Goldmund Telos 590 Nextgen Integrated Amplifier
Review sample provided by PUUR audio, video & domotica
Retail price: 27.250 euro
Goldmund was founded in 1978 and has since been dedicated to the accurate reproduction of sound. The guiding principle at Goldmund to this day is to produce a precise sound with the least possible loss of quality.
The Goldmund website has very little in the way of technical background info and the amplifier’s manual doesn’t add much beyond general information to get you started. It seems that for Goldmund, it is all about the end result which is the music, even if the underlying techniques are “invisibly” pushed to the extreme to achieve this.
As far as I can tell, this is a class A/B design and as the unit does not get warm to the touch even in the slightest when idling (or when playing) it does not seem to waste much energy in the form of heat suggesting that it is not biased too heavily into class A.
The specifications on the website quote the amp’s power consumption as 1/8 Output Power at 8 Ω: 250 W (IEC 60065). While browsing the tech specs section I noticed a very healthy power rating of 2 x 215 W RMS into 8 ohms (IEC60065). The rating into 4 ohms and 2 ohms is not provided but going from what I hear with my easy to drive Kroma Carmens and the not quite so easy to drive, well, make that outright hard to drive, Magico Q5’s, the amp has more than enough control and plenty of power.
Full metal remote control unit
The Telos 590 Nextgen amplifier is extremely straightforward to operate. There are five analog inputs on cinch and 3 digital ones for Coax, Toslink, and USB. The front panel is occupied only by two rotary knobs for input and volume and a display. There is nothing to be configured on this amplifier: switch to the required input, set the desired volume level and you’re set. All the inputs are chosen sequentially with a single knob, leaving no distinction between analog and digital inputs. The power button is placed on the rear side but because the unit draws very little current, it can be left switched on indefinitely. If required, however, it can be switched on and off from the remote control unit, which also operates the input selection and volume level. The rear side also looks very straightforward: the aforementioned digital and analog inputs, a pair of speaker connectors, mains input and a power switch. There is no pre-out or main-in and the speaker connectors have a very simple appearance but these are all conscious decisions made to allow for the best sound quality.
The amp’s merits will be assessed in my own system and after that, I will also connect it up in audio buddy Niels’s Magico setup. The kick-off is with my main system consisting of a CH Precision C1 DAC and A1.5 power amp using Kroma Audio Carmen loudspeakers. The source is an Antipodes CX+EX server/renderer combo connected to the C1 DAC via a Final Touch Callisto USB cable.
Normally, I use XLR connections but since the amp uses cinch connections exclusively (again, a conscious decision), for this occasion I used AudioQuest Water and Vermouth Reference cinch interlinks. As speaker cables, I used Furutech Nanoflux and Jorma Design Trinity. The power cables for all components were Belden 19364 with Bals schuko and Oyaide C-004 connectors.
Belden 19364 power cable with Oyaide C-004 IEC connector, Furutech Nanoflux speaker cable and AudioQuest Water cinch interlink
As the amp’s internal preamp and power amp sections cannot be separated, the initial comparison was between the CH Precision C1 as a volume-controlled DAC into the A1.5 power amp and the C1 with fixed output level as a pure DAC into the Telos 590 Nextgen’s analog input 1, labeled “4”, leaving its built-in DAC unused for now. To be fair, I used the same cinch interlinks (either AudioQuest Water or Vermouth Reference) between C1 and A1.5 as between C1 and Telos 590 Nextgen.
Although the amp does not get warm in the least it does need some time to fully come on song. Upon the first switch on it sounds impressively detailed and transparent right away but also quite dry for, say, the first 20 minutes. After about 30 minutes it starts to become more fluid and the midrange gains more continuity and color. After that, slowly, the amp’s sound becomes slightly warmer and smoother and I’d say that it is really cruising after about 2 hours.
Although CH Precision’s two founders Florian Cossey and Thierry Heeb both have a background with Goldmund and there are indeed some similarities between the two amps, they do have a different presentation in a number of ways.
Sound with analog input
Overall, the amp sounds energetic, pure and explicit and highly lyrical, by which I mean that it is musically and emotionally involving. Its timbre is highly convincing and to my ears very natural. The amp also has excellent resolution and sounds utterly clear yet it combines its precision with a well-dosed amount of warmth and although it has a slightly forward delivery in the midrange compared to the gentler A1.5’s, this actually aids the liveliness of the performance, and the Telos 590 Nextgen certainly never sounds hard or nervous. In fact, one could also say that the CH Precision has somewhat flatter imaging than the Goldmund. In terms of soundstage width, the two are about equal. The amp manages to sound warm yet neutral and lively yet relaxed. Its bass is rounder and not as tight and articulate as that of the CH Precision A1.5 but still on the tight side of the average just as its treble behavior is not as refined and airy as that of the A1.5 but still considerably subtler and airier than the majority of other amplifiers that I have used. The A1.5 may be tighter but that can also translate to a more analytical sound for some listeners and in certain system combinations. In terms of transparency and subjective neutrality, the two amps are about equally great.
Especially the Telos 590 Nextgen’s midrange has a certain quality that makes it both musically convincing and pleasant to listen to. It’s a certain richness of texture and subtle warmth coupled to a density and direct-coupled-ness that is immediately appealing. The amp has enough warmth to avoid sounding cool yet it sounds upbeat and lively and certainly not slow.
Final Touch Audio Callisto USB cable
Sound with built-in DAC
The built-in DAC is of high quality, on par with external DACs costing several thousand Euros. The DAC matches the amp in character as it also sounds precise, articulate and direct-coupled yet fluid and with a timbrally rich midrange. Sure, it cannot match the fullness, body, and refinement of the very costly C1 but still, the built-in DAC has a foot-tapping and engaging delivery that appeals immediately. Comparing the built-in DAC with external DACs with less eye-watering price tags than the C1’s such as the 6.860 euro Aqua La Scala and 13.670 euro Formula xHD DAC, there is still a case to be made for going with an external DAC, especially in terms of refinement and ultimate resolution but otherwise, the overall difference with these DACs is not exactly huge which says a lot about the Goldmund’s DAC board. One thing to note about the built-in DAC is that its precision and tightness can lead to dryness depending on the rest of the audio system that is less easy to tweak out as it can be done with an external DAC and its associated cables.
While I personally prefer the CH in my system mostly because of its low-level resolution and extraordinarily articulate bass I am also much impressed with the Goldmund mostly because of its engaging and organic midrange. Although both amps have certain areas in which they excel, overall, I can’t say that one outclasses the other. Both amps are very precise and essentially neutral and both avoid sounding overly cool. It’s really a matter of perspective, system matching, and personal preference.
Since my Kromas are so easy to drive and are not really putting an amplifier to the test in terms of power delivery I thought it fitting to give the Telos 590 Nextgen also a run in the context of audio buddy Niels’ Magico Q5 system. The Q5’s dip to a 2.75-ohm impedance and have certain phase rotations that make them hard to drive well but as it would quickly become clear, the amp drives these speakers with gusto.
It’s not visible on this picture but the Telos 590 Nextgen has carpet-piercing spikes under its metal feet to make for a very solid coupling
The Magico’s are very revealing but the Goldmund behaved itself absolutely immaculately. There was never any harshness nor a hint of bite and never any shortage of power yet the sound was fast, tight and focused and absolutely not wooly yet also smooth and relaxed and very easy to get into. The Bricasti M15 that I listened to in Niels’ setup very recently was creamier and more relaxed but the Goldmund is spicier and more exciting and still possessing of a certain warmth that never gets in the way of the music’s communicative powers. Niels normally uses a Soulution 711 which is also of Swiss manufacture, just like the Goldmund and, indeed, my CH Precision. We’ve compared the A1.5 to the 711 in this setup on another occasion and we also carried out comparisons at my place. While it is tempting to draw a parallel between these three amps, really, they are different beasts.
What they have in common is that they all combine a high level of neutrality and precision with a pleasing musical flow and they all drive the Magico’s very well. Beyond this, their characters are pretty different. The A1.5 tighter, more agile and refined and the 711 darker, fuller, more 3D, and more thunderous in the bass. Among these two, the Goldmund straddles the middle path, taking some of the other amps’ best features to make for a presentation that is immediately satisfying.
Understandably, the best sound in Niels’ setup was achieved using the Zanden 5000 Signature DAC’s analog outputs via Vermouth Audio cinch interlinks into the Telos 590 Nextgen. But the built-in DAC also fared very well. As I noted earlier in my setup the amp with its built-in DAC can tend to dryness and this was evident in Niels’ setup as well. Although the Zanden could not be equaled (which would have been a miracle) we could tweak the sound of the Aurender S10 using a selection of USB cables. The Mad Scientist BlackMagic sounded the smoothest and gentlest and was closest to the Zanden’s sound while the AudioQuest Diamond USB yielded the tightest, most articulate and most exciting sound, but it was also quite dry. Please note that there are many other great USB cables out there but in this case, I was confined to those with adequate length to work in Niels’ setup. As an alternative to the Mad Scientist cable, I have a feeling that the CAD USB-1 USB cable would also make a great match.
As I am nearing the end of this review, the thought occurs to me that the Telos 590 Nextgen is actually the best integrated transistor amplifier that I have heard so far. The only other amplifier that springs to mind as potentially approaching the Goldmund’s performance in some key areas such as neutrality and communicative powers in the midrange would be the 22K Analog Domain M75D. But that amplifier does not include a DAC and I’d have to hear them side by side to say anything more conclusive about it.
This amplifier has much impressed me. The only downside for me is its complete lack of any user adjustments. For others, I suspect many, that is probably a benefit but for me, having grown accustomed to the CH Precision’s level of expandability and user-adjustable settings, the Goldmund strikes me as spartan.
The Telos 590 Nextgen matched superbly with the Kroma Audio Julieta’s as well at the PUUR Audio, Video & Domotica showroom. Posing left to right: Ben van Leliveld, Robert Brijde, Daan Vreeswijk, and Kees Wijnberger.
While the best part of 30K is not exactly a bargain even if an integrated amplifier with built-in DAC is much more economical than separate components and it saves a lot on cables, the fact is that all the truly benchmark-setting amplifiers these days are priced either similarly or even higher. Alas, that’s the reality that we live in. In any event, the Telos 590 Nextgen absolutely and unequivocally delivers. It is the finest integrated amplifier that I have heard so far.