There are no formal or any serious reviews of the Lars Type 2 mono tube amplifier anywhere. Given the hefty price tag, it is not easy to understand why. At this price range, Japanese tube amp manufacturers completely dominate in this space. The scarcity of super league speakers to mate with the Lars is another challenge. And the rated output of 36watt is an embarrassing point because hardcore horn guys unilaterally goes for low watt singled end solution. And solid state fanatics would require big power amplifiers to drive sensation home. That could be the reason why there are basically no serious distributors of any sort in Asia/US despite the presence of the Lars for almost 4 years.
At AE, we are not bounded by the rule of “cost effectiveness”. When it comes to audio reproduction, we demand extreme solutions. That is why we commissioned Yamada san of Zanden to build the cost-no-object CHOUKU mono block amplifiers two years ago. They appeared on our Super Hi End Show last year on silent display. The latest update from Yamada san confirms that the Chouku will be shipped to AE within a few weeks. Never would I imagine there is another tube amplifier before the consequential arrival of Chouku could be labeled as “Super League”. I have taken the liberty of categorizing Lars 2 as “Super League” within the sphere of representation in AE all thru the years. I don’t speak this lightly. I repeat that AE is a place for the cutting edge. We are always on the leading edge. There will always be new winners however the vigor of past champion. Please come for an experience.
I was thrilled by the following amplifiers all through the years. These include Analog Domain, Da Vinci Virtu, Robert Koda Takumi K70G2, Zanden 9000-300B, Zanden 7000-300B, Wavac HE833v2, Audio Power Labs TNT50 and Tron Telstar 211 Ultimate etc. As of the 1st quarter of 2014, my ranking of the super league in the world of solid state is Trinity, followed by Analog Domain (assuming power consumption is below 200 watt), and Robet Koda Takumi K70G2. If the application requires higher power to kick, then the champion position switches back to Analog Domain Artemis, followed by Trinity, and Robert Koda.
In the “tube amplifier domain”, the short answer is that the LARS is the champion of ALL time, however, the absence of silver transformers/capacitors. And I don’t comment this lightly given AE’s long historical relationship with many Japanese tube amplifiers. The only amplifier that can challenge the LARS at this point is the upcoming CHOUKU by Zanden Audio and the Dalby 211 Tri-Mono (which is still under Research and Development). To put it in plain words, I had never really understood Cessaro before the arrival of the LARS. And what caught me off guard are the seemingly generic design features of it. There are no silver transformers. There are no highlights of exotic components. There are no gimmicks on the website. It is way too low profile compares to the Japanese counterpart such as Kondo where tons of iconic photos highlighting the supreme built quality of internal components. What is Lars really?
AE picks product by person. It is the person who dictates the soul of the electronics, but not the other way round. Destiny somehow always arranges extreme perfectionists to meet somewhere in time. I began to exchange emails with Mr. Lars since Munich Show 2013. The devils are always in the details. Mr. Lars consistently gives me a feeling of calmness. There is not a single question he answers without facts. There are no inflation of pros and deflation of cons when I questioned him about the Type 2. When I asked questions during the audition period, he only answered all of my technical questions and never hurried me to close the deal. His timid elation was only suggestive when I made the final decision to bring the Lars on board. This represents tremendous quality.
Mr. Lars’ focus is “authentication of tonality”, which is not really easy to understand. Having managed the Tidal Sunray T-1 system for 4 years, I do know something about neutrality. It is important to make distinction amongst neutrality, musicality and tonal authenticity. Neutrality assumes everything from the recordings is favorably reproduced with nothing added and subtracted. Neutrality is thus a window. And I attribute it is the speakers that determine almost the entirety of it. The presence of such window does not guarantee musicality immediately. If the recordings standard and the rest of the hardware are up to the standard under a neutrality window, we should be able to consume musicality. Tonal authenticity is one of the many elements of musicality. I believe musicality is also a multivariate function of transient resolution, control of energy, spatial resolution, and coherence of musical flow. This is the philosophy that I have harnessed from managing two mega systems in the past 5 years. I may be wrong. If reader disagrees, I would like to listen to constructive criticisms.
Unlike other manufacturers, the Lars website does not mention speed, transients and dynamics but just tonal authenticity. As a result, the sole mentioning of this attribute gives me a false impression of it emphasizing tonal richness akin to Da Vinci. The review of the Lars Type 1 by 6moons.com years ago did not assist to elevate the impression as well.
AE has never attained beforehand the reproduction quality that I am experiencing now. The Lars 2 amplifier driving the Cessaro masterpiece with vinyl as source reveals layers after layers of tonal structure down to the microscopic stratum with tremendous stability. Macro-dynamics of symphonic recordings are articulated with punch, slam and energy with control at the right place. The performing orchestra is always encapsulated in a spherical “space”. There is no inflation of airiness. Yet the decaying tones of harmonics can always be traced in the “space”. The bass tails are just so well naturally decayed in a continuity manner that must be experienced to understand. The transient speed of Spanish guitar is lightning fast. The textural resolution down to the resonances of the guitar body alongside each different string is kaleidoscopic. The spatial resolution of the recording venue is faithfully reproduced with the right proportion. Some of the live recordings on vinyl can really generate a “spherical” space in the showroom engulfing me completely within. When the recording venue is switched to a studio with relatively dead acoustics, the spherical feelings are immediately reduced which of course makes logical sense. As far as imaging is concerned, each single key on the piano has its own and rock solid image from the highest pitch note all the way to the lower registers on the left hand side. The soul of the pianist can be felt as though the left hand is talking to the right hand at some passages. This is the real deal. It neither resembles the passion of Wavac nor the mellowness of Shindo. This amp is EGO-LESS. It has no character. It is the first tube amplifier that I don’t quite feel its presence in the chain. It simply disappears into the music. The opulence of tonal color is solely determined by the recording materials.
On the digital front end, I can already foresee the supremacy of Trinity in recreating Danny Chan, Teresa Tang, Jacky Cheung, Faye Wong, Sam Hui, and Beyond etc under the baton of the Lars. Their souls are already successfully recreated in my home with Cessaro Brahms serving as the neutrality window. I shall soon set up Trinity DAC/media PC at AE. (Because they are backordered for 3 months and many customers are still waiting. That explains the absence of Trinity at AE). In order to push the envelope further, I have prepared another SRA VIRGINIA class for use underneath the Takumi K15/DalbyD7 SE preamp as this is the only section with SRA missing in action.
The AE showroom has already reached the level of “soulful resolution” given the maximum design constrains imposed by the speakers (There is Beta 2, Beethoven and Gamma, on top of Lizst). In a few occasions when I was listening to some of the truly excellent recordings, the “resolution of time” is fully felt. That really justifies all the resources I have put forth in this journey. Of course, this is an all out concerted effort amongst other great components in the system as well including the Durand Telos arm, Wadax Ultimate, Takumi K15, Dalby D7SE, Troy Signature, PCD302, Dalby Abisha ground wires/Dalby U1000 signature etc. And of course, the greatest credit goes to my reverent master - 植師父 – a man with tremendous depth on all fronts so willingly to share all of his knowledge with me.