Before we go on, we need to get off a particular rut. Please visit Chips Ahoy! as my 38th Keep It Honest column for DAR. It's a quick read that sets the scene to avoid redundancy. Take five for a short intermission.

Welcome back. For sonic purposes, I'll first treat the CD-1000 as a €3'800 machine. That's because in fixed-gain USB mode, analog volume/input had no say. That left €1'000 to pay for its disc drive function against the DAC-only $2'850 Resonessence Veritas. Like the Gold Note, that's a fully balanced machine based on op-amp outputs but then runs for its engine oil the new ESS Tech 9028 Pro brand, successor to the 9018 of the $3'300 AURALiC Vega with its linear power supply and discrete outputs. My Veritas review established that it was more resolved, clear and quick than the Vega whose centre of gravity was set lower, hence warmer. Its overall demeanour was less immediate, of softer focus and with a slightly shiny texture. On matters of micro detail, the superior specs of the 9028 Pro translated exactly as propaganda had promised. In the end I'd called the sonic aesthetic of the Veritas in line with wide-bandwidth DC-coupled Swiss gear à la Goldmund and Soulution of which our COS Engineering D1 represents the next octave up from the Veritas.

Comparing Veritas to CD-1000 showed just as much variability between op-amps as there can be with discrete implementations. Beliefs to the contrary are irrational and not based on facts. (A subsequent session against the COS which exploits the very same BurrBrown chips as the Gold Note showed how converter silicon alone predicts nothing about final sonics either.) The first A/B suggested a direct connection, between Gold Note's socketed IC platform and later valve upgrade path. Already the op-amps and how their preceding class A FETs season them made for a decisive offset versus the Resonessence. Where that had been all about speed, lucidity and transparency, the CD-1000 changed direction. It veered into significantly more mass, density, weight and robustness. Were one to look at push/pull amps of the KT88/6550 persuasion, it had certain tubular qualities. If one stuck to Swiss sound, one would now very smartly look at legacy Nagra.

With Gold Note's DS-1000 server to be reviewed by Joël Chevassus.

The valve connection severs on surface textures however. Like the Veritas—hence despite its strategically administered earthiness and greater substance—the CD-1000 was both drier and matte. That differentiated it from the Vega whose tones were more polished to a sheen whilst simultaneously feeling slicked in a subtly viscous substance. Interestingly, the delta of difference between CD-1000 and Vega/Veritas was larger than between the two 'V'. Frankly, in matters of body and chunkiness, the Italian operated in a different league. That it managed so with IC outputs was like a sharpshooter's successful aim at the chip on high-end's shoulder, about operational amplifiers beyond D/A silicon. It also closed the circle with Igor Kante's choice of obtaining for his smaller Ubiqu DAC/amp this exact circuit. It parallels the voicing of his 12-inch sealed three-way Model One speaker with its very beefy 8-inch FaitalPro midrange [below].

To wrap our overview, consider that over the Vega/Veritas, the Gold Note buys you a far larger, heavier and robust chassis with full CD transport for €700-€1'000 more whereas on sonics, it already plays in a higher tier for the aspects mentioned. Whilst one expects its various upgrade paths to get a lot costlier very quickly—nearly €1'000/ea. for analog volume and one solitary XLR input are certainly suggestive and don't yet require a second chassis—the plain Jane CD-1000 really is a colossal value. In sales floor lingo, it nearly seems like a bit of a loss leader where the add-on options represent the 5-year extended warranty and full replacement/delivery contract which quickly drive up the ticket to create proper profit. Obviously that parallel only sticks somewhat. Still, something about it could be relevant. About chips ahoy, the one-box CD-1000 without sonic upgrades proved eminently seaworthy already. It consigned concerns, over its 192kHz sample-rate limit versus 384kHz competitors like the Vega/Veritas duo, to the junk email folder: to be deleted at the earliest opportunity. Click.