Jason Kennedy checks out a rather special system at Vertere Acoustics and gets more than a little blown away.
Vertere’s infectiously enthusiastic Touraj Moghaddam encouraged me to visit his west London HQ recently, spicing up his invitation by mentioning that he had some FM Acoustics amplifiers in the system. That was enough, FM Acoustics is one of those companies whose products have a legendary status despite/because of their great rarity. That rarity is largely down to the prices charged by the Swiss brand, that and a general disdain for conventional marketing practices. As far as I can tell Touraj does not buy many amplifiers, he uses modified versions of the models he made for Roksan, so I was doubly intrigued to hear what had prompted this turn of events.
FM Acoustics FM108 power amplifiers
However, I was still not prepared for the level of transparency that this system delivered. The front end consisted of the Vertere RG or reference turntable, SG tonearm (the entry level model) and a Soundsmith Hyperion cartridge (with cactus spike cantilever). The FM Acoustics array consisted of an FM122 MkII phono preamp (the base model, £8,200), FM245 preamplifier (£15,900) and a pair of FM108 monoblock power amplifiers (£6,900 each). The speakers were PMC fact.12s, a speaker that I know to be phenomenally revealing in its own right and which René was so enamoured of that he bought a pair. The cabling throughout was naturally Vertere’s finest.
Vertere RG turntable with SG arm and Soundsmith Hyperion cartridge
All of these elements were key to the sound I heard, a sound that with the first disc, Frank Zappa’s Zoot Allures, seemed to have too much bass. This album always sounds a bit full in the low end but it was engulfed. Truth be told I was disappointed, but that’s the deal with fidelity it reveals the bad as well as good. If I had played nothing else this piece may not have to be written, naturally something else was put on the platter, the blindingly good Freddie Hubbard album Straight Life that Pure Pleasure re-released recently. This sounded totally different, no more excess bass just the sound of a red hot band in a late sixties recording studio. A band blowing with control, passion and energy like no other, an exhilarating experience in which it was possible to detect all the finest nuances of phrasing and interplay. This level of intensity continued throughout the session, we played Chasing the Dragon’s phenomenal Four Seasons, the White Album from the new Beatles mono pressings and a whole lot more. On every occasion the sound changed to reflect the recording. That is to say that the transparency to the source recording with this system was nothing short of miraculous, and we weren’t even hearing the reference arm.
PMC fact.12 and the FM Acoustics monoblocks that prove it's not about size
This session was in a less than conducive work space, one with a very tall angled ceiling and far too many hard surfaces, yet it still sounded cracking. It would seem that in this context the FM Acoustics name lived up to its reputation, leaving me even keener to hear it at home and no less desperate to get my hands on a Vertere turntable. I will stay on Touraj’s case until that happens. I’d also love some Fact.12s at home but that’s another story.