Lamm Industries L2 Reference preamplifier Page 3
Sound on the Lamm
Describing the sound of the Lamm L2 is not hard at all. Now, you might think that's bad: "Oh, it has a sound of its own. It shouldn't—especially at that price!" That's correct; it shouldn't. And it doesn't.
I fed the L2 signals from a variety of topnotch components: SACD and CD from the Accuphase 100/101 duo; upsampled 16/44.1 CDs from the dCS 972 and dCS Purcell/Elgar Plus combo; CD from the Linn CD12; and tasty vinyl treats from the Forsell Air Force One/van den Hul Grasshopper IV GLA via the BAT VK-P10 phono stage with XLO Reference phono cable. Typically, I popped the outputs of the Accuphase into the Direct input, with the dCS and P10 into Lines 1 and 2, respectively. Sometimes I pulled the phono and fed the Linn into Line 2. And sometimes, when I felt the need (which wasn't often), I fed the Source of the Moment into the Direct input for the best of the best, although the Line inputs evinced very little degradation for having to traverse two more switches within the L2.
Throughout it all, I was enchanted by the sound. The L2 did not sound the same with every front-end component, but always sounded superb, in all cases offering up what I thought the best the source could offer.
The highs were simply breathtaking, even if somewhat paradoxical in nature: sweet and very pleasingly harmonic, yet remaining clean, extended, soaring, pure, and detailed. Not once did the L2 tip over into the chaffy, harsh, or overly analytical, or make me wince in any way—yet I was sure I was hearing as far up into the audible spectrum as I ever had. Beautiful and inspiring. It made me hum with pleasure.
Listening to Jascha Heifetz saw his fiddle in half in the last movement of the Sibelius Violin Concerto (Walter Hendl/CSO, RCA/Classic LSC-2435) was jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring. His aggressive playing was intact, the string tone alive with a tonal palette one usually only dreams about. Similarly, the string tone on Mozart's Piano Concerto 8, K.246, with Vladimir Ashkenazy on piano and István Kertész conducting the LSO, sucked me in and wouldn't let go until the very end, and not even then! The extension and sweetness, plus the dynamics, detail, and tonal color, mesmerized me. The space, the air, the sense of being there were entirely palpable, so enjoyable. Isn't that what it's all about?
The massed vocals on Musica Sacra, a hybrid SACD (Opus3 19516), were beyond reproach. The big chorus was perfectly delineated, set out on a wide, layered soundstage, every voice perfectly explicated, the whole greater than the sum of its parts. It was truly inspiring to hear, the huge space of the recording seemingly perfectly reproduced in our loft. Within that complex weave of voices was something that touched my soul, that made my heart beat faster and no doubt released a flood of endorphins into my hungry brain. The disc sounded silky-smooth, yet detailed beyond my experience. Notes: "Such purity, such divinity, it makes the hairs stand straight up on the back of my neck—and elsewhere!" The sense of acoustic decay was wonderfully reproduced, the depth and transparency beyond reproach. Powerful stuff.
Craving more of those drop-dead-gorgeous highs, I popped Telarc's The Very Tall Band in the Accuphase transport, on both SACD (CD-83443-SA) and CD (CD-83443). The VTB is Oscar Peterson on piano, Milt Jackson on vibes, Ray Brown on bass, and Karriem Riggins on drums, recorded live at the Blue Note in 1998. Try track 3, "I Remember Clifford." Notes: "Listening to Milt's vibes are what the L2 is all about—cool, precise, and mellifluous...sweet yet extended. The outstanding midrange doesn't call attention to itself but makes me bow my head in appreciation of its rightness, all part of a very coherent musical picture."
I was having such a good time listening to classic jazz that I thought it time for a real orgy. I set up For the First Time (Pablo PACD-2310-712-2), by the Count Basie Trio (Ray Brown and Louis Bellson); Satch and Josh...Again (Fantasy OJCCD-960-2), with Oscar Peterson and Count Basie on duelin' pianos, John Heard on bass, and Louis Bellson on drums; This One's for Blanton (Analogue Productions CAPJ 015), with the Duke and Ray Brown, recorded in Las Vegas in '72; and Duke Ellington and his Orchestra Featuring Paul Gonsalves (Fantasy OJCCD-623-2), with, among others, Johnny Hodges on alto sax and Jimmy Hamilton on clarinet and tenor sax.
It was a great listening session. I came away from it "holding" the music, as it were. It was in me and it stayed there. (I looked for leaks.) Maybe it was the L2's hybrid build, its tube regulation—whatever. It seemed to give the music passing through its circuits that extra sense of roundness that tubes do so well. Not the softness or euphony some tube designs delight in, but an emotional softness. The music seemed to enter my soul via osmosis rather than as an e-mail to my head.
The midrange was flawless in all the recordings noted above, and with everything else I played through the L2. There was a kind of magic attraction, a magnetic pull in the midband; I wanted to lean into it, to get closer to it, to actually become the midrange! There was something just so human about it, so satisfying, so resonant with my own body electric (apologies to Ray Bradbury)—lots of detail, rich but very clean. I couldn't find a lousy-sounding midrange in any of the recordings I had on hand, even with New Pop recordings like St. Germain's Tourist (Blue Note 5 25114 2) or Thievery Corporation's Sounds from the Thievery Hi-Fi (Eighteenth Street Lounge Music ESL5).
Moving slightly down the frequency scale, the midbass was miraculous as well—very controlled and detailed, but rich and resonant with harmonics and overtones. Listening carefully to Ray Brown on This One's for Blanton, I enjoyed his big, fat bass sound with no overhang whatsoever. If you pick up this recording, you'll find the Duke's piano sound a bit weird, as if he's playing an upright, although the pic on the cover gives no hint of that.