Gold Note PH-1000 Phono Preamplifier Review


You're invited to dive deeper into the review of a highly interesting, innovative, and excellent-sounding high-end analog audio component. This time it's about the PH -1000 phono preamplifier of the unmistakably Italian brand Gold Note from Tuscany. 

The PH-1000

The PH -1000 was designed from the ground up to be the best phono stage Gold Note has ever developed. A unique piece of audio technology, innovative in every way, and 100% made in Italy. 

The PH -1000 features exclusive discrete modules such as a Class A headphone output, +40 EQ preset curves, 4 custom EQ manually adjustable curves, and the high-quality Class A line preamp available as an option. The Class-A line preamplifier is of the highest quality, allowing volume control directly from the phono stage. The line preamp can be turned off by selecting STAGE from the PREAMP menu. The PH - 1000 can also be muted by selecting MUTE from the same menu or using the corresponding button on the remote control.

All functions are managed by discrete audio-grade components and sealed individual switches that always shorten the signal path to deliver superior audio quality and extract even the finest details from the record. The PH -1000 is powered by Gold Note's proprierty firmware and can be easily updated via computer if required.

The level of quality is of the highest standard throughout the production of the Gold Note PH -1000: from the ultra-solid, precision-engineered aluminum chassis to the electronic components and circuitry, which undergo rigorous computerized QC testing. 

Operational 

The Gold Note PH -1000 flagship phono stage is easy to use and offers a wide range of features, a high level of customization, and a variety of inputs and outputs.

The PH -1000 offers three independent inputs, two RCA and one XLR. There are also two additional inputs, one RCA and one XLR, which can be used either for the external load plugs for even finer control of the load or as line inputs on the PH -1000 with the preamp.

Other features like the headphone output, stereo/mono control with phase inversion, L/R channel switching, and noise reduction filter make PH-1000 one of the most advanced phono stages on the market.

Thanks to the new audio inputs on the rear panel, valve output stages can be connected to up to two sources simultaneously. The TUBE INPUT is dedicated for Gold Note sources and the LINE INPUT for the front ends from other manufacturers. The input can be easily selected from the front panel for maximum convenience and ease of use.

The PH -1000 displays every detail on the color display controlled by Gold Note's proprietary firmware. With SKC (Single Knob Control technology) and the display intuitive system allows super easy control of the phono stage and fine adjustments can be quickly made without interrupting playback.

Thanks to the more than 40 available EQ curves, literary any record can be replayed as it was intended. The EQ curves can be even manually adjusted by setting three main parameters, making PH -1000 an indispensable tool for the utmost demanding vinyl aficionados and analog connoisseurs. 

RIAA, Capitol, Columbia/CBS, Deutsche Grammophon, Decca London USA, Decca London UK, and Decca Mono 78rpm, Epic, HMW, Mercury, RCA Victor, Philips, Elektra, L'Oliseau-Lyre, Parlophone, etc. 

Each curve can be "enhanced" with Gold Note's proprietary technology, inspired by the special Neumann Cutting Lathe curve, to improve dynamics and musicality.

The unlimited curves feature is a unique innovation from Gold Note. Using analog technology, Gold Note engineers have developed a special design that allows the creation of unlimited equalization curves by simply acting on three parameters - Bass Turnover, Bass Shelf, and Treble Cut - as this is the most effective way to control and draw the equalization curve.

Fourteen gain stages and twelve load stages, as well as seven capacitance options for MM cartridges, make the PH-1000 the quintessential phono stage for high-performance high-end analog systems, capable of driving even the most exotic cartridges with perfect synergy. With this flexibility, the PH -1000 is also a professional tool that will easily find its place in high-end recording studios.

The changes of settings and fine adjustments, including the EQ curve are simply conducted by simply using SKC and display while playing music. Gold Note's innovative technology allows for optimal ease of use while fully preserving sound quality by operating in the analog domain: the interface is digital and independent of the audio path, which is fully analog. The result is an extremely low noise phono stage with high gain and no audio filter.

And as icing on the cake, PH-1000 comes with a dedicated headphone amplifier, where the pure signal from the cartridge is routed directly to the high-quality head amp for an instant, uncluttered analog listening. 

PH-1000 vs PSU-1250 vs TUBE-1012

As soon as I heard PH -1000 on its own, my mind started buzzing with thoughts of PSU-1250 and TUBE-1012 optional upgrades. And I am glad I asked for those two additional components to be part of the PH -1000 evaluation. 

Both devices were designed for demanding audiophiles that simply want a step further in all aspects. 


The PSU-1250 is a super inductive external power supply for the Gold Note 1000 series, such as CD -1000, DS -1000, PH -1000, and the P-1000. A sophisticated design has been developed for the PSU-1250 and the Gold Note team engineered a sophisticated power supply powered by a double inductor driving the negative and positive high current stages, and with an inductive filter on the analog stage.

The PSU-1250 has a 7-transformer design, with 4 transformers dedicated exclusively to the power supply stage, one of which is for the galvanic isolation of the audio stage, and 3 for the dual inductive choke filter.

The PSU-1250 power supply perfectly filters the current AC and removes interference and electrical noise from the power grid, allowing the Gold Note electronics to perform at their best. 

Most importantly, PSU-1250 ensures that the electronics are always supplied with the optimal amount of current without generating EMI (electromagnetic interference) or RFI (radio frequency interference) that could affect the audio signal.

TUBE-1012 was envisioned and designed as an optional upgrade to take Gold Note matching electronics to a new level of performance through an A-class output stage with no less than twelve tubes. 


Make no mistake. With PH-1000 there is no lack of control, authority, definition, or ability to reproduce the sheer drama. 

But if you are looking for a warm tube sound, a tas more courteous tone enriched by second harmonics, synergistic interaction with the more cold-sounding solid-state circuits where the odd harmonics more often than not take their toll, or simply after a unique synergistic juxtaposition of the tube and solid-state, then the Totem- Pole output stage (+2dB gain) of the TUBE -1012 with six independent audio stages per tube guarantees an extremely broadband response and extremely low distortion to deliver the purest audio signal.

With the Gold Note PSU-1250 the float of tremendous energy, which is not just temporarily stored or suspended, is immediately released and in stark contrast to the overall dynamics, the horizontal and vertical sound stage is expanded and a new level of detail is unclenched.

While the PSU-1250 opens up the dynamic micro and macro cosmos, the TUBE -1012 introduces a further magnetism that draws the listener deeper into the music. 

With both the PSU-1250 and the TUBE -1012, details were brought out with added sharpness of the leading edges of the notes, parallels between the real and reproduced music diminished, and the scope of reality was framed with a far more sensual and coherent narrative. 

In addition, the underlying complexities of the music were much better fleshed out, and the newly gained density of information demanded much fewer reality checks. The music simply became more conclusive, cohesive, and reached a new level of harmonic wholeness. 

The Music

The usual feedback-based, a highly sought-after section of the Mono & Stereo reviews deals directly with the music and the relation with the particular component being evaluated. 

As a rule, here are some of the reference music pieces that demonstrate the sonic merits and advantages of the Gold Note PH -1000. 

Let me start with Love Forever Changes (ERC057). Gold Note PH -1000 offers a remarkable actuality factor that is rare even on vinyl. 

Forever Changes is the third studio album by American psychedelic rock band Love. It failed to achieve commercial success when it was first released by Elektra Records in November 1967, but today it is widely considered one of the best albums of all time. In 2003 it was voted number 40 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and in 2008 it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

PH-1000h reveals far more of Forever Changes than I expected or am normally accustomed to. Not that the expectation bar for PH -1000 was not high from the start. I just did not concoct there was more to be gotten out of this already great-sounding record. Especially with the dedicated power supply, the dynamics, the depth of the sound field, and the horizontal and vertical three-dimensional sound have extended far beyond the speakers. 

The separation of the instruments, but perhaps most of all the individualization of the vocal and instruments and the solid foundation were an extraordinary astonishment. 

But a special quality was also introduced with PH -1000, which manifested itself further with Bill Evans Trio - Portrait In Jazz (ERC052S): nimbleness.

The Trio's lyrical expression and one of the kind interconnectedness were augmented by the unadulterated, unpost-processed dynamics, with a wealth of detail and dynamic contrast normally reserved for far more expensive phono stages. 

The way Gold Note PH -1000 propagated the subtle yet forte cymbals and the centered and full-bodied piano and holographic imaging was more than impressive. A truly beautiful, tangible, and vivid rendition that resonated with me much longer than I am used to and left strong impressions than usual. 

The impressive sonic discovery continued with Shostakovich's Symphony No.13 "Babi Yar" Andre Previn conducts the LSO (ERC056). 

No other Oscar/Academy Award-winning conductor and composer from the Hollywood film studios became as successful and respected in the classical music world as he was with the London Symphony Orchestra, which he led from 1968 to 1979 while pursuing a side career as a jazz pianist.

Via Gold Note PH -1000 phono preamp, "Babi Yar" decoded well-hidden and not easily communicable aspects of this recording with an invigorating amount of back-and-forth interaction. This is all done at the upper level usually reserved for the prestigious phono preamps with the high prices. 

"Babi Yar" refreshingly did not sound like another Magdeburg Hemispheres experiment. PH -The -1000 devised a different kind of vacuum in which psychoacoustic cues, nodal points, and acoustic focal points were presented with adequate density to reproduce the sheer drama and dynamic impact. All of this coming from the unobstructed, black vacuum as in a real concert experience, and with an instant shifting dynamic magnitude that in some respects rivals and surpasses the best features of modern DACs. 

A slightly different form of dynamism, but similar at its core, was further solidified by The White Stripes White Blood Cells (ERC073). To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the album, The Electric Recording Co. has collaborated with Third man Records to produce this unique edition.

The White Stripes' third studio album returns to the basics: hard, lush, and vibrant guitars and simple but catchy drums.

Considering that this is a duo, the drums and guitar still seem complete and captivating.

Even when played loud, the sound, masterfully captured on analog tape, is easy on the ears, and from track to track, all nine songs are easy to pick up. Gold Note PH -1000 reproduced White Blood Cells with unrestraint and unquestionable authority and control. 

As with "Babi Yar," White Blood Cells never felt dynamically congested or floundered to bring uniformity across the complete frequency range. 

And for the end, I picked Kip Dobler, Reaching Out From The Inside, recorded on October 7, 1990, Bridges Hall of Music, Pomona College, Claremont, California, USA. Dobler was recorded by George Cardas with a Cardas wired Calrec Soundfield MK -4 microphone.

This direct-to-disk mastered recording shows a different kind of subtlety. 

With the Gold Note PH-1000 phono stage, the wonderful notes of the acoustic guitar and drums float as free-form entities in solid acoustic space, yet exist unrestricted of constraints and uniquely tangible. 

Gold Note PH -1000 allowed the rich details to unfold the tonal range without adding air and with the necessary tonal sparkle, with natural sheen but not artificial glare. 

Many phono stages can dilate the locus of Reaching Out From The Inside. In contrast, the PH -1000 preserved the integrity of the album scrutinizingly and provided a continuity that brought out some of the well-hidden aspects of Dobler's music that are germane to the full discovery of this unique recording. 

The solid repetition of positive characteristics and qualities brings peace to the mind and ears. And this is exactly what the Gold Note PH -1000 phono preamplifier achieved from track to track, album to album. The music narrative supplemented with an outstanding ability to differentiate sonic varieties. 

The Conclusion

Italian high-end audio manufacturer Gold Note has been a unique force in the market for nearly 30 years. 

Over the two decades and under the baton of Maurizio Aterini, Gold Note and Akami have launched many interesting products. 

Especially in recent years, Gold Note has punctured the market with refreshed, beautiful-looking products that include electronics, cartridges, turntables, and speakers. 

There is something genuinely Italian about Gold Note that is closely tied to both sound and esthetics. Their products are instantly recognizable and certainly have to do with the deep roots and influence of Aterini's beloved Florentines. The environment of Tuscany is historically the most deeply etched with innovations, and technical discoveries.

On their path and with respect for heritage and tradition, Gold Note continues this unique heritage that takes and revives in the form of music the tradition of the true Italian Renaissance, more than 600 years old.

The basic function of the RIAA curve (and other EQs) is not so closely related to sonic imprint but is more in the realm of establishing a level balance with the least possible presence of surface noise while keeping the music intact. 

Of course, this is only one important part of the phono stage. Everything must be highly optimized and fine-tuned to handle the sensitive information coming from the cartridge. The phono stage is perhaps the most sensitive of all high-end electronics and the most difficult to get a handle on. 

The phono stage should not add any noise to the playback. When the cartridge is wired fully balanced, the noise is generated by the records themselves, and no phono stage. This is how vinyl playback should be in the 21st century. 

Once the noise is eliminated, the sound is tinkered with. This is where not only true engineering skill comes into play, but also the ability to properly tune the phono preamp. Yes, the phono preamp needs to be transparent and see-through, but still, every component in the sound path can and does change the sound. Therefore, regardless of price, finding a well-balanced, good-sounding preamp is not easy. 

The Gold Note PH -1000 phono preamplifier, including the two ancillaries, somehow embodies the Japanese concept of 間 - Ma. 

What has been described as a stop in time, a place where everything comes from, or perhaps most aptly in conjunction with PH -1000 as emptiness in space is the crux of this remarkable phono preamp.  

Ma deals with the fundamental time and space in which life can grow, and much like PH -1000 offers a unique silent core where sound space is not restricted and music can grow out of the pitch black, Vantablack backdrop. 

Most importantly, as always with Gold Note, the music reproduction reflects the fundamentals of the music. The essence of the Gold Note brand name is reflected in the liveliness and naturalness of the aural imagery mirrored through the PH -1000. 

With what PH -1000 starts and adds with the addition of PSU-1250 and TUBE -1012, it comes remarkably close to the sphere of the final arbiter in the analog domain. In addition, the flexible EQ curve settings, which include a custom, four self-programmed settings, will please any analog lover trying to get the "right" sound out of their beloved records. 

Gold Note PH-1000 preamplifier is a genuine, well-designed, great-sounding, 21st-century contemporary phono preamplifier, packed with features and with upgrades, offering a unique product category that is hard to match. 

For what it does musically and technically, I am more than happy to give Gold Note PH -1000 the rare and prestigious 2022 Editors Choice Award.  

Price

  • PH-1000 LINE - € 14.500,00 
  • TUBE 1012 - € 6.390,00
  • PSU - 1250 - € 5.990,00

Specifications

  • FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 20Hz – 20kHz
  • EQ CURVES: 18 EQ curves
  • 4 custom EQ curves all with Enhanced option @ +/- 0.3dB max.
  • THD (TOTAL HARMONIC DISTORTION):  less than 0.01% max.
  • SIGNAL TO NOISE RATIO: 100dB
  • DYNAMIC RANGE: 110dB
  • INFRASONIC FILTER: 10Hz/36dB octave (ON/ OFF)
  • MONO/STEREO: Stereo, Stereo 180°, Mono, Mono 180°, Mono L
  • CHANNEL SWAPPING: R/L, L/R
  • IR RECEIVER: For multifunctional remote control

Contact

Akamai s.r.l | Via Virginio 158, 50025 Montespertoli - Firenze, Italy

Email: info@goldnote.it

Web: www.goldnote.it