Recommended reading not only for any analog enthusiast, but for everyone interested in high-end audio in general.
This is a long story but it all started when I enjoyed listening to Thelonious Monk’s performance on a 14” SONY TV compared to when the LP was played on my, what I believed at the time, high end turntable! Of course sound-wise the turntable was better. However the playback of the TV programme recorded on a VHS through the same system was, musically and feeling-wise showed just what a genius he really was!
This test narrowed it down to the culprit being the turntable and not the rest of the system. That was when I decided to understand the function of a record player and began designing what then started a new era in real record playing systems.
This is a question that the answer to it must be yes but with a big proviso, not at the expense of the music. And only, if by being one, I can push the boundaries of enjoying recorded music. I never designed any product or brought any update or upgrade that didn’t enhance the musical experience and enjoyment.
However, I cannot sit back and say, well that’s now as good as it gets. Never, and that alone probably makes me an audiophile.
The difference between music lover and the audiophile?
Just a a consideration; An audiophile sometimes can get lost by focusing too much on the sound and lose track of the music itself…
What/who were your inspirations and might still be?
There are too many inspirational people and things around that it would be impossible for me to name them all and quite honestly, I couldn’t even say which or who are more inspiring!
Sounds like rubbish but it’s true. I learn every day and luckily learnt from an early age that the problems are the beginning of our new experiences and so never gave up. Inspirations are all around us – everywhere. We just need to observe…
Can you tell us about your role in Roksan and why departure from the company?
Well I suppose I was the beginning of Roksan and put everything I had and all the time I could in there for over 25 years! The departure was quite painful at first even without taking the financial loss into account. How can you let go of what you had made and nurtured for ¼ of a century !!! But, life goes on and a new leaf is just the beginning of the next phase in our lives…
Roksan Xerxes was quite different turntable back in time. Kindly elaborate?
The answer to your first question sort of covers this. Basically it was the understanding of the function of a record player that narrowed and focused the design to what became the Xerxes at the time. There was no one and no written document, book or report that stated the function of the record player – exactly. So when you define that the design sort of unfolds.
Are Vertere turntables continuing its heritage?
Vertere is the next step in a new era of true high end. This may sound big headed or arrogant but again it’s true. The pursuit of perfection is just a goal and like any ‘true’ goal (As meaning; END) must be unattainable. This is how you test your real desire and dedication to push forward even though you know you’re NEVER going to get to there. So by stating ‘the most important component in any system is its weakest link’ Vertere already began a ‘cyclic’ journey that would never end. Every design, idea, concept must be pursued but again not at the expense of enjoying the music. So we just push the boundaries and whatever unfolds we accept and move on. Xerxes by ……………………….????????
Many don’t know, but Vertere Acoustics first products were actually cables and not turntables. Why you’ve started with the cables?
See Video ‘Why Cables, etc…’
What inspired you to create Vertere Acoustics turntables?
Weakest links as I first identified them were; Connecting Cables, Tonearm, Record Player and Record Player Support. So after designing and producing the Reference Tonearm, I had the tools and the monitoring facilities to begin the design and manufacture of the Record Player. This led to the RG-1 Record Player. Without the Reference Tonearm and the Hand-built Pulse Cables the design of a Reference Record Player would have been rather challenging to say the least ! However, with the first two weak links sorted, it was much easier to identify, monitor and evaluate the record player’s critical components. Thus through calculated adjustments and choices of components the record player design was finalised..
Why the name?
Vertere in Latin mean a point of change, change in direction, understanding … This was arrived at when we decided to do a branding exercise on the company. By the way we won two awards for that at the Transform Awards in London.
Kindly list the product line?
Pulse Range of Cables (From D-Fi to Pulse-HB)
Record Players (RG-1 Reference, SG-1 & MG-1 Record Players)
STAGE-1 Record Player Isolation Platform
STAND-1 Equipment Support
And recently introduced
PHONO-1 Entry Level MC | MM Preamplifier.
How would you describe the difference between your entry level and reference turntable model?
The designation of ‘Entry Level’ is merely for Vertere. That means at this point in time we are unable to down engineer a product any further without sacrificing the essential performance characteristics of the Reference models. Vertere Entry Level products must perform to such a level that only a direct comparison to the Reference model would reveal the areas where their performance has been compromised.
Your latest product is seismic base. Please tell us more why you’ve created it what are the benefits?
STAGE-1 Reference Isolation Platform
This is probably the world’s first complete reference vinyl record playing system bringing musical experience from vinyl closest to the original recording - master tape or the high resolution digital file.
The authority, sheer musical portrayal of the performance, accuracy, detail, the darkest of backgrounds and lifelike dynamics experienced is second to none.
STAGE-1 & STAND-1 are the extension of the RG-1 Record Player | Reference Tonearm combination making a complete vinyl replay system that is almost impervious to what it is supported on.
Note that it isn’t just isolation of the record player that is important. It is how that isolation impacts on the internal ‘suspension’ of the record player. When a system with several degrees of freedom is introduced in a record player, the integrity of that system working in sympathy with the record player becomes paramount in ensuring faithful musical reproduction.
Almost any type of ‘foreign’ isolation system used with a high performance record player will have severe consequences resulting in loss of dynamics, clarity, detail timing and musicality. That is exactly why the Vertere Reference Record Player System has been designed as an entity. Although in situations where the floor is ‘solid’ there is no requirement for the STAGE-1 and/or STAND-1, the addition of them would enhance the performance of the record player beyond imaginable.
The reason being movements and noises that are present in almost any floor. These can be of such low frequency and amplitude that generally go unnoticed. But not without adverse effect on the music played back! This Vertere Reference system deals with such movements and noises like no other, providing the tonearm/cartridge/record interface with the calmest environment to do their job.
Experience ‘The Real Deal’ and enjoy recorded music like never before.
* Fully Mechanical Isolation System
* Top Plate Level Adjustment
* Isolation Filter Frequecny Adjustment
* 20mm Cast Acrylic Support Chassis
* 10mm Anodised Aluminium Alloy/Cast Acrylic Sandwiched Top Plate
* Stainless Steel/Cast Acrylic Sandwiched Weight Compensation Disc
* Integrated 6mm Nonresonant Clear Cast Acrylic Dust Cover
* Anodised Aluminium Alloy Adjustable Support Foot
* LED Illumination System & Power Supply
Fully Mechanical Isolation & ‘Grounding’ System
STAGE-1 internals consist of a complex mechanical system allowing several degrees of freedom which supports the Aluminium Alloy/Cast Acrylic sandwiched top plate.
The main, undamped, vertical motion frequency can be adjusted down to almost 0.5 Hz to provide filtering of unwanted vibrations above this frequency. The result is an undisturbed support, as close to a perfect ‘ground’ as possible for the top plate that the record player sits on.
There are also several soft silicone strips, 8 torsional frequency adjusting metal columns plus level and frequency adjusting ‘springs’ to ensure that the platform moves, in all directions, in full harmony with record player’s internal decoupling and isolation system.
As stated above, simply isolating ‘large’ floor movements that cause feed-back and stylus jumping is not and should not be our objective.
The system should also eliminate ‘small microscopic’ movements that are present in the ground, floor and the structure of the building.
This task should be achieved with- out affecting the record player’s ability to extract information from the groove. So the replay of music is with integrity and without loss of timing, musicality or dynamics.
The STAGE-1 Reference Isolation Platform is an extension of the record player and enhances its performance.
Do you manufacture everything in house?
We make and assemble our products in house in the UK. Our components are bespoke design by us and are made at specialised factories in the UK, almost all. There are also a handful of very specialised parts that their manufacturing requires specific equipment and expertise which are only available outside of UK for example USA and Germany...
How would you describe the difference between hi-fi, high-end and ultimate high-end audio?
The original music is the true reference and so the better the equipment the closer will the performance be to the original music. This means in every respect – musicality, timing, resolution, dynamics … emotional communication. Every little step away from the original and we move closer to the hi-fi end and closer to just sound and not music.
What is your opinion about the competition?
Good, honest competition is always healthy and necessary and will expand our industry. I feel it would be a disaster if we didn’t have proper competition. However, when unhealthy competition is promoted in the industry it will drag everyone back and cause consumer confusion. This isn’t good and will slow progress and growth.
In a world of unregulated internet where anyone can claim anything we need to be diligent, cautious and vigilant.
As regards a record playing system or connecting cables, I don’t think about competition, I believe we lead in these fields.
Belt driven platters is optimal way?
For playback this method of drive when executed correctly will yield much better results. It does however come at a price if you want to design and manufacture it properly.
Your view on direct drives and idler drives?
DD can be done reasonably well although it will never be able to shake off its flaws. So never an ultimate solution but mass produced can be cheaper and better than a poorly designed and made belt drive.
Idlers are not really suited for high resolution record playing systems. Also with today’s manufacturing techniques are totally irrelevant as DDs can be made much quieter and smoother than an idler equivalent.
Do we need longer tonearms?
We don’t ! Not at all…
You only need a longer tonearm than approx. 240/260mm if the design is really flawed.
The notion that tracking problems towards the end of the record are caused by ‘head-shell’ angular error is incorrect.
In fact angular error at the beginning of the record is approximately twice that of at the end of the record!
This tracking problem is caused due to lack of real estate. There is much shorter length of track at the end of the record to represent the same amount of music. Thus the cartridge is ‘thrown’ out of position by the extra ‘aggressive’ movements of the stylus/cantilever while trying to stay in the groove.
There wouldn’t be tracking issues if the tonearm design, bearings and geometry ensured the cartridge stayed on the mean-line of the groove, all the way to the end of the record.
How important is the VTA adjustment?
Every tonearm adjustment is important as long as it is not at the expense of another parameter of the design. That is why you can set VTA on all Vertere tonearms but once set, that is it. no constantly adjusting VTA.
This is because of two reasons; Firstly due to reduced rigidity when implementing a continuously adjustable mechanism.
Secondly, and more importantly, is that when VTA is changed most often than not, it will affect other settings. There may be a requirement to fine tune tracking weight again, or Azimuth for example.
There is probably a change of 0.1 degree between the thickest and thinnest records in VTA terms. So setting the VTA for an average record and not compromising other parameters is the best course of action.
Do you strictly recommend your tonearms to be used with your turntables?
Not at all; The tonearm is responsible to support the cartridge while accommodating the record. So if the turntable which is used on is adequately designed you will enjoy the benefits of our tonearms.
Vertere Acoustics Reference tonearm is very special one. Kindly elaborate...
Address the weakest link first
Vertere’s philosophy is simple and straightforward. It’s based on the fact that any hi-fi system is only as good as its weakest link. By definition, everything in the chain degrades the signal. The issue is how? And by how much?
So, the aim must be to find the component that’s causing the most degradation. When the weakest link is seriously compromising the performance, it limits progress in every way.
If you don’t address the weakest link, you can spend any amount of time and money on other parts of the system, but end up with no real improvement!
In many years of research, Vertere has applied a methodical approach to analyse system performance. Since 2006, with the introduction of its original Hand-Built Pulse, Vertere has continued to demonstrate conclusively that for almost any system, the weakest link is the connecting cables.
The next step
When poorly-specified cables are replaced with Vertere’s Pulse cables, the results speak for themselves. The other components in the system begin to reveal their true level of performance. Everything becomes better and more enjoyable!
But this is only the start, because now you are ready to go further. You can start your quest for the next weakest link.
In analogue systems, there’s usually no doubt which component is in fact this next weakest link. It is the tonearm. There are good reasons for this, because in some ways, the tonearm presents the biggest design challenge of any hi-fi component.
What should the tonearm do?
A tonearm has to support the cartridge and accommodate the record. To support the cartridge effectively, the tonearm must be rigid. To accommodate the record, however, it requires freedom of movement.
Specifically, the tonearm has to hold the cartridge perfectly still in relation to the centre line or mean position of the groove at any point. But at the same time, the tonearm has to be free to move so that it can constantly follow this crucial mean position as the groove spiral takes the stylus across the record from the beginning to the end.
These two requirements are not exactly opposing, but they are complexities that demand innovative design approaches and faultless engineering, if state-of-the-art performance is to be achieved.
Vertere Reference Tonearm
Now, true to its mission, Vertere has launched a true state-of-the-art component, which can transform the performance of high-end record playing systems. The Vertere Reference Tonearm has been created to push the boundaries of analogue reproduction by systematically addressing every aspect of tonearm performance.
Each individual part of the unit is bespoke and has been specifically designed to complement the overall philosophy, design and purpose of the Vertere Reference Tonearm.
In one crucial development, the limitations of all conventional tonearm bearing systems have been overcome. In the Vertere Reference Tonearm, the arm’s vertical and horizontal pivoting motion is provided by non-rotating polymer-metal laminate films.
Because there are no sliding surfaces, the change-of-direction friction of conventional bearings is eliminated. The result is the first truly ‘noiseless’ tonearm bearing.
However, every other part of the arm has been given equal attention, in a design where each detail contributes to the excellence of the whole.
At the rear of the arm, the main counterweight is articulated in the vertical plane through a pair of precision ball race bearings, while the counterweight support beam is in turn articulated in the horizontal plane, again using a ball race bearing.
This helps to ensure proper tracking even on warped records, automatically compensating the effective tracking force with the rise and fall of the warp.
While the polished stainless steel standard counterweight, with additional discs, gives optimum matching for most cartridges, an alternative weight with tungsten carbide insert is provided for use with heavier cartridges.
For ideal rigidity, the arm tube and headshell are both machined from solid titanium, then fuse-welded together to form a homogeneous single component.
Dynamic stability is assured because the the arm's vertical-motion bearing plane Is coincident with the stylus contact point at the surface of the record, while the counterweight's centre of gravity is set below this plane.
Horizontal and vertical motion bearings are offset by 23mm, so that the arm's effective length is different in the two planes, and correctly optimised for tracking accuracy and information retrieval.
Internal wiring is a special version of Vertere Hand-Built Pulse cable, in one continuous run from the cartridge tags to the exit cable connector at the base of the tonearm. All connectors and contacts are custom made with three times the standard thickness of gold plating.
Analog vs digital in 21st century. How do they both compare?
Digital technology today is in a different league to what it was when CD was introduced – and rightly so ! CD in its early days was really unlistenable !
There are fundamental differences between digital equipment used in professional studios, such as the Abbey Road.., and what is used domestically – even relative to the very best in high-end.
A ‘proper’ digital recording can be used very successfully for high quality playback and even record cutting. But this must be done correctly to ensure the quality of performance that we all thrive for. Of course nothing can replace a direct cut record ! But that is not something that can be applied on a daily basis. What is required is to ensure that domestic equipment is designed in accordance with the professional equipment etc..
What is different with Vertere Acoustics turntable that sets them apart from the competition?
1. Fundamental design of the record player – dealing with internally induced motions
2. Correct execution of that design for and in manufacturing – Materials, Precision &testing
And finally verification of the finished product against the source material – Playback of acetates through the same monitoring system as the acetate was cut from to ensure minimal distortion, colouration and degradation …
Is there a “cheap” way to enter the high-performance vinyl reproduction or the state of the art has to come with hefty price tag?
I believe, as mentioned above, that there is no fundamental difference between what Vertere does as ‘Entry Level’ and our Absolute Reference when it comes to the ability of the system to preserve your precious records and allow you to enjoy the music. The difference is in ultimate resolution, total lack of noise etc etc… So we can easily be at home with the MG-1/SG-1 as we are with the RG-1/Reference Tonearm.
Of course with any product we have a cost/design threshold below which the compromises become unacceptable.
State of the art vinyl reproduction vs master tapes?
Vinyl must be cut from something (?) Master tape, Master files or direct cut.
Assuming these are carried out correctly then; The best quality would be Direct Cut to disc. This method, by far, gives you the closest replay sound, dynamics and musical integrity to that of the original session. It is however extremely difficult, costly and also sometimes impossible to do!
When it comes to Tapes and High Resolution files, then there are always pros and cons..
Final results depend on the age and quality of the tapes and very importantly the ability of proper playback. That is the tape machine, its state and correct components like heads, electronics etc..
If you are referring to vinyl playback against some, so called, ‘master tapes’ then I must say that I will choose my record playing system. One, there are not any master tapes that consumers can have – not the ones we want any way … And secondly, a well cut and pressed vinyl will always outperform an Nth generation copy tape.
What to expect in future from Vertere Acoustics?
Vertere will continue by pursuing weakest links and trying to identify, redesign and sort them out! Basically keep at the forefront of what we are doing by having the best solutions for the most discerning music lovers.
And as a by-product, we will also provide as many ‘entry level’ versions of our Absolute Reference products to enhance the musical enjoyment of any other music lover who happens to have a lower budget.
You are among few industry experts who embrace legendary FM Acoustics. Please tell us more what’s your view on the company and their products.
Since decades ago, many of my record player users have had FMA electronics and some also the FMA speakers. Every time we have had these combinations the end results have been self-explanatory – simply music. Of course I can understand when there are short comings in the source then the results could be less than desirable. And because of this, we do use FMA extensively in our systems for both listening and monitoring.
Are we finally coming to the point of concert and life experiences with high-end audio?
Not at all – I wish that was the case. As you know we do engage with some musicians, recording studios and mastering/cutting engineers and have first-hand experience of what is actually possible to get for playback of music at home. Our best efforts in this area have yielded some excellent results but not quite the experience of the live concert.
But isn’t that the beauty of it?
Just like an original painting, no print of it is ever going to come close. So you’ve got to make the effort whenever you can to visit the gallery or the exhibition.. And in our case, go to the concert.
How do you see the current state of the high-end audio industry?
There are quite a number of brilliant, true high-end’, designers and manufacturers genuinely pushing the boundaries – amazing products. They help, both on the analogue and the digital front, providing us all with platforms to build on and take high-end even higher.
Having said that, there are also some that I can’t get my head around them – sorry to say. These unfortunately just bring confusion to the high-end audio. But I suppose that will always be the case and we just have to deal with it.
There are many confusions about the RIAA EQ being not used as widely as “advertised”. So there is no easy solution to this?
If you mean there are older records which have been equalised to a different standard than the RIAA then these can be addressed by utilising phono stages that provide RIAA adjustments, such as the FMA phono linearizers.
What are some of the cartridges you can recommend wholeheartedly?
Currently we are using;
1 AT ART-1000
2 Miyajima Madake
3 Soundsmith Hyperion OCL
And quite a few others…
Who would you say re the Vertere Acoustics customers?
I don’t know all of our customers but the ones that I know come from many different walks of life.
From younger to older, from professionals to entrepreneurs, from technical to artists and so on… I guess they all just like good music.
Any last thought for our readers?
I believe they must have had enough of me by now ! Just thanks for your patience …
Questions: Matej Isak