Why does a hybrid amplifier, which
interestingly enough operates with both the vacuum tube and
transistors, have to look just as boring as every other US-made
“big sad old piece of artillery”, with the obligatory armor
front panel and lateral heat-sinks? And has the president of Lamm
Industries, Vladimir Shushurin been wise? -- he has bragged for
seven years already, “ I don’t even think about making changes
to our M1.1, there is simply nothing to improve.”
Really? Could the Lamm
Monoblock which I, as a vacuum-tube fan and technician, had just
tested actually endanger the pedigree vacuum-tube products? To be
honest, after the enjoyment of the Lamms it took me days until I
could return to the vacuum-tube models, which are not at all bad.
Comparing the Lamms against the heavily favored adversaries has
developed into a game between Bayern München and some third
division club team.
"Unbelievable,” I said later
as I discussed this with some other Audiophile technicians, “that
such a magic amplifier could be developed”. The technician
grumbled: “it lies in the shocking current power of the M1.1 which
does not fall prey to the short-circuit inducing loads of 1 Ohm.
Or does this mean a renunciation of the negative feedback
(traditionally viewed as all-important), with its considerable
inconsistency within the audio band, leading the ears to be laden
with something that sounds unnatural?
No, said the technicians, Krell,
Levinson, Pass, Rowland and the others already have this reported
technology. At last, others were publishing something similar to
Shushurin’s distortion theories in AUDIOphile’s sister magazine
“Stereoplay” ( “The Cause of the Sound Difference”, number
8/85; Jean Hiraga, from the French L’audiophile), and it took a
considerably long time before Lamm expressed its own views. The idea
that the harmonic waves distribute themselves evenly into all the
modulation frequencies, and behave themselves dynamically correct
according to the motto, “more power, more distortion”, is
therefore old hat.
In designing their products, nobody
was guided by this principle to the degree that this Russians was.
So Lamm’s immense expense in creating the M1.1 has paid off. Each
monoblock possesses eight separate power supplies and a transformer
potted in antivibration-material, which, although it will hardly
ever need to reach such high level of power, can consistently
function at 850 Watts. This also explains the further effort to
assure that the transformer has no mechanical contact with either
the transformer cover or the chassis and introduce a special
circuitry that reduces power transformer core saturation and
mechanical hum. The fact that Shushurin uses exclusive components
from different manufacturers (PRC wirewound resistors, DALE metal
film resistors, ELECTROCUBE and ROEDERSTEIN film capacitors, and
high frequency switching grade CORNELL DUBILIER electrolytic
capacitors) tells us that doing a good job of tuning is what really
From this, of course, a most unusual
functioning circuit appears, with a 6922 vacuum tube (also known as
ECC88 professional FM dual triode) located between the ultra-fast
first stage and the driver for the class-A push-pull output stage. Utilization
of the vacuum tube guarantees that nothing and absolutely nothing
has an influence on the sensitive cascading separated transistors. The DC voltage drifts, thus preventing capacitor coupling between
the front end and the output stage consisting of the twelve output
MOS-FET transistors, and also highlights Shushurin’s intention to
make no more significant changes to this amp.
Thanking the theoreticians for their
contribution, the author--who has heard this amplifier--will now
speak. I freely admit that I am more of a listening-technique-freak.
However, I do not also blindly accept the idea that nobody can offer
conclusive proof of which components of Shushurin’s brilliant
power amplifier provide the special contribution to the magic sound.
Is it the described vacuum-tube stage, or is it perhaps the special
toroidal transformer - with its complex installation, which
mechanically decouples it almost completely from its environment, or
is it hidden details of the complex circuit board design?
It doesn’t matter. Altering
the single sound aspect changes the entire composition and, as a
result, leads to something essential being lost.Only the harmonious
confluence of all the aspects, as each part simultaneously
identifies with itself and its environment, results in the urgency
and credibility of the pertinent sound events.
Hardly had it begun to play, as the
black heavyweights were transformed into something even better –
all their real HiFi ambitions inherent became fully manifest.
Wow, with Jennifer Warnes “Ballad of the Runaway Horse” (on the
Rob Wasserman CD “Duets”) we were both on the verge of tears.
And it was self-evident that the reproduced voice of Diana Krall in
all parts of her “love scenes” could seize the listeners with
its compelling harmony. It possessed power, body, flexibility, and
suppleness; was stimulating, set the air in motion and was erotic.
The pulling of the accompanying bass
indicated as a matter of course the vibration of the strings and the
resonance of the instrument body. The fact makes itself clear that
the bass can reproduce sound of such quality that it seems to be as
fine as my Levinson 333, it also reproduces the piano strokes with
the same energy that one would be able to hear in a live pianist,
and finally reproduces the guitar with the noticeable unique styles
of the guitarist.
The Lamm monos thereby combined the
unbelievable power of Krall’s musical presentation with an ease
and speed, which catapults itself from the head down to the pit of
In interaction of the three
instruments and the singing, everything becomes audible, and this is
what distinguishes the best amplifiers. Also, the listening
experience through the M1.1s was unlike listening through the music
reproduction system – it was close to the listening experience in
the actual recording venue.
Does all this mean that Vladimir
Shushurin has achieved the pinnacle with the M 1.1? No! For
me, there is no best and certainly no perfect part of a Hi-Fi
system, since I have not heard (nor will I ever hear) all the
components in the world. Whoever has the good fortune, and is paid
well enough to be able to afford the artwork of the Russian
American, will answer that question.
Whoever has experienced the listening
enjoyment of the M1.1 will remain faithful to it. And if piety has
something to do with loyalty, then Lamm will work piously.
emotional and musical hybrid monoblocks; they belong to the very few
best on the world market.