Phono stages by their very nature invite extremes in terms of technology and innovation. Their job is on the face of it quite simple; take the output from a phono cartridge and equalise and amplify it. It’s a lot easier than turning digital bits into an analogue waveform, but yet also highly demanding. The problem being that the nature of the signal coming from small transducer is that it’s microscopic in voltage terms and highly susceptible to corruption from interference. Moving magnet cartridges have a distinct advantage because of their higher signal strength, but as virtually all high-end cartridges are moving coil types with millivolt outputs this is no consolation for the phono stage designer. He or she has to amplify a tiny signal without adding noise in the process, so needs to create electronics with tremendously low noise floors if they are to realise the potential of the finest MCs. Most take a minimalist, all analogue approach to the problem, but Gold Note distinguishes itself by using processing to provide a far wider feature set than the competition.
The Gold Note PH-1000 is a piece de resistance of electronic wizardry, a phono stage that attempts to provide the vinyl enthusiast with every possible means of matching both the cartridge on their turntable and the vinyl that it is spinning. This starts with loading, which covers the gamut of impedance, capacitance and gain that the cartridge works with. The PH-1000 offers no fewer than 12 impedance settings from 10 Ohms to 100kOhms with the option to add an external loading resistor if required, these are spread across both RCA and XLR inputs with eight (MC only) options on the latter. You can choose between six levels of capacitance if you decide to treat your MM (or stepped-up MC) to this level of preamplification quality, and regardless of which cartridge type you have there are seven levels of gain to choose from on top of the standard 65dB (MM 40dB).
A few of the more ambitious all analogue phono stages offer the above but the next raft of features places the Gold Note in a rather more select league. Where 99% of the alternatives offer RIAA EQ and a few offer one or two alternatives the PH-1000 has a surprising 18 preset EQ options alongside the option to set up four custom curves, which effectively means you a have built in high quality tone control. The preset equalisation curves cater to pressings from Decca London (both UK and USA), RCA Victor, Deutsche Grammophon, HMV and Mercury to name but a few. If you’re a collector of vintage vinyl this array of options could be a deal breaker. And that’s before you consider that they are accessible from your armchair; the PH-1000 is a fully remote controllable device and that includes virtually all the features, including volume if you go for the preamplifier version which has a single line input for any other sources.
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