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To What Extent Does The Vertex AQ Systematic Approach Work In Practice?

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To What Extent Does The Vertex AQ Systematic Approach Work In Practice?

Vertex Solfonn Interconnects

Vertex Solfonn Interconnects

It’s no secret, the high-end Hi-Fi industry has a lot of doubters. When I tell non-audiophiles about some of the equipment that I work with, they can seem very dubious as to whether it can possibly be worth the money. Why would you buy a £500 mains cable?

These are often the people who have never really sat down to listen to a truly high-end system. Normally, when someone takes the time to give a good listen to a proper audiophile set-up, they are slowing sucked in (whether they like it or not).

In our Clerkenwell showroom, there is one brand that we have on demo that can divide opinion, more than the others. Vertex AQ.

This is not just friends who aren’t into hi-fi, even hardened audiophiles can dismiss Vertex AQ components for ‘snake oil’ at first glance. This can be very foolish though. Yes, they are not cheap products, but if you are replacing your £5k speakers and £10k amps every couple of years, in search of the perfect sound and not getting very far, Vertex would argue that the problem does not lie in the speakers or the amps, but in fact lies somewhere less obvious in your set-up.

No matter how great and transparent a pair of speakers are, if the signal they are receiving is disturbed, they will never sound like the real thing.

For years, Vertex have been using the expression ‘The Systematic Approach’ to describe the thinking behind their products. They describe it as ‘considering all the influences on hi-fi performance in an integrated and balanced way’. The key point behind the approach is that it ‘draws together the views that a system is both a set of discrete components and a whole entity built into an architectural framework. And it then considers how the system is affected by internal interactions as well as the environmental conditions within which it operates.’

Without getting into too much detail (you can read the entire approach on the VERTEX WEBSITE) the approach teaches you that ‘a complete system’ includes your room, your mains, your music, your tastes and also your brain. Everybody expects something different from their ‘perfect’ system, so how you try to achieve it needs to be tailored to you.

The job of a good mains cable is to pass only 50-60 Hz AC power through to the device, whilst blocking all higher frequencies and preventing power line noise and harmonics from degrading the quality of the sound created. So of these types of cables can work well, however, these types of cables do not deal with RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) or microphony.

These are the 2 main factors that Vertex products deal with, that others might not. RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) can come from a massive variety of sources including mobile phones and computers, and even from the hi-fi components themselves. Unwanted RFI can raise the noise floor and lose fine detail and phase information leaving you with a blurry flat image. Microphony is the susceptibility of electronic to produce distortion when vibrated.  This again can cause loss of detail and image as well as losing peaks and causing timing issues.

All Vertex components tackle these two problems head on. Every product has a metal-cased acoustic absorption module which contains an ‘acoustic labrynth structure’ which is able to drain all the unwanted RFI and vibration out of the cable.

But, the killer question is…. How well does it work?

Luckily for you readers, we have enough Vertex products here to set up a complete system and really try them out.

Leading Edge Acoustic Platform

Leading Edge Acoustic Platform

I started with our standard system, without any Vertex in. I used the Resolution Cantata as a CD source with the ATC SCA Pre amp, P1 Power amp and the ATC SCM40 passive floorstanders. No supports and the standard mains cables.

I did everything right, I set the speakers up in the correct positions, everything was placed on audiophile grade hi-fi racks, I had the seating in the correct position and the room I was in had also been acoustically treated.

However, I listened to a few tracks, it is a great sounding system, but there were areas which I could tell would be able to be improved upon. I felt the dynamics could be a little better, as well as the imagery and fullness of the sound and there was a certain slight annoyingness to the sound, like there was a small veil of noise that kept reminding me that I was not listening to live music.

I then added in a Leading Edge (Made by Vertex & Kaiser) support platform under the Resolution Cantata and started the same tracks again. The Leading Edge Platform works by draining the vibration energy out of your component and then breaking that energy down through the Vertex acoustic labyrinth. It also isolates the supports of the device away from external vibration whilst protecting from EMI and sound pressure energy.

I’m going to admit that this is not the first time that I have done this experiment, but every time I am always so amazed at how quickly you get a real noticeable improvement to the sound. Just from adding in 1 platform, I had released much improved dynamics, the sound now began to sound like it was surrounding me, the much sought after ‘live performance’ sound didn’t seem like a distant dream anymore. Happy that there was a solid improvement I then added another Leading Edge platform, this time under the preamp.

Another solid improvement, I found that the soundstage was expanded and the highs were cleaner and more precise. There was a certain bit of high-hat tapping on Shovels & Rope’s ‘Birmingham’ that was greatly improved now, whereas when I started listening with no Vertex, the fast tapping seemed to mush into one racketing sound, but now you could make out every single distinct tap and it sounded much more appealing and realistic.

Vertex Taga Distribution Block

Vertex Taga Distribution Block

The next problem to tackle is the vibration and RFI in the mains leads of our components. The first way to combat this is to use a Vertex Taga Distribution Block. The Taga is the equivalent of a 6 point mains extension block, except being a Vertex product it is filled with vibration and RFI draining materials and technology. I plugged all the standard mains leads into the Taga and listened again.

This was interesting, now I began hearing subtleties that were not there previously. There was little guitar licks and percussion noises adding to the track. This is an improvement that really makes you wonder what else you are missing out on. I was so impressed, that I stepped it up again by adding in the Vertex Roraima mains leads, I connected all the components up to the Taga with the Roraimas, I also added a Roraima between the Taga and the mains. Now there are no standard mains leads left, it’s all Vertex.

Normally, I would suggest adding these in one by one, but I want to keep this article as short and sweet as I can.

Now, we are getting somewhere with the performance.

The bass extension is improved, and the mid-range is fuller but the real difference is the musicality. The sound is now enthralling, I am sitting listening intently and really enjoying the music. We have a much more natural 3 dimensional sound. Everything seems more controlled and tight.

I was no finding that the veil of noise that I mentioned previously had been lifted, there was no longer that niggling something reminding me of the reproduced nature of the track.

Even when the volume is turned down, it is still just as appealing. This is a very important aspect of a system that can be forgotten. It is easy to go into your hi-fi store and be blown away by some powerful speakers at high volume, but when you are at home what volume do you usually listen to? Does it sound as great then?

Vertex Moncayo Speaker Lead Extension Blocks

Vertex Silver Moncayo Speaker Lead Extension Block

Ok, time to finish the system off with 2 big changes (again to keep this brief) I will fully treat the interconnect cabling with the Silver Moncayo Speaker Extension Blocks and the Solfonn Phono Interconnects. You will never completely eliminate RFI and EMI interference in your system, but this is now very close. Adding these parts means that this is now a full Vertex system, with Vertex mains, interconnects, speaker cables, and platforms.

Vertex Roraima Mains Lead

Vertex Roraima Mains Lead

Now I could notice some incredible improvements. The imaging is amazing, the vocals come from the centre and I can picture where each member of the band is playing and pick out what they are playing. What is different though is now the image is so clear I can hear the guitarist picking the strings and feel the drummers sticks hitting the pads, this is the type of sound that I look for in a great system. There is real life to the music and I am now in danger of sitting here listening over and over for hours.

It’s obvious to me how much of a difference Vertex products and the Systematic Approach makes to a system. I have done many tests, where I am sitting there with 2 different amplifiers, listening hard and finding very small changes and struggling to determine which I like best. This doesn’t happen with the Vertex test, it is instant and noticeable.

So the next time you think about upgrading your amps or speakers, really have a good think about what else it could be that you are not happy about with your system because often a few hundred pounds on Vertex can make thousands of pounds worth of sonic improvements.

Don’t’ take my word for it though. If you would like to hear this test for yourself, please get in touch, we’d be very happy to do a demonstration or loan you a demonstration model.

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