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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo boost, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Qobuz Hifi, Tidal Hifi, Fore Audio DAISy1, COS Engineering D1, Denafrips Terminator, AURALiC Vega, Soundaware D300Ref
Preamplifier: Nagra Classic, Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage II, COS Engineering D1, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVT module)
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT-1, SIT-3, F5, F6, F7; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund/Job 225; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics NC500 monos with Ref D input buffers; LinnenberG Audio Liszt monos
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Cube Audio Nenuphar; Kroma Audio Mimí; Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V, VI & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence
Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL3000/5000; Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps/sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Review component retail: €5'500/ea, €11'000/pr as reviewed in mono configuration
Italian Music Experience. That's Gold Note's new tag line; quite different from their earlier Renaissance of Technology. How it shifts emphasis from tech to emotions is obvious. But what about the qualifier? If there's an Italian music experience, there must be Germanic and Finnish takes; one for each country in fact. That's a radically different notion than the immutable absolute sound. From classical orchestras we know how culture shapes tone and phrasing. Symphonic forces from different countries champion clearly different aural aesthetics. But it actually begins with a country's language. Its sound and cadence provide hints. An opera sung in German, French or Italian changes colours. What do we imagine an Italian music experience to be? On second thought, it seems best to leave this an open-ended question. Now each reader is free to inquire into that for themselves.
My literary anchor for such musings would be Andrea Camilleri's cultural commentary on Italy through his Inspector Montalbano books. For road-going hardware, I had prior ownership of a Moto Guzzi El Dorado 'California Police' 850 cruiser. For actual country immersion, I had spent a long summer in Tuscany around Montalcino and subsequently seen Venice and Sicily. For hifi hardware, I'd now have this company's first new stereo amp in two decades. It's called PA-1175 where 'PA' is short for power amp, not public address system. For the complete experience, one would obviously want an entire Gold Note system. It's something this company actually do offer. They start with sundry turntables and cartridges, go to digital including disc and streaming, then preamplifiers, amplifiers, integrateds, speakers, cables and racks. Today we extricate from such an exclusive engagement their 175wpc/8Ω stereo amp. It scales to twice that power when bridged. Gold Note strategically dispatched two units from Florence to have me report on the optional transformation to mono.
Each fully balanced class A/B push/pull stereo amp runs eight power transistors per channel. Uniquely it features user-adjustable 25/250 damping factor. That alters output impedance from 0.3 to 0.03Ω. Its frontal switch is called 'DF' for damping factor. This is confirmed with a blue power LED for high damping, green for low. A 630V toroidal mains transformer with special core is said to be mechanically silent as a rock but still decouples via viscoelastic isolators which also show up as Vibrastop engine mounts on Ducati race bikes. Outside the signal path, a secondary small 6VA transformer handles housekeeping chores. For specs, head designer Maurizio Aterini's choices net us bandwidth of 1Hz-100kHz ±1dB, S/NR of -110dB, slew rate of 20V/µs, input impedance of 47KΩ and 1V/RCA 4V/XLR input sensitivity. Power consumption is 800W max which at idle plummets to a Brussels-approved sub 1 watt. These performance figures pack into a compact 42 x 13.5 x 37cm WxHxD chassis of 25kg weigh whose finish is black or silver. Styling is by architect Stefano Bonifazi, stripe accents are in walnut, acrylic or aluminium.
The MkI version for contrast on how the internals changed.
"There are two circuits which feature our proprietary optical design. The first of these regulates the bias of the bipolar output transistors. The second verifies max power output to engage the protection if current draw exceeds a preset safe value. As to the evolution from our previous Demidoff amplifier platform, we only wanted to transfer its musicality. Otherwise the current design is radically different from our inductive single-ended class A precursors.
"Almost 20 years after our first power amps, we now wanted to share our most current experience with the best solution for this type of component. We also wanted a fully balanced high-power unit to match the majority of speakers. In stereo mode, 4Ω/2Ω power becomes 250/300 watts. That scales to 500/600 watts in mono.
"The central power transformer can work dynamically like a 800VA unit because of its over-sized core specially cut to stop possible AC interference from creating mechanical vibrations. This unique design resulted from a cooperation with a specialized Italian transformer firm in the Marche region.
"Finally, while many believe that a maximal damping factor is always best, high-efficiency and mini-monitor applications can in fact prefer lower damping. That's why we made it adjustable. As your contributor Joël told me in Munich during his test of our IS1000 super integrated, he preferred the low DF setting."
When 75 days passed without delivery—this review's initial dialogue had begun in mid 2018—I checked with my then contact Tommaso Dolfi, Gold Note's young marketing manager. "Apparently I won't be able to ship before September. We are currently updating the design to improve it inside and out and that's taking longer than expected. I've attached a render to show what it's going to look like."
By late April, new marketing manager Marie Greggers confirmed shipment. She also submitted this photo of the final innards. Despite looming Brexit uncertainties, Tommaso had followed his heart and relocated to London to live with his girlfriend for a very Italian gesture of amore over sicurezza.
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