Hardware Reviews

All for one Gold Note IS-10 streaming amp

Gold Note IS-10 streaming amplifier review https://the-ear.net

Gold Note IS-10 streaming amplifier

Having visited the Gold Note headquarters, near Florence, to see the company’s new integrated streaming amplifier being designed, built and tested, it was with a degree of excitement that I opened one of the very first units to be shipped to the UK. The IS-10 is sold as an all-in-one high-end audio solution in what can only be described as a compact unit, being only half-width of a standard hi-fi separate.

Created in Italy and built there, using as many locally-sourced components as possible, the IS-10 is part of a growing 10 Series which includes a cosmetically matching phono stage and the PA-10 Evo power amp which can be used to power one channel, with the IS-10 driving the other, in whats described as an easy to achieve upgrade. We tested its next of kin the DS-10 preamplifier/DAC a few years ago.

Gold Note IS-10 streaming amplifier review https://the-ear.net

Gold Note

Nestling in the Florentine hills, Gold Note has a long history of creating designs for a range of well-known audio brands, many of them digital solutions. No surprise then that we are seeing some creative digital creations from a brand associated with record players. The man behind Gold Note is Maurizio Aterini who first became interested in home audio when he was just eight years-old. He studied engineering at university and, in 1992, started to create designs for third parties. It was in this era that the B-5 tonearm was born; still used today and noted for its accurate distribution of the weight along its longitudinal axis to ensure a perfect balance. From these beginnings Gold Note was born in 2012 and the company expanded, moving away from OEM production such that many of those who used to be their clients are now competitors.

Integrate or separate

A long-time user of integrated streaming amplifiers, from several marques, I have dispensed with racks full of separates; something made much easier by being able to keep hundreds of my own recordings in the Cloud and, instead of shelves and shelves of CDs, subscription to a high-definition streaming service. Gone are my trusty PR99 reel-to-reel and Tascam DAT recorder. No longer a CD transport, separate DAC, preamp and four monoblocks to bi-amp my monitors. Ease-of-use has become something of a priority, and I don’t miss the tangle of interconnects. For me, the IS-10 embodies all there is about modern-fi.

Gold Note IS-10 streaming amplifier review https://the-ear.net

Despite the fine sound emanating from the streaming amps I’ve used, there’s always something missing. Either there’s no headphone socket, a lack of internet radio, or the unit is not Airplay-ready so I can’t access my music on the Cloud. That might be about to change because Gold Note’s IS-10 seems to have everything I need, all in one box offering 90W/ch into 8 Ohms and catering for PCM digital signals up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD up to DSD256 thanks to an AKM DAC.

IS-10 design and features

Built on a compact chassis, the IS-10’s front panel doesn’t have much space and adopts a minimalistic look. There’s a singular rotary knob, although it satisfies several functions through long or short presses as well as the turn function. A 6.3mm headphone socket is provided (more of this later) and by necessity the display has to be small. No touch-screen here and no room, either, for album covers to be displayed. That’s not to say it’s not informative, just not ideally suited to those of us with myopia

Gold Note IS-10 streaming amplifier review https://the-ear.net

The rear panel is equally crowded, but careful design allows for all the essentials to be included. Thus, we have a wi-fi/Bluetooth antenna, L/R speaker outputs on binding posts, ethernet socket, USB flash-drive socket, two optical and one coaxial digital inputs along with a pair of unbalanced analogue inputs. There is also an IEC mains input as well as right-channel output to feed a separate power amp for the PA-10 upgrade option.

Streaming is as comprehensive as Ive seen, catering for all the usual services such as Tidal, Spotify, Deezer and Qobuz as well as being Roon Ready and catering for Airplay2, even if Apple Music is not [yet] supported. According to Gold Note “Apple Music doesn’t offer a dedicated API at the moment but requires streaming through AirPlay 2 on Apple devices and Chromecast on Android”. Added to which, using the GN Connect App for iOS and Android (a bespoke adaptation of the popular M-Connect app) its possible to connect local NAS drives as well as Cloud accounts by Dropbox, iCloud and MS OneDrive. Internet radio is also accessed via the app (using vTuner) where its possible to store favourite stations and search the thousands of accessible services by language, country or genre.

Certainly, the IS-10 is feature-packed with firmware updates via the Internet to give future-proofing. The supplied remote is solidly made and designed to work across the Gold Note range, such that only a handful of buttons relate to the IS-10. But who needs a remote when the app is so competent and it’s from there that Internet radio, streaming services and local files are accessed.

Sound quality

As my Revival Atalanta 3 standmounts were already in position I used them first to evaluate the IS-10. While the preamp stage runs in Class-A, the output is Class-D but, before dismissing this technology out-of-hand, I need to say that it is one of the best implementations that I have heard. It allows for the unit’s compact size which generates heat from the many circuits and power supplies within, without adding to this with high temperature power stages.

Gold Note IS-10 streaming amplifier review https://the-ear.net

With my Blu-ray DVD player connected to one of the optical inputs I enjoyed some episodes of the BBC comedy/drama As Time Goes By. In one scene, Judi Dench uses an aerosol and the [dubbed] sound effect was so true-to-life that I expected to feel the squirt of furniture polish at any moment. The level of realism continued with the ITV drama/soap Heartbeat when a doorbell (panned full-right) was so realistic that I got up to answer my own front door before realising that the effect was via the loudspeakers.

Human voices on these well-recorded series were portrayed with excellent clarity, and I soon realised that accurate midrange and bass reproduction were the IS-10’s hallmark in a pleasing overall tonality. Imaging was also shown to be exemplary as the soundstage extended way beyond the speaker cabinets in an almost 3D reproduction.

Switching to streamed music and an engaging warmth to the sound was most appealing across a wide range of material. There’s a sense of power and drive to Genesis’ Tonight, Tonight, Tonight (from Invisible Touch) as the sound is projected with an engaging potency, but never rams the music down the throat as some designers feel desirable. Phil Collins’s soft vocals, on top of Tony Banks’s multi-layered synth chords and Mike Rutherford’s notable guitar playing displayed great imagery to re-create all the magic of this track.

Female voices retain their ethereal quality via the IS-10, with Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill losing none of its passion and pleading as the tune develops to become urgent and chaotic. It was the same with Peter Phillips and the Tallis Scholars as the glowing strands of the Kyrie through to a radiant Agnus Dei, created a performance of Allegri: Miserere that moves and breathes in a lifelike way. The hallmark of well-engineered electronics.

Gold Note IS-10 streaming amplifier review https://the-ear.net

Morel Avyra 633

Moving to a floorstander pairing in the shape of the new and exciting Morel Avyra 633 three-way design and a detailed, engaging and dynamic sound was created with plenty of drive and listener involvement. The IS-10 showed itself to be something of a powerhouse, with a big sound from a small box.

George Ezra’s track Shotgun has become a recent reference for me and didn’t disappoint via these speakers. There was punch and drive to the music and an impressive show of dynamic range from what is, after all, a modest amplifier. Imaging showed itself a strength of the equipment’s combo with Delibes’ Lakme(Joan Sutherland et al on Decca from 1968) with a crystal clear and strikingly clean midrange combined with an ability to handle the work’s powerful outbursts and retaining the sweetly silver voices.

Rounding off with Taylor Swift’s Anti Hero where the bass produced a solid foundation for the lyrics, the IS-10 really did sound like a much bigger, more expensive product than it is. The mid was sweet and natural, the treble precise and the lower registers deep and engaging.


The treble performance of the IS-10 showed wonderful definition and sparkle when connected to mighty B&W 802 D3s. The mere fact that an amplifier at this price-point is capable of driving these £17,000 beasts is testament enough to its engineering credentials. The big speakers created not only a ‘big’ and full sound, but across a mighty soundstage with robust imaging. Again, bass and midrange took the limelight in a lively presentation with real punch. The level of resolution was impressive, with deep-down detail being retrieved if at the slight expense of timing. The reproduction was rich, deep and inviting.

Internet radio

I really enjoyed exploring some of the many thousands of Internet radio stations available, making use of the option to search for ‘hi-resolution’ ones. Some of the European classical music stations were a delight and offered a wide repertoire. BBC Radio 3 gave us Leon Boellmann’s Suite Gothique during Inside Music where the organ’s lower registers really showed how well this modest pairing of electronics and transducers could perform. The bass notes were memorable. Over on Radio 4, for Burns Night we had Tam O’Shanter read in a delightful Scottish accent which came over as a deeply moving, evocative and highly-emotional production.


Often an after-thought on amplifier designs, headphone circuits can be a huge let-down. Not on the IS-10 though. There are two circuits, one for low-impedance cans and one for high-impedance. I used both and found them to be of incredibly high-quality, containing much of the exemplary qualities heard via loudspeakers. There was punch, power plus a real speed and agility to the sound which was truly involving.

Gold Note IS-10 streaming amplifier review https://the-ear.net


Gold Note have clearly nailed it. Their IS-10 all-in-one creation provides a single-box solution catering for most digital and streaming requirements. The inclusion of Internet radio and storming headphone circuitry is an added bonus.

The bass and midrange are exemplary; the sound produced is detailed and engaging; the soundstage deep and wide with immaculate imaging. I was also struck by the dynamics and speed that this compact design can create. There’s real grunt when needed from a sound that’s potent without becoming harsh or edgy. The attention to current delivery and self-adjusting damping factor, dependent on the connected load, has paid off such that it can be partnered with a wide range of loudspeakers to create a satisfying sound. If the IS-10 is portent of what’s to come from Gold Note, this is a brand to keep a very close eye on.


Type: integrated streaming stereo amplifier & DAC
Analogue inputs: 2x RCA
Phono input: N/A
Digital inputs: coaxial RCA, 2x optical, network RJ45
Analogue outputs: one channel pre-out/sub RCA
Wireless inputs: Bluetooth, wi-fi
Headphone output: 6mm jack
Speaker outputs: 5-way binding posts
Power Output: 90W into 8 Ohms, 140W into 4 Ohms
Streaming via: Roon Ready, Tidal Connect, MQA, Airplay, vTuner, Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer, Spotify Connect
Max sample rate: 384kHz/32 bit, DSD256
Control: GN connect app, remote handset, Roon Ready
Dimensions (HxWxD): 80 x 200 x 260mm
Weight: 4kg
Warranty: 2 years

Price when tested:
Manufacturer Details:

Gold Note
T + 39 0571 675005


streaming amplifier


Trevor Butler

Distributor Details:

T +44(0)1354 652566

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