After many years dealing with the analog world and having matured a lot of experience and knowledge, my conclusion is that the quality in the reproduction of the vinyl and the extraction of the info contained in the grooves, are directly proportional to the quality of the materials, to the consistence of the masses at stake and to the reciprocal interaction. As base for turntables, the audiophiles have unanimously appreciated the granite, since it's an inexpensive material with high mass. In this specific application the consistent mass is surely beneficial, but not universally decisive. The results with rigid turntables are great, but a floating turntable needs a light and rigid support, with an irregular grounding system. Newton's second law states that the acceleration of an object depends directly upon the net force acting upon the object, and inversely upon the mass of the object. As the force acting upon an object is increased, the acceleration of the object is increased. As the mass of an object is increased, the acceleration of the object is decreased. To make vibrate a plate of granite we need lots of energy. Therefore, if we put onto it a turntable or whatever electronic component, they will be free from any colorant vibration coming from the floor or traveling in the air and for which it's not estimable a vigor capable of generating so much energy to make move the plane. We have to consider that the higher the mass of an object, the lower the frequency of a series of resonances. The granite, like other stones, doesn't have autonomous damping qualities. If a resonance is excited, such effect in low frequency will stay active for a long time. To overthrow it there are two ways: the first one is to decoupling the plinth with elastomers. The second one allows the granite to vibrate at its resonance frequency, while the other components are tuned in order to resonate disharmoniously with respect to the harmonic built-up of those frequencies. The goal is to provoke their elimination, nor their adding neither their reinforcement. The immunity from resonances is obtainable through an accurate selection of materials, dimensions and matches. Concerning the turntable, the mass is a desirable requirement, a high mass is the optimum. Just think to the great influence that a heavy platter has on the inertia and on the stability of the rotation, besides the exponential positive effects on the image of the music that is reproduced.
This long introduction is specious and preparatory, with the aim of creating a kind of contrast with the machine we are reviewing: the Bellavista Maggiore turntable, together with the U-312 tonearm and the Boboli cartridge. All made by Gold Note, the Florentine company about which you can read here the reportage by Ulisse Pisoni.
The Bellavista Maggiore is a Feather-weight: only 7 kg and represents the evolution of an innovative concept turntable developed for the Bellavista Leather, that features an extra light plinth manufactured using multilayer. The calf leather gives to the machine an elegant look, but it also has an anti-rumble function. This table is 550 mm wide, so to offer enough space for a 12" tonearm, and it's 360 mm deep and 140 mm high. The thickness is 30 mm. The design and the dimensions are not casual but - you can read it on the company's notes - tuned to get high levels of dynamics and detail on the entire audio range, being harmonious and realistic. A thing that not so often happens with plinths of such dimensions. The lightness, that doesn't mean faintness, allows more speed in downloading the resonances. The structure rests on three cylindrical aluminum feet, refined with a truncated cone profile, that can be adjusted in height to center the bubble. Each foot has a threaded insert that offers to the turntable the possibility of being fixed to the shelf, together with a push-in of spikes or other decoupling accessories. On the right corner is the label and the proud writing “Made in Italy”, on the left the button to switch it on. On the right upper corner is the housing of the tonearm with three screws plunged directly into the plinth.
In the upper left corner is the motor, a 24 poles on double rail synchronous AC powered, literally inserted in the chassis. It has a high coefficient of twisting force, that is 1,6 Ncm, customized by Fiber Italy via the revolutionary Highly Dampened Motor system, capable of reducing the vibrations drastically. The weight is about two hectograms. The fact that the motor is integrated into the chassis, which is sensible to the resonances in solidarity, can be explained with the awareness that such solution can exercise a more efficient control on the velocity and on the equivalent stability. Most turntables in the Gold Note Bellavista Maggiore range have DC motors, because noiseless, easily placeable, and cheap. Unfortunately, they need a feedback loop to keep the rotation constant and that causes a delay interval when the rotational velocity is modified by the grooves of the LP record. On the contrary, a synchronous AC motor, reads the net frequency and its rotational velocity is stabilized by this last one. Also when the voltage changes, the speed remains constant and you can verify that empirically. If you try to slow down a platter with an AC motor, using the pressure of one finger, that motor will oppose till it reaches the right speed. The contact with an anti-static brush will cause no reaction. If you make the same on a DC motor it will almost stop. The conclusion is that an AC motor is more sensitive to the music timing and it increases the dynamics.
The revolving platter is in polyvinyl, a material with damping properties, and beneath are nine weights in golden brass with the function of increasing the peripheral mass. Consequently, they offer more rotational stability. The platter spindle has a length of 80 mm and is made of hard stainless. Its precise refinement serves as maximum reduction of the tolerances. The lubrication is assured by a longitudinal groove that enables the oil to distribute in homogenous way: a small quantity on your finger is enough to oil the surfaces of the platter spindle. The platter bearing is in bronze and solid as well: it has a washer on the bottom that guarantees a perfect coupling. Coupling and axis rigidity represent the two elements that are fundamental for a good qualitative standard of an analog player. In our case the attention of the manufacture is obvious, since the system of anchoring to the plinth is very sophisticated and effective. There is also an aluminum clamp that weighs 207 grams.
The other accessories are a polyvinyl round belt, a decoupling mat, a fix power cord and a signal cable, with RCA ends linked to the tonearm via a DIN connector, just in the inner section of the assembling collar channel. The tonearm is an unipivot, with a linear armtube in aluminum alloy 6060, matched to a headshell in aluminum 6082, blocked and damped with anaerobic glue. The effective measure is 310 mm. The tonearm spindle is also in aluminium and it's completely wrapped in a ring of heavy metal which assures an effective balance and a tracking without errors. The manufacture of the inverter pivot is very accurate too: titanium grade 2, 44 mm of length, a conic head and a contact point of 0,2 mm, with the adjustment finalized to minimize the friction. The counterweight can be modulated, and it's formed by two cylinders that can be matched by hand in concentric modality depending on the exigencies of gravity. The entire package of the arm, that is hydraulic lift, lock and antiskate notched guide rod, are put together in a very simple multifunctional header. The phono cable inside the armtube, like the one for the external signal, have been made on Gold Note specifications. The first one is realized with a twist of seven strands, isolated and shielded, for a total thickness of 36 AWG. The tonearm, with its sixteen grams, is a medium mass arm.
The articulation of the unipivot operates a drastic reduction of the tolerances, bringing them close to zero. The mass of the unipivot tonearm, taken out the few grams of pressure on the cantilever, is concentrated on the pivot needle, with an estimate load of several tens of tons per square centimeters. Obviously, the materials chosen for the pivot and for the headshell are fundamental as well as the hardness of the two materials in friction, neither of which has to be dominant. In contrary case there will be a rapid degradation with immediate reflexes on the tracking capability. Gold Note, thanks to the choice of titanium, secures the U-312 against any unwanted surprise under such aspect. Actually, the zero tolerance is not a prerogative of the unipivot: just think to the old SME tonearms. The difference lies in the fact that the articulation works only in the vertical dimension, while in the unipivot is homogenous on all the axis of the movement, even in the constant self-adjustment at zero point. There is also another singularity of these tonearms: the balance, which, in most cases, is longitudinal, or made of a back counterweight that counterbalances the fore radius and determinates the standing weight of the cartridge. The unipivot arms have a lateral rolling and require an analogue balance. Ignoring the lateral balance means introducing a problem of azimuth, that is the condition of perfect parallelism between the cartridge front and the platter surface. If the hypothetic line of lengthening of the cantilever axis will not design a perfect perpendicularity with the same surface, not only the tracking is incorrect, but in a short time you have to throw away record and stylus. Gold Note solves the problem in an innovative way, by avoiding the use of the classic eccentric counterweights and by supporting the articulation with a cylindrical ring balancing, that wraps completely the tonearm spindle.
I think that the main criterion of the design has been to eliminate most of the disadvantages generated by the mechanical constraints that characterize the tracking system, as happens, ad example, with springs finalized to the dynamic balance, or trying to keep constant the distance cartridge-surface and the standing pressure. The dynamic balance is a limitation to the movement with a bad effect on the dynamics. The U-312 shows a static balance, leaving variable the cartridge-record distance and the standing pressure, with respect to the surface profile. A simple system of wire antiskating cannot be completely suitable to compensate the centripetal force and the vertical inertia of the unipivot tonearm. What remains a chimera though, is the absolute three-dimensional control, or rather the guarantee of an ideal adherence of the cartridge with the groove, together with the freedom of following the modulate track. The closer you get to this status of optimization, the more perfected will be the extraction of the info recorded in the vinyl grooves and the more pleasant and satisfying will be the listening experience.
Of course, I don't want to say that the unipivot articulation is better than the others. The long-standing question of the balance and the relation between inertia and barycenter makes the handling real delicate.
I had a proof in assembling and adjusting the VTA. A coherent set-up requires many listening hours and, also when the mechanical set-up was acceptable, it turned out to be disappointing in the reproduction phase. In the manual I couldn't find an adequate support too. The role of the tonearm is capital, as it's an active part in the process of the tracking made by the cartridge. The unipivot doesn't forgive: with only an error of a tenth of millimeter the detail is gone, the dynamics is gone, the transparence and the image are gone. An imperfect balance will transmit to the music a wave motion and so detachable that you risk a seasickness.
The triptyque is completed with the Boboli cartridge: a high output moving coil, a good 2mv, that impressed me immediately under a visual and a tactile point of view. This pick-up is completely handmade, with the body in solid block machined hardened red aluminium and a weight of 12 grams. The cantilever is made of silicon alloy with a micro elliptic diamond. The company, considered the output level and the impedance at 470 ohms, suggests a match with a MM phono preamp. I have connected the signal cable to one of the MC inputs of my Audio Tekne TP8301 MKIII transformer preamp and the output has been positive, except for the slight hum which I couldn't get rid of. Very intriguing is the stylus pressure, whit a tolerance from 1,4 to 2 grams. Such extension can be explained with the necessity of compensate and support the also wide inertial excursions that come from the static balance mentioned before. Basically, the real immunity to a relevant sound variability inside the differential arch of 0,6 grams, enable the tonearm to track adequately also with paths on surfaces that aren't properly flat.
I have decided to assemble the Bellavista Maggiore on a workbench, in order to deepen the operability far from the chain I wanted to use. Its lightness offers also the opportunity of moving it easily and putting it on three shelves of different materials. Once you have pressed the supply switch, the start of the rotation is peremptory and the traction goes full speed. There is just a quite audible creaking of the platter spindle, that I resolve with some drops of oil. The platter, without the belt, has a good inertia notwithstanding the lightness of its mass. The surprise comes when you stop it: the rotation blocks immediately, without any ends of progressive loss of rounds, behaving like a system with direct traction or pulley. The motor seems to dominate the revolving apparatus, demonstrating its force in controlling the stability. After having set the tonearm and the cartridge, some days of run-in have followed both with and without a record on. The very listening test starts with the alternation of the shelves, based on the reproduction of just one track, Naïs, pastorale héroïque Ouverture taken from the Une symphonie imaginaire by Jean-Philippe Rameau, performed by the Orchestra Les Musiciens du Louvre, directed by Mark Minkowski, Archiv Produktion, 2005, with vintage instruments. The composition paints the Chaos which becomes order and the shock that the elements suffer during separation. In this recording all the acoustic keys suitable to an evaluation are proposed: solos and full orchestra, pianissimo and forte, harmony and presence. The first support I tested is a table with a metallic tripod structure, very slim, with wooden shelf, ended with synthetic spikes onto graphite and brass A.R.T. small bricks. Not a great experience indeed: an impoverished image, the instruments not very intelligible and lots of flatness. The second support is a shelf made of 26 kg grey sandstone, lifted up from the floor with small blocks of the same monolith. The situation improves definitely. The scene is wider and the orchestra starts to assume its natural dimensions, even though with some lacks of consistency: in the whole the representation is more harmonic and rich. The last support is the one that hosts my system: a table in Lecce stone with three shelves and pillars, handcrafted by Gigetto Fanella – www.masmarmi.it – on my specs. I can say that the turntable lays on the top of architecture! At last its personality shows up: do you know the old processing for developing the negative photographic films, when, after being soaking in the acids and fixers, the image became permanent? Well, with the Bellavista happens the same. It comes to life. It is resonant, but its resonance frequency is manifestly inharmonic with respect to that of the Lecce stone. Therefore it extinguishes itself without any harmful effect on the sound.
In the meantime, I play Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30, by Richard Strauss, performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker directed by Karl Böhm, Deutsche Grammophon, 136001. In this opera, at the sublime essence of Nietzsche's tonal poetry, correspond an instrumentation and an orchestration with magical sonorities that contemplate, among the others, six trumpets, two harps and one organ. Using powerful orchestral resources, Strauss, in the intro, moulds the conception and the growth of the leading theme, starting from the initial touch of the three trumpets and the rapid changes of the major and minor tones, with their extraordinary contrasts. The Bellavista Maggiore, with the passing of time, gains a more musical and neutral sound. It also delivers more consistent harmonic and transient info in the mid range. The soundstage and the image are stable and convincing, although some depth is missing. Also the dynamics cannot be considered at the top, but the excellent transparence compensates a lot. The presence of the bass is anything but negligible and I think that its solidity and extension can be improved by the interaction between feet and supports. When the turntable turned to give expression and soul to its reproduction characteristics, I realized that the right channel was playing lower than the left. This inconvenience comes from the tonearm counterweight. You have to insist until the cylinder is coherently fixed with a quite perfect perpendicular axis: just a small lateral inclination will open the way to an unbalance of the channels, since the azimuth of the cartridge will have an alteration. The correct balance, obtainable just through patience and firmness, repays immediately in terms of tracking accuracy and sweetness on the octaves and on the higher midrange.
The good performances of this turntable made me speculate on which aspect could be more important for the sound outcome put into evidence. During the years of progress of the analog, at least ten variables have been considered crucial for the performances of a player: the absence of noise in the pair platter spindle-bearing, the noise reduction in the motor, the independence of the platter spinning, a high moment of inertia of the platter, the immunity from any kind of resonances, and like. What it's unbelievable is how a very important element has been always underestimated: the torque of the motor. I can state that turntables provided with the so called high-torque motors, or others whose light motors have been increased in the force of the machine torque together with the hardening and damping of the inertial body, can reach performance levels beyond every expectation and can reach a high degree of musical fluidity, sound quantity, drama and absolute energy in the reproduction. With the Bellavista, a high-torque motor is a bulwark against the mechanical noises and the oscillations. Contextually, it feeds a force that wins the resistance made by the stylus when, during the tracking phase, it enters in contact by pressing the groove. Besides, the tracking force is subdue to a constant changing of the frequency response, induced by the alternation of the up and down paths that a cartridge suffers depending on the imperfections of the vinyl surfaces. A more valid concept with a unipivot tonearm, that has more liberty in moving.
The Eng. Aterini, proud patron of the Tuscan company, told me that the option belt traction/ synchronous motor has been the result of deep theoretic considerations but, at the same time, of sound empiric conclusions. Gold Note is proud of having chosen synchronous motors at 500 rpm, because this is the best solution to get a perfect relation between traction and noise, with an immediately tangible effect in dynamic output, without any loss in detail and tracking precision. This last one is the skill that have impressed me most. The Bellavista Maggiore is a collectivity where every choice is pondered and founded on sense and logic, although keeping always in balance the relation between taking care of the costs and the investment in materials, design and ideas. The concreteness of this turntable emerges also from the specs: wow & flutter at 0,33, rumble at -78 dB and velocity with 0,1% of tolerance are good measures for sure. But beyond the lab indications, the analog triptyque has been extremely intriguing, thanks to the inner ability of giving vital life to music. For each one of the fifty records I have played, also when the take was questionable, I have pricked up my ears to get details, nuances so realistic to seem familiar, with a special praise for timing, rhythm, scan, in a space/time contest of exceptional coherence. The Bellavista communicates, has its own language, seeks a constant contact with the listener, attracts attention with the aim of offering the instruments that help to understand how the harmony of the mechanical and dynamic elements turns into musical harmony. In the presence of this emotional phenomenon, who cares if there are imperfections in the usual parameters. I prefer to tell about a great musicality and pureness, of a sound message that is involving and engaging. There is no fatigue and you can going on listening for hours and hours.
The Gold Note Bellavista Maggiore turntable has all the requirements to give justice to any collection of an impenitent vinylist and, in the same way, can excite who is not, to became an impenitent vinylist by absolving a social function: the analog proselytism. The vinyl is the sole, authentic, irreplaceable, ideal and, most of all, natural way of listening to the music at home. At least till we can be able to maintain our condition of human beings.
Official technical specifications
Gold Note Bellavista MaggioreTurntable
Wow & flutter: 0,03%
Rumble : -78dB
Speed: 33-1/3 e 45rpm +/-0,1%
Speed changing: manual
Transmission: black polyvinyl belt
Motor: 24 poles on double rail synchronous AC powered
Platter: in polyvinyl featuring 9 weights to increase the peripheral mass
Platter spindle: special Split-Spindle™ clamping the platter
Platter bearing: finely polished bronze made
Power consumption: maximum 4W
Dimensions: 550x140x360mm (WxHxD)
Plint Finish: leather
Gold Note U-312 Tonearm
Typology: 12” unipivot tonearm
Effective length: 310mm
Effective mass: 18g
VTA: adjustable on collar
Azimuth: adjustable on counterweight
Internal cables: AWG36 Hyper Litz shielded 99,9999% OFC
External cables: copper shielded
Total length: 375mm
Boboli II Cartridge
Typology: MC High Output Phono Cartridge
Output level: 2,0mV
Frequency response: 20-40000Hz
Channel separation: >28dB
Suggested tracking weight: 1,4g-2,0g
Cantilever: silicone alloy
Diamond: Super Micro Elliptical shape
Total weight: 12g
Finish: solid block machined hardened red aluminium
Official Italian dealer: to Gold Note website
Official current price in Italy:
Gold Note Bellavista Maggiore turntable: 1,950.00 EUR
Gold Note U-312 Tonearm: 850.00 EUR
Gold Note Boboli II Cartridge: 780.00 EUR
Associated equipment: to Giuseppe "MinGius" Trotto's system