E.F. Schumacher’s famous 1973 book ‘Small is Beautiful’ never seemed to have resonance in the world of high-end audio. We like our audio equipment big and heavy, even if the reasons for such scale are at best dubious. But when it comes to Gold Note’s DS‑10 combination DAC and preamp and the matching PA‑10 stereo power amp, small really is beautiful: big amp believers, you need to come to terms with this!
Both Gold Note products are half-sized designs, in the 10 series chassis that Gold Note has used so well in the recent past. The DS‑10 is a combination digital preamplifier with DAC, network streaming connectivity, a Bluetooth receiver, and its own headphone amplifier. From the front, aside from the remote eye and the 6.35mm headphone jack, it looks functionally identical to the PH-10 phono stage (tested in Issue 153), including that easy-to-read front panel display. However, the PH-10 phono stage has no means of connecting to the DS‑10 as this preamp only features digital inputs; a DS‑10 Plus model with an analogue audio line input is also available for a small premium.
The streaming section is very similar to the IS-1000 (tested in Issue 180) in design and functionality. It’s effectively navigated by Gold Note’s own GN Control app (MConnect Control for Android users), although it can talk Apple AirPlay and Spotify Connect, is Tidal, Qobuz and Deezer-chummy, and Roon Ready. Where it differs fairly dramatically from the IS-1000 is its use of what Gold Note calls its ‘Chameleon’ DAC. Just as the PH-10 has a facility to change its tone curve to suit the recording, so the Chameleon DAC can adjust EQ (in this case, the low-pass filter), de-emphasis curve and output power. These parameters are shown as bars on the display, allowing 192 step fine-tuning to marry the output of the DS‑10’s DAC to suit your musical tastes, your power amplifiers, and your loudspeakers. There are three preset options, too, which allow you to tailor the sound to suit different musical sessions, different listeners’ tastes, or listening sessions at different times of the day.