Lamm Industries ML1 monoblock power amplifier Page 4
There followed something of a vinyl orgy, as I pulled out LP after LP. There was a natural tendency to reach for the best with the Lamms; I nearly died listening to the second movement of Beethoven's String Quartet 9 in C, Op.59 (Columbia MS 6187, another treasured original six-eye) with the ever-accomplished Budapest Quartet. I was struck by the perfection of the plucked cello, the breathlessness and emotion that lay between the notes, the trippy-close quality of feeling without question that I was sitting in a small salon with the Budapest right before me!
I'm a lucky SOB. All audiophiles are. Here it was, a Sunday night in late winter: cold, wet, and not very conducive to schlepping out to live music. I further abused my laptop: "But what could be more meaningful musically than this?" Then I spun one of my favorite Haydn Piano Trios, No.6 in F by the Beaux Arts Trio (Philips 9500 325, LP). As I sat pensive before the elegant music, I noted: "The ML1s are for the Discerning Listener. Having struggled with every detail of the front-end, having tuned the living daylights out of cartridge and 'table, you're rewarded with the best vinyl has to offer."
While I've always thought this recording a touch analytic, I found it now transparent beyond reproach. The sound of the musicians moving about in their chairs struck me as never before. Such small details, suddenly so evident, raised something of the feeling of participation one has at live events. I still noted the familiar, slightly hot, and analytic top-end, yet it didn't betray the music at all. It became part of the larger gestalt of the sound cascading over me in the Ribbon Chair. Delightful.
It was hard to stop listening that night; albums littered the floor as, one after another, I spun old favorites to savor them anew. Quite an evening.
The Lamm ML1s sounded balanced, wide-band, utterly transparent, and quite refined. I enjoyed very fine bass on the Utopias at Vigorous Volume Levels...for 90 tube watts. But I'd look for a speaker that didn't need its (reflex-loaded) woofer quite so tightly grabbed as the Utopias (footnote 4). I did audition the Lamms on Acarian Systems Alón Circes, whose sealed-box woofers sounded satisfyingly tight, if not quite as richly detailed as the fast-moving, lightweight sandwich-technology woofers of the JMlab Utopias.
Bitches? I have a few. The amp's top deck could be stiffened up or damped a bit. And despite their good sound, costly amps such as these need better binding posts than those gold-plated brass jobbies with the red and black plastic caps! Given the lavish hand-crafting and best-quality parts, I'm inclined to believe Vladimir Shushurin when he explains that they sounded best. But holy moly, do they look cheesy.
Partnering electronics are very important for best results; I've heard Lamm's line-level L1, and while I didn't have one on hand during the review, my recollection of its sound tells me it should make a perfect match for the ML1s.
In any case, I think it's safe to say that Shushurin meant exactly what he built with the ML1. It's an expression of musical purity that brings him—and will perhaps bring you—closer to the angels.
Footnote 4: Jacques Mahul, le patron of JMlab/Focal, recently purred, "Jahn-ah-tan, you are steel in love with your Utopias?" Yes, Jacques, I am steel in love...—Jonathan Scull