Vol. 18, No. 4'1995
...The last Lamm
product I had my hands on was a pair of M1.1 monoblocks (see
Vol. 18 No.4, Vol. 22 No.7). I liked those hybrid
tube/solid-state amps quite4 a lot. Since then, Lamm has
weathered the vicissitudes of the audio business and has
soldiered on to produce a full range of tube and hybrid
electronics. They've also coaxed very respectable sound
from recalcitrant rooms at diverse audio shows -- a real miracle, I can tell you.
...Thus it was that
those devilish tiny triodes lit their filaments behind mine
beady eyes, and the next thing you know...
90W ML1 monoblock is a blend of contemporary
form-follows-function styling with several retro-chic
touches. Two huge transformers dominate the rear, and the
densely potted power transformer is thick as a brick. A
pair of 6C33C-B triode tubes sit mid-deck and slightly off-set
to the left in front of the output transformer, with two more
tubes -- a 12ZX7 and a 12BH7 -- before them. Top deck
right resembles a panel from a Cold War-era bomber: a vertical
array of two old-fashioned circular meters with three
flick-switches berlow. Three minutes to target...
...The ML1 is hand-built with parts of the
finest quality: Dale metal-film resistors; Caddock power film
resistors; PRC wire-wound resistors; Bourns multi-turn
potentiometers; Electrocube and Roederstein film capacitors;
high-frequency switching-grade Cornell Dubilier and United
Chemi-Con electrolytic capacitors; Hammond chokes; gold-plated
Neutrik XLR connectors; and military-grade "low-noise,
long-life" vacuum tubes. The toroidal power
transformer has no mechanical contact with the transformer cover
or the chassis, and is suspended in a resonance-absorbing "encapsulant."
Bomber Command meters, the ML1 is 231st century under the
skin. The 12AX7 input tube carries a Wilson current mirror
based on Motorola transistors. The second voltage-gain
stage, the 12BH7, is hitched to the driver/buffer stage -- a
quartet of high-frequency, high-voltage Hitachi MOS-FETs, which
means the ML1 is actually a hybrid design.
...The Lamm ML1s
impressed me immediately with their sense of refinement.
...In fact, the ML1s
sounded linear across the board, very extended, and very demanding of associated equipment...Of course, that's a
backward-arriving compliment; the ML1s were, in fact, ruthlessly
revealing in that regard. Yet the midrange always sounded
clear -- unpolluted, transparent, and airy. The
highs too were pellucid, clear, shimmering, extended, anything
but warm or euphonic. If you yearn for Ye Olde Tyme Toobe
Sounde, you're headed for a fall with the ML1.
There was, however, always something
subtle, gentle, and expressive to be culled from the fabric of
the music. In fact, while the Lamms were in the system, I
often had the impression of listening close to master-tape
sound; very rewarding on some levels.
The ML1s delivered pomp and bombast
when required, but it's safe to say they were also Masters of
the Small Scale.
beyond my ability to express! Beautifully focused music as
well as sound-stage imaging." I suppose that's what you're
looking for at this lofty price level: beautifully focused music -- the ineffable, the inspiring, those turns of phrase and
expressiveness that give me, for one, the sheevers.
...[And then I
tried] analog. Now that was an ear-opener.
Freaked me out, I can tell you.
something of a vinyl orgy, as I pulled out LP after LP.
There was a natural tendency to reach for the berst with the
Lamms; I nearly died listening to the second movement of
Beethoven's String Quartet 9 in C, Op. 59 (Columbia MS 6187,
another treasured original six-eye) with the ever-accomplished
Budapest Quartet. I was struck by the perfection of the
plucked cello, the breathlessness and emotion that lay between
the notes, the trippy-close quality of feeling without question that I was sitting in a small salon with the Budapest right
...I'm a lucky SOB. All audiophiles are. Here it was, a Sunday night in late
winter: cold, wet, and not very conducive to schlepping out to
live music. I further abused my laptop: "But what
could be more meaningful musically than this?" Then I spun one of my favorite Haydn Piano Trios, No. 6 in F
by the Beaux Arts Trio (Philips 9500 325, LP). As I sat
pensive before the elegant musicv, I noted: "The ML1s
are for the Discerning Listener. Having struggled with
every detail of the front-end, having tuned the living daylights
out of cartridge and 'table, you're rewarded with the best vinyl
has to offer."
...While I've always thought this
recording a touch analytic, I found it now transparent beyond
reproach. The sound of the musicians moving about in their
chairs struc me as never before. Such small details,
suddenly so evident, raised something of the feeling of
participation one has at live events. I still noted the
familiar, slightly hot, and analytic top-end, yet it didn't
betray the music at all. It became part of the larger
gestalt of the sound cascading over me in the Ribbon
...It was hard to stop listening that
night; albums littered the floor as, one after another, I spun
old favorites to savor them anew. Quite an evening.
...The Lamm ML1s
sounded balanced, wide-band, utterly transparent, and quite
...In any case, I
think it's safe to say that Shushurin meant exactly what he
built with the ML1. It's an expression of musical purity
that brings him -- and will perhaps bring you -- closer to the