Lavardin Technologies IS Integrated Amplifiers

IS

  • Low memory distortion circuits and components
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kert   AudioPhile [Dec 19, 2008]
Strength:

Smooth, organic presentation. Instruments and voices sound as if there coming out of the air, rather than out of your equipment. No listener fatigue. Perfect bass, midrange and treble...never thought I'd be able to say that. Doesn't take high dollar cables to make this unit sound great.

Weakness:

Lack of remote could bother some. Not made for headbangers.

I rarely write reviews, but felt perhaps it would be nice to have a review on this product. First off, I've got the IS Reference model. I bought it used on audiogon about two weeks ago. I've been in this hobby (addiction) for probably ten years. In that time, I've gone through countless integrateds and my fair share of separates as well. I'll list the specifics on similar products used below.

I'll give you my setup quickly to begin. My source is a CEC TL51XR CD player, and I'm running the setup through an old pair of Canton Karat 30 monitors. I'm using no name speaker cables, along with no name interconnects (part of the joy of the Lavardin).
I suppose for comparison sake, the speaker cables might be on par with the old monster cable, and the interconnects on par with Kimber PBJ...nothing fancy at all.

My room is certainly not ideal for sound either. I have this setup in my living room, which is an odd shaped room. My listening area is in one half of the odd shape. One speaker has considerably more space behind it than the other...it's really quite comical.

It should be obvious at this point that I in no way have an ideal setup for a great, or maybe even good audiophile experience. Having said all of this, let me describe the Lavardin.

First off, no remote control. May be a real turnoff to some...doesn't bother me much. Lavardin is of a minimalist philosophy that believes that sound can be degraded by additives. In fact, they advise that the unit be plugged directly into a wall outlet with no power treatment, which is exactly what I did. They also discourage the use of the expensive aftermarket power cables...so I used the simple one supplied with the unit. The unit itself is a very plain, yet in my opinion, elegant black box with satin silver knobs. There are only two knobs...the source selector (which is simply numbered one through four), and the volume knob. The rear reveals four rca sets of inputs and I believe one level line output for tape recording. Again, minimal. Bottom line though...how does it sound?

The first word that comes to my mind is organic. The instruments sound like instruments and the voices sound like voices. The catch is that they don't sound like amplified instruments and amplified voices. I've never heard anything quite like this. It's as though you're not listening to amplified music at all, but rather live voices and instruments. Instruments are quite easily separated from one another, as are all voices. When I turn the volume up, it's not like turning up the amplifier, but rather just making the voices and instruments louder...but completely natural. I find myself listening to music louder than normal because it simply sounds so good and natural. This points out another great strength of this amp....it's 35 wpc are PLENTY of power. I've never had it turned up beyond half way. On the Lavardin website, they talk about this amp being ideally matched with Magnepan and Quad...I believe it...it can really put out the sound.

Soundstage is deep and wide, and I've noticed it goes well outside both of my speakers. Imaging is quite lifelike. Bass, midrange, treble...they all sound just right...again, very organic...they sound like they should sound. Great recordings sound great. Bad recordings sound bad...but in a good kind of organic way...not harsh or hard to listen to...just revealing that the recording itself is not of the highest quality. Let me throw out an extra caveat.

I listen to predominately old rock and blues. I rarely listen to classical or jazz...and hip hop and country do not get played period. The interesting thing about this is that the stuff I listen to is what usually sounds like unforgiving crap on upper end equipment. Not so with the Lavardin. I listen to a lot of Allman Brothers and similar music...it sounds fantastic. I can only imagine how good classical and jazz would sound with this. Let me slip in one word of warning...headbangers look elsewhere. I threw on some Metallica just for giggles to see if the Lavardin would have the slam...which by the way, it did. However, when you take away the normal distortion and amplified sound that Metallica and other heavy metal groups rely on for their sound, you're left with something somewhat comical. It's not that the Lavardin doesn't play it right...it does. The problem is that heavy metal is played with a lot of distortion and doesn't sound particularly good as an organic presentation. If you want to bang your head, you are much better off to go buy a Bryston power amp and pre-amp, get a couple of box speakers with 15" woofers and say goodbye to your hearing.

I hope this gives people an idea about this unit. Let me compare it to some other units that I've owned that perhaps would help others as measuring sticks.

1. BAT VK-3i preamp/VK-200 power amp combo.
This was a really nice combo...you get to tube roll with the preamp and get some nice power from the power amp. The Lavardin is smoother and more involving for my tastes. There was nothing wrong with the BAT setup, there is just something more right about the sound of the Lavardin.

2. Mcintosh MA-6500
I'm not a Mac fan. It sounded muddy and veiled to me...the Lavardin sounds much more natural without even a hint of muddiness. This is a day and night comparison...I know there is a lot of Mac fans out there...I'm just not one of them.

3.Redgum Rgi 35
I bring up this model because I bet few of you have heard of this company. I'm here to tell you it's a real gem. Redgum is an Australian company and they have fantastic products at very reasonable prices. I still have my Redgum and will never part with it. It has a less organic feel than the Lavardin, but has some really great groove and boogie to it (at a fraction of the cost)...I highly recommend it. However, for our purposes here, the Lavardin is easily the smoothest I've heard, and is overall the best amp I've heard period.

Similar Products Used: See above.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
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