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In the Forum: Analog Playback
In the Thread: Lamm LP2 phonostage: review of review.
Post Subject: Lamm LP2 phonostage: review of review.Posted by Romy the Cat on: 3/5/2005

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I like to stress a point that the mammals that write thier doodles for audio publication are not juts ignorant fools but also the cheap, low class, falseificators. No wonder that the audio manufacturing companies do employ the so-called reviewers as thier paid external marketing force. It was always a responsibility for any editor of audio publication to match the level of a performance misery of the products under review with the natural idiocy or the deficiency of reference points of the publication’s reviewing staff. So, when I visited Steve Rochlin’s “Enjoy His Music” site (I visit it because if his quite good News section) and saw that a Steve’s boy Dick Olsher writhe a review about the Lamm LP2 then I thought: God! This Dick should be completely dead is he got the LP2 to review.”

After reading the Dick’s exiting review I decided to raise my humble feline Meow and let my reply to be not only a public service to people who might be interested about LP2 but also a public service to people who would like to be educated about the amount of idiocy that the audio reviewers usually stuff into their doodles. This Dick Olsher’s review is not a specially selected “jewel of audio wisdom” but it is a very TYPICAL audio review. The very similar feedback might be written about 95% of reviews that are being dump by audio propaganda today to the head of audio monomers.

Before I go further I would like to point out that during my comment I might be talking very liberally about Dick Olsher and about LP2 phonostage. Some might mistakably feel that I assault personally Dick or the Lamm’s product. I assure you that this is not the case. The only subject that we touch is the objective performance of LP2 phonocorrector and everything that might be expressed would be expressed only from the angle of LP2 performance. Furthermore, I do not even know Dick Olsher personally. I am sure he is a great taxpayer or a bathroom’s bubbles squasher but as far as I concern he unfortunately is a clawless audio user. Only such a clown as Steve Rochlin, that damn Da Ali G of Hi-Fi, could bring such a “reviewing indigence” as Dick- Olsher is under his reviewing umbrella. From a different prospective I should not be so hard on Mr.Olsher and Mr. Rochlin. If they do not exit then for whom Mr. Lamm would manufacture and to sell his LP2 phonocorrector?

Very briefly about my familiarity with the subject. I got one of the first LP2 phonocorrectors from Lamm’s NY dealer David Karmeli (I think my was serial #7) and when I did I  was very enthusiastic about that opportunity. After a month of burning the init in and playing with it’s sound I find myself severally do not milking it’s sound. Then was the time when this mu association about the LP2 sound was born:

I contacted Lamm and asked it is possible that my unit was faulty. Vladimir suggested sending it back to him for testing. So, I did. After charging me $100 of inspection fee and sending it back to me Vladimir assured me that my unit was perfect. However, the phonocorrectors performed as horrible as it did before the Lamm’s inspection. After another few month or paling with all imaginable 417A tubes (I actually posted somewhere at AA quite a large overview about all different type of 417s that I uses – probably the Humane Waste that the run that site have stolen my post and sold it the Olsher-like) I still was not able to make it to sound OK. After a few months being enabled to get out of LP2 any more or less acceptable sound I abandoned my attempts and deserted the unit in my basement. Over the course of next almost year I have opportunity to experience LP2 within another 5-6 playback installations and everywhere the very idiosyncratic and hated by me sound of LP2 was distinctly auditable.  Over the course of a year I sometime put the LP2 back to the system but I always experienced a revolting Sonic result. The LP2 turned out to be a unit to which I extended the most chances to show itself off. I never worked harder and never gave more chances to any other audio gismo I even owned. After a year or so, the very same “LP2 sound” Vladimir Lamm demonstrated in his CES room next year. The room sounded “as is sounded” with the rest of the room gear but when Vladimir played analog then the very distinctive characteristic of LP2 screamed out of that playback. It was a straw that did the camel. I honestly asked Vladimir if he released how horrible LP2 was and he also honestly replied that he feel that LP2 has as best MM section as it could be. I sumized that Lamm is completely clueless about what result might be accomplished from analog reproduction and then I abandoned my subscription to the Lamm’s potency in that realm. When I return form Vegas I sold LP2, cut my losses and experienced a great feeling that I deliberated myself from this peace of audio trap.  So, I feel that I’m kind of “deserving” person to share my observation about the LP2…
So, it is time to move into the Dick Olsher’s pearls. Let skip the introduction when the review buttering up Reality in order to bring the reader awareness to the primitivism of the writer inspirations. Let start when Dick begin to “talk business”.

 Dick Olsher wrote:
As with the Loesch circuit, the Western Electric 417A/5842 vacuum tube is used for voltage gain. A phono pre-amplifier is synonymous with high gain and low noise. The only way to get there with tubes is to use a high-transconductance triode, as triode noise decreases with increasing transconductance. Eric Barbour provides an excellent survey article on the WE 417A in issue #7 of Vacuum Tube Valley. This tube was designed and introduced into service by Western Electric in 1948 as a low-noise first stage for broadband RF pre-amplification. According to Barbour, its noise performance is world class - competitive with even modern MOSFETs. I concur with his assessment that the 417A is the premier tube to use in the first stage of phono or microphone pre-amplifiers. He laments the fact that almost nobody is using this tube in high-end pre-amplifiers today even though it's easy to find, while manufacturers rush to "slap, cheap, nasty Russian 6922s in expensive preamps." One caveat: as with other RF tubes, 417As should be pre-selected for low microphonics.

He quite wrong about 417A. First of all ~85% of 417A are not suitable for the LP2’s first stage. Second this damn 417A after 2 weeks of operating drift with it’s parameters absolutely randomly absolutely hugely. Among perhaps 40 tubes that I did try and that WERE suitable for the first stage none of the pairs remained marched after a week or two of operation (and the tubes WERE burned-in 100H before I matched them!!!). I mean 2-3 weeks of running LP2 and one of your channels has minus 2-3 db relative to another. Good luck with that High End!  The 5842 were more stable but they sounded more mechanical then 417A.  Let even forget about the huge capacitate of the 417A (and Lamm shunted his MM input with an extra, if I remember correctly, 200pF cap!!!) and go for the most important thing. The most important thing is that 417A/5842 is juts unspeakably CRAPY SOUNDING TUBE. Get any piece of audio equipment that use 417A and you will hear the same tacky 417A sound with a synthetic upper range – or the typical WE sound.

 Dick Olsher wrote:
Even before I auditioned the unit, I was convinced that Vladimir really nailed this one. A pair of selected WE 417As is used per channel to provide the moving magnet (MM) stage's voltage gain.

I have no doubts that you were convinced. Probably it would be nice if you do not mislead pubic and informed them that LP2 does not produced with WE 417A. Vladimir uses $5 worth Raytheon 5842 tubes that, I admit, are a better choose, stability and usability wise.

 Dick Olsher wrote:
The nominal MM gain is 37.65dB, which is about right for use with an external line stage or control preamplifier.

It is incorrect. 37dB is insultingly LOW gain for MM stage. By introducing this fraudulently low gain (~ 8db less then it should be) Lamm goes away with his faulty statements about low noise of his phonocorrector. Each and single person waith whom I spoke about the LP2 (even among those who loved it or who had motivations to love it) did complain that LP2 has no enough gain in both MM and MC configuration.

 Dick Olsher wrote:
To keep the noise floor as low as possible, Lamm uses for this purpose a high-quality step-up (x10) transformer manufactured by Jensen Transformers.

And this high-quality step-up transformer is the most horrifying thing in this phonocorrector. I am not claming that Lamm should use in his $7K unit a state of the art magnetics but that $30 worth transformer is absolutely sub-qualified. That Lamm’s transformer converts LP2’s into a heap transistor radio from 70s.

 Dick Olsher wrote:
…and a capacitor reservoir of about 150 joules (in the deluxe version)….. Two versions of the LP2 are offered (standard and deluxe), and although I have only auditioned the deluxe version, I suspect that its bass performance is superior to that of the standard version. This is clearly a case of not gilding the lily.

Probably it would be interesting to investigate why any Lamm’s “deluxe” version sound worst then the “regular” one. Do not listen the Lamm’s fairy-tales about the super – dipper expensive $5 worth capacitors that dramatically distinct the “deluxe” version but listen THE ACTUAL PERFORMANCE OF THE UNITS. You will hear easily what I meant if you are not a Moron™ or if you are not an audio reviewer. However, this entire practice to manufacturer something in dual version (more deluxe and less deluxe) and call it “high-end” is so revolving that I do not know where to start. I feel it is more honestly for a manufacturer would be to take a gun to a customer head and to scream: “Give me your money, Mozerfucker!”

 Dick Olsher wrote:
The deluxe version is further improved by the sort of design features that generally enhance bass performance: a larger capacitor reservoir in the power supply, polystyrene bypass capacitors for all film caps in the signal path, and better chassis damping. 

OK, I am familiar very well with the capacitors Lamm uses and with that polystyrene bypass myth. Each single time when I did implemented that polystyrene bypass I completely ruined sound and converted it into Hi-Fi junk. Perhaps Vladimir instead or impressing the Morons by telling them legends that he designs audio gear with no auditioning but explicitly by the mathematical algorithms that he received form Extraterrestrial being should stop to spread BS but actually TO LISTEN HOW HIS EQUIPMENT SOUND? Perhaps if he dose then his customer would get a slightly better Sound and each his next unit would not sound worst then his provisos one. So, where was Dick Olsher - the guy that should protect me - the consumer form the bad audio products? The Dick Olsher “was not there”. He juts retyped the BS that Lamm published on his product’s notes and presented this entire BS to readers. Dose this Dick reviews the product or he juts fill the words on the pages?

 Dick Olsher wrote:
Vladimir is sure that the LP2 is one of the quietest phono preamplifiers on the market today, and all I can say is that this puppy is unbelievably quiet - especially considering its tube vintage.

Vladimir is unquestionably correct. The LP2 at its 57.5 db gain is slightly quieter then some other correctors at thier 70-80dB gain. I can testify that any single corrector that I had in my disposal when I equalized this gains was quieter then LP2. So, the rumors about the LP2’s low-noise were slightly exaggerated…. However, in this care I appreciate that Mr. Olsher did not pitched the idea about the LP2 “quietness” as a imperative statement but informed that “Vladimir was sure about it”. It also would be worth to mention that Vladimir is also sure the President Bush deserves a Noble Prize of Peace and that Augusto Pinochet was the most progressive human leader

 Dick Olsher wrote:
The music swells up from a velvety black background. Black velvet is the right metaphor here because there's no perceptible hash or grain to interfere with the retrieval of inner detail.

Mr. Olsher incorrectly interpreted what he heard. I was also when I first heard the LP2m was impressed with “black background” but then I learned that this was a sight of a bid problem. Since them I preach to be afraid of no-surface nose, black backgrounds (electrically done). Why?  You think why.

 Dick Olsher wrote:
Clarity of transients is greatly enhanced by the ability to follow the decay portion well below what would be considered a normal noise floor. Every additional dB of noise reduction translates directly into a "dB" of clarity. The LP2 was able to unearth nuances buried in the groove wall.

It is impressive metaphor but how that all combined with the fact that LP2’s bass is completely disassociated with the rest of the range? Not to mention that LP below 300Hz sound as a pure SS radio. (I love the LF at the nose level) So, when the details of LP2 hit the nose level they do not sound like music but rather like spooky pop-ups within a real time spectral analyzer. I mean the low volume sound at LP2 sound like a representation of sound but not like Sound. That sound in addition has almost digital presentation. Do those low level Booleans are something that Dick Olsher calls “dB of clarity”? Perhaps if Dick less stress his epistolary talents about something “buried in the groove wall” but cared about the objectiveness of his Audio evaluation then he would write something different? Or perhaps the interest of the manufacture in the Dick’s case overwhelmed the interests of a consumer?

 Dick Olsher wrote:
It felt like a high-powered microscope, able to dig deeper into the foundation of the music than its competition. And it's all about detail.

And if Mr. Olsher is correct then he juts named one of the most unpleasant characteristics of LP2: this phonostage presents WRONG details in it dose it in very wrong, almost anal-retentive, algorithmic manners. BTW, Dick, did you ever acknowledge any “details” during “live” performance? Are you sure that a “high-powered microscope” is necessary to “dig deeper into the foundation of the music”? Perhaps you should to educate yourself a little about the “foundation of the music” before you throw the words that you have no idea what they mean.

 Dick Olsher wrote:
Emotions are in encoded into the music signal by means of low-level volume/microdynamic (tremolo), pitch (vibrato) modulations, and their associated time cues. To connect with the music's full emotional power, the full spectrum of encoded detail must be preserved through the amplification chain. It would be a cardinal sin for any phono stage to mask detail. The LP2 excelled in capturing the vibrancy and urgency of human voice, the sheen of string tone, and the interplay of massed voices.

Let me to rephrase what you said: “2 multiply by 2 will be 4. If someone multiplies 44 by 2  and do not receive 88 then Illinois is not located next to Idaho. I am no kidding: this was exactly what you said. Also, the LP2 do has a lot of problems with human voice and particularly with upper region. LP2 converts everything above ~4000-5000Hz into a nonspecific, glycerin dipped (thanks for 417A)… tenorsish vaseline… In your world it called “urgency of human voice”. In my world it means “the urgency to writhe anything is a review”

 Dick Olsher wrote:
Its overall presentation was immediate and direct, yet musical textures sounded naturally sweet and relaxed. Transient attack unfolded with great precision.

I would agree with it. In practically I would agree that this syntactic sweetness cocoons each and single note that LP2 output.

 Dick Olsher wrote:
Some phono stages appear to smear out the music's time base, dulling the leading edge. Not so with the LP2: speed of attack was very much in evidence. In the case of a piano, there's almost no sustain. Tones and chords are almost entirely attack and decay.

I do not want even willing to comment on it! The “Tones and chords are almost entirely attack and decay” – this might become an audio reviewing slogan!

 Dick Olsher wrote:
With a good piano recording it is easy to separate the men from the boys. The LP2's phrasing was consistently superb in this regard. Very often speed, as in the case of solid-state amplification, is accompanied by mechanical sterility. The LP2 managed to combine speed with a refreshingly lucid and natural voicing

Sorry, Dick, I sincerely do not know what you are truing to say. Did you mean the refreshingly lucid voicing of the boys or you meant the mechanical sterility of the men?

 Dick Olsher wrote:
You'd be hard pressed initially to identify the LP2 as a tube circuit. It lacks the excesses of classic tube stages. There's no tube warmth, tube glare, syrupy midrange textures, overly liquid voicing, or muddled bass. The overall sound character tends to mirror that of the following links in the chain.

You, are correct, Dick. Since you used MC needle and consequentially the LP2’s transformer the LP2 did sound like a typical SS phonostage, not a good SS phonostage I had to add.

 Dick Olsher wrote:
Another of the WE 417A's virtues is dynamic expressiveness. Not surprisingly, the LP2 displayed tremendous headroom. It was never at a loss in scaling the macrodynamic scale from soft to very loud.

Dick, you should try a REAL transformer. A proper transformer should increase subjective perception of dynamic range. The problem is that LP2 can’t work with external transformers. At list 3 or 4  OK transformers that I tried worked horribly with LP2. I do not know the reasons why it was so and did not investigate why. Perhaps to figure out what this dam phonostage does not want to work with externals transformers would be a job for the product reviewer?

 Dick Olsher wrote:
…And it did all that with no perceptible change in the distortion spectrum….

How do you know? Can you share with your readers any reasoning behind that statement or at least explain the evaluation methodology you used to make such a comment? Although you might take the Fifth…

 Dick Olsher wrote:
Some preamplifiers tend to sound brighter and more harsh as they're pushed harder. Not a problem at all with the LP2, which remains sweet sounding and composed under all signal drive conditions.

You are correct. That glycerin-silicon-like, sticky 417A sweetness is ever-present in the LP2’s sound. It will be there even when you drive the unit into clipping.

 Dick Olsher wrote:
  The LP2 was capable of painting a breathtaking soundstage. Image focus was precise, but even more thrilling was its ability to properly portray the ebb and flow of image outlines. The head movements of a vocalist in front of a microphone, the apparent expansion of the image size with volume, and the depth perspective of each instrument were resolved with laser precision.

I have to agree with you to a degree. Lamm’s L1 and L2 are masterpieces of imaging and no one other line level unit come even remotely close to what L1/L2 dose in imaging department. The LP2 do some fraction of the  L1/L’s magic. I would say the LP2 could do with imaging approximately 30% of horizontal/vertical L1/L2’s positioning tricks and minus 10000000% of L1/L2’s depth positioning. This is a huge problem with this corrector – THE LP2 IT IS HORRIBLY FLAT, DEPTH-WISE. Actually the depth presentation is not juts flat (like a brick wall) but it also has a completely skewed harmonic proportion and the images size as decay into reverberation. I EXPERIENCED THE VERY SAME EFFECT at each and single installation where the LP2 was used. This is very very unfortunate and from my perspective THAT is completely terminal flaw of LP2. Vladimir very “suggestively” tried to imply at his web site….

….  suggesting that “LP2 is especially effective in large systems” and hoping that a larger reverberation time of large system would mask out the LP2 depth’s limitations but unfortunately he does not know (or do not care) all truth about LP2. (Here is where some listening would be useful for a supercilious Vladimir but trying to get a better product in the hands of his customer is not a variable in his Formula of Human Hearing).  So, even in context of a large systems with a SPECIAL POSITIONING OF LOUDSPEAKER TO DEAL WITH THE LP2 DEPTH LIMITATIONS (and I went to that extend) you can therapy the geometry and positioning of images in depth. However you can’t fix that completely horrible digitalization by LP2 of the images that presented behind of the immediate front of sonic presentation.

 Dick Olsher wrote:
  Reproduction of the bass range was superb. The definition and impact of bass lines was never better - tailor-made for acoustic bass.

Yes, the lower bass is a nice punchy-transitory bass. However, LP2 completely lucks the upper bass (and practically with Raytheon tubes)  – the most important range of any playback. I always said: show me how a component dose upper bass and I will tell you how it sounds. The LP2 has very thin and weak upper bass … welcome to the SS world and Jensen magnetics… Good for me - I can cure the upper bass otherways but could the people who get the LP2 and have no other means to manage the LP2’s upper bass deficiency? Were you able to, Dick? Bah, I forgot that Patricia Barber do not have any upper bass…

 Dick Olsher wrote:
  No such apologies are necessary in the case of the LP2.

Sure, there is no apologies are necessary for LP2 as audiophilism has plenty of idiots who would read your article and would run to buy the LP2. I am not saying that they do not deserve it and I am not blaming Lamm for making such the products. However, I do blame you, Dick for putting yourself in a position of shaping of public opinion and at the same time being completely submental and incompetent on the subject. I sincerely feel that better audio would start not when designers like Lamm begin to manufacture better products but when the entire foolish institution and stupid awareness that you Dick present will be dismantled. That would allow manufactures like Lamm for instance to design products that are not juts “good enough” to pass the “blessing” of the show-girls like you, Dick but perhaps would encourage Lamm-like munifacturers to try accomplish something more noble.

 Dick Olsher wrote:
   To my mind, it is easily the most important achievement in phono stage artistry of the last decade.

Dear, Dick, trust me you do not want me to write all that I might to express about “your audio mind”. Also be advised that this is not a person attack on you but a feedback of a consumer you did familiarized himself with your “mind efforts”.

Romy the Cat

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