(Review) Gold Note IS-10, The Best Compact Integrated Amp

gold note is-10 review

As you may recall from our Acoustic Energy review, we met up with the team from Fidelity Imports at FLAX and brought home goodies. Among them was the Gold Note IS-10, an Integrated amplifier that really pushes boundaries for its price point of $3,499.00 (U.S). This amp packs a lot of power, connectivity, and sound quality into a chassis about a third of the size of my Rotel CD player. The price may seem a little high for some folks who think size equals performance, but the truth is, small can be mighty. With 90 watts per channel, you can drive a ton of different speakers, including as we tested, Magnepan LRS+. Magnepans are notorious for needing gobs of current to sound their best, and I thought what better speaker to test the capability of the IS-10 than the LRS+? Let’s take a look at how this amp stacks up in our review.


When you unbox the amp you are greeted by a small pamphlet that will guide you via QR code to the setup manual. While it’s fairly simple to use, the WIfi can be tricky to set up if you aren’t familiar with networking. You need to download the GN Control App (free) and then connect to the Wi-Fi signal your new IS-10 puts out then use that to log into your network. Once you have it connected you are good to go from there on. There is also an RJ-45 Ethernet jack in the back if you want to go wired, and if you choose this method the amp will completely shut off the Wifi section, eliminating the possibility of noise. The other connections are fairly self-explanatory, you connect what you want using either the various digital inputs or the two analog single-ended inputs (RCA). One that may confuse you at first is the single RCA output, this is if you want to connect the matching PA-10 making this and the PA-10 monoblocks and increasing power from 90 WPC to 280 WPC, both into 8Ω.

gold note is-10 review

The IS-10 is a simple-to-use device that doesn’t have a load of software and settings, meaning it is very much a set-it-and-forget-it amp. You won’t need to fiddle with settings constantly, and in some senses, you can’t really fiddle with the amp. There are no tone controls, filters, or anything that will change the sound. Some people will find this preferable as there is less in the way of the natural sound, what you hear is what you get so to speak. If you are the type to want to constantly mess with tone controls and EQ to tweak the sound to your mood you may find the IS-10 a little too simple. I do like having some tone control to play with as I listen to so many different speakers and I like the flexibility in sound you can get from EQ. That said the Gold Note does sound great how it comes out of the box, but being able to bump the bass on thinner speakers or the highs on warmer speakers would make it that much easier to live with.

I used three different sets of Speakers with the IS-10, including the previously reviewed (LINK) AE109², my Sonus Faber Sonetto V, and the Magnepan LRS+. All of these speakers have differing tonality, designs, and demands, making them a good set of speakers to test the IS-10 with to see just what it may pair best with. The one I was most interested though was the LRS+, as these speakers are hard to drive and get the most out of, and watts alone won’t get you there. I tried the Arylic B50, a 50-watt Class D amp, and it just could not get them singing like my McIntosh MC250, which has the same rated power. The IS-10 though was able to sufficiently feed the LRS+ and was actually a delightful pairing. You may be hesitant to pair Class D with an already bright speaker, however, the preamp section of the IS-10 is Class A and they have tempered the Class D power section so well that you likely wouldn’t know it was Class D at all. I have said this quite a bit in my recent reviews, but Class D has come a long way and shouldn’t be a bad word in the audiophile world these days, especially when it is implemented as well as it is in the IS-10.

gold note is-10 review

Sound Quality

In general, regardless of the speaker choice the IS-10 offers plenty of power to push woofers, and the detail to make the top-end sparkle, it offers surgical precision with a robust and rich midrange. I loved the depth of the soundstage as well as the as mentioned, precise imaging especially when listening to orchestral music. For me, the real hero of the IS-10 is the DAC section. With a myriad of inputs, you can connect a handful of different digital devices to the IS-10 and take advantage of its AKM AK4493. When listening to my Rotel CD-11 tribute I preferred to have the D/A conversion done by the Gold Note, using the Coax input. The Same goes for playing FLAC files off of my Fiio M9, as you can output with its included adapter to COAX. The one input the IS-10 is missing is a Phono, though if your table has a built-in Phono stage you won’t need that. Gold Note also offers a matching Phono Stage should you need it to use your table. The overall build of the IS-10 does seem to lean more toward a modern digital listener and caters heavily to that listener so not having a Phono Stage makes for less circuitry in this already packed chassis.

gold note is-10 review

Listening with the LRS+ was a true joy and probably my favorite combo out of the speakers I had to listen with. Though they did make me wish there was a subwoofer output as the LRS+ does lack low-end punch. That said the LRS+ is very detailed had has an incredible mid-range, which was only helped by the IS-10. While listening to, oddly enough, the Halo 2 Soundtrack, specifically “Delta Halo Suite” the imaging was exacting, and the space between the instruments gives you a feeling of being in a much larger space. The Soundtrack (original) is composed by Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori with an orchestra. It is arranged much like how a symphony would be with movements instead of short tracks. Delta Halo evolves over time to fit the story of the game, with a slow string intro and chamber-style vocals, giving way to an upbeat and faster section adding in drums, with the strings building tension that cuts completely about two-thirds of the way in and transitions into this soft solemn piece that has a sadness to it, before fading out and giving way to a horn-heavy next piece. The IS-10 does the piece justice especially paired with the LRS+ as it is a much more detail-oriented movement. The combination presented the strings with a very real and natural sound. There is no color to the music at all, and it sounds as neutral as can be. For the purists this a very compelling system that will cost you less than 5K all in.

Switching speakers to the AE109² as well as music, presented the IS-10 in a bit of a different light. More like a laid-back do-it-all all amp with enough power to make the woofers on the AE109² move and provide that punch in the low end. This combo will run you the exact same as a pair of AE109² cost the same as the LRS+, and they are both great speakers but with two very different sounds. When I had the AE109² hooked up I actually had the system out in my front room which is an open space adjoining the dining room with a tall vaulted ceiling, this is also where Herc’s house is. It is very much a shared space and I prefer a traditional dynamic speaker in the space to the Magnepans. I think for users who are going to listen to a wide variety of music and even use this system with their TV the AE109² would be a better choice. The AE109² is a less picky speaker, that has more placement options and is more of a Jack of Trades, or rather music, whereas the LRS+ is better suited to critical listening and may leave you wanting with certain genres, especially without the subwoofer output. I played a variety of music while it was paired with the AE109² as the IS-10 was the primary amplifier I used in their review, and found that the combination offered solid dynamics, fair amounts of detail, and a pretty good sound stage. The IS-10 certainly eeked out more detail and lushness from the AE109², than the Ayrlic I also tried with those speakers.

gold note is-10 review

When I switched to my Sonus Fabers, I tried out the different inputs and DAC sections these are my reference system and I would be able to discern differences in how they sound. I got out my trusty Fiio M9 which I primarily use on the go, but it also supports FLAC files so I ripped my CD collection to it as another source. I put on an all-time favorite, “Good News For People Who Love Bad News” by Modest Mouse. I listened via the digital output using the COAX input on the IS-10 as well as trying the analog output then into the IS-10 via the RCA input. I prefer the Gold Note DAC to the Fiio, though it was not a major difference, as the Fiio uses the AKM AK4490EN. However, I do think the implication makes more of the difference as there is simply more room to isolate the audio circuitry in a home audio amp than in a mobile headphone amp a fraction of the size. There is just a bit more clarity and airiness with the Gold Note doing the conversion. The other difference is when allowing the IS-10 to do the conversion we are not using the Fiio M9 amp which will also influence the sound.

I prefer my Sonetto V over the LRS+ and they just sound better to my ears with the IS-10 as you get a good amount of bass from the setup. You just don’t get it from the LRS+, and without a subwoofer, it left me wanting a bit with certain music types like rock and hip-hop. The 90 watts though were plenty to get the woofers going on the Sonetto V to where I didn’t miss having a sub as much, I could live with this setup and not want to upgrade right away, and in the event that you add the PA-10 you could get even more punch from a dynamic speaker. Speaking of dynamics, they are wonderful and very present through the Sonetto V, at the end of “The Devils Workday” there is this wild horn part that gets pretty high-pitched while the kick drum thumps away and the frequency spread is pretty massive and it sounds just so good.

gold note is-10 review

The network connection was very reliable for me as well as responsive. I get about 175-200 Mbps Down and 8-10Mbps up in the music room over Wifi. I do not have an ethernet connection in the room as of yet, though plan to run one eventually. As it is streaming itself over the network you get no loss in sound quality from your source, be it Qoboz, Tidal, or any other streaming software that is supported, which is all of the popular ones. There is also Bluetooth connectivity which works well if that is what you want to use. It is also responsive though lossy.

The last use was Toslink which the only source I currently have that uses Toslink is my Sony Bravia XR 55″ Class TV 4K OLED HDR. This is also known as Hercs TV as it is out in his room for him to watch when we are not home. I use my old Martin Logan LX16 Speakers with an Arylic A50+ typically for the sound on the TV. The IS-10 was a massive upgrade in sound quality and power. It made movies much better as the bass was punchier and the voices were more lively and realistic. I can not compare the sound to the TV itself as that just isn’t fair, but compared to the Arylic it was a very noticeable upgrade. Which brings me back to the AE109². The IS-10 and AE109² would make for a killer music/gaming/family room setup. to be all in under 5k and have this level of sound and immersion is rare in the world of HiFi.

gold note is-10 review

Pros & Cons


  • Small chassis
  • Big sound
  • Great digital connectivity
  • Great DAC
  • Plenty of Detail
  • Easy to use
  • Clean design
  • Enough Power for many speakers
  • Will power Magnepan LRS+
  • Made in Italy, sourcing as many parts locally as possible


  • No Phono
  • only one pre-out (limited upgrade path)
gold note is-10 review


  • INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER: 90W @ 8Ω (stereo)140w @ 4Ω (stereo)280W @ 8Ω (mono with PA-10 EVO)
  • FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 5Hz-50kHz (-3dB) 
  • THD (Total Harmonic Distortion): 0,001% (1kHz @ 1W)
  • NETWORK CONNECTIVITY: LAN & Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Dual Band (10/433Mbps)Bluetooth High-Definition 5.0 (44/16)
  • HIGH-QUALITY STREAMING: Roon Ready, Tidal Connect, MQA, Airplay, vTuner, Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer, Spotify Connect
    DLNA Roon 
  • SUPPORTED AUDIO FORMATS😐 PCM up to 32bit/384kHzDSD up to DSD256 (DSF, DFF)AIFF (aif, aiff, aifc)WAV (wav) packed/unpacked FLACWmA Windows media Audio 9WAX Windows media audio metafilesASX Advanced Stream Redirector (asx)MPEG-4 (aac, m4a , Apple lossless)MP3IMPORTANT UPnP server must support DSD streaming in order to stream DSD files. 

Associated Equipment

  • Rotel CD-11 Tribute
  • Fiio M9
  • Iphone 14 Pro
  • Macbook Air M2
  • Sonus Faber Sonetto V
  • Acoustic Energy AE109²
  • Magnepan LRS+
  • Audio Quest Interconnects, Power Conditioning
  • Prosper Cables Speaker Cables
gold note is-10 review


The IS-10 is a compelling amplifier for the money, it offers a lot in a small chassis at an affordable price point. When you, as I have mentioned several times, pair it with a set of AE109² or similar speakers you get a Hifi System for under 5k that offers a wonderful user experience. The only issue I have with it is the lack of pre-outs to use an amp of your choice later on or even one of the bigger amps in Gold Note’s own lineup. Though I do appreciate the option to add the PA-10 to more than double your output it is somewhat limiting for the burgeoning audiophile that may want to explore a bit more. You may consider the lack of Phono a downside, but in this chassis size, it may end up being just clutter to the circuit as well as the back panel. If you choose to add a turntable to your system, down the road, there are loads of good Phono stages to plug into one of the analog inputs. I have not heard the matching phono stage for this amp so I can not speak to its sound, but it is designed for this line of products and likely pairs well. I truly enjoyed my time with the IS-10 and look forward to working through their catalog as this is just the tip of the iceberg. To me, this is the ultimate small single chassis integrated amp under 5k. The only real competitor I can think of is Cyrus, as their Classic Amp is about the same size and output. If you are in the market for a sleeper amp that you can put anywhere and power just about anything with you owe it yourself to audition the Gold Note IS-10

For more information:

U.S. Distribution

Fidelity Imports

Disclaimer: Fidelity Imports Provided Hifi Chicken with an IS-10 for review, Gold Note, Fidelity Imports, nor any affiliate paid in part or full in exchange for this review.

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