The best way to understand the SR’s unorthodox architecture is to follow a bitstream from entry to exit. The SRDVD reads bits from any disc and either converts them to analog (in the case of SACD and DVD-A) or routes them to its digital output. The analog stream then traverses a pair of Goldmund’s Lineal interconnects, while the bits follow a Lineal digital cable. Upon entering the SR8, all inputs are converted to 94kHz/24-bit digital, since that is the native rate of the DSP. In the case of incoming analog signals, the conversion is performed by a Goldmundproprietary A/D processor. The DSP then sets volume, decodes multichannel bitstreams into individual channels, and serves as an active crossover for the biamped downstream speakers. From the SR8, bits emerge through multiple digital outputs, travel to the speakers, enter their digital inputs and are finally converted to analog by internal Goldmundbuilt DACs. The now-analog signal is handed off to an adjacent 200-watt, ultra-high-bandwidth Goldmund amplifier, which drives the speakers to produce sound.
Notice the unprecedented level of end-to-end and vertical integration— unique in the highly-specialized high end—of this system. Every major and minor component, down to the cables, power cords, and speaker frames, is built by Goldmund. Likewise, at the subcomponent level, the company has eschewed off-the-shelf chips in favor of proprietary conversion modules and inhouse software. Further, each of the three primary components incorporates Goldmund’s own AC-line-filtering technology and its patented Mechanical Grounding system to vanquish sonically deleterious micro-vibrations. Clearly, the SR is a “system” in a far more profound sense than we typically encounter.
Goldmund systems have historically been characterized not so much by a particular sound as by a set of sound qualities. These include: a purity that allows details to emerge naturally; a degree of openness that, for example, enables uncannily realistic overtone structures and which can only be conferred by essentially unlimited bandwidth; unbounded dynamics along with lightning-fast dynamic reflexes; and the ability to trace, say, a brisk piano run without a hint of the slurring we have come to deem unavoidable. These qualities have created a cadre of devotees who, despite this gear’s atrocious cost, are spoiled for anything else. I admit to being among them. For over fifteen years—an unprecedented span—my reference system has been Goldmund-based.
The SR system does not sound quite like its ancestors, though it certainly exhibits many of their traits. The most Goldmund-esque of the SR’s attributes is its clear, detailed sound. In typical Goldmund fashion, the SR finds and extricates the buried sonic minutiae— textures of instruments, a room’s acoustics, tiny expressive flourishes— that add so much to the musical experience. As always, these details are rendered naturally, without edginess or analysis. Dynamics, too, have a realistic snap that I hear in very few systems. Indeed, someone not accustomed to hearing these qualities would likely find the SR system revelatory.
The SR also accomplishes a raft of more commonplace, but nonetheless important, audiophile feats. Spatial characteristics, for instance, are exemplary. The SR’s modest-sized speakers throw a surprisingly large soundstage. Especially impressive is their layered depth. Imaging is perfectly precise yet, again, natural. The Logos Subs deliver satisfying extension, grunt, and precision. No doubt the latter contributes to the overall system’s rhythmic infectiousness.
Compared to my analog reference system, the SR has a more modest scale, less powerful bass, and a slightly reduced dynamic range. These tradeoffs are doubtless due to the greater size and sensitivity of my reference speakers, which also benefit from being supplemented by an outboard 15" subwoofer. In any case, as I have indicated, the SR is no slouch in any of these areas. On the other hand, I can see no obvious reason why the SR shouldn’t match the reference system’s unlimited sense of space and airiness. Instead, the SR places a definite ceiling over the sound. To be sure, the ceiling is higher than on many other systems, but it is not up to Goldmund standards. Through the SR, for instance, CDs that are particularly open, such as Teldec’s live recording of Mahler’s First Symphony or my trusty Michael Wolff Trio 3am [Cabanna Boy], sound run of the mill. Their superior extension is inaudible because they hit that virtual ceiling.
Does this phenomenon arise due to speaker limitations or due to the underlying digital technology having an absolute brickwall bandwidth of 48kHz, at best? Unfortunately, I could not determine the answer. The Mini Logos and Logos Subs do provide line-level analog inputs, which should have allowed me to test them in an analog environment. But four speakers with four analog interconnects and four power taps is a sure recipe for ground loops, and I got them in spades. I tried every ground and outlet configuration possible in my listening room; none could banish the plague, which alternately produced a loud hum or simply shut the speakers down.