Hi-Fi Shows

I went to the Milan Hi Fidelity show last weekend and the same 3 things struck me as happens in just about all the Hi-Fi shows I attend.

1) Some absolutely dreadful Muzak is played just because they are excellent recordings. This means that when I request a decently-recorded CD track I know well to be played, I am nearly always disappointed compared to my own system.

2) Some systems have impressive bass; more than I am used to. From experience, having owned some bass behemoths in the past, I know that – for me at least – it is just a novelty that soon wears thin. I much prefer a fast, transparent bass to room-shaking depth and the compromise in midrange clarity that comes with that. The unrealistic desire many have to recreate orchestral scale in their rooms detracts from the delicacy needed for World Music, Jazz or Folk.

3) And now for my most controversial point. I am used to what some would dismissively call ‘pipe and slipper’ speaker designs such as old Spendor BC1s, Harbeth HL Monitors and Rogers LS5/8s. As often happens, I heard a track I knew well at the show, a viola da gamba track played by Jordi Saval. The speakers were Brave New World designs built from what looked like solid aluminium billet. The natural resonances and reverberations I expected were, for the most part, bleached away! Many recordings seem to lose much of the natural resonance and 3 dimensionality of the music. The approach of most modern Hi-Fi systems is to be clean, focussed, tighter-than-reality and rather uninvolving. Valves add a global 3 dimensionality often lost.
There is an intuitive understanding that for music to sound real something more Yin and Yang than simple resonance control is required. It is not that subjectivists condone adding colouration, as many objectivists claim, but that they instinctively seek that extra connection and engagement you get with the original performance which the recording often lacks. Furthermore, valve amps generally sound more natural than transistor probably because the signal travels through a vacuum rather than silicone.

Cleaning records.

I have tried cleaning records in various ways over the years.

From tap water and washing-up liquid which can leave a calcium residue to wood glue which  can get stuck in the grooves where spread too thinly.

I recently tried Covid hand sanitiser rubbed gently into grooves with my finger tips and used warm water to rinse it off. This works very well and leaves no calcium deposits. By using finger tips one can feel how much attention each record needs before it becomes clean.

The objectivist/subjectivist battle rages on in audio forums

Denial that subjectivist types hear what they think they hear.

That the ear is not reliable in blind tests etc.

That natural body and resonance are coloration etc. 

That an explicit, hyper-detailed sound must be right.

When long-term realisation shows that it is just tiring. If you want to show your system picks up a vocal inflection, a click of the tongue ”more betterer” than your friend’s system that’s fair enough I suppose but you are probably cheating.

The fact that it is probably a manufacturer manipulated upturned frequency response to impress in a comparison audition… well never mind. When I look at Hi-Fi magazine reviews I am mainly looking out for the reviewer’s description of something as ‘musical’. That is what music is about not logic. Should not need to be said really…

Or equipment that you simply really enjoy that takes your mind off comparing – ”but this, but that”… that is always a good sign.

Or an album track suddenly ‘making sense’ that never quite gelled before – that is a good sign.

When it comes to music with vocals, I think we are too generous when we say people have different tastes. The voice is either as real as possible or it is not. Too many systems produce voices in a way that is slightly robotic and cold. (Speakers with baffles less than 8 inches wide tend to be poor in this area.) I don’t accept this trade-off !

I sometimes genuinely forget that I have loaned an item from my system such as a DC blocker and filter which would be hidden behind the equipment rack. I absent-mindedly wonder why the soundstage is relatively congested, where the life has gone. Then I remember I have loaned this or that.

Or when you audition something that should be better than what you had. You start by hearing what it does better. Then, maybe through tiredness, you just listen almost subconsciously, half-listening. Then you can really judge if overall it is more musical and enjoyable than what you had before. In other words, when you are not looking for a difference and you hear one that is what counts! Call it subconscious comparison. 

Damage to New Records

Record sleeves even with specialist pressings are often made of cardboard and put fine scuffs on the records every time they are removed. This can cause surface noise. E.g. Aldous Harding – ‘Party’ my most recent buy. I have had to buy plastic-lined paper inner sleeves which work well but the original cardboard one doesn’t fit alongside them.


Lavardin – Support Furniture Article


What is the best rack to put under an amplifier?

A platform for audio components should firstly support the component stably and secondly be itself as neutral as possible.

For this reason, placing components on resonating materials seems like a really bad idea. Some materials which at first may not be suspected of resonating do in fact do so much more than expected: glass, marble, even granite and all minerals and metals have very poor self damping properties and allow vibrations to be stored, amplified and sent back to the component.

The ultimate material is wood. Wood is made of random fibres that conduct energy and reduce it when energy has to pass from one fibre to another. Moreover, plywood behaves much better than solid wood because of its thin crossed layers that allow a maximum dispersal of energy. Chipboard and “medite” powdered wood do not spread energy because they lose the fibrous structure of real wood.

For these reasons, avoid any stand made completely or partially with:

– Minerals, glass, marble, granite, ceramic: dry sound, too much treble, loss of nuances.

– Carbon fibre, compounds, polyester, etc: as above.

– Metal, steel, aluminium, …. loss of nuances, aggressive sound.

– Pressed wood and medite: loss of detail and nuances.

– Solid wood: expensive and not as good as plywood : simplified music, loss of nuances.

– Springs, rubbers, magnets, air chambers: loss of treble, detail and nuances.

From our point of view, combining minerals with metal, rubber and everything else, is not a demonstration of know-how…

As soon as the life of the music is killed by poor sounding audio racks, tonal balance remains the only thing to discuss, sadly…

If you have a solid, well-built, heavy piece of wood furniture supporting your equipment, it has a good chance of sounding far better than most of the Super High Tech Space or Formula One technology ( ! ) options available on the market.

Furthermore, you can add a thick board of plywood under each component for even better results….

4 ohm speakers and effect on power delivery.

I often get asked about this and some speaker manufacturers like to avoid stating average impedance when they quote speaker sensitivity…

In 2002, Paul Messenger described beautifully the paradox of 4 Ohm speakers.

‘Over the years, speaker makers have tended to evolve their designs to suit the typical transistor amplifier which is essentially a voltage source with a low source impedance.

Halve the speaker’s impedance from 8 to 4 Ohms and the speaker draws twice the current and power from the amplifier. This extra power gives an increase in apparent (though mythical) sensitivity. Once one manufacturer adopts the strategy, others feel obliged to follow.’

A 4 ohm speaker actually draws 2W when provided the voltage required to provide 1W into an 8 ohm speaker so a 93db 4 ohm speaker is no easier to drive than a 90db 8 ohm one!

‘SME’ RCA plugs.

Many years ago I used to curse the overly complex 4-5 piece RCA plugs which were often referred to as ‘SME’ plugs.

I don’t know if SME made them but they were dreadful.

Often attached to arm leads the wires would shear, come loose and cause all sorts of intermittent problems.

The screen wires were trapped by a threaded portion which would soon enough break off the filaments or develop a loose connection.

To my surprise, some Chord cables use a similar design of RCA plug with a plastic outer casing.

My Chord iChord lead has been very unreliable with the centre pins sometimes sticking in the socket and the plastic body sliding off the plug (hence the ugly glue fix) and the same issues with the screen- pinching piece needing tightening and the screen coming detached.

Now, the last straw, the earth has sheared causing a rare drive-unit to be blown…



There has been some confusion about our status. We never traded as Audioflair Ltd. We applied to be a Ltd Co to protect the Audioflair name but it remained dormant until it was voluntarily dissolved by us in 2016.  I have always been a sole trader and still am.

Vasari Gold Cartridge tested by TONE Audio

There’s a new little star in the constellation of our cartridges: the name is Vasari, the sound is…well, just read the review by Jeff Dorgay on this month’s issue of TONE Audio if you want to find out:

“With decent cartridges in the four-figure range, what’s the new audio enthusiast to do? Four words: Gold Note Vasari Gold. And you can get one for $385.”

read the article on the magazine

Gold Note DS-1000 Music Streamer is on 6moons

The brand new DS-1000 is our take on music streamers, we suggest to use it in pair with QNAP or Synology NAS and your favourite UPnP music server (like MinimServer) to achieve the best reproduction quality.

You can also use DS-1000 to enjoy TIDAL or Qobuz simply installing the MConnect Player app (see MConnect for iOS and MConnect for Android) on your smartphone and tablet.
Visit www.qobuz.com/goldnote to try the service for free with a 1 Month trial – please remember that Qobuz is not worldwide available yet.  

Now DS-1000 is also on 6moons:

“DS-1000 fears no competition. It is a very complete versatile machine with an unusually extensive upgrade path […] From a sonic standpoint, what else can be said than mission accomplished? Elegance, vividness, resolution, transparency and great dynamics honor the essence of music.”

read the complete review on 6moons.com

A review of the new Role Audio Enterprise Loudspeaker

Dear Music Lover,

I write to share a review of the new Enterprise. The review highlights our great achievements producing compact loudspeakers that outperform loudspeakers twice their size from the standpoint of bass reproduction, soundstaging/imaging, and value.

The Enterprise (at £3,295/pair) best the PSB Imagine T2 at £3,498/pair and the Vienna Acoustics Mozart Grand SE at £4,000/pair, two of the greatest speakers under £5,000.

Both the PSB T2 and the Vienna Mozart Grand SE are roughly twice the size of the Enterprise. Moreover, The PSB T2 has (3) 5.25 inch woofers. The Vienna Acoustics has (2) 6.5 inch woofers. The Enterprise has (2) 4.5 inch woofers.

The reviewer found the Vienna Mozart Grand SE is similar to the Enterprise in the overall beauty of its tonality and color, but its bass is not as extended, as taut, or as accurate as the Enterprise’s. And Vienna Mozart Grand SE doesn’t produce the large, layered soundstage that the Enterprise renders both in height and width. He noted that the “PSB Imagine T2 has very good macro-dynamics, but its overall presentation is not as silky smooth/musical as the Enterprise.”

And concluded that, The Enterprise will compete with speakers at least double their price and outperform much more expensive stand-mounted monitors both in soundstaging and bass extension.”

You can read the review here.

Tuscany Gold Moving-Coil Cartridge new review in Stereophile.

Look for the new review of the Tuscany Gold by Michael Fremer in this Month’s issue of Stereophile and you will not be disappointed!

“The Tuscany Gold had a fine, beautifully balanced sound”

read the review

Tuscany cartridges feature an extra-thin Micro Ridge diamond tip developed with Adamant-Namiki, the worlds most famous professional Diamond manufacturer: the special multi faced shape cut guarantees the best deep vinyl groove contact possible.

Gold Note – New Year, New Speakers – the XT-7

The new full-range, 3 way loudspeaker with anti-turbulence rear bass reflex and ribbon tweeter is finally here!

  • TWEETER – custom AMT ribbon.MIDS – 150mm curved cone in ultra-hardened woven polypropylene with custom copper phaser.
  • BASS – 2 x 180mm curved cones in ultra-hardened woven polypropylene with custom copper phaser.
  • CROSSOVER – low-high dual-slope at 280Hz & 3000Hz with resistive design and triple crossover network.

XT-7 means Italian design and craftsmanship, high quality materials,  the best audio grade components made in Germany by Mundorf and amazing custom drivers developed in collaboration with SEAS.

With many solutions directly derived from our flagship model XS-85, here is one of the best loudspeakers we have ever created. Handmade with passion in Italy.

discover the new XT-7

Fake Balanced Leads

Many balanced leads available in the HI-FI World are not – one earth pin is either not connected internally or bridged in a pseudo-balanced way. Glue-up plug barrel – Hey Presto!

Reflecting back on Stereophile’s Croft Integrated review

I have had many Croft Series 7 hybrids through my hands over the years and they do not run hot. They run warm as owners will attest. Yet, when being technically measured by Stereophile, they managed to make the Croft Integrated amplifier run ‘very hot’ and considered it a fair report.

My suspicion is that a music signal is less stressing to some amp topologies than the ‘steady-state one third power signal into a simulated load’ used by the technical reviewers.

So a topology of amp which tolerates this will have a technical advantage over one that does not. Of course, if you like to listen to a single note all the time….

This is one way in which you can achieve the contradictory situation where the reviewers rave about the amp, as occurred with the Croft Integrated, while the technician finds fault.
You can bet the Integrated did not run hot at the reviewer’s houses (before and after the measurements were taken) when sounding so musical.
As is often the case their testing is not what they think it is. If it ran hot on test bench they were overloading it in some way and inducing distortion.
The trouble with this kind of ‘science’ is that readers of such reviews tend to feel obliged to bow to the measurement facts unquestioningly.
Many years ago Glenn Croft said, ‘When you know what you’re measuring, measure it!’
It seems the measurements were taken from the Tape Out rather than the speaker outputs which would have loaded-down the amplifier’s output and induced the 6db roll-off.
Let’s not forget that Total Harmonic Distortion is also overstated as many Jap amps had vanishingly low figures such as 0.01% distortion and sounded rather thin and unengaging in reviews. In the meantime most speakers distort by about 33%…
If you prefer a more objective perspective regarding magazine technical measurements, Steve Elford of Vertex AQ cites that:
“Fourier transform theorem or FFT software is the wrong way to measure because it’s in the frequency domain and is an iterative process over time so you only see the presence of constant sine waves. By analysing the signal in the time domain, only then can you see the tracking error.”

10/10/15 Further thoughts on Vertex.

As mentioned I have loaned out all my Vertex gear to a customer for a 1 week trial period.

A pair of large 3 way speakers with 12 inch bass drivers are out on demonstration to another customer who has concluded that they need to be played too loudly to be at their best in his set-up. In my room, with Vertex installed and the same Croft amplification, there is no such problem and they play excellently at low volumes – interesting…

Thoughts on Vertex equipment.

One of the first things that strikes you about the Vertex range is that it is fantastic at controlling boom levels * – my 10.5 ft wide demo room with suspended floor can now work with unfeasibly large speakers even with 15 inch bass drivers thanks to Vertex.

I have loaned out all my Vertex gear to a customer for a 1 week trial period and the boom is back and unbearable forcing me to change back to mini-monitors!

I remember this being a big issue before discovering this brand.

(* Actually, the first thing that strikes most people trying the Vertex gear is the better image placement/separation and lower noise floor. But each system is different and my main issue had been boom levels and the need to demonstrate various speakers of all sizes. )

New Gold Note PH-11 phono stage .


The new PH-11 is Gold Note’s flagship reference MM/MC phono preamplifier featuring a high current battery power supply with automatic temperature stabilizer to produce the best audio performance.

It is a fully-balanced three-chassis unit with four batteries and an intelligent charging power supply.

(A sophisticated system automatically recharges all four batteries exactly when needed without interrupting the unit’s operation.)

This massive power supply is able to release great dynamics with any kind of phono cartridge.

The extremely silent background, enabled partly by the use of batteries, allows the unit to amplify phono cartridges with outputs even lower than 0.1mV  with ease producing magnificent audio quality.

The PH-11 features Gold Note’s proprietary fully balanced four times dual-stabilized mono amp design stage.

The unit enables easy MC phono cartridge matching and can be supplied with two pairs of loading plugs to find the perfect match in any condition. All phono cartridges with an internal impedance below 10 ohms would normally need an external step-up transformer.

Compared to the best step-ups the PH-11 retains focus and definition at the frequency extremes rather than going slightly out of focus and is extremely detailed.

It works well with all MCs while a step-up can produce enormous variations in sound quality if output and loading are not spot-on for a given cartridge – completely choking the quality of a good MC.

More information here: http://www.goldnote.it/wordpress/ph-11/

Gold Note PH11


Gorgeous Mediterraneo Turntable by Gold Note.

This fabulous Gold Note deck is available ex-dem with the  Tuscany Gold cartridge and the PH-11 phono stage.

The sculpted, solid walnut lower plinth adds an authority to the sound and the new pulse-width modulating Fiorino TSC speed control/power supply gives great pitch and dynamics offering the advantages of AC set-ups which major on torque together with the detail-enhancing silent background DC set-ups are renowned for.

DEMONSTRATOR  AVAILABLE FOR SALE AT EX-DEM PRICE – please e-mail me for details.

See link for more details: http://www.goldnote.it/wordpress/mediterraneo/

Mediterraneo Turntable

Making the most of your Async USB audio DAC

If you want to make the most of your async audio DAC, put together a powerful computer which runs silently. You can leave out the graphics card which has no positive affect on the Music at all.
A PC running Windows 7 and JRiver Media Player will work just fine. You can tweak these further by adding a program such as JPlay which optimises the processes on the computer ensuring that priority threads are available for music playing.

Better still you can have the convenience of your smart phone as the remote control – this truly is so very handy to use. Not forgetting also the amazing amount of musical material for you to explore now that you are running from a Computer connected to the Internet. You don’t get a shabby performance from Spotify (though variable from track to track) – it certainly allows you to browse thousands of musical catalogues where you will get to hear music you enjoy that you never had the chance to explore so instantly before.

Its gets more complicated – but in short – the more processor and memory you have in your PC the better. It would not seem logical to worry about CPU power for just music making – but it affects the musical timing! If you can push through those musical bits with `muscle` then timing will improve – and timing makes a significant difference when it comes to toe-tapping musicality. Funnily enough, it also really enhances and solidifies the bass! Quality bass really does underpin the music!

Our Gold Note audio DACs respond well to this, they already sound superb as they are a truly asynchronous USB device – using XMOS technology along with NOS (no oversampling). Many strive to modify CD players so that they do not over-sample and just leave the bits alone without toying with them. Gold Note have realised this in their audio DAC range right the way down to their budget DAC-7 which you must listen to fully appreciate if you get the chance!

The DAC used in the Gold Note range is known as the ‘Miracle DAC’, which is in effect the AKM AK4396, using AKM’s multibit architecture for its modulator. Furthermore, according to Gold Note: “we are the only one on the market I know to have the USB Pin1 V-BUS 5Volt isolated using the proper power supply to avoid interferences with the audio signal” – however with the DAC-7 you need to add the external power supply to achieve this isolation.

No standard digital filters are used either, Gold Note uses an FIR implemented by themselves.
All Gold Note DACs are asynchronous and deploy high speed USB 2.0 which can handle any streaming up to 24bit resolution and 192KHz natively.

But overall there are a large number of reasons for why something sounds good. Asynchronous technology is one, but Latency is another even more important one.
The master clock of the converter works in the Gold Note designs at 27MHz, 24,576MHz and 16,934MHz. There are three separate master clocks using three different high precision oscillators with 7ppm precision to guarantee a very low jitter.

Anyway enough of the technical mumbo jumbo, some may be interested to know the underlying technology which may help to understand the value behind the product range, but all will want to appreciate the music – in the end I believe you should let your ears be the judge.
Contact me for more information – and auditions of course.