Gold Note PH-1000 phono preamplifier Page 2

Gold Note offers two extra-cost options, neither of which was supplied for this review: the PSU-1250/1000 external power supply and the TUBE-1012/1006 external tubed output stage, both of which connect to rear panel jacks.

Big screen, complete control
As previously mentioned, a single rotary/pushbutton knob facilitates feature selection and control, aided by a generously sized, well-organized TFT LCD color screen. You can make changes without interrupting playback, although there is a momentary pause as the relays kick in.

The first button push puts a rectangle around the EQ curve choice. Then rotating the button/knob moves the rectangle through the various other options: "load"; "rumble filter"; "stereo-mono"; and so on. When you reach a setting you want to adjust, just push the button again and the rectangle turns red. Now, rotating the button runs you through the options within that setting. For instance, selecting "Stereo" then pushing the button and rotating it lets you select among "stereo," "stereo 180"—polarity inverted—"mono," and "mono 180." Push the button again to lock in your choice.

222gold.2

The system is easy to use, with just one inconvenience: Every time you change a setting, you must navigate through the menu from the beginning. Which makes "A/B" comparisons slower and more cumbersome. The firmware, by the way, is updatable in the field.

For a sophisticated multi-option product, the manual is inadequate—too casually written and full of holes, with too little guidance about which settings to choose. Perhaps Gold Note figures buyers of such a sophisticated multi-option device bring to it the requisite knowledge.

Smooth, silky, sophisticated sound
I ran the PH-1000 balanced, trying it both with its volume control and in "Stage" (fixed-volume) mode. The sound, including the quiet backgrounds, wasn't appreciably different between the two modes of operation. Which means that the PH-1000 should work quite well in an all-analog system with no line-level preamp.

222gold.nelson

Analogue Productions recently reissued Willie Nelson's And Then I Wrote (APP 133-45), first issued on Liberty Records in 1962. This was Willie's first album, but some of the songs had already become hits for others, including "Crazy" (Patsy Cline), "Hello Walls" (Faron Young), and "Funny How Time Slips Away" (Jimmy Elledge and, later, Bryan Ferry, among others). You might not recognize Willie from the clean-cut cover photo, but you'll immediately recognize his voice. There's plenty of early '60s-style reverb putting Willie in a bubble and pushing him way forward on the soundstage, with the usual corny, cooing background singers way back, on some tracks straight behind and sometimes off in the right channel. This is a great period piece in which Willie alternates between singing and cartoonishly reciting sad lyrics of loneliness, heartache, and regret. I've played this record many times through my reference gear—and now also through the devoutly feature-free Paradox Phono 70 Signature, the subject of this month's Analog Corner column. Wallowing has never been more pleasant.

The PH-1000's signature sonic characteristic is an ultrasophisticated smoothness. The shuffling drum kit and tinkling piano or vibraphone were somewhat softer and smoother than I'd become accustomed to but no less attractive or transparent.

The Paradox Phono 70 Signature removed some of the smoothness, slightly intensified the piano and drum transients, and put both instruments (drums and piano) into slightly greater spatial relief. There was less bloom to the reverb with the 70, which increased vocal-sibilant detail and increased the focus and attack of the walking bass line.

The sublime Electric Recording Company reissue of Herbert Downes and Jacqueline du Pré's Music for Viola and Cello (Columbia CSD 1499/ERC 028) highlighted the PH-1000's sonic strengths. The PH-1000's luxurious finish produced a viola sound to die for, with a rich, shimmering sustain and lifelike microdynamic nuance. On Brahms's "Hungarian Dance No.17" with Gerald Moore on piano, the timbral picture was rich and full and the physical presentation was convincing. The next track, "Ave Maria" with Roy Jesson on organ, produced low-frequency foundational depth that the less-costly Paradox phono preamp, good as it was, couldn't match.

222gold.Prima

Moving to a pre-stereo mono record, I tried Louis Prima's The Wildest! (LP, Capitol T755), a turquoise label original from 1956. Was it cut using the Capitol curve, or had the shift already taken place to RIAA? I don't know, but I used the Capitol curve to good effect. Following the Prima/Keely Smith medley "Just a Gigolo"/"I Ain't Got Nobody" (covered years later by David Lee Roth), Louis and Keely do "Nothing's Too Good for My Baby." With the Capitol curve, the picture seemed to open up timbrally and dynamically. Keely Smith's vocals sailed effortlessly into the room, and the front-to-back layering of instruments would convince even the staunchest mono haters of what makes well-recorded one-channel listening special. James Blount's trombone on "Body and Soul" was right there with the Capitol curve. It was softer, more reserved, and less exuberant with the RIAA setting. "Tone control," or correct EQ? I don't know, but either way, I liked it, and using it couldn't have been easier.

Some people insist that Deutsche Grammophon records used the DG/Teldec curve well into the stereo era, and that's why DG records tend to sound dull played back using RIAA. The tulip label "Brahms Symphony Nr.4" (DG 138 927) I've been playing since college definitely opened up on top when played with the DG/Teldec curve—but is that the correct equalization to use? Was the Brahms more open on top because it was played back using the correct equalization or because it was acting as a tone control? I'm not sure.

If you want to dig deeper, the Pspatial Stereo Lab site can draw you deeply into a world of equalization confusion (footnote 3).

This review could turn into a hair-pulling session about esoteric equalization. Instead, let's explore how the PH-1000 deals with rock music.

222gold.Sandinista

First up: Sandinista!, specifically CBS FSLN 1, the UK pressing of the Clash's sprawling 3-LP set. This is the version to have if you're a Clash fan. The American pressing can't compare to the British original's wide-open top end and enormously wide soundstage. Recorded and mixed by Bill Price, the album is explosive, and its orderly mix contrasts well with the group's musical anarchy. The Motown tribute "Hitsville U.K." is supposed to have a bright top-end snap and crackle; with its smooth, suave sonic personality, the Gold Note PH-1000 softens and mutes it some. Topper Headon's drums should "pop" more. The top end should glisten. Paul Simonon's bass should be more muscular, not quite as polite and refined as the PH-1000 delivers it. That said, the midrange see-into-the-mix transparency impressed.

If you want a bottom-to-top frequency response report, here it is: The PH-1000's bass is well-controlled and nuanced but somewhat polite. It's better on acoustic bass than electric. When I sampled "Visions of Johanna" from an original "360 Sound" pressing of Dylan's Blonde on Blonde (C2S 841)—the copy I played in my college frat bedroom, which still sounds great—I expected more "stickiness" to Joe South's bass lines.

However: Higher up, Kenny Buttrey's cymbal hits were startlingly clean, each emphatic and meaningful in the break between the verses. Dylan's voice, well isolated at the front of the mix, was thrillingly there, and Wayne Moss's and Charlie McCoy's guitar parts were wiry, edgy, and disturbing—as they should be. Al Kooper's organ (that sounds wrong somehow) and Dylan's harmonica were as properly piercing and edgy as you'd want them to be and not at all soft, which, based on the Clash experience, is what I was expecting.

222gold.life

The star of this listening session was the PH-1000's midrange lucidity and clarity and the top end's transient precision. Only the bass disappointed, especially because it's so key to "Visions of Johanna"'s musical soul.

Conclusion
Gold Note's made-in-Italy PH-1000 is a visually attractive—it looks best in gold, IMO—feature-driven, sophisticated phono preamplifier that's easy to use and uniquely configurable. In my reviewing experience, that's a rare and attractive combination. You'll never get lost in a nested menu system. Its volume control is transparent and works well, which means that the PH-1000 can be used without a line preamplifier in an analog-only system—or you can set to "Stage" in a more typical system, with a line level preamplifier. The gain, loading, and equalization flexibility set it apart from most if not every other phono preamplifier currently available. Its absolute polarity and "stereo/mono" functionality, though not totally unique, are not as common in phono preamplifiers as they should be.

The PH-1000's sonic performance was as smooth and sophisticated as its operating system. It was quiet and both micro- and macrodynamically accomplished. Its transparency, clarity, and freedom from congestion in the midrange were notable.

222gold.downes

Only the somewhat polite bottom end disappointed, and even there it was more on electric than acoustic music. Perhaps the optional outboard power supply would address that issue. The optional tube stage might produce more vivid orchestral colors, but as the Downes-du Pré record (among others) demonstrated, those sonic riches are already present. The quiet, fine-sounding built-in class-A headphone amp adds yet more value.

If you're thinking "Who needs all of this extra stuff, I just want to play my stereo records?" you're probably better off putting your money elsewhere, since much of the value of the PH-1000 is in features and flexibility. The PH-1000 becomes a very attractive choice if your record collection is rich with older mono records or if you value setup perfection alongside fine sonic performance.


Footnote 3: As I did after reading this, which led me to disagree with Mikey here. Apparently, Germany officially adopted a government standard different from the RIAA standard and kept it until 1962. Labels including DG and Telefunken would have used the German EQ at least until 1962 if not for longer: Look for "33" in a triangle on the record label. See pspatialaudio.com/record_characters.htm.—Jim Austin
COMPANY INFO
Gold Note Italy
US distributor: Rutherford Audio
14 Inverness Drive East, Unit G-108
Englewood, CO 80112
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
johnnythunder1's picture

The aesthetics, engineering methodology, Michael Fremer's existence, the price, the country of origin, its comparison to other phono stages costing 10-50x less, and other random complaints hasn't brought out the trolls yet.

MatthewT's picture

You know what they are going to say, too.

kg's picture

Given the unprecedented nature of the current events, I advise you to proceed with utmost caution, my dear friend.

MatthewT's picture

Elaborate on this post.

Jack L's picture

Hi

You've said it: the invasion of Ukraine by Russia yesterday, killing 57 & wounded 160 people as of today as per BBC News

Jack L

JHL's picture

We've known for decades of the difference between data and sound. For the sake of great sound I hope this publication redevelops this fundamental dichotomy. It is real.

Many assume data speaks for sound.

Jack L's picture

Hi

Agreed. But not for yours truly: data & sound go the extremely polarized directions.

Standard bench test data are obtained by feeding pure sinewaves, square waves or triangular waves into the component under test. This I would call it static test.

Music signals are not pure sinewaves at all: comprising basic sinewave plus multi orders of harmonics, ever dynamically changing.

So it is therefore comparing apple to orange - irrelevant ! So how can we "assume data speaks for sound" ??????

If you get the chance to look at the 3-D waveforms of a realtime music signal, like I have, you will see how complex would be a music signal, ever dynamically changing.

May I suggst you to read up papers on the complex multiple 3-D positioned visualization of music signal. to learn more about it, e.g.

"3D musical notation - providng visual cues for musical analysis".

Listening, not data alone, is believing

Jack L

JHL's picture

...but I can't find a place to interject in an argument against everything simultaneously.

Jack L's picture

Hi

Apparently most money gone to the 'unique' feature of RIAA curves (40+) adjustment to tailor-match old/new LP labels.

"Deutsche Grammophon records used the DG/Teldec curve well into the stereo era, and that's why DG records tend to sound dull played back using RIAA." qtd M.F.

I am not so sure of above quote appliable to my DGG collection. In fact, quite a few my DGG LPs sound so so good that I've used them as my sonic reference: open, balanced & livelike.

Just quote 3 excellent sounding DGG LPs:-

(1) Beethoven No.1 Piano Concerto/Arturo Michelangeli/Vienna Symphony/Carlo Goilini. Live performance recording 21/9/1979
The piano sounds so crystal-transparent, best of all my piano LPs

(2) Richard Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra/Boston Symphony/William Steinberg 1971.
The performance starting sub-bass notes (20Hz?) solidly crawl toward me, followed immediately by kettle drum beats - sharp & powerful !!!!!

(3) Strawinsky: Le Sacre du Printemps/Berlin Philharmonic/Herbert V Karajan 1977. Powerful sharp percussions !

Only played throu my home-brew phono-preamp (MM input/non-adjustable passive RIAA). I got no problem sonically with all my DGG LPs at all.

Listening is believing

Jack L

remlab's picture

WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO!!

Jack L's picture

Hi

Yes, my first glance at the compact enclosed power supply hinted me it should be a wall wart type switch mode power supply !! Nooo good for any analogue amps, let alone phono preamp, IMO.

Yes, compact, handy & cheap but it emits EMI/RFI noises into the amp. I'd never use such SMPS in any of my audio amps. Get an external analogue linear power supply would be the way to go.

Jack L

Archimago's picture

Dunno man. This fear of SMPS as being noisy doesn't mKe much sense these days. Even some of the cheapest SMPS wall warts don't emit much RF/EMI any more.

Would love to see what evidence there is for such a belief and with what power supply and analog gear susceptible to this.

Jack L's picture

Hi

Really? Your home-brew science or your imagination ?

I tested with my digital wideband EMI & powerline noise analyser. It shows RF noise surge in the powerline powering any digital devices using wall warts or similar SMPS.

This physics !!!!!!!

Jack L

Archimago's picture

Yes, it's physics.

And IMO you're worried about imaginary ultrasonic stuff.

Show me otherwise cuz I don't know anyone who is able to reliably tell a difference. (People claim all kinds of things like yourself but have nothing to show for it.)

Jack L's picture

Hi

It's your call, pal.

You challenged me SMPS does not emit RFI/EMI/powerline noises. Now I tell you again such powerline noise DO exist as shown on the screen of my digital wideband powerline noise & EMI analysis.

Frankly, you don't apparently even know such commonly used instrument to analyse poweline noises do exist at all.

Be my guest if YOU or whoever lend a deaf ear. None of my business.

Jack L

tonykaz's picture

Canada is now under Martial Law

Ukraine isn't joining NATO, no bullets flying

This Italian buggy whip gets barely noticed.

Tony in Florida

MatthewT's picture

Haiku.

Glotz's picture

Almost.. But there is no beauty in those words.

Archimago's picture

I'm sure we'll this sorted by Spring Break! Come visit. ;-) Although I think it's much nicer this time of the year down in Florida.

Jack L's picture

Hi

What "spring break" ?

You mean March break when school/universities close down a week or more provding private times for students' families.

Yes, there is a "family day" coming Monday, the 3rd Monday every February, a provincial public holiday with salary fully paid.

Jack L

Archimago's picture

It's on the school calendar from March 14-25 for the families with kids.

Jack L's picture

Hi

Rumour or misinformation-on-line ?

So called "Freedom Convoy" at Ottawa, Canada capital city, is already done like dinner a couple of days ago. Those behind-the-seen financiers, including a few from USA, for such illegal "convoy" are already tracked down & their convoy monies are already frozen.

We should worry more about the Canada/USA border road block by the trucks due to their drivers not yet vaccinated. 70% of goods trades Canada/USA is done by trucking thru the border every day !!!!

We already felt the pinch: our grocery & food prices soar up like nobody's business !!!

Thanks to those drivers' "freedom" conscience !!!

Jack L

tonykaz's picture

Yes, we have that problem with our legacy press. ( not Stereophile though )

One of the Canadian MPs reported to his YouTube Channel that Parliament has been suspended.

The Industrial Report on the Trucking Industry ( USA ) reveals that we have about 2,000,000 Live Breathing Truck Drivers today. We have 3,500,000 Semi Trucks available. ( an acute driver shortage )
Additionally, we have all the West Coast Entry Ports at FULL capacity with a critical shortage of derage drivers ( the short range drivers that haul the Containers from the Port to locations within 50 miles ).

Truck Drivers are mostly Unionised, 80% are small companies of 6 or less. Politically, Drivers are considered the "Deplorable" Class ! They stay connected thru modern communication devices. Most Over the Road Rigs are fully Internet Capable and have a wide range of connectivity tools. The Canadian Freedom Convoy is the 1st of a Global Series of these types of Events. Another One is now forming up to go from California to Washington. Expect the Farmers to share in this as they typically operate two or three Semi Truck rigs.

Heavy Trucks and Diesel engine related Industries are the World I lived in so I still follow these developments.

It's said and thought that the Stores have 3 Days of goods, if the Trucks Stop rolling -- all hell breaks loose .

It's time to be careful

Tony in Florida

Briandrumzilla's picture

It is an explosioney, but mostly peaceful war.

tonykaz's picture

Tony in Florida

Kursun's picture

A phono preamplifier priced at $12.000 with very very poor overload margin? Doesn't make sense at all.

Jack L's picture

Hi

Well, it makes tons Money Sense to the Italian manufacturers/vendors. Profiteering I would call it.

Italian leisure goods are always expensive, including audios.

I still recall I spent some US$40, 1/5 of my monthly salary for a Valentino silk tie some 40 years back.

For such money, I've gone for French goods: Lacoste (the green Alligator logo) T-shirts of diffenent colours, soft-leather sneakers, etc.

For my pocket wallet, Louis Vuitton of course ! Genuine soft leather made with its serial number inside itm, like any audio components !!

Jack L

Kursun's picture

Well...
If a product is expensive but good I wouldn't object.
I have a 30 year old Lacoste sweatshirt that I still wear.

But, if a product costs $12.000 and displays a sub-mediocre performance, this is a problem.

Jack L's picture

.

volvic's picture

It is priced six times higher than the PH-10, I wonder is it six times better? This is a serious question as the PH-10 has garnered rave reviews from others and appears to offer similar flexibility. Curious.

Anton's picture

The compulsion to mix politics into Hi Fi is a classic sign of impending dementia.

Just saying.

tonykaz's picture

are you angry relating to the median age of us 33.3 people ?

Your opinion is probably accurate, vinyl people are fully captured by the hobbies of our post WW11 youth and a certain fondness of "I like Ike" memories.

Your diagnosis should include neurosis & psychosis which are the prevailing qualities of our Reviewed Gear buying readership. ( myself included )

Tony in paradisiacal Florida

Glotz's picture

Totally true. Fucking wrecking the last frontier of truth. Fuckers.

Jack L's picture

.

hollowman's picture

... the extensive Measurements section for a type of product that does not get metric'd often in audio journalism. AUDIO mag used to do something similar for phono products -- the late 70's - 1980s IIRC.

Glotz's picture

It was overwhelmingly positive, but no one has anything (but negative shit) to say.

Anton's picture

1) It gave me a great sense of feel for the device.

2) It enlightened me further regarding vinyl playback history.

All good. Better than good!

Out of my budget, but I am happy it exists.

ozan2022's picture

I purchased PH1000, PSU 1250, and Tube 1210 few months ago. First I used PH-1000 as it is then added the PSU and could not believe the improvement. And then I added the tube output stage again a substantial improvement but the PSU is a tremendous improvement. Highly recommend it.

Anton's picture

Thanks for the perspective.

Spartachino's picture

They stole the PH-1000 name from Victor Laboratory PH-1000 Ceramic Headshell.copyright infringement and disrespect

Spartachino's picture

Why would I buy a 12K device with crap bottom end?

Only the somewhat polite bottom end disappointed

David Mansell's picture

The "Teldec EQ" myth is only furthered by Jim Austin's footnote. PSpatial are in business to sell software (and some expensive hardware) to convert non-RIAA encoded LPs to RIAA so it pays them to spread the notion that there are loads of non-RIAA records out there, even into the stereo era.
You would be better served, Jim, by consulting Peter Copeland's classic "Manual of analogue audio restoration techniques". Pspatial misquote him about the meaning of the inverted triangle symbol on German (and other European) record labels. They say he says that it means the use of the CCIR equalization time constants, whereas they say it means the use of the so-called "Teldec equalization". What Copeland in fact writes is that it means the use of the RIAA (75, 318 & 3180 microseconds) equalization ; and that is what it does mean. Deutsche Grammophon had converted to the use of the RIAA equalization long before 1959 or even the 1957 DIN proposal to use 50, 318 & 3180 microseconds. You can find the inverted triangle on German Decca LPs (made by Teldec, the joint Telefunken and British Decca record manufacturing company) in 1955. You will also find it on LPs manufactured in the Netherlands (Philips), East Germany (Eterna), Romania (Electrecord)and even the Soviet Union (Melodiya) where it means "uses RIAA encoding". When stereo came along both the German Teldec companies, Telefunken & German Decca changed to the interlocking circles symbol (which means RIAA stereo) for a couple of years, but they both changed back to the inverted triangle in about 1961 for promotional reasons. In fact Telefunken used the inverted triangle until they ceased trading in 1982. All these records used RIAA encoding.
I have mono (inverted triangle) and stereo (interlocking circles) versions of the DGG LP of Sviatoslav Richter's recording of the Schumann piano concerto. Yesterday I played them both through my Audio Research preamp (RIAA phono) and they both sounded absolutely fine and the instruments were timbrally identical. I have lots of pictorial evidence to back up my assertions but it is not possible to post it here.

Michael Fremer's picture

For this clarification. And the wealth of accompanying information.

X