Less Expensive Lars Monoblocks

As I wandered the halls looking for the next audio fix, a friendly voice with a thick Swedish accent called out to me. Since I'm pretty new at the magazine, I wondered who might be calling out my name let alone who might be calling out name that's from Scandinavia. It turned out it was Timo Engstrom, the maker of The Lars two-chassis, tube integrated amplifier that Art Dudley wrote about in June 2009. Somehow Timo read my badge and knew I was covering amplification at CES for Stereophile—he must have good eyes. He invited me in to have a listen to the Lars.

Art Dudley waxed poetic about The Lars's sonics but took issue with its visual appearance (and its $100,000 price tag). My impression was that this is a gorgeous-looking piece of gear, but perhaps I am more in tune with Scandinavian design than Art since I live in Minnesota, the home of all things Scandinavian in the US.

New to the Engstrom line are the Lars XLS monoblock amplifiers. They are essentially the same circuit of the amplifier that Art wrote about but lack the input selector and volume control. The price of the Lars XLS is $90,000/pair. The sound of the system with the Martin Coltrane speakers and fed by a digital front end from Bladelius was clear and crisp and, if I may say so, very Scandinavian. A matching preamp will be forthcoming from Engstrom sometime this year.

chip's picture

Who wants their music crisp? Terrible description.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

A show report is not a review, and should not be taken as one. Many exhibitors have only six hours to set up rooms in which the cabling alone takes days to settle in and open up. Too often, components are demmed that have not been sufficiently broken in. (Personally, I think it's sheer idiocy to have a year to prepare for CES, yet arrive with a product whose solder joints have hardly cooled. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. But then again, what do I know?) The mantra, "You should have come back on the last day, when everything was finally sounding great", has been repeated more times that any of us wishes to recount.Were any of us to pretend that our show blogs should be taken as anything other than snapshots of what something sounded like, or gave indication of having the potential to sound likem at the time we entered the room would be a disservice to both manufacturers and readers.

bhagwan's picture

The Lars is a 'glorious' product.One of the most 'musical' products in the tube world - if there is ever a thing tike that - the 'crisp' part must have been due to the 'Bladelius' CD / Pre It has always been rather 'cold' to my ears.. [Bladelius i.e.]The Lars would have been an even bigger 'success' story if it were to be priced a little 'better'@ 90 K & 100 K the air is very rarified & the product have limited penetration.....Maybe that is what the owner & designer desire.However, in my opinion, this is a supremely musical product & must be sold @ 20 to 25 K [retail] so that aspiring audiophile can get their hands [& ears] on it.A must 'audition' for all !The Marten Design speaker is like the new Kharma & also like the Tidal Piano Cera speaker - but with a Jantzen Diamond Tweeter. All Martens will switch from T & P - Accutone to Jantzen Diamond Tweeter....

Erick Lichte's picture

I think you are reading WAY too much into the "crisp" comment. The treble did sound crisp to me, and in a good way. The top end was clear and lacked the timing smear that some amps can have up there. Hence I said "crisp." I totally agree with JVS, these blog entries are not reviews and should not be viewed as such.

John Atkinson's picture

At least no-one has picked up on the irony in the title I gave this entry :-)

Zombie's picture

Irony indeed.Despite the 10% price decrease from it's last appearance, I challenge Mr. Lars to make something at one-tenth of the price.

nunh's picture

Crisp it is! I think crisp is a nice description. Anyway would love to hear their products. I wonder if they will one day make a lower priced version for more market penetration (here we go again with the kiddies/ critics snickering in the background - lol).

Grumpy's picture

Wait a minute, JA. They cut the price 10 grand by leaving off the input selector and volume control? That must be some humdinger of a volume control and input selector.

Bill Leebens's picture

John: TRUST me, I caught it. Thanks.

Quentin Crisp's picture

Crisp is good.