T.H.E. Show 2019: Vertere and Goldnote pit Digital vs Analog

Some demonstrations at hi-fi shows are politely interesting, some are confusing and some are eye (ear) opening. It all depends on your particular bent to sound and whether you’re open to having an open mind – not something many audiophiles I’ve encountered seem particularly interested in. “All cables sound the same!” “Digital is superior to analog!” “Speakers are the most important component!”

So, when I was being pushed along the swift-moving current of a hallway at T.H.E. Show and I caught the eye of Robb Neimann of Rutherford Audio I put out an arm and he reeled me in, I was not expecting the demo pitch. We shot the breeze and caught up and then he asked if I’d seen what Vertere Acoustics CEO Touraj Moghaddam was having fun with? I replied “no,” and Neimann’s eyebrows arched up comically as he twirled his moustache in mock-villain style. “Then let’s see if he’ll do it again,” he grinned.

The room’s setup consisted of some gear I was familiar with (WIlson Sabrina loudspeakers, Vertere MG-1 turntable) and some I was not (Goldnote IS-1000 integrated amp/DAC/streamer/phono – Class A/B, 125 Watts/eight Ohms, Roon Ready, DSD64, 24-bit/192 PCM). The female jazz vocals I was hearing sounded delicate and nuanced, yet had chesty weight and inflection with authority. I smiled. My kind of sound.

Moghaddam then proceeded to discuss the album we were listening to, that it was Elles Springs new Vertere label release Reveal and that what we were hearing was the high-resolution studio master. He then put on a heavyweight LP pressing of the same track and the level of organic presence to notes noticeably increased, as did the size and depth of the sound stage – neat trick, but one I’d experienced often in my own system over the years going back-and-forth between various digital and analog formats.

Moghaddam then put on an acetate of the LP… you could feel the hairs on your arms and neck spike as the depth, clarity and flesh-and-blood presence of the recorded event flooded into the room. The amount of air and space around upper registers was acute and Spring’s vocals unfolded like a higher dimension in the small hotel room convincingly suspending disbelief that she was not in the room with us.

A breathtaking recording, played back on an exquisite digital and analog system curated to impress and another demonstration that seemed to leave little doubt in the minds of those present that as great as digital continues to be and as much as it improves every year, the benchmark to beat continues to be analog. Will digital fully supercede it? It could just be a matter of time (or timing, which is key to the best digital), but simple demos like this continue to impress the open-minded music lover and digital proponent inside of me. YMMV.

The room list:

  • GoldNote IS-1000 Deluxe Integrated Amplifier $5,999 USD
  • GoldNote Walnut three-shelf Rack $2,000 USD/shelf $6,000 USD as seen
  • Vertere MG-1 Turntable with SG-1 Tone Arm with hand-built wiring $14,495 (USD)
  • Vertere RG-1 Isolation Stand $1,395 USD
  • Vertere Phono 1 Phono Stage  $1,759 USD
  • Vertere HB Power Cables $3,995 USD
  • Vertere HB Speaker Cables $15,595 USD depending on length
  • Vertere Interconnects $ 9,995 USD
  • Wilson Sabrina Speakers $16,995 USD

Rutherford Audio

Vade Forrester's picture

If I were arguing your conclusion, I would point out the difference in configuration and prices between the phono and digital systems.

galacticz00's picture

A bit of a difference between the cost of the analogue and digital front ends in this system.

Ortofan's picture

... a high-resolution studio master exhibited an increased level of "organic presence" and a greater "size and depth of the sound stage", was that because the LP version was somehow superior or because the passage of the signal through an extra pair of electro-mechanical transducers - the cutting head and phono cartridge - added some euphonic distortions to the playback process that digital playback lacked?

Everclear's picture

Wilson Sabrina speakers present difficult low impedance load and phase angles ....... The impedance dips down to 2.5 Ohms with severe phase angles ....... See Stereophile review and measurements ....... The GoldNote integrated amp may not be supplying enough 'juice' (current) :-) .........