Verity’s high-sensitivity, four-way, four-driver, $120k Lohengrin IISes were being driven by Lamm Industries’ $139k SET ML3s in the bass and Lamm’s $37k SET ML 2.2s in the midrange and on top. The sound was drop-dead gorgeous—in its own way as natural and enjoyable as the Focal Grande Utopias were with the Naim gear, but with all the SET tube virtues instead of the solid-state ones. Since the Lohengrin IIS is not a speaker I’ve cottoned to in the past, I have to assume that Vladimir Lamm’s electronics were making the lovely musical difference. The combo was superb on Leonard Cohen’s “Ain't No Cure For Love,” from Lennie’s own terminal-smoker’s croak to the angelic background vocals of Sharon Robinson and Charley and Hattie Webb to those thrilling Hammond B3 exclamation points to Dino Soldo’s throaty, lilting sax. And the system was just as impressive on the Feria from Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnol, albeit with a little less resolution of the inner voices of string choirs than the Naim solid-state amp delivered in the Focal room. Though this was probably not the ultimate alt.punk amp/speaker combo, for acoustic music of any scale it was outstanding. And, oh, that SET tone color!
If the Lohengrin room weren’t proof enough of Lamm Industries’ sonic excellence, Vladimir Lamm pulled off the same magic act with the four-driver, three-and-a-halfway $52k Wilson Audio Alexias, driven this time around by Lamm’s M1.2 Reference Class A hybrid/solid-state monoblocks and sourced by the Air Force Two turntable. The sound was phenomenal all over again—on Melody Gardot, Getz/Gilberto’s “Girl from Ipanema,” Louis and Ella’s “Cheek to Cheek” (both fabulously “there”), etc. Moreover, the presentation wasn’t just lovely; it was also realistic in the dark, rich, sweet way of all Lamm gear. Indeed, the Wilson/Lamm presentation might even have been a tad better than that of the excellent Verity/Lamm one, since there was no loss of resolution or slight flattening of dynamic contrasts when the Alexias were driven by Lamm solid-state (and only small subtractions of tone color and texture vis-à-vis the SET setup). Oh, the Lamm might have been just a tad tubby in the bass in this Venetian hotel room, and the Alexias may have been a little recessed in the presence range, but even at that, along with the Soulution room (for which, see Nine More Top Contenders, below), this was the best I’ve heard Wilson Alexias sound.