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Compact Disc Player

Gold Note

Manufacturer: AKAMAI S.r.l.
Price (when reviewed): 3800-5700 EUR
(depending on version)

Akamai S.r.l. | Via della Gora, 6
Montespertoli (Florence) | Italy 50025


Provided for test by: DELTA-AUDIO

've met Akamai's owner, Mr Maurizio Aterini, years ago. Already in January 2008 I tested the Mini Koala CD Player, branded BLUENOTE. It was a CD and DVD player and was called the Digital Versatile Source. In April of the same year we took a closer look at a product that today is something completely normal, but back then it was an absolute novelty, especially considering its tube output: the DSS30 music file player. Maurizio was one of the pioneers of digital audio, but unlike many other manufacturers he never abandoned the Compact Disc format.

The DSS30 was sold under the BLACKNOTE brand, which was supposed to feature devices using the new technology. GOLDENOTE's name came out a few years later and was meant for top-shelf products. The current form of name GOLD NOTE exists since 2012. Despite name changes the core interest of the company remained the same: love for tubes, equal treatment of LP and CD formats, and exploring the capabilities of music files players. The novelty today are high-end loudspeakers and this new, fantastic look of these Italian devices.

The reviewed Compact Disc Player CD-1000 presents everything this company has to offer today – great design, make and finish, modular construction, and so on.

Owner, engineer

WOJCIECH PACUŁA: Why did you choose Stream Unlimited transport for you Player?
MAURIZIO ATERINI: Because the Stream Unlimited is in our opinion the highest quality mechanic loader you can find today.

There are some "extension" inputs on the back - like “tubes”, “power”, etc. Could you explain what they are for?
The 1000 series is a modular line of electronics. All the sources and preamplifiers can be updated with external tube output stages like the TUBE1012 featuring 12 tubes and a massive Inductive Power Supply as well as the TUBE1006 which is an external unit featuring Dual Mono power supply drive 6 tubes. The same for the Super external Power supply and even external Atomic Clock.

What was your goal with CD-1000?
The CD1000 merges all our experience and skill designing digital sources as we have done during more than 20 years for some major audio company around. We wanted to put in production only one unit but with great virtues and sound quality as it is already as it is.

How has your thinking about digital sources changed since, say, Stibbert? What does CD-1000 take from the special project Favard Anniversary?
The Stibbert was one unit originally designed for a NYC company Fanfare International, that ordered it. We obviously made all parts for them but the unit was not thought to be sold under any private brand at all though it was a nice sounding unit. We marketed the unit for a while once Fanfare closed because anyway they generated a great business around it having been awarded by Harry Pearson when TAS was one of the most important audio magazines (Harry Pearson for years was a Chief Editor of TAS, and later its editor – Ed.).

The Favard is a different story, it is the first real GOLD NOTE CD player. It offered great performance and the CD1000 takes a lot from its legacy. He individual sections of Favard were separated into different units and I always said that if we combine them all together we could achieve even better performance than Favard ever did. From the Favard it gets the 12 tubes and the tube power supply with chokes. The CD1000 features also a better digital section plus the newest and the best BurrBrown digital PCM1792A DAC chip.

Tell me something about this beautiful Gold Note logo.
When about 5 years ago we decided to adopt a new brand we hired a professional marketing guy Giuseppe Castelli that helped us to move on from our previous stage – being a pure audio design factory specialist (no marketing, no industrial designers, and so on.).

He refreshed the logo dividing it into two words GOLD NOTE (using Georgiquas font) and he also came up with the idea of Ancient Roman soldier playing an instrument called buccina, which we found very Italian, classic but nice and original at the same time. With Giuseppe, we also hired a professional designer, Stefano Bonifazi, a famous architect, who prepared designs for our every single product achieving wonderful effect.

Giuseppe left the company after 2 years but we we still cooperate with him. Today we have a new professional marketer, Tommaso-Jegh Dolfi. He is 27 years old which is potentially even better because he understands the new generation better, which allowed us to understand their needs and to direct our business towards even more modern areas and technologies, which the high-end audio manufacturers often lack.


The CD-1000 looks really great – the shape, the small accents, first-class make and finish of chassis – all that combined creates a unique, astonishing look. This is a Compact Disc player featuring digital inputs, including the USB. The DAC section accepts a PCM signal up to 24 bits and 192 kHz, but no DSD. The key element to any optical disc player is transport mechanism, since there are only few offered on the market. Gold Note team reached for a specialized CD transport used also by dCS in Rossini made by Stream Unlimited.

One of the cornerstones of the brand's philosophy is offering customers a possibility to expand the system with new elements when these become necessary. To allow user to safe some money, Italians went for a modular design that are prepared to connect with external components. Usually one can achieve better performance by adding an external D / A converter to one's player. However, Gold Note has another approach. Its engineers believe that DAC should be as close to transport as possible and should be clocked with the same word-clock The CD-1000 in its basic form is therefore an integrated player.

There are four possible upgrades to choose from. User might buy a linestage module with XLR input (same as in my own Ancient Audio Lektor AIR V-edition Player). Volume, mute, balance functions can be then controlled by a remote. The Player might be also equipped with one of two Atomic Master Clocks: CLK-1055 (Caesium) or CLK-1037 (Rubidium) – an option similar to that offered by dCS. The Powercone input suggest that user might use an external powers supply. There are two available: PSU-1250 and PSU-1100 (a solution similar to that proposed by Octave). And last but not least one can also use an external tube buffer models – again, one can choose among two models: TUBE-1006 and TUBE-1012 (respectively: 6 and 12 tubes).

Each of these options, maybe apart from tube buffer, is available in a variety of other products. But no other product offers them all. In the most advanced configuration, the player has four components with the core of such setup being still the integrated CD player.

AKAMAI S.r.l. in “High Fidelity”
  • REVIEW: Gold Note MEDITERRANEO – turntable
  • REVIEW: Goldenote KOALA TUBE – CD Player, test HERE (Polish)
  • REVIEW: Goldenote S-1 – integrated amplifier, test HERE
  • REVIEW: Blacknote CDP 300 + DSA 150 - CD Player + integrated amplifier, test HERE
  • REVIEW: Goldenote BELLAVISTA SIGNATURE + BETANIA + BALDINOTTI – turntable + tonearm + cartridge, test HERE
  • REVIEW: Blacknote DSS 30 TUBE – music files player, test HERE
  • REVIEW: Bluenote PICCOLO + B-5 Mk II + BABELE – turntable + tonearm + cartridge, test HERE (Polish)
  • REVIEW: Bluenote MINI KOALA – DVD/CD Player, test HERE

  • Recordings used for the test (a sele- ction)

    • Anita O’Day, Anita Sings The Most, Verve/Esoteric ESSO-90144, SACD/CD (1957/2016) w: 6 Queens of Jazz Vocal, „MasterSoundWorks”, Esoteric ESSO-90143/8, 6 x SACD/CD (2016)
    • Ella Fitzgerald, Like Someone in Love, Verve/Esoteric ESSO-90143, SACD/CD (1957/2016) w: 6 Queens of Jazz Vocal, „MasterSoundWorks”, Esoteric ESSO-90143/8, 6 x SACD/CD (2016)
    • Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Missarum Liber Primus, wyk. Coro Polifonico, dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, dyr. Roberti Gabbiani, Fonè 033 3SACD, 3 x SACD/CD (2003)
    • Laurie Anderson, Homeland, Nonesuch 524055-2, CD + DVD (2010);
    • Novika, Tricks of Life, Kayax 013 CD (2006)
    • Röyksopp, The Inevitable End, Dog Triumph DOG013CDW, „Promo | No. 25”, CD-R (2014)
    • Suzanne Vega, Close-Up. Vol.1, Love Songs, Amanuensis Productions | Cooking Vinyl COCKCD521, CD (2014)
    • Takeshi Inomata, The Dialogue, Audio Lab. Record/Octavia Records OVXA-00008, SACD/CD (1977/2001)
    • The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Apple/Universal Music Group 5745530,
    • Thelonious Monk, Solo Monk, Columbia/Sony Music Japan SICP-30247, Blu-spec CD2 (1965/2013)
    • Thom Yorke, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, Hostess | LANDGRAB RAB001J, CD (2015)
    • Pliki WAV i FLAC 16/44,1-24/192

    Japanese issues available at

    The sound of this player prepared by Maurizio is unique. Its performance is so different from what other audio companies have accustomed us to, that it will be very easy for us to decide whether we like it or not. In this respect it reminded me of another exceptional digital source, the Ayon Audio CD-35 SACD player.

    The CD-1000 is a volcano of energy. It is impossible to stay indifferent to its performance. Even if we listen to something quietly, in the background, after a while, unknowingly, we begin to listen to what comes from the loudspeakers (or headphones). The energy of this sound is absolutely unique and resembles what I know from good turntables such as SME, TechDAS or Avid HiFi. Because in terms of tone the Italian device comes really close to the latter, the sound will never become dry or bright even in the most difficult environment, as opposed to the first two turntables that don't tolerate any problems within a system they play in.

    Such a rich, saturated sound is a domain of Kondo, Audio Research, and Ayon Audio devices. I think it is not a coincident that the first brands I thought of were those that make wonderful tube-based devices. Maurizio is a member of the same exclusive club, who not only enjoys the tubes, but knows everything about them. Despite the community of beliefs and aesthetics, the sound of his devices, including the CD-1000, is significantly different.

    Let's start with aforementioned energy of this performance. Everything is interesting here, attracts attention. For good and for bad. There are no boring tracks, because in each one shall find something interesting. This effect was achieved using three elements: outstanding resolution, fantastic tone differentiation, and presenting the foreground closer to the listener.

    The latter is about something like bringing a vocalist closer to the microphone. In studio such tonality changes we call "proximity effects". It works like that: the closer a microphone is to the source of the sound, the more low tones are in its sound and its volume is greater. You can easily hear that effect, for example, comparing vocals from the 1950s with contemporary recordings (eg Close-Up, Vol.1, Love Songs by Suzanne Vega). The Gold Note player plays as if every element was placed very close to the microphone.

    So there is a palpable foreground, large size instruments, sound projected towards the listener. But we are talking about a device that phenomenally shows differences in the sound of instruments, distinguishes even the smallest elements. And first of all, it presents their acoustic environment better than most sources I know. Trying to be objective I have to say that it is a little overdone, exaggerated. But music is emotions and if we accept that form of presentation, then all other digital players - or almost all - will appear to us mellow, lacking vitality.

    And this vitality is what the CD-1000 offers for starters. Here every sound has a meaning, is important. Treble presentation is exceptional. Comparing this performance to such open sounding devices as my Ancient Audio, the AIR V-edition, or the Chord's Blu MkII + DAVE, it was obvious that the Gold Note is sweeter, warmer and yet its highs are stronger, richer, play a bigger role in shaping the whole presentation. Sound never gets too bright, to sharp, and the tonal balance is not shifted up. Something like this rarely happens, and if it does, it's rather when listening to master-tapes (or their copies) played on reel-to-reel tape recorders.

    One of the elements that should appeal even to those who regard being an audiophile as a disease, is the bass. It is powerful, dense, always present. It has a well-defined contour, so following bass, electric bass, kick drum, etc., is not a problem. After hearing the Italian device's performance even skeptics should be converted and convinced. If they are not it shall mean that nothing can help them anymore. It's a fluid, mature presentation but with a contour.

    And it is this contour that will not always work. With vocals, classical music, jazz, old rock – I love the 24/96 files from the first Led Zeppelin album! - it will be delicious, because there it is the lower part of the range that emphasizes what's best in such music, increasing layering of the music, adding some color to it. But with electronic albums such as Tom York's Tomorrow's Modern Boxes, or Novika's Tricks of Life, and even the Röyksopp's The Inevitable End, this contouring of bass makes it always sound powerful and clear - but always in the same way. An emphasis in the mid-bass area, so called "kick bass" resembles what we know from concerts and big stage speakers.

    Because if someone could have something against the CD-1000, and we are living in the world of devices made by man, not in the world of Platonic ideas, then it would probably go like this: this player does not differentiate the emotional side of the recordings, always trying to get the most colors out of them. Even a recording with no additional reverb, as Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina Missarum Liber Primus, recorded by Mr. Giulio Cesare Ricci from Fonè, took on some "body", density. And yet I know that it should sound more dry, in a more laid back fashion.


    I hope it is clear that we are dealing with a unique player. Even excluding the fact that it can be upgraded with several modules, which opens a path for system upgrade without a need to sell the device and buy another one instead, the CD-1000 offers some qualities on a level of the best digital sources I know. It guarantees beautiful colors shown in saturated manner and renders large, solid sound sources in front of us. The dynamics of this sound and its vitality are outstanding. It differs from the most expensive ones with slightly less clearly marked bodies of the instruments and with the bass, which in recordings where bass creates a bit monotonous pulse, may sound a bit like that (monotonous).

    Nevertheless it is a fantastic digital Player, not only for CDs but also music files, because WAV and FLAC files from the Fidata player connected via USB sounded also very good. CDs still sound better though. It's a “ripe” or even “warmed-up” presentation incredibly colorful - if you like this type of performance this might be your Player for a lifetime.

    The device looks fantastic. Its design is both, classic and modern, at the same time. It is clearly an Italian product too. Front, top and sides are made of thick aluminum plates, the remaining walls are made of thick steel sheets. The player is quite large, heavy and features four aluminum feet.

    Front and back

    The front is very nice - there are two vertical strips fit in aluminum plate. These strips may have color of a raw aluminum - as in the test sample - but they can also be matched to Gold Note loudspeakers' finish. Between these strips there is a very nice, golden company's logo. On the right, one finds a drawer with a display below.

    The latter has a blue filter, two lines and is very easy to read from even though the numbers and letters are not particularly large. Next to the right there are the drive control buttons and the standby switch. It seems that the “eject” button could be moved to the right - with the drawer open it is hard to operate this button.

    For the review we received the full version of this player, so the rear panel is filled with inputs and outputs. There are three digital inputs: RCA, TOSLink and USB. All accept PCM signals up to 24/192. Since currently the decoding DSD is a standard for USB input, I assume that in the future Maurizio will replace the corresponding module. There is also a BNC input for an external clock and an RCA digital output. Since this version includes also a linestage module there is also a pair of analogue XLR (balanced) inputs.

    There are two sets of analogue outputs: XLR and RCA. There are also 5-pin XLR sockets that allow user to feed signal to an external tube buffer. Obviously this impressive set is complemented by an IEC power inlet, a mechanical power switch, and a large, robust Neutrik Powercon inlet for an external power supply. All sockets are very solid, gold plated.


    Knowing how good this device sounds it comes as a surprise to see the small, neat, compact electronic circuit. First, however, one notices the CD transport mechanism. It has an aluminum die-cast plate tray reinforced with steel spindles on the sides. The rest of the mechanics is made of plastic, but from the top it is reinforced with an aluminum plate. As it turns out, the transport was produced by the Taiwanese company ASATech, and the Stream Unlimited has developed its software. The whole mechanism is called JPL-2580 Stream Unlimited. The drive is bolted to the steel c-beams and those to the bottom of the chassis.

    The electronic circuits are assembled on a single PCB. The DAC chip is the new Burr-Brown PCM1792AK. It works with integrated Burr-Brown OPA2228 circuits in the I / U conversion and output filters sections. An analogue preamplifier was included on the additional PCB placed above D/A converter section. It was embedded in silicon damping vibrations and covered with an aluminum shielding element.

    All this part has a separate power supply with discrete voltage regulation (based on transistors) and its own transformer from Talema. The transport section uses the same transformer. The USB input utilizes XMOS chip assembled on a small PCB, shielded from the bottom with a large steel plate. Replacing this PCB with a newer version should be very easy. Inputs and outputs use small printed circuit boards, with long interconnects feeding signal form/to them. Digital connections are separated using transformers.


    The included remote control looks as attractive as the player. It is very heavy - it's a solid piece of aluminum. The soft buttons allow user to control not only the player, but also the amplifier, the DAC and the preamplifier made by this company.

    Specifications (according to manufacturer)

    Frequency range: 20Hz-20kHz (+/- 0.3dB)
    THD – Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.001%
    S/N: -128dB
    Dynamics: 127dB
    Output impedance: 50Ω
    Output signal (RCA | XLR): 2 VRMS | 4 VRMS
    Power consumption: 30W
    Dimensions: 430 x 135 x 375mm
    Weight: 15kg



    - Turntable: AVID HIFI Acutus SP [Custom Version]
    - Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory ZERO (mono) | Denon DL-103SA, review HERE
    - Phono stage: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE

    - Compact Disc Player: Ancient Audio AIR V-edition, review HERE

    - Line Preamplifier: Polaris III [Custom Version] + AC Regenerator, regular version review (in Polish) HERE
    - Power amplifier: Soulution 710
    - Integrated Amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE

    - Stand mount Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
    - Stands for Harbeths: Acoustic Revive Custom Series Loudspeaker Stands
    - Real-Sound Processor: SPEC RSP-101/GL
    - Integrated Amplifier/Headphone amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
    - Headphones: HIFIMAN HE-6, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-300, review HERE | Sennheiser HD800 | AKG K701, review (in Polish) HERE | Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, version 600 - reviews (in Polish): HERE, HERE, HERE
    - Headphone Stands: Klutz Design CanCans (x 3), review (in Polish) HERE
    - Headphone Cables: Entreq Konstantin 2010/Sennheiser HD800/HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE

    - Portable Player: HIFIMAN HM-801
    - USB Cables: Acoustic Revive USB-1.0SP (1 m) | Acoustic Revive USB-5.0PL (5 m), review HERE
    - LAN Cables: Acoustic Revive LAN-1.0 PA (kable ) | RLI-1 (filtry), review HERE
    - Router: Liksys WAG320N
    - NAS: Synology DS410j/8 TB
    System I
    - Interconnects: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, review HERE | preamplifier-power amplifier: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
    - Loudspeaker Cables: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review (in Polish) HERE
    System II
    - Interconnects: Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0PA | XLR-1.0PA II
    - Loudspeaker Cables: Acoustic Revive SPC-PA

    System I
    - Power Cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300, all system, review HERE
    - Power Distributor: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate, review HERE
    - Power Line: power cable Oyaide Tunami Nigo (6m); wall sockets 3 x Furutech FT-SWS (R)
    System II
    - Power Cables: Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version, review (in Polish) HERE | Oyaide GPX-R (x 4 ), review HERE
    - Power Distributor: Oyaide MTS-4e, review HERE
    - Stolik: SolidBase IV Custom, read HERE/all system
    - Anti-vibration Platforms: Acoustic Revive RAF-48H, review HERE/digital sources | Pro Audio Bono [Custom Version]/headphone amplifier/integrated amplifier, review HERE | Acoustic Revive RST-38H/loudspeakers under review/stands for loudspeakers under review
    - Anti-vibration Feets: Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc/ CD Player/Ayon Polaris II Power Supply /products under review, review HERE | Finite Elemente CeraPuc/ products under review, review HERE | Audio Replas OPT-30HG-SC/PL HR Quartz, review HERE
    - Anti-vibration accsories: Audio Replas CNS-7000SZ/power cable, review HERE
    - Quartz Isolators: Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010/CP-4

    - FM Radio: Tivoli Audio Model One