This is already the third product review from the Gold Note 10-series at Mono and Stereo. Both the DS -10 and PH -10 have proven to be truly valuable high-end audio products, and as you can read on the recently introduced PA-10 power amplifiers, they continue the legacy of great-sounding and reasonably affordable audio equipment from Tuscany, Italy.
MEET THE PA-10
PA -10 is Gold Note latest power amplifier in the smaller, but no less potent line of products called the 10 Series. PA -10 distinguishes itself by instantly recognizable design, fine Italian (made in Tuscany) workmanship and features carefully selected audio components for the best sonic performance.
The PA-10 comes with stately power output despite its modest – compact size, and also offers a host of features, such as uncommon adjustable damping factor technology, which allows the proper matching of the amplifier with different kinds of speakers.
The PA -10 is a fully balanced amplifier with a BTL design (Bridge-Tied-Load) that allows the unit to be easily bridged and operate as a mono amplifier, increasing its power rate from 75Watts per channel @ 8Ω stereo to a remarkable 600Watts @ 4Ω mono. The use of two PA -10 will significantly increase the power of your stereo system. The existing flexibility of the stereo power amplifier could even be greatly enhanced with the mono application for all kinds of speakers that require really high power and high energy requirements.
Like the flagship model PA -1175 MKII, PA -10 has a unique adjustable Damping Factor design that allows it to be ideally adapted to any type of speaker: PA -10 can drive either large and difficult driven speakers (DF default setting) or high sensitivity and mini monitor speakers (DF low activated on the rear panel).
Although the Gold Note PA -10 looks like a simple power amplifier, it has a lot of features that can be seen on the back of the PA -10.
Ability to morph between stereo, bridgeable mono power amp, a variety of inputs and outputs, and GN Link elevates PA -10 on a different level.
Below is a breakdown of the PA -10 features and flexible connexion options…
MONO MODE (BTL) CONNECTION WITH TWO PA-10
The BAL and BTL buttons of each PA-10 needs to be pressed for this configuration.
AUDIO INPUTS (STEREO MODE)
- 1. XLR LEFT balanced input
- 2. XLR RIGHT balanced input
- 3. RCA LEFT unbalanced input
- 4. RCA RIGHT unbalanced input
In mono mode (BTL) only the left inputs are active.
SPEAKER OUT (STEREO MODE)
- 5. LEFT CHANNEL
- 6. RIGHT CHANNEL
- 7. MASTER SWITCH ON/OFF
- 8. AC IEC plug with integrated fuse holder drawer 6,3A T 5x20mm at
- 9. BTL switch needs to be pressed for use in Mono mono. The LED light above turns blue.
In MONO MODE (BTL) the “left -” and “right +” outputs are electrically interconnected.
The DF switch activate low damping factor and the LED above the switch turns blue. For true balance mode the BAL switch needs to be pressed in to activate the XLR inputs with the blue LED above indicating the balanced operation.
GN Link provides an easy interlinking between the various Gold Note devices. As you can see on the image above with one of the optional triggering situations, the 12V IN/OUT triggers with a 3.5mm plug lets the synchronizing of the ON/OFF switch across various devices.
Like all Golden Note products I have evaluated so far, the PA -10 follows the venerable and immediately recognizable brand’s sonic representation. All Gold Note products are designed to serve the music, through technology and not the other way around and PA-10 is no different.
I am a big fan of Charlie Haden… He is one of the few musicians who can disappear so subtly with his fellow musicians, and yet you can always feel his presence in the song. Over the years he has succeeded in developing a unique leitmotif that genuinely sets him apart from other musicians.
Pat Metheny once said that the greatest compliment you can pay him as a guitarist and musician is the recognition of identifying him in his cross-genre playing. And Haden’s playing operates the same way. He could easily adapt to different kinds of music, leaving his watermark, and still not even attract selfish attention, that a lot of artists fail to escape.
“De Siempre (Forever)” is a beautiful rendition of the composition by José Sabre Marroquín. This album was inspired by the manuscript folder given to Haden by Marroquín’s daughter as a thank you for recording the nocturne.
Haden has passed them on to renowned pianists and composers Gonzalo Rubalcaba, who has put together an impressive ensemble of musicians for this project.
“De Siempre (Forever)” flows rhythmically like an ancient river that contains so many hidden whirls, twists, known and unknown entities, but on the surface, everything is embraced with archaic calm. To achieve the coexistence of silence and a mysterious deep journey needs a little more than the usual amplifier.
For the album “For The Land Of The Sun” to unfold, the amplifier must be constantly tuned to the ever-changing rhythmic variety, with the constant force with which it reveals all the layers of subtleties at all times.
Haden’s gentle opening intermezzo with piano accompaniment can easily reveal what amp is all about. With the right amplifier, the piano notes create an impressive holographic expanse, far away from the speakers and oriented towards the listener. A kind of Q-sound Q effect that can be found on some popular albums like Sting’s Soul Cages.
Gold Note PA -10 surprising ability to shape three-dimensionality, as well as a rather surprising sonic expansion was far beyond expectations.
Especially with “Hudson” by Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier John Medeski, John Scofield, Golden Note PA -10 offers an unexpected pivot of stability, especially at this price and size. This in itself is a crowning achievement and a feature that alone deserves high praise.
There was nothing small or ordinary about the PA -10’s ability to capture the challenging pulsation of the “Hudson”. The surreal off-beat and almost poignant mood of the “Hudson” was well captured by PA -10 with a sense of authority and clear tracking of tempi.
The PA-10 has further shown its pace and rhythm fixation with the Half Past Life Orchestra is “El Contrabandista” from the album El Contrabandista.
This cinematic acoustic escape is no easy assignment. The Gold Note PA -10 proved once again that it can not only hold its breath when reaching THE highlands at far higher altitudes than expected but still shows finer details with loosing the needed grip.
This was confirmed by something as outwardly simple and unpretentious as “Oh Yea, Thou Snowball Tree” from the compilation of the Traditional Lyric Songs Poltava Region (Ukrainian Love Songs).
It is never an easy task to reproduce a singular voice, what to say about the abundance of them. There is a very thin line before any human voice begins to shriek, forming unnatural sibilants and brittle screaming effects.
The warm but not saturated core of the PA-10 allowed the voices not only to sound convincing but also to layer naturally and credibly. Again a feature that normally belongs to a solid-state amplifier territory of the higher league.
Although the Raidho 4 TD.8 speakers are more efficacious than the previous D series, despite the latest technical improvements and a completely new crossover and internal fill, they still present a highly complex load due to no less than 9 driver architecture.
For most songs, Gold Note PA -10 had no problem controlling these complex, extremely potent speakers. But with some of the most demanding reference tracks the PA -10 showed their naturally expected limitations.
It should really be noted, that PA-10 was not designed to compete with the ten times more expensive, ten times larger power amps, but hats off to how far and how well the PA-10 power amplifiers can hold its proud mojo on the critical power ladder!
It is not that long ago, but it has been quite a while since new (now iconic) Gold Note enclosures and “Buccina” horn player logo were introduced by Maurizio Aterini .
The “Buccina” horn, laser cut/etched on the case and embedded in the gold-plated circular insignia on the front panels, is actually an old Etruscan battle horn.
In a way it resembles the bold new direction that was taken by Gold Note. With the completely new and beautiful factory premises, into which the Gold Note team has just moved, the this chapter of a daring, but successfull story seems to be complete and Gold Note is well prepared for the future.
Since they are native to Tuscany, Italy, all Gold Note products consequently come with a higher esthetic appeal. They look stylish, elegant and with just the right dose of pure Italian aura, which grants them an impressive solitude standing.
But PA -10 beautiful looking chassis are not only visually appealing. It is built around a very solid steel chassis, complemented by solid aluminum plates to avoid RFI and EMI, and more importantly, the framework is built around a very radiant and potent inner heart.
Not everyone knows the Gold Note opulent heritage when it comes to power amplifier design. It goes back a long way (20+ years) and points to the extraordinary Demidoff Diamond Anniversary series that were (and still are) representing the ultimate exploration of esoteric high-end audio music reproduction.
The PA -10 is not just a follow up to some neat idea, but the continuation of a rich heritage, which was initially conceptulized by the IS-1000 integrated amplifier that was introduced as the successor to the Demidoff. So it is not some old high-tech technology being trickled down, but a new generation of amplifiers based on decades of research and development and investigation into high performance high-end audio reproduction.
Each inspiration is the result of a continuous process and Gold Note is a clear proof that the efforts are being implemented in the right way and at the right places.
Gold Note PA -10 offers a greater sense of the form of listening pleasure that will easily captivate even more demanding listeners.
It connects you with the original message of the artist without timbre, tone and colour speculation. The golden trinity is served spot on.
The choice of high or low damping factor makes it easier to adjust PA -10 to either smaller monitor speakers or larger, more demanding floorstanding speakers. The PA-10 has never seemed even remotely impermeable. While many small power or stereo amplifiers can sound dry and restrained all too quickly and give a small idea of what music is all about, the Gold Note PA -10, on the contrary, allows the music’s inherited and fully exploited DNA to shape its credibility and radiant nature.
In the right system, -10 can endure Gold Note PA an exhilarating listening experience, again without artificial contouring, which is too easy to connect even with far more expensive solid state amplifiers.
High-end audio is about serving the primary human impulses that music serves. The music or signal should not be altered or disguised in any of the so-called artful forms that are all too often advertised as high-end audio sound.
As befits a high-end audio amplifier, the Gold Note PA -10 approaches music in a direct way, without lacking immediacy or power when it is needed.
One of the last evaluation remarks was highlighted with a thick red marker with a big DS-10 name across it to remind me not to forget the seamless integration and synergy between the Gold Note PA-10 and DS -10. The same brand components should be perfectly matched gain and sound-wise, but as this is not always the case, I feel obliged to report how any such intricacies are not present within the Gold Note product family.
Gold Note PA -10 continiues with the qualities of the two Series 10 devices I have evaluated so far and deserves the same recognition. This grants the Gold Note PA -10 2020 Mono and Stereo Highly Recommended Product the Best Buy Product Award.⧉
COMPLETE TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
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 – Total Harmonic Distortion: 0,05%
Damping factor: selectable high/low
Stereo RCA, stereo XLR balanced
Input sensitivity: 1,4V RMS on RCA and XLR
Input impedance: 13KΩ RCA/XLR
Speaker terminals: Gold Plated Binding Posts
Power consumption: <1W in standby, <10W no signal, 150W at a 1/4 of nominal power, 1400W max.
DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHT
200mm W x 80mm H x 260mm D
Weight: Kg. 4 net – Kg. 5 boxed
Brushed Aluminium available in Black, Silver or Gold
HIGH POWER AMP
The PA-10 is capable of:
2 x 75W @ 8Ω Stereo load
2 x 150W @ 4Ω Stereo load
2 x 300W @ 2Ω Stereo load
1 x 300W @ 8Ω Mono (BTL) load
1 x 600W @ 4Ω Mono (BTL) load
ADJUSTABLE DAMPING FACTOR
The adjustable Damping Factor is a proprietary technology developed to perfectly match the PA-10 to low-sensitivity speakers as well as easy load speakers and mini-monitors.
The GN LINK IN / OUT technology links the PA-10 amplifier with the other GN units (featuring this technology) to create a group that turns ON and OFF (master-slave mode) automatically.
MX-10 Card allows the simultaneous use of the RCA and XLR inputs increasing the PA-10’s versatility.
OPERATING CONDITION LIMITS
Temperature: from 0°C to 35°C
Humidity: 90% without condensation