Less Expensive Lars Monoblocks
As I wandered the halls looking for the next audio fix, a friendly voice with a thick Swedish accent called out to me. Since I'm pretty new at the magazine, I wondered who might be calling out my name let alone who might be calling out name that's from Scandinavia. It turned out it was Timo Engstrom, the maker of The Lars two-chassis, tube integrated amplifier that Art Dudley wrote about in June 2009. Somehow Timo read my badge and knew I was covering amplification at CES for Stereophilehe must have good eyes. He invited me in to have a listen to the Lars.
Art Dudley waxed poetic about The Lars's sonics but took issue with its visual appearance (and its $100,000 price tag). My impression was that this is a gorgeous-looking piece of gear, but perhaps I am more in tune with Scandinavian design than Art since I live in Minnesota, the home of all things Scandinavian in the US.
New to the Engstrom line are the Lars XLS monoblock amplifiers. They are essentially the same circuit of the amplifier that Art wrote about but lack the input selector and volume control. The price of the Lars XLS is $90,000/pair. The sound of the system with the Martin Coltrane speakers and fed by a digital front end from Bladelius was clear and crisp and, if I may say so, very Scandinavian. A matching preamp will be forthcoming from Engstrom sometime this year.