Lamm Industries M1.1 monoblock power amplifier Page 2

Warmup time is a recommended 45 minutes, which I found right on the ruble—even though we left these guys running continuously (gulping their 300W idle current—oh well), to facilitate our hectic New York reviewing schedule. No whumps, bangs, or transients of any kind marred the performance of the amps. (Switch-off engages a special circuit which mutes the output.)

Both the power and the load selector switches employ a special mechanism which locks them securely into the chosen position. One pulls the actuator back to unlock the switch before moving it to the desired setting—just another aspect of the M1.1's well-thought-out engineering.

The manual comes with response curves derived from the average test results of ten M1.1s, and is accompanied by a Limited Five-Year, Nontransferable Warranty; a Proof of Performance Report; and a Warranty Registration—all very straightforward and business-like. Seventy-two hours burn-in at the factory is standard.

"Top-grade parts, many military grade, give an expected lifespan of 18–22 years," explained Ex-Defense Industry Scientist First Class Vladimir One.

How they sounded to my hearing mechanisms
What impressed me most about the M1.1s when they were first installed in our system (and which continued to astound throughout their stay) was the enormous, extremely airy, and transparent soundstage they threw. This immense yet perfectly natural-sounding acoustic was precisely and proportionally rendered, mirroring the volume of the recorded space. The very rear of the completely open soundstage was as wide, airy, open, clean, and perfectly focused as the front. The performer's images were beautifully and precisely rendered within its layered and articulate soundstage. The amps had an uncanny ability to decouple the performance from the speakers, and create that "palpable presence" the reviewing community is always prattling on about. (And to which I am myself totally addicted.)

Old vinyl friends really shone. The spaciousness and openness of the M1.1s were well-suited to the vast acoustic of Duke Ellington's Jazz Party (Columbia Special Products JCS 8127). The amps complimented this joyous and powerful recording by reproducing it with exciting dynamics and verve. The Ellington had real midrange charm, and highs that were clean and expressive. In some important ways I felt I was hearing this recording better than ever before. The clarity and openness of the expansive soundstage was truly outstanding. The bass was spectacular, entertainingly powerful, and remarkably tight and deep, the plucked energy of Jimmy Woods' bass leading the band and coupling Jimmy Rushing on "Hello Little Girl."

Harry Connick Jr.'s We Are in Love CD (Columbia CK 46146) revealed yet another of the M1.1s' strengths: call it specificity of image. The Lamms resolved tremendous amounts of detail without ever putting a foot wrong and sounding cheap, etched, or analytical. Connick's voice was amazingly focused, smooth, and attractive, yet craggy with nooks and crannies of detail and harmonic nuance. I became, for example, perfectly aware of the slightly adenoidal character of Connick's voice. Now, you might ask, why would I want to become aware of that?! Ugh! But it made the music live. Because of this resolution and speed cum articulation, the images developed upon the sonic soundscape were palpable, tremendously focused, and superbly defined in acoustic space.

About the bass: this region is considered chez Scull to be an imperative component for realizing the magic that is the music. The bass of the Lamm M1.1s, simply put, was nothing short of phenomenal. I have never heard the Avalon Ascents pump out the low frequencies as they did in the tight embrace of these amps. Deep, taut, terrifically impactful, redolent with tonality and individualism, the bass was always astounding. Importantly, as impressive as it was, the bass never competed or fought for my attention during operation, so to say. It was beautifully integrated into the overall sound; the upper bass of just the right cru, the midbass tight and kinetic, and its deepest regions impressive and weighty.

My (slightly edited) notes: "The stunning bass transients at about two minutes into Dead Can Dance's Into the Labyrinth (4AD 9 45384-2) are powerful, gripping, and shocking. The totally clear, transparent rendering of Lisa Gerrard's voice, the giganto soundstage, the breathtaking bass, the inviting midrange and upper-mids/lower-treble, the palpability of the image! These amps simply take the breath away!" The drum crescendo on my LP version of Stravinsky's "The Sacrifice"—from The Rite of Spring, with Solti and the Chicago Symphony (UK London CS6885)—was completely shattering. It was a two-vodka "neat and frozen" experience!

And what of the critical midrange and above? Midrange detail, textures, and harmonics were all beautifully rendered. I was stunned listening to Heifetz's and the Chicago Symphony's performance of Sibelius's Violin Concerto (LSC-2435). Heifetz's aggressive style forms the basis for a breathtaking LP musical experience. The verve, the life, the orchestral color that make up his sound were captivating.

Can the M1.1s do power piano, you ask? Take the Schumann on track six of the Connoisseur Society's 25 Virtuoso Études (CD 4197): with Ilana Vered at the piano, I sat open-mouthed and thrilled at the power and transparency of Vered's rendition of these pieces. The same sweeping musical acoustic was generated on Liszt's familiar "Paganini Étude No.6 in A-minor (Theme and Variations)." These came across as emotional, powerfully romantic, and slightly frantic, seeming to tap directly into my emotions. Come here, you fool! [kissssss!] [swoon] [fade to black]

Where was I? Whenever I cranked up the volume, the Lamms absolutely kept their composure under whatever sonic onslaught came down the interconnects. Listening to the LP of Solti's and the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam's performance of Mahler's Symphony 4 (a London ffss Blueback, CS6217—so called because their back covers are so colored) was a delightful, if hair-raising, experience. I listened to the entire work, barely able to concentrate on taking any notes whatsoever. What I did manage reads, "Rich, open, spacious, powerful, the opening killer, and the last movement lyrical and gorgeous." But tell us, Jonathan, how do you really feel?

What about speed? The energy and definition of the guitars on Duodecima, Music for Two Guitars (Opus 3 CD 8201)—featuring works by Sor, a somewhat avant-garde (to me) and atonal Guido Santorsola, John Duarte, and Pierre Petit—were superb. As always with Opus 3, this album has an enormous recorded acoustic, complemented by full harmonic overtones whose completeness suggests the real thing. There's no whitening or thinning of the tonal palette to wreak havoc in the mids and upper midrange. Quick, precise, and fast, the M1.1s carried the tune on the top, the bottom, and everywhere in between. For another positively percussive guitar experience, try Golden String's Flamenco Mystico import (GSCD 016). The title track is a knockout for speed, articulation, definition, impact, fullness, and interest of tone, letting through the real character of the music.

The Lamm M1.1s sounded at all times clean, ultra–wide-band, and dynamic. The soundstage they produced was always huge, airy, and totally transparent. They punched out deep, powerful, and tight bass, a midrange with soul and feeling, and clean, fast highs that weren't above sounding sweet when called for. There was always an effortless sense of power in their sound; we felt they would never run out of steam—and Kathleen likes to crank it!

Hey, Tweak Beak!
we know you're in there!
come out with your mooks up!

Of course, as with any equipment in for review, we listened to the Lamms straight up and without tweaks of any kind, other than confirming that we much preferred the XLO to the Siltech with these amps.

We experimented with Michael Green Audiopoints under the amps at first, which worked quite well with the M1.1s camping out on Clamp Rack Tuning Stands (just a tuning board—no squeezing!), The 'points enhanced the M1.1's sense of speed, transparency, and openness. We also had success with the Shun Mook Super Diamond Resonators. As expected, the Resonators sounded slightly softer and more bloomy than the 'points, and created an even greater sense of air (an area where the Lamms needed little help.) Objectionable objectivists, sharpen your pens: three Mpingo Discs were in place on top of the slightly resonant top covers, evincing their usual salubrious effect, as Jeeves would say.

Sometime toward the end of the review period, Mr. Kiuchi of Combak Corporation/Harmonix came to visit. We spent an enjoyable evening listening, tuning the system with Harmonix products, and going out for Sushi, of course! I'll save the interesting details of his visit for a future tuning muse; but, relying on RF-33 Tuning Bands, and especially on the RFS-66 Large Tuning Feet under the Forsell digital front end (footnote 2) and the amps, we were able to coax a sweetness and gentleness out of the Lamm M1.1s that had just escaped our attention before.

My notes on Into the Labyrinth post-tune show a certain, how shall I say, "unrestrained enthusiasm" for the sound. "That was just unbelievable. Even more liquid, palpable, involving than before. The strings sound lush (!) and inviting via the Forsell." the same sentence? A watermark has been reached! Break out the Veuve Cliquot! "The soul of the music comes through! Very Russian, dahlink!"

Reviewers and audiophiles of every stripe always search for that lunatic moment when, sitting in the dark and listening to your favorite music, you find yourself in a proto-cathartic state—totally involved, the music filling your mind and body (as Vladimir would have it). This happened almost at will with the Lamm M1.1s—the soundstage would swirl about me, and I found it easy to lean right into the essence of the music.

A word or two regarding the inevitable comparison with our tubed reference amps, the Jadis JA 200 monoblocks: Although I do prefer the Jadises for all they so stunningly do, the Lamms actually suffered very little when measured against the 200s' standards. The M1.1s are the first (mostly) solid-state amps that I could easily live with for any length of time you'd care to mention.

Yes, the Jadises do image more three-dimensionally and palpably. Their midrange and highs are, in the final analysis, of a more refined quality—which turns us on no end. The natural bloom of music is also better served via the Jadises—the overall sound is certainly more beautiful. No way do the 200s do bass like the Lamms, nor are they as ultimately transparent—a big plus, as we say in recruiting. They also are unable to focus like the Lamms. I don't think anything else can! To this point, I haven't heard it.

Let me tell you, reviewing often becomes a high-speed chase of single-cut record and CD swaps. But when a component has that special quality that keeps you in your seat and involved—when it's got soul, baby—we're talking the magic that makes it all worthwhile. The Lamm Audio M1.1 is certainly such a creature. Make sure you take the time to hear a pair.

Footnote 2: Three Harmonix tuning feet under the amps, but only two under the rear of the D/A and transport. I used either a Goldmund Cone or an Audiopoint under the front of either unit. More about this mix'n'match footerism to follow soon.
Lamm Industries, Inc.
2621 East 24th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11235
(718) 368-0181