Maurizio Aterini shared that their Austrian Stream Unlimited board was customized to provide faster response time and higher sonic performance than the stock OEM PCB. And indeed, once the DS-1000 plugs into your home network, all streaming operations are quickly accessible from the front panel. Having released a proprietary app compatible with Windows, Android and iOS shows how Gold Note are sufficiently skilled to offer a complete streaming solution, not just a legacy audio box with a tacked-on OEM network player. In fact, Gold Note have been involved in such designs since 2007. That's when they launched their first streamer in cooperation with Stream Unlimited. At the time, the Austrians only supplied firmware and hardware for the CD loader. It was decided then to stop their network player development in 2010 as they felt there was insufficient demand for either branded or OEM streamers. The technology wasn't sufficiently stable yet and even the retail network not educated enough to provide the necessary customer support.

Four years ago, Gold Note decided to invest into its own brand as their primary business, hence redesign everything in their catalogue including the streamer. They decided on the Stream700 module which was mature and stable to avoid from-scratch DSP design. Gold Note nevertheless customized the firmware and rethought the software to arrive at a product different from what pure OEM clients would procure with a Stream Unlimited module. Here we are then to have a closer look at Gold Note's DS-1000 network player.

Basically, the DS-1000 is a one-box DAC with digital volume and streaming functions. Digital inputs include coax and Toslink; asynchronous USB 2.0 for DSD/PCM; 2 x USB-A front ports for flash drives, HDD FAT and NTFS; Ethernet (Stream Unlimited Stream 700); and WiFi 802.11b/g via dedicated antenna. Standard line outputs are 2V RCA and 4V XLR. There's even a coax output for further flexibility. Then come the options since Gold Note believes in modularity. One may add an active preamp stage with dual-mono PGA analog volume derived from their Demidoff amps; and an analog input. That in fact was how my loaner was configured. But there's more. The internal output stage can be bypassed in favour of one of two external class A tube stages; and the power supply may be upgraded to one of two external super-inductive boxes.

The Tube-1006 is a 6-tube unit, the Tube-1012 a 12-tube affair with six transformers. The optional dual-mono external power supplies include the 100-watt galvanically isolated PSU-1100 and the 250-watt PSU-1250 with massive multi transformer working as virtual battery. This mirrors the options for the CD-1000 recently reviewed by Srajan. Hence there are also outboard atomic master clocks, the Lucca external AC filter and the Lucca power cord. Even cosmetics may be tweaked with silver or black brushed case work and Walnut, clear or black-anodized aluminum inserts [clear below]. Even the craziest Chinese companies don't build such versatile products. What about Northern Italy? Perhaps these peoplpe decided to go after their own Swiss army knife. On build quality, the chassis is made of thick machined steel and aluminum panels to achieve low resonance, low sensitivity to vibrations and low magnetism. Cosmetics are minimalist and non-frilly except perhaps for the Gold Note logo engraved on the top. The front panel mirrors Ayon's flagship S5 likewise based on a Stream Unlimited module. I reviewed it a few year ago and it also offered a crisp 3.5" TFT display that could be navigated with the single-knob controller in lieu of the IR remote or a mobile app. Since the latter can be downloaded for free from the Apple and Google stores, it's de facto included, making the Gold Note DS-1000 a user-friendly plug'n'play solution.

Internally, the usual S/PDIF inputs encounter an AKM receiver while the DSD-capable USB transceiver is based on a 500MHz XMOS U6 board. D/A conversion adapted from their Favard flagship CD player is via dual-mono PCM 1792A with upsampler bypassed. Maurizio Aterini explained that their mother board can be updated to install other chip sets on demand, say converters from Cirrus, ESS, Wolfson or Asahi Kasei; plus future firmware updates. DSD support varies according to whether the DS-1000 is used as a streamer via WiFi/LAN; or as a USB DAC. The streamer currently supports only DSD64 whilst USB doubles it to DSD128. Multi-format file users enjoy full compatibility with AIFF, WAV, FLAC, WMA, WAX, ASX, MPEG-4 and MP3. USB and S/PDIF support up to 24/192 PCM. A proprietary Gold Note "zero-clock" circuit runs on three different master clocks that come through an AKM AK4115DIR with an ultra low-noise HCMOS Crystek running at 24'576MHz. The built-in power supply is a dual-mono linear affair with shielded Talema transformers. Published specs declare a 5Hz-200kHz bandwidth ±0.3dB. THD doesn't exceed 0.001% and S/NR achieves -125dB. Dynamic range is advertised at 129dB, output impedance as 50Ω.

Pointing to the integral linestage, it's important to know that it cannot be bypassed. This makes addition of a dedicated preamp dubious when Gold Note's stage produces already 23.5dB of voltage gain. That makes the 0dB setting -13.5, hence still +10dB to work the op-amp outputs within their ideal range. Hence it was difficult to run the DS-1000 with my reference Coincident DHT linestage when the Luxman M800 amps were in balanced bridge mode. Now I had excess gain. This became less problematic in RCA mode. Still I think that adding an external preamp circumvents the DS-1000's whole design focus. My tests thus simply swapped amps and speakers. However, it could be an interesting feature to allow a full bypass of the internal linestage to offer customers an upgrade path should they wish to acquire a more ambitious preamp.*

Publisher's comment: As I ascertained in my review of the CD-1000 equally equipped with the same PGA, one could spend €10'000 on Esoteric's C-03 preamp, use that in zero-gain mode and hear no difference. Hence a more ambitious preamp may or may not be a sonic benefit.