Gold Note IS-1000 Streaming Integrated Amplifier

Gladiator

Equipment report
Categories:
Integrated amplifiers,
Music servers and computer audio
Gold Note IS-1000 Streaming Integrated Amplifier

If, by any chance, audio enthusiasts required further evidence of the generational shift that has fundamentally transformed the integrated amplifier segment, they need look no further than the Gold Note IS-1000. Whereas, once upon a time, this stylish Italian beauty might have lived a full, productive life as a traditional analog linestage integrated amp, today’s market forces and listening appetites demand something more… well, abbondante. Indeed, the IS-1000 may hail from the land of Leonardo and Michelangelo but, as I discovered, in reality it’s as contemporary as anything out of Silicon Valley.

Gold Note of Italy is located a short distance from Florence. It’s a young company, having been formed in 2012. It currently employs 28 full-time employees and serves markets in forty countries. The driving force behind the firm’s success is founder and CEO Maurizio Aterini. Educated as a mechanical engineer, Aterini has had his eyes and ears on performance audio since early childhood. A staunch believer in the audio synergy that can arise from a collection of products built upon a common philosophy, he produces many types of audio gear—from amplifiers, DACs, and streamers, to turntables, CD players, and loudspeakers. All are distinctive and stylish in the Italian tradition—wood cabinets and turntable plinths are made by craftsman in Northern Italy; electronics have all-aluminum enclosures, with CNC machines carving Gold Note’s definitive shapes.

Visually, the IS-1000 is elegant with a formidable aluminum faceplate and an array of vents overflowing the top and down the side panels like a waterfall. The “tank” design of the chassis increases mass and rigidity to enhance mechanical stability and damping. In fit and finish, I’d score overall quality at a very high level. The front panel is dominated by a brilliant, square, LED color display that’s controlled by a multi-access knob. This controller operates volume conventionally. But through a combination of buttons and rotations the user can also scroll through and visually select inputs, balance, and damping (high and low). The unit is placed into standby by depressing the knob for about three seconds. There’s also a two-stage “booster” circuit for plumping up lower frequencies, similar in my experience to the loudness switch from an earlier era of audio. 

The back panel sports a pair of analog RCA inputs and an XLR input. Conveniently, RCA “Input One” performs double-duty, allowing the user to select between line-level and phono-level (mm or mc) from the front panel. Of note, the phonostage is derived from the company’s PH-10 (review forthcoming) and provides 45dB of gain to moving-magnets and 65dB of gain to moving-coils. Additionally, there are a pair of preamp outs—fixed and variable. The digital-input section provides coaxial, USB-A (suitable for a thumb drive), Ethernet, and three optical inputs. 

It would be easier to list what the Gold Note IS-1000 integrated can’t do than what it can. Even so, take a breath; here we go. The DAC and streamer portion use technical innovations derived directly from Gold Note’s flagship models. Two versions are offered, the Classic with the Burr-Brown PCM1792A chipset and the Deluxe model with the Burr-Brown PCM1796 chipset for an additional $900. My review sample was the Deluxe version. PCM resolution extends to 24-bit/192kHz, while DSD64 files are converted to high-resolution PCM over UPnP protocol on USB and LAN. The digital stage is driven by a super-micro-controller Cortex-M4 core, which runs at 32 bits and, as Gold Note states in its literature, is extremely fast and stable. This micro-controller also performs safety processes, which include monitoring internal temperature to activate cooling options.

The IS-1000 is Roon ready and fully compatible with multi-room systems. Offering quick plug-and-play installation, it connects to a home network (via Wi-Fi or Ethernet), allowing streaming from Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, Spotify Connect, Deezer with Roon, and MQA decoding. The Gold Note app (iOS and Android) permits easy browsing of music collections stored locally on a NAS or a USB sticks. It also supports media servers like Minim Server, which I have running on my Synology NAS drive, and Bubble UPnP.

The heart of the IS-1000 is its Class AB amplifier—a high-current MOSFET design that outputs 125Wpc into 8 ohms. Its power supply features a toroidal transformer custom-made in Italy. A specially treated high-dampening core was designed to eliminate vibrations. The PCBs are ultra-thick and gold-plated with double copper traces to preserve the purity of the audio signal path. 

Getting the IS-1000 up and running in network media-player mode was straightforward—as simple as downloading the Mconnect control app—a free download via Android or iTunes—and connecting an Ethernet cable to a network router. For iOS, you can download another dedicated app, Gold Note IS-1000 Control. Gold Note is working on a single unified app called GN Control. Once one of the apps is downloaded the IS-1000 takes over from there. Input switching is fast with no random pops or clicks. While the app doesn’t have the graphical panache and intuitiveness of some bespoke apps, it does the job effectively.