I was late to the party, but I’ve come around to the belief that a well designed analog rig generally sounds better to my ears than even the best digital setup. Specifically, there’s just something about vinyl that sits well with my ears. I know it’s an inferior source compared to digital in almost every way according to the specs and engineering, but it still sounds more “right” to me. Even now, I’m listening to Wayne Shorter playing “Dance Cadaverous” on the Blue Note reissue Speak No Evil and switching back and forth between the vinyl and the digital file played from Roon to the DS DAC and I just like the tone and pace of the vinyl, generally. Despite everything that is going against it. It’s not always better, but usually at least as good, depending on the mastering.
This leads me to the Gold Note Mediterraneo, a stunningly beautiful turntable made in Florence, Italy. This table has done nothing but reinforce my opinion of vinyl’s superiority at delivering music. And how. I first became aware of Gold Note several months back when I was looking for a new phono preamp that would play well with my Soundsmith Zephyr MIMC Star cartridge, a 0.4 mV moving iron cart that is pretty amazing. I tried to make it work with a Rogue Ares, but it just didn’t work for some reason so I returned it. So my search led me to the Gold Note PH-10 phono preamp which is a pretty amazing little unit in that it will work with pretty much any cart with ease and it’s upgradeable with a lineal power supply upcoming as well as a tube output stage. It also has the ability to change the standard RIAA curve to one with more treble energy or even the DECCA London or Columbia curves, with or without the treble boost. And it’s all analog. A very clever device.
So I convinced my local dealer to become a dealer for Gold Note and finally got the PH-10, which I absolutely love. It’s a fantastic unit, especially for the price of around $1500. In getting the PH-10, I had established an email relationship with the CEO of Gold Note, Maurizio Aterini, who is made from the Paul McGowan mold in that he gets customer service and is absolutely passionate about his products. Anyway, I thanked Maurizio for the preamp and mentioned to him that maybe one day, I’d be lucky enough to get one of their stunningly beautiful turntables, the Mediterraneo. I left it at that since I already had a wonderful turntable in my Fern & Roby Montrose, and wasn’t in the market for a new one. Well fast forward several months, and I read an article about the Mediterraneo in positive-feedback.com about the Mediterraneo and how it, along with the PH-10 and the GN Donatello Gold cartridge, had won their “Brutus” award which is chosen by each of their writers at the end of the year. Anyway, right on the heels of reading that, I received an email from Mr. Aterini with an offer to buy the Mediterraneo and Donatello cart at less than half of the retail price. I can only assume he remembered my comment re: the Mediterraneo and decided to make me the offer! And it was the exact table that had been reviewed and awarded by PF.com. A famous turntable!! But like I said, I already had a nice TT. Why would I want another one? To which I answer, take a long look at the Mediterraneo and tell me you wouldn’t make irrational decisions! It’s absolutely stunning. Plinth made of 600 year old Italian walnut. Solid acrylic top and beautifully tasteful tonearm. Side rant: one thing I absolutely hate about turntables is that they often look like contraptions - all function and no form. They often look like a hideous machine that is simultaneously designed to spin records but also leap off of the counter at any moment to attack you in the name of evil audiophilia. Or something of that sort. The point is that most turntable design leaves a lot to be desired, that’s for sure.
So I agreed to purchase the table and wired Maurizio the money (which made me wonder if this was the most elaborate phishing scam of all time, seriously). I was relieved when I got an actual tracking number, that’s for sure. So after several days, it arrived and was in good shape. I’ve heard horror stories about shipping and audio equipment, especially turntables, so I was mighty worried! Anyway, my wife picked up the table from my local shop who was nice enough to accept the package. I didn’t know until too late that she had taken the table inside herself!! This table is 65+ pounds plus packaging. She may look like one, but she’s not a delicate flower! When I got home from work super late (of course), I inspected everything and all was good. I set it up pretty easily and had music going in less than 20 minutes with cartridge alignment, VTA, and VTF dialed in. Azimuth would wait another day. I couldn’t find the 0.9 mm allen wrench for the headshell! Oh well. It looked fairly close, but I’m a stickler for azimuth. So the next day I went to four (!) hardware stores looking for such a small allen wrench. Finally I found one in an all-in-one 41 piece electronics kit for $35. Figures. $35 for a 10 cent allen key. But at least now I can adjust the azimuth like a civilized gentleman should.
Well how does the Mediterraneo sound? Several words come to mind, detailed, lively, solid, silent, neutral, dynamic. In short, it sounds exactly how I had hoped. The shielding and grounding on this table is superb with very little hiss with the tonearm up. Significantly less than with the F&R, and that was already very good. Once I drop the needle, and I am awestruck at how the Mediterraneo/PH-10 combo has almost no surface noise, whatsoever. It makes me imagine that there is some silicon coating on the vinyl to allow such a silent march across it’s lead-in groove. And as we know from the Directstream how important a quiet background is in reproducing a recording realistically. When the music kicks in, the bass is so realistic and accurate, it’s amazing. Another thing becomes self evident in that the midrange is unbelievable realistic and smooth. Voices, guitars, and horns all sound amazing. Great treble an detail and huge soundstage are similar to my Montrose, which are it’s strengths. I must say I’m incredibly impressed by the Donatello Gold cart. I tested the cart with my Feickert Adjust+ disc and got matching channel separation of 40 dB, which is an amazing number. Most $5k plus carts can’t match that. Plus, the frequency response is near ruler flat and within 3 dB difference from 20-20,000 Hz with a slight bass tilt. It sounds every bit as good as my Soundsmith cart, which is saying something. And finally, it is just so drop dead gorgeous, it’s crazy. It comes with a very nicely engineered dust cover, but I don’t want to put it on. It would be like putting a jacket on the statue of David. Why do that?? Anyway, I’ve said enough about my Christmas present. Now on to some pictures! Please note these were taken before I had really cleaned and polished it and were taken with a phone camera!