GOLD NOTE PH-10 PHONO PREAMPLIFIER REVIEW


Well, I could be called a gear snob for many of the reasons. What is objective surely lies in the eye of the beholder. My real snobbism these days is more related to the actual performance ability of any product rather then given price tag.  

These days, the utmost level of performance and deriving of the last information out of the audio front end is sadly, in most cases reserved for the heavy priced gear. Like it or not, but its the current state of the affairs. I won’t say I’m uber happy about this, but high-end audio became luxury induced and kittened with quite few products, that are not brining exactly what’s expected from the high-end audio product sound wise.


On the good, inspiring side, there are quite few great products out there, that ring the bell and light up green sensory switches with their great performance, features and prices that seriously rivals the giants and Gold Note PH-10 is one of such stand out examples. 

PH-10

Maurizio Aterini and his team are pushing things audio with his high-end audio venture for over twenty years. Many interesting products were designed and developed over the years. Some more common and quite few exotic ones, that explored more esoteric side of ultra high-end audio. I’m considering my self lucky as I’ve could listen to the few of them back in time. They were not exotic just for the sake of it, but have expanded above typical sound possibilities in a grand way. 

PH-10 is the first generation of the new era of electronics launched by Gold Note. It incorporates TFT monitor and the Single Knob Control (SKC), that allows easy managing of the unit’s function with a single joggle.  


Most importantly, all the controlled function are not implemented via DSP micro controller, but with actual real high quality analogue heart. Everything is super easy to handle with via user friendly interface, without any annoying sub menu diving. 

PH-10 is among first phono preamplifiers with a USB port, that allows software/firmware updates via simple insertion of the SD card where software is stored. The upgrade can be made “on the fly” without even unplugging power chord. 

Gold Note PH-10 it is also the first phono decently priced preamplifier, that allows a real full control of two arms/cartridges, that can be either MM or MC, both with wide variability of set up like gain, impedance and even equalization curves.


Last but not least, PH10 feature very own, non magnetic material chasing. Massive block of cut machined aluminum forms a single piece chassis, that control both vibration and electromagnetic fields in the best way.


But, thats not all. There is also optional wifi App coming, that will let you control all the setting from your phone or a tablet.

I’m sure I’ve got your attention by now…

OPERATIONAL 

PH-10 shows all the available features on its 2,8” color display. As described above, all the function are reachable via  Gold Note’s proprietary SKC - Single Knob Control technology. This intuitive control system was developed for easy browsing and usage of the unit's functions.

Two separate RCA inputs let you independently connect two different tonearms and further fine settings allows great match close to the cartridge specification. 


PH-10 offers four different GAIN levels [-3dB, 0dB, +3dB, 6dB], that helps reaching optimal output level of any MM or MC cartridge.

Next step is fine matching of the exact load. PH-10 allows 10Ω, 22Ω, 47Ω, 100Ω, 220Ω, 470Ω, 1000Ω, 22KΩ, 47KΩ settings, that will help with close match of the cartridge. 

And last step will let you set up three different curves:

RIAA 
DECCA-LONDON 
AMERICAN-COLUMBIA

Nice graphics with subtle Gold Note logo in the background shows the selected curve on the front display. Everyhing is tactical and straightforward. 

But, thats not all. All three curves also have an optional, enhanced version, that implements Gold Note proprietary design, and adds updated dynamics/resolution.


Upcoming external expansions offers a dedicated inductive dual-mono power supply, Curve Equalizer Extender unit, Class-A Tube Output Stage and Gain Stage Enhancer. PH-10 USB port on the back panel is also allowing quickly future software updates. 

Now that is called true expandability…

THE MUSIC

Nathan Milstein ‎– A Milstein Recital - Capitol Records ‎– P8259

A Milstein Recital belongs to the dozen of my recent, rare and beloved vinyl findings. As much as I love to digest newer recording of classical music, there is always something special and different about the rare black disc gems of the past. 


I guess it comes down to the “simplified” recording techniques and stand out performers. Anyhow, I’m uberly enjoying such records and this particular Nathan Milstein record partnered with Gold Note PH-10 exhibited surprisingly sparkling and vivacious sonic composition. It instantly introduced a grand connection with midcingulate cortex and the anterior insula instead of pursuing Lateralization of left brain functional behavior.

From saltato to staccato PH-10 handled attacks, sudden notes shifts, note overlaying and harmonic structure with ease and authority, without introducing the mechanical phenomena. The way it could render tempestuous swings and reveal depth in music dangerously pointed toward the five digit phono preamplifiers. That tells a lot!


PH-10 behaved far away from stridently detailed nature. It rather projected expanded and balanced details, that offered the abundance of acoustical cues, that forms an involving and captivating analog experience.


PH-10 forays A Milstein Recital and especially into art of the vinyl is more then just subtle. Gold Note PH-10 belongs to the rarer high-end audio product, that causes no white page syndrome. The only problem as usual is finding time to let he words pour out…

Bottesini/ Rossini, Salvatore Accardo ‎– Grand Duo Concertant / Duet, Un Mot A Paganini, Une LarmeLabel: Nederlandse Klassieke Vakhandel, De (NKV) ‎– NKV 8405, Philips ‎– 6500 245.2Y

I was lucky to find this rare vinyl record of Rossini and Bottesini some time ago. This particular Philips's album recorded back in 1972 brings together Bruno Canino and I Musici chamber orchestra for the unforgettable musical juxtaposition.

The harmonic richness and perhaps most importantly for this record, THE TONE was conveyed beyond simple sublime with Gold Note PH-10 in the role of phono preamplifier. Partnered with the  Gold Note own Tuscany Gold MC cartridge, the tandem managed to create captivating interactive momentum where perplexed notes were not alienated from real world density. The due created an inspiring bridge between the recording and the listener with far too ease, then I would dare to expect!

PH-10 managed to retrieve the impressive amount of anchor points, that are usually reserved for bigger and mightier analog machines. On top of it, the musicality was not suffering and music was not being hit with the masked phenomena of the phono preamplifier noise dealing circuits, that is usual affair and comes as a rule at this price point. You can call this achievement and a half!

Kecskés Ensemble, Esmail Vasseghi, René Clemencic, András L. Kecskés ‎– Ancient Turkish Music In Europe

Ancient Turkish Music In Europe should encourage any musical lover of Ethnic music to explore it intimately. It can still be grabbed for reasonable money, so you'll won't have break the bank as with some vinyl records to enjoy something very different.


Like most of the Hungaroton recordings Ancient Turkish Music In Europe offers direct, open sound that clearly reflects the real world sonic attributes.

This black disc calls for both resultative and tonally balanced phono stage to really shine. PH-10 was neither too dark nor artificially open while conveying the multitude of 16-18th century instruments. The balanced voicing was on the right track with the clear focus on musicality and wide-band dynamic potency.

It's the variety of different acoustical instruments on this album, that represent a real challenge for any phono stage. While mediocre phono preamplifier will lurk safely into this historical songs, the properly designed phono stage unveils the subtle layers of harmonics and finer details, that let this album to really stand above.

Gold Note PH-10 ability to render the complex relief like structure of these particular archaic instruments in real acoustical spaces elevates it above typical contenders. PH-10 demasking acted beyond its given price and offer macro and micro loupe like in depth structure, that is usually reserved for the much higher priced preamps.

Deriving immediacy and spectral like acoustical dimension on the level of PH-10 calls for the refreshed valuation. PH-10 brings the 21st century flexibility to the audio technology, that was called doomed for so many times in the past. Most importantly it recreates both micro and macro dynamics with a sense of a grander accomplishment not seen so far on this plane. 

SUM UP

Gold Note PH-10 phono preamplifier is as straightforward as it gets and as contemporary as it can be. No dip switches, no reaching at the back panel or removing top lids for fine loading  or gain adjustments. Operation is as simple and elegant.


I’ve asked Maurizio Aterini about possible future additions of the different EQ curves and he ensured me that its possible (and planned) to implement even more of them. Considering how many optional curves are out there it would be fantastic to have more of them onboard, but even with the ones on board you can instantly dive into the endless analog universe.

I’ve been asked to often, what phono preamplifier should I recommend at the down to earth pricing. At the moment, there is simply nothing similar with this level of sound quality, trouble free operations as well as easy upgradability and expandability as Gold Note PH-10 phono preamplifier. 


Having such adjustability and sonic performance at this price level is not only inspiring, but encouraging. If you think about the upcoming optional remote app, that can handle all the command on your phone or tablet and possible future software upgrades, PH-10 becomes even more of a hidden gem.

Yes, Gold Note PH-10 phono preamplifier won me over with both features and sound quality. Anyone entering into the vinyl reproduction realms, or people, that are thinking of returning to the wonderful world of analog (with the mileage) should closely consider this stand out analog box. 


PH-10 is not only packed with features, expandable and future upgradable. It sounds great, offer grand involving factor, convey potent dynamics, materialise the sense of three dimensionality and act with so called balanced transparency, that is not even scenting towards the brittle realms. This is a mighty, emotionally engaging musical box, that even without all the expandable accessories brings more then expected. A thrill and a fill!

Maurizio Atterini and his team did strenuous work with PH-10. Its a Gold Note land mark product, that will bring a lot of happy customers.

I’m wholeheartedly giving out both Mono and Stereo Highly Recommended and Best Buy Award at once with Gold Note PH-10. This is the first phono preamplifier, regardless of the price that have scored both of them and PH-10 deserves every bits of their glory.

Matej Isak 

PRICE

1250 EUR

TECHNICAL

Main Details

Phono Pre-amplifier with SKC and TFT colour display
Equalization Curve control: 3 selectable curves [RIAA - Decca-London - American-Columbia] with enhanced option for each

Frequency response: 2Hz – 200KHz @ +/- 0.3dB
THD (Total Harmonic Distortion): <0 .002="" i="" max="">
Signal to noise ratio: -102dB
Dynamic response: 122dB
Output impedance: 500Ω
Phase response: linear phase
Weight: 4Kg
Dimensions: 220mm L | 80mm H | 260mm D

Power

Main supply: 100V to 245V ▪ 50/60Hz (depending on market destination, not convertible)
Power consumption: 30W super linear power supply
Audio Outputs

Line output level (fixed): stereo RCA @ 2Volt and balanced XLR @ 4Volt

Audio Inputs

Analogue inputs: 2 separate independent stereo RCA
Input sensitivity: 0.1mV MC up to 7.0mV MM
Input impedance: 9 selectable options [10Ω 22Ω 47Ω 100Ω 220Ω 470Ω 1000Ω 22KΩ 47KΩ ]
Gain: 65dB MC - 45dB MM with 4 options [-3dB 0dB +3dB +6dB]

Upgrades

External Class-A tube output stage
Dual-Mono External Inductive Power
Curve Equalizer Extender unit
Class-A Tube Output Stage
Gain Stage Enhancer
External AC filter: Gold Note Lucca AC distributor
Gold Note Lucca Power Cord

FINISHES

Front Panel & Case:

brushed anodized aluminium available in Black | Silver | Gold | Red

CONTACT

Akamai Audio
Via della Gora, 6
Montespertoli (Florence) ITALY 50025
Tel.+39 0571 675005
Fax.+39 0571 675013

Email: info@akamiaudio.it