July
2019

Gold Note's DS-10

A perfect 10? Gold Note's DS-10 teased at the Munich HighEnd 2019 show where it was described as "an innovative 32/384 PCM and DSD128 AKM AK4493 streaming DAC with headfi and analogue line stage plus dedicated control app, TFT colour display and multi-function control knob."

That was quite the packed sentence so let's savor it like a lengthy always unhurried Italian meal. Mmmh.

"The DS-10 is compatible with most all Internet streaming services like Roon, Tidal, Qobuz, Airplay, Spotify, Deezer and V-Tuner and with DSD, PCM and MQA. With its analogue preamp stage activated, the digital volume of web players is automatically bypassed because for all functions, we synchronize their remote controls including computer apps to our unit's proprietary iOS/Android app for best performance."

That was another packed sentence. Let's enjoy it for desert. Yum.

"The modular design even enables upgrading with the external inductive PSU-10 power supply [right]. The 6.3mm headphone output has selectable sensitivity to drive almost any kind of headphone to market. Analog outputs are on RCA and XLR. Finish options are black, silver or champagne gold." That was the finishing shot of espresso.

Andiamo.

To recap for all the scintillating feathers in its compact cap, the DS-10 is a streaming DAC with analog not digital volume, headphone amp, WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0 and comprehensive app control. Add three finish options and Italian industrial design. On featurized sophistication, Gold Note's DS-10 does very much look like a perfect 10 on paper and screen.

Here it behaves like a poster child for the firm's design and manufacturing acumen.

Competitors like high-value US brand Wyred4Sound whose íntimo had already visited don't operate on this high a level of combining such cosmetics, circuitry and finishing with the latest IT features. Neither do ambitious Chinese brands Denafrips or Kinki Studio who otherwise already compete squarely on sonic performance. To attain to this caliber of vertical integration is quite rare. But Gold Note have most certainly arrived.

If you haven't followed their history, they began as a pure OEM supplier to build other firms' gear like never-credited ghost writers behind the scenes. They remain active there but for many years now have focused on growing their own Gold Note brand to include everything from cartridge to loudspeaker.

Having reviewed items across this range, to our team they appear equally well versed in all disciplines. That just must be testament to a very capable engineering team rather than the lone owner-operator who wears all the hats as is common for small boutiques. In fact Gold Note have become Italy's largest hifi manufacturer with this complete a portfolio. On size vs features vs price, their latest DS-10 appears to be their most densely packed component yet; literally so if we consider its insides. If the always so subjective value question were to enter our equation and we compared it to something like the dCS Bartók, we could just be back at that perfect 10.

Of course it's right there in the name already: DS-10. Truth in advertising or just a semantic coincidence?

We'll find out when Marja & Henk review it…