...[The ML2.2's] bass is acutely aligned with the rest of the sonic spectrum: exacting in terms of dynamic shifts and pitch definition, and able to impart the expressive texture of instruments throughout its range. ...And the amps were able to achieve all of this while dealing with the large woofers of Wilson MAXX 3s -- and were never short of the power needed to push quick-paced, dynamically challenging fare...
...In the mids, there is no highlighting, even as the region reminds us again why SET amps are prized. Roundness -- the sense that images are not flat and lacking in dimension -- and density are in full redolence, giving voices especially a sense of immediacy that's not a function of transient speed, for instance, but rather the extreme physicality of the presentation. The ML2.2s are physical, which is all the more noteworthy because of their dozen and a half watts of power. Along with this, however, is vitality -- a vast amount of musical information that is the sign of another intricate balance this amp achieves: between sheer resolving power and standard-setting naturalness. The ML2.2s are certainly detailed amps, but they achieve this with grace, not ruthlessness. Analog was especially impressive... Playing some of the 45rpm sets coming from Chad Kassem's new record-pressing plant...was an act of near-constant revelation...
...There are many ways to sum up the Lamm ML2.2s. They represent more than a worthy upgrade to the ML2 and ML2.1; they can drive speakers that would choke other SET designs; they offer a nearly unique collection of traits, including realistic tone and balance, copious weight and dimension; they have rather un-SET-like bass.
What makes them most memorable to me, and I suspect to you if you get to audition them, is that they quickly override the part of the brain that cooks up these thoughts to begin with. You may sit down to listen to the amps, but in short order you'll realize that you're actually listening to the music, so quickly do they make you forget about them. ..it's [probably] the highest goal of hi-fi -- to transcend the equipment, what the ML2.2s do as a matter of course.
Marc Mickelson, TheAudioBeat.com (January, 2012)
FROM THE EDITOR
...This essay is neither a renunciation of all amplifiers other than SETs nor an evangelical campaign for the world to embrace the single-ended triode amplifier. They are limited in the loudspeakers they can drive, exhibit other practical drawbacks, and are certainly not for every listener. Moreover, only a very few of them are uncolored enough to be used as a reference. But when I listen to music through a pair of Lamm ML2.2s, I can't help but question whether nearly a century of conventional wisdom about what makes an amplifier "good" has led us down the wrong path.
Robert Harley, The Absolute Sound (June, 2012)
...The highest praise I can give the Lamm ML2.2 is that it doesn't sound like a single-ended-triode amplifier. ...the ML2.2 is far more than just another low-powered SET. In fact, it is singular in its ability to deliver SET virtues while minimizing their limitations.
...The ML2.2 is solidly built but decidedly utilitarian in appearance. This is a serious piece of audio engineering, not living-room jewelry.
...For starters, the ML2.2 has an absolutely luscious rendering of tone color, yet it never crosses the line into a syrupy romanticism that would soon grow tiresome. The amplifier lacks the typical SET signature of an overly warm and ripe midband that directs the musical focus to certain instruments. And then there's the bass, the Achilles' Heel of SET. The ML2.2's bottom-end extension, control, dynamics, and articulation wouldn't be mistaken for a solid-state dreadnought design, but neither would you think that this 18W SET could deliver the kind of bass control and dynamic drive it exhibited driving the Magico Q7.
The ML2.2 is so natural, organic, and musically right -- and so greatly minimizes an SET's traditional shortcomings -- that the amplifier caused me to question the modern paradign of high-powered solid-state amplification...
...The ML2.2 sounds like whatever the source sounds like, with no common editorial signature from recording to recording.
What makes the ML2.2 different from other amplifiers -- tubed or solid-state, single-ended or push-pull -- is a sense of palpable realism and the feeling that music is being brought to life contemporaneously. The ML2.2 doesn't sound like just a great tubed amplifier, only a little better; it provides a fundamentally different listening experience. This amplifier's sound is qualitatively superior, not quantitatively. As I discussed in my review last issue of the Q7, realism is the ultimate goal of high-end audio, and therefore the ultimate reference standard for judging audio products. And realism is what the ML2.2 delivers, in spades.
...The ML2.2 is utterly natural, organic, and free from any hint of electronic haze. Significantly, the ML2.2 liquidity and ease aren't the result of softening the treble, slightly reducing resolution or rounding transient information. In fact, this amplifier has a full measure of treble energy, is ultra-high in resolution, and has whip-fast transient performance. The difference is that the ML2.2 doesn't make the treble sound as though it's a separate component of the spectrum. Neither does it artificially hype detail or add etch to transient leading edges. It simply presents music in a way that sounds closer to the way live instruments sound, and less like a hi-fi recreation of them.
Another of the ML2.2's strengths is its ability to make crystal-clear subtle musical lines that, through other amplifiers, become part of a homogenized background. The ML2.2 allowed me to hear, without effort, what every musician is doing at any time. Countless times I found myself discovering nuances of expression in "background" parts that turned out to be essential to the piece's presentation. This quality is in part aided by another of the ML2.2's great attributes, the impression that the instrument exists in tangible space, not in a freeze-dried vacuum. I could hear a halo of air around the image, and that halo expand outward with its dynamic envelope, a quality for which Jonathan Valin coined the term "action." Not only that, but the ML2.2 portrayed the reverberations around the instrument with a density and complexity that one hears in life ...When these qualities are combined simultaneously as they are in the ML2.2, the result is an extremely powerful connection with the musical expression.
...The Lamm ML2.2 surely belongs in the pantheon of the world's greatest amplifiers -- of any price or technology. This amplifier delivers the kind of special listening experience that you must hear for yourself to understand just how special it is -- and how it can make other amplifiers, even the most highly regarded tube and solid-state designs, sound somewhat flat and sterile by comparison.
...Once you hear the ML2.2 under the right conditions, your world will be forever changed. I know that mine has been.
Robert Harley, The Absolute Sound (February, 2013)
Interestingly, while the reproduction of spatial effects on stereo recordings isn't high on my list of priorities, the ML2.2s' imaging prowess was among the first things I noticed. In that regard, these newest Lamms embodied the single-ended ideal: they floated solo instruments and voices between the speakers with the sort of psychedelic presence that seems the sole province of that output architecture. Spatially and in many other ways, the Lamms were engaging from the start.
More important, those sounds were musically convincing. While the sounds of instruments and voices had believable color, texture, and presence, and appeared to emanate from within a black absence of electronic noise, it was also apparent from the start that the Lamm allowed lines of notes to retain apparently all their natural flow and momentum. Although this might pass for faint praise in another context, the ML2.2 was the most listenable amplifier I've experienced.
In my 2004 review of the ML2.1, I described that amplifier's ability to scrape noise and distortion away from lines of notes, and get closer than ever to the real musical sounds underneath the artifacts. The ML2.2 did that and more: it unearthed music, and musical meanings, I'd simply never heard before.
...The ML2.2 didn't just respect sonic colors and textures -- it revered them, with greater saturation and depth than I recall from its predecessor.
...Vladimir Lamm, whose groundwork in engineering and the perception of sound has occupied him for nearly 50 years -- and whose Lamm Industries celebrates its 20th anniversary this year -- has created an amp that offers not only unparalleled performance in many regards, but combinations of musical qualities available in no other product I know of. While only the prospective buyer can judge the value of the ML2.2, I suspect that most people with both the means and a thirst for the capabilities described above would have little trouble pulling the trigger.
...the Lamm ML2.2 is a failure in only one regard: it is completely useless for background music. Every note it played in my home became unignorable. An extraordinary product, and one that all of you should endeavor to hear.
Art Dudley, Stereophile (April, 2013)