Goldmund Mimesis 8 power amplifier Page 2
The same was true of a superbly real-sounding CD of the viola versions of the two Brahms clarinet sonatas that I bought on impulse from the Berkshire Record Outlet (Bridge BCD 9021, footnote 4). No way could the viola's characteristically weak-fundamentaled tone be mistaken for either a small cello or a large violin. And again, the Mimesis-driven WATT/Puppies hung the instrumental images unambiguously between and behind the loudspeakers with an excellent degree of palpability.
This sense of spatial realism was repeated with Stereophile's Intermezzo LP. Again the Steinway just hung at the end of the listening room, while throughout the midrange, its sound was deliciously true to what I remembered from the Santa Barbara church where we made the recording. And the individual sections of the choir in my Dream of Gerontius recording on Test CD 2 in the unaccompanied passages were superbly delineated in space, both set the right distance back behind the loudspeakers and differentiated from each other. Again that sense of the midrange being right: those voices were grain-free and real-sounding; the brushed-cymbal "tzzing" in this work was close to perfect, as were the brass and violin sounds (amplifiers often get one right but not the other).
This strongly positive impression was modified somewhat by an occasional feeling that the lower mids were a little on the lean side. There was also a very slight degree of grain in the high treblethe MOSFET "mist"?as well as a general softness in the bass that remained a constant feature no matter what loudspeakers and source material I played. There was plenty of low-frequency weight, the Mimesis 8 not lacking when it came to extension. It is said to be a DC-capable amplifier, after all. But the midupper-bass region seemed to lack definition. Yes, the WATT/Puppy has a slight problem in this very same regionthe "blump," as Sam Tellig calls itbut it was accentuated with the Mimesis in the chain. It was least disturbing on piano recordings, but the instrument's left-hand region was always softer both than I would have liked and than it should have been. And too often on complex orchestral music, with both the KEF and Wilson speakers, bass instruments lost definition as they got louder, their sounds merging overmuch.
Overall, while the Goldmund had reasonably good dynamics, when there wasn't too much or too complex bass energy, it didn't reflect the music's need for power in the same authoritative way as the Mark Levinson and Krell amplifiers.
For the comparison sessions, either the Mark Levinson No.23.5 or the Audio Research Classic 60 sat on top of it, which I felt would not compromise its performance due to the electromagnetic screening of its steel chassis, but other serious listening was performed with it sitting alone.
With a deeper soundstage than that presented by the Mark Levinson No.23.5, a softer, more appealing low treble/upper midrangethe Enigma synth'n'chant recording (MCMXC a.D., CD, Charisma 2-91642) became somewhat more listenablethe Mimesis 8 had a lot going for it. That generally much less well defined bass, however, counted against it to a significant degree on music possessing high levels of low- and upper-bass energy. The first track on Simple Minds' Amsterdam 3" CD (Virgin SMXCD 6), for example, "Let It All Come Down," has the synth bass line dominating the mix. Via the American amplifier, it made musical sense, the hyped mix conveying a good sense of power and weight. But via the Mimesis, it degenerated into mud, the amplifier apparently losing control of the WATT/Puppies in this region, the result being a loss of the essential sense of drive.
Now you might well point out that it's a little unfair for a reviewer to use $17,500 worth of amplification and loudspeakers to reproduce such an exaggerated and unsophisticated rock recording. It's hardly likely that prospective Goldmund owners want to spend that sort of money to play Simple Minds recordings. Well, they might, but more important, I regard the role of the high-end component reviewer as being analogous to that of someone who tests cars. A Mercedes owner may never hang the tail out and use the gas pedal to point the car in the right direction, but the reviewer should do so on the test track, to see where the car's ultimate limits lie. The Amsterdam EP is my test track.
Compared with the Krell KSA-250, which I feel has less well-defined lows than the Levinson, the Goldmund's bass was still nowhere near being in the same league. Even in comparison with the Audio Research Classic 60, which is not one of the primary amplifiers turned to by bass freaks, the Mimesis 8 offered bass frequencies that were softer and less well-defined. And while the Swiss amplifier was less lean than the Classic 60 driving the Wilsons, it was slightly outclassed in the image depth and palpability departments, and not that much better in its handling of musical dynamics.
"Enigmatic" is the right adjective to describe the Goldmund Mimesis 8. Whereas similarly priced high-end amplifiers like the Mark Levinson No.23.5 or Krell KSA-250 will give what they have to give under all but exceptional conditions, the Mimesis 8 is more restrictive. When optimally set up, it can afford its owner glimpses of sonic heaven. That magic midrange! That excellent soundstaging, closely approaching that offered by the outstanding Audio Research Classic 60.
But only with the right loudspeakerssensitive, with a highish impedance and overdamped bass alignmentand with the right kinds of music: small-scale instrumental classical music or acoustic jazz; well-recorded classical piano; and voice recordings. In general, the more complex and more dynamic the music and the more demanding it is in the bass range, the less satisfying the Mimesis 8's sound will be in the long term, I feel.
Can I recommend this Goldmund, therefore? Only to those prepared to meet its demands. I would conjecture that, in the context of an all-Goldmund system, it would probably sing and swing. But as a general-purpose, high-end power amplifier? Not really, unfortunately, especially as its price can't help but reflect the current weakness of the US dollar against the Swiss Franc.
Footnote 4: Berkshire Record Outlet Inc., Rte. 102, Pleasant Street, RR1, Lee, MA 01238-9804. Web: www.berkshirerecordoutlet.com. Their catalog is a treasure trove of recordings you'd never find anywhere else.