Turntables

The Gold Note Mediterraneo Turntable

It’s an interesting journey to experience a manufacturer’s product in a gradual fashion. Beginning with Gold Note’s excellent Vasari MM cartridge, comparing to their Donatello and then Machiavelli cartridges, and finally the PH-10 phonostage, a solitary voice comes through.

There’s a relaxed, yet highly involving nature to the sound of their products, much like comparing the ride of the new Alfa Romeo Giulia to a BMW M4. Both cars are equally quick, yet the Alfa feels more elegant, more tactile. There is a certain charm the Italian car possesses that the German car never will. (And I say this as a very happy BMW owner.)

The same can be said for their top of the range Mediterraneo turntable. While it can be yours for $5,973 with a black or white base, I highly suggest going for the $1,000 upcharge to get the gorgeous Tuscan walnut base featured in our review sample. Starting as a 60mm block, that has been aged for 8 years and stabilized in a thermal control autoclave at exactly 7% humidity to achieve structural stability, it is carved into the curvy shape you see here. Not having the standard, polymer based table here for comparison, I can’t honestly tell you the wood sounds better or worse. But it is so gorgeous, I can’t imagine the Mediterraneo without it, any more than I can imagine a BMW M4 without the carbon fiber roof.

Immediately engaging

Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew is first on the list. Digging into the anniversary pressing, the Gold Note table paints a lush picture immediately. Taking advantage of the synergy with it and the Machiavelli cartridge, first through the Gold Note PH-10 phono, and then through my reference Pass XS Phono, the character does not change, it merely gets bigger, deeper and more involving. The sonic character reminds me of a perfect mix of the Rega P9 (speed), the AVID Volvere SP, (inner detail and LF slam) and my mid-80s Linn LP-12 (all kinds of mellow) in one package.

Many talk about the “analog magic,” that only vinyl can provide. Again, it reminds me of the difference between everyone else’s solid red and the red that bathes an Alfa, Ferrari, or Ducati. that’s a red you can lose yourself in, it’s so deep. This is the presentation of the Mediterraneo, and with some cartridges, it may be too much – unless that happens to be your “just right.” I prefer just a touch of warmth, so that dynamics and resolution don’t get lost in the mix. Swapping the Machiavelli cartridge for the Grado Statement 2 was a little too much for my tastes, a little bit too lush. Yet the Gold Note cartridges, the Ortofon Cadenza Black and Bronze cartridges and the Hana SL all proved a lovely balance.  Of course the rest of your system will determine your mix.

Regardless of musical choice, the Mediterraneo delivers a big presentation. Playing the remaster of XTC’s classic, Skylarking is enlightening. The bongos in “The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul” are anchored off to one side of the soundstage, as do the fingers snapping in the other channel, as the rest of the instruments fold into the mix, with the bass line well defined. This table is a master of keeping the musical pace intact. Again, the more densely packed the music selected, the more you are seduced by this turntable. It has zero fatigue factor.

This solid musical foundation makes the Mediterraneo a hit with any genre of music. We played more than our share of heavy rock and electronic selections along with the usual audiophile suspects. Of course, your favorite, flawless records will shine, but the Gold Note table digs deep into the grooves and is highly resolving as well. Even those average pressings in your collection will shine, so this isn’t a finicky “audiophile table” only suited to your 20 best pressings. A well-worn copy of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid carried the day, delivering blistering lead guitar lines, and crushing bass to boot.

Charm that doesn’t fade

While first impressions can be great, they sometimes fade after a while, and not every turntable (or romantic interest) remains a great party guest. We’ve had the Mediterraneo here for nearly six months and have played every kind of music imaginable through it, with nearly a dozen different combinations of phono stage and cartridge. It remains a favorite. This is a table that you can listen to from morning until night and not get tired of it.

The exquisitely machined tonearm with integral head shell is so easy to use and delicate yet firm in action, it’s a joy to use. Again, this is an area where some tables’ fall down. They are either too complex to use, or not terribly well implemented in their design, and their initial bloom fades. This table is a fantastic combination of art, design and science. The only complaint we are unanimous in, is the dust cover. While functional, it does not live up to the aesthetic of the table. This should be upgraded to a molded, single piece cover, as the current one looks as if it can be easily damaged. Consider this a minor blemish, as most people I know rarely use the dust cover on their tables, however if you happen to be someone that spends a lot of time with the dust cover in play, it may aggravate you. But hey, the convertible top on my Alfa Spider always leaked a little bit, and that never dulled my enthusiasm.

Easy to roll

Unlike my LP-12, the Mediterraneo is easy to set up, and better yet, it stays set up. A cursory check for speed accuracy reveals the Gold Note table to be spot on. If measurements aren’t enough, play your favorite violin piece; you can hear the steadiness instantly. It’s belt drive design is simple, elegant, and gets the job done. But don’t let the old school look fool you. There’s a 3mm stainless steel plate sandwiched between the 60mm wood base and the acrylic top to keep resonance to a minimum. Combined with a 45mm Sustarin platter (a highly stable co-polymer material) the bearing and spindle assembly are also made to the strictest tolerances. The end result is a dead quiet table, contributing to it’s incredible detail retrieval. Discs featuring heavily layered tracks keep the mix clear and clean. Whether you’re listening to the multiple overdubs in the first Boston record from the 70s or Gaga’s latest, you’ll be surprised at how many details you might have been missing before.

It’s worth noting that Gold Note offers an excellent instruction manual, something not all turntables offer. And the table comes well packed. Once removed, the Mediterraneo should take you about 10 minutes to assemble; install the platter on the spindle assembly, string the belt and then fine tune the tonearm for your cartridge. Tracking force is straightforward, and anti-skate is adjusted with a small weight on a string. This table is easy to work with, falling into place quickly. Even analog newcomers should have no problem setting it up quickly and easily.

Simple, beautiful, effective

Because Gold Note has been making gear for so many years, they bring considerable manufacturing expertise, offering products that show considerable refinement. While we’ve been impressed by everything they’ve sent us, the Mediterraneo is truly something special. If you want a turntable that does more than just play records, that is truly a work of analog art, this is the one for you. It deserves to be put on a pedestal and enjoyed while listening.

The Gold Note Mediterraneo Turntable

$5,973 ($6,973 with wood base)

www.goldnote.it

Peripherals

Cartridge Gold Note Donatello & Machiavelli, Ortofon Cadenza Black & Bronze

Phonostage Gold Note PH-10, Pass Labs XS Pre, Conrad-Johnson TEA-1s2

Preamplifier Pass XS Pre

Power Amplifier Pass XS 300 monoblocks

Speakers Focal Sopra no.3 with (2) REL 212SE subwoofers

Cable Cardas Clear, Tellurium Q Black Diamond

Racks Grand Prix Audio Monaco

Leave a Reply