Goldmund Telos 590 NextGen II Review

Posted on 19th February, 2023
Goldmund Telos 590 NextGen II Review

Rafael Todes steps into the exotic realm of 'superfi' with this huge and highly capable Swiss integrated amplifier…

Goldmund

Telos 590 NextGen II

Integrated Amplifier

USD $29,750

Goldmund Telos 590 NextGen II Review

You'd be forgiven for not knowing the Goldmund brand. It's an extremely high-end hi-fi company emanating from Switzerland and tends to be quite enigmatic about its developments – and, indeed, products. I first encountered it at the Munich High-End Show a few years ago and was duly impressed by what I heard…

The best way to describe the Telos 590 NextGen II is as an ultra high-end integrated amplifier, complete with its own built-in DAC, and price-wise, sits below Goldmund's very top models. It is a true DC amplifier that's said to work from 0Hz to 3MHz in Class AB mode and is claimed to sport “the fastest” circuit used in any amplifier. This is said to ensure zero phase error or time distortion in the 20Hz-20kHz audio band, which is the range of human hearing.

Goldmund Telos 590 NextGen II Review

Should you ever take the lid off, you will see a metal bridge with an elegant brass plate on it. The manufacturer says this increases thermal decoupling and vibrational energy to the FETs. The internal DAC has USB, S/PDIF and optical digital inputs and works up to 32-bit, 384kHz resolution. Five analogue inputs are provided via rear panel RCA phono sockets; unusually for a high-end design, there are no balanced XLR ins. High-quality binding posts are fitted for just one pair of loudspeakers, which means that a subwoofer can't easily be accommodated. Claimed maximum power output is 215 watts into 8 ohms, and 280W into 4 ohms – in other words, enough for pretty much every domestic application.

Goldmund Telos 590 NextGen II Review

The Goldmund looks quintessentially high-end; it's beautifully built yet sparse and minimalist – with just two knobs on the fascia for volume and input, plus a small screen that displays both settings. This amp feels incredibly solid and is rather heavy at 20kg. Stunning to look at, it's built from a special alloy supplied by the aircraft industry. The matching solid metal remote control unit has standby, mute, source and volume functions. Unusually, when you switch the amp on, you need the remote to get yourself out of the mute function, so if you've lost the remote control, it ain't going to work!

Goldmund Telos 590 NextGen II Review

For the purposes of this review, I inserted the Goldmund into both of my systems – the first headed by a dCS Bartok streaming DAC, with a Naim NAT-01 analogue tuner and Quad ESL-63 electrostatic loudspeakers. The Quads are in perfect condition, fully serviced and capable of the greatest subtlety. Having previously been powering them with a 50W RMS per channel Trilogy valve amplifier, the Telos 590 immediately felt far more authoritative. It was a good sign…

THE LISTENING

This is a super-controlled, taut and tight-sounding amplifier. It was immediately clear when I played a recent recording of Mozart's La Clemens di Tito with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the late Sir Charles Mackeras. Where most amplifiers muddy the upper bass, the Telos displayed supreme control. This orchestra, with a nod to period playing, uses hard sticks for the timpani, and so really sounds like it's in the room – or at least it did with the Goldmund calling the shots…

Goldmund Telos 590 NextGen II Review

I also loved the superb spatiality, despite this not being my reference loudspeaker's greatest strength. When the orchestra broke into a fugue, the counterpoint came over with amazing clarity, and delicacy – as well as being superbly located in the hall. Rhythmically, there was a real drive to the music, and the timing of the bass with the top lines proved immaculate. The Quads are really in their element when asked to reproduce just three or four performers; any more than that, I find that they lose resolution. Yet here, I had never heard them sound better.

With the slightly eccentric Rondo for Piano and Orchestra by Mozart, with Barenboim and the Berlin Philharmonic, the piano was reproduced beautifully. It sounded fast and lyrical, with all the colours Barenboim was making coming through clearly. There was a clockwork precision to the accompanying orchestra, which really brought out the humour of the interpretation for me. The complex layering of Mozart's orchestral score was obvious, with the Telos 590 managing the sound well and keeping all the musical characters in their appropriate places on stage. Being an ardent valve amplifier fan, I found this surprising because there was no glare or brittleness that I sometimes hear with transistor amplifiers. The sound was unerringly smooth, detailed and beautiful.

Goldmund Telos 590 NextGen II Review

It's the Goldmund's combination of transparency, grip and dynamics that makes it such a special thing to hear. The hell-raising start to Verdi's Macbeth, conducted by Sinopoli and recorded on Philips, is a series of abruptly changing shades of drama and hysteria. The irate brass sounded incredibly forceful and clean, and I could hear the exact blend of instruments being played. The Quad electrostatics are, of course, very fast, having light skins radiating the sound, and proved fully able to show this amplifier's speed and dexterity. Even the chorus was particularly well reproduced, with oodles of detail without getting shouty or bright.

Moving to classic rock and listening to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody was like being in the recording studio's vocal booth; such was the immediacy and clarity on display. Voices sounded marvellous with great texture, and the acoustic instruments were amazingly well portrayed, all layered like a sliced onion. Indeed the Telos 590 deconstructed the original recording brilliantly and built it all up into a soundstage of great transparency and accuracy. It can do prog like it was born for the role!

Goldmund Telos 590 NextGen II Review

Give this big amplifier some more soulful, jazzy programme material, and it shines with this too. The earthy strains of the Buena Vista Social Club album – now remastered at 96kHz – delivered a massive soundstage, impeccable rhythms and a very tactile performance. The percussion sounded fabulous, and the singers' vocal colours were intoxicatingly lovely; the only downside was that the amp reproduced Ry Cooder's annoying guitar glissandi with a clarity that I could happily do without!

And now for something completely different. The Telos 590 was then moved to my second system, which uses Bowers & Wilkins 802 D4 loudspeakers with a Naim NAT 01 FM tuner and a dCS Vivaldi DAC with Apex. Listening to BBC Radio 3, and the combination sounded detailed and fast. With the same recording of Verdi's Macbeth, I was blown away by the sheer grunt that the Goldmund displayed. During the chords of the opening, I could see further into the harmonies that Verdi uses. Heavy chords cleared quickly, and I could hear the tails of notes with incredible clarity. Spatiality proved pretty good, too; not quite up to the standards of my own VAC tube amplification, but still, the Goldmund had so much to offer. For example, it was superb at unpacking complex sounds, such as the choir in Macbeth – which came across with power, weight and smoothness. This is certainly the best solid-state amplifier that I've had in this system.

Goldmund Telos 590 NextGen II Review

Given that I'm used to listening to world-class standalone DACs, the one built into the Telos 590 wasn't bad at all – indeed, it's really rather good. I assessed it by using a dCS Network Bridge feeding the Goldmund's internal DAC stage with a Chord Company Sarum Array. I heard an impressive sound with the trademark Goldmund character – it was large, clean, detailed and impactful. As you might expect, it lacked the spatiality and depth of the dCS, nor did it have the latter's wide palette of tonal colours – but still, it was a surprisingly small difference. You might think it was a slightly ridiculous comparison, yet this integrated acquitted itself extremely well under the circumstances.

THE VERDICT

In summary, the Goldmund upholds the immutable law of hi-fi: you get what you pay for. In the case of the Telos 590 you pay a lot, and you receive much back in kind! It may be incredibly expensive, yet it is massively well-engineered, built and finished – and, of course, a pure pleasure to listen to. Super-fast, ultra-grippy, tonally clean and smooth and with great power and dynamics, it's hard to hear better from any integrated amplifier at any price. So this is an ideal 'all in one' box solution. With its telephone number price tag, it's hard to talk about value for money, but I doubt anyone who buys this will feel short-changed.

For more information visit Goldmund

Rafael Todes's avatar

Rafael Todes

Gifted violinist Rafael is one quarter of the Allegri String Quartet, playing second fiddle. Once a member of the CBSO under Sir Simon Rattle, he now teaches at London’s Junior Royal Academy. A long-time audiophile, he’s still on a quest for the perfect sound.

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Tags: goldmund 

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