Lamm Industries ML1 monoblock power amplifier Page 2
Input is single-ended on an XLR jack, duplicated on a gold-plated RCA. Around back are three pairs of binding posts for 2, 4, and 8 ohm speakers, plus a multi-voltage IEC mains input socket and grounding post. Power on drops you into a two-minute warmup mode, during which the tube filaments come up to snuff before the plate voltage is applied. (Low thermal shock lengthens tube life.) Afterward, a relay clacks and you're loaded for bear. Fuses can be found on the AC line and on the plates of the power tubes, and there's an auto-reset thermal fuse if things get a little hot under the hood, which never happened chez Scull.
The ML1s went about their musical business with a certain and deliberate noneditorial purity. As a result, the front-end had to be just so or the sound could turn unpleasant. When I listened to Milt Jackson and Wes Montgomery on Bags Meets Wes! (DCC GXS-1093), Milt's vibes sounded shivering, shimmery, and beautiful—crystalline-clear as light through a prism. Riding far right, the spit of "Philly" Joe Jones cymbal was better rendered by the dCS 972/Elgar combo when fed with the Accuphase DP-75V's S/PDIF output or AES/EBU by the Forsell Air Bearing transport.
Nevertheless, the ML1s needed—actually, demanded—that certain touch of lushness and sweetness the Accuphase so easily evoked. That's how I wound up listening to digital mostly via the DP-75V 24/192 single-box upsampler/CD player, and that's what led to some of the best analog sound I've heard in a while...but I'm getting ahead of myself.
As mentioned, our JMlab Utopias were Lamm Approved as a good match for the ML1s. But while the midrange and highs were fine, I had to really work to get the bass just right. You need legs for the Big Musical Moments that many of us are so fond of conjuring up in our homes: wires, preamplifier, source components—all had to be spot-on perfect for the best overall sound and the tightest bass. I wound up at the top of the bubble on the analog outputs of the Accuphase DP-75V (footnote 1), and the Insider on the Forsell Air Force One (footnote 2), BAT VK-P10 phono stage, and BAT VK-50SE preamplifier.
XLO The Limited speaker cable tethered the Utopias, with all Synergistic Research Designer's Reference Active Shielding/Transmission Line interconnect and DR Squared on the power. And I had to play with the distribution and angle of the ASC Studio Traps and Argent RoomLenses that populate our listening room. Work for it, buddy.
Two by 90
The Lamm ML1s impressed me immediately with their sense of refinement. Theirs was, however, an essentially different sound from that of the Accuphase M2000 monoblocks, the last amps I described in that way (February 2000, Vol.23 No.2). Let's start with "Use Me," from Patricia Barber's Companion (Premonition/Blue Note 5 22963 2).
Notes: "There's a musical presence that is, in its total and utter clarity, the very be-all and end-all of these amps." As Barber's voice manifested itself in our listening room, she sounded a bit more cool (yet more subtle and complete) than other warmer, illuminated-from-within presentations we've enjoyed. I'm thinking of the sexy-as-the-dickens McIntosh MC2000, for example, or the big VTL Wotans. Understand, this is no criticism; rather, the overall mien of the Lamm ML1 is one of subtlety and refinement. It's positively Nagra-like in how it sticks to the straight and narrow, adhering to the ultimate paradigm of neutrality. As with the Nagra VPAs, I found this stringent lack of editorial voice almost a signature in itself. It all depends on how you look at it. Is the glass half full or half empty? And more important—you gonna finish that?
Listening to the Jacques Loussier Trio's terrific recording of Satie's Gymnopédies Gnossiennes (Telarc CD-83431) was just incredible. I felt very close to the music, despite the cool, transparent neutrality of the sound. Notes: "It's so very open and quick, especially on top—sparkly clean and crystal-clear, not etched in any way. A sophisticated presentation with bags of unforced detail, neither sweet nor hard."
Footnote 1: TARA Labs The One cable worked sonically and didn't pull the '75V off its Big Rock/Air Mass stand, as the stiff Synergistic DR cable does.—Jonathan Scull
Footnote 2: On XLO Signature phono cable; as usual, bearing and arm updates in the works for the Spotheim SpJ/La Luce turntable.—Jonathan Scull