Manufacturer: AKAMAI S.r.l.
uring Christmas Holiday I met one of my friends to enjoy some good food and wine and to talk about different things. At some point he said something like: 'nothings is actually produced in Europe anymore'. Well, he is kind of skeptic of European Union, mostly because of its huge bureaucracy, and it following almost Byzantine model. although he doesn't rush us to leave the EU, to be clear. His statement was a result of frustration, a sad confirmation of the fact that the rest of the world, mostly Asia, is outrunning Europe.
When I remembered all that I wasn't so sure anymore that nothing was made in Europe anymore. Even more so when one considered that many specialized manufacturers brought their production back to their homelands to have a better supervision over every stage of the whole process. I guess these companies that never moved their production outside Europe (USA and Japan) could feel like moral winners right now.
Kiedy tak na to popatrzyłem, nie byłem już taki pewien, czy rzeczywiście nic się w Europie nie wytwarza. Tym bardziej, że coraz więcej specjalistycznych wytwórców wraca z produkcją pod rodzimy dach, doceniając kontrolę nad każdym jej etapem. Tak więc te firmy, które nigdy się z Europy (USA lub Japonii) nie wyprowadziły, mogą czuć się moralnymi zwycięzcami.
Back in 2009 I reviewed a very innovative (at the time) product called DSS 30 Tube. Back then we didn't even know how to categorize it. The manufacturer, Blacknote, called it Digital Static Source (DSS). Today we would call this product a music server or a music files player that read signal from hard drives and flash drives.
It was the very first device offered by Italian company Akamai S.r.l. using Blacknote brand. The brand was new and it confused me a bit as I already had known two other brands owned by the same guy, Maurizio Aterini: Blue Note and Golden Note. I asked him back then to explained this confusion with brands:
WOJCIECH PACUŁA: Blue Note, Golden Note or Blacknote – so which company is it, as I can see as much as three different logos here…
We dealt with products of all three brands in „High Fidelity” (see below). Some time later they all had been consolidated into one brand: Gold Note. In my opinion it was the right decision to make. It also involved design changes for the products and that also was a good move. Let me add that I love the new logo too.
Mediterraneo turntable sits in the middle of company's range. And it is beautiful. When looking at it man knows right away that it is an Italian product, that it was designed and made by people with a special gift of a natural (not learned) sense of taste. This impression is created by a amazing plinth of Italian walnut combined with a steel insert and an acrylic top. The deck also sports, which is nots a rule today, a hinged cover. User can also adjust how quickly the covers closes. The deck sits on large, steel cones. All the proportions, used materials and finished are truly refined. One might say that this is 'just a turntable' but it introduces a spirit of 1950ties and 1960ties.
Range includes also two less expensive models: Giglio and Valore, and a flagship Bellagio sold in three versions: Reference, Conquest and Conquest Black King. The two latter are integrated with a special, stabilized rack „pendulum”, similar to those used by Transrotor and Clearaudio in their top models. Range includes also two tonearms, few cartridges, but also phonostages, amplifiers, CD Players, D/A Converters, loudspeakers, cables and beautiful audio racks. One could easily compose a complete audio system of this range. With one exception – there are no music servers which, considering my first experience with this company described above, seems somehow ironic.
Mediterraneo is a classic mass-loader which makes the setup so much easier. When one orders a whole system deck comes factory fitted with a tonearm and cartridge which make is (almost) ready to use. One has to fit the drive belt, anti-skating and plug in the external power supply.
Later one might want to check and if needed adjust tonearm's and cartridge's setup using a protractor delivered with the turntable. One could also adjust VTF (vertical tracking force). In this case manufacturer declares the range between 1,8-2,1 g – in my experience something close to the maximum value works best so I decided to use 2 g and it worked fine. The cartridge delivered with the deck is a high level MC so it should work fine with any MM phonostage. I conducted part of this test using such setting but if you have a MC phono with adjustable gain you should try it too – it might yield better results, as it did in my case. The output signal of Machavelli Gold declared by manufacturer is of 1,2 mV, and most MM phonostages offer gain for cartridges with 3-5 mV output. So if only possible set the gain as close as possible to 1,2 mV.
We received for a review a complete turntable. Maurizio designed Mediterraneo to be specifically used with his own B-7 Ceramic tonearm (1550 €), Phono Cable Extra interconnect (1750 €) and Machiavelli Gold cartridge (2750 €). It is a 9” arm and the cartridge, as already mentioned, is a MC HO type (Moving Coil High Output). For this test I paired Gold Note turntable with RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC phonostage with Crystal Cable The Absolute Dream power chord.
Records used for the test (a selection)
Our brains tend to identify what we see with the way we can hear it. Basing on stereotypes and personal believes we transfer certain elements from one world to another. Let's talk, for example, about gold. In audio it is used as a foil on Compact Discs deflecting laser's light, replacing aluminum in this job. Most people believe that gold Cds offer warmer, richer sound. My personal experience confirms that believe.
Audiophiles are not the only ones that perceive gold in this way as same might be said about musicians. As it reads in an article by Olga Fibak in “Ruch Muzyczny” magazine:
It is believed that gold flutes sound warmer, softer than silver ones, although it is a matter of personal sensitivity to the sound.
The author adds that research does not confirm this believe and yet most musicians believe it to be true.
Admiring Mediterraneo's aesthetic first and then listening to it I was in complete agreement with such believes. In high-end audio wood and Italy are widely associated with a warm, rich, refined sound. Now, if you have better things to do you skip next paragraphs right to the summary, as I will mostly elaborate on these three, already mentioned features.
Maurizio's turntable offers particularly enjoyable listening experience. Elements creating this impression are: a complete lack of brightness and harshness, a rich midrange and an inner richness of the sound that translates into sort of calm: calm or peace achieved via meditation and not castration (of dynamics and attack). Listener immediately focuses on midrange as this part of the range is most charming. Both range extremes are not so exposed compared to midrange, and lower should be more powerful. I confirmed that impression listening to Metallica's Master of Puppets, the double 45 r.p.m. edition, AC/DC's concert, or the latest Jean-Michel Jarre’s project. All these albums sounded good, I enjoyed them a lot even though I missed some more powerful, more immediate attack.
It didn't take long before I focused on those albums where a vocal played leading part, or instruments operating mostly in lower midrange. Let me say that again – it happened not because I didn't enjoy rock music but simply because jazz, classical music, minimal sounded so good that I didn't feel like changing these genres for others.
Yes, performance in lower bass area was somewhat limited, and mid-bass could be faster and more powerful. But I perceived it not as a flaw of this performance but as its “feature”. A one that I could easily live with or even forget about it at least until I played some music that would clearly remind me about it.
When using this turntable I was compelled to play high quality releases of: Analogue Productions, MoFi, ORG, Pure Pleasure and others! Each time I had both, 33 1/3 rpm and 45 rpm at my disposal I listened to the latter. Because with them turntable delved deeper between sounds enriching them with more meaning and delivers tangible, rich presentation. Tonal differentiation is really good and sound is particularly rich. This way Mediterraneo presents all qualities of such records.
High quality releases and Gold Note turntable are a perfect match. So the way it played albums prepared using digital masters came as a surprise. Usually such albums deliver rather 'dry', often 'harsh' sound, but with Maurizio's turntable they sound quite OK, acceptable. Like,for example, Maria Callas Remastered, released on vinyl using a CD box release of her complete works as a pretext. Sound it (normally) rather bright but when played on Mediterraneo this album did not sound bright at all. This turntable differentiates recordings quite well so don't expect every vinyl to sound equally well, performance won't always be equally enjoyable. But the way music is played attracts out attention to the qualities of each record making us also ignore any issues of said recording.
Another great aspect of this turntable is its very quiet operation – there is only few cracks&pops and background noise is also very low. Of course there are some pop&crack, as these are records dependent, but the Italian turntable places them on the fringe our listener's attention, not in a center. Such approach allowed me to enjoy some Polish releases from particularly bad time (bad in terms of quality of record pressing) of 1980ties. One of these records was I Ching, that I bought for a few zloty on Allegro in mint condition. Also some records that already wore off because of frequent usage sounded pretty well. I truly enjoyed listening to them as they offered a rich, coherent sound with a bit ethereal but also quite resolving treble.
Summarizing this review with a quote from Jestem z miasta by Elektryczne Gitary that goes like this: „to widać, słychać i czuć” (‘one can see, hear and feel that’) might seem to be a cliche. And yet here I go because this cliche tells you the whole truth about this device: the Mediterraneo turntable looks, sounds and makes one feel like a wonderful, high quality Italian product should. Chic and style plus many years of experience. It is not a perfect all-rounder as some records won't shine with it although will still deliver rich, enjoyable performance. It is a proposition for someone who is ready for a long time commitment. If that's what you want and if you can afford Mediterraneo than go ahead – this beautiful device will allow you to enjoy the music and will look great in your room – two for a price of one :).
Mediterraneo is a non-suspended mass-loader. Vibrations are damped due to usage of three different materials for its base: acrylic, steel and wood. What makes it look so special, so Italian is the wooden curved platform handmade from aged Tuscan Walnut. It features irregular shape that helps to control vibrations.
Its finish is remarkable – it seems to me that only Italians are capable of turning a piece of wood into such a beautiful piece of applied arts. Yes, I know it is not actually true, but it surely seems like that to me. This beautiful wooden platform sits on three tall, massive aluminium spikes with mat finish, that are placed on three small, brass discs.
A maximum thickness of wooden part of the plinth is 60 mm. On top of it sits a 3 mm thick polished steel plate, and on top of that another 20 mm of black acrylic (white version is also available). This steel element is clamped to the wooden platform in 18 different point carefully chosen for the best sonic results. The electronic control circuits are placed in the top layer. The whole plinth measures: 80 x 400 x 500 mm.
Mediterraneo features also a nice, acrylic cover. In recent years many manufacturers decided to stop using covers as these often downgrade sound quality. This time I truly appreciated the practical aspect of having a cover as dusting a turntable every day is surely not my cup of tea.
A new 12 Volt synchronous motor electronically controlled by the PWM design sits in the rear left corner. The PWM – Pulse-Width Modulator– transforms the power voltage in AC-DC-AC mode, enhancing the best coupling of the two AC semi-waves for a perfect performance, eliminating virtually any motor resistance and vibration, and allowing at the same time the highest motor torque. The Power Supply of the motor electronically controls the 33 rpm, the 45 rpm, and the fine speed adjustment, thus keeping the selection permanently in the turntable memory even without AC power. The new perfectly polished hourglass shaped motor pulley also allows the turntable belt to spin very smoothly reducing the wow&flutter and noise.
The platter is 45 mm/ 1.77 inch thick and made of black Sustarin, a special material based on a PTE polymer; rigid but dead at the same time, it features an extraordinary ability to reduce vibration feedback while the high mass helps a regular rotational stability.
Specifications (according to the manufacturer)
B-7 Ceramic Tonearm
B-7 Ceramic is a 9” gimballed tonearm (effective length of 223 mm) that features a titanium arm wand. It is made in six different thickness sections to enhance the damping vibration feedback effect due to both, the material and the geometry. The Tone-Arm features a double counterweight to set up most of the market phono cartridge up to 15 gram mass. Optionally other extra weights are available to handle phono cartridges with higher mass
B-7 CERAMIC features four high precision custom made for Gold Note by GRW-Germany micro ceramic ball bearings designed to enable extraordinary low noise quality. The vertical ball bearings are pivoted through custom stainless steel threaded bolts manually adjusted, while the horizontal movement is driven by two micro ball bearings directly inserted in the main rectified pivot of the arm runs into the 23mm diameter arm shaft from which the arm can be secured to the turntable plinth. The internal wiring sports Hyper Litz 99,9999% OFC wire. Using a 5-pin DIN socket one connects turntable with phonostage using Gold Note Phono Cable Extra.
Machiavelli is Gold Note's top High Output Moving Coil cartridge. As the name suggests it is a cartridge with moving coils but it generates a higher output, similar to that of Moving Magnet carts. In this particular case we are talking about output of 1,2 mV. Also the impedance is the same as of MM cartridges - it's 47 kΩ.
Its body is pretty light (10 g), but particularly rigid – it's made of Duraluminum alloy. It features a Boron cantilever and line contact diamond. In fact it was made in cooperation with a renown manufacturer, Adamant-Namiki. The used cooper wire for coils and Samarium-Cobalt magnets.
Specifications (according to manufacturer)
Output level: 1,2 mV
- Turntable: AVID HIFI Acutus SP [Custom Version]
- Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory ZERO (mono) | Denon DL-103SA, review HERE
- Phono stage: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE
- Compact Disc Player: Ancient Audio AIR V-edition, review HERE
- Multiformat Player: Cambridge Audio Azur 752BD
- Line Preamplifier: Polaris III [Custom Version] + AC Regenerator, regular version review (in Polish) HERE
- Power amplifier: Soulution 710
- Integrated Amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
- Stand mount Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
- Stands for Harbeths: Acoustic Revive Custom Series Loudspeaker Stands
- Real-Sound Processor: SPEC RSP-101/GL
- Integrated Amplifier/Headphone amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
- Headphones: HIFIMAN HE-6, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-300, review HERE | Sennheiser HD800 | AKG K701, review (in Polish) HERE | Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, version 600 - reviews (in Polish): HERE, HERE, HERE
- Headphone Stands: Klutz Design CanCans (x 3), review (in Polish) HERE
- Headphone Cables: Entreq Konstantin 2010/Sennheiser HD800/HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE
- Portable Player: HIFIMAN HM-801
- USB Cables: Acoustic Revive USB-1.0SP (1 m) | Acoustic Revive USB-5.0PL (5 m), review HERE
- LAN Cables: Acoustic Revive LAN-1.0 PA (kable ) | RLI-1 (filtry), review HERE
- Router: Liksys WAG320N
- NAS: Synology DS410j/8 TB
- Interconnects: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, review HERE | preamplifier-power amplifier: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
- Loudspeaker Cables: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review (in Polish) HERE
- Interconnects: Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0PA | XLR-1.0PA II
- Loudspeaker Cables: Acoustic Revive SPC-PA
- Power Cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300, all system, review HERE
- Power Distributor: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate, review HERE
- Power Line: fuse – power cable Oyaide Tunami Nigo (6m) – wall sockets 3 x Furutech FT-SWS (R)
- Power Cables: Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version, review (in Polish) HERE | Oyaide GPX-R (x 4 ), review HERE
- Power Distributor: Oyaide MTS-4e, review HERE
- Stolik: SolidBase IV Custom, read HERE/all system
- Anti-vibration Platforms: Acoustic Revive RAF-48H, review HERE/digital sources | Pro Audio Bono [Custom Version]/headphone amplifier/integrated amplifier, review HERE | Acoustic Revive RST-38H/loudspeakers under review/stands for loudspeakers under review
- Anti-vibration Feets: Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc/ CD Player/Ayon Polaris II Power Supply /products under review, review HERE | Finite Elemente CeraPuc/ products under review, review HERE | Audio Replas OPT-30HG-SC/PL HR Quartz, review HERE
- Anti-vibration accsories: Audio Replas CNS-7000SZ/power cable, review HERE
- Quartz Isolators: Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010/CP-4
- FM Radio: Tivoli Audio Model One