LA Audio Electric Company's tube electronics produced warm, euphonic, and very smooth sound from ridiculously soppy pop music via Acoustic Zen loudspeakers. All products are hand-wired, and include proprietary output transformers. As best as I could make out, new at the show, although not in the photo, were the M-5W push-pull integrated amplifier ($1450) and A-50W integrated amplifier ($1700).
Far more sonically successful was the larger Lamm room. There, $266,950 worth of Lamm components, including the new LL 1.1 Signature line level preamplifier ($45,390/pair) and ML3 Signature SET mono power amplifiers ($139,490/pair), joined the big Kharma Exquisite Midi Grand speakers with F-drivers ($225,000/pair), a mostly not-in-production EMT/SME/ZYX turntable set-up, inexpensive Sanus racks ($840 total), and Kubala-Sosna Elation series cabling ($130,600 total) to draw sweeter, warmer, and more accurate sound from the same LP tracks.
The complete Lamm system on the 35th floor, whose total retail cost, including $216,070 for the Lamm components, $120,000 for the Verity Audio Lohengrin II S speakers, and $100,000 for the Tech DAS Airforce 1 turntable, along with Kubala-Sosna cabling, was a mere $670,071. But my brief was to cover amplification and shown only in passive display was Lamm Industries' new LP2.1 class-A, dual-monophonic tube phono preamp ($8590 regular, $8890 deluxe.)
First, today's language lesson: lampa = vacuum tube (or a valve) in Polish. Hence the name LampizatOr for the young Polish company whose GM70 SET 22W tube monoblock integrated amplifiers ($8000/pair) are point-to-point wired in Poland, and whose motivating force, Lukasz Fikus, seems intent on causing quite a stir on audio forums with statements such as, "I DECLARE universal war against high-end equipment manufacturers: CD player, amplifier, cables, speakersNO MORE CRAP."
John Larsen was on hand to show off his eye-catching Swedish-made Larsen 8 loudspeakers with SD feet ($6995/pair), which are distributed by Audio Skies. Meant to be placed against the wall for full control and bass response, they can descend to 23 or 24Hz, and ascend 20kHz. "They're designed to play with the room, not against the room," Larsen explained of a design that claims to eliminate distortion-creating first reflections. The angle of the tweeter also creates a wide soundstage that was given a run for its money on Telarc's recording of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.
The first chapter in the history of the LAST Factory, manufacturer of LAST Record Preservative for LPs, is coming to a close. After shepherding for 30 years the Livermore, Californiabased company he founded, LAST's president, Walter Davies, is retiring to devote his energies to still photography. With Jan and Ric Mancuso, of Trade Secrets Consulting, Davies is looking for a buyer to keep the company in operation.
Both at and post-show, Buffer (aka L. Langdon Ergmann, Jr.) was charmingly apologetic. Having read my "As We See It," "There's No Business without Show Business," in the April issue of Stereophile just hours before I walked into his Laufer Teknik room, he knew that his inability to supply a list of components and prices, add a track to his Memory Player from one of my six USB sticks, or even tell me what music was playing on his own music server (as in "We don't have an internet connection, so we can't identify the track") had left him a prime candidate for the Duncecap Dealer of the Day award.
Bill Dudleston didn't haul Legacy's mightiest marvels to AXPONA, but what he did bring had great potential. Unfortunately, the huge 10' high airshaft above his room basically did in what I heard. His first system, which alternated between the Legacy Aeris in Sapele Pommele finish (outer speakers, starting at $17,750/pair), which I auditioned, and Legacy Signature SE in Rosewood finish (starting at $6450/pair), also included Coda's CSX amplifier ($6000) and CP preamplifier ($3500), Ayon's CD 2S ($6350), and Morrow Audio SP7 Grand Reference speaker cables ($1499/pair) and MA6 Grand Reference interconnects ($899/pair).
The Legacy Audio Aeris Premium ($18,850/pair, outboard), with dual 500W ICEpower amps for the bass section and 24-bit DSP, certainly offers a lot for the money, but in Monarch Ballroom III, the speaker also sounded boomy and rather flat. The latter condition, I soon discovered, was easily remedied. When I played Reference Recordings’ CD of two ballet scores by Délibes, the image was pulling so far to the left that it was hard to believe that no one else had noticed the imbalance. Sleuthing revealed that someone or some dark force had messed with the balance control. Once it was returned to center position, the soundstage from the Pioneer Elite CD player and Coda 15.5 amplifier ($10,000) grew in size, and the sound, while hardly transparent, far more inviting and filled with air. As for the boominess, hopefully more attention to set-up and associated electronics would do the trick.