The Lamm Experience

Pass Labs may laugh a bit at its excess, as in the XS series, but Vladimir Lamm saves his smiles for the sounds of his brand-new, four-box LL 1.1 Signature line level preamplifier ($45,390/pair). That "pair" in the price is not a typo. This baby consists of two mono preamps plus two separate power supplies!

The LL 1.1 Signature replaces an original version released six years ago. Among the differences: the printed-circuit boards are gold-plated, which creates an improvement in sound that Lamm likens to moving from the back of the hall to the best seat in the house.

The preamp performed in two rooms. In the smaller of the two, it joined the Lamm's M1.2 Reference amplifiers ($27,390/pair) and LP2.1 phono preamplifier, deluxe ($8990); Amazon Grand Reference turntable ($17,995) with Mörch DP8 tonearm and one of two ZYX cartridges; Kharma Exquisite Classique loudspeakers with F-drivers ($130,000/pair); inexpensive Sanus racks ($520); and a small fortune of ZenSati Silenzio series cables ($376,336 to be precise).

That such an expense produced sound disappointingly hard and bright came as a surprise. (Moving back a row, behind a thickly padded couch, helped.) LP tracks by tenor José Carreras and Fritz Wunderlich were overly bright, and sorely lacked in warmth. I know both men's voices, and the sound was off. This Lamm attributed to the solid-state nature of the "pure class-A hybrid amplifier," as well as to the size of the room. That room, which was in one of the large suites on the Venetian's upper floors, may have been a bit small by mega-mansion standards, but it was far larger and higher ceilinged than most listening rooms I've encountered. Maybe I don't get around enough.