Our presenters, Trevor DeMaat and Elina Dobin came a long distance for our pleasure. Elina Dobin of LAMM Audio came from my home town, Brooklyn New York, where she and husband Vladimir Shushurin — LAMM’s chief designer — manufacture the product line. Trevor came from Washington DC where he imports the Dutch designed and manufactured Kharma line of speakers. Monica and I greeted them at our home around 4 PM on Saturday the day before the gathering . It took them 10 hours to drive down from DC which was good time considering that they were hauling a jeep full of equipment and a small U-Haul trailer. Trevor and Elina are seasoned showsters not willing to leave anything to chance. They had everything required to set up an “A” system for us in case I was derelict in my facilitating duties.
Since there was still a few hours of daylight left my wife Monica decided I should give them a cook’s tour of Atlanta. Our first stop was Audio Solutions in Dunwoody (www.audiosolutions.com) to pick up the Theta Miles one piece CD player to be used as a source for the system. I purposely drove them the back way through Berkeley Lake and down Spalding and Mt. Vernon to impress them with the country side and the homes. Elina was particularly enchanted with the estates enthusiastically snapping away with her camera and contrasting Atlanta with Russia. Elina and Trevor were taken back with the cold here and were puzzled about why it was not a lot warmer being the “south” and all. Monica described the hot muggy summer weather as being what the south is all about and praised central air conditioning crediting it with the growth of Atlanta. Monica asked Elina if she had air conditioning in Russia. Elina explained that where she grew up, there was no air conditioning…and the citizens (or comrades) did not even know that such things existed. They did have stereo though and mother Russia lost the best designer of audio gear they had when her husband Vladimir immigrated to the USA. Vladimir’s designs were one of the few profitable products manufactured under the communist regime, only because they sounded so good, people actually wanted to buy them. Our next stop was little five points where we had some espresso and stopped off at criminal records to see what we could find in the used section. I then discovered that Trevor and I shared some musical taste and also enjoyed finding deals on used CD’s. We drove back to Duluth and went to Thai Diner where we found out that the term “Dutch Treat” was not invented in Holland. Elina is pretty quick and within seconds she helped us convince Trevor that it meant that he was buying since he was from Holland. We stopped at the package store and bought some of my favorite beer, Blue Moon Belgian White and then returned to our house. I have to admit, there was a reason that I volunteered to help John Morrison, President of the AAS by picking up the Theta Miles CD player from Audio Solutions and taking it to the gathering on Sunday. It was because I wanted to hear it in my system.
I was a little embarrassed to let these audiophiles see my modest system, but they were kind and we focused on the music. During our listening and talking, I mentioned that the Super Bowl may affect the attendance. Both were oblivious to the Super Bowl. I began to explain how the two football leagues play one another etc, when Trevor interrupted me with, ” which game is football?” After a short explanation both grasped it as the game on TV where they tackle one another, “a more tamed version of Rugby” Trevor commented. Elina decided to call and have them cancel the Super Bowl as to assure it would not interfere with our meeting. I let her know that out of the 30 or so members I called, most of them knew what the Super Bowl was but did not know when it was. Or should I say 90 members missed out on the best gathering and sound we have had yet.
We played some of my music and some of theirs over my system and then Elina noticed that he had one of the songs I played off Vinx, Rooms in My Fathers House on one of the recordable CD’s made for her by Purist Audio to use as demo material. She found the disk and we put it on the Miles and both Trevor and Elina were shocked to hear a narrowing and shallowing of the sound stage. They were both in the sweet spot (my listening room is 27 feet long so there are two rows of seats each with a sweet spot) and both heard it and looked at one another. I was off axis and I thought I heard a level difference, Elina’s being louder than the original. Either way, I anxiously await Elina’s explanation of the difference. Once Monica and Elina decided to retire, the real audio and ale consumption started.
The real fun began when we got to the Hellenic Center and began to unload and set up the system. The few die hard active members, that showed up at 11 AM to help unload the 553 pound Kharma Exquisite loudspeakers, were in for a treat. Great equipment is essential for great sound. If it is set up wrong, it does not matter how good it is , it will not sound it’s best. We put the system in the room and moved it several times over, listening to the change in the sound as we progressed. This was an educational experience for some and a nerve pincher for others but all in all much fun was had and we did a lot of listening. The sound was simply the best we have ever had in that room. I say that without qualification since I have only been with the society for less than two years, but everyone I talked to even Chuck Bruce who has been with the society since it’s inception agreed.
I am going to end my story here because there were several AAS members taking pictures, interviewing Trevor and Elina, going over the equipment and spec sheets and talking about writing something for the journal. I am sure that their reviews will be better than mine because I am really not into the nuts and bolts of the equipment or the detail of the configuration or the model numbers etc. Thanks Trevor and Elina for your time and effort, we’all appreciate it and look forward to having you visit us again.
I have just one final question. Who won the Super Bowl?
The Program featured: Kharma’s “Exquisite Reference 1A” Loudspeakers & LAMM’s L-1 tube hybrid preamp & a pair of M1.1 100w class ‘A’ tube hybrid power amps. We also featured the equally phenomenal Theta Miles integrated CD player among other interesting components, cables & accessories. Read on, we had a lot of fun…
These phenomenal loudspeakers from Holland rated some of the best sound at past Hi-Fi & WCES Shows did not disappoint, neither did the electronics. The Kharma’s feature space age ceramic midrange drivers imported from Germany and exotic polymer cabinetry weighing in at 600 lbs. per cabinet. Hybrid SS & Tube fans appreciated the equally impressive amplifiers by Vladimir Shushurin formally of Russia. The LAMM’s were ably presented by Ms. Elina Dobin (Vladimir’s spouse who enjoys the piano and is heavily engaged in the business) and is one of audio’s most knowledgeable women. The Kharma’s were presented by Trevor de Maat, US importer of Kharma & OLS loudspeakers, an equally knowledgeable presenter. This very successful and enjoyable program included a lot of excellent music listening will serve as the new benchmark for the Audio Society programs and truly represents world class equipment and accessories offering unmatched synergy, plus smooth, quick and without a hitch set-up. Despite the heavy-weight of the loudspeakers and a host of other equipment that were encased in wood shipping crates, plus cables and accessories, our set-up group of 4 or 5 able hands had the complete system up-and-running in around an hour, with minimum tweaking afterward! And what about the sound? Truly remarkable, some of the best “goosebumps” ever raised as the any variety of music presented was recreated with uncanny accuracy and timbre. The soundstage with the better recordings was near 3-D. This with solid, tight bass response to 30Hz from these 3-way floor stander’s. No subwoofers need here. There was an obvious synergy at work here with the loudspeakers, electronics & Purest Audio Design fluid filled interconnect and loudspeaker cables. And to quote many of the attendees: “The best driver integration yet heard”. Even hard core and rarely impressed loudspeaker builders among us were querying Trevor about the crossover design (which is encapsulated & proprietary). The LAMM electronics have been heard by a number of our members including myself at several past shows, and they always sound good with every loudspeaker they’ve been paired. I don’t think I’ve ever seen our group so attentive for so long… Valued at approximately $85,000 this ensemble was probably the most costly, visually appealing and heavyweight audio only ensemble ever assembled for our programs. Yet, in this case and unlike some past and costly ensembles seen and heard, the performance to at least the well heeled – matched the cost. All to often price and performance don’t match. Suffice to say in my opinion, the 32+ attendee’s unanimously agreed that we enjoyed the finest sound ever achieved in our meeting room and maintained the rapt attention with few breaks from around noon -to- 6:00 PM. Few attendees bolted for the door on this Superbowl day. Quite an accomplishment from this normally restless crew!!! Hats off to Kharma & Lamm and their long drive from Brooklyn, NY and Maryland. Also thanks to the equipment re-pack team that stayed late and lent a hand to the by now weary Trevor & Elina. Hank Henley, Phil Muse, Phil and Monica Abbate and John Morrison… Our usual auction featured interconnects from Esoteric Audio, and an assortment of CDs including some donated by; JVC XRCDs, Pope Music, Reference Recordings, Dr. Phil Muse, Dr. John Cooledge and others. Many attendees went home smiling with some valuable prizes. Proceeds from these Raffles help sustain our non-profit treasury and augment our modest dues to cover our many costs. It requires approximately $3,000 per year to run the club. All of our officers and program committee associates are unpaid volunteers. Items donated to the Raffle by individuals & corporations are most appreciated.
More Kharma — Dr. Mike Masztal’s comprehensive account of the Kharma & Lamm program…
Atlanta audiophiles who were able to break away from the Superbowl pre-game hype and attend the AAS meeting were treated to a pleasant surprise. Elina Dobin from LAMM Industries, Inc., and Trevor from Kharma/OLS (manufactured in Holland) demonstrated their fine products in a session that will be the topic for conversation for some months to come. In spite of the “Big Game”, there were about 30 people in attendance with many visitors. Having experienced listening to their products at CES where LAMM and Kharma shared a room, I was pleased they took the time to visit our group. LAMM brought down their $6990 L1 hybrid preamp and a pair of the $7945/ea M1.1 hybrid power amps. Kharma had their flagship $54,995 Exquisite Reference 1A loudspeakers. Digital front end was a combination of Theta Miles (on loan with thanks to Ed Scruggs from Audio Solutions) and a CEC TL2 CD Drive and Kharma KDA 1000 DAC. Interconnects were Purist Audio Design and power cords were from DH Labs. Digital components and preamp were on a Target B4 stand. The front end components were placed on Black Diamond cones, amps and speakers were placed on the ceramic DH Labs cones. The construction of the Kharma Exquisite is quite unique and deserving an explanation. The cabinet is not a simple 6 sided box, but what is essentially a solid 600 lb piece of wood with chambers for each driver carved out of the block. The cabinet is assembled by epoxy-gluing 14 pieces of laminated wood together. The orientation of the sheets of wood is as if one were looking at the panels from the side. Prior to the gluing process, each piece is precision machined with cutouts that will become the driver chambers once assembly is done. Trevor stated this design makes for an acoustically dead, non-resonant cabinet. The front baffle slopes backward to allow for correct time-alignment. The drivers include a tweeter and woofer from Focal and the ceramic midrange form Ceramique. The LAMM amplifier exude quality in their construction quality with no money wasted on frivolous cosmetics.
We talked Elina into ‘popping the hood’ to the amp and preamp. Both components are constructed on a heavy gauge chassis with high quality internal parts from Dale, ALPS, Roderstein, Electrocube and Cornell-Dubilier being used. The wiring resembled what one would see in a military spec product. The amplifier uses a single military grade 6992 in the driver stage with high speed MOS-FETs providing the power (100w pure Class A into 8 or 4 ohms) with no overall feedback. A bias setting switch on the back of the amp allows for switching between 1-6 Ohm or 8-16 Ohm speakers. The amps weigh in at a hefty 65 lbs. The L1 preamp shows the same quality parts and construction as the amplifier. Tube complement includes one 12AX7, one 6C19pi, and one 5651. All stages run in a single ended Class A mode. A unique combination of tubes and MOS-FETs allow for large output swings without loss of first of second harmonics. A variety of music was heard during the three hour meeting. Despite the less than ideal acoustics of the Hellenic Center, the system produced a large deep soundstage with excellent harmonic structure. Bass was authoritative without being thick or boomy. Everyone appeared quite attentive during the music segment.
Many thanks to everyone who made this program possible…