Mentioning the grand scale brings to mind Lamm Industries, which always comes loaded for bear in their two rooms. The larger of the two rooms featured Lamm's LP1 Signature three-chassis phono preamp ($33,990), LL1 Signature line stage ($42,790), and both the ML3 Signature ($139,400/pair) and ML2.2 mono amplifiers ($26,700/pair) driving the top and woofer cabinets, respectively, of Verity Audio's Lohengrin IIS speakers ($120,000/pair). Analog was supplied by the ultra-high-tech air-suspension TechDAS Air Force One turntable ($100,000) fitted with Graham Elite ($14,000) and Phantom ($6800) 'arms holding TechDAS's TDC01 Ti cartridge ($12,500). EMM Labs' TDSX CD/SACD transport ($17,000) and DAC2X D/A converter ($15,500) handled the digital duties, and everything was tied together withKubala-Sosna Elation power cables, digital interconnect, signal interconnects and speaker cables ($139,700 total) and rested on Sanus stands.
In their second room Lamm teamed the barely less complex TechDAS Air Force Two turntable ($50,000, with a more conventional, albeit exotically executed, suspension), Graham Elite 'arm, and ZYX UNIverse Premium cartridge ($13,995) and the same EMM Labs digital gear as in their other room, with Lamm's own LP2.1 phono stage ($8990), L2 Reference line stage ($15,990) and M1.2 Reference hybrid power amps ($27,190/pair) with Wilson Audio's wonderful Alexia speakers ($50,000/pair). Sanus racking and Kubala-Sosna Emotion-series cabling ($51,100 total) completed the system.
Lamm's systems have almost always counted among my best of show over the last fifteen years and nothing changed this year. The Verity system was marvelously expressive of all the nuances of music of all types. The Hot Club of San Francisco's "Nature Boy," with a guest vocal from Maria Muldaur, was as lifelike as the state of the art allows, which on music of this scale is very close indeed. There was an overwhelming effortlessness to this system, as there was to the big VAC/Dynaudio system, that comes only from superb sources and electronics paired with the finest in full-range speakers that are set up properly in a room with space enough for everything to breathe. This proved true whether the music was classical, jazz or amplified. My CD of Alan Hovhaness's Khriman Hairig, for orchestra and solo trumpet, put vast spaces, natural imaging and scrumptious string tones, airy and extended, directly in front of me.
The Lamm/Wilson system was no less impressive, with the Analogue Productions 45rpm reissue of Getz/Gilberto, and Astrud Gilberto in particular, on "The Girl From Ipanema" sounding absolutely scrumptious and tactile. I followed that classic by asking Elina Lamm to play "Solitude" and "Where or When" from the Jazz Track reissue (yeah, sourced from digital and not up to an Analogue Productions LP, but the music is brilliant) of Duke Ellington's Indigos. The Duke's piano and the full-band recapitulation of the theme on the former, along with Paul Gonsalves' breathy, buttery tenor sax on the latter, were beauty in sound. With the title track from Blackmore's Night's Under A Violet Moon, my notes say, "Nothing to say -- perfect to the recording," which about sums up both Lamm systems: Both were superb by any criterion one might choose to apply.