Country of Origin
Reviewer: Marja & Henk
Financial Interests: click here
Sources: PS Audio PWT; Dr. Feickert Blackbird MKII/DFA 1o5/Zu DL-103
DAC: Phasure NOS1 DAC; T+A DAC8 [loaner]
Streaming sources: XXHighEnd; iTunes; Devialet AIR; La Rosita Beta; Qobuz Desktop, Tidal Desktop; Sound Galleries SGM 2015 [loaner]
Preamp/integrated/power: Audio Note Meishu with WE 300B (or AVVT, JJ, KR Audio 300B output tubes); dual Devialet D-Premier; PTP Audio Blok 20; Hypex Ncore 1200 based monoblocks; Trafomatic Kaivalya; Trafomatic Reference One; Trafomatic Reference Phono One; Music First Passive Magnetic; Trafomatic Lara and Trafomatic Pandora [in for review]
Speakers: Avantgarde Acoustic Duo Omega; Arcadian Audio Pnoe; Podium Sound One; WLM Sub 12; Sounddeco Alpha F3; dual Zu Submisson MKI; Soltanus Virtuoso ESL. Alumnia Magister & Alumnia Vocalis [in for review]
Cables: complete loom of ASI LiveLine cables; full loom of Crystal Cable cables; full loom of Nanotec Golden Strada; Audiomica Pearl Consequence interconnect; Audiomica Pebble Consequence
Power line conditioning: PS Audio Powerplant Premier; PS Audio Humbuster III; IsoTek Evo 3 Syncro; AudioMica Allbit Consequence
Equipment racks: Solid Tech and ASI amplifier and TT shelf
Indispensable accessories: Furutech DeMag; ClearAudio Double Matrix; Franc Audio Ceramic Disc Classic; Shakti Stones; Kemp polarity checker; Akiko Audio Corelli,Costello and Phono Booster; Pink Faun LAN Isolator
Online Music purveyors: qobuz.com, tidal.com, bandcamp.com, amazon.co.uk
Room treatment: Acoustic System International resonators, sugar cubes, diffusers
Room size: ca. 14.50 x 7.50m with a ceiling height of 3.50m, brick walls, wooden flooring upstairs, ca 7 x 5m with a ceiling height of 3.50m, brick walls and concrete floor downstairs
Price of review item: €6'610 including B-7 Ceramic tone arm. Donatello cartridge is €950
Playing vinyl remains a magical event. The sound of a good analog system isn't comparable to digital even if for a great part that too is analog. Recall that CD is an analog medium. There are no bits or bytes embedded, just pitted mechanical grooves. Only during later signal processing are those pits and lands converted to 1s and 0s. Likewise for streaming sources where the incoming signal is a quasi square wave which represents one of two states. A true square wave would of course require unlimited bandwidth of which our electronics aren't capable. Hence the incoming digital signal is already distorted (approximated) plus prone to external influences upon the digital cable. Error correction and effective filters of all sorts like our Pink Faun LAN isolator help but the damage is done. To digress no further, we return to analogue.
Gold Note's passive Munich HighEnd exhibit in 2018 was dedicated to all of their turntables.
LPs are designed to be read mechanically not by laser like a CD (though laser pickups for vinyl do exist, they can't physically dislodge dust particles to be extremely critical about super-clean records) but with a very hard tip at the end of a cantilever which creates a tiny voltage via complex coils and magnets. To be encoded to vinyl's limited groove width, that signal is equalized before the pressing. During playback, that applied EQ must be undone with the so-called RIAA circuit before getting further amplified, then fed to the loudspeakers. An analogue chain is just as manipulative as digital in this regard. With all the equalizing going on, the signal is compressed, then expanded, then greatly amplified. Each and every component in the chain adds its own flavor or character but as music lovers, we tend to enjoy the resultant sound most of the time.
Digital is the hands-down winner on convenience. Once its filter settings are locked in, it is a matter of putting a CD in a drawer or hitting 'play' on a tablet. Sit back and enjoy the show. Not with vinyl. Part of the ritual at least in casa M&H is the assembly of a playlist: sift through our LP storage, pick those albums which match our current mood, walk them to the listening room. Then part two commences, the cleaning phase. Some records need a wet cleaning, some just a mild brushing. Some are played more often and it could be worthwhile to put those through a demagnetizing process. Some of these steps may seem far-fetched, unnecessary or just plain stupid but we like the cult and result and since nobody gets harmed, it's fair game all.
An LP needs a turntable to extract the music from the grooves. Now we're getting to the subject of today's review. Turntables arrive in all shapes and sizes. There are the fair and square lot we grew up with like the Thorens TD-124, Lenco L75 and Philips 22GA212 with its tip-touch keys. Others were less square like the Gerrard 4 range. From these the current batches evolved. As kids, some designers might have dreamed of becoming oil-rig engineers to create turntables that resemble such rigs. Other follow proven designs. Many go for a denuded look of a plinth, platter and arm all out in the open without dust cover.
As stable—very stable—platter speed is a prerequisite for proper vinyl, a wealth of solutions chasing it continue to be implemented. Direct drive, idler wheels, belt drive with one, two or five motors which are regulated in all manner of ways pursue the same shared goal of utter speed invariability. These efforts have their impact on the final appearance of a turntable which mostly ends up looking utilitarian. Our own Dr. Feickert Blackbird with its two-motor belt drive and nudist look is somewhat less industrial but not a classic square box.
Hence we were delighted to take a spin with the suave Italian Gold Note Mediterraneo. At a few shows we'd admired its unique cosmetics and on occasion had a listen to a system which included one. What we remembered were the very original looks and top finishing. How would those hold up at our place? During the arrangements we made, we asked the Italians for a complete system: a combined turntable, arm and cartridge so we could assess their total approach to vinyl.
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