GOLD NOTE VALORE PLUS 425 turntable
+ Elegantly presented integrated “record player” with excellent tonearm which allows for fine adjustments. Difficult to tear away from when the music starts playing. Very good at ambience and detail retrieval. Cartridge alignment and speed check gauges included.
– Presentation may not fit well into systems and with ears which favour “classic” turntables’ cosier sonic characteristics. Pointed conical acrylic feet may be an issue with some users. Arm adjustments can get fiddly. Finger-lift on tonearm headshell needs getting used to.
THE Gold Note Valore Plus 425 (which means “value” in Italian, not to be confused with “volare”, as per the famously-titled song, meaning “to fly”) in clear acrylic with “permawhite” frosted platter would undoubtedly qualify as good-looking in many peoples’ eyes, and it sure does in mine. In a way, it’s like the old scrawny Blue Note (as the Gold Note’s products were previously branded) Piccolo predecessor model grew up, filled out and got itself onto a regular gym routine and learned the art of grooming from those consultants whom top-level corporate executives seek out to help them look the part.
Being Italian, its innate sense of style is apparent, which is interesting, seeing that we are dealing only with a straightforward rectangular plinth and circular platter here. There is an air of understated elegance, the Valore not being as overtly curvaceous as something like the Roksan Radius V (is it VII, now?) or other more shapely all-acrylic rivals out there. Look closer and you’ll see some circular-ish patterns cut into the plinth which, at first glance, suggests an attempt to look more stylish, but is actually engineering-led. The idea is to help break up the transmission of resonances in the critical areas around the motor and the main bearing, even if acrylic is an inherently well damped material by itself.
No less distinctive is the tonearm, a variant of the long running B5 which I remember first seeing many years ago on a then-Blue Note Bellavista turntable. I’ve always wondered how handling this tonearm would be like, that unusually shaped finger-lift on the headshell looking like it was seriously engineered so as not to harmfully resonate and cock up the beautiful electrical signal extracted from the cartridge reading the wiggles in the grooves of the LPs set on the Valore’s platter. The arm is the antithesis of something like the almost-all-one-piece Rega RB250/300-series arms, with little screws and joints apparent here and there, but in terms of feel at least, it was silky and obviously had well-sorted bearings in both horizontal and vertical planes.
Another feature is the high performance 12V motor with what looks like digital control. While the connected bits of the power supply don’t suggest anything special (wall wart plug unit connected to a tiny plastic black box), the manual goes to some length to describe the efforts to get the smoothest running, least vibrating motor that could be implemented (at the price, I presume). It “features the Gold Note PWM design (which) allows a 12V very low voltage power optimised powering by a triple conversion of the voltage, from AC230V to DC230V then reduced to DC12V and reconverted to AC12V”. This results in a “totally controlled power supply able to control fully the motor finding the perfect phasing, with a convenient speed 33/45rpm adjustable set up and fine pitch control”.
The Valore is 425mm wide (that 425 in the name now meaning something) and about 170mm tall sitting on three pointed conical acrylic feet, weighing about 10kg overall, so it doesn’t demand anything out-of-the-way in terms of the real estate it is to sit on, except maybe ensuring the surface can withstand those pointy cones, or some measure of protection is considered to prevent inadvertent scratches.
The entire unit itself can, however, slide about if the surface it sits on is of a smooth and slippery variety. Oh, and it has a depth of 360mm. The power supply and speed controller which plugs into the Valore via a mini-XLR connector will need its own platform but is tiny enough to sit atop another component as long as its buttons to activate the motor (one each for 33.3 and 45 rpm, respectively) are accessible. Fine speed adjustment is available which requires holding down both buttons on the speed controller while the motor and platter are spinning. It sounds complicated, but the manual is clear enough and I did not have any problems using it, though there was ultimately no need to make any adjustments as the review sample spun spot on at each chosen speed.
Probably of greater challenge to the user is adjusting the tonearm. The manual indicates every necessary Allen key to do this is supplied with the Valore, but the editor does occasionally like his bit of fun and inflicting torment, and passed the unit over with platter already installed but sans packaging and cartridge, though I did get the manual, alignment gauge and speed check strobe. I did fortunately have the right sizes of Allen keys sitting around in my toolbox so doing adjustments on the arm was a breeze. I only had to adjust arm height as azimuth was already right the way the unit arrived.
The supplied two-point alignment gauge is based on the IEC standard null points of 66 and 120.9mm. I’m no fan of two point protractors as they can try one’s patience on a wrong day, so I used what I normally had on hand and I felt I got good enough results – but one can’t complain when the manufacturer takes pains to provide the user with the peripherals which are needed to optimise performance.
Two cartridges found their way onto the B5 arm, a Denon DL110 and the workhorse Rega Carbon. Most of the listening was done with the attached dust cover in place. This could be detached but I found it convenient to just leave it in place and close the lid during the listening sessions.
As the cartridges (being my own) had been run in, and the review unit looked like it had seen action elsewhere already, so the bearing assembly and motor should have had time to bed in, I still let the Valore spin for about an hour before first listening to it.
It initially spent time beside two vintage tables, a Thorens TD124ii-SME3012s2-Rega Carbon, and a Garrard 401 (with Martin Bastin bearing) with DIY tonearm based on the William Firebaugh golfball-in-goop design with its own Denon DL110 (this is probably the only time in my entire life that I have had two samples of the same cartridges with me at the same time, so it’s only natural I’d give them a side by side spin).
Two things noticed were: a) how quick the Valore’s platter was in getting up to speed, jumping from its rest position to stable chosen speed in a one and one-half blinks of an eye, and b) a feeling of rather healthy torque in spin being transmitted from the motor – running a carbon fibre brush on an LP’s grooves on its spinning platter just before play, one hardly notices any decline in the speed of rotation.
The Thorens 124 was due for a much-needed service so it wasn’t in its best form to be compared with a modern rival but the results were nonetheless interesting, the 124 having a more organic and thicker limbed presentation than the Valore, but losing out in terms of detail retrieval and speed stability. A friend who was here for the listening found himself favouring the TD124-SME for its inherently more “human” presentation, while another (who was here at a different time) was firmly in favour of the Valore. That’s listener prejudices for you! Away from the initial casual listening and cursory comparisons with the cheapo Rega Carbon, more analytical listening took place in earnest by changing up to the DL110 high-output MC. Not unexpectedly, the ante for ambience and atmosphere retrieval was noticeably upped with this more expensive budget classic moving coil model supplying the electrical signal.
Together with the cartridge change, I moved the Valore into a system comprising the Rega Elex-R (with its own phono stage and sometimes with the Parasound JC-3) and ATC SCM11v2, with wiring by Cable Talk, supplemented with use of an ADL GT40 preamp-Euphonic Research Amp 80 power amp (the latter a tube-SS hybrid) combi for a little tube influence, as well as convenient headphone listening when the mood struck.
Speed stability was good and there was very little perceived self-contribution/interference from the replay mechanics. Dropping the stylus into the outer groove of one of my quieter LPs, the inherent noise was still audible but any imperfections in the condition of the LP record, while in play, was felt to mostly intrude insignificantly into the overall performance, in the way well-sorted record players do so much better than lesser examples of the art.
On classical material, the overall background was pleasingly quiet with a sense of “blackishness” that allowed the performance on many a well-played LP to remain sounding transparent. The Valore/DL110 combination allowed low-level detail to be heard without strain, achieving fine musical communication, with results of which were still preferable to these ageing ears than any digital replay gear within my realm of affordability, even if digital is quieter overall.
Treble was airy and within the limits of the abilities of the cartridge, the snap of snare drums in march music having good attack, with fast piano keys sounding precise in the start and stop of the notes. Mids were well-organised and instrumentation tone was faithfully conveyed, but I did feel the overall balance had a more direct character to it than the in-house references. It never got to the point of being too assertive, though, save for some LPs which were produced in such manner, but it was a little less cosy when compared to the Garrard.
Temporal precision as well as presentation of changes in tempo were sure-footed indeed, no sense of suspicion that signs of wavering would present itself. I think the all-Brit Rega-ATC system just happened to fit the Valore’s virtues well and, when playing good old rock n roll, punk and Saturday Night Fever-era disco tunes, results were quite infectious, the combination latching onto the rhythms and not letting go, like a bull-riding rodeo cowboy.
While bass notes were fast and tuneful (if played that way!), I found them to have a slightly less filled-out quality, being just a little harder and less full than with the Garrard, and in comparison with the Linn Sondek LP12. But let’s take things in context here – at typical used prices, these classic units can cost more than the Valore combination and one has to factor in the time, hassle and cost to get them into peak condition. I suppose if one has the financial ability and like the Valore’s presentation, higher models in the Gold Note line should also be investigated as the Valore is their entry-level model.
Another cartridge may have also produced different results but overall, I did find the presentation of the Valore/Denon 110 being preferable on some discs where individual strands within some denser tracks sounded better separated, yet keeping its place in the overall bigger picture, and attack on snares and cymbals slight echoes and reverbs more noticeable. I would surmise that the Valore-B1 trades off a bit of scale and lower extension for the ability to scavenge detail and stay balanced within a more measured performance envelope.
I did try a few tweaks to see if I could get it to sing better, or at least more in keeping with my tastes and prejudices, and felt the sound improved with a smidgin better focus and a slightly less edgy performance when I used an old Sumiko Analog Survival Kit mat plus a brass record weight.
THE LAST WORD
There is no shortage of choice for turntables for around RM6,000/US$1,500 and any turntable coming in just above this price range has to show it performs better than the likes of the stalwart Rega RP6 (now replaced by Planar 6) and well-received recent contenders like the Pro-Ject Classic, amongst others.
I feel that the Valore is well able to make a convincing case for itself to the potential buyer that it justifies the extra cost over the fine competition existing in the lower price range. The build is superb; the tonearm is excellent-sounding, lends itself to fine adjustments (though it takes getting used to when “picked up” to change tracks) and gives the confidence that it would be able to accommodate even better cartridges than those used in the test; the sound is rock stable, solid and highly communicative and detailed. I have no hesitation in recommending it for audition and enjoyed my time with it. That’s amore, and that’s Valore.
Thorens TD124ii-SME3012-Rega Carbon, Garrard 401-DIY Firebaugh-inspired golfball bearing arm-Denon DL-110, Linn LP12-Ittok-K18Mk2 / Amplification: Parasound JC-3, ADL GT-40 phono preamps, Naim 122X preamp with Teddycap power supply into Euphonic Research Amp-80 and Exposure XVIII power amps (ADL GT40 also used as direct preamp and headphone amp), Rega Elex-R integrated amp / Speakers: ATC SCM11-ii, Triangle Ikoto, Apogee Centaurus Minor, James EMB1000 / Headphones: Sennheiser HD650 / Assorted cables including some diy stuff
Malaysian price: RM6,500 (RM7,900 for acrylic version)
Review sample courtesy of Acoustique Systems (+6012-339 3738) / Find your distributor.