Goldmund's Telos 360 monos sound/act like amplifier equivalents of top-class passive-magnetic preamps.
Envision a Vinnie Rossi LIO or Bent Audio Tap-X with precision Slagleformer AVC controls. Or attenuation transformers from StereoKnight, Music First Audio/The Bespoke Audio Company, Audio Consulting & Co. If you've crossed rosy paths with superior examples of this breed, you know how relatively veiled, sluggish and congested even good active preamps can sound by contrast. You also know that wrong systems will instead cross swords with passives. That's because for all their bright clarity, unweighted suddenness, caffeinated speed and immediacy, there are a few things they are not: meat packers, body builders, makeup artists and soft-focus lenses. Systems which want more meat on their bones, greater body on their tones, foundation and blush to conceal their paleness, diffusion to soften their haggard nerviness - they won't change their stripes by one wiry hair with a passive preamp in the mix.


To explain why the Kaiser Kawero! Classic didn't want its very pretty stripes altered, the next photo tells the tale. The front-firing Audio Technology 7-inch midrange is loaded by a rear-firing 8-inch passive radiator to fill out the response below the former's baffle-step loss. The 10-inch Audio Technology woofer which is fully active only below 60Hz and vented to the floor aims back as well. This combination of omni, dipole and direct radiation patterns plays to both direct and diffusive/reflective aspects in a cannily administered mix. Leaving related tech talk to the speaker's own review, here we'll only say this: the qualities of speed, incision and separation are ably served by the Raal ribbon, radiator-loaded midrange and extreme resonance measures in the Panzerholz enclosure whilst natural warmth and power come from the backward-firing artillery and how it plays your front/sidewall reflections.


The relevant upshot of it all is, this speaker doesn't want any injection of complimentary/complementary sonics. The same could be said for our upstairs German Physiks HRS-120 omnis. They mate a 360° dispersion Ohm Walsh-style widebander with a downfiring 10-inch woofer. That's exactly why we run those Germans from an Oppo BPD-105 universal spinner direct into a Crayon Audio CFA-1.2 integrated with passive attenuator. Whilst not as finely resolved as the Kaiser—the HRS-120 is priced well less than half—that tower's native warmth too prefers wide-bandwidth direct-coupled amps. A sufficiently powerful Bakoon would serve beautifully. So does Goldmund's entry-level Job 225. Even drier starker class D gets away with them. To say good-bye to the Kawero, hearing this combo explains why their respective makers promote it as a fine match. It really brings out their best!


That aural intro captured the Goldmund gist or zeitgeist. To tease out specifics like quasi percentages, I had to revert to intimate familiars both on the amp and speaker front: Pass Labs XA30.8 and Job 225 for the former, Albedo Audio Aptica and EnigmAcoustics Mythology M1 for the latter. By contrast, I needed to sort out how much suavity versus clinical resolution the Telos 360 mustered within its AVC-as-amp category. As presumably the bare-boned alter ego, Job's 225 would be illuminating particularly on less demanding speakers where the 360's power advantage might not matter. As an innately warm, very dense and bottom-up presenter, the Pass would then play known counterpoint from the other corner of the ring. Where on that axis would the Telos 360 pitch its tent?


If I wanted similarly dense saturated sound as from the XA30.8 using the Accuton'd Albedo Audio Aptica, I had to precede the COS Engineering D1 DAC/pre with the Aqua Hifi LaScala MkII tube-buffered converter and use the D1 only as volume control. That combination netted equivalent sonics as running the XA30.8 directly off the D1. It overlapped in all the important core areas to belong to the same school or flavour. Given how the LaScala packs about double the dose of 'tube sound' as my Nagra Jazz preamp, this was telling about how the Pass and Goldmund amps differed.