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Abbingdon Music Research LS-77 Reference Class Monitor Review

Chris Redmond's special report on this reference class professional monitor

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AMR LS77 monitor - half view of the front of speaker

Not Taking it Easy

In one respect this situation does disturb me greatly, but as with many statements I make there is a qualifying ‘but’ – two ‘buts’ in this statement now, make that three. I say I ‘believe’ that the AMR system is on a par with the Border Patrol, but the final verdict will only be reached when the CD-77 makes the final journey upstairs (sigh..) for further evaluation prior to submitting this review. The difference between the AM-77 pre and post updates is that previously there was a clear line separating the AMR from the SET. Yes, I could listen to the AMR for long periods with no fatigue and the midrange had a definite taste of the 300Bs about it. Yet, despite the two valves in the preamplification stage, the AM-77 isn’t even a bona fide valve amp, let alone single-ended for goodness sake, so how could it possibly threaten a good SET amp let alone one of the best?

The (arguably) natural order of amplification from top to bottom was SET, solid-state Class ‘A’, valve push-pull, then solid-state Class ‘AB’; this was the hierarchy in my experience, so how downright unreasonable of some upstart company like AMR to upset the apple-cart and cause such consternation among someone like myself, who tries to be a good person and who hasn’t harmed anyone in the slightest.

Fast-forward a few weeks and the final evaluation is about to take place. One CD-77 is gingerly transported up the dreaded thirteen stone steps and connected up to the SET system.

Replacing the original AM-77 with the Border Patrol immediately demonstrated that the latter still held the aces when it came to revealing the individual character of vocals, instruments and the subtle contrasts. The BP/Audio Note AN-E combination was lighter on its feet, more articulate and had the edge in realism, yet the BP was no longer bursting through the finishing line while all other non-SET amplification brought up the rear. Now it was winning by a nose while I could almost smell AMR’s designer Thorsten Loesch’s armpits as he whipped the backside of an accelerating second placed AMR AM-77, gaining ground rapidly on the rails.

Call me a coward, but it’s getting just a little too close to call for someone who has nailed his flag to the SET mast, so I’ve decided to dismount my current ride and am exploring the probability of commissioning a pair of custom built SET monoblocs to replace the Border Patrol; definitely something I could never have anticipated before reviewing the AM-77s. Yes, that is AM-77s plural, as to make the situation even worse for the Border Patrol, one AM-77 became two after another visit by Vince and they were duly configured to operate as monoblocs, although the volume control of the first was also retained so no pre-amp was needed. For the benefit of any fetishists out there, this is also known as a ‘master’ and ‘slave’ configuration(!)

Bi-amping (allowing bi-wiring) was also an option and would have been explored if I’d had a second pair of Kimber speaker cables, but my preference is always for monoblocs, so no great loss.
AMR do state a preference for the Neutrik ‘Speakon’ loudspeaker connections which provide a much superior contact, though in my case the pure silver conductors of the Kimber Select KS-3035 more than countered the admittedly inferior connecting system.

First up, The Eternal Dream, a Mana Reference CD recorded by Fast Floor Studios eleven years ago using equipment housed in two ten-tier Mana equipment racks which were each mounted on two Mana sound frames. Trance isn’t usually my cup of tea, yet I can listen to this CD right through without being put into a trance myself and the sound quality is something to be experienced with electro bass lines to really test the excursion limits of those LF drivers. The AMR system lapped this CD up and I couldn’t imagine it sounding any better. Doubling the power on tap to 600W/2-Ohm RMS meant increased headroom and an effortless replay of notes low enough to shake even the new double-glazed windows of the living room.

While not a fan of megawatt Class ‘A’ amps with heat-sinks large enough to heat a concert hall, they do have a certain “unburstable” quality and possess a certain authority which is impressive. This is similar to what the AMRs were now demonstrating, only the AMR’s had added delicacy and much less pronounced character. Now, if I wasn’t so acquainted with the LS-77s I’d have probably been anticipating that the amps wouldn’t be able to really stretch their legs, unless they were connected to the big floorstanding Revel F30s. As it is, you can forget all about the physical dimensions of the Tyson Twins as they do not equate to physical limitations. The only limitations I could perceive were with my listening room, and I look forward to moving into a house with a room better able to house and demonstrate my audio systems.

Out of interest, I brought the Dynaudio Contour Mk2s downstairs and hooked them up to the AM-77s, as when in the bedroom system I had originally preferred them to the LS-77s.

AMR LS77 monitorFor the Dynaudios, that initial preference was a short lived victory as it was now quite shocking to discover how dark they sounded, with less extension at both ends of the frequency range and a definite lack of air to definitively delineate the difference in class once and for all. You really do have to forget about the whole floorstander/standmounter debate with the LS-77s and just consider them as full-range, full stop (A Full Stop is the British equivalent of a period in a sentence in American English. –Editor). For deeper bass, the only option would be to add a very good sub, and it would have to be good with the ability to integrate perfectly, though it could also be an option to consider stacking the LS-77s as I know they have been demonstrated in this guise and have been very well received.

Here’s the present state of play then in case I haven’t already made it perfectly clear. The AMR CD-77.1, AM-77.1 (x2) and LS-77s combined as a system are so good that a system built around one of the best stock SET amps available is now gathering dust. Even if it does still have an edge, the very fact I had to take the CD-77 upstairs to find out indicates the edge is now critically blunted and the advantages no longer clear cut. Previously, I would listen to the AMR system for a few days but then start getting withdrawals from ‘my’ system and a quick migration upstairs was needed to get a fix.

Purchasing a used Music First Silver TVC to pair with the Border Patrol after hearing what the copper version was capable of meant I was spending even longer in the bedroom than when I was in the early stages of dating my last-but-one girlfriend who was fourteen years my junior, and getting almost as much pleasure I might add (?)

Now the bedroom sees no such activity because I am getting my musical fix downstairs instead, and the fact I’m also single again also means the bedroom is place of rest, not play (sigh…..)

Throw into the equation the AMR system’s superb build, matching finishes and sleek integrated looks rather than the hotch-potch of differing finishes and chassis sizes, which are typical of separates systems including my own, and I’ll admit I’m having a hard time making the case for my system against AMR’s. As someone who strives to obtain the very best equipment I can afford without selling a kidney, even I wouldn’t hesitate to admit that if I owned the AMR system as it stands and did not already own the SET gear, I could resist the pull of SETs and spend the cash on an African safari instead. Well, I would hesitate because what I’m saying is heresy and I don’t like the idea of being burned at the stake by hard line SET extremists.

All I ask is that before anyone gathers a rabid mob together and sets off to the little village of Stacksteads in the UK with flaming torches and a bad attitude, they should hear the AMR system for themselves and make their own judgement, whereupon I may just be forgiven for my literary musings, and Thorsten Loesch of AMR will become the subject of their wrath instead for daring to encroach into SET territory so successfully.

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