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Amp/Preamp Asylum: REVIEW: Lavardin Technologies Model IT Integrated Amplifier (SS) by Audiomanic

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REVIEW: Lavardin Technologies Model IT Integrated Amplifier (SS)

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Model: Model IT
Category: Integrated Amplifier (SS)
Suggested Retail Price: unknown
Description: Integrated solid state amplifier
Manufacturer URL: Lavardin Technologies
Manufacturer URL: Lavardin Technologies

Review by Audiomanic ( A ) on January 20, 2003 at 17:23:13
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The Lavardin Model IT (not to mention the smaller Model IS and IS Reference) has been the subject of much glowing praise in the European hi-fi press. I live in Canada now, but being originally from the UK I still read a lot of UK magazines. And it was the stunning reviews in these magazines which first grabbed my attention. I’ve noticed that audio components often garner inconsistent reviews in different publications, casting some doubt over the credibility of the reviewer or publication. But wherever I read about the Lavardin IT the reviewer seemed to end up searching for new superlatives which, even allowing for healthy cynicism over magazine reviews, seemed to suggest a fairly special product.

Some die hard audiophiles may question the wisdom of spending this much on a “no frills” 55wpc integrated amp with just 4 inputs, all in a fairly plain looking black box (personally I really like the understated cosmetics). But I’ve long been a believer that the relative simplicity of a well conceived integrated amp should be capable of matching the performance of the very best pre/power combinations. The integrated approach also takes pre/power matching out of the equation and saves money on interconnects and power cables.

My acquaintance with the “IT” had a somewhat auspicious start: the courier company damaged my first unit in shipping, and a second unit arrived with a small problem with the input selector. However, I won’t dwell on these problems because they were remedied quickly and professionally by Lavardin who obviously recognise the importance of quality after sales service and support.

OK, enough of the the pre-amble! The bottom line of any credible audio review is sound quality, and so without further delay or suspense let me state my opinion that the Lavardin Model IT takes on all comers at (and in most cases well beyond) its price…

Cheaper (or less accomplished) components are often easier to review due to inadequacies in aspect of their sonic transparency and/or musicality - the magic quality of sounding “right” is often harder to articulate than when a product somehow misses that target! Also, as a generalization it often seems that products built with an emphasis on transparency seem somehow devoid of the emotion and enjoyment of the music, while conversely products which excel in the latter respect are less than transparent.

So my friends, meet the Model IT – blessed with an almost unique transparency, combined with an implicit sense of emotion and musicality. With the right ancillaries it sounds like nothing other than real musicians making real music, which is the ultimately the most powerful compliment I can deliver.

Expressive, emotive, and macro/micro-dynamically alive, the “IT” has a clarity which let’s you hear right into every nuance of the recording. But, that clarity does not come at the expense of harmonic accuracy – in fact the Model IT seems incredibly neutral and natural in its presentation, unless your ears are used to a more coloured presentation. Or of course unless inadequacies in other parts of your chain a euphonic touch to achieve synergy (I state this caveat carefully – the success or failure of any component is dependent on the rest of the chain and room too - if your other components deviate from neutrality the Model IT will let you know it!).

I’m often amused that reviews need to strip the music apart and describe the performance in terms of bass, midrange, treble, etc. But since that is an expected part of any review I will attempt such a musical dissection: the lows are as deep and tight as the best of solid state, the mid’s entirely transparent, and the highs as sweet and grain-free and the best tubes, but without any sense of being rolled-off. Rock music has power and presence, jazz has atmosphere and delicacy… and all flavours in between.

In that last paragraph I slipped into “tube” and “solid state” comparisons. Lavardin claim that unique techological aspects of their design allow some of the benefits of tubes (Lavardin amps are of course solid state designs). Personally I’ve heard amps I’ve liked and disliked of both designs, and have no particular preference for either philosophy. I love the sound of the Model IT, and really couldn’t care what’s inside! (although I did take a quick look and the build quality is excellent).

In terms of power, never has 55wpc sounded so powerful – the amp never loses control even in the lower frequencies at higher volumes where power delivery is most critical. And yet this amp also retains its qualities and sounds superb and involving even at low volumes (a weakness of many more powerful amps in my experience).

Weaknesses? Well, all I can really think of is that I have heard greater soundstage depth from other designs, and as I said above some may prefer a lusher presentation in their room/system, although I’m convinced the sound of the Lavardin is harmonically honest. But these comments should be kept in perspective – there is no perfect product and in my opinion it comes down to what suits your taste and system. Personally I listen with my heart as much as my brain and I will gladly take superb musicality, clarity, transparency, top-to-bottom coherence, dynamics and timing over the last degree of soundstage depth. Moreover my system upgrades are incomplete and experimentation with other better sources has revealed that I have yet to hear the full potential of my amp and speakers (... see my comments at the bottom).

Really there is not much else I can say about the Lavardin Model IT. The bottom line is that I used to be a drummer and play in live bands, so I think I can reasonably claim to understand the experience of live music. I have never heard an audio system which completely captures all aspects of that experience, but in my opinion the Lavardin IT captures the most important emotional apsects while sounding believable, natural, coherent, and entirely involving. To my ears this is a superb product. I could not ask for any more, and if more is available form (much!) more expensive products then I’d not be willing to pay for any trivial incremental improvement over what I hear from the Lavardin Model IT.

As a footnote, I’d like to add that these guys really know their product, and how to get the best out of it. Lavardin power cables and interconnects really do work well. But their less expensive tips have proven equally reliable – for example I’ve compared speaker cable single wiring to biwiring, and my ears agree with Lavardin that single wiring is better. And I’ve converted to plywood shelves on my audio rack to great effect!

Lavardin Model IT (with Lavardin Reference power cable)
Living Voice Avatar OBX-R speakers
Arcam Alpha 8SE CD player* (with Lavardin Reference power cable)
Michell Gyro SE Turntable
Morch DP-6 tonearm
Cartridge Man “Music Maker” MM cartridge
Lehmann Black Cube phono stage (with standard Lavardin power cable)
Lavardin “Reference” interconnects
Hitachi LFC-OFC speaker cable (single wired to outboard crossover)
Sound Organization rack (with custom made plywood shelves)

* I have also tried the following higher end CD players to superb effect:
Cary CD-306
Chord DAC64 (using Cary as a transport).

I have also tried the Lavardin in a friend’s system with a Sony SCD-777 SACD player, and Dunlavy Aletha speakers, and again the results were superb.

Product Weakness: Nothing really
Product Strengths: Musicality, clarity, transparency, top-to-bottom coherence, dynamics and timing. Just sounds natural and "right".

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: Lavardin IT
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): None
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Arcam 8SE / Michell Gyro SE
Speakers: Living Voice Avatar OBX-R
Cables/Interconnects: Lavardin
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Jazz / Rock / Pop / Classical
Time Period/Length of Audition: > 1 year
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner
Your System (if other than home audition): See text.

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Topic - REVIEW: Lavardin Technologies Model IT Integrated Amplifier (SS) - Audiomanic 17:23:13 01/20/03 ( 8)