Gold Note DS10 streamer/dac

Gold Note DS10 streamer/dac
6 augustus 2021 Mark van Braam
Mark van Braam
In Geen categorie

Waarde lezer, het is niet voor niets dat de DS10 en PSU10evo combinatie van Gold Note, veruit de meest gekozen streamer/dac/voeding is. Wij kunnen de DS10/PSU10evo/PA10 uit voorraad leveren, zolang de gewenste kleur zwart is. Alan Sircom schreef er in het vakblad Hifi Plus vorig jaar het volgende over, in combinatie spelend met de Gold Note PA10:
E.F. Schumacher’s famous 1973 book ‘Small is Beautiful’ never seemed to have resonance in the world of high-end audio. We like our audio equipment big and heavy, even if the reasons for such scale are at best dubious. But when it comes to Gold Note’s DS‑10 combination DAC and preamp and the matching PA‑10 stereo power amp, small really is beautiful: big amp believers, you need to come to terms with this!

Both Gold Note products are half-sized designs, in the 10 series chassis that Gold Note has used so well in the recent past. The DS‑10 is a combination digital preamplifier with DAC, network streaming connectivity, a Bluetooth receiver, and its own headphone amplifier. From the front, aside from the remote eye and the 6.35mm headphone jack, it looks functionally identical to the PH-10 phono stage (tested in Issue 153), including that easy-to-read front panel display. However, the PH-10 phono stage has no means of connecting to the DS‑10 as this preamp only features digital inputs; a DS‑10 Plus model with an analogue audio line input is also available for a small premium.

The streaming section is very similar to the IS-1000 (tested in Issue 180) in design and functionality. It’s effectively navigated by Gold Note’s own GN Control app (MConnect Control for Android users), although it can talk Apple AirPlay and Spotify Connect, is Tidal, Qobuz and Deezer-chummy, and Roon Ready. Where it differs fairly dramatically from the IS-1000 is its use of what Gold Note calls its ‘Chameleon’ DAC. Just as the PH-10 has a facility to change its tone curve to suit the recording, so the Chameleon DAC can adjust EQ (in this case, the low-pass filter), de-emphasis curve and output power. These parameters are shown as bars on the display, allowing 192 step fine-tuning to marry the output of the DS‑10’s DAC to suit your musical tastes, your power amplifiers, and your loudspeakers. There are three preset options, too, which allow you to tailor the sound to suit different musical sessions, different listeners’ tastes, or listening sessions at different times of the day.

Meanwhile, the PA‑10 is a really clever design for the wannabe upgrader. It’s a fully balanced Bridge-Tied Load design that facilitates really easy bridged mono mode. This turns the 75W stereo chassis into a 150W design that doubles its power into four-ohm loads, meaning a pair of them can deliver up to 600W into four ohms. It also features an adjustable damping factor, allowing the amplifier to adapt to different loudspeakers; the default option works for most large loudspeakers, while the ‘low’ setting works best for high-sensitivity designs and small monitor models.

Bridging involves the throwing of a switch on the rear panel (next to the damping factor and balanced/single-ended switches, all three have little blue LED indicators), while connecting the PA‑10 upstream to other Gold Note models is easy thanks to the ‘GN Link’ connector. This is a 12V sync/trigger system that allows a Master/Slave mode for powering up and down electronics in order.

Gold Note have not tried to squeeze too much into the PA‑10 box. A 75W power amplifier as standard, it can nevertheless deliver 150W into four ohms and 300W into two ohms (in bridged mono mode, the amps do not have a rating for a two ohm load). For a comparatively small Class AB design, the PA‑10 is surprisingly load-tolerant, too; OK, so the sort of punishing impedances that are a function of the highest of high-end loudspeakers are beyond any amplifier that doesn’t weigh as much as a car engine, but the highest of high-end loudspeakers aren’t normally combined with a £1,170 stereo power amp; especially one that could be delivered in a reasonably large shoe-box.

I’m not going to break up the band too much. The DS‑10 and PA‑10 (and especially the DS‑10 with a pair of PA‑10s) work extremely well as a team and their performance envelopes match one another well. But in a very real way, the DS‑10 is the star of the show. That isn’t to decry the performance of the PA‑10 – it’s a very good power amplifier in its own right – but the sheer flexibility and performance of the DS‑10 would make it a star of many a show. The DS‑10 is a fine digital hub with outstanding flexibility thanks to those three adjustable parameters, a streaming system that works smoothly, and a headphone amplifier stage that comes close to the performance of dedicated standalone headphone amps.

The Chameleon DAC does make the performance of the DS‑10 somewhat hard to pin down because it affords the Gold Note a degree of sonic flexibility unparalleled in most digital replay systems. However, there are common features to this flexible sound. It’s a very detailed sound, with excellent soundstage space and openness, held in place by a rock-solid bass foundation. If you think ‘bass foundation’ to mean a sort of big, overblown bass, the DS‑10 isn’t for you; that foundation is one of control and ‘right sized’ tonality. ‘Congo Man’ by Ernest Ranglin [Below The Bassline, Island] is a perfect barometer here; even the smallest amount of excess in the bass comes over as flabby, cone-flapping, one-note bass drone, but here the bass notes were tidy, ordered and extremely deep. You could change a lot of the parameters to fine-tune that sound, but the basic performance remains and that’s a good thing.

It’s good because it’s the perfect match for the PA‑10. The PA‑10’s sound is similarly clean, detailed, and dynamically taut yet controlled. Once again, bass is tighter and precise rather than ‘phat’ (although there is some flexibility thanks to the damping factor control) but still deep. Mono makes a big difference here; with soundstaging being ‘good+’ with one PA‑10 and ‘excellent’ with two, and that has a particular emphasis both in terms of stage size and openness, and solidity of instruments within that stage. A good example of how this stage size affects the sound is The Emerson String Quartet’s reading of Bach’s The Art of Fugue [DG]. This exceptionally clean early 2000s recording is quite close mic’d and while there is a soundstage, it’s seemingly not uppermost in the engineer’s list of priorities; it’s a recording all about the detail and the majesty of both composer and musicians. Nevertheless, it’s a good ‘more in the breach than the observance’ test of staging, and where a lone PA‑10 makes a good impression of the physical and musical interplay of four musicians, two amps really give that sound a sense of authority and physical space between instruments.

In a way, I’d argue that the DS‑10/stereo PA‑10 combination is more of a stepping-stone to the mono amps than a solution in its own right. In part, this is because for just a few hundred pounds more, Gold Note’s own IS-1000 integrated amplifier offers a lot of the same performance and sound quality standards, line inputs, and a more powerful amplifier stage. This isn’t a trouncing, as the DS‑10’s standalone DAC performance edges past that of the IS‑1000, the IS-1000 lacks a headphone amp and the PA‑10 is a slightly more graceful sounding amplifier than the integrated. Also, if you are performing a ‘bitza’ upgrade from existing equipment, then the DS‑10 is an obvious digital hub add-in to a system, but in the main if you are set on the Gold Note sound and it’s a choice between the DS‑10/stereo PA‑10 (with no future mono upgrade in the pipeline) or the IS-1000, I think most will go for the IS-1000. Adding in the second PA‑10, however, changes things dramatically. That extra dimensionality to the soundstage, the even greater control over the loudspeakers and its concomitant ‘grip’ on the bass, and the fluidity of midrange simply make so much more sense. All those elements are there in the PA‑10 (and, for that matter, the IS-1000), but they are more brightly lit when you go mono. And there’s even a PSU10 power supply for the DAC, so that should improve performance still further.

There’s a lot to like in the Gold Note DS‑10 and PA‑10 combination, especially when you get to the full triumvirate of DS‑10 and mono PA‑10s. This is a grown-up sound, free from lots of the fireworks and the instant gratification of ‘peakier’ sounding electronics so common today and especially at this price point. More importantly, the Chameleon DAC does live up to its name because it affords the preamp a lot of additional sonic flexibility. Small really is beautiful, after all!

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

DS‑10 Streaming DAC preamp/headphone preamp

AKM AK4493 PCM (32bit/768kHz, DSD512)

Frequency response 20Hz-20kHz +/-0.1dB

THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) 0.001% max

Signal to Noise ratio -125dB

Dynamic range 120dB

Output impedance 50Ω

Preamp Stage Volume Control enabled/disabled by remote

DIGITAL INPUTS

1x RCA coaxial PCM asynchronous up to 24bit/192kHz

2x TOS-optical PCM asynchronous up to 24bit/192kHz

1x AES/EBU XLR PCM asynchronous up to 24bit/192kHz

1x USB-A port DSD64 and PCM up to 24bit/192kHz, formatted in FAT32/NTFS (32Gb max for pen drives)

1x USB-B asynchronous up to DSD512 and PCM up to 32bit/768kHz

1x Network (LAN/WLAN) DSD64 and PCM up to 24bit/192kHz

AUDIO OUTPUTS

DAC: 1 RCA @ 2Vrms, 1 XLR @ 2Vrms

PREAMP: 1 RCA, 1 XLR; 1 headphone output with 6,3mm jack

POWER

Power supply: 100-240V, 50/60Hz

Multiple Transformer proprietary power supply

Power consumption: 30W

Fuse 2A F

NETWORK CONNECTIVITY

LAN/WLAN (WiFi): 802.11b/g via RJ45 10/100Mbps socket

Bluetooth: High Definition 5.0 (44/16)

HIGH QUALITY STREAMING

Tidal, Qobuz, MQA, vTuner, Deezer, Spotify

Airplay, Roon Ready

SUPPORTED AUDIO FORMATS (NETWORK)

PCM 24bit/192kHz:

AIFF (.aif, .aiff, .aifc)

ALAC

WAV (.wav) packed/unpacked

FLAC

MP3

DSD64: DSF, DFF

Apple Lossless

OGG

Monkey’s

IMPORTANT: UpnP server must support DSD streaming in order to stream DSD files.

SUPPORTED MEDIA SERVERS

All UPnP / DLNA / Roon

DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHT

200 W x 80 H x 260 D mm

Weight: Kg. 4 net – Kg. 5 boxed

FINISHES

Brushed Aluminium available in Black or Gold

REMOTE CONTROL

Multifunctional remote control

APP

GN Control

CHAMELEON DAC

The 3 parameters of the Chameleon Function affect the sound independently, so you can change one at a time to fine tune the DAC. The effects can also be combined for a total of approximately 200 configurations, giving you virtually unlimited flexibility.

The parameter that affects the sound the most is the PCM EQ, which controls the DAC chipset. Here’s a summary of the settings:

1 (natural tone) = super slow roll off

2 (acoustic tone) = short delay with slow roll off, with a group delay of 5.3/Fs

3 (traditional tone) = slow roll off

4 (harmonic sound) = short delay with low dispersion

5 (acoustic sound) = short delay with sharp roll off, with a group delay of 6.25/Fs

6 (traditional sound) = sharp roll off

We suggest to start the fine tuning with the PCM EQ, then move to adjusting the DEE and lastly the DAC PWR.

These two parameters are extremely delicate so the way they affect the sound is finer and less evident but can make quite a difference in some systems.

Prijs DS10 € 2.490,–
Prijs PSU10 evo € 1.100,–

PA‑10 power amplifier

Power output: 75/150W @ 8/4Ω per ch. in stereo to 600W @ 4Ω per ch. in mono (BTL)

Frequency Response: 10Hz–30kHz at +/-1dB

THD+N: 0.05%

Input sensitivity: 1,4V RMS on RCA and XLR

Input impedance: 13KΩ RCA/XLR

Finishes: Brushed Aluminium in Black, Silver or Gold

Dimensions (W×H×D): 20 × 8 × 26cm

Prijs € 1.590,–

Copyright © 2021 AUDIO21, Heerde, door Mark van Braam