…Then there was the Lamm Industries suite.
No sense denying that I have a certain built-in appreciation for antiques. But I’d also like to think that the literally unmatched music reproduction I heard in the Lamm room was as much a function of getting things right as of merely getting things old. The electronics, for their part, were all new and original: Vladimir Lamm’s LP2 phono preamplifier, L2 Reference preamplifier, and his brand new ML2.1 single-ended triode monoblock amplifiers ($29,290/pair) — a refined version of the ML2 amp, which Sam Tellig raved about in Stereophile’s July 1999 issue — along with A CEC transport and Weiss Medea D/A converter. The record player was ripped from the pages of Old German Radio Station magazine: an EMT transcription ‘table from the 1950s, with a 16″ platter, two tonearms, and that holiest of holy grails, an Ortofon SPU cartridge. Be still my heart.
The loudspeakers were the most noticeable of all the links in this chain: a pair of Siemens Bionor movie-theater speakers from 1957. Based entirely on horn transducers from a Siemens offshoot known as Klangfilm (literally, sound-cinema), the Bionors stood a little over 6′ tall and measured approximately 10′ wide — each. Your basic wall of sound, in other words.
The system was set up and demonstrated with consummate intelligence: volume levels were kept at sensible, realistic levels, and the seating arrangement seemed intended to encourage listeners to park themselves a goodly ways away, in order for the sound to jell — always a good idea with horns. The listening experience simply and decisively redefined the notion of ease: the music “happened” at one end of the room, as opposed to being squished out, squeezed out, shot out, zoomed out, zinged out, or flatulated out, as happens to greater or lesser degrees with virtually everything else. I left thinking: This is why men create big, expensive stereo systems — not for the bass, not for the impact, but for the simple, overall realism of the music. I wouldn’t sell my soul for such a rig, but I might consider leasing it out from time to time.
Incidentally, Vladimir Lamm and I spoke of the possibility of my reviewing the newest version of his ML2.1 amplifier for Stereophile, and it appears as though that will happen fairly soon. [The review came out in October’s issue] Mr. Lamm, who emigrated to this country from Russia, is a sharp, no-nonsense, yet kindly fellow… My visit to his suite was a pleasure in every way.
[Stereophile, August 2004 issue, page 42]
Two encounters with old acquaintances proved particularly enjoyable. Local boys Lamm were present, using their L2 Reference line-stage and LP2 phono-stage to feed two pairs of the ML2.1 monoblocks. …Having enjoyed the Lamm amps driving the enormous Exquisite Reference 1Bs some years ago, it was nice to hear the marginally more modestly dimensioned Exquisite Reference Midi 1A-DE…The audio band was wonderfully smooth and coherent top to bottom, with no audible clues to the crossover points. Air, clarity and detail were all superb, although ultimately, the system paid a dynamic price for the low efficiency of the speakers. Would more power have helped? Not if my experience with the ML2s is anything to go by. Like many systems, this one chose its balance with care, delivering precision, transparency and focus of the highest order, the price in dynamic immediacy and timbral richness being one many listeners would be happy to pay.
[Hi-Fi+, Issue 32, 2004, page 103]
The Absolute Sound
The single-ended-triode ML2.1 sounds nothing like the typical SET. It does not trade off accuracy for euphony; it is not bandwidth-limited (its bass and treble are sensationally extended); and it is surprisingly powerful-sounding (though not particularly “bloomy”) within its 18-watt limits. Given a sufficiently sensitive speaker — such as the Avantgarde Trio, the Nearfield Acoustics Pipedreams, the Wilson X1 or X2, or virtually any Kharma — the ML2.1 will produce the most detailed, spacious, dynamic sound of any amp on the market. Like all Lamm products, the ML2.1s are a bit dark in balance, very quiet, and very reliable. JV’s low-power reference.
[Jonathan Valin, Issue 150, page 50]
http://www.dagogo.com/Events/HE2004/HE2004mayLamm.html (Lamm press release)
http://www.dagogo.com/Events/HE2004/HE2004-May-NYC-AtoD.html (show pictures)
http://www.dagogo.com/Events/HE2004/HE2004-May-NYC-KtoO.html (show pictures)
Access full reports with pictures by clicking on links; below are excerpts from each report pertaining to Lamm exhibits only.
Lloyd Walker and partner Fred Law had their $27,000 Walker Audio Proscenium Gold turntable in two adjacent rooms hosted by GTT Audio & Video. Curiously, the ‘smaller’ room around the Kharma 3.2FE [$21,000/pr] and matching Ceramique subwoofer [$7,000] sounded even better than the one using the Kharma Midi Exquisite-DE $75,000 monsters with the Diamond tweeter driven by the new Lamm ML2.1 SET monos [$29,290/pr]. The ‘lesser’ system used the Lamm M1.2 Reference amps [$19,690/pr]. Cabling was by Kubala-Sosna in the former room, Kharma Enigma in the latter.
Quoting from Scull Communication’s press release, “the Lamm Industries’ ML2.1 is a full-scale update of the ML2. The new amplifier features important upgrades and modifications, including upgraded power transformer to accommodate 100-230V mains operation; a modified output transformer; upgraded key parts and materials now available in the global marketplace (military-grade low-noise Dale metal film resistors; Electrocube and Roederstein film capacitors; high-frequency switching-grade Cornell Dubilier and United Chemi-Con electrolytic capacitors; Hammond chokes; gold-plated Neutrik XLR connectors; military grade low-noise long life vacuum tubes); upgraded pc-board material of the highest available quality; an additional pair of handles on the rear; and heavy-duty speaker binding posts. The ML2.1 is a single-ended amplifier representing a new generation of high-current, low-impedance 6C33C triode power vacuum tubes in both the output and voltage regulation stages. These big triodes allow an output transformer with a very low turns ratio for extended frequencies and dramatically reduced leakage inductance.”
Both systems employed Gingko Audio Cloud 10 platforms. The difference that could have contributed to my preference? The less expensive room used the Walker Audio Reference phono stage [$12,500] hard-wired to the table, the other one the $6,990 Lamm LP2 Deluxe phono stage. I suspect the Walker phono amp is superior. Sitting at the very source, this could have turned the tables in its favor despite the heavier downstream artillery employed next door.
… Back to audio – Lamm/ Kharma is one of those repeatable recipes that always makes good sound regardless of which show you encounter it at. Elina expressed an interest in working with us so perhaps a Lamm review will soon appear in these pages. I asked Lloyd to forward Jeff Day’s interest in a review loaner of the Viva 300B integrated for his Avantgarde Duos to his pal Amadeo. He promised to make it happen. After his exploration of micro-power SETs, Jeff’s ready to embrace real power of the 18-35wpc variety to see how it affects playback in his crib – and having shown with Viva and Avantgarde in the past, Lloyd vouched that the high-voltage Viva wouldn’t exhibit any noise issues.
This now concludes my report. Simply, the Damoka system of Lamm ML2.1s, Lamm L2 Reference line stage, Lamm LP2 phono stage, American Sound EMT 927 table with SME 3012-R arm and Siemens Bionor Klangfilm or Tannoy Autograph Pro speakers, as stated much earlier, made by far the Best Sound of Show in the huge downstairs Concourse A exhibit. Contrary to my earlier descriptions and amongst its modern accoutrements, this system also housed Weiss Medea DACs and Cardas cables – but everything else was antique; er, classic or vintage stuff. And David Karmeli actually sold the Tannoys to one lucky showgoer. Should one assume he was Japanese? It seems that our audio friends in the Land of the Rising Sun are particularly appreciative of past design successes and less apt to fall for newness just for newness’ sake.
Srajan Ebaen http://www.6moons.com/industryfeatures/he2004/he2004_6.html
Home Theatre was everywhere at HE2004 and like any bespoke audiophool, I stayed far far away. I also avoided any rooms that conducted controlled demos where showgoers had to line up and wait for the next turn. I was there to have fun, not stand in line. It may present benefits for exhibitors but it certainly doesn’t for showgoers. Overall, it was difficult to find the luv but there were a few rooms that managed to deliver. The Siemens Klangfilm/LAMMroom on the concourse [below] was a favorite of many moonies as were the Reimyo and Audiopax/Zanden exhibits. I returned frequently to all three rooms to mellow out and decompress when seeking refuge from the boom and sizzle of other venues.
Biggest pool of audiodrool:
You’re already sick of hearing about this, but in a huge basement meeting room were the Siemens/Klangfilm KL-L433 hornspeakers powered by Lamm electronics, with a likewise colossal EMT 927 turntable doing the lion’s share of front- end duties. Together, the Klangfilms were bigger than my first three New York apartments. Or, as fellow moonie Jules Coleman remarked, “Everywhere in North America is nearfield listening”.
Even though owning such a system would be only slightly less practical and considerably less mobile a proposition as owning your own NASA launch pad, I confess the sound was unlike any I had ever experienced. “There is no sound of speakers in this room” is how my notes read. It was the sort of sound that was not innate to mechanical transducers, so easy one could simply listen there all day. “And all of this technology was firmly established before most of the people in this hotel were even born,” pointed out Jonathan Halpern of, among other things, NYC’s In Living Stereo, putting the shame to most of the so-called advancements being spun that day. Jonathan is a close-on ringer for Jeff Goldblum; even his voice is similar. He’s also an amazing fountain of knowledge on horn design (among many other things audio), so listening to his insights on the Klangs, it was easy to imagine that I was in the chopper on the way to Jurassic Park being tutored in Chaos Theory. “Nature finds a way.” It was great. The same room had a second big pair of vintage horneys, Tannoy Autographs that because of technical troubles had been relegated to static display by the time I arrived. Unfortunate – but being anything other than grateful for this wonderful museum-quality room would have been greedy and stupid.
…Many of us got to hear the Siemens horn system in a ballroom more suitable to weddings and bar mitzvahs than audio. In my review of the Shindo Laboratory Sinhonia amplifier based around the F2a output tube, I discussed the Siemens Klangfilm project. I encourage you to have a look at that review if you haven’t done so. The F2a tube was exclusively produced by Siemens for amplifiers — typically in single-ended configuration — built to drive the horn loudspeakers that were on display at the show. A critically inclined audiophile or reviewer could punch a million holes in the system to identify one weakness or shortcoming after another. But why? By comparison, all other sound, not just at the show but in virtually every home playback system everywhere on earth, is likely to sound pinched, forced and artificial. If you are in this business to display your ability to criticize with rigor and evidence, this room would have provided you with more than a few opportunities to do so. On the other hand, if you are in this hobby to experience the magic and glory of musical playback, this room provided you with more than ample satisfaction and wonderment. You can figure out who you are by sitting down with this system for an hour or so. Me, I could have taken up residence in the room.
But the biggest woof-woof must go to what clearly — i.e. with plenty of clearance — was the Best System at the Show, assembled in the largest room of the Hilton, the Concourse A in the basement, hosted while I visited by the lovely Elina Lamm and sporting the massive Siemens Klangfilm horns which compelled Jim ‘Big Sexy’ Saxon (every moonie is sure to acquire a ceremonial surname as time goes by) to stand next to one for size perspective.
With rarities such as CEC’s discontinued top-line CD transport, a Microseiki table and all manner of legendary vintage audio assembled (the only current elements were the Lamm amps), this system was demonstrated courtesy of wealthy Niyawker David Karmeli of Damoka LLCwho owns all of it and so happens to occupy one of the city’s most famous apartments, the Ansonia. Completely at ease without requiring the cold shower of elevated levels to wake up, this system made everything else at the show sound not broken but Hifi-ish, certain rooms more so than others. Scary when you remember that here we’re talking a 40+ year-old speaker design. How far have we really come? I shall not answer this taunting question for fear of putting myself outa business otherwise. But it does give one pause.