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Lamm Industries is as another exhibitor that always manages to impress in new ways every year. The smaller (though still bigger than most) of Lamm’s two rooms featured Lamm’s LP2 Deluxe phono stage ($7790), L2 Reference line stage ($15,970) and two pairs of ML2.2 amplifiers ($37,290/pair) at work between a turntable as fascinating as last year’s Kronos, the Tech DAS Air Force ($79,500), and the new Verity Audio Lohengrin II S speakers ($120,000/pair). A Mark Levinson No.31.5 transport fed a Tech DAS D-7i DAC ($7600) on the digital side of things.
The Tech DAS 'table is about as exotic and complex a piece of engineering as can be imagined. Designed by veterans of turntable legend Micro-Seiki, it features an air-bearing platter, vacuum LP hold-down, an air/liquid suspension system and other leading-edge technologies. As shown, the Air Force was equipped with two 'arms, with a 12" Graham Phantom Elite ($8500) and a Zyx Universe II cartridge ($8495) at the plate when I was in the room. The new Lohengrin was, to my ears, more solidly integrated from top to bottom than the earlier model shown last year, with a substantially more coherent blend between the rear-facing woofer module and the forward-firing mid/tweeter cabinet.
This year the larger of the two rooms featured Lamm’s new LP1 Signature three-chassis phono stage ($32,790), which comprises a pair of power supply units and a third box that handles connections and switching. The new LP1 was joined by Lamm’s LL1 Signature dual-mono -- quite literally, as it is contained in four chassis -- line stage ($42,790) and always-extraordinary ML3 Signature amplifiers ($139,490/pair). All of this exotica spoke through Wilson Audio Specialties MAXX 3 speakers ($69,500/pair), rested upon Critical Mass Systems MAXXUM racking ($67,800) and amp stands ($22,600 for the four needed for the ML3s), and all tied together with Kubala-Sosna Elation-series signal cabling and power cords ($88,400 total).
Sources were two of the most impressive pieces of kit I have heard. The Kronos turntable ($32,000) carried a Graham Phantom II Supreme 12" 'arm ($6000) and a Zyx Universe II cartridge. Kronos’s Louis Desjardins has been singing the praises of the Universe II to anyone who will listen for the last several months, and his high opinion of the cartridge is more than justified. It combined the sort of lusciously developed midrange timbres one associates with cartridges like the top-end Koetsus with a bewitching ability to reveal the finest lowest-level details on even familiar recordings like Duke Ellington’s Indigos (a reissue from Jazz Track Records, and an LP I know like the back of my own hand). Paul Gonsalves’ breathy, luscious tenor sax on "Where or When" was enough to make the steeliest audiophile swoon.
In ordinary circumstances it would be nearly unfair to compare this stellar analog front-end to any digital playback equipment, but this was no ordinary room. Digital gear from France’s Neodio has been prominently featured in Lamm’s rooms for the last several years and has been consistently impressive. This year, Neodio’s president and chief designer, Stephane Even, was present for the debut of the new Origine "digital audio source" ($27,000), which can either function as a conventional CD player or accept virtually any input for use as a standalone DAC. It takes a certain amount of confidence or foolhardiness to bring a one-box digital source to a system like this, but I can say with confidence that the Origine is something very special and that Even’s confidence was fully justified. It had a completely natural sweetness that immediately disarmed me and made me forget that it was a digital source. Candice Night’s voice was absolutely enchanting on "Under a Violet Moon." Now that Neodio is being distributed in North America by Precision Audio/Video, which also handles Venture electronics and speakers, it should start getting some of the attention that these remarkable components merit. Stephane has already told me that an Origine will be coming my way in the near future.