Lamm M1.2 Ref. amplifiers.
Lamm LL2 deluxe preamplifier.
Rest of system: ESP Bodhran SE speakers, Argento cables, CMS racks and stands.
Lamm ML2.1 amplifiers.
Lamm L2 Ref. preamplifier.
Rest of system: Feastrex D9e Field coil speakers , AMR CD77, PranaWire Nataraja speaker cables, Avatar Ref. interconnects, and MahaSamadhi power cables, Acoustic Revive RGC-24 grounding conditioner, Sound Mechanics PX1 racks, C100 cones and C101 bases.
Another superior room: The ESP Loudspeakers/LAMM Industries/Critical Mass Systems/Argento Audio Cables/Matrx Systems/Abingdon Music Research/Halfnote Audio space. (Stop …take breath.)
The room stack: AMR CD-77 CD player and a LAMM LL2 preamp on CMS stands. These fed a pair of the superb LAMM M1.2 Reference hybrid amplifiers (my notes on these in the very near future) via Argento Audio cables, and on to a pair of ESP Bodhran SE speakers.
I have to say that I love the LAMM M1.2 Ref hybrid monos, pictured here with the Critical Mass Systems stands that have become a particular favorite of mine—Dr. Sardonicus loves ’em too. Intelligently designed, moderately powerful (110 WPC into a nominal 8 Ohms), and built like a tank, the M1.2’s really hit the sweet tonal spot for me. Very articulate, but never dry—shaken, but not stirred! A great combo with the LL2, of course, but the ESPs clearly dug the connection, as well. Synergy galore.
The pleased proprietors, left to right: Daniel Barnum of Argento Audio Cables/Half Note Audio; Doug White of ESP Loudspeakers/Matrx Systems; and Joe Lavrencik of Critical Mass Systems.
A long-time friend of ours, Joe Cohen of The Lotus Group does his “tripping the light fantastic” thing with a Feastrex driver cone. Very spry, Joe, very spry! By the way, these bloody drivers have an efficiency of, what, around 106dB/W/meter or so. Love flea-powered SETs? If you’ve got the bucks (these drivers are not cheap), these drivers with their enormous ultra-rare magnetic structures could be just the thing. Me, I can just imagine Harvey “Gizmo” Rosenberg dancing with one of these himself!
When I entered the room assembled by Matrix Systems of Pennsylvania, Joe of Critical Mass (maker of excellent, hand-crafted supports for amplifiers and other components) was playing a recording of jazz vocalist Mary Stallings (Maxx Jazz). I was immediately captivated, both by the sound, and by Stallings’ artistry. When Joe recognized me and asked me if I wanted to play some of my own music, “No way!” I exclaimed. “Let the music continue.”
As I continued to listen to Stallings, then finally some of my own music, I remained transfixed by the system’s fabulous, deep, recessed soundstage and its ability to communicate the heart of musical expression. No wonder. The system consisted of ESP Bodhran SE speakers ($16,000/pair) that feature 91dB sensitivity, 8 ohm impedance, and all new drivers, internal wiring, and crossover parts; Lamm Industries M1.2 Reference 110W class-A hybrid monoblocks ($21,690/pair) and LL2 Deluxe tube preamp ($4990); Argento Audio interconnects (distributed by Daniel Barnham of Half Note Audio); Abbingdon Music Research AMR CD-77 CD player ($8500); and Critical Mass Systems Grand Master Series Isolation Systems (price varies). Quite a system, and quite an experience.
Of dynamic driver speakers, the ESP Concert Grands are amongst my favorites. Displaying a warmth and ease reminiscent of the Rogers LS6 monitor, they always struck me a the kind of speaker one could listen to for hours without growing weary. Their $40,000+ price tag however, does put a bit of a damper on things. I was thus delighted to hear the smaller version, the $16,000 Bodhrans, which seem to have much of the magic of the larger version.
My very first stop was to check in with the folks at the Matrx Systems exhibit. This was a first time ever exhibit for this company at RMAF and the room was filled with some wonderful products. There featured speakers were the ESP Bodhran SE loudspeakers and were powered by Lamm electronics. Additionally, the system was wired together with Argento Audio cables throughout. Included in this system was the Avatar Acoustics CD player along with numerous Critical Mass Systems isolation devices.
As I entered the room, I was quickly greeted by mostly familiar faces and one or two new ones. Additionally, I quickly became aware of a sound reminiscent of the classic ESP sound. The Bodhrans, priced at $16,000, look quite similar to the magnificent ESP flagship Concert Grand Si loudspeakers, and can sound wonderful mated to the right electronics, cables and fed with a really good music source. First and foremost, these speakers provide a realistically very authentic soundstage that is wonderfully filled with music. No doubt the superb electronics used during this year’s exhibit (i.e., Lamm M1.2 Reference mono blocks and LL2 Deluxe preamp), outstanding Argento Audio cables (Serenity interconnects/speaker cables and Flow power cords), Avatar Audio AMR CD-77 CD player and Grand Mass Series Isolation Systems from Critical Mass Systems) helped achieve the good sound.
Seems pretty unanimous when a product gets voted three out of three thus was the case with the ESP Bodhran loudspeakers ($16k). Like their bigger sibling in the mighty Concert Grands, these babies love to soundstage and throw images further back than almost any loudspeaker I’ve heard regardless of their cost. To leave out the fact this room was using state of the electronics would be a crime and we all know how good Lamm electronics are, but the Abbingdon Music Research CD Player wasn’t no slouch either. This was one of the few rooms I found myself utterly relaxed and comfortable in.
Another highly musical and listenable system was composed of ESP loudspeakers, Lamm tube electronics and Argento Audio cables. This was a room I returned to several times as it offered true sonic relief from the audio overload experienced in many demos—it was just pure musical pleasure to listen to CDs on this equipment. I know the Lamm amps are quite well respected, but I’d hazard a guess that the main cause for the totally satisfying sound of this demo room lies in the ability of the ESP speakers to transmit music without mucking it up in any way whatsoever. And isn’t that the secret to any well-designed audio gear? Whatever the reason, ESP (esploudspeakersna.com) has a clear winner in its Bodhran SE speakers ($16,000). Thanks to Doug White of Matrix Systems, an ESP and Lamm dealer in Philly, for putting this hypnotic kit together.