LAMM ML2.1 & M1.2 Reference power amplifiers.
LAMM L2 Reference preamplifier.
LAMM LP2 phono preamplifier.
Rest of system: Wilson Audio Watt/Puppy 8 speakers, Metronome C2 Signature D/A converter, Metronome Kalista transport, Metronome Gaia turntable , Kubala-Sosna interconnects and loudspeaker cables.
Vladimir Lamm began the design work on his single-ended ML3 Signature mono amps over 20 years ago. Each two-chassis amp uses a dozen tubes, including the virtually unknown GM70, to produce 32 triode watts. The GM70’s plate dissipation is a massive 125 watts. The amps were on silent display, and until they start making music, their price will be what draws attention: a cool $126,290 per pair.
I wrote about all of the demos and gear that caught my ear in Las Vegas except for one. On the last afternoon of the show, Vladimir Lamm played his ML3 Signature amp. Because of supply problems for the ML3’s transformer, which is now being made by a different company, Vladimir had only one working ML3, and it had what Vladimir called an “intermediate” transformer — one that isn’t of the same quality as those that will be in production version of the amps. This is what he played through a single Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy 8 speaker. Vladimir acted as DJ for those lucky enough to be in the room.
Many of the classic jazz recordings that I cherish are in mono, so I wasn’t put off by hearing only one amp, even with its non-production transformer. The ML3 Signature’s sonic character was easy to compare and contrast to that of the ML2.1, a pair of which were playing for most of the show. The ML3 Signature, with its big GM 70 output tube, definitely had greater drive — the ability to propel the music’s pace forward — than the ML2.1, and it also displayed greater high-frequency delicacy and air, rather like those amps I’ve heard that use 845 tubes. The midrange was as corporeal as that of the ML2.1, but the bass had more power, though nothing Vladimir played displayed its very depths.
One piece with a bowed-bass solo was amazing. It was from Mi Buenos Aires Querido [Teldec 0630-13474-2], a CD of Argentinean music I own and have heard many times. The body of the instrument and scrape of the bowing were captured with tremendous delineation and texture. This was the best portrayal of that bass I’ve heard.
Yes, the ML3 Signature amps, at $126, 290 per pair, are wildly, outrageously expensive, but they were not created with all audiophiles in mind. They are extreme luxury items for those listeners who can afford any piece of audio gear they want. Vladimir told me that he already has orders for eight pairs. Like most talented audio engineers, he has a loyal following, including people who simply want to own the best products he can make. From what I heard on the last afternoon of the CES, a single ML3 Signature displayed the great promise required to fill this bill
MOST SIGNIFICANT NEW PRODUCT
World’s best-sounding single-ended triode amplifier?
Lamm’s ultra-refined ML3 Signature is based on the majestic Russian GM70 directly heated triode and is rated at 32 watts of pure power. This cost-no-object design may just be the Chosen One.
Lamm Industries introduced the ML3 Signature Power Amplifier, which are tubed monoblocks that produce 32 watts of Class A sound. A photo of one is shown below. Notice that it is in two pieces, the power supply on the right, and the output stage chassis on the left. Perhaps Duobloc is the right word for this product. Priced at $126,290 for a pair of them.
The sound at CES was… well, it has always been mixed, as well, with a few nuggets amongst the average and ‘trying hards’. I guess it was about the same, given the steady increase in quality we see year after year at most shows. For me, the rooms I thought were the most tempting were the Lamm, Hanson, and Audiomachina. Neli’s faves were the EAR room (featuring the new Marten ‘Bird’ speaker) and the Lamm room.
Lamm did play their one working ML3 on one of the Wilsons and Neli got to hear it for quite some time. Hopefully I will be able to *extract* the juicy details But, to summarize, she liked it – it appears to be SIGNIFICANTLY better than the ML2.1 in ALL audiophile attributes, especially control of the speaker, dynamics, and transparency.