On the Lamm Again

by Paul Bolin | October 12, 2009

or a long list of personal and financial reasons no sane person would ever want to read, I was without a stereo system for an extended period. About a year ago, I got things up and running again, but I was still missing my most cherished reference components, my Lamm M1.2 Reference mono amplifiers ($22,290/pair). I knew that I was lucky to have available for use a thoroughly respectable high-power solid-state amp that had been lurking around my premises for the last eight years or so, but I missed my Lamms. Little did I know how much I missed them.

I reviewed the '1.2 back in the February 2005 issue of Stereophile and proclaimed it to be the most musically involving and sonically complete amplifier I had heard, or words very much to that effect. Over the last few weeks I managed to pry my Nordost Valhalla cabling from the audiobuddy to whom I had loaned it (and who was in no hurry to give it back) and installed it throughout the system (described in my review of the Audio Research CD 5 CD player). The Valhalla's incomparable phase coherence, speed and bandwidth lifted things to another level entirely. I was quite pleased, but I wondered what would happen when the Wilson Audio Sasha W/P speakers in for review were finally connected to my ultimate reference amps.

Then came the return of the Lamms. I retrieved them this past Saturday from the tech who had handled the repairs here in the Twin Cities (with all Lamm-supplied parts, I might add), moved them into my system, turned them on and let them cook for a couple of hours. At last the time for music arrived.

An amplifier I had been quite satisfied with the previous evening suddenly sounded rather sad and lifeless -- boring, even. With the Lamms returned a sense of three-dimensionality, of living, breathing humans making music; image density was improved to a degree beyond my capabilities to express, and there was the unique sense of organic and ordered purpose to the music of CD after LP. Every recording became, once again, an event demanding full attention at all times.

How does Vladimir Lamm do it? Beats the living heck out of me. Ask him and he will tell you it is all engineering and painstakingly precise artisanal manufacturing. Press him and he will explain that every Lamm component is designed in compliance with his mathematical model of human hearing, and there his explanation ceases.

I have been listening to and reviewing the man's equipment for more than eight years, and every Lamm product has worked this same magic -- every time and in every context. Are there other great amplifiers out there in the big, broad world of high-end audio? You bet your boots there are, and I want to hear and review as many of them as I possibly can. But as things stand now, I will still be coming home to the Lamm M1.2 Reference monoblocks until I finally hear something that is more dependably full of music's vital essences regardless of what it is teamed with.

Lamm's slogan is "Quite simply...the world's best audio electronics." It takes some considerable onions to put that on the home page of one's website, but in the words of "Dandy" Don Meredith, "If you can do it, it ain't braggin'."

Vladimir Lamm ain't braggin'.

Reference, indeed.

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