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.
I just picked up a new Musical Surroundings Nova iii phono amp which is $1500 retail and that's without the fancy Linear Power Supply option.  I wanted to try it as it has two input capacitance for MM loadings at 100 and 200 pf, also, it has the 'standard' 47K ohm and 100K ohm.  The PH10 is only a 220 pf fixed capacitance and 47K ohm or 22K.  

I only have around 15 hours on the Nova iii, but with the 100k input on an Audio Technica AT20ss all I can say is wow!   I have tested it at both 100 and 200 pf, both work nicely.  But the 100K input impedance is simply outstanding.  The increase in upper range detail, clarity and smoothness is far better than what I heard with the PH10.  Not to mention a substantial increase in the soundstage and holographic imaging.

I plan on ordering the Linear Power Supply once this is fully broken in as I am told it opens up all of the ranges that much more with further improvements in soundstage/imaging. 
Latest UPDATE:

I got in the Nova III linear power supply and used it for a few weeks. It definitely opened up the upper range, sound stage, imaging to a large degree over the standard as is Nova III. I’d say that I found the Nova III to be superior to the Gold Note PH10 in all aspects except for the mid range. The PH10 has a much more powerful and detailed mid range. I was not happy with the lack luster mids on the Nova III and I was equally unhappy with the lack of lower end/upper end in the PH10 compared to the Nova.

I had read so much good about the Whest phono stages out of London that when I saw a good deal on a used Whest Three Special Edition which comes with a dual mono external power supply (extremely heavy to say the least... like pounds), I bought it! I did an a/b against the Nova III (which I thought was superior to the PH10) and I was blown away. The Whest puts both the Nova and the PH10 to shame in my opinion. It has it all; low end, mids upper range and simply jaw dropping detail. The sound stage and 3D imaging is superb. The Nova and its power supply went back to the dealer and the Whest is a keeper, not looking to make any changes at this point :)

For cost comparison:
PH 10 is around $1600 (I didn’t try it with the optional external power supply)
Nova III is $1500, external power supply adds in another $650
Whest Three SE with the included dual mono high voltage PS is around $4K

The loading on the Whest is fixed at 91pf input capacitance, and the impedance is at 47K ohms. It works wonderfully with my AT20ss MM.  James at Whest suggested that I change out my phono cables which are at 120pf at .7 meter length for a cable with much lower capacitance, such as 50 or so pf. This would dial in the total capacitance to around the 140 to 160 pf range which my AT20ss would really enjoy.
Interesing @slimpikins5
What i’ve noticed about my Gold Note PH-10 is a lack of bass slam compared to my WLM Phonata Reference (a mosfet phono preamp).

Actually i feel the lack a bass using all phono stages in comparison with WLM Phonata with whatever cartridge.

Both the Gold Note PH-10 and my JLTi are great with everything, except the deep bass.

Listening the WLM with Miyabi MC or Grace LEVEL II i become addicted to bass. That phono stage was away for a long time, i got it back with replaced 47k Vishay Naked Foil resistors in MC section (with built-in SUT) , the independent MM section has been upgraded beforw with 100k Vishay.

I have no idea why other phono stages can’t reproduce the bass in such a good way as my WLM. The difference is huge in low register!

I wish to have same bass response on all my phono stages.
WLM was my first serious phono stage and still unbeatable in many aspects, i wonder how many phono stage we should try to find what we like. 


You should try to get your hands on a Whest phono stage; the low end and lower mids are just simply outstanding.  I have never heard such detailed, powerful articulate bass and lower mid range.  And from there up through all the rest of the ranges its just mesmerizing.

I think that if I ever were to sell the Whest Three Special Edition, it would be move up to one of their next higher level offerings as I read that they are even that much more resolving; but the cost is very high.  These are not inexpensive phono stages, however if you were to look at the build quality of the boards and the amount of discrete components used, you would understand why.  Plus they use Clarity Capacitors in their construction which is exactly what Bryston uses and why Bryston gear is so expensive.   I recently picked up a new Bryston PX1 external crossover for my Bryston Model T main speakers which have been modified to the fully active platform and I now use the PX1's.  These things are beasts!  And you should see the build quality.

Great, thanks for the tip (got clarity caps in my zu audio speaker)

Seriously, how many phono stages can reproduce bass very well, not every phono can do that. Gold Note is not special in lower register.