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 (NEW), Metronome C2 Signature D/A converter, Metronome, Kalista transport, Metronome Gaia turntable , Kubala-Sosna interconnects and loudspeaker cables
Critical Mass Systems racks and stands.
Opening day at the Home Entertainment 2007 show, held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in NYC, seemed pretty well attended to me, based on the morning Press Only hours. (It opened at 9 a.m. and I left around 1 p.m. Four hours are more than enough listening and schmoozing at one time for me. General admission began at 2 p.m.)
Lamm Industries Room
Immediately after registration, I spied the welcome sight of Joe Kubala talking with Vladimir Lamm outside their room. Inside, Lamm ML2.1 SET monoblocks alternated with M1.2 Reference amps, along with the L2 preamp, and LP2 phono stage. The new two-chassis $126,000 ML3 Signature monoblocks were on static display. Digital was spun on a Metronome Kalista transport and C2 DAC through Wilson Watt / Puppy 8 speakers. Everything was supported by Critical Mass Systems platforms, with Kubala-Sosna Emotion cables in use throughout.
One needed to keep reminding oneself that there were only 18-watts feeding those Wilsons. The sound was big, with lots of low-end authority, in this untreated midsize Boardroom, and it was unmistakably the sound of SETs, with a slightly heavy, but lusciously textured midrange that had plenty of resolution where it counts. Nothing else captures a bowed cello like these amps. Imaging wasn’t strong—I mean the stage did not segregate images but gave you a blend, yet you heard everything you needed to hear.
Most convincing music: Unsurprisingly, this happened in the suite shared by Lamm Industries (preamps and power amps), Metronome Technologie (digital source components), Kubala-Sosna Research (cables), and Critical Mass Systems (isolation platforms). A system comprising the current best components from those companies was driving a Wilson Audio Specialties WATT/Puppy 8 loudspeaker system and playing one nice selection after another, when I was surprised to hear it get even better: a baritone I didn’t recognise. I don’t mean to imply that that’s unusual: I’m hardly an expert, singing an aria from Verdi’s Rigoletto. That decades-old monorecording was captivaating — and, through that system, the silences between the notes, the presence of the voice, and, above all, the organic, note-to-note flow of the melody were superb, all towering above anything else I heard that weekend. I whispered to Elina Lamm, “What was that CD?” She pointed to an attractive blonde-haired woman about my age, who was sitting in the front row by herself — and handed me the CD jacket so I could copy down the details. It was the American baritone Leonard Warren, from a collection in Preiser Records’ Lebendige Vergangenheit series (89585). I thought: We need more of all of these things.
Jim Rickett’s Metronome digital gear along with Lamm electronics looked incredibly comfortable sitting on a slew of Critical Mass Systems iso-platforms. Don’t know quite what to say about the sound of this otherwise excellent setup except much of the disappointment came from the Wilson Watt Puppy 8s being too close in proximity to the front walls. Also, the distance between the loudspeakers were much closer than the distance to the listening seat. Using the equilateral triangle approach is old hat? To me, this made instruments sound too distant and gave the bass an unwanted tubbiness. If I had this nicely sized room for myself I would have had those loudspeakers well into the room, maybe in front of those wonderfully sounding Lamm amplifiers. To each his own I suppose. Come to think of it, the B.A.T room, which also featured the Wilson Watt 8s, was setup in a similar fashion. Because the room was slightly wider the sound was actually even heeled. Go figure. On static display only was the new Lamm Audio ML3 Signature monos ($126k) with designer VladimirLamm.
In the Lamm Industries room the intended star of their show was a lone ML3 Signature monoblock sitting at the side of the room like a dancer without a partner. It is a 32 watt single ended design with a separate power supply. Unfortunately, its mate was inoperable due to shipping damage, which is really unfortunate considering they cost about $63K each. A back-up pair of ML2.1s was pressed into service to drive a pair of Wilson Audio Watt/Puppy 8s that were strangely placed far back into the corners of the room. A Lamm L2 preamplifier with its separate power supply and LP-2 phono stage were further upstream. The front ends were spectacular with the Metronome Technologie Kalista CD transport ($34K) seen here with the gold CD spinning in open air. The Gaia turntable was equally eye-popping at $35K. Critical Mass Systems isolation and damping systems took care of vibrations with a series of component stands that brought the height of components to a common level, eliminating the need to bend way down to operate them — a big plus — as well as amplifier stands beneath the Lamms. Kubala-Sosna’s highly regarded cables provided the connections. While the room still sounded very good, it was not as good as I heard the Watt/Puppy 8 in Montreal or later on in the show in the BAT room where the loudspeakers were brought further out from the front wall. I really jumped into the show at the deep end here. This ultra-high end room was clearly a room for the few.