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STEREOPHILE, Vol. 25, No. 12' 2002
Michael Fremer

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The dual-mono vacuum-tube Lamm LP2 (www.lammindustries.com), a single black box featuring switchable moving-magnet (MM) and moving-coil (MC) inputs, is also meant to be heard more than to be seen.  The Deluxe edition ($6,690), with added damping and high-capacity capacitor bank, weighs more than 40 lbs (22 lbs for the $6,290 standard version).  Vladimir Lamm's high-current, pure-class A, zero-feedback design uses two pairs of small, high-transconductance, low-noise, post-WWII Western Electric 417A/5842 tubes originally intended for RF preamplification.  The RIAA EQ is passive.  The Deluxe power supply uses a 6X4 full-wave rectifier tube, a choke-regulated filter, and 150 Joules of energy storage (125 Joules in the standard edition).  Selectable MC step-up is via a 10x Jensen transformer with a 40 Ohm input impedance.  The MM input is 47 kOhms in parallel with 200 pF.  High-quality components are used throughout, with the Deluxe edition bypassing some caps with polystyrene, and the build quality is superb.

Though the On/Off switch is located inconveniently in the rear, the LP2 is designed to be left on all the time, should you so desire.  I turned it off when not in use, giving it a half hour to warm up each time I listened.  Each unit is burned-in at the factory for 72 hours.  The documentation is the most complete and detailed I've seen for a high-end audio product, with unusually complete instructions and full sets of useful specs and graphs.  Every expensive high-end product should include such thorough advice.

The LP2 Deluxe was super-quiet in both MM (38dB gain) and MC (58dB) modes.  Backgrounds were pitch-black, out of which emerged the subtlest of low-level details and graceful musical textures.  In fact, the LP2 competed texturally with the Boulder 2008, and bested the Manley Steelhead in that regard,  The Manley -- still my reference, and I'm still in love with it -- can sometimes sound a bit mechanical on top.

The Rega Exact positively sang through the LP2, as did a high-output Adcom Crosscoil (rebuilt by the Garrott Bros.) into the MM input.  But the MM input is more of a utility; few buyers at this price point will be running MM.  The 40 ohm input immpedance proved a good compromise for most MC cartridges, even for the 3 Ohm Lyras (the multi-tap Manley transformer stops at 25 Ohms).  There was nary a trace of transformer signature to be heard through the MC input; the overall sound was warm, relaxed, and expansive, though free of such cliched tube signatures as bloom, overly ripe bass, or softened transients.

A/B comparisons with the Groove, which is not exactly birhgt on top itself, indicated that the Lamm's top end was ever so slightly diminished, but not at the expense of transient speed and definition.  It reminded me of some of the recent Dynavector cartridges, which many readers rave about to me, but which I find slightly reticent.  The Lamm's output impedance was a somewhat high 3.5 kOhms, so I went back to John Atkinson's measurements of the Hovland HP-100's input impedance (see Stereophile, November 2000).  This was a 100 kOhms across most of the band and down to a still-high 86 kOhms at 20 kHz, so I don't think the slight lack of top-end presence was an impedance mismatch.

Bass extension, control, and definition were startlingly good.  Not since the Boulder 2008 have I heard the standup bass on the LP of Alison Krauss's New Favorite sound so well-defined.  (The Alesis MasterLink was so helpful in making these instantaneous comparisons!)  Subtle dynamic scaling was on a par with the Boulder and notably superior to the Connoisseur, which, while maintaining a superb musical grip, seemed to jump more than it flowed, dynamically and rhythmically.  The Lamm had great control of the proceedings, but also knew when to let go.

Subtle string textures, reeds, and female voices were positively thrilling, and the size and weight of the entire picture -- especially stage depth extending well behind and in front of the speakers -- was particularly impressive.  Add that to snap-you-back-in-your-seat dynamics and authoritative decay, and the Lamm became one of a handful of the finest phono sections I've ever heard.  Classic Records' 45rpm reissue of the Reiner/CSO edition of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (RCA Living Stereo LSC-2201) never sounded better.


Manufacturer's Comments
(same issue)

Dear Editor,

We are pleased with Mike Fremer's review of our new phono preamplifier model LP2.  Incidentally, this is our first phono stage model and Mike Fremer's is the first review in print of this product.  We believe Mr. Fremer had captured the essence of the LP2 quite well; the review concludes with "...the Lamm became one of a handful of the finest phono sections I've ever heard."  We hope that this acknowledgement will be a door-opener to those who have not yet had an opportunity to audition the LP2.

In the review, Mr. Fremer mentions that the "Lamm's output impedance was a somewhat high 3.5 KOhms,..."  We'd like to briefly comment on this.  The phono preamplifier is the most delicate part of the audio chain as it deals with very small signals.  Consequently, the minimization of a number of amplification stages is of paramount importance for improving the signal/noise ratio as well as for assuring the most natural sound reproduction.  Finding the proper solution to it is relatively tricky and ambiguous.  Employing the high transconductance triodes has enabled us to create a single amplification stage with sufficiently low output impedance.  In addition, because of the high current design such a stage ensures tremendous loading capability which, in turn, made it possible to omit the output buffer.

In case of the LP2, the single-triode output stage has the output impedance of about 3.5 KOhms, and that is more than enough for proper matching with any line stage that has an input impedance of at least 30-35 KOhms.

Our thanks to everyone who made this review possible.

Sincerely,

Vladimir Lamm
President, Director of Engineering
LAMM INDUSTRIES, INC.

 

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