Stereovox Vespa Interconnects and Firebird Speaker cables
|Stereovox Vespa Interconnects and Firebird Speaker cables|
|David Blaine-like Magic!|
The way I see it, there are really only four categories of audio wire; The Cheap, The Reasonable, The Expensive and The Insane. [NOTE: if you are Donald Trump or a celebrity hairstylist there are NO categories and wire is simply ‘wire’]. Stereovox’s relatively minimalist stable of cables fall evenly among the latter three categories with our subjects at hand falling neatly into the category I’ve labeled ‘reasonable.’ Chris Sommovigo divides his products in half and labels the ‘reasonably’ priced half the Studio line and the Dom Perignon half, the Reference line.
The Stereovox Vespa interconnects and the Firebird speaker cables hail from the Studio line — and their pricing, as such, is commensurate with most of the products I tend to review. Prior to its arrival, the Vespa interconnect already in a manner of speaking, had a place in my heart, for its immediate predecessor was the beloved (to me) Studio HDSE; an interconnect which I would come to prefer to a litany of other cables and which I went on about in chat forums/recommended many times to friends etc.
As compared with its predecessor, The Vespa IC’s retain the same tubular copper conductor geometry long favored by Stereovox along with the same RCA terminations, though the left and right channel conductors (the wires themselves) are now no longer separate. Rather, they are bundled together under one sleeve of shielding material. Giving Stereovox more of your money will net you individually shielded wires which employ the purportedly better performing, cool looking and certainly more-expensive-to-manufacture Xhadow Reference RCAs. These are called the Colibri interconnects and it is reassuring to know (for us Firebird users anyway!) that despite their additional cost, they employ the self-same tubular conductor geometry that the Firebirds do.
Even more reassuring is the knowledge that, should you wish to give Mr. Sommovigo of Stereovox MUCH more money, you will find that your Reference line interconnects- the near- legendary SEI-600’s – again employ the self-same tubular conductor geometry, though that conductor now becomes solid-core silver and gets wrapped in more advanced noise rejection/shielding materials.
Even a recovering English major like myself can deduce from this that Mr. Sommovigo really prefers a tubular geometry for his conductors. Why so and wherefore? Let’s ask the man….
Me: “Mr. Sommovigo- why do you prefer tubular conductors for your interconnects?”
Mr. Sommovigo: “Skin Effect management. It essentially forces all relevant frequencies into the same resistance profile. This is done in many ways in the industry, via Litz, via ribbon, etc. The tubular conductor is the purest way of accomplishing this end, in my opinion.”
Me: “Good enough. Can you say a bit then about the differences between my beloved HDSE IC’s and their replacement, the Vespas under review here?”
Mr. Sommovigo: “The newer dielectrics are much lower density so they store less and release faster. Now all of our products use the low density dielectrics, yielding a dielectric constant of 1.41 typically. The old HDSE used high density teflon.”
It doesn’t take an English major to infer that Mr. Sommovigo feels such electrical benefits translate directly into sonic ones.
Interview complete. Now you see why I write for stereo magazines and was not asked to replace Star Jones on The View?
But you get the idea. In any case, as you and I are both undoubtedly aware, all kinds of cable makers make all kinds of claims about all kinds of properties affecting the sonics of their product in one manner or other. Since there is no good way to prove, even if you love the cable, that such wonderfulness really is the byproduct of these particular properties in your particular system, it makes sense not to dwell at length upon them. Hence the Larry King-like vapidity of my ‘interview.’
Use and Abuse… of privileges
I’ve had Chris Sommovigo’s Vespa interconnects and Firebird speaker cables for far longer than I should have. There- I said it. I’ve used them maybe for almost two years when I believe we agreed upon roughly a few months. This is because I sorta forgot that I promised Chris a review… then I ummm… had stuff to do and …uh…my dog ate the.. well, in any case, it was way too long and for that I apologize. Don’t worry though; I never hand out good reviews just because I’m apologetic. In any case, prior to receiving the Vespas/Firebirds, I should disclose that Chris’s HDSE studio IC’s were my go-to interconnects for the longest time- several years in fact. Their superb value for money even prompted me to nominate them for a Stereo Times holiday gift idea.
I bought them either prior to becoming involved with reviewing or early into it, shortly after reading some really positive review or other and essentially never looked back. I loved them from the get go. As I recall, it wasn’t anything special about them that particularly grabbed my interest (though I did love the name ‘Stereovox’) – and THAT’s what was special about them. They just seemed to overlay little if any character on the sound, even as compared with much pricier fare.
What’s more, I bought them at a time when I was detoxing from a years-long Naim addiction and as such, comparatively, most audiophile cables sounded sluggish and warm to me at the time – very un-Naim-like In retrospect, the particular paciness of the Naim gear, at least in the case of the older olive series gear, is a bit of an acquired taste for many, and if you compare say, systems cabled with normal-people wires like AudioQuest or MIT to their combos, you will always feel your system is somewhat sluggish by comparison. Or you could conclude that their older gear makes everything sound a touch ‘faster and punchier’ than it should. That’s what I ultimately concluded. Hence my detox.
But – I digress. In any case, fresh off of Naim’s heady rhythmicity, I needed a wire that compromised little in this department, but let the essential colors and joy of the music come through with my new ’round-earth’ gear. The Stereovox HDSE cables did just that.
As I recall, by way of comparison with the original Audience Au24 I was using at the time, the HDSE’s seemed appropriately rougher and more dynamic. They had more bass and in general sounded less ‘oiled’ and more real. Indeed, for all their delicacy and subtlety, I found the original version of the much ballyhooed Audience cables to be a little light in the loafers. The new and improved version thereof may be better in this regard.
But we aren’t talking about the HDSE here – at least we’re not supposed to be. We’re supposed to be talking about the Vespa; a new and supposedly improved version thereof. So let’s…
Mine is Bigger than Yours
First, just a brief ‘ergonomic’ issue or two. I should mention that, much like the JPS Labs cables, the Stereovox studio line cables require some deftness/delicacy in handling as they can get ‘kinky’ relatively easily. Don’t try to make them go around sharp corners or step on them (too often), and keep the dog away. I should also mention that since the Vespa consists of two conductors wrapped in a sheath whose loose ends hang out of the insulation by a few inches or so, they do not lend themselves well to very widely spaced RCA connections on amplifiers. I had trouble only rarely with this on amps such as the Luminance ST-150, as its RCA inputs were on opposite sides of the back plate and the Vespas only barely made the span. The HDSE’s by contrast, were single unsheathed conductors and therefore had no such troubles.
Sonically, in comparison with my current reference cables, the much less flexible, thicker and four-times-the-price JPS SC 3’s, the Stereovox Vespa IC’s lose out a bit on two factors- bass heft and tonal color. With the Vespa in place, there is slightly less heft and thrum in cello n’ bass segments and a bit less impact on kettle drums. The growing rumblings of orchestral tuttis don’t quite wash over you to the degree they do with the JPS Labs SC3’s. Tenor voices I’m very familiar with, such as Pavarotti, Juan Diego Florez and Rockwell Blake seem just a bit thinner and maybe a bit more focused.
You know – in writing these descriptions, it occurs to me that since I once again was passed over for an invitation to the original recording sessions, and cannot therefore speak with absolute assuredness as to how these recording should sound, perhaps I will shift a bit into total subjectivist mode (as if we weren’t there already). Let me tell you straight; I use both the JPS Labs cables and the Stereovox cables on a rotating basis. I love both of them though I find the JPS to have in general a ‘bigger’, more weighty sound which is a touch warmer in character and a bit more tonally colorful.
The Stereovox on the other hand may sound a bit ‘faster’ – more lithe and punchy/pacey. I therefore find myself using the Stereovox in preference to the JPS cables with say, punchy British integrateds, such as the Exposure 2010S and with equipment that could lend itself to sounding overly syrupy at times. It certainly worked better with my friend’s Shindo gear – not that the Shindo is overly ‘tubey’ – just seemed the Sterovox highlighted its dynamism and agility a touch more. The Stereovox seemed a more sympatico match for my Red Wine Audio amp as well as the JPS cables were too warm for my taste in this particular application.
However, for whatever fortuitous reason, I prefer the JPS cables with my resident AR Classic 60 tube amp and LS-5 Mk. 3 preamp. They just seem to bring out this pair’s expressiveness to a more visceral degree than the Stereovox’s here – which by no means sound ‘bad’ with this gear.
In terms of the Firebird speaker cables, they share a sonic signature with the IC’s – fast and agile and a touch leaner than the JPS Petite+ I use as my reference. The JPS cables worked a treat with my Proacs, which could be a touch insistent up top and the Stereovox’s worked as well or better with many other speakers, including the Hyperion standmounts and Living Voices etc. It’s a rehash of the IC comparisons- a touch more agility and dynamism vs. a touch more warmth, weight and heft. I do LOVE the easily removable Xhadow silver spades included with the Firebirds as with them, you have shift-on-the-fly convenience when connecting speakers or amps set up to accept solely spades or solely banana connectors.
What are you trying to say??!!
I guess what I’m trying to say is, the Stereovox Vespa ICs seem to offer a bit more nuance and resolution than their predecessors- the amazing HDSE- without ever sounding anything less than musical or natural. They certainly remain, alongside the DH Labs Air Matrix, my ‘go to’ interconnects for daily listening with much of the gear it is my pleasure to evaluate/hear. They are also seems less delicate- less prone to kinkiness- owing to their new jacketed build.
I will say that in certain applications the Nordost Heimdall I heard recently (thanks Cable Company!) surpassed the Stereovox Vespa at its own game – managing to sound similarly rhythmic, dynamic and resolved with even perhaps a shade more heft and rumble and a bit less fine grain.
But it was damnably close and those Heimdalls cost quite a bit more. And so it always goes…
I will say, as much as I enjoy the budget interconnects from Audio Art I reviewed some time ago, I have come to consider the Stereovox’s a step up musically. Audio Art’s speaker cables remain a superb cable all around and were to my ears, better than their previous interconnects (new models are since afoot).
In terms of the the Firebird speaker cables- I’m not trying to save cyber ink; they really do evidence very similar sonic properties to their IC brethren and NO, I do not feel they MUST be used with the Stereovox IC’s to make special David Blaine-like magic! (Though Chris Sommovigo may feel differently!).
Vespa Interconnects: $350.00 per meter
Firebird Speaker Cable: $650 per two meter
USA /CANADA Distributor
The Signal Collection, LLC
Atlanta, GA USA
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