Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OSX Yosemite, PureMusic 3.01, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming, COS Engineering D1 & H1, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi Formula, Fore Audio DAISy 1
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Wyred4Sound STP-SE MkII, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVC module), COS Engineering D1, Nagra Jazz, Nagra Classic [on review]
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1, F5, F6, F7; Bakoon AMP-12R; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics One SE Up NC500MB monos; LinnenberG Audio Allegro monos; LinnenberG Liszt monos [on review]; Pass Labs XA25 [on review]
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components, Titan Audio Eros cords between wall and conditioners and on the amps
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands [on loan]
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Review components retail in Europe: €5'850

Watch maker Seiko call theirs a kinetic not automatic movement. And what they and rival Casio have dubbed solar—photovoltaic battery power recharged by ambient light—Citizen call EcoDrive. How to translate the ultra-balanced gain stages of team Gold Note [right] in their new P-1000 preamp?

Owner/designer Maurizio Aterini explains that "it's always difficult to find good communicative single words to describe something technical when the market has not previously seen such solutions. It happened when we released the first audio streamer 12 years ago but also when we came out with the new PH10 phono stage and the IS1000 super integrated which Joël Chevassus on your team will shortly receive. So our ultra-balanced preamplifier is based on six discrete gain stages as can be easily seen on the PCB below."

The thinking reader allocates four of those modules to balanced drive—one per half cycle per channel—but is uncertain where to fit the two spares. After all, ground needs no gain. "The six gain blocks are actually dedicated to XLR (four) and RCA (two) to avoid potential signal interference. The concept is to keep all signal poles fully separate to achieve the lowest possible distortion and most extended linear bandwidth. And we end up with perfectly identical gain stages as something we can calibrate at the factory."

In calm collected fashion, a potentially buzzy 'ultra-balanced' word turned into a perfectly rational explanation. There's class A bias, optically encoded relay-switched volume, an internal power supply with three transformers (one for control tasks, two for dual-mono audio) and five each XLR and RCA inputs. USB, coax or Toslink are options. A single multi-purpose controller accesses all functionality via TFT colour display. That includes mono, l/r channel swap, 0-99 balance, polarity inversion, volume memory for each input and two-stage analog bass boost*. Still on options, there are three possible external PSU upgrades (six or 12 tubes, purely inductive). There's a mini USB service port and a stylish metal remote wand. There's <10Ω output impedance, 100kΩ input impedance, max 8/16Vrms on XLR/RCA, 20dB of voltage gain, bandwidth of 2Hz-200kHz ±3dB, S/NR of -120dB and channel separation of >118dB. Max power consumption is 30 watts. All of it fits into a black or silver case of 43 x 13 x 37.5cm WxHxD that weighs 15kg.

*This is a 2.5dB or 5dB boost at 45Hz to "give a more natural response with small speakers which now sound more extended without any specific boomy side effect". Obviously an amp must have sufficient headroom to exploit this; and the small woofer be capable of putting out louder lower bass without distortion in the first place.

For prospective buyers curious how an RCA input becomes an XLR output, "our volume control is fully balanced. Before being sent to it, a special stage converts any unbalanced signal to balanced. Now any RCA input output via XLR always results in a true balanced class A signal with 20dB of gain output on bipolar junction transistors."