Audio

The superior VOVOX Sonorus direct S mic cable

They don’t come cheap, VOVOX cables, but then they can’t be, given their build quality and the sound you get out of them. But, as always with cables and audio equipment at large, the question is whether you hear a difference. I received a test unit of a VOVOX Sonorus direct S and compared it with an ordinary Cordial, an Inco X-Lead, a Mogami Gold Studio and Gold Stage, and a d’Addario Planet Waves ASMC cable.

VOVOX was founded in 2002. Prior to its foundation, the VOVOX founder, Jürg Vogt, developed new products over the course of five years. He and Kaspar Kramis, a music teacher at the Hochschule Luzern in Switzerland, created and tested a good many prototypes and concepts. A short while before the company was founded, Vogt forced a breakthrough and designed the now famous VOVOX cables.

The unusual design he came up with is the reason the VOVOX sound conductors are unique and directly responsible for their sound quality as well as their handling properties. As VOVOX cables are amongst the most expensive money can buy, I was particularly interested in trying one out myself. The review that follows reflects my personal experiences.

Before trying one out, however, I read a few comments on the web and they ranged from the “you-can’t-hear-a-difference-no-matter-what” type of feedback to a story that intrigued me. It’s a forum entry from a chap who witnessed Dirk Brauner and a group of senior engineers conduct a blind test of VOVOX mic cables tested against a common cable and using four identical high-end mics (Brauner VM1, Neumann U87, etc).

According to the writer, 15 experienced senior “Tonmeister” could hear the difference and Dirk Brauner explained that what they heard and what astounded them was the reason that he had chosen VOVOX to be the accompanying cable in his microphone sets for his highest-end range of mics.

So, how did that compare with my experiences? I am sceptical when it comes to hearing a difference between cables, except when you’re comparing junk to high-quality. The VOVOX Sonorus direct S is an extremely well-built cable and surprisingly lightweight. The Neutrik plugs with gold-plated contacts are the same as the ones on both Mogami’s, but they are tightened beyond manually unscrewing them.

The visible cable sheet is in a fabric, the internal wiring is made of the best conducting, highest quality materials, but there’s no shielding. The latter will make some people frown, but I’ve been told that shielding isn’t always needed, that it may even interfere with recording accuracy, and that it depends on how the cable has been wired internally.

The lack of shielding did not have a detrimental effect on the recordings I made in a room littered with bare and active hard disks, Thunderbolt cables, label printers and more. Only when I put a mobile phone on top of the VOVOX and had someone call me did the cable pick up the typical buzzing sound of the phone beside the ring tone. The only cable that didn’t pick up that buzz was the Mogami Gold Studio.

Lesson learned: shielding is important but some cable manufacturers seem to have found a way to do without and still have a quiet, noise-free recording in most recording environments.

Does it sound different?

In a normal environment, I could definitely hear an audible difference between the VOVOX and the Inco X-Lead and Cordial. The VOVOX delivered a much more open sound with better clarity and it was much quieter.

That difference became a bit less apparent when I started comparing with the Planet Waves, but – much to my surprise – this very thick shielded cable with custom-made Neutrik plugs generated more lows than there was in the real world. Here as well, the VOVOX won in clarity and accuracy.

Now all that was left to do was evaluate the VOVOX against the two Mogami’s. In the end, I decided that the Mogami Gold Studio and the VOVOX were the only ones that sounded very, very close and very, very natural.

Is that a reference? Well, I am not hearing impaired, but not blessed with perfect pitch, either (one in 10,000 people are, according to Wikipedia). The latter might hear bigger differences, but, to me, the choice between a VOVOX Sonorus direct S and a Mogami Gold Studio would be entirely based on taste. They both sound brilliant and gorgeous but somewhat different.

Of course, there is the quality of build. In that respect, the VOVOX Sonorus direct S has an edge when it comes to its weight and the tightness of the connections, as well as the comfort with which you can manipulate it – that fabric sheet may look oddly out of place, but it sure handles well.

The Mogami Gold Studio weighs a lot more, is slightly more rigid and if you buy it from a specific British music store that I won’t mention, they will sell you a cable made by Mogami England – and that finished cable has a worse quality of assembly than when you buy one at the American store. That’s the risk when you not only sell fully assembled mic cables but also cable on a spool for anyone to put together.

You won’t encounter such a problem with a VOVOX as these are always 100% made and assembled in Switzerland.

Conclusion

The VOVOX is a cable that has been found to be superior by the manufacturer of the best and most expensive microphones in the world, so it may seem arrogant and perhaps totally redundant that I would review a Sonorus direct S, but I am glad I was given the opportunity.

It taught me there can be a difference in sound that is due to a cable, after all.

It also showed that the premium price VOVOX asks is not without merit and while the difference with the runner-up seems to be very small, there is a difference all the same. Whether you need a perfect cable at a premium price is something that you need to decide for yourself, of course, but I for one would love to have one in my collection.

The VOVOX Sonorus direct S 350 XLR/XLR that I was allowed to try out is retailed for between €125 and €160 depending on the online store.

Test equipment

iMac 5K Retina with 40GB RAM (2017).

Apogee Digital Element Thunderbolt 3 audio interface.

Apple Logic Pro X, iZotope RX 7 Audio Editor.

Sennheiser MKH-416, Schoeps CMIT 5, sE Electronics sE2200A (the original).

Sennheiser HD 650, HD 820.