Flat conductor audio cables have a certain mystique, and for that reason in 2007 I reviewed Magnan Cables, which I found to be quite pleasant. The awkward but smooth sounding cables were winsome by their ability to tame gear having less than state-of-the-art sound quality.
Now in 2015, I find myself once again working with flat conductor cables. Ryan Scott of Vapor Audio introduced me to Mike Powell of Verastarr. I am moving up the Vapor Audio line, having turned in my cherished Nimbus White speakers for a pair of custom built Joule White 3. The Joule White 3 is no ordinary speaker, even by Vapor Audio standards, as Ryan is building an operationally identical set for himself. The Joule has received a top-to-bottom makeover, and I own the first pair. Inside this speaker is Verastarr cabling.
I made the decision to have Verastarr installed inside the Joule White following the reveal of the Vapor Perfect Storm at Axpona 2015. I listened to that speaker primarily for one thing – definition. If the speaker could reveal a high degree of information in a recording it would be at least in part attributable to the internal wiring. Hearing the distinction between the Joule White 3 and the Nimbus White in my home, I had confirmation of my choice of internal cable. Dagogo readers who read my review of the Nimbus White know I loved that speaker’s performance. The Joule White 3 has thoroughly occupied the place in my heart that the Nimbus White held, in no small thanks to the Verastarr cabling.
Partial system survey
This article is based on tests of systems partially outfitted with Verastarr products. Normally, I receive an entire suite of cables from manufacturers, and this was my intent in reviewing the Verastarr products. However, due to a difficult schedule and short supply of speaker cables and interconnects, this will be a discussion regarding only the Grand Illusion 2 power cord and Nemesis USB cable. I believe the conclusions I reach in regard to the sound of Verastarr products is applicable across the company’s other lines of cables, but the reader should be aware that by necessity, mixed sets were used in this assessment.
The review began while I was still using the Vapor Audio Nimbus White speakers. The Nimbus White sparkled with more resolution than any other solid conductor cable. The Nemesis USB cable has displaced several other fine USB cables to become my reviewing and personal listening preference. In short order, Verastarr has found a place in my pantheon of cables as a wire worthy of recognition.
Resolution is only part of the game; proper tonality is absolutely necessary to establish a top system. Without proper tonality resolution is harsh, clinical. If a cable gets both resolution and tonality correct, it stands a very good chance of being an outstanding cable in anyone’s system. Myriad are the wires that, because the owner has not bothered to compare, choke the performance. Yes, I said “choke,” because when information does not get transmitted by the cables to the components, when tonality is darkened or obscured, the end result sonically is akin to someone pressing their hand around one’s neck, compressing the trachea, not a pleasant experience.
As I have become a budding motorcycle enthusiast, I imagine the pain Mike Powell felt when he sold a Triumph Trophy and Ducati Monster to fund the startup of Verastarr. Naming the company after his grandmother, Vera, it was time for Mike, “to do something I was passionate about as a career because my job at the time made me realize life was passing me by.” Audiophiles have Mike’s life crisis to thank for the existence of Verastarr!
Mike grew up in a home bursting with music and dancing, and is self-taught in regard to electronics and business. Audioquest’s cable ads fueled Mike’s desire to work with cables. He was fascinated by the intricacy of Audioquest products, “I never even heard them, I just loved the cut-away diagrams, and how cool it was that a simple metal wire could be so tweaked out for accurate music reproduction. I could see that there was an art in it.”
So, what is the magic tweak inside Verastarr cables? Mike won’t say; instead he deflects the question, “I don’t like to pitch my cables; I like to demo them. The foil is unique. Our cables are flat, very flexible and light… not common in the upper echelon of best sounding cables you’ve ever heard.” This is a thoroughly unsatisfying answer to techie-oriented audiophiles, but it seems a straightforward description of the products while keeping specific details, such as geometry and gauge a company secret. I was able to ascertain the following: RCA plugs are sourced from Keith Eichmann, and silver spades are sourced from WBT. The website discusses this in more detail.
In addition, all elements not cryo treated by the OEM undergo cryo treatment at Verastarr cables. PTFE and natural cotton, as well as quartz fiber, are used in various designs. Note that Verastarr cables are not shielded.
Verastarr recommends use of cable elevators to get the cables off the floor. “Foil optimized” elevators will be available soon from Verastarr. A power strip will also debut at CES 2016.
I used Verastarr Grand Illusion 2 power cords and the Nemesis USB on several systems, such as the one in the following:
Mac Mini running HQPlayer software to upconvert 16/44.1 to 32/6.1MHz playback.
Verastarr Nemesis USB 1M
Eastern Electric Minimax Tube DAC Supreme with discrete opamps from Sparko’s Lab and DEXA NewClassD
TEO Audio Liquid Interconnect 1m
TEO Audio Liquid Pre
Audioquest 1 to 2 RCA splitter
TEO Audio Liquid Interconnect 2m (on Mid/High)
Silnote Audio Interconnect 2m (on bass)
First Watt J2 Amplifier (two, run passive vertical biamp)
TEO Audio Standard Liquid Speaker Cable
Vapor Audio Joule White 3 Speaker
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