I Love Gold! feat. The Gold Note DS-10, PSU-10 EVO Power Supply, and Stereophile Magazine...
Updated: Oct 24, 2020
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If you’ve followed the channel for a bit, you might have noticed that one of my favorite pieces of reference gear is the Gold Note DS-10. I actually just exchanged my original Gold Note DS-10 for an upgraded DS-10 Plus; strictly for channel purposes. For most people; however, the base DS-10 will be more than sufficient. The only difference between these two units, officially, is a 3.5 mm analog input, and, unofficially, maybe, upgraded internals, such as the power supply? The latter of which may not really matter to me anymore, as I have a bit of a story for you regarding that. But anyhow, let me say a few words about the DS-10 itself, to start with, to get you better acquainted with the device.
The nice thing about the DS-10 is small enough, and portable enough, that I can easily use this piece as both my primary DAC for my headphone set-up, and my pre-amp/streamer for reference speaker system. The system which, at the moment, includes my precious, Gershman Acoustics. Studio IIs. You know, the ones that I’ve already reviewed on YouTube. If you haven't had a chance to check that one out yet, I'll place a link down in the description below, so you can do so. But, needless to say, I think my dual use case depicts that the Gold Note DS-10 can be enjoyed, across the home, as an extremely versatile piece.
Gershman Acoustics, Studio II Review: https://youtu.be/UmF4oQCIlNE
The Gold Note DS-10 also has a built-in headphone amp that is astounding, even if it is only single-ended. In fact, I would actually consider it be my best headphone amplifier from my fleet of of amps. It can output 1 watt of power on low gain, and a beefy, 5 watts of power on high gain. I’ll eventually get to a full review of the DS-10 myself, but that will be much more lengthy process than I have time for here, and I may break-up that review by feature-set to make it more manageable.
Anyhow, for now, I just wanted to point out that the DS-10 was recently featured in Stereophile Magazine, and I wanted to talk about, reflect on, and react to that for a bit. As this magazine article, in particular, actually took me on a bit of a journey. Initially, I found the article intriguing, because I have been on the Gold Note train for quite a while now, and it was nice to hear similar opinions to mine reflected back to me by someone else in the reviewer game who has way more “reviewer cred” than I do. That person, in fact, was the author of the article, Jason Victor Serinus, who is perhaps my favorite reviewers over there at Stereophile. I actually had the honor and the privilege to sit with Mr. Serinus at Rocky Mountain Audio Festival (R.M.A.F.) 2019, and listen to the Spendor D9 MK2 for a bit, and this experience was, without a doubt, the highlight of that show for me.
But, in any case, I don't want distract from the main story here too much, as today I want focus on the Gold Note DS-10, Jason’s article about it, and the profound impact that it eventually had upon my wallet, in the end. And, boy did Jason have a lot of positive things to say about the Gold Note DS-10; including its new PSU-10 Evo Power Supply. He had so many nice things to say, in fact, that I actually decided to seek out the PSU-10 EVO Power Supply myself after reading his words. These were the prose that convinced me to do so…
In the article, Jason began by stating that:
“Adding the PSU-10 EVO to the DS-10 produced a major improvement to an already very good DAC.”
He then went on to compare the DS-10 to the PS Audio Direct Stream and his reference DAC; the latter of which is a DAC that costs many times the price of the DS-10, even if one includes its separate power supply in its pricing:
“The dCS Rossini DAC/Clock may have produced the most organic, refined, dynamic-yet-relaxed presentation of the three, but when it came to musical enjoyment, Gold Note’s DS-10 /PSU-10 EVO wasn’t far behind. Both beckoned me...”
He later followed that up with:
“When I dragged my husband… into the room, he… preferred the DS-10’s less focused, more diffuse presentation to the Rossini’s well-defined leading edges.” “As different as the Rossini and DS-10 sounded, both conveyed the smile, warmth, and love behind the notes in a ways other DACs miss.” “Regardless, Gold Note’s little combo sounded fantastic for a package that costs less than an eighth of what the dCS duo costs. “
So, after reading this, I called up Gestalt Audio Design, and discussed the situation with them. I just had to hear the power supply for myself! The result of this conversation was that they were willing to send me the EVO to check it out for review, and I had the “option” to buy it afterwards. And, I should have known better, because this option would ultimately become my wallet's undoing.
From the moment I plugged it in, I immediately heard a monumental difference. Boy was Jason right! Like Serinus, I had thought that the DS-10 and DS-10 Plus had sounded great on their own, but, with the external, PS-10 Evo, Power Supply, the overall, sound experience really did jump to the next level. Normally I don’t put much stock in external power supplies making very much of a difference, but in this case, it most certainly did! I was “shook.” I really had not imagined that it would be that much better, but there the sound was, staring me in my face, daring me to send it back to the dealer, as if it were somehow mocking me. Needless to say, I ended up making the purchase. After hearing the impact this power supply had in my systems, for myself; I simply could not go back to a system without it.
Having said that, I do want to draw some attention to the fact that I understand that the DS-10 is a pricey purchase on its own, at around $3,000 USD, and not everyone will want to entertain the idea of tacking on an additional $1,300 dollar power supply to the budget right off the bat. So, if one is considering the DS-10, do not think that I am implying that the additional EVO power supply is absolute necessary right out of the gate. Rest assured that, like me, you will still be blown away the DS-10 on its own, even if that is all you can commit to at first. In the end, it will still be more than worth it.
This point was expressed by Sernius in the very same Stereophile article, which we have been referencing thus far. Jason started his piece out by reacting to just the DS-10 itself:
“’Whoa!’ I exclaimed just minutes after my first listen to the DS-10, ‘Is this thing really sounding as good as I think it is?’ ‘The answer: yes.”
He then followed that up with: “I began to wonder if Editor Jim Austin had tasked me with reviewing a DAC that might set new benchmarks for performance at the price.”
Next, he stated: “’I could live with this for the rest of my life.’”
And, to his points, I have chosen to live with the DS-10 as my main piece of reference gear for almost a year now; and, while I have heard a large number of DACs to date, in this hobby, you never know what else is out there. As an audiophile, consumer myself, I tend to prefer pieces that offer a high value for their price. I bought the DS-10, and paid its higher price-tag, because I truly felt that it was one of, if not the best DACs that I have ever heard. So, given the premise of its sonics alone, I felt that it had an extremely high value to start.
I also felt that, as a combination unit, the DS-10actually offered further value from the standpoint that if I purchased separate components or another combination unit from any other manufacture, it would set-me-back similar, or even more, money. There simply aren’t that many other great examples of multipurpose, DAC/Pre-Amp/Streamer/ Roon Endpoint, devices on the market, especially ones which also happen to be fantastic headphone amplifiers. So, in considering the PSU-10 EVO with the DS-10, I would look at the DS-10 as a phenomenal purchase on its own; possessing additional value potential, as well, given that it has an optional power supply available as a worthy upgrade path to take advantage of too. When and if you choose to take advantage of this path is up to you, but just know that the power supply is also worth it, and it can take your system to the next level with this simple upgrade, if you give it the chance.
So, why then I have chosen to highlight someone else’s article within the context of my own? I mean, I haven't really ever done this before... Well, ultimately, it comes down to the facts that Jason's review had a strong impact upon my decision to purchase the Power Supply, and I think Mr. Serinus summed up my feelings on the Gold Note DS-10 and the PSU-10 EVO Power Supply best when he wrote the following statement:
“My reference system hasn’t hosted many DACs in the Gold Note DS-10’s price range. I was delighted with what I heard. This little baby sounded so good- so musical – with its optional, identically dimensioned PSU-10 EVO power supply that I’d urge anyone who can shell out $4300 to try them together. I’m not going to tell you that you should consider what you can’t afford, but do keep in mind that we read Stereophile because we care about the music. Music makes a difference in our lives; it helps make us whole. Sitting on a single shelf, powered by a single power cable, Gold Note’s DS-10/PSU-10 EVO has the potential to fulfill and heal in ways that extend far beyond words. It’s a stellar achievement from engineers who understand what musical deliverance is all about.”- Jason Victor Serinus, Stereophile Magazine, 2020.
*Gold Note DS-10 and PSU-10 EVO, Power Supply available at: https://gestalt.audio/
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