Gold Note DS-10 D/A processor Measurements

Sidebar 3: Measurements

I measured the Gold Note DS-10 with my Audio Precision SYS2722 system (see the January 2008 "As We See It"). I powered the DS-10 from the PSU-10 EVO supply, which, following the instructions in the latter's manual, I placed to the D/A processor's left, separated by a few inches. I performed a complete set of measurements from the balanced outputs, repeating some tests from the unbalanced and headphone outputs. As well as using the Audio Precision as a source of data, I used Roon and mconnect Control to send data to the DS-10 over my network via Ethernet.

I also used a USB connection to send data to the Gold Note from my battery-powered MacBook Pro running Adobe Audition and Pure Music.

The DS-10's coaxial S/PDIF input and the AES/EBU input locked to datastreams with sample rates up to 192kHz. The optical inputs were restricted to sample rates of 96kHz and below. Apple's USB Prober utility identified the processor as "GOLD NOTE USB-DAC" from "Akamai," with the serial number "413-001." The Gold Note's USB port operated in the optimal isochronous asynchronous mode. Apple's AudioMIDI utility revealed that, via USB, the DS-10 accepted 32-bit integer data sampled at all rates from 32 to 384kHz.

The DS-10's maximum output level in DAC mode was 2.7V, balanced, and 1.35V, unbalanced, both into 100k ohms. (According to Roon, in DAC mode, the DS-10's volume control is set to "91.") Switching to Pre mode, with the volume control set to "91"—although the volume control's maximum setting is "100," the DS-10 clipped with full-scale digital signals at settings greater than "91"—the output levels were 4.525V, balanced, and 2.25V, unbalanced. The maximum headphone output level was 8.02V, this with a volume control setting of "87" in low-gain mode and "80" in high-gain mode. Again, the headphone output clipped at higher settings of the volume control.

All three sets of outputs preserved absolute polarity with all inputs. The output impedance is specified as a low 50 ohms for both balanced and unbalanced outputs. I measured higher values, though these are still low in absolute terms: the unbalanced output impedance was 87 ohms at 1kHz, increasing to 203 ohms at 20Hz and 100 ohms at 20kHz. The balanced output impedances were twice the unbalanced values, as usual. The headphone output impedance was a fairly low 10 ohms at all audioband frequencies.

Although I looked at the effect of the three Equalization presets on the DS-10's behavior, I left them bypassed for the measurements. The DS-10's reconstruction filter had a minimum-phase impulse response with 44.1kHz data (fig.1), with all the ringing following the single high sample at 0dBFS. With 44.1kHz-sampled white noise, the Gold Note's response featured a fast rolloff above the audioband, but with a slower rolloff above 24kHz (fig.2, red and magenta traces). The aliased image at 25kHz of a full-scale 19.1kHz tone (blue and cyan traces) was suppressed by just over 100dB and while distortion harmonics can be seen, the highest in level was the third at –72dB (0.025%).

720GNDS10fig01

Fig.1 Gold Note DS-10, impulse response (one sample at 0dBFS, 44.1kHz sampling, 4ms time window).

720GNDS10fig02

Fig.2 Gold Note DS-10, wideband spectrum of white noise at –4dBFS (left channel red, right magenta) and 19.1kHz tone at 0dBFS (left blue, right cyan) into 100k ohms with data sampled at 44.1kHz (20dB/vertical div.).

With data sampled at 44.1kHz, the DS-10's frequency response rolled off gently in the top audio octave (fig.3, green and gray traces), reaching –1dB at 20kHz before the inevitable sharp rolloff above that frequency. At higher sample rates (fig.3, cyan, magenta, blue, and red traces), the responses were down by 0.5dB at 20kHz, with gentle ultrasonic rolloffs.

720GNDS10fig03

Fig.3 Gold Note DS-10, frequency response at –12dBFS into 100k ohms with data sampled at: 44.1kHz (left channel green, right gray), 96kHz (left channel cyan, right magenta), 192kHz (left blue, right red) (0.5dB/vertical div.).

The Gold Note's channel separation was excellent in the midrange, at >100dB in both directions but reduced at the top of the audioband to 71dB, left-to-right, and 75dB, right-to-left. The low-frequency noise floor was commendably free from power supply–related spuriae. When I increased the bit depth from 16 to 24 with a dithered 1kHz tone at –90dBFS (fig.4), the random noise floor dropped by 12dB, meaning that the DS-10 offers 18 bits' worth of resolution. With undithered 16-bit data representing a tone at exactly –90.31dBFS, the three DC voltage levels described by the data were well-resolved (fig.5), though the waveform was overlaid with high-frequency noise.

720GNDS10fig04

Fig.4 Gold Note DS-10, spectrum with noise and spuriae of dithered 1kHz tone at –90dBFS with: 16-bit data (left channel cyan, right magenta), 24-bit data (left blue, right red) (20dB/vertical div.).

720GNDS10fig05

Fig.5 Gold Note DS-10, waveform of undithered 16-bit, 1kHz sinewave at –90.31dBFS (left channel blue, right red).

The Gold Note DS-10 offered low levels of harmonic distortion. With a full-scale 50Hz tone into 100k ohms (fig.6), the second harmonic was the highest in level, but at –96dB (0.0015%) is inconsequential. The level and harmonic signature of the distortion didn't rise when I reduced the load to the punishing 600 ohms, which suggests that the DS-10 has an excellent output stage. The cyan and blue traces in fig.2 indicated that the DS-10's distortion is higher at the top of the audioband than it is lower in frequency, so I wasn't surprised to find high-order intermodulation products present with equal-level tones at 19 and 20kHz with the combined waveform peaking at 0dBFS (fig.7). However, these products all lie below –76dB (0.015%), and the second-order difference product was at a very low –110dB (0.0003%). As with the DS-10's harmonic distortion, the levels of the intermodulation products didn't rise with the 600 ohm load impedance.

720GNDS10fig06

Fig.6 Gold Note DS-10, spectrum of 50Hz sinewave, DC–1kHz, at 0dBFS into 100k ohms (left channel blue, right red; linear frequency scale).

720GNDS10fig07

Fig.7 Gold Note DS-10, HF intermodulation spectrum, DC–30kHz, 19+20kHz at 0dBFS into 100k ohms, 44.1kHz data (left channel blue, right red; linear frequency scale).

I got an odd result when I tested the Gold Note processor for its rejection of word-clock jitter with 16-bit AES/ EBU and S/PDIF J-Test data. Other than the pair closest to the spectral spike that represents the high-level tone at one-quarter the sample rate, the odd-order harmonics of the LSB-level, low-frequency squarewave were obscured by the analog noise floor (fig.8). Repeating the spectral analysis with 16-bit optical data gave the same result, and when I used 24-bit J-Test data, the single pair of sidebands persisted (fig.9). Things looked more normal with 16-bit J-Test data sourced from USB or Ethernet, and almost all of the odd-order harmonics of the LSB-level, low-frequency squarewave were now at the correct levels (fig.10, sloping green line). However, with 24-bit USB or Ethernet data, the single pair of sidebands didn't disappear as they should have done, and a trio of low-level random tones can be seen between 9kHz and 10kHz, these of unknown origin.

720GNDS10fig08

Fig.8 Gold Note DS-10, high-resolution jitter spectrum of analog output signal, 11.025kHz at –6dBFS, sampled at 44.1kHz with LSB toggled at 229Hz: 16-bit AES/EBU data (left channel blue, right red). Center frequency of trace, 11.025kHz; frequency range, ±3.5kHz.

720GNDS10fig09

Fig.9 Gold Note DS-10, high-resolution jitter spectrum of analog output signal, 11.025kHz at –6dBFS, sampled at 44.1kHz with LSB toggled at 229Hz: 24-bit AES/EBU data (left channel blue, right red). Center frequency of trace, 11.025kHz; frequency range, ±3.5kHz.

720GNDS10fig10

Fig.10 Gold Note DS-10, high-resolution jitter spectrum of analog output signal, 11.025kHz at –6dBFS, sampled at 44.1kHz with LSB toggled at 229Hz: 16-bit USB data (left channel blue, right red). Center frequency of trace, 11.025kHz; frequency range, ±3.5kHz.

720GNDS10fig11

Fig.11 Gold Note DS-10, high-resolution jitter spectrum of analog output signal, 11.025kHz at –6dBFS, sampled at 44.1kHz with LSB toggled at 229Hz: 24-bit USB data (left channel blue, right red). Center frequency of trace, 11.025kHz; frequency range, ±3.5kHz.

There are good aspects to the Gold Note DS-10's behavior on the test bench—the bombproof output stage and the low levels of harmonic distortion—and others that left me puzzled, like the odd behavior with J-Test data sourced by AES/EBU or S/PDIF.—John Atkinson

COMPANY INFO
Gold Note Italy
US distributor: Gold Note USA via Rutherford Audio Inc.
G108, 14 Inverness Dr. East
Englewood, CO 80112
(888) 279-6755
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Anton's picture
Bogolu Haranath's picture

Recognizing the fact that JVS is the greatest reviewer ever, Stereophile is already paying JVS twice as much as any other reviewer for the Stereophile magazine :-) .......

Jim Austin's picture

... that Stereophile reviewers are very competitive and crave adulation--so now you've made the rest of them angry, and now they're all gunning for JVS!

(Kidding.)

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

rt66indierock's picture

I am looking forward to meeting you and a couple of the reviewers I haven't met yet and seeing this competitiveness.

I'm laying low until it is safe to get around New York City stay safe.

Jim Austin's picture

is one of the safest places to be right now.

Yeah, we Stereophile reviewers have been known to get into fistfights over tubes-vs-solid-state or analog-vs-digital. ;-)

In all seriousness--while we're not really competitive, we are very serious. Not much cynicism around these parts, a fact I'm very happy about.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

rt66indierock's picture

Jim, I'm not taking a taxi, using a car service, the subway, an airplane because I don't feel safe right now. I have two modes of travel where I feel safe. Walking in uncrowded areas and my own car.

As for your "fistfights" audio equipment is either properly designed or it isn't. And music is either recorded well or it isn't. Whether a poorer quality recording reaches you emotionally is place for a serious discussion.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Stereophile reviewers get into 'first-fights', only when the products of the year award winners are selected ........ Just kidding ..... Just kidding :-) ......

Jim Austin's picture

I've still got bruises from 2019.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

on that score.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Did MF do it? :-) ......

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

It always feels good when the first comment is positive, and doesn't rip you to shreds.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

The headphone output of Weiss DAC502, which JVS has for follow-up review, should work better with the Audeze LCD-X :-) ......

Anton's picture

Anyway, Golden Note seems to be rising as a company that really 'gets it.'

Mike Fremer recently had a positive impression of their mid-range cartridge, as well!

They are running the gamut from A to D....analog to digital.

Also, thanks for doing the review on your system, giving it the best change to really "explain itself," sonically.

Glotz's picture

Every review you do is excellent, Jason.

The bar is so high in this magazine, how do any of you 2nd guess yourselves??

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I sweat a lot. I also learn from my mistakes. I'm afraid I stumbled a bit in an upcoming review. But I just "got" the opening for my current review while riding my fixed up racing bike back from downtown Port Townsend. Had to stop to allow two young deer to cross the road. Life is good. And now for the most important thing I do: the afternoon dog walk.

Glotz's picture

Enjoy every minute and may the fruit of your labor be sweet!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Weight lifting 100 lb audio components can produce lot of sweat :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

The DS-10 headphone output impedance of 10 Ohms is somewhat high, for the low impedance headphones like the Audeze LCD-X ....... That headphone output would work better for headphones with impedance of 100 Ohms or more :-) .......

SteveG's picture

The AK4493 does not limit output to 192k. AKM says this: “The AK4493EQ accepts up to 768kHz PCM data and 22.4MHz DSD data“

dial's picture

One day you could review the 3D LAB. NANO DAC (there's even a Signature version for those who can hear from 1 to 100 000 Hz, priced similar to the Gold Note).
Your listening sessions are always very seriously done, nice to read.

Ortofan's picture

... the difference between "coddled cream" and clotted cream?

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

A good proofreader.

rt66indierock's picture

I'd love to play around with one and measure it myself. See how it measures up to the king of the hill the Okto dac8 stereo DAC. And of course hear how it plays my reference albums and recordings.

And of course I like MQA firmware issues.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Stereophile is gonna be reviewing the Okto dac8 Stereo in a future issue ......

What built-in digital filter(s) do you normally use with your dac8 Stereo? ...... Just curious :-) .......

Anton's picture

That might be a killer!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

It is not worthy of placing on the 'Monza' equipment rack ...... It costs less than $2k ...... Just kidding :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

JVS could compare it with the Brooklyn DAC+, which costs $2,085 :-) ......

rt66indierock's picture

I generally use linear filters, sometimes intermediate and occasionally a minimum phase.

And I don't own a dac8 Stereo, I was able to borrow one, measure it and play my reference albums and recordings. It should be interesting to see if a Stereophile review matches what I measured and heard.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Gold Note DS-10 uses minimum phase filter ....... See, Fig.1 and Fig.2 in measurements ....... Seems like that is the only filter available in DS-10 :-) .......

rt66indierock's picture

I'd like to measure a Gold Note DS-10 and listen to my reference albums and recordings. Maybe do a shoot out with say a Pacific Microsonics Model One.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Do you make your own recordings? ...... If so, at what resolution do you make your recordings? ..... Can you tell us some details about your recording technique? :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Also, what resolution(s) your reference albums are? :-) .....

cpdk's picture

31+57+57+47=192!

low2midhifi's picture

It might be a trivial observation, but what I like about this Gold Note DAC is its beefy 3-prong power cord jack.

I own a much less expensive DAC with a similar 3-prong power cord jack, and another with the flimsier one-pin 6V outlet jack. Just as higher quality 3-prong power cord connectors have worked their way down to lower-priced (sub $1000) DACs, so have one-pin 6V to 15V outlet jacks managed to show up in products costing over $1000.00, sometimes much more than $1,000.00.

I have found that one-pin 9V DAC power cord connectors to be more susceptible to the vagueries of the electrical systems in my housing situation (multi-story, multi-unit) than a solid 3-prong connector.

We all want a DAC for the playback options and higher sound quality that they offer. From my experience, a high-quality 3-prong power cord connector is a better assurance that high sound quality does not suffer the electrical offs-and-ons and clicking noises that one-pin cnnectors seem to be at greater risk of producing.

From my purchase history, just as assessing the music reproduction capabilies of a DAC is critical, so is looking at the power cord interface. The Streophile staff tests many more products than I can. I'd be interested to hear their opinion on this matter.

Ortofan's picture

... "beefy 3-prong power cord jack" is vital for a device that draws all of 30W.

Archimago's picture

Could be 30 super duper fat watts that need thick wires :-)

Kal Rubinson's picture

I cannot think of any logical reason to compare the connector for a 120VAC cable to the connector for a 6-5VDC cable. It is as silly as comparing the AC wall outlet with the lamp socket in the fixture.

low2midhifi's picture

Stereophile editors and writers: Perhaps my inquiry was uninspired and ignorant. Instead of using your expertise to illuminate the readers of this publication, you chose again to use your platform to insult and denigrate your readers.

This is the third time (this time it's on the forum) that I have to call out the negative and unhelpful (aka trolling) replies with which Stereophile writers use their platform to insult their readers.

This "national publication," according to Wikipedia, has a circulation that is 1/2 that of the town newspaper of the community where I grew up. Put that in perspective the next time you take the low road with a commenter on this site. I'll mention for good measure the troubling reliance of this publication on decades-old product reviews to keep its pages filled.

I have asked you webmaster to deactivate my account. You may elect to have my remarks expunged.

Audio industry leaders lament the declining membership in this hobby. Perhaps the attitude that experts take towards those who have lesser knowledge is a reason why people lose interest in this pursuit.

I hope you are proud of your remarks. You just lost a reader of this publication for good. I was a subscriber to the print edition, in addition to my engagement on the digital version.

Kal Rubinson's picture

I had been waiting for a response but I did not anticipate this one. What I expected was a come-back about the universal value of better quality connection devices and materials.

We are all equals here. Please reconsider your departure.

dc_bruce's picture

Whew! Strike me dead for the stereotype, but as I was reading of your tribulations, I couldn't help but think of another wonderful Italian product-- an Alfa Romeo.
Kudos to you for working through all this and "telling us how it sounds" and, as part of that effort, telling us how 2 other DACs sound playing the same content through your system.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Much appreciated.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Hi JVS, what digital filter(s) you commonly used with Mytek Brooklyn DAC+? ....... Did you use the MQA filter in the Brooklyn DAC+? ....... Did you like the sound of that MQA filter? :-) .......

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I always use MQA's filter with MQA, because it is the filter designed for it. Do I sit in judgment over that filter, and reject it for particular DACs? No. As for the other PCM filters, I didn't put my focus there. The DAC Plus is not often in my system, so I used whatever filter I had grown to like when I spent a lot of time with the Brooklyn DAC Plus on a previous occasion.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Archimago would get a heart attack if he uses that MQA filter in the Brooklyn DAC+ :-) .......

Archimago's picture

No heart attack, or panic attack for that matter, BH...

If it's MQA, by all means use recommended proper filter. Better just skip MQA to avoid paying any taxes on a bad product IMO ;-).

Knights11's picture

Hi jason. thank you for such an insightful review. Did you use the Audioquest Niagara 5000 with the PSU-10 EVO? Or when you were reviewing the impact of the PSU-10 EVO did you use this without the 5000? I ask because I currently have a DS-10 and also a Niagara 3000, and I was wondering what impact (if any) the PSU-10 EVO would have. Thanks!

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

To answer your question in reverse order, the Niagara is a power conditioner, and the PSU-10 EVO is a power supply. The Niagara can be used with or without the PSU-10 EVO, since it cleans the power going to any power supply in any component. The PSU-10 EVO, by distinction, replaces the DAC's internal power supply and greatly improves upon it.

I use the Niagara 5000 with everything in my system, including the DACs I review, unless a manufacturer absolutely opposes same. (I ask them, of course.). Because I have Nordost cabling, all front end devices are plugged into a Nordost QB8, which has a star ground and a resistor on its Earth Ground outlet which is intended for the preamp (or, in this case, DAC/preamp). The QB8 is, in turn, plugged into bank 3 of the Niagara - banks 3-6 are identical, but bank 3 is the most conveniently located in my set-up.

My amps are plugged into bank 2 of the Niagara 5000's high current outlets. Bank 2 bypasses a switch, and does not limit current. I've never used the 3000, and can offer absolutely no advice on set-up. I also don't know how it does with extremely powerful high current monoblocks such as mine.

Hope that clarifies.

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