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LINE LEVEL TUBE PREAMPLIFIER

photography courtesy Mario Rodriguez

  


Model LL2 is the first in the line of LAMM vacuum tube preamplifiers. Unique topology and application of the most advanced technological resources and processes bring the LL2 very close to the threshold of excellence in sound reproduction. A main distinction of the LL2 from any other comparable type of preamplifiers is its almost inaudible sonic signature. When connected to an appropriate type of power amplifiers, especially LAMM amplifiers, it assures the recreation of a three-dimensional soundstage without boundaries and limitations.


The LL2 features a topology that brings out the most natural sound performance in the audio path, as well as graceful and sophisticated design. It employs a pure class A operation from input to output; all stages are single-ended. The preamplifier's audibly neutral power supply features a full-wave vacuum rectifier. This rectifier, together with a choke-containing filter, allows to practically get rid of the hum and buzz and, in the end, to ensure the verity of dynamic range without coloration. Other features include 3 inputs; 1 tape loop; 2 sets of outputs; front panel muting switch; and protection circuitry coupled with automatic mute at turn on/off.


Each preamplifier is carefully hand-crafted with matched components of the highest quality, some of which include military graded low noise DALE metal film resistors; ALPS potentiometers; ELECTROCUBE and ROEDERSTEIN film capacitors; high frequency switching grade CORNELL DUBILIER electrolytic capacitors; and specially selected long life vacuum tubes. The LL2 features a custom-designed power transformer.

 

The LL2 is available in two versions: standard and deluxe, both of which utilize identical chassis, PC-board and parts. In deluxe version, the power supply energy storage is approximately twice that of the standard version (four identical light-blue capacitors next the choke; only two of these are installed in regular version -- see first detail image insert). 
Also, in
deluxe version, all film capacitors in critical paths are paralleled by polystyrene capacitors of the highest available quality (yellow capacitors on two images -- right and below).

 

The LL2 works on all world AC line voltages without elaborate modification.

Check press release that appeared in AudioVideoNews.com in September'1999

 

Here is what the prominent audio critics have said about the LL2

…The involvement level of the LL2 is so intense, so deep, and so much like music that my words end up getting in the way – which, of course, makes writing a review a pretty difficult task.

…A final two points about the bass excellence of the LL2.  First, regardless of volume level, bass through the LL2 has impact and power, and completely pressurized the room.  Secondly, coupled with this power, the bass of the Lamm LL2 is never slow, ripe or fat, so timing is always spot-on.  It is perhaps a tad more emphatic down low than other preamps, but always on time.

…At the very top, the treble was simply the best I’ve heard.  Most preamps seem to be able to get the jump and leading edge of cymbals right or the shimmer of brass right, but the LL2 gets both so perfectly correct that it really made every other preamp I’ve heard sound mechanical and, well, wrong.

…I often found myself reacting physically to sounds in the soundstage.

…the LL2 speaks to me more as a musical instrument than as a piece of gear, which is the highest praise I can offer.

 Todd Warnke, soundstage.com (May, 2000)

...Try making out surface features on a highly polished sphere.  Its smooth topology makes it impossible to identify distinguishing marks.  It will merely mirror whatever is in front of it. So it is with the LL2 – a preamp of supreme neutrality.

At the core of every great preamp exists a soulful heart that infuses music with drama and dynamic tension. I have yet to hear a conventional solid-state preamp that could do that convincingly. Many years ago, when I lived in a state of audio sin, I owned a PS Audio solid-state preamp. In hindsight, it is easy to say that it sounded dreadfully lifeless. Dynamic shadings were squashed to the point where everything sounded like it was in slow motion. Tube preamps, in my experience, have a much easier time lighting a fire under the soundstage. The LL2 comes fully loaded with a responsive 5-speed transmission and dynamite under the hood. It'll take you to from 0 to 60 in a heartbeat. It allowed me to put on a good performance and totally enjoy the emotional fireworks. The sonic character did not change when the LL2 shifted into high gear. Harmonic and inter-modulation distortion products rise with signal level, and with many preamps the effect is to muddy the purity of harmonic textures during dynamic passages. In contrast, the LL2 is capable of generating high drive voltages with minimal distortion, and its low output impedance guarantees compatibility with a wide range of interconnects and power amplifiers.

Tube preamps are well known for their ability to generate an expansive soundstage, with palpable spatial outlines. The LL2 did not disappoint in this regard, coaxing a soundstage of generous proportions from the speakers. Layering of the depth perspective was nicely done.  Transparency, or the ability to clearly visualize the inner recesses of the soundstage was another strong suit.

Considering its price point, the LL2 line stage's level of performance is nothing short of sensational. Its blend of tonal neutrality, speed, control, and harmonic purity add up to a sure recipe for musical excellence. It is capable of competing in the highest audiophile arena, while its slight spatial reticence and textural softness are easy to live with. It should readily integrate with a diverse range of systems. The LL2's ability to drive a variety of amps and exotic cables allows it to comfortably slip into an existing system without adverse complications.  Let me take this opportunity to raise my glass in a toast: to Lamm Industries and Vladimir Shushurin for a job well done. Cheers!

 Dick Olsher, enjoythemusic.com (March, 2001)

...I want music without any additives, even when it doesn’t sound nice. This is why I love the Lamm LL2 preamp. What I get with this preamp in my system...is music, sometimes distorted, sometimes flat, sometimes noisy, but always sounding like music, even when recorded poorly.

...The LL2 provided a "just the facts" presentation. While that might sound underwhelming, it is the highest praise I can express.

…The texture and richness of instruments was extraordinarily revealing, and while not always nice, it brought me closer to the experience of real music. Not Technicolor, but actual colors and textures were presented, spot on.

…Imaging was spectacular, and made the placing and re-placing of speaker positions easy. The music was so "in the room," it seemed like the speakers were unnecessary bits of furniture which had no part in making music.

...The Lamm presented music on the upper end of things with bite but no etching, hardness, or silvery cleanliness. Hard to criticize. The midrange, where musical life can be glorious or boring, was magnificent. Timbre was so excellent that it, rather than transients, created the impression of a live event in my room. ..If we were to have Golden Ear Awards or Recommended Component Lists, the Lamm LL2 would be one of my top choices. 

Larry Cox,
positive-feedback.com (July, 2002)

...The LL2...allowed the music-making to sound more human, and more like something was happening in from of me, not just being retold.  I remember in particular thinking that the staccato notes at the beginning of the third movement had a great deal more force -- I could feel them -- with the Lamm LL2 in the system...The Lamm gave the sounds of the notes more body, more feel, and especially more movement.

...This may be a hard position to defend, but I have the feeling that the LL2's cleanness -- its lack of murk and mud, while at the same time not lacking in color, texture, or body -- had to do at least partly with its speed, which is not a quality people always associate with tube electronics.  I don't mean speed in the rhythm-and-pacing sense, although that performance aspect was also superb in the Lamm, but rather the thing's ability to respond to an input signal, amplify it with great faithfulness, then get the hell out of the way.

…It was while auditioning LPs through the LL2, with the help of a Linn Linto phono preamp, that I put my finger on another quality that made this preamp -- and, I think, the Lamm ML2.1 amplifier as well -- so uniquely musical: Through them, each note had a realistic sustain, followed by a similarly realistic decay -- and after that there was real space, real noiseless nothing, until the attack component of the next note.  With most electronics that space is filled up with noise or overlong note decays, which not only diminish the sense of rhythm and pacing in recorded music, but make the artistry of the performers less dramatic and more homogenized by filling in and smoothing over all of the pores, so to speak.  I've hear other preamps that were as free of overhang, of between-note distortion as the Lamm LL2; but in virtually every such instance, it seemed the notes themselves had also been scrubbed clean of much of their harmonic character.

…With the best qualities of the Lamm [ML2.1] amplifiers now apparently compounded by those of the Lamm preamp, I heard a real gain in expressiveness, and in my own feeling of involvement with the music, as compared with my reference.

...In terms of its musical and sonic performance, the Lamm LL2 preamplifier doesn't tower over the other high-quality line-level preamplifiers in quite the same way that the Lamm ML2.1 power amplifier seems to tower over its competition.  On the other hand, the LL2 is arguably a much better value for money: In relative terms, I've heard more expensive preamps than this, but I've never heard one that performs better; in absolute terms, judged for its musicality, the quality of its parts and construction, and its sheer design ingenuity, the Lamm LL2 is worth every penny they're asking for it.  To say it more plainly: $4990 is not at all unreasonable for a preamp this good.

Art Dudley,
Stereophile (September, 2005)

 

 


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