Innovative Audio Presents the Lamm LP1 Signature Phono Preamp
After a cornucopia of Diet Coke, kosher sandwiches, and vegan quesadillas, listeners were invited to three listening rooms hosting three Lamm inspired systems: The Signature Room, the Reference Hybrid Room, and the Vacuum Tube Room.
I first popped into the Signature Room where Vladmir Lamm presented his new LP1 Signature phono preamplifier. The LP1 is a dual monaural all-tube design which expands on the design concepts of his original LP2. Lamm’s intent with the LP2 was to minimize the number of gain stages used to achieve a sound truer to the source material. With the LP2, he reduced the number of gain stages to two, but he found it difficult to get low output impedance without adding a cathode stage, which according to Lamm, deteriorates the sound quality. Thus, to get the power that he needed and to maintain low impedance, Lamm employed the use of two separate power supplies for the new LP1. This gave the LP1 a more powerful second stage without adding a cathode and a more linear sound than the LP2 all while maintaining the low output impedance.
Other gear in the Signature Room included Wilson Alexandria XLF loudspeakers ($195,000/pair), Lamm ML3 Signature power amplifiers ($139,490/set), Lamm LL1 Signature preamplifier ($42,790), Spiral Groove SG2 turntable equipped with the Centroid tonearm ($20,000), Lyra Kleos MC cartridge ($2750), and cables from Transparent.
Vladmir Lamm acted as disc jockey in the Signature Room putting on Duke Ellington, Fritz Wunderlich, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. On Ellington’s “Looking Glass” from The Pianist, this system surprised me with its palpable realism, particularly on the high end of the register of the piano, replicating appropriate weight and size to each of the firmly struck upper keys with a gracious decay. On Wunderlich’s performance, I could feel the tenor’s breath as he opened and closed his mouth. Sibilants were accented but not extreme, just real. As Stevie Ray Vaughan transitioned from gentle picks to full-bodied chords, his guitar bloomed with body. Overall, I found the sound in this room cool and somewhat analytical but smooth and with a deep-reaching soundstage complemented by transparent imaging and effortless projection.
My second stop was the Vacuum Tube Room hosted by the intelligent and affable Scott Haggart, one of the team-members at Innovative. Here Scott dished out tracks via his iPad. Upon entry, I was struck by how much warmer this room sounded than the first one. One of the attendees asked, “Is that warmth from the tubes?” This room used the Lamm ML2.2 monoblocks ($37,290/pair) and the Lamm LL2.1 Deluxe tube preamplifier ($6,190). Scott responded, “No. That’s actually the warmth of the recording. This system maintains the truth to each recording as the artists and engineers intended.” Scott was playing “The New Cobweb Summer” by Lambchop. He commented that in the studio, the band tried to create “as much euphonic distortion as possible” to give the recording body and warmth.
To prove his point that the system was truer to the recording than its own particular sound, he played a Jordi Savall performing “La Folia”. This recording replicated the ambience, height, and depth of the recording hall, but still seemed a touch warm. Not quite the contrast I was expecting to hear. I asked for the iPad and put on Prince’s “Controversy”, a decidedly much dryer track and the system replicated it as such. Haggart’s words were confirmed.
Other components in the Vacuum Tube room included Wilson Maxx 3 speakers ($69,500/pair), MSB Diamond DAC IV ($41,940), Meridian MediaSource 600 ($3500), Meridian MediaDrive 600 ($5000), and cables from Transparent. Through this system, the organ of Moondog’s “New Sound for an Old Instrument” was absolutely liquid.
Finally, I made it to the Reference Hybrid Room, and with perfect timing! The room’s host had just put on “Friend of a Devil” from the Grateful Dead’s Dead Set, a version of the song which I highlight in my personal list of greatest guitar solos ever. Though the bass in this room was certainly boomy, I always enjoy the Dead. Listening to the music I loved the most felt like an appropriate conclusion to my night at Innovative.