Gold Note

PH-10 Phono-Stage and PSU-10 Power Sup­ply

NOVO - - Review -

Hav­ing re­cently re­viewed Gold Note’s stun­ningly good sound­ing P-1000 solid state pre-am­pli­fier, when NOVO asked if I’d like to re­view Gold Note’s PH-10 solid state phono stage ($1,500 USD) and PSU-10 up­grade A/C power sup­ply ($1100 USD), I was more ex­cited than Tom Cruise bounc­ing up and down on one of Oprah’s in­ter­view so­fas.

Based out of Firenze Italy, Gold Note are world renowned for fab­ri­cat­ing high-end turnta­bles, ton­earms, car­tridges, am­pli­fiers, and top shelf au­dio com­po­nents.

DE­SIGN & FEA­TURES

My re­view sam­ple PH-10 phono pream­pli­fier came with a gor­geous black an­odized alu­minum chas­sis. The PH-10 is also avail­able in red, sil­ver, black and gold fin­ishes. From an aes­thetic stand­point, this is an ir­ra­tionally beau­ti­ful com­po­nent with an ex­ceed­ingly high WAF (wife ac­cep­tance fac­tor).

Gold Note makes av­er­age look­ing gear like Lam­borgh­ini builds av­er­age look­ing cars. The PH-10 is a work of art. From the front panel’s TFT dis­play to the raked tiger-claw vents in the chas­sis, this is the sex­i­est phono stage that I’ve ever re­viewed.

The PH-10 is loaded with op­tions and fea­tures too. It has six equal­iza­tion curves in­clud­ing the RIAA, Decca-Lon­don, Amer­i­can-Columbia EQ curves. Op­tion­ally each of the in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized curves can be set to “en­hanced” which uses Gold Note’s cut­ting-edge pro­pri­etary tech­nol­ogy to achieve the best vinyl play­back ex­pe­ri­ence. The color front panel dis­play shows which spe­cific EQ curve is in use.

The PH-10 has two sep­a­rate RCA phono in­puts which can be con­nected to two dif­fer­ent turnta­bles at the same time. Each in­put can be set for ei­ther an M/M or M/C car­tridge. This phono preamp also of­fers four dif­fer­ent se­lectable gain lev­els: -3dB, 0dB, +3dB, and +6dB. This al­lows for pre­ci­sion match­ing to what­ever out­put level is com­ing from a spe­cific M/M or M/C car­tridge. The PH-10 also has nine dif­fer­ent load­ing op­tions: 10:, 22:, 47:, 100:, 220:, 470:, 1,000:, 22K:, and 47K:.

This is the most cus­tom­iz­a­ble and ver­sa­tile phono stage I’ve ever seen un­der the $3K USD re­tail mark. A lot of $5K+ USD level phono stages don’t of­fer this many gain and load­ing set­tings.

The PSU-10 is an out­board higher ca­pac­ity power sup­ply that’s de­signed specif­i­cally to im­prove the sound qual­ity of the PH-10 phono stage. Its solid state cir­cuitry uses four in­de­pen­dent trans­form­ers. Three of the trans­form­ers are ded­i­cated to the A/C power sup­ply. One trans­former solely pow­ers the in­duc­tive fil­ter.

Gold Note’s pro­pri­etary *dual choke* de­sign fil­ters sig­nal volt­ages to min­i­mize A/C borne RFI and EMI dis­tor­tion and elec­tri­cal

“pol­lu­tion” com­ing from the A/C grid. They claim that the PSU-10’s higher ca­pac­ity dra­mat­i­cally en­hances the PH-10’s macro and mi­cro dy­nam­ics, in­creases res­o­lu­tion & trans­parency, and al­lows the phono stage to re­pro­duce far more mi­cro-de­tails within a larger 3-di­men­sional sound­stage.

The front panel of the PSU-10 has one ‘On/ Off’ LED. The rear panel has a 15Amp male IEC plug, a ‘Mas­ter Con­trol’ power switch, and one pro­pri­etary power sup­ply cable out­put. Con­nect­ing the unit is a no-brainer. Sim­ply plug an A/C power cord into the PSU-10’s rear panel IEC in­let. Then con­nect the PSU10 to the PH-10 via a cus­tom 8-pin cable. And Voila…! That’s it. Gold Note rec­om­mends NOT plac­ing the PSU-10 too close to the PH10. As both units are half-sized, po­si­tion­ing the PSU-10 a wee dis­tance away from the PH-10 is easy.

PER­FOR­MANCE

I pri­mar­ily used my heav­ily-mod­i­fied Rega Pla­nar 25 turntable + RB-600 ton­earm with a Su­miko Pear­wood Cel­e­bra­tion Mk#2 M/C car­tridge as a source. Although I con­ducted lis­ten­ing tests with far more ex­pen­sive TTs and ton­earms, my P25 is priced right for some­one in­ter­ested in the PH-10 + PSU-10 combo. I left the PSU-10 ‘On’ all of the time. It set­tled-in and reached its best sound af­ter about a week of daily us­age.

With a phono stage as ver­sa­tile as the PH-10, find­ing the best sound­ing in­put im­ped­ance set­ting isn’t an ex­act sci­ence. There are, af­ter all, a myr­iad of fac­tors that af­fect the sound qual­ity pro­duced by any TT rig. These in­clude the qual­ity of the vinyl it­self, the thick­ness of the record, the man­u­fac­tur­ing qual­ity of any record’s grooves, and even how and where the al­bum was mas­tered.

I tried dif­fer­ent LPs with var­i­ous im­ped­ance set­tings with my Rega P25 rig and couldn’t iso­late a pat­tern of one set­ting sound­ing con­sis­tently bet­ter than the oth­ers. Although I lis­tened to all of the EQ curves, the RIAA set­ting pro­duced the best son­ics. You want a per­fect so­lu­tion? Try a cup of Timmy’s Columbian roast with fresh 18% cream and some brown sugar.

Son­i­cally speak­ing, the $2,600 USD PH10 + PSU-10 combo bats right down the mid­dle. It doesn’t sound overly warm and eu­phonic like a 1980s era vac­uum tube phono stage. Nor does it sound as flat and/or 2-di­men­sional as most mod­ern sub-$3K USD level solid state phono pre-amps.

Over­all, I’m de­lighted to re­port that the $2,600 USD PH-10 + PSU-10 combo pro­duced a sound qual­ity that com­petes — heck… even sur­passes — many phono stages in the $3.5K USD to $4K USD level.

Gold Note’s PH-10 didn’t cre­ate the warmth or tim­bral ac­cu­racy of my heav­ily-mod­i­fied Sonic Fron­tiers Phono-1 SE or my Man­ley Steel­head tube phono stages. The PSU-10 does, how­ever, push the sound qual­ity of the PH-10 sig­nif­i­cantly higher. For its $2,600 USD combo ask­ing price, the PH-10’s sound qual­ity is ex­cep­tion­ally high. No other solid state phono preamp pro­duces such stel­lar son­ics at, by au­dio­phile stan­dards, such an af­ford­able price.

Re­leased in 1996, Diane Schuur’s Love Walked In is a su­perb col­lec­tion of re­worked tunes by Ge­orge and Ira Gersh­win, Irv­ing Berlin, Jay Liv­ingston, and Sammy Cahn. On songs like “Time Af­ter Time”, “Say It Isn’t So”, “Blue Gar­de­nia”, “Never Let Me Go”, “Sun­day Kind of Love”, and the ti­tle track “Love Walked In”, Schuur de­liv­ers sub­lime vo­cals.

The son­ics on my orig­i­nal 150 gram press­ing are su­perb. Gold Note’s PH-10 + PSU-10 combo of­fered su­perb low-level de­tail re­trieval, deeper res­o­lu­tion, greater har­monic rich­ness, and bet­ter dy­nam­ics than any sub-$5K USD level phono pre-amp I’ve pre­vi­ously lis­tened to. Hear­ing Schuur’s sub­tle shad­ings and im­pas­sioned vo­cals re­pro­duced like this was a mu­si­cal epiphany.

The PH-10 cre­ated a large sound­stage that was a bit broader and deeper, with even more dis­tinct lay­er­ing, than my bat­tle­savvy SFI Phono-1 SE. Within this spa­cious 3-di­men­sional sonic land­scape, in­di­vid­ual in­stru­ments were re­pro­duced with pre­cise spac­ing and po­si­tion­ing.

I was im­pressed by the PH-10’s har­monic ac­cu­racy too; es­pe­cially with the tex­ture and im­me­di­acy of Schuur’s vo­cals. I’ve rarely if ever heard the songs on Love sound so vi­brant and alive.

Re­leased in 1985, Robert Plant’s Shaken’n’ Stirred is an odd col­lec­tion of quirky songs like “Hip to Hoo”, “Kal­lalou Kal­lalou”, “Too Loud”, “Trou­ble Your Money”, and “Sixes and Sevens”. Most of the tunes on this al­bum are dis­pos­able rub­bish. And yet, there’s one par­tic­u­lar track that makes this a must have record. That song opens side ‘B’ on the record and is called “Lit­tle by Lit­tle”.

Gold Note’s PH-10 + PSU-10 combo let me hear the in­cred­i­ble PRaT, groove, and tex­ture of “Lit­tle”. The amount of air and space be­tween the bass, key­boards, guitars, and Plant’s soar­ing vo­cals heard on this track left me with shiv­er­ing goosebumps.

Across the fre­quency reg­is­ters, the PH-10 sounded pre­cise, ac­cu­rate, and en­gag­ing. In par­tic­u­lar, the tex­ture of Plant’s voice was ar­tic­u­late and mes­mer­iz­ing. The ex­cep­tional low-level de­tail re­cov­ery and tim­bral ac­cu­racy of the PH-10 al­lowed Plant’s churn­ing and des­per­ate vo­cals to come surg­ing forth with a breath­tak­ing im­me­di­acy and a pal­pa­ble sense of pur­pose. The son­ics on “Lit­tle by Lit­tle” vividly il­lus­trated the PH-10’s abil­ity to recre­ate the propul­sive rhythm, in­fec­tious groove, and toe-tap­ping drive of this song.

Many solid state phono stages ex­ist in the sub-$2K USD price bracket. None of them of­fer the ver­sa­til­ity, up­grade­abil­ity, and stel­lar sound qual­ity of Gold Note’s $1,500 USD PH-10. Com­bined with their $1100 USD PSU-10 out­board A/C power sup­ply, in this price range, Gold Note’s $2,600 USD flag­ship phono preamp combo is the best of the best. Noth­ing — re­peat… noth­ing — at this price point ex­ists that comes equipped with so many dif­fer­ent im­ped­ance and gain set­tings, EQ curves, and fu­ture-proof up­grade paths. With the PH-10, Gold Note has knocked it out of the park.

Gold Note www.gold­note.it

Dis­trib­uted in Canada by Tri-cell En­ter­prises www.tri­cel­len­ter­prises.com 1-800-263-8151

(905) 265-7870

Gold Note PH-10 Phono-Stage Price: $1,500 USD

Gold Note PSU-10 Power Sup­ply Price: $1,100 USD

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