end.  There are simply stunning carbon fibre shell covers fitted to the plug terminations and some exquisite screen printing denoting manufacturer and model details.  In the sample submitted for review, there are 4mm banana plugs at one end with generously sized spade connectors at the other end, but I understand that either connector array is available to order.  “Cold forging Tellurium Copper Rhodium Plated Termination” as Vermouth Audio’s website proclaims is what the connectors materials are and attachment to the cable itself which measures some 21mm in diameter along the main body of the cable with bifurcated tails of some eight  inches in length of a smaller diameter up to the connectors.  At that junction we find “Anodised sandblasted  aluminium cable stoppers” and very nice they look too.  Internal construction is said to be

10 AWG UPOCC multisize and multilayer conductors with air spacing suspension.  The outer covering is of braided expandable nylon mesh with a silvery criss-cross pattern.  So, on looks alone the Black Pearls score well on the eye candy scale.  It looks very substantial and rather heavy too, which it is.

Sound

With most cables there seems to be a trade-off somewhere, from excellence in one area of the sound at the expense and Black-Pearl-Loudspeaker-Cable-2detriment of another.  A cable can have stunning bass performance, yet the treble can be vague, the midband nasal and muddy (and vice versa), yet we can all easily be beguiled by that bass, mid, or treble  performance at first hearing but overlook, even forgive the short-falls initially, which will eventually manifest itself into the conscious later on and lead to dissatisfaction.  Having lived with the Black Pearls for a while now I can say that this cable is not one of those.  While it isn’t the last word in detail and resolution, by the same token it is utterly even-handed, neutral in frequency response  and never offends or give the perception that it’s holding back on anything either.  I don’t see that as a negative in any way because it means it isn’t busying itself revealing faults with partnering components and recording quality that will irritate and annoy.

For example, while listening to the opening track London Grammar’s excellent ‘If You Wait’ album there is a wealth of synthesized reverberation effects and a deep penetrating bass line to the music, underpinning the female vocals.  The Black Pearls portrayed this track with both the delicacy and power necessary to make it an enjoyable and satisfying listen.  Track two from the same album contains some very obvious and deliberate fret fingering on steel strings from the guitarist and that comes across as crisp, defined and uncannily real sounding.

Ginger Baker’s epic drum solo on Wheels of Fire by Cream has the drum kit close mic’ed during the performance which is ideal for testing transient ability.  Snare drum and tom toms sounded taut and dynamic the way they should be and the cymbals have a polished refinement with no splashiness or tizz.  Kick drum too has a solid “whump” that feels like it’s hitting you in the pit of the stomach as much as you hear it with your ears.

Moving on to Derrin Nauendorf’s ‘Live at the Boardwalk’ which is a live acoustic recording with Derrin  playing solo acoustic guitar and accompanied only by a basic set of drums, the tonality of the guitar’s sound was conveyed realistically and full of natural resonances and timbres.  Every pluck on the strings was heard in great clarity and detail, although I cannot say that Derrin is the best of vocalists, but an enjoyable listen nonetheless.

Treble then is clean and clear, and I was able to pick out minute detail and finer points, even when the music got hectic.  Bass has depth and power, without overhang or delay and is able to react to fast transients in a clear delineated fashion.  Female vocals were up there with the best of the competition.  Play a simple acoustic recording in a live venue and all the reverberation effects and ambience in a venue are delivered with solidity and competence.  They have a balanced and neutral sound with no peaks or troughs to trouble or perturb and it is due to that neutrality I was very pleased with the Black Pearl’s performance.

The acid test for me personally is whether or not I play entire albums or just my favourite “showcase” tracks off albums and secondly, how long do my listening sessions last for, so a very late bed time without realising what the time actually is, is a huge endorsement.  The Black Pearls met those two criteria easily.

Sound Per Pound

And finally, how much bang for the buck do the Black Pearls provide?  Plenty, I say.

Starting at £575.00 for a 1.8 metre pair they are not cheap by any means, but given that they cost considerably less than similar sounding rivals in the marketplace, then they do represent good value in my view.  Oddly enough, they are available in 1.8, 2.3, 2.8, 3.3, 3.8, 4.3, 5.1, 5.4, 5.7 and 6 metres in length.   But, the benefit to that is buying a closer match in length to what you actually need to reach from amplifier to speaker, rather than the standard metre or if you are lucky, half metre increments.

Summary

While the Vermouth Audio Black Pearls are not the absolute best at resolving every last drop of music from a recording, I don’t see that as a negative attribute, rather as a positive benefit because a cable that can and does wring the very last drop of detail will also have the undesirable trait of being utterly ruthless with issues from recordings or systems, resulting in not being able to be listened for hour after hour without fatigue.  That also means they are going to be a good match in synergy terms to a broader spectrum of system components, so on that basis the Black Pearls will, I am sure, easily win many friends and followers.  Having listened to cables costing twice and three times as much for a near identical performance to the Black Pearls, that puts their pricing into context .  As usual, the caveat is seek out a home demonstration to form your own opinion regarding these cables.

Did I mention they look rather tasty too? RECOMMENDED LOGO NEW

Dominic Marsh

Build Quality               8.3/10

Sound Quality             8.2/10

Value For Money        8/10

Overall                        8.2/10 

Price as tested  £575.00 for a 1.8 metre pair.

Recommended for:  Any system where neutrality is the overriding sound attribute, where extended listening without fatigue is required.

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