Although bringing you closer to the absolute sound may be the best thing it is capable of, the Telos 590 Nextgen II’s appeal isn’t limited to absolute sound listeners. As the Børreson 05 loudspeakers did with Van Cliburn’s performance of the Prokofiev Third Piano Concerto [RCA], this integrated can also teach you things about how music is being played, and how a well-recorded performance can highlight structure and meaning—the kind of presentation that will make it equally appealing to “fidelity-to-source” listeners.
Take, for example, Luigi Nono’s mid-twentieth-century composition for flute, clarinet, alto saxophone, piano, and percussion, Polifonica—Monodia—Ritmica [Time Records]. As its title plainly states, this is a three movement work in which serial techniques are first applied polyphonically, then in monody, and then, rather jazzily, to rhythms and dynamics. Like so many mid-century classical compositions it is, at once, an expressive piece of music, an aesthetic argument, and a methodological demonstration.
While I’ve enjoyed Nono’s music in the past, I can’t say I understood all he was up to until I heard Polifonica—Monodia—Ritmica played back through the Telos 590 Nextgen II via the fantastic DS Audio Grand Master optical cartridge (and the equally fantastic CrystalConnect Art Series Da Vinci cables). Because of the Goldmund’s remarkable clarity (and that of the Grand Master and the Da Vincis), I could better hear how the tone rows of the first-movement adagio were being sounded by the different instruments individually, canonically, and simultaneously. Because of its equally remarkable density of color, I could also better hear (and understand) the Klangfarbenmelodie of the second movement, where the continuous iteration of tone rows by instruments of different timbre and register created a monody of varied hue and texture. And on to the final movement where the Goldmund’s sensational speed and granitic power filled out the exciting and expressive serial rhythmic patterns, including lightning fast, three-dimensionally solid, densely colored, and impactful drumstrokes, and absolutely exquisite cymbal taps. What had once been an intriguing collection of sounds became a musical composition of artful complexity, performed and recorded with expressive skill—and also a little lesson on what the most sophisticated “atonal” composers were doing in 1951.
As for “as you like it” listeners…well, with color, power, speed, resolution, and sweetness of this order there isn’t much you can play that won’t raise goosebumps. From the terrific blues guitar and vocals on the Hans Theessink album I mentioned earlier (what a pity this superb performer was born in The Netherlands—being a Little Dutch Boy has cost him some of the esteem he is rightly owed) to the equally terrific playing and singing on homegrown blues guitarist Albert Cummings’ Believe [Provogue] (wait to you hear his rendition of Isaac Hayes’ great R&B anthem “Hold On, I’m Comin’”—he may not be Sam & Dave and Steve Cropper here [who was or is?], but he is still pretty damn wonderful), the Goldmund Telos 590 Nextgen II will have you rockin’ and rollin’ almost as deliriously and unreservedly as those high-ticket big boy monoblocks. Or try one of my new faves, Low Neck Connie’s double-album Private Lives, where that musical polymath Adam Weiner manages to evoke Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Warren Zevon while still coming across as his own supremely gifted self. (I dare you to listen to “Help Me” without tapping your feet—or marveling at the smart, catchy lyrics.)
I think you can tell that I like this amp, though you may have noticed that I haven’t yet discussed its built-in (non-MQA) DAC. Don’t worry—it’s not because I think it’s lousy. It is anything but lousy. It’s just that in comparison with something like the Soulution 760 (which, all by itself, costs more than twice as much as the Telos 590) or the MSB Reference DAC (ditto, suitably fitted out), it won’t resolve quite the same amount of musical detail or deliver quite the same fully dimensional soundstage. (It is also a mite darker in timbre and less dynamic than either of these SOTA units.) I don’t hold this against the Telos 590. After all, you’re getting a world-class amplifier and preamplifier and what is, by any standard short of the world’s best digital sources, an exceptionally accomplished DAC for a few bucks under $30k. If that isn’t a deal (for high-rollers, at least), then what is?
I’ve already mentioned the place where the Telos 590 Nextgen II disappoints. Its ergonomics are old-fashioned, and the absence of a second output could be a deal-breaker for some (although, believe me, they will regret missing out on the sound that the Nextgen II delivers). There is this, as well. In the heart of winter, in a low humidity environment, you can generate static electricity by walking across a carpet (at least, I can). A little spark or charge of same transferred by hand to a DAC or a phonostage connected to the Telos 590 Nextgen II can trigger the protection circuit in the Goldmund unit and shut it down. Even though this is a first in my experience, it’s no big deal. It is easily corrected by rebooting the amp (turning it off and then on again). Just be aware that such a momentary shutdown is a possibility—and don’t freak out if it happens to you.
The Goldmund Telos 590 Nextgen II took me by surprise. No, it is not the full equal of my reference solid-state amps and preamps from Soulution, Constellation, and MBL. For one thing, it doesn’t have all the unlimited power and voltage of these state-of-the-art monsters. Consequently, it is not quite as fast or as hard-hitting or as minutely detailed or as iron-fistedly controlled. On the other hand, if someone had told me that an amp, preamplifier, and DAC in a single box could come as close to the sonics of these outstanding separates as the Goldmund Telos 590 Nextgen II does, I would’ve laughed in his face. You won’t hear me laughing now. This is a marvelous piece of audio gear that, for me, sets a new eye- and ear-opening standard for integrated amplifiers. Yeah, it costs $30k, but it’s worth every penny.
Specs & Pricing
Output power Maximum power (IEC60065), 2x 215Wrms into 8 ohms
Damping factor 600 at 1kHz/8 ohms
Output floor noise <10μV from 20Hz to 20kHz
IMD (SMPTE), unloaded <0.02%.
THD+N, unloaded <0.08% from 20Hz to 20kHz at 30Vrms output
Rear panel I/Os Output binding posts (left & right); on/off power switch; voltage input selector; RS232 command connector; USB 2.0 device (no driver required on Mac OS X as of v.10.6.4 nor on Linux, driver required only for Windows), sample rate up to 384kHz, bit-depth up to 32-bit, DSD64 native, DSD128-over-PCM; TosLink optical; digital SPIDF coaxial RCA 75 ohms; 5x analog RCA (left & right)
Dynamic range 100dB
Dimensions 44 x 16.5 x 41.5cm
Weight 20 kg
AUDIOARTS (U.S. Distributor)
210 Fifth Avenue, NY 10010
JV’s Reference System
Loudspeakers MBL 101 X-treme, Magico M3, Børreson Acoustics 05, Voxativ 9.87, Avantgarde Zero 1, MartinLogan CLX, Magnepan 1.7 and 30.7
Subwoofers JL Audio Gotham (pair), Magico QSub 15 (pair)
Linestage preamps Soulution 725, MBL 6010 D, Constellation Audio Altair II, Siltech SAGA System C1, Air Tight ATE-2001 Reference
Phonostage preamps Soulution 755, Goldmund PH3.8 NEXTGEN, Walker Proscenium V, Constellation Audio Perseus, DS Audio Master1 and Grand Master, EMM Labs DS-EQ1
Power amplifiers Soulution 711, MBL 9008 A, Constellation Audio Hercules II Stereo, Air Tight 3211, Air Tight ATM-2001, Zanden Audio Systems Model 9600, Siltech SAGA System V1/P1, Odyssey Audio Stratos, Voxativ Integrated 805
Analog source Clearaudio Master Innovation, Acoustic Signature Invictus Jr./T-9000, Walker Audio Proscenium Black Diamond Mk V, TW Acustic Black Knight/TW Raven 10.5, AMG Viella 12
Tape deck United Home Audio Ultimate 4 OPS
Phono cartridges DS Audio Grandmaster, DS Audio Master1, Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement, Air Tight Opus 1, Ortofon MC Anna, Ortofon MC A90
Digital source MSB Reference DAC, Soulution 760, Berkeley Alpha DAC 2
Cable and interconnect CrystalConnect Art Series da Vinci, Crystal Cable Ultimate Dream, Synergistic Research Galileo UEF, Ansuz Acoustics Diamond
Power cords CrystalConnect Art Series da Vinci, Crystal Cable Ultimate Dream, Synergistic Research Galileo UEF, Ansuz Acoustics Diamond
Power conditioner AudioQuest Niagara 5000 (two), Synergistic Research Galileo UEF, Ansuz Acoustics DTC, Technical Brain
Support systems Critical Mass Systems MAXXUM and QXK equipment racks and amp stands
Room Treatments Stein Music H2 Harmonizer system, Synergistic Research UEF Acoustic Panels/Atmosphere XL4/UEF Acoustic Dot system, Synergistic Research ART system, Shakti Hallographs (6), Zanden Acoustic panels, A/V Room Services Metu acoustic panels and traps, ASC Tube Traps
Accessories DS Audio ION-001, SteinMusic Pi Carbon Signature record mat, CAD GC-1 and GC-3 Ground Control, Symposium Isis and Ultra equipment platforms, Symposium Rollerblocks and Fat Padz, Walker Prologue Reference equipment and amp stands, Walker Valid Points and Resonance Control discs, Clearaudio Double Matrix Professional Sonic record cleaner, Synergistic Research RED Quantum fuses, HiFi-Tuning silver/gold fuses