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Power amplifiers
M1.2 Reference
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ML3 Signature
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LL1.1 Signature
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L2 Reference
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LP1 Signature
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LP2.1 (regular/deluxe)
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Posted on, Nov. 17' 1998
Brian Edwards


A few weeks ago I wrote a long review of the LAMM M1.1 amps and the Japanese Kinoshita JMF HQS2800 which I also listened to in my latest (and hopefully last) amplifier search.  Unfortunately, the post somehow was lost even though the title appeared (“help! I’ve been LAMMed”) and like a fool I did not make a copy of that review, which took 2 hours to write.  Anyway, this short version will have to do for now since I’m still too irritated to write the whole damn thing again!  A special thanks to Joe S. by the way, whose long review turned me on to the M1.1s.  I was on the verge of buying Pass Aleph 2.’s, when his exacting comparison of those amps with the LAMMs popped up here.  He described the Aleph sound far better than I ever could have, and the important ways that the M1.1s surpassed them.  Joe’s review cost me 2x the cash, and 6 months of waiting and saving, but as you will see below the wait and the cost were trifling trades for what these amps have given in return.

To the point, how good are the LAMM M1.1s?  Well, I own a pair now, and to say I’m totally satisfied with them would be a gross understatement.  There are so many ways they are head and shoulders above any other amps I’ve ever heard, they are simply irresistible, even at the steep price.

Since I auditioned lots of amps before I had almost settled on the Pass Aleph 2s (but after reading Joe S. review bought the 3 instead as a meanwhile amp till I could afford the LAMM’s price range) the only other amp I auditioned against it was a Japanese one, the Kinoshita JMF HQS2800 UPM.  A prominent reviewer here (in Japan) who reviewed the M1.1s gave the Kinoshita top accolades in its price range, followed by the M1.1.

It’s hard to understand, since to my ears the LAMM is so superior  The Kinoshita had a rather laid back sound, as opposed to the forwardness of the Alephs.  Though it was less resolving than the Alephs, it surpassed them in liquidity of tonality (a most important point for me), equaling the LAMMs in this area (and being a total solid-state design!).  It also had greater bass slam than the Alephs.  The Alephs, however, are somewhat more holographic, so finally it would be a toss up for me between them.  Due to my listening tastes I slightly prefer the Kinoshita, but then it costs a lot more than the Pass.

Indeed, it costs more than the LAMMs.  And the LAMMs…totally and instantly impressive was the extreme extension at both ends, and the neutrality.  And the giant rock-solid sound stage!  And the bass weight!  And the sheer “physicality” of the sound.  It rumbles through your whole body with polished richness that wets your eyes.  I sat slack-jawed my whole first evening.  The M1.1s, simply put, are components of a different order than what I’ve yet heard.  They combine musicality and sheer power to a degree I never thought possible.  I just can’t reiterate enough what a godsend these amps are for classical music, especially large choral works like the Missa Solemnis.  These works need huge scale and the feeling of endless power, but if the voices and strings lack that dimensionality and sweetness that they truly have, the presentation is ruined.  The LAMM’s entire presentation is like a labyrinth of beguiling sweetness, that dimensionality that lets you wander timelessly in subtle musical depths.  Yet ripe with raw power of such freedom and limitless extension that you soar to heaven with the trumpets.  With the M1.1s, all the concerns just disappear and you can sink into an exultant hurricane like the Missa Solemnis forgetful of any technical limitations.

 As I prophesized, they match superbly with the Wilson Benesch ACT ONEs.  First of all, they grabs these difficult to drive speakers with an iron grip.  The vanishing effect is most impressive.  Secondly, the WB greatest strength— total lack of smearing and smudging in the lower regions—so well serves the plethora of detail that the LAMMs retrieve in the bass, that music takes on a new foundation that repeatedly stuns me on every recording I hear.  Blazing power combined with pond-like purity.  Wondrous.

All in all, I can find no area to critique this design.  They are totally satisfying in every category, and far far more than satisfying.  Even the small details are just right, like the perfectly sized wooden shipping crates, the heavy-duty carrying handles on both sides, the simple yet graceful appearance, the ease with which they can be changed to any world AC voltage (a godsend for a traveler like me).  They are the most thoroughly thought-out, thought-through, and well-thought design I have ever encountered, of any sort!

So if you are willing to spend the green, and must have an amp that verges on having it all, make sure and hear a pair of these black angels.

 Overall rating: 5 (out of 5) 

Date: April 21, 1998

Joe S. from MA writes:

The M1.1s are Class A monoblock hybrids featuring a MOSFET output section and a 6922 tube input stage.  These amps are among the best available of any type and the only solid state amp I’ve every found genuinely acceptable.  They have extraordinary extension, dynamics and current capability for driving difficult loads, yet they have the bloom and freedom of grain and transparency of the best tube designs.  I'm a committed tube lover as a long time owner of CJ, VTL, Joule Elektra and THOR tube gear but I found this amp to be an oasis in a sea of solid state mediocrity.  If your taste runs towards tubes but you must have the current capability of solid-state behemoth – look no further.  Not cheap, but worth every penny.

Overall rating: 5 (out of 5).