The Magnificent Lamm Amp
The are small amps, there are large amps, there are stereo amps, there are mono amps, and then there are Vladimir Lamm’s ML3 Signature two-chassis monoblocks, demmed at FSI with Verity Lohengrin speakers, a Lamm L2 Reference preamplifier, LP2 phono preamp, NeoDio CD transport and DAC, and Kubala-Sosna cables, and Critical Mass Systems racks.
The ML3 Signature runs a single Russian GM70 directly heated output tube (introduced in 1948, the year I was born) with 1200V on the plate to give 32 watts into 8 ohms. The GM70 is driven by four paralleled 6N30P “Super Tubes,” with a single 12AX7 as the input stage. The choke-smoothed power supply in a separate chassis uses four 12AX3 diode tubes as a bridge rectifier to derive the high-voltage rail for the output tube, with another two 12AX3 tubes supplying DC to the front-end tubes.
Listening to Louis Armstrong singing “Blues in the Night” from LP, I auditioned the amps with no negative feedback and just 1.2dB of negative feedback. You wouldn’t have thought it would make a difference, but darned if switching in even this minimal amount of feedback—which, in theory, should make the amplifier perform better—didn’t diminish the enormous sense of space on the recording. Oh, the price? Each pair of ML3 Signatures costs $139,290 and takes two weeks to manufacture.
Next in the line of larger salons was the Lamm Industries room in which I finally had an opportunity to hear the ML3 Signature single ended triode monoblocks. At the New York show last spring, one of them arrived in damaged condition, disappointing many. The ML3 has a separate power supply, hence the four units between the Verity Audio Lohengrin II loudspeakers. I heard a jazz LP on a Basis turntable that sounded outstanding. A digital front end, NeoDio NR Two transport and NR Two D/A DAC reportedly cost about $12,000. A Lamm L2 Reference preamplifier and LP2 phono stage handled the low-level signals and Critical Mass Systems racks and Kubala-Sosna Emotion cables completed the set-up. The interior of an LL2 preamplifier that was awarded an Enjoy the Music.com Blue Note Award (in 2001) revealed that Lamm is now using some kind of special fuse (seen just above the transformer) which corroborates my findings with AVM (Blue Tube Goop) when applied to fuses. So, how good is the new ML3 amplifier? In this league, I would need to hear a direct comparison with its predecessor. But what is most important about this demonstration is that you don’t need megawatt amplifiers in large rooms if you choose your loudspeaker carefully. The Lohengrin II heard here was certainly in that upper echelon. The ML3 is rated at 32 wpc with its GM-70 tube at 4, 8 or 16 Ohms. The importance is in the quality of the first few watts and with Lamm, that quality is always very, very high.