New Gold Note PH 10


I had posted a question a while ago about hearing from anyone with experience comparing the Gold Note PH 10 vs. the Bryston BP2 or Clear Audio Smart V2 phono preamps.  I never heard anything back about this subject, so I decided to just simply purchase a new PH 10 and compare it against my Clear Audio preamp.  

First impressions:  As much as I love my Clear Audio Smart V2 and in particular its sound stage and imaging qualities, I have to say that the PH 10 was considerably better at detail and picking out the instruments, especially the low and mid range ones.   The Clear Audio seemed to be a little better at the upper end imaging and the sound stage.  But keep in mind this was with the PH 10 new right out of the box.

I was told the PH 10 needs at least 50 hours of run in time to open up, so I used it for two nights and left it on for several days.  After allowing it to settle in and enjoying a lot of music, I still thought the Clear Audio had a leg up on it in the sound stage/imaging department.   So I decided to listen to a well known record to me with excellent recording and a lot of dynamic range on the PH 10, then switch the wires over to the Clear Audio (which I had not heard in several days by this time), and replay the record.   YIKES!!!  it was like a blanket was draped over my speakers.  I had become so gradually accustomed to the new PH 10 that I had not noticed the slight changes going on with the break in.  When the Clear Audio was swapped back into the system (it took me about a minute to do this), it was night and day the differences.

The PH 10 was by far a much more detailed, pronounced signature with a superior sound stage and the imaging was hands down better.  I am using it with the Audio Technica AT20ss vintage MM cartridge which has an extraordinary frequency range of 5-50K hz, so I was able to take advantage of the Enhanced RIAA curve the PH 10 has.  It is pretty outstanding.   Make sure you break things in!   I love this phono preamp.
slimpikins5

I did a review a few weeks back with the AudioNote Kit 2, Alnic 1201, and the PH10. I agree the PH10 is a great bargain for sound quality to cost even approaching the more then twice as expensive Alnic ($3800). I bought the PH10 myself. I'd like to know the difference the optional power supply makes.

 I am using it with the Audio Technica AT20ss vintage MM cartridge which has an extraordinary frequency range of 5-50K hz, so I was able to take advantage of the Enhanced RIAA curve the PH 10 has.

Very nice cartridge! However, i use my PH-10 with MC cartridges.
For MM cartridges i love the JLTi phono stage, some MM must be loaded at 100k Ohm instead of 47k. The Gold Note loading for MM is fixed to 47k which is also ok for some cartridges, but not for all cartridges. 

I've bought the external PSU for my Gold Note and it was a nice updrage. 

I think Gold Note is superb phono stage for LOMC cartridges, but not superb for MM cartridges due a lack of optional loading for MM. 



Actually you can cycle through any of the impedance loading options for use with the MM cartridges.  I found that 47K ohms works best for most with my AT20ss, however on some recordings the 22K ohm setting is warmer.   The main thing with MM carts is the capacitance loading.  I have used multiple settings with the Clear Audio and found that the 250pf input was best by far (but that takes in to account the capacitance of my cables from the cartridge to the phono preamp).   Audio Technica suggests input capacitance settings of 100 to 150 pf for the AT20ss, but when I tried the lower values, it was muddy sounding.  250 pf was the number.   The PH 10 is factory default at 220 pf and that is so close to the 250 pf I was using and happy with that I decided to just buy it and not worry.   Since I didn't have an option to try the Clear Audio at anything between 150 or 250 pf, I don't know what 220 pf would have sounded like in the CA.   The bottom line is; the PH 10 is wonderful at 220 pf and either 22K or 47k ohm input.  It really is outstanding and I'll put my AT20ss up against any MC for high dynamic range music; I suspect the AT20ss will come up on top.   
Oh yes, one other interesting item to keep in mind with the PH 10, which is really important. I have read and heard that some people have had issues with noise in the PH 10. Mine had what I would consider a lot of mid range/upper range 60 hz. noise and I was not happy. Since I have an excellent earth ground system (I am not talking about the ground in the house for the electrical service entrance), it’s a deep in ground copper ground system around the perimeter of the house and it ties back into a lot of high power RF radio transmitters; I decided to run a ground strap from the earth ground over to the PH 10. I suspected I had a ground loop issue going on and after installing a soldered spade connector to the back of the ground terminal on the PH 10, all noise disappeared, I mean gone. I suspect the amplifiers in the PH 10 are very sensitive and can pick up noise easily if not grounded. That’s just a tip for anyone who is having noise issues. The CA did not have this issue.

I would deem this as a typical ground loop problem and the ground I put on was at a different state from the electrical ground.
Chakster, what was the main observation you have by using the PSU 10 power supply?  I have read some say it's a great improvement and others say that it's not worth paying for.
@slimpikins5  hey, i paid really great price for both PH-10 and PSU-10 buying them from official Italian dealer who does not charge VAT when exporting the items outside of EU, that was serious discount for a brand new units with warranty. I think i had amazing deal on Gold Note stuff, so i can not complain. Also i think it's well worth the investment. I don't trust my power outlets and when it comes to power supplies i just need a proper PSU. Actually i was so impressed by the quality of PH-10 so i made my next purchase - the PSU. 

I have ZERO noise with PH-10 with any LOMC cartridges, except for the Ortofon MC-2000 with 0.050 mV output (extremely low output, the lowest ever). The unit is dead quiet, especially with PSU-10. 

Yes, i know that i can replace the resistors, i did that with 2 other phono stages, Vishay Naked Foil resistors are the best ever. 

I just don't want to do that with PH-10, because i use it for LOMC and it's damn good for LOMC and fully adjustable. 

My JLTi phono stage is customized, so i can plug-in any load resistor from the backside (RCA plugs) in parallel to very high internal resistors in my phono stage. I have not find yet any MM that sounds better with higher loading such as 22k Ohm, but unloading the cartridge to 100k Ohm is superior for Victor, Grace, Stanton cartridges from my collection (as i've posted long time ago: 47-100k Ohm is recommended even by the manufacturer for those models of Victor and Grace in the original manual).  

 
I suppose like anything, it's equipment dependent and certain cartridges like specific impedance.  As I stated, the AT20ss seems to enjoy either 47K or 22K ohm input.   I know that if it were to go any higher than 47K, it would be far too bright sounding.  If I have a recording which is too emphasized on the upper end, I drop the loading to 22K and it really mellows out.  That is what is so nice about the PH 10, you can do it with the turn of the front knob.

I suspect the PSU10 power supply is a nice addition for LOMC as you are depending on a lot more amplification due to the low output vs. a MM with 2.7mv which requires far less, hence the signal to noise ratio is very different.
My ex Audio-Technica AT-20Sla impressed me with 100k Ohm load on this phonostage, at that time my main arm was a tube one. Now i have much better resolution with First Watt F2J power amp and Aleph L preamp. It's system dependent, you're right. But Gold Not does not allow to unload MM cartridge using higher numbers that 47k for MM.

In my experience every phono stage is better with 100k Ohm for MM, here is what i've had from cheap to expensive. 

In other words i would like an MM phono stage with optional loading (lower and higher than 47k) - this is a great option and every user can choose what's the best.  
Slim,  it’s fine to use a 22K load resistor on your MM cartridges, but just realize that you are probably rolling off the high frequencies below 20 kHz. Also, I was not sure what you were saying about the ground cable you have around your house. Whether it’s made of copper or not, I would not think it’s a good idea to have Audio equipment share its ground system with RF generators, as you seemed to indicate. Or did I read it wrong? Like Chakster, I have found that many of the best MM cartridges sound best with a 100 K load. But unlike Chakster, I have no problem using a 47K load, when the preamplifier presents that load as a matter of course. Yes, everything is a little bit better at 100 K but it’s not a deal killer to use 47K, in my system, to my ears. Maybe that’s just me being too lazy to get out the soldering iron and change the resistors. I also agree with Chakster that the nude vishay  TXresistors are THE resistors to use for phono loading. Cheaper Caddock TF020 resistors from Michael Percy are a close second.
A couple of comments:

First, Clakster's  AT-20Sla if I recall was a Shibata diamond on an Aluminum cantilever; this was very similar to the AT15s Universal.  I had one of those last summer which I tested against the AT15ss/20ss which is a super Shibata on a Beryllium cantilever and there is quite a difference in upper end performance.  The aluminum item sounds much more mellow, almost muffled in comparison.  Therefore I would understand why a 100K ohm input would be helpful as it opens up the high frequencies more.  Since I am using the AT 20ss which has a huge frequency excursion of 5-50K hz, it's much more detailed on the upper frequencies and when I run it on 47K ohm input, it's superb.  If I were to get any additional boost in upper range by going to 100K ohms, I think it would not be a good match at all.  The Audio Technica factory suggested loading for the 20ss is 47k with 100-150 pf.  They are probably assuming some average for capacitance in the audio leads from the cartridge to the amplifier at some average user length which may be 3 to 6 feet.  I am using around 2.5 feet, so my capacitance is lower, hence the 220 pf I have works.

The other comment from Lew pertaining to grounding, I am not using generators.  I have an Amateur Radio station with very extensive antennae and high power amplifiers.  Since one HF antenna I have is a 7 element mono band LogYagi with very high gain and coupled to a 1.5kw amplifier, an excellent ground system is an absolute requirement to avoid RF feedback into the transmitted signal and also avoiding RF burns.  I have a few hundred feet of 1/4 inch diameter solid copper running in damp soil about 8 to 10 feet under ground and this ties back into the 'radio shack'.   I use this same ground to ground the cable TV line which is full of 60 hz. noise and my main audio system.  This is what I connected to from the PH 10 which eliminated all noise from the audio circuit. 

Also, I usually run 47K not 22K.  Only on some recordings do I find the 22K to be preferable, but that is not too many of them.
OH, one other comment on the AT20ss and 47K ohm... I have a NOS stylus installed with probably not much more than 50 hours use.  Its very fresh, so it has a lot of upper end compared to a well used stylus, that probably is playing into some of why I like it at this setting.
Slim
loading MMs is about both C and R.  Optima are different for every cartridge or certainly every brand of cartridge. So for sure I would not say that every single MM cartridge will sound better at 100 K ohms. I have found that my old Grado TLZ and my Grace cartridges definitely do sound better with 100 K load and no added capacitance, over and above the cable capacitance and the input capacitance of the phono stage. Testimony from others like Chakster and Raul leads me to believe that 100 K might be best for the majority of MM cartridges, but certainly I do not know that for a fact.  Also, it’s not only about opening up the high end. The entire audio frequency bandwidth  comes through with a greater clarity for cartridges that prefer 100 K to 47K. Like I said if you keep lowering resistance below 47K there is the risk of rolling off your high frequency response. Even your own testimony suggests that the beneficial effect you perceive at 22K may be related to rolling off hf. Like a tone control.

Thanks for the clarification regarding your grounding system. Even with your more detailed description, however, I am not sure it’s a good idea to attach your phono stage ground and your general audio ground to the ground system you use for your other devices. I guess only your experience can vouch for that.
I've mention At 20SLa just because it is the closest to your SS which must be better )never had that one). However, i have AT-ML180 OFC and OCC and both are fantastic with 100k Ohm. Grace F-14, Grace LEVEL II and Victor X-1II are superb at 100k Ohm, but all of them are also OK at 47k Ohm, so no problem with that. All those carts have extremely wide frequensy response and the most advanced cantilevers/styli. 

I'm just trying to say that adjustable MM phono stage is a good idea, fixed MM phono stage is not as good as adjustable for those who own too many cartridges. 
I totally agree with both of you; adjustable input for MM is critical.  As said above, I have found for the AT20ss the 200 pf range just works out great (again with my audio cables) and the 22K or 47K ohm input is also very nice.  Just that from what I am hearing, I am not sure I'd go much higher than 47K as I can definitely hear a little too much accentuation on the upper range.   I might have to send a note to Italy and inquire if I can get a schematic of the boards and see where I could couple a series 47K resistor in line which would put things up near 100K just for fun.  Or perhaps I could use one of the loading resistors on the input RCA's which might do the same thing.  It could be fun to play with.

As far as grounding goes, I just want to make sure that my ground is a top notch earth ground and no worries, I do not run the audio system while running the on air transmitters :)


BTW Clakster, the AT20ss is really superb, I am not sure anything can touch it. :)


Makes very good sense not to run the audio at the same time you run radio transmitters.  You know what I was getting at. 
Or perhaps I could use one of the loading resistors on the input RCA's which might do the same thing.

No, you can't. But it depends. The reason i asked Joe to modify my JLTi phono stage with 500k Ohm internal resistor, so i can add any lover value in the dedicated pair of RCA plugs on the back. This is how it works if i want 100k Ohm:

The formula for parallel resistors is simple if you have a calculator.

R=(R1*R2)/(R1+R2)

If R1 is 500K and R2 is 100K, then multiply the two. You will get a large value.

Next step, add R1 and R2. You will get a much smaller value.

Now divide the larger value with the smaller value and you will get the final value.

In the above example, it is 500K x 100K = 50,000

And 500K + 100K = 600

Now divide 50,000 by 600 = 83K333 or 83.333K if you prefer.

If the value of the loading is way under 500K or 1M, then the value in the
loading plug will completely dominate.

I would not be surprised if my transmitters cause interference with the audio system and vice versa, if I were to play my music as loud as I usually do, I know it would interfere with my transmitted signal :)  And it's illegal to transmit any music over amateur radio frequencies as they are not broadcast bands.   
I will send an inquiry off to Gold Note to ask about the idea of increasing the loading to 100K for MM and see if there is a simple solution to trying it without getting into the guts of the unit.

@slimpikins5 did you buy your PH10 new and get one of the updated lower noise units? I hear it's 12db lower in noise than the original.
@slimpikins5 I think Gold Note should just make a an new revision with an MM 100k ohm loading feuture, it has so many options already , why not just add this one.
They are more concerned about capacitance options for MM than an additional 100K load option (which is not widely popular).

There was an early bunch of PH-10, then the regular production (which i have, serial #58009) and then they blabling something about new version in the future.

The original current production PH-10 is DEAD QUIET phono stage and not noisy at all. With external PSU-10 it’s absolutely amazing.

Of cause anyone can screw up the PH-10 to locate 47k Ohm resistors to replace them with 100k Ohm Vishay Naked Foil.

But since i alreay have a better MM phono stages (already upgraded with Vishay Resistors) i am using the Gold-Note primary for LOMC cartridges and i love it! I’m happy to use the 47k Ohm MM input on Gold Note PH-10 for my Luxman Toroidal Silver SUT for extremely low impedance MC cartridges (under 3 ohm). My Fidelity-Research FR-7fz on Fidelity-Research FR64fx arm via Luxman SUT to Gold Note's MM input (47k) blew my mind.
To answer the question, yes I have a fairly new PH10, I got it around a month ago, but I am not sure if its the latest version with the lowered noise floor.  That  was not really of interest to me as I was told the improved amplifier section for lower noise was on the MC side, not the MM.  Since I only use the AT20ss MM, I am not too interested in finding the latest model and I got a deal on this one.

On another note, I was e mailing with Maurizio in Italy this morning and he told me that they are indeed coming out with a high power version of the PH10 around June.  It will be called the PH1000 and it will have very extensive adjustments for capacitance loading and Clakster will love this, it will have a whole array of impedance settings for MM from 47k up to 100K including some ranges in between.  It will also have three turntable inputs and balanced XLR inputs.  It will not be a compact size case as the PH10, it will be a full 17 inch width case and will have an option for external power supply, but will have an enhanced internal power supply circuit.   Price?  Gulp, 6000 euros. 

He told me that changing the loading to offer a 100K impedance can be done, but only at the factory as they'd have to change one of the other impedance selections over to the 100K and probably have to write new software for the display to show it.  I am not sure I'd want to send my unit in to have this work done as I am sure it would not be inexpensive and I don't know how it would play with my AT20ss.  But I did suggest that they come out with a PH100, an upgraded version of the PH10 for MM users; he said he'd pass that on to his engineering team.   

User feedback is obviously welcomed by them.  They remind me of Axiom Audio in Canada who loves to work on projects with customers.... I have one sub woofer with a custom DSP algo and a switch to kick it in or out and they even engraved the switch positions with my "Bourbon Smooth" for flat and "Gin Gut Punch" for the 6 db boost.    Fun stuff.  In fact they are building me a new amp for my Bryston Model T sub with the "switch" for the DSP algo and a variable phase control as I have on two others from them.  Axiom builds the Bryston speakers to Bryston's specs, so they are the go to guys for experimentation.


Price? Gulp, 6000 euros.

Oops, i'm happy to stay with my PH-10 :) 

@chakster  you stated 
and then they blabling something about new version in the future.

Here is part of an e-mail I received from a dealer direct from GN.

"....The second more radical solution we will introduce since the production of 1st of February 2019 included in the NEW PH-10 will in fact regenerate the negative feedback of the unit reducing the noise a lot 12dB making the MC set-up quite as the MM set-up was!"

 So yes they have updated the very fine sounding PH10 although I have not heard this latest version myself. 


@rsf507 thanks for clarification

upgrade is an endless quest, any LOMC cartridges i have tried with my PH-10 is dead quiet, i mean really all my 10+ (MC) cartridges (with output of 0.15 mV and higher), except for the only one with an output of 0.05 mV (this is the lowest output in existence). So i have no problem with my PH-10 which i bought in the summer 2018. Really don’t even need this 2019 upgrade.