A CD player is old fashioned? Not at all, the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII impressively proves the enormous potential of the medium audio CD, which is considered “outdated”, and how CD players have a future with modern streaming solutions and other digital sources.
The world of HiFi has changed dramatically in recent years. There are two developments that stand out from a technological point of view, which could not be more contradictory, but are nevertheless directly related.
First of all, of course, there is the fusion of classic consumer electronics with IT, with mobile communication solutions playing a very important role. Of course we are talking about networking, hardly any component seems to get along nowadays without integration into the network in order to offer music streaming from different sources combined with a most intuitive control via smartphone and tablet.
What started out with providing own content ripped from audio CDs in the network or with downloads from corresponding providers has long since shifted to a purely streaming focused playback. Streaming providers such as Spotify, Amazon Music HD or Apple Music in the consumer segment, TIDAL, Qobuz and HRA Streaming from HIGHRESAUDIO in the upper quality segment, are now a very important, for many users the primary „music source“.
As a kind of counter-movement to this new streaming world, the renaissance of the record is of course to be seen. There is no need to get involved in discussions about the sound quality, the fact that the record is a physical medium is probably much more decisive for its renewed triumphal procession, and one with a very special appeal. It is therefore above all the „disadvantage“ that was cited against the record when the audio CD was introduced, that it is a medium that requires special attention, a more complex handling, which now speaks in its favour. In contrast to bits and bytes from the hard disk or from the World Wide Web, here you really have something in your hands…
Streaming on one Side, Vinyl on the other…
In view of these developments, it is quite obvious that the audio CD is obsolete, and indeed sales figures are falling year after year. But is audio CD really a medium that has become obsolete and is the category of CD players therefore doomed to die?
Far from it, as the market proves. CDs are still being sold, because the headlines that lead to a farewell to this medium are usually based on sales alone, not on numbers. Millions of CDs are still being sold, not to mention the millions upon millions of CDs that have been on the shelves of music lovers for years. So it is clear that there is still interest in CD players, although of course not at a high level.
The future of CD…
We would like to show what it takes for a CD player to survive on the market even under the conditions just outlined, using a solution from the renowned Italian high-end hi-fi forge Gold Note as a prime example of how an audio CD player has to be designed today to be of great interest not only now but also in the future.
To put it bluntly, a CD player today must no longer be designed for the masses, but must be aimed at truly demanding hi-fi enthusiasts. Quality in all respects is therefore required.
In addition, a CD player must be open to further sources, and this is not really a big deal, since almost everything it needs is already available anyway, namely the D/A converter. If you don’t just use it for the drive, but also make other sources available to it, it will suddenly become a highly versatile, central component. This is exactly what the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII is designed to do.
Exclusive CD-Player and flexible DAC…
In a very brief description, the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII can be described as an audio CD player, which the Italians consider to be the solution of the reference class, and which, in addition to its original task of playing CDs, also functions as a D/A converter.
The Gold Note CD-1000 MKII, as the name easily suggests, comes from the Gold Note 1000 Series, which is the central product line of the Italian high-end hi-fi forge. In addition to the classic preamplifier and power amplifier combination Gold Note P-1000 Preamplifier and the Gold Note PA-1175 MKII Power Amplifier, the Gold Note IS-1000 Integrated Amplifier + Streamer system is a modern all-in-one, two approaches to which the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII is a perfect match.
The first sight
It couldn’t be more true, of course the developers of the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII rely on the design line that distinguishes the entire Gold Note 1000 Series. And we need to talk about that in a little more detail…
Already on product photos it becomes clear that we are dealing with a particularly elegant system, but how much love of detail and with what precision the Italians actually work here becomes clear only when you have the good piece in front of you.
The complete case of the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII is made of aluminium, whereby one did everything but work sparingly. Generously dimensioned wall thicknesses characterize the production of the cabinet, as well as perfect workmanship with the smallest tolerances. Everything fits down to the last detail.
Particularly remarkable is the fact that simple features that are essential for operation have been creatively incorporated into the design, such as the cooling slots in the case, which are milled in such a way that they create ornaments on the top and sides, thus contributing significantly to the elegant appearance of the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII. Even the manufacturer’s emblem was not simply printed on the case, it is highlighted by a surrounding engraving. This also applies to the logo on the front, which is flanked by two engravings in the aluminium front. Without this detail, the front would have turned out too plain, as apart from the drive tray, some buttons and a display, nothing is to be found here. But the design shows style and a perfect sense for setting the right accents.
As with all components, the customer has the choice of three design variants, namely gold, silver and black, whereby the surface structure is always characterized by brushed aluminum.
The Gold Note CD-1000 MKII measures 430 mm in width, 375 mm in depth and 135 mm in height. The weight is stated as a stately 12 kg, a clear indication of how robust and stable the case of the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII is. This is a very essential feature, especially for a CD player, since the data media should always be read free of external influences.
As we have already mentioned, the front is adorned by a display, an OLED display, although this is limited to text only. In addition to the track and its playing time, the operating status of the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII is only shown here in keywords, which in the end is sufficient.
A look at the backside
Viewed from behind, the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII reveals some of its special features, but in order…
First of all, the obligatory analog outputs are available here of course, designed as a pair of RCA jacks, but also as balanced XLR connectors. Even a digital output in the form of a coaxial S/PDIF interface is not surprising, nor is a conventional power connection, but then there are a few interfaces that we will have to go into in more detail below, as the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII has a modular design that allows for optional expansion.
But let’s stay with the features that the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII comes with ex works… But it’s not that simple, because already here we have to mention that the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII offers two options.
Standard or Deluxe Version?
As mentioned above, the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII allows its D/A converter to be used for external components as well. For this purpose it is equipped with a coaxial and optical S/PDIF interface as input.
In this case this is the „standard version“. Gold Note also offers a deluxe version of the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII, with an asynchronous USB port on the rear panel as an additional digital input, allowing direct connection of a PC or Mac.
As if that were not enough, the Standard and Deluxe versions also differ in the converter that is used. It should be noted that both versions are ultimately flawless devices, because even in the standard version, the developers rely on an excellent Texas Instruments PCM1796 Burr-Brown DAC in dual-mono configuration, but the Texas Instruments PCM1792A Burr-Brown DAC of the deluxe version is qualitatively a bit higher, as we know from our test of the Gold Note IS-1000, which served us as our gaming partner here as well.
Anyway, both versions process data in Linear PCM format with up to 24 bit and 192 kHz, from all available interfaces.
By the way, which interface is active is selected with the already mentioned buttons on the front panel, even if no separate labeling is provided for it. This also means that the drive is empty, and only then is the D/A converter of the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII also available to external sources.
Outstanding CD transport…
So far we’ve been looking at many of the features of the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII, so you might almost forget that it’s a CD player after all. So, let’s talk a little about its primary function, and there a very special CD transport serves as a basis.
The CD-Transport is made by the proven specialists StreamUnlimited Engineering GmbH from Vienna, and it is the model JPL-2800. A tray made of aluminium-ABS compound is used, as well as stainless steel rods guided in POM bearings. It is therefore an extremely robust solution, which also benefits from the special damping properties of ABS and thus forms an ideal basis for accurate data readout. In addition, the drive opens and closes absolutely „smoothly“, so it is a pleasure to watch. Yes, it’s also details like these that set high-end drives apart from the mass market…
We have already talked about the converter and its dual-mono design, but it should be noted that the discrete output stage is also fully balanced. Even the power supply is designed as a dual-mono power supply, so you should think that there is nothing left to be desired.
But then there is the modular design of the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII…
We’ve already mentioned it, on the back of the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII you’ll find many an interface that is open for expansion, including two outputs that are actually a special feature.
These two XLR sockets are labeled „Tube“, which is promising, even if the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII has nothing to do with tubes. However, the Italians offer the Gold Note Tube-1006 Valve Output Stage and the Gold Note Tube-1012 Valve Output Stage, with which the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII can be expanded. As the name suggests, these are tube output stages which, according to Gold Note, are designed to combine the best of both worlds, solid state and tube.
As if that weren’t enough, the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII also has a PSU connector directly above the conventional power supply connector. The Gold Note PSU-1000 Power Supply can be integrated here to provide even more sophisticated shielding against interference from the mains.
From practical experience
After extensive testing of the Gold Note IS-1000, we decided to purchase this fine all-in-one, which of course was the ideal gaming partner for testing the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII. The fact that this is an ideal combination of the two components alone, due to the design of the two components, which we once again praised highly, becomes immediately apparent when you place them next to each other in the rack. The result is a sight as if from a single mould, extremely noble and really fine to look at.
But even beyond that, the two solutions from Italy play like a well-rehearsed duo, especially when it comes to the „deluxe“ version of the Gold Note IS-1000, and the standard version of the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII. So you can benefit from the advantages of the excellent drive and the impeccable DAC in the amplifier.
However, let us again emphasize that the standard version of the converter in the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII gives no reason for complaint, quite the contrary. We even dare to say that, if you decide on this standard version, you are perfectly served, only the direct comparison reveals that the already mentioned tic is more than enough…
Let’s first look at this standard version of the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII, analog connected to the amplifier to work out its features.
After only a few bars it becomes apparent that CD is by no means obsolete. Especially if you have already written off CDs for yourself and rely solely on streaming, it is, just like with vinyl records, a remarkable experience to let an album play through in its entirety and not, as with streaming, to rely solely on a „best of“ playlist with individual songs. An experience, which one treats oneself much too seldom nowadays, and which brings the artwork „album“ to its fullest advantage again. Of course this has little to do with the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII directly, but it should be mentioned.
Much more essential is that with a player like the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII it immediately becomes clear how lousy the quality of many streaming services is, which you have to take on every day just for the sake of simplicity. When streaming especially services like Spotify, Amazon Music HD or Apple Music you have no influence on the form an album is in, often the latest remasters are used here, and they are rarely better than the „original“, Loudness War should only be mentioned here as a keyword. In many cases, the „old“ CD, which has been on the shelf for years, is therefore superior in class, apart from the fact that particularly ambitious music lovers also rely on special editions of their favourite albums, such as in the form of XRCD. And they are playing, as our detailed foray through their own CD collection impressively showed, all the streaming junk of the big providers in the ground, even some new editions praised as Hi-res Audio Remaster…
Only with proven specialists, who meticulously pay attention to what content they include in their repertoire, does the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII become narrower, although here too, to the astonishment of many, much smaller differences between CD and data stream from the network can be detected than expected. Sometimes it is actually quite difficult to tell whether the CD is playing from old-fashioned optical media or whether bits are being played back from the network. A circumstance that can be seen as a crystal-clear indication of the outstanding quality level of the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII.
If you treat yourself to the Deluxe version, the playback of the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII becomes even more superior, and in this case external sources such as a TV set, which you integrate here, also benefit from this. Yes, even streaming solutions that don’t come with high-quality converters.
The Deluxe version should therefore be treated first and foremost when using the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII in conjunction with a Gold Note pre- and power amplifier combination. It is clearly worth digging a little deeper into your pocket for that little bit of extra quality. We are convinced of this, based on the experience of the Gold Note IS-1000 with the higher quality converter that is also used in the Deluxe version of the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII.
But that this is by no means the end of the story, that a tube output stage and an external power supply are offered as an option, is not a matter of course, and also speaks for the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII as an outstanding high-end solution, which is therefore rightly called a reference system.
Getting to the point
If you think that streaming has long since made a CD player completely obsolete, you should question this prejudice with a solution like the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII. The Italian high-end hi-fi manufacturer delivers a drive that is a state-of-the-art solution that can get the best out of this „old“ medium. The fact that the excellent signal processing is also available for other digital sources, two quality levels for the converter, and even more upgrade options are offered, all of this speaks for the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII, which is clearly in the reference class and receives a recommendation from the editorial staff.
|The Gold Note CD-1000 MKII presents itself as a state-of-the-art CD player, not least because it is also open to other digital sources.|
|Distribution:||TAD Audiovertrieb GmbH|
|Price:||Gold Note CD-1000 MKII € 3.990,-|
Gold Note CD-1000 MKII Deluxe Edition € 4.800,-
Gold Note Tube-1012 € 5.600,-
Gold Note Tube-1006 € 3.250,-
Gold Note PSU-1000 € 3.190,-
|The Good||– Excellent sound|
– impressive detail image
– excellent dynamics
– D/A converter accessible for further sources
– variously upgradeable
– exceptional design
– excellent processing
|The Bad||– Separate button for input selection would be practical|