Disclaimer: Goldmund’s Japanese distributor graciously loaned me the HDA to me for the period of this review. You can find out more about the Goldmund Telos HDA Headphone Amplifier here. Telos goes for around 10.000$ USD.
The HDA Telos headphone amplifier (herein called Telos) is as Swiss-made as my lumbars have had the displeasure to heft. It weighs Twelve Swiss kilograms from the floor to the desk, and chest-high into a HiFi niche, it feels like fifteen. It comes in Swiss grey. All external plates are nudged into place by flush countersunk bolts, each lining up like clockwork, front to back. You could fasten a guide rope from its RCA jacks. Its screw-driven feet could pierce a Soviet T34.
But heavy or no, Telos is lovely. Telos is strong. And Telos leaves a mark.
After icing my lumbars, the first thing I noticed about Goldmund’s amp was its accurate-as-the-pre-APO-Leica-Summicron-90 (my favourite portrait lens) volume pot, which comes wrapped front to back in a grippy aluminium pyramidical topography. Its firm post ensures you’ll never twist it too far one way or the other.
Telos’s dual headphone jacks sit in wells 4mm deep and are skirted by enough room for the largest classic ALO plugs out there. The text above them reads _HEADPHONES_ in all caps. All text (with the exception of the laminated seal on the bottom) front and back, is finely engraved and paint filled.
Goldmund employ abbreviations. Analogue becomes ANA, Digital becomes DIG. I’m not sure what to make of that. There’s enough space to write both digital and analogue. To me, this is unnecessary obscurity, and I’m calling Goldmund out for it.
Telos doesn’t look exotic, but it feels like a million bucks. It goes for about 10.000$ USD. I would imagine that the detailed work that went into perfectly aligning all case elements, not to mention the beautiful engraving and gorgeous lay out, took up a sizeable chunk of that change.
In the subjective terms of luxury, Telos shames every single headphone amp I’ve touched. Yep, it even shames ALO’s awesome Studio Six. Actually, the comparison is almost unfair. Studio Six is beautiful, but the level of detail that went into it isn’t even close to the same level. The feet screw on in perfectly driven wells, with ribbed grips perfectly fit for human hands of all sizes. The ins/out array at the back is self-explanatory, simple, and gorgeously laid out. The front is equally as gorgeous. That said, I don’t think Telos is going to win the beauty competition you wish it would.
If you aren’t into luxury gear, Telos won’t appeal to you. It sounds great, but it isn’t made to a budget. It is made to a customer. If that’s not you, there are a million options out there tailored to your budget.
I need to call out Goldmund on one more thing:
The placement of a protruding bolt too near the rear-right foot, which keeps the foot from going flat against the chassis, and which can potentially damage the foot’s screw socket. Considering how precisely everything else is designed, I’m more than surprised that Goldmund missed this. It behooves them to fix it.
Everything else is Swiss.
I have tested Telos with a large variety of headphones. And just to be thorough, I threw very sensitive earphones at it. Firstly, in no square wave or RMAA test, was Telos ever stymied by any combination of load I sent its way. That means, Beyerdynamic DT880/600 in one channel, Earsonics SM2 in the other, or both split on one channel, while the other fed my sound multitrack recorder and a second earphone, or any combination of IzoPhones-60, Alpha Dog, DT880, et
At no point did the output signal degrade in any way. In no way did noise audibly jump up. At no point did Telos puff up IMD into any channel. At all points did Telos drop by drawers. Damn, it sounds, and performs, fine
More after the break