for our CES'2008 Picture Gallery
Well, another CES is
done, and as I sit here and think about what I will take away from this
year's show, I realize that, even amongst buildings filled with
interesting new audio gear, it's the equipment I've already encountered
and used whose sound impressed me most. As I listened to the Lamm ML3
Signature amps driving Wilson Audio MAXX 2 speakers, I could hear why I
use MAXX 2s and Lamm amplifiers at home. The digital source for this
system was also from a maker whose work I greatly admire -- Kazutoshi
Yamada, whose Zanden products appeal to me on a fundamental level, where
my understanding of how live music sounds resides. ...The Zanden 5000S DAC
and 2000P transport only proved once again that they are the very best
digital gear I've heard.
I wish I had some revelations
for you -- some unknown amp or CD player that I could tout, and perhaps
even discover. Instead, I can only restate how much I think of Vladimir
Lamm's, Kazutoshi Yamada's and David Wilson's work -- and say how
fortunate we are that it's possible to use all of their products together
to a very fulfilling musical end.
The TW-Acustic Raven AC
($11,500) with a pair of Grahm Phantom tonearms and Dynavector XV-1s
cartridges. This 'table was in use in the Lamm room, which I wrote about
One of the unfulfilled
promises of last year's CES was Vladimir Lamm's ML3 Signature mono
amplifier. Oh, it was at CES 2007 all right, but only a single amp, which
Vladimir decided to play on the final day of the show. I listened with
rapt attention, waiting for the time when I'd get to hear a pair of
these pricey, two-chassis amps. Well, they're here. The ML3s, which have
risen in price to $139,290 per pair, were driving Wilson Audio MAXX 2
speakers, with both analog (courtesy of a TW-Acustic Raven AC turntable)
and digital (via the extraordinary Zanden 5000S and 2000P DAC and
transport) sources. And I better not forget to mention the Silent Running
Audio products in use, including the new Virginia Class platforms for the
These amps sounded gorgeous
and far more powerful than their 30-watt rating would suggest. I played a
cut I heard last year in mono, a piece with a bowed bass, and was
entranced with the texture and weight in the instrument's lowest reaches.
In the past I've praised Lamm amplifiers for expertly combining truth and
beauty, and the ML3 pushes this notion to a new plateau. Owners of Wilson
Audio X-2 speakers, especially the new Series 2, will want to investigate
these amps immediately. The speakers' high sensitivity and the amps'
ravishing sound seem destined to be together.
2008: Jonathan Valin Explores the World of High-End Loudspeakers at CES
January 23rd, 2008 ó
by Jonathan Valin
30-310], Von Schweikert, Manger, Cessaro, Venture
In contrast, the Gershman Black Swans ($25k) with Lamm amplification,
while a bit darkish in balance, was one of the Best Sounds of the Show,
with superb bass (superb everything, actually, from top to bottom). It
isnít news anymore, but this is one terrific loudspeaker.
Acapella, Wilson Audio [Suite 34-309],
Avalon, Dynaudio, Sound Lab
We now leave the 30th floor and leap to the 34th, where the Wilson Audio
MAXX 2s ($45k) made their best showing since I heard them driven by ARC
electronics several years ago, thanks to Vladimir Lammís fabulous new
four-chassis ML-3 monoblock amplifiers (priced at a cool $139k) and TW
Acusticís supremely musical AC-3 turntable (reviewed by me in Issue 180).
This marvelous system reproduced the Prokofiev First Violin Sonata with
superb definition, timbre, bass, and soundstage depth, combining incredible
ďsustainĒ on pedaled piano notes with incredible control and detail in the
fiddle. That said, there was a slight, persistent spot of added brightness in
the upper mids and lower treble followed by a slight roll-off in the top
trebleĖa profile I associate with Wilsonís tweeter. Still and all, this
was a great stereo system (and a great debut for Vladimirís amp). Clearly,
another top contender for Best of Show.
Best of Show
Best Sounds: No single speaker stood way
above the pack this year in my price range, so Iím going to name several
Best Sounds of Show: the Magico Mini II, the Magico V3, the Quad Reference
ESL-2905, the Cessaro Alpha 1, the Nola Baby Grand Reference, the Von
Schweikert R-5, the McIntosh XRT1k, the Gershman Black Swans, the Wilson
MAXX 2s, the Avalon Indras, the TAD Reference One and TAD Compact
Reference One, and the Kharma 3.2.2s.
Most Significant New Product: The
ML3 monoblock power amplifier.
Lamm Industries launched the
ML3 Signature ($139,290) -- a no-compromise 32Wpc single-ended tube
amplifier based on the GM-70 directly heated triode. It's the
Ferrari of single-ended amps, considering the wattage to price ratio of
over $4000 per watt. No doubt about it, that first watt is pretty
pricey, but it's the first watt that sets the stage, and is responsible
for much of the musical enjoyment. Rest assured that in this case,
the first few watts appear to be as good as it gets in the domain of
single-ended designs. The custom output trannies are capable of
wider bandwidth at full power than competing designs. In other
words, bass and treble response are not compromised for the sake of an
(April/May 2008, issue 181), page 62
32 Watts of single-ended power is
not a very impressive characteristic on a background of a multitude of tube
amplifiers that exist on this planet -- but that's not the case if we are
talking about the amplifiers produced by the New York-based company Lamm
Industries. A head of the company, Vladimir Lamm -- well-known to the
radio amateurs of the former USSR as Vladimir Shushurin -- developed a concept
and topology of the GM-70 tube-based amplifier over 20 years ago. The
realization of this concept took tremendous effort, huge financial investments
and engagement of the best transformer manufacturers in the world. The
working prototype was shown last year (at CES2007); this CES, the production
unit debuted in a system with Wilson Audio Maxx2 speakers, which, by the way,
are the not the easiest to drive. However, the ML3's 32 Watts
demonstrated quite clearly a complete superiority of the Watt quality over the
Watt quantity. Moreover, just based on the Show results, the ML3 is
obviously so much more superior to all the possible contenders that it alone
occupies the throne of the "Amplifier's Olympus".
Besides the heavy weight of these
amplifiers (about 140 kg), a potential customer should pay attention to the
price ($167,000 in Russia) -- unless, of course, he belongs to a category of
people who do not really pay attention to the price of things.
issue 2 (79) 2008, page 42 (translated from Russian by E. Lamm)
click the links for the Russian
text and ML3
images printed in the
Sheep in Wolf's Clothing
The Lamm/Wilson/Zanden/TW-Acustic room remarkably (at least to me) was a
wonderful, relaxed place to hear some great music. Jeff Catalano of High Water
Sound was running this room and I was greeted with a host of original mono
recordings playing on the 2-armed TW-Acustic Raven AC 3-motor turntable. I've
heard Wilson speakers a few times and while it seems ridiculous to offer an
opinion on 'em -- kinda like spitting into the ocean to make waves -- I thoroughly
enjoyed my time with the Wilson Maxx2s this time. I actually went back first
thing the next day to just sit and listen some more.
I'd suggest, with complete respect to the various manufacturers, that Jeff
Catalano had a lot do with this enjoyment. Jeff is now four for four in terms
of rooms at audio shows that I completely enjoyed. And a big reason I believe
this to be the case is his respect for and love of music (I'd recommend
checking out Jeff's blog
for his 'Playlists'). I'd even go as far as to suggest that this exact same
room put into the hands of a high-resolution spinning amusical meister would
have left me cold. But that's just me.
And while we're in a room with a $139,290 pair of 32-watt, GM-70 based
single-ended directly heated triode Lamm ML3 Signature monoblock amplifiers
(and I don't mean to be a wise guy but I would have rounded out that price one
way or another), now may be as good a time as any to consider price. Since I
will never own a system that costs upwards of a few hundred thousand dollars, I
have no rational basis for determining value in this price league. That's
because value is in part determined by affordability. And affordable is not a
Whether we like it or not, there are people who buy gear that costs this much
and more. I have no issue with this fact whatsoever and I have no issue with
the fact that that person will never be me. In terms of value, if someone was
considering buying the Wavac SH-833s and then heard the new Lamm ML3 Signature
monoblocks and thought "whoa, these things are even better", they
just saved themselves about $200,000. That's value if I've ever seen it.
to think of it another way, let's say your system cost $9,750 and that amount
represents 15% of your annual income of $65,000. Now let's imagine some guy who
just bought the complete Lamm/Wilson system in the Venetian Suite 34-309. The
whole damn thing from soup to Kubala-Sonsa. And this price represents 3% of his
annual income. You, my friend, have just been less thrifty than Joe Lotsabucks.
Relative value and net worth are harsh and sobering bedfellows. Of course none
of this has anything to do with musical enjoyment which has nothing to do with
how much money you have or spend on your gear.
Another One from the
Road (or, 41 @ 52)
by Greg Weaver
of you who know me will undoubtedly find this an odd choice, as I have never
heard Wilson's at a show that "grabbed" my attention. This year
stirring combination of Lamm, Wilson, and Kubala-Sosna
by the TW-Acustic Raven AC 3-motor turntable, sporting a pair of Graham
Phantom B-44 arms, one fitted with a Dynavector XV 1S cart, the Lamm LP2
phono preamp handled the small gain preamplification. Zaden's 2000P
transport and 5000S DAC combo recreated ones and zeros while the Lamm L2
reference preamplifier sent its glorious signal on to the ML-3 Signature
single-ended triode monoblocks with outboard power supplies. This was the
world premiere of the ML-3 Signature, and it was auspicious to say the
utterly enchanting Lamm ML 3 Signature with external tubed power supplies
Wilson MAXX2s simply came to life as living, breathing transducers,
presenting a fluid, detailed, and focused soundstage with a relaxed and
undisputable natural presentation. This is the first time that I've heard
the MAXX2 virtually come to life, sounding more like music than a scientific
instrument to reconstruct music. Granted, all previous auditions I can
recall had them paired with Halcro power. Somehow, that combination, while
very resolute and detailed, just sounds soulless and uninvolving by
comparison. This combination was sheer magic, providing solid evidence as to
why these two companies are so highly thought of and respected in the audio
by Dave and Carol Clark
2, Page 1
Gershman Acoustics Black Swan loudspeakers with Lamm Industries 1.1
amplifiers, and Kubala-Sosna cables.
Lamm ML1.1 amplifier on a Critical Mass stand in front, and the M1.2
amplifier behind it, with Kubala-Sosna Emotion cables.
2, Page 2
Lamm Industries ML3 Signature amplifiers on Silent Running Audio stands.
TW Acustic Raven turntable.
Another shot of the Lamm amplifiers.
Kubala-Sosna Emotion cables in the Lamm/TW Acustic room.
The guts of the Lamm amplifier and its power supply.
Another shot of the innards of Lamm amplifiers.
The Lamm room with Wilson Alexandria X2 loudspeakers.
Piero Gabucci, Show Report Part I
It was no mystery that the Lamm Industries
room would sound amazing, it didnít disappoint. The room included the
new ML3 Signature single-ended triode monoblocks in pure class A
operation. Smooth, extended and richly detailed coming from a mere 32
watts, Lamm partnered the amplifiers with Wilson Audio Maxx2 speakers. Now
brace yourself, the pair of ML3ís are $139,290.00!
This was my favorite room for listening to classical music. There's
definitely a magical synergy with the Lamm electronics driving Gershman
Acoustics speakers. Present were the power, the weight and the airy sounds
of symphony hall being recreated in this room. This was room captivated my
imagination as I sat for a good while, enjoying the music. Music was
presented via the Gershman Acoustics Black Swan speakers ($36,000) being
driven by the Lamm M1.2 Reference ($21,690), ML1.1 ($22,890) amplifiers,
with Lamm L2 Reference preamplifier ($14,790) and Lamm LP2 phono
preamplifier ($6,990). Digital source was provided by a NeoDio (from
France) NR Two Transport (5,800 euros) and NR Two DAC (5,800 euros). Vinyl
was played on a Clearaudio Anniversary turntable with a Graham 2.2 tonearm.
Kubala-Sosna cables were used throughout. Equipment stand and isolation
bases were provided by Critical Mass.
Wednesday, January 30th, 2008 by Mike
One of the questions we get asked a lot by people is ďDid we hear
anything greatĒ that they should know aboutÖ that might affect their
purchase plans over the next few system upgrades.
Thinking back to other shows, we, like most audiophiles we talk to,
only find a couple or three things we think change the high-end landscape
at each show.
On the plus side we have
the $139K Lamm ML3 and the $85K Audio Note U.K. Kegon
Balanced. There are
now two more ultra-fidelity amps added to what is still only a handful of
ultra-fidelity tube amps.
Since these two brands, which we happily carry and use on a day to day
basis in multiple systems [:-)], already had most if not all of the amps in
this category to start with [Kondo is great, but their purpose is very
different, and somewhat inaccessible to the American taste] - they have just
solidified their reputation even more.
And, with the proliferation of so many newcomers, with amps from $30K to
the sky, having brands with a reputation for building world-renowned amps
for more than a few months should appeal the the buyer who wants to get
their monies worth.
What does this mean for people with, uh, restraint?
It is very unlikely that Lamm will come out with a ML2Prime or something
between the ML2.1 and ML3 [unless everybody clamors for it - and even then,
likely not] but the ML3 does increase the worthiness and renown of the brand
[not that they needed it - so this is not major].