What is the best way to define a modern HiFi system? The developers of the Italian high-end hifi forge Gold Note faced this task and their answer is the Gold Note IS-1000. This solution combines an extremely flexible streaming solution with a powerful stereo integrated amplifier, which seems to be perfectly equipped for both digital and analogue sources, packed in a noble case with Italian charm.
It is undisputed that the world of hi-fi as a whole has undergone a major change in recent years. It is also undisputed that the increasing networking of the most diverse worlds, i.e. consumer electronics and IT in the broadest sense, the integration of mobile devices and the ubiquitous availability of data from the network that goes hand in hand with this is also largely responsible for this.
These changes in the technological possibilities have of course led to a change in user behaviour, which has brought about people’s expectations and requirements. If information is available everywhere and at all times, then media content such as music should also be available, and in the simplest possible way. Of course, this applies not only to pure consumer electronics designed for the broad market, but also to solutions that are aimed at a sometimes very demanding customer group, and even to the proven high-end hi-fi.
This is a challenge that even classic high-end hi-fi manufacturers have to face if they want to attract new customers in the future.
In recent years, many a renowned manufacturer has attracted attention with innovative concepts that certainly meet these new customer requirements, thus combining the classic high-end hi-fi virtues with all the possibilities of a networked world. Such a solution also comes from Italy, namely from the renowned high-end HiFi forge Gold Note in the form of the Gold Note IS-1000.
The best of two worlds…
The aim of the developers was to use the Gold Note IS-1000 to directly combine a streamer with a classic stereo integrated amplifier, whereby this combination should not involve any compromises whatsoever, but should actually combine the best of both worlds.
This is what the company calls a “Super Integrated Amplifier”, an “All-in-One for audiopiles”, characterizations that certainly arouse curiosity, especially when one recalls the other solutions offered by the Italians from Florence, and the history of Akamai s.r.l., the company behind the Gold Note brand, which has been operating successfully on the market for over 20 years.
And it is precisely these 20 years of expertise that have been put to good use in the development of the Gold Note IS-1000, the basis for this complete solution, based on the most advanced technologies and components, offering true audiophile sound quality combined with the most flexible and simple use.
The fact that the Gold Note IS-1000 is indeed the finest high-end HiFi becomes clear when you lift it out of its packaging. A short lifting of the good piece makes it clear that this is a very solid piece of work. Considering that this is a proven all-in-one system, and that this class of system has sometimes been regarded by many an “old-school” hi-fi enthusiast as not really adequate or even as a “toy”, the Gold Note IS-1000 is a real “heavyweight”. It weighs no less than 18 kg and can be placed on a lowboard or sideboard. And yes, we are deliberately not talking about the typical hi-fi rack, because of course this solution could also be placed here, but ultimately the Gold Note IS-1000 also claims to be a noble lifestyle solution. This means that the Gold Note IS-1000 was deliberately designed in such a way that no additional electronics are required, so that a classic rack is not necessary, and this solution can be placed elegantly on a noble piece of furniture such as a lowboard or sideboard.
In the end, the developers decided to use the standard dimensions, i.e. the Gold Note IS-1000 is 430 mm wide, 135 mm high and 375 mm deep.
Once the Gold Note IS-1000 is in place, you can’t help but admire the truly impeccable workmanship. The aluminium case has a brushed surface. As a special eye-catcher, there are two cut-outs directly on the front, which flank the manufacturer’s emblem, the status LED and the infrared LED. Apart from that, the front is very plain, only a display is available here, as well as a rotary encoder, but more about that later.
Also on the upper side you can find the emblem of the manufacturer, elaborately milled into the massive cover plate.
Especially remarkable is the fact that the designers use the essential cooling slots as creative elements, the cut-outs are thus circular, whereby they are continued in the side parts.
The Gold Note IS-1000 is optionally available in black, silver and gold, although we personally feel that the former radiates a touch more timeless elegance, as it appears a little more discreet. However, to emphasize this again, this is a purely subjective assessment.
All that has been written so far about the appearance of the Gold Note IS-1000 speaks entirely in favor of not actually “hiding” this solution in a rack, but rather staging it effectively on an elegant piece of furniture.
Especially, due to the high level of integration of the Gold Note IS-1000, only a few additional external components will be needed, first and foremost a record player and, if necessary, a CD player. The latter is offered by the Italians with the Gold Note CD-1000 MKII in an exactly fitting design line, so that all in all a very elegant and harmonious picture results.
Fully integrated stereo amplifier, DAC and streamer…
As described above, the concept of the Gold Note IS-1000 is that it combines a modern streamer and DAC with a perfectly equipped stereo integrated amplifier. The fact that the developers built on existing solutions is by no means a mistake. After all, the Gold Note P-1000 Preamplifier and the Gold Note PA-1175 Power Amplifier are referred to as references.
Performance is allowed, no question…
Let’s start with the amplifier itself, which is designed as a Class A/B High Current MOSFET integrated amplifier. It goes without saying that the Italians relied not only on a sophisticated circuit design but also on specially selected components.
Those who have doubts about the performance potential of the Gold Note IS-1000 in view of its classification should note that no less than twice 125 Watts are available here for loudspeaker systems with an impedance of 8 ohms, and even twice 250 Watts for systems with an impedance of only 4 ohms. A glance inside reveals that a potent power supply around a toroidal transformer with the appropriate support of four electrolytic capacitors as filter elements for this power potential is available here.
Here it is also surprising that the Gold Note IS-1000 is not a passively but actively cooled system. On the right side of the board there are generously dimensioned heat sinks, but two fans are screwed onto them, which are almost invisible during operation.
Two details should not be ignored here: firstly, the possibility of selecting the damping factor of the Gold Note IS-1000 between HIGH and LOW, so that it can be adapted to the loudspeaker system in use. According to the manufacturer, the HIGH selection is suitable for large speaker systems with medium and low sensitivity and offers the best of a solid state amp. LOW, on the other hand, is ideal for high-sensitivity speaker systems and monitor speaker systems, as the Gold Note IS-1000 operates at low power.
Furthermore, the preamplifier of the Gold Note IS-1000 is equipped with a unique BOOSTER technology, which guarantees an optimal control of the loudspeaker systems. You can choose between two stages to guarantee stable power reserves even with demanding speaker systems, especially in the low frequency range. This function can also be switched off completely.
From phono preamp to digital – connection wanted…
Let’s start by looking at the connection possibilities, which, let’s face it, are manifold. Two pairs of RCA jacks are available as analogue options, and one pair even has an integrated phono preamplifier.
Although this is by no means a peculiarity, since due to the still unbroken vinyl revival such an option is again part of the basic equipment of many solutions, in the case of the Gold Note IS-1000 one must however explicitly emphasize in this context that it is not an integration that is not only good in the data sheet, but a really serious option for vinyl lovers.
The manufacturer is talking about a phono preamplifier based on the Gold Note PH-10 Phono Preamplifier.
The phono preamplifier is not only reserved for drives with MM pickup systems, as is often the case, it is also suitable for MC cartridges. The manufacturer specifies 220 pF capacity and a gain of 45 dB for MM cartridges, for MC cartridges 470 Ohm impedance and 65 dB gain can be found in the data sheet.
It should also be noted that the phono preamplifier is, of course, designed as a separate board, one of the reasons why this – let us be clear from the outset – delivers impeccable results.
As a further connection possibility for analog sources a balanced input is available, designed as a pair of XLR connectors.
Switching between the inputs is done by relays, whereby we took care to keep the signal paths as short as possible.
For digital sources, the Gold Note IS-1000 has one coaxial and three optical S/PIDF interfaces. This allows the integration of TV sets, SAT receivers and the like, so that the Gold Note IS-1000 can actually be used as a universal, central interface. Of course, a USB port should not be missing here either, whereby this is not designed for connection with a PC or Mac, but solely for the connection of corresponding data carriers, and is therefore designed as USB Type A. There is also a micro USB port on the back, but this is reserved for firmware updates only, if you don’t do them over the network anyway, but more about that in a moment.
Oh yes, this should not be forgotten, of course the Gold Note IS-1000 also has a preamplifier output, in fact there are even two analog outputs available, one regulated, one with fixed level.
Let’s finish our consideration of the interfaces for the time being, and immediately mention the screw terminals for the loudspeaker systems, which make a familiarly solid impression and provide reliable contact not only with bare cable ends but also with ready-made cables.
It should also be mentioned that the rear panel also provides a trigger connection, and the main switch is also located here.
Streaming – Equipped for everything…
In principle, the Gold Note IS-1000 streamer is a dlna-certified UPnP streamer, which makes it compatible with a wide range of solutions. On the one hand, this applies to the data source, i.e. a central network storage solution, a so-called NAS (Network Attached Storage Device), and on the other hand to control via apps. However, it is worth mentioning that the Italians are giving the Gold Note IS-1000 its own app, which we will discuss in more detail in a moment.
The Gold Note IS-1000 is able to access various essential streaming services directly via this app, be it TIDAL, Qobuz, Spotify including Spotify Connect, Deezer or Internet Radio via vTuner.
It supports all relevant data formats, be it MP3 MP4, AAC, WMA, AIFF, WAV or FLAC. It is able to process content encoded in MQA and is also capable of playing back DSD, with DSD over PCM, or DoP for short.
It is also noteworthy that Gold Note not only relies on Spotify Connect as a proprietary streaming protocol, but also considers Apple users and therefore supports Apple AirPlay.
Another really outstanding feature is that the Gold Note IS-1000 has long since been certified as Roon Ready, which means that it can be directly integrated into the ecosystem surrounding the media and multiroom hi-res streaming software from Roon Labs LLC. On the one hand, this ensures that the Gold Note IS-1000 is directly listed as an available client and that music streaming based on RAAT (Roon Advanced Audio Transport) bit-perfect in hi-res audio is offered.
Two options at the DAC…
Gold Note provides two options for the Gold Note IS-1000 around the integrated D/A converter. Firstly, there is the standard version, which uses a Texas Instruments PCM1796 Burr Brown DAC. This is by no means a bad option, as this DAC has been a guarantee for flawless signal processing for years. For those who still want that little bit more quality, the Gold Note IS-1000 DAC Deluxe version is available, which uses a Texas Instruments OCM1792A Burr Brown DAC. In both cases, data in Linear PCM format with up to 24 bit and 192 kHz, and DSD64 can be processed.
Integration into the network
The Gold Note IS-1000 offers basically two possibilities to be integrated into the network, either classically via cable or via WiFi. In principle, one would immediately make a reflexive plea for using the cable, which always works reliably. With the Gold Note IS-1000, however, this is not quite so clear.
If you want to control the Gold Note IS-1000 completely with the already mentioned app, the Gold Note IS-1000 Controller App, you have to rely on WiFi. You can use the app for streaming with a cable alone, but further settings like input selection and direct volume control are only possible via WiFi – for whatever reason…
However, the integration into the wireless network is solved in an exemplary way, because if you have a router or WiFi access point that supports WPS, the establishment of a secure connection is done almost at the push of a button, especially since this process is described in detail in the manual, which is easy to understand even for absolute laymen in the field of networks.
As you, dear readers, have probably already been able to read from what has been described so far, the Gold Note IS-1000 offers three types of operation. Whereby, we haven’t mentioned one yet, namely the one via the included infrared remote control.
And this one has to be especially emphasized, because it is a remote control made of aluminum and fits wonderfully in the hand. Beautifully heavy, it immediately conveys a touch of real high-end, not a plastic bar, where the manufacturer saves a few euros in the wrong place.
This remote control is also designed as a system remote control, which controls an additional CD player from the same company, for example.
There’s not much to say about the app, it’s really clearly structured and basically a UPnP streaming app, as known from many manufacturers. In a very simple way you can select the data source, search for different criteria and of course manage playlists. Audio tracks are displayed with all relevant information. Once again, it should be mentioned that when using the app via WiFi, inputs can also be selected and the volume can be controlled directly. This is not available when connected via cable alone.
We were also particularly impressed by the operation directly on the device, whereby it turned out to be no mistake to at least take a quick look at the manual.
So we were already close to chalking up the lack of a standby button, but lo and behold, there is one, even if there is actually nothing more on the front of the Gold Note IS-1000 than the colour LC display and a rotary encoder. This encoder is called SKC or Single Knob Control by the manufacturer and can therefore not only be turned but also pressed. If you press it for three seconds, the device wakes up from standby.
After that, the rotary encoder can be used primarily to control the volume. A short press of the rotary encoder turns it into a control for various functions, first and foremost of course the selection of the input, but also other parameters. So, very simple: press so that a selection frame appears on the display. Turn until the selection frame is above the desired function. Press it again, so that you can now adjust the parameters by turning them. Press again to confirm the selection.
Finally, it should be mentioned that pressing for three seconds activates the standby mode…
Yes, reading the manual might be something for cowards, but it helps immensely from time to time…
From the practice
It was a wonderful coincidence that the author’s house was due for a small renovation. The aim was to actually use the living room as such, but this meant that some of the electronics and the loudspeaker system used here up to that point were finally moved to the separate listening room that had been optimised at great expense and effort. Of course, it was never planned to do without the finest hi-fi in the living room in the future, but to reduce the necessary “equipment park” to a living room-friendly minimum. The perfect environment for the Gold Note IS-1000, at least if you follow the concept of the developers. See there, it fit right away.
You could almost say that the Gold Note IS-1000 offers even more than you need in many cases, especially when it comes to digital interfaces. Specifically, we had no more to connect than the television, because if you already own a fine hi-fi system, you should use it for the best possible television sound.
It goes without saying that we don’t want to do without a record player either, but will it require a separate phono preamplifier?
After a short time it was clear that the integrated phono preamplifier of the Gold Note IS-1000 does its job perfectly and therefore no additional phono preamplifier is necessary to enjoy one or the other record.
Clearly accentuated, dynamically finely resolved and richly detailed across the entire frequency spectrum, our favourite records presented themselves, which gradually landed on the turntable of the EAT C-Sharp, equipped with Ortofon Quintet Black MC Cartridge.
Of the numerous digital interfaces, only one optical S/PDIF interface was occupied, on the analog side also only one of the three available connections, sufficient reserves for possible expansions, whatever may be added in the future…
But maybe a Bluetooth receiver will be added, because the Gold Note IS-1000 does not have this functionality, and especially in the living room it would be very practical for friends to be able to play their songs directly from their smartphone.
After the lady of the house had expressed the wish that “her” stylish blue speakers should finally be in the living room instead of the study, the Gold Note IS-1000 in the form of the KEF Blade 2 got the right playing partners, whereby at first the one or other doubt arose as to whether it would have these powerful speakers under control.
But lo and behold, it worked. It even worked splendidly, as was evident after hours of listening to music. Of course, our NAS via UPnP and the Gold Note IS-1000 Control App served as the source for the careful testing. No doubt, the developers have brought out the best that this industry standard has to offer in terms of convenient control.
But honestly, after a short time, we switched to Roon, because you have to admit that there is nothing better when it comes to music streaming. And since the Gold Note IS-1000 supports this perfectly, why should you do without it?
Which brings us to the final question, what the Gold Note IS-1000 sounds like. A question that can be described in one word: excellent!
The Gold Note IS-1000 convinces with an astonishingly powerful reproduction, especially considering that it is an all-in-one. The manufacturer’s description of it as an audiophile all-in-one, a “Super Integrated Amplifier”, we can only subscribe to based on our experience.
Powerful and accentuated bass, clear and concise midrange and beautifully defined treble, the Gold Note IS-1000 delivers a very homogeneous and convincing sound. Which brings us to the conclusion.
Getting to the Point
With the Gold Note IS-1000 all-in-one system, Gold Note delivers a famed solution that lacks nothing and can probably serve as a prime example of how to create a flexible, compact high-end hi-fi system to meet the modern lifestyle of even the most demanding music enthusiasts. This starts with a design that conveys Italian charm and esprit, a finish that underlines the concept of high-end from the very first contact, equipment that essentially offers everything to cover many needs, and extends to a sound that leaves no doubt that you actually need more for relaxed enjoyment. All-in-one can therefore be taken literally, as you don’t need more than a record player as a perfect extension, and of course a pair of excellent speakers. All there, and in impeccable quality! Fantastico!
Many a renowned manufacturer has attracted attention in recent years with innovative concepts that completely meet the new demands of customers for modern HiFi systems, thus combining the classic high-end HiFi virtues with all the possibilities of a networked world. The Gold Note IS-1000 from the renowned high-end hi-fi manufacturer Gold Note is a solution from Italy that combines a modern streamer and a DAC with a perfectly equipped stereo integrated amplifier and, as an extra, a very fine phono pre-amplifier. A strategy that worked out perfectly, as our detailed test of this outstanding solution in the form of the Gold Note IS-1000 showed.
|Distribution:||TAD Audiovertrieb GmbH|
|Price:||from € 4.200,-|
|The Good||– Extremely noble design|
– Impeccable processing
– Remote control with high-quality haptics
– Simplest operation
– Integrated phono preamplifier
– Very good transducer
– Sufficient analog and digital interfaces
– Impressive performance
– Very attractive sound character
|The Bad||– Complete control via app alone over WiFi|