Unique. Unique is a word one should use to describe the Little Luccas MkII Limited Edition speakers. Virtually everything about these speakers is unique. They arrived; not by FedEx or UPS; but by DHL International. DHL. I didn't even know they were still around? They came from Bali. Yes... Bali. The shipping container? A box. A cloth-wrapped, wooden box. Sealed with nails. I kid you not. The container required a hammer and pry bar, to open. When was the last time you opened any electronics, with a pry bar?! [Manufacturer Note: One side has screws, for easy removal] In what must have looked like the scene from "A Christmas Story""; the top finally peeled away and dropped to the floor.
It's A Major Award!
Vermouth Audio makes a range of speakers; from the smaller, desktop sized "Mr. Bojangles", to the floor standing "Luccas". These speakers range in price, but all are affordable. The Little Luccas MkII Limited Edition loudspeakers come in at $2400 per pair. The company is not a common household name.... yet. Hailing from Bali and lead by Hendry Ramli, Vermouth Audio has been manufacturing and selling their products since 2010. In addition to speakers, Vermouth Audio also produce Interconnect, speaker and power cables; with power amplifiers and power distributors, coming soon. As the Little Luccas MkII Limited Edition speakers were being prepped, Hendry Ramli contacted me, to ask if I would be interested in matching some of their speaker cables, with the Little Luccas.
The answer is always, "Yes...yes I would."
For my sins, Hendry sent a pair of Red Velvet and Black Pearl speaker cables. The speaker cables arrived in a separate, cardboard box, and were opened soon after the speakers. They too, were impressively heavy and visually stunning. The Red Velvet and Black Pearl speaker cables came (made to order) in 3.6M lengths, with Banana terminations on both ends. Each 3.6-meter length cable, weighed in at (about) a wrist-snapping three pounds each. Without adequate support, these cables will easily pull most bookshelf size speakers, right off of their stands (I almost learned this the hard way)! The Red Velvet is $600 per 1.8-meter pair, while the Black Pearl speaker cables are priced at $1150 per 1.8-meter pair. Visually, they certainly looked like they are worth every penny. Both cables are extremely well made and terminated to the finest degree of quality.
The Little Luccas MkII Limited Edition Speakers, differ from the standard, Little Luccas Speakers, in several ways. Hendry was kind enough to send me the detailed differences:
Upgrade from Jantzen 15awg wired coil to Jantzen14awg foil
You Never Forget Your First
Initial burn-in for all three pieces (and cables), was about 120 hours. For burn-in sources, Stereophile Test CD 3 was loaded first, followed by a self-made disc; comprised of over 50 rock, classical, folk and new wave tracks. The CD was loaded into the Rotel CD14 Player and placed on repeat. After five days, basic listening test began. Initial observations were made using the burn-in CD, played as background music. After just a few minutes, my initial observations were not good. The speakers were tight and very muffled. Checking all connections, I played the test CD again. No change.
The Little Luccas MkII Limited Edition Speakers sounded very, very tight. It was like listening to music, through a pillow. Having a pair of well-worn Jamo Concert 8 bookshelf speakers on hand, swapping the speakers, was the quickest route through trouble-shooting 101. The Jamo's sounded fine. Naturally, emailing Hendry Ramli (of Vermouth Audio) was the next step. Being in a paradise like Bali, can't have many drawbacks. The only one that comes to mind is the remoteness of this part of the world. Hendry responded quickly, none the less. In about two days, Hendry responded to my queries. As I was seeing little, physical movement of the speaker drivers, I wondered about burn in time. Hendry suggested that the Little Luccas MkII Limited Edition Speakers would require more burn in time. He suggested 120 hours. I suggest more. Quite a bit more in fact.
Placing the Little Lucca's in my daughters semi-abandoned room; they were connected to a simple 60 Watt amplifier and CD player combo (not the Rotel) and left to burn-in for another week. The volume was on bit louder than normal, as driver movement was the desired end result. After ten more days, the Little Luccas MkII Limited Edition Speakers were placed back on stands, in the Audio Room. Eager to try out my newly configured (Roon controlled) "High-end Wholehouse Audio" setup (look for upcoming feature article, soon); selecting "Demo Playlist" would start this long-delayed listening session.
Michael Jackson's, "Human Nature" [DSD 2.8MHz] is always the first track from this playlist and couldn't have been a better selection. The DSD version of Michael Jackson's, "Human Nature" has a soft (but arresting) de-tuned xylophone track in the background. I have only heard this sound on High Resolution tracks. It's also less noticeable (or inaudible) on equipment that is incapable of reproducing, very delicate passages. If you have this downloaded file, and you cannot hear this de-tuned xylophone track; you need better toys.
As the track played, I awaited the (previously mentioned) passage. Yes, there is was and just barely audible too. If you didn't know to listen for it; would I have noticed it? Probably not. Decided to close off the room, and let the remaining tracks play, at my normal listening volume (between 60% and 70% of maximum volume (depending on the source and track). The volume was only turned down in the evening, when my wife returned home. Otherwise, for the next three days; the Little Luccas MkII Limited Edition speakers filled the Audio Room with sound.
Blessed with a three-day weekend; I began my critical listening session, again. Eager to test the maximum capabilities of the speakers, the "Demo of Destruction" playlist was selected, first. This list consists of woofer wreaking (bass heavy) tracks like, "Don't Let Me Down" [featuring Daya re-mix] and "Never Forget You" [MNEK re-mix]). As you might have expected (for bookshelf sized speakers), ultra-low bass was not their forte. A quick note to pair them with my subwoofer (SVS Ultra 13), was scribbled onto my review journal. The Little Luccas MkII Limited Edition speakers did produce very clear lyrics, despite the abundance of the bass-heavy tracks. And to their credit, the Little Luccas MkII did not distort, while listening at mid to high volumes. Very solid performance, overall. But still tight.
Guessing the Little Luccas MkII were not designed for the club scene, switching back to my standard Demo Playlist, delivered a more desirable listening experience. Choosing (again), Michael Jacksons, "Human Nature" [DSD 2.8MHz], my de-tuned xylophone background phrase was front and center. Most notably, the highs and mid-highs were (finally) coming through. As I review all equipment EQ'd to flat; the absence of treble is quickly noticeable. I replayed the track, at a much higher volume. The five inch driver was finally moving! The Little Luccas loudspeakers were pushing some serious air! The RAAL true ribbon tweeter was crisp and quick to respond, with no detectable delay.
The next few tracks happened to be female performers. Pinks "What About Us" [FLAC 44.1kHz/24-bit], Alicia Keys "Kill Your Mama [FLAC 44.1kHz/24bit], and Norah Jones "Come Away With Me" [192kHz/24bit] flowed through the Little Luccas. Female vocals are definitely a sweet spot for these speakers. Mostly mid-range in timbre, these performances came through very cleanly and clearly, with strong throaty performances. Short attacks and punchy, punchy mids are repeatedly scribbled in my notepad, that morning. Switching to Classical; my current favorite is Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 7 [FLAC 96kHz/24bit]. Knowing these pieces very well; it was on repeat for several hours. The Little Luccas MkII delivered a well-rounded, solid performance and neutral reproduction. By late afternoon, I began to feel space around the speakers, and the fullness of the music, starting to fill the room.
Much is written about sound-space. It means something different to every person, every reviewer. As this was a newly remodeled room (with significant sound-proofing); the sense of "space" is very palpable. With your eyes closed, you could begin to "feel" the walls. To that end, you could feel (whether), the sound was touching the near and far walls.
As the Little Luccas MkII was finally opening, the next several weeks were spent casually listening to different genres of music, at normal volume. My next critical listening session was reserved for another upcoming long weekend; the next several days were spent matching the Little Luccas MkII with my SVS Ultra 13 subwoofer. The initial paring of the speakers and subwoofer went very well. Selecting a roll-off at 60Mhz, (for casual listening), sounded fine. I was no longer missing my very low end (low to sub-low), and my midrange was still focused and present. Still tight.
The following weekend (coffee in hand), I settled into one of my new (and hard) listening chairs. This morning was going to be analog (LP) and disc (Compact Disc) day. As it was still early in the morning, my first choice was Sam Smiths new CD, "The Thrill Of It All". I had the downloaded, hi-res tracks [FLAC 88kHz/24-bit], but I was eager to try out my new transport, which just happened to be; the aurally stunning OPPO UPD-205 UHD Blu-ray player.
The balanced outputs from the OPPO, connect to my default preamp, the ARC L26. I am intimately comfortable and familiar with the sound of this preamp. Without fail, the sound is always warm and inviting. On the output side (for this session), the balanced Audioquest Yukon (XLR) cables are connected to a Bryston 4BBST2 stereo amplifier. From the amp, Audioquest Rocket 44 speaker cables connect to the Little Luccas MkII speakers. Additionally, Audioquest Yukon (XLR) balanced cables run to the SVS Ultra 13 subwoofer. All devices and cables have been burned in for many hours.
The OPPO UPD-205 UHD Blu-ray player had been on for a few hours, so pressing the play button started Sam Smith's smooth, throaty tones. Listening for differences between the formats was inevitable; but it was easy to stay in the moment... in the room... in the music.
Between the CD quality and Hi-Res Music versions; the most noticeable differences being, depth of field and overall dynamic range (or lack thereof), between CD quality and High-Res Music. That being said; the Little Luccas MkII produced a nice, warm soundstage; with this particular CD. "Right down the middle" was scribbled in my notepad, after the CD finished. A check of the time; noted three hours had already elapsed in this listening session. This is common for my listening sessions; if the sound is good.
My go to LP selections haven't changed. I eagerly await a small stack of new pressings, but for today, (180 gram) selections of Beth Hart's "37 Days" and Bruce Hornsby and The Range "The Way it is" are my started of choice.
To ensure a fair review, the first record on the platter of any analog LP session, is usually the calibration LP, "The Ultimate Analogue Test LP" [Analogue Productions, 200 gram]. Since I was still using the highly recommended and recently reviewed Origine Turntable by Oracle Audio plus having spent several hours checking and rechecking the calibration of this turntable; additional calibration would have been a waste of good music (and time). After the ritualistic cleaning of the vinyl; It was analog music time.
Apparently, the Vermouth Audio, "Little Luccas" speakers like vinyl. They like them very much. Clear dialog is important to me. I want to hear the artist breath. I want to hear them breathing (or gasping), touching the guitar strings or keyboards. This intimacy with the performance is becoming very common with High-resolution tracks, but not as common with LP's. Bass (and the critical Mid-Bass) was always present. Wide dynamic range, from highs to lows, was controlled. Firm. Never over the top. Very controlled. Try as might, I can't help but call the performance.... Neutral.
Being called neutral can get a bad rap in a review, but I view neutrality as a goal for all products to aspire to. On all albums (vinyl), The Little Luccas MkII Limited Edition Speakers delivered an neutral, open sound space no matter what LP was playing.
Over several months, I had the pleasure of connecting the Little Luccas MkII Limited Edition Speakers through multiple pre-amps (the Rotel A12 Integrated Amplifier, Audio Research LS27), Amps, cables and connectors. Same notes. "Good Mid-bass presence. Good treble response. Good decay, no delay." Even my mandatory "cymbal test" produced pleasant attack and decay (thanks to the RAAL ribbon).
The Ties That Bind
The Red Velvet speakers are bright, bright red. Not Ferrari red, but more of a neon red. They glow. You will not be able to take your eyes off of them. No matter what other gear you have in the vicinity; the Red Velvet speaker cables will draw you in. If I owned a retail shop, a pair of these cable would be in the display window. Pure eye candy.
The Red Velvet cables are made up of 9 AWG Hybrid Multi-size conductors, wrapped in a red neon braided mesh, terminated (at the ends), with a carbon fiber shell. They are just shy of an inch in diameter. They appear much thicker. The Black Pearl speaker cables are just as heavy and thick, and equally appealing. Stretched out on the floor of my audio room, the Black Pearl speaker cables appear deadly and alive. A Black Mambo snake comes to mind.
Unless you are totally an empty shell, you shouldn't buy speaker cables based on appearance alone. Speaker cable are a critical component to the final sound of your system and should be chosen with care and due diligence. At the very least, speaker cables should do no harm. Audio cables of any type, can add or detract from a systems final sound quality. It is a constant battle from device to device, cable to cable. A delicate balance, that can delight or dismay the listener. Audiophiles can easily spend hour, days, weeks or years; in a desperate attempt to find that perfect combination, that perfect sound. Some will spend their entire lives (and life savings), chasing this impossible perfection (we are Audiophiles, after all). Some people will use the cables that came in the component box. Nobody's perfect.
My comfort margin is somewhere in the middle. For now, my brand of choice is Audioquest. I find a "tier" (price point vs. quality) that is comfortable for me, and weigh that against the specifications of the cable. For my day to day surround sound and casual music listening system, I use the Audioquest "Cinnamon" series (Cinnamon/Golden Gate etc.). All cables are braided in a cinnamon colored mesh and made up of Perfect-Surface Copper (PSC), air-filled Foamed-Polyethylene Insulation on both conductors (with cold-welded, gold-plated terminations).
Within the Audioquest world, they are mid-range in price. For the dedicated Audio Room, the cables are (now) Sydney/Yukon "tier" (having upgraded from the Big Sur tier). The Sydney series are black braided cables, featuring Perfect-Surface Copper+ (PSC+), PE Air-Tube Insulation on both conductors (with cold-welded, direct-silver plated pure purple copper terminations). One series is a Toyota Camry ($70 per meter), the other, a mid-priced Lexus ($180 per meter). This is my attempt at keeping some sort of commonality between the rooms. Swap out any device or cable, and your resulting sound is anyone's guess.
After spending numerous house being burned in (along with the speakers), the Red Velvet speaker cable were installed first. Without much thought; I disconnected the Audioquest Rocket 44 speaker cables (PSC+ with direct-silver plated pure purple copper terminations) and plugged in the Vermouth Audio Red Velvet speaker cables. Connecting the cables first; to the Little Luccas Speakers (resting comfortably on 30" stands), I dropped the cable to the floor, as I routed the other end to the amp.
Wrong! Don't Do This!
My immediate impression was nothing, and that's a good thing. The Red Velvet speaker cables added nothing and detracted nothing from the listening experience. This is high praise. They do no harm. The Red Velvet speaker cables do not add or detract anything, from the music source to your ears. This is very difficult to achieve. Listen notes state: Neutral, Polite, Complementary, Matched. This means these cables do not stress the ear. I enjoyed several hours of music in one session, without fatigue.
The Red Velvet cables remained in place for about thirty (30) days total. They were obviously in place for a holiday party, where I fielded question after question about the Red Velvet speakers and the Little Luccas MkII combination. I don't think I'm being a bit sexiest, by saying, the most positive comments, were from the female guest. Purchasing note: Not matter what the sex of your partner; if they find your latest toy attractive, they might look the other way at the cost. My wife's comments were the same as always, "Do we own these?" I'm not sure were the "we" thing comes from, but I digress.
The Black Pearls were equally as heavy, so they received the same Velcro security of the Red Velvets. The Black Pearls are equally as stunning in appearance, as the Red Velvets; with a muted black and silver braided mesh, terminated (at the ends), with a carbon fiber shell. 10 AWG multi-layer conductors, hide within the thick cable.
The Black Pears boasted the same neutrality but were more muted and darker than the Red Velvet cables. Mid-Highs were a bit clearer and forward to the ear (than the Red Velvets), but overall, the Little Luccas seem to be dragged down by the Black Pearl speaker cables. After ten (10) days, the Red Velvet speaker cables were swapped back in. Interesting enough; the Black Pearls were in place, as I transitioned the Audio Room back to normal. I had replaced the Little Luccas with the Martin Logan Summit. The results were night and day. While still a little on the "dark" tonality (overall), the Black Pearls where signing with the Electrostatics! I only had the afternoon to listen (as it was time to box the Vermouth Audio gear), but I believe the Black Pearl speaker cables enjoy a speaker with a bit more mass. With the Martin Logans, the Black Pearl cables started to come alive. Very smooth and accurate. I wish I have more time with this setup.
When searching for speakers' cables, the Vermouth Audio Red Velvets would always be on my short list, but you should always try them in your home, first. Try before you buy.
Sadly, I Won't Know; Yet Someone Will
It might be worth taking a long flight to Bali. If you get the chance, the Little Luccas MkII Limited Edition Speakers and speaker cables are worth the airfare.
Rating For Little Lucas MKII Limited Edition Speakers
Red Velvet Cables
Black Pearl Cables