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AUDIOphile, February'2000
Listening: Peter Geiger
Technical observations: Johannes Maier

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translation  German

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 mattered.

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 your stomach.

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.   

Conclusion: Unbelievable emotional and musical hybrid monoblocks; they belong to the very few best on the world market.


List of Best Components in 2/2000 issue of Audiophile magazine:

Lamm Model M1.1

The hybrid monos shine not only with the musical character that belongs
to the best tube amplifiers, they also have the authority of the very few
solid-state power amps.

Data and Measurements

Warranty: 5 years
Dimensions (cm): 43.2 x 21 x 49.5
Weight: 30 kg
Configuration: Hybrid-mono-output Stage
Connection Types: two single-ended (inverted & non-inverted) inputs,
one balanced (XLR) input, two sets of gold-plated speaker binding posts (for bi-amping)
Special Loudspeaker Features: Load-selector for 1-6 Ohms or 8-16 Ohms
Topology: Class A Monoblock with a vacuum tube in the second stage
Build Quality: Professional

Measurements at a Glance

Continuous Sinewave Power at 8 Ohm (Pos. 8~16 Ohm) -- 200W
Continuous Sinewave Power at 4 Ohm (Pos. 1~6 Ohm) -- 210W
Rise Time: 8 Ohm/2 Ohm -- 1,9/1,9 uSec
Signal to Noise Ratio: 93dB
Input Impedance: 40 KOhm, 525 pF

No load yet has been complex enough to be able to disturb the Lamm monos. The damping factor is very linear, and allows neither the load impedance nor the frequency range (Figure 2) to influence the measurements taken at 2-Ohm-load resistance.  The load switch for the two sets of loads: from 1 to 6 Ohms and 8 to 16 Ohms respectively; this feature is equivalent to using the matching output transformer, which additionally ensures safe operation and prevent thermal overload during peak performance and allows to deliver a musical signal of the Lamms end stage without problems at 600 Watts/2 Ohms. The fact that the M1.1 has a hybrid construction with a driving vacuum tube is obvious from the typical spectrum of 1 kHz sinewave.


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Fig. 1. Voltage-impedance plot (Pos. 1~6 Ohms)

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fig. 2. Frequency response

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Fig. 3. Distortion spectrum (1 kHz, 10V, 4 Ohms)

 

[captions under photographs-- not reproduced here]

1.A wolf in a Lamm’s clothing: This seven-year-old amplifier which has not undergone significant changes and designed in accordance with distortion theories has a lot packed into it, and is here to stay

2. Heat: The small heatsinks in the vicinity of the vacuum tube silently cool off the driving transistors. Powerful aluminum heatsinks divert the heat of the twelve powerful output transistors.

 

 

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