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a AudioPhileDate Reviewed:
September 30, 2007Bottom Line:
The SR8 has already been reviewed by Absolute Sound in 2006. This review will be presented from an end-user perspective, after having happily lived with the SR8 for almost 2 years.
Whilst Alan Taffel’s review of the Goldmund SR System in Absolute Sound (2006) has provided some insight into the potentials of the SR8, I felt that it failed to do full justice to the sonic quality for the SR8 alone.
I agree with Alan’s summary comment that the Goldmund SR system, as an overall system, may not be quite there yet (as various components are still evolving), to convincingly sway existing audiophiles to go with an all-digital system; but this shouldn’t imply that the SR8 unit cannot achieve this goal, when paired with more competent/appropriate system components with the proper setup to exhibit its full potentials.
However I disagree with Alan’s summary comments in regards to the SR artifacts; specifically the “discontinuous dynamic shifts, curtailed note decay” are attributed to the digital processor SR8. Whilst this could be a valid observation during his review of the SR system on the whole, I found not such issue after having used the SR8 as a system component in my audio setup, for almost 2 years.
My view of the SR8 high potentials is not all alone. Quoting from Goldmund’s news letter (http://www.goldmund.com/news/2006/04/), “A group of Far-East Audiophiles, very advanced in technology understanding, selected as 2005 best Product the Goldmund SR8. Even if "only" in the SR line, they said that for less than 10'000 US$, it was the best preamp-processor money could buy. With the SR8F software, this is the only machine providing 100% transparent 2-channel, Dolby and DTS reproduction, but also allowing to make it a channel-divider, a room correction unit and a speaker corrector. If you count that all multi-channel processors are usually expensive and very poor 2-channel preamps, the Asian Audiophiles said that for 10'000$ you could not get a better solution.”
Based on my previous encounters, during auditions with other high-end preamps/AV-amp involved (offerings from Mark Levinson, Krell, Theta & Lexicon), before deciding on my purchase, I concur that the SR8 is the best sounding preamp/AV-amp I ever experienced under the US$10k price point. The same view still holds true even for components costing quite a bit beyond this price point.
To further substantiate Goldmund’s Universal Preamp’s accomplishment, it should be noted that the SR8 has won the “2006 Audio Excellence Awards” in the Pre-amp category; Mimesis 24ME has won the prestigious “Stereo Sound GrandPrix 2004” award. The Universal Preamp technology does have its merits.
From a construction perspective, upon examination of the internals of the SR8, it came as no surprise that the majority of the system boards and components had the Mimesis 24/30 component identification marks imprinted on them, showing it true pedigree heritage. In fact, the main distinction between the SR8 and its elder siblings Mimesis 24/30 are the following two areas (of deficiencies):
(1) Output channels restricted to 8-channels only;
(2) Economized/Tuned-down Mechanical construction akin to the SR-series
From a system perspective, to explore the full-potentials, which the Goldmund Universal Preamp (SR8/30/24) offers/advocates, one needs to seek to minimize the following 2 areas of distortion:
(1) Signal Transmission error; Maintaining full digital signal transmission until the last stage before amp feed;
(2) Crossover distortion; Utilize full digital crossover to remove the significant distortions introduced by the problematic speaker passive crossover;
It is surprising to find that a large population of the audiophiles is not fully aware of the significance of factor (2). In fact, in many setup, just by addressing issue (2) alone, significant sonic improvements can be achieved in many aspects of the playback performance. No wonder the Asian (especially the Japanese) Hi-End audiophiles (with full active crossover setup being very common) were able to appreciate the full-potentials of the Goldmund Universal Preamp more easily, than the Western Audiophiles (it is disturbing to learn that so many $$$ systems are still running in passive crossover mode! These guys just don’t know what they are missing!?).
What makes the SR8 solution unique, is when it is combined with a quality Digital Crossover system (such as DEQX PDC2.6p operating in Digital IN/OUT mode) that offers digital speaker correction (pseudo-anechoic, amplitude and phase) of speaker drivers and room correction, full-digital signal transmission and quality outboard discrete DACs, the overall sonic performance of the system immediate gets elevated to an unprecedented level, which may not be too familiar to most audiophiles, even though they may have plenty of contact with HiEnd audio gear. The common facial expression I see on my audio friends are ones that renders them speechless, in total disbelief! You know that an audio system sounds very good when their audiences persistently want to keep turn up the volume!
What SR8 offers here is the opportunity – it is definitely not an off-the-shelf solution, in which it can address all types of challenges a particular audio setup faces alone.
Finally, to further enjoy what the Goldmund SR8/30/24 Universal Preamp can bring, 2 areas of interest should be explored:
(1) Ensuring that for critical listening that volume control is between 79-99. At this setting, the SR8 becomes highly transparent - to the point where it appears to disappear from the audio production chain, leaving no specific sonic fingerprint behind, but pure and dynamic music;
(2) Fully exploring the “Speed” & “High Bandwidth” characteristics from Goldmund. There are many reasons why I wouldn’t go with a full Goldmund implementation. But if one utilizes the SR8, I would strongly advise to go with Goldmund’s JOB4/JOB5 (Monoblocs) for HF amplification, utilizing its 3MHz bandwidth and 1MHz flat response. Any offerings from Goldmund, JOB or StellaVox range will be good choice. Do ensure that the speaker drivers are of high sensitivity and wide bandwidth characteristics. And to fully enjoy, high power handling as well. I run a mixture of speakers utilizing Beryllium HF-drivers from JBL and JM-Lab as well as Diamond HF-drivers from B&W. In a proper setup, you will be amazed by how well the “Speed” and “High Bandwidth” properties can be fully exploited…and see the speakers disappear in thin air!
As an AV-preamp, the SR8/30/24 offers the same ultra high-resolution, one would commonly expect from a Goldmund 2-channel pure audio setup. The DSP-based AC3/DTS decoding really works their magic here. The end result is that the level of transparency it offers makes the viewer forget about the audio system. An addition benefit is that all decoding is software based and can be upgraded via PC-link to cater for any new decoding standards. So the Goldmund Universal Preamp will not be outdated easily because of changes in standards used by the audio encoding/decoding.
In summary, despite of the high potentials of the SR8, I would not recommend it for everyone, but the most “die-hard” of the audiophiles. This is because only the most serious and dedicated audiophiles will consider going with the full-digital active crossover with their audio setup, due to additional cost and complexity. In a half-cooked solution, one will not be able to fully appreciate what the SR8 can offer. And more than likely will find the solution unsatisfactory, in one regards or another. The SR8 this case, should not be blamed, but the extent of the implementation.
The SR8 represents Excellent value for money! (worthy of 5 stars)
Overall, one point is deducted from overall score for lacking in AES/EBU output; IEEE1394 input; Word-Sync clock I/O (worthy of 4 stars)
Used product for: More than 1 year
Duration Product Used: AudioPhile
Product model year: 2005
Purchased At: Michael's Audio (HK)
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