Lamm Industries L2 Reference preamplifier Page 2
The Lamm L2 is not remote-controlled; you have to heave your audiophile butt outa that listening chair to select inputs and make changes in volume. The exercise will do you good.
Setup and Tweakage
Tweakage at $13,690 retail? Yeah, you heard me. Here's the deal: The Lamm L2 is for the deeply committed enthusiast willing to spend the time and attention required to tweak it for best sound. Don't wanna fuss? Then buy a Mark Levinson Reference No.32 for only a bit more. The No.32 is built like a tank, and footers, placement, and other tweaks make no difference whatsoever to its sound—it's all been taken care of by Madrigal. But if you're an involved type who likes to play and achieve big-time results for your efforts, read on.
I began auditioning by setting the L2 and power supply on separate shelves in a PolyCrystal rack, and straight into the wall for good ol' unprocessed New Yawk powah—no footers or tweaks of any kind. What great sound! I dunno, there's something about terrific components that one picks up on straight away—I just knew it sounded so right and could only get better. I love when that happens! I was slack-jawed as an ass from the start; the sound was wonderfully fine on a variety of front-end components and amps.
But understand—despite its name, Lamm Industries, Vladimir Shushurin's operation isn't exactly Krell or Madrigal/Harman International. "Industries," my big beezer. While Lamm gear isn't exactly built in a Brooklyn garage, the name is a bit grandiose for the reality of these lovingly handbuilt and tested-to-death electronics. Fully half the L2's manual consists of specs, graphs, and charts, and a "Proof of Performance Report" is included with each unit. It's lovely to see this kind of individual attention paid to each unit produced. In fact, this preamp is about the furthest you can get from the mass market. It's an audiophile with that kind of mindset—and the bucks to afford such gear—who will best appreciate the L2.
It was obvious to me where Lamm had put its money: design and parts. The casework is plain and unremarkable, relatively lightweight, and downright knobbly-looking, with chassis screws bristling up everywhere. While the Levinson No.32 is suaveness personified, the L2 is much more utilitarian in its purity of design. As a result—hold on to your audiophile hats—the best results were obtained by suspending the power supply (which contains five tubes) on three stacks of three each Golden Sound DH Squares, a graphite-bearing footer with some "give" to it. (See this month's "Fine Tunes" for details.) The power-supply section also sounded very good on Bright Star's Air Mass isolation base or Signal Guard closed-cell foam stand. But both took up too much room on the shelf, so the DH Squares were elected; they sounded almost as good and took up much less space.
After cycling through several sets of footers, I found that the control unit definitely sounded best on Nordost Pulsar Points. The more expensive titanium TP4s were noticeably better than the aluminum PP4s, but only when a weight of some kind was placed in the center of the L2's top cover. And not just any weight—I tried several record weights and a Shakti Stone, and settled on the original (quite heavy and atrociously gold-colored) Forsell turntable record weight with its rubberized bottom surface, which damped the cover and coupled the unit to the footers beneath. The L2's top rang ominously when tapped; it sounded much more dead with the record weight on top. Not exactly beautiful-looking, but it's the sound that counts. And I used a Shakti Stone atop the power supply's toroidal transformer for best sound.
Nor would any old power cord do. For the L2, the PS Audio Lab Cable just edged out the Synergistic Research Master Coupler. As before, I found the SS5 setting on the PS Audio P300 Power Plant to be the setting that did it for me for all the front-end components.