Sometimes a component has all but one of the features you require, such as a DAC/preamplifier that can take virtually any currently available digital input, but lacks a way to include an analog source. The Gold Note DS-10 is a perfect example, ideal for a digital-only audiophile, but not quite right for anyone who can’t surrender his analog playback devices. For these folks, Gold Note has another version of the DS-10, called the DS-10 Plus. The Plus has an analog input that keeps the source all-analog from input to output. The DS-10 Plus can be used as a single-box DAC/pre, or you can add the Gold Note’s PSU-10 EVO power supply for a potential upgrade. We will look at the DS-10 Plus both with and without the PSU-10 EVO power supply.
Although this is my first published review of a Gold Note product, this is not the first Gold Note digital device I’ve used. Quite a few years back, Gold Note introduced a DAC at CES that I looked at reviewing. It worked perfectly until one day Apple updated its OS and bricked all the USB receiver chips from a particular OEM manufacturer. The Gold Note DAC was using that chip. It took over six months (I returned the DAC after four) for the problem to be rectified, and I decided to wait for a later generation of Gold Note DACs to review. Although it took a number of years to get around to it, that time has finally arrived.
The $3695 DS-10 Plus is almost identical to the DS-10 except for two things—the DS-10 Plus adds one analog stereo input while removing one of the two Bluetooth antennae from the back panel to make room for the new mini-stereo input. Digital inputs include an Ethernet port, USB-A, AES/EBU, RCA coaxial, USB-B, Bluetooth 5.0, and two TosLink inputs. For outputs, the DS-10 Plus offers one pair of balanced XLR and one pair of RCA single-ended on the back, and a single-ended ¼” headphone jack on the front panel. The DS10 Plus uses an AKM AK4493 DAC chip, which supports up to 768/32 PCM and DSD512. Specifications indicate it has a 125dB SNR and 120dB dynamic range, which places it among the best in basic specifications for a current-generation DAC. While these specs don’t guarantee good, great, or any particular flavor of sonics, they do indicate that the basic digital device is solidly engineered.
The Gold Note 10 Series components are almost eight inches wide, which makes it easy (and tempting) to situate two units side by side. But you don’t want to put the PSU-10 EVO power supply right next to the DS-10 Plus. Instead, I advise “best practices,” utilizing the nice long cable connecting the two units to locate the power supply (as well as any signal-carrying cables) as far away as possible. The Gold Note PSU-10 EVO evolved from the PSU-10 power supply created for the PH-10 phono- stage. While the power supply inside the DS-10 Plus utilizes a SMPS switching mode, the PSU-10 EVO is based on a linear power supply. It has a four-transformer layout that merges dual choke, inductive, and cascade designs.
Ergonomics and Setup
I employed the DS-10 Plus in three different setups. First, I connected it to a pair of April Music S1 monoblock amplifiers driving a pair of Elac F-61 Adante floorstanding loudspeakers and a pair of JL Audio d110 subwoofers. In this system I used the Ethernet connection as my primary source, while the analog input was connected to a Sony HAP-Z1ES digital player. After listening to the DS-10 Plus in this system for about a month, I moved it into my nearfield, computer-based office system, where I used its USB inputs as the principal source connected to a Benchmark ABH-2 power amplifier driving a pair of Audience 1+1 loudspeakers and a Velodyne DD-10+ subwoofer. After another month the DS-10 Plus was put into my main system, replacing the Mytek Manhattan and PS Audio DSD Jr. DAC/preamps, where it was connected to a Pass X-150.8 amplifier driving a pair of Spatial X-2 loudspeakers and a pair of JL Audio f112 subwoofers. All three systems used Audience AU24 speaker cables, Kimber KACG ½-meter single-ended analog cables, and Wireworld Series 8 balanced cables. All three systems also employ AC power conditioning.
Because I installed the DS-10 Plus in three different systems, I had three opportunities to see if there were any operational or set-up quirks that impacted installation. In each case installation went without a hitch. Gold Note has an app available for both iOS and Android that is necessary for the initial setup. This app allows you to do the basic DS-10 Plus configuration, including the ability to input your Wi-Fi passwords and streaming-account information. The Gold Note control app also proved to be a solid music-playback app that supports both Tidal and Qobuz, as well as your home-music libraries on NAS; however, if you already use Roon, as I do, you will find, as I did, that Roon offers a far superior ergonomic experience. Since the DS-10 Plus is completely Roon-compliant and a recognized and certified Roon endpoint, that’s the way I operated the DS-10 Plus most of the time.
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