VTL 5.5 vs. Lamm LL2?

I'm trying to mate my VTL MB185 mono amps with a really nice preamp. My budget is around $3000.00. Initially, I thought that the best choice would be a unit made by the same manufacturer as the amps. Anyway, what better place to get an intelligent opinion on this than Audiogon. By the way,

I'm not interested in hearing anything about the Audio Horizons preamp. I've already read about that unit in the longest running. I believe that they have the longest running thread on audiogon (over 3.5 years) with over 1000 entries (most) from the same small handful of people. Does anyone find this odd? Either way, I'm not interested in this unit. Although, I'm sure that some of it's "long standing" fans will make it into this forum.
The Lamm LL2 Deluxe holds its value if purchased used. If that model interests you, then I recommend buying a used unit and trying it for a month or so. I suspect you will know in the first day whether it's the one for you. It'll be relatively easy to re-sell.

I'm sure you're aware Lamm has a new version of the LL2. Keep that in mind when making an offer on the old model (which is no slouch).
I would think that an all-tube signal path would be preferrable.Not necessarily voting for the VTL.
Had you considered First Sound Or Supratek??
I compared the 2.5 and the LL2D, and found that the LL2 had a huge soundstage, it was significantly better than the 2.5. I haven't heard the 5.5, but one area the 2.5 excelled in was pace (and neutrality too). I imagine the 5.5 has that and more.
Yes those Audio Horizons people definitely march to the beat of a different drummer.
I would look for a used Hovland HP-100; it will go well with the VTL mono blocks.
Add the Gill Audio Alana to your search.

Why wouldn't you want to know more about the Audio Horizons preamp? Until you try one in your own system, you'll always wonder "what if..?"


You don't want to know.
Thanks TVAD. Actually, I may be leaning toward the Audio Research LS26. Any opinions on that one?
I may be leaning toward the Audio Research LS26. Any opinions on that one?
Kensetsu (Reviews | Answers)
Yup Mark.. They certainly are. You started an Audio Horizons thread back in March of 2006 and as of October 3rd, you and about 6 others have consistently posted on that thread. As a matter of fact, you and the others are constantly mentioning the Audio Horizons Preamp on several other threads. Anyway, with well over 1000 posts in over 3.5 years, I believe that the Audio Horizons thread holds the record.... Even though.... There aren't really that many new people posting. That... I find curious and... Since I'm a New Yorker... I'm really not concerned with the answer. Besides, other people keep trying to get me to buy the Brooklyn Bridge.
I have owned both. The VTL has a bit of an "old school" bloomy tubed sound in the mids and bass. However, the top end is very nicely extended and clear sounding. It is a nice sounding and quite musical preamp. The LL2 Deluxe has been described as "organic" sounding because of its ability to convey timbre and texture resembling live music. The LL2 D also provides clarity, reasonably good bass extension and definition, and a strength that is the absence of any significant weaknesses. Most would say it punches well above it's weight. I have ended up with the LL2 D after trying well over 10 similarly (and above) priced preamps, including the VTL 5.5. Tvad rightly pointed out that you should consider there is a new LL2.1 D model, and to keep that in mind when setting your price for a used LL2 D. However, the only changes were functional and cosmetic, and should not affect the quality of the sound between the two - they should sound the same. Lamm has a very detailed website you should review to learn more. I have no experience with the Audio Research LS26. Good luck.
Mitch? That was a very useful and informative comparison. Thank you so much. To tell you the truth, the only thing that I didn't like about the Lamm is that it didn't have a balanced output, but... That's probably more hype than anything else, huh? Thanks..
Tvad.. Thanks for being to the point. That's very nice and respectful. Thank you.
Kenetsu, you're welcome. Honestly, I haven't heard an LS26, so I can't offer a comment.
Kensetsu, I hear you about the absence of balanced inputs and outputs. Prior to owning Lamm gear, I had a variety of McCormack, Ayre, Aesthetix, and other all-balanced equipment. That changed when I purchased a Tom Evans Vibe/Pulse preamp (se only) and then my single-ended Lector CDP. At least in my case, with either the Tom Evans pre into different SS amps, or with the Lamm LL2 D into Lamm monos, there is no noticable noise - only music. I have built my system around the type of sound I enjoy listening to, and the Lamm gear provides me with more musical enjoyment than anything else I have owned. In addition to the balanced issue, the most frequent complaint I read about the LL2 D, is the "hair shirt" operations requiring users to adjust two volume knobs (by hand!!!), instead of using a remote control. That has never been an issue with me since I am inclined to set the volume based on the individual CD I am playing, and also depending on who else is at home and the time of day or night. Once set, I typically listen at the same volume for the whole CD. I think less about gear and more about music that way. Personally, I am on-board with the Lamm philosophy that the music comes first. However, for others, the absence of a volume remote and/or balanced ins/outs would be a deal-breaker.
Mitch! Great response. Very logical, no nonsense, advice.

Thanks. I guess I could always put a placette in the middle of the preamp and the amp if I was that annoyed by having to get up, huh?
I have heard about some people using the Placette as you described to add a "remote volume." That would also deal with a gain issue that I didn't elaborate on in my earlier post, since it is discussed on the Lamm website. One of the changes with the newer LL2.1 is the ability to reduce the overall preamp gain via a front panel switch. This was in response to feedback that with higher level sources (CDP's) some found the gain too much and the usable range of the volume control was down near the lower end. Your Placette idea, or an overall gain reducer as made by Endler, would take care of that if it were a problem, although both would put an additional device in the signal path (as I presume the switch on the LL2.1 does). I wish the volume control on the LL2/2.1 were a stepped attenuator as on the more expensive L2 Ref, but instead on the LL2/2.1 they use a high quality potentiometer with steps (or detentions) on the control itself - not a true attenuator with discrete steps. If a true stepped attenuator with discrete steps were used, the volume control range would not be such an issue, although the control could then be designed so the steps would ramp up more slowly as done with the "CD Taper" volume control offered as an option on CAT preamps. Personally, this has never been an issue for me with regards to either finding an appropriate listening volume, or as it may affect the overall quality of the sound - it still sounds better overall than the other preamps I have tried.
Hi Mitch,

Great reply!
wondering, how does the LL2 stack up against the Tom Evans Vibe Pre-amp, or the famous Hovland HP100 pre-amp ?

I have owned two Lithos 7 Vibes and a Lithos 6 Vibe and operated them with both the Pulse and with the standard power supplies. They all sounded very nice, although the Pulse PS kicks it up a notch with regards to dynamics and depth. The Vibe is one of three preamps I have tried that I could live with (the others being the LL2 Deluxe and the CAT Ultimate MkII). The Vibe/Pulse offers a very clear and musical presentation for a SS preamp, with the midrange being the strong suit, followed closely by the bass performance. Minor weaknesses were in the high frequencies, which were slightly dark sounding and maybe just a touch "strained" if you really crank it up, and perhaps very slightly lacking in drive compared to some of the better performers such as the CAT. The LL2 D beats it in dynamics, drive, midrange richness and texture, and high frequency purity and extension. The Lithos 7 model is an improvement over the 6, but not night and day, although having the Pulse PS is mandatory if you want the best sound from this preamp. If I were to give up tubes (probably will not) then the Lithos 7 Vibe with Pulse would be a top choice. Although just my opinion, I hope this helps.
Thanks Mitch-looks like the LL2 is a good contender especially at its price point.
Do you find the LL2 dark sounding ?
I've had the LL2.1 in-house for several months and tried it with a variety of NOS 6DJ8 family tubes. Along with the expected gain in 'air', timbre, etc., these older tubes (Valvo 7308s, Amperex Orange Globes, Telefunkens) deliver real improvement to image specificity versus the stock tubes.

Wrt 'dark sounding' - I understand how that can be an initial characterization some folks will use, but its not the way I'd describe the LL2.1. What I hear is a slight mid-bass lift (coupled with the preamp's excellent resolution) that yields deeper tonal colors - harmonics, overtones - in the mid-bass frequencies. In lower registers there is more emphasis on the notes' fundamental - deep bass is weighty and distinct but not as tonally nuanced. Its the contrast or difference between the tonal character of the mid-bass and low bass that that may lead to the 'darker' description. It takes a certain analytical cast to hear it this way - definitely not the direction the LL2.1 leads the ear, but that's how I parse it for now.

For its cost I think its a helluva preamp.
Actually this particular preamp thread has been around much longer than the Audio Horizon thread. See any similarities between the two?


Jtimothya states it very well in his post about the LL2 D. I cannot add much except to say maybe a very small added prominance in the mid-bass adds to the "dark" description some talk about. The effect will be speaker, amp and room dependent. I would also add, everyone has their own listening preferences so you should definitely hear it and make your own conclusions. However, I believe the "risk factor" of trying the LL2 D unheard, would be much lower than most other preamps. There are a zillion reviews of the LL2 out there for additional reading. If you are into neutrality, resolution, clarity, and drive, along with the depth and texture tubes provide, the other preamp to try would be a CAT Ultimate MkII or the newer Renaissance. Both the CAT and the Lamm are quiet and musical, with the CAT having even better bass drive and overall resolution. IMO, the CAT may be subjectively better in an audiophile-neutrality and add-nothing sort of way, and it offers a superior volume control, while I would rate the Lamm to be a subjectively more "friendly" choice in that it sounds good with a wide range of partnering equipment and is a bit kinder to poor recordings - although you hear the flaws, you tend to focus more on the music. You can read about the CAT preamps in the current Stereophile review of the new CAT Renaissance preamp.
thanks guys!! will look into it.
Sherod, You have no idea what you're talking about. Use your head. I started this thread on the 10th of this monte. the Audio Horizon thread is over 3 & 1/2 years old and... it has over 1000 entries by the same people...over and over... and over.. is fishy. As a matter of fact, you've made over 100 of those entries. I guess that you don't remember, huh? Please leave me alone.
Whoops Sherod! You're right.. I guess that you guys aren't the only slippery characters out there. Give me a break.. I'm not interested in your no name... no resale value... bunch of hype.. scam.. preamp. Go Away.. I think all of you guys are con artists. Regardless, it doesn't matte what I think.. Just leave me alone. I suspect that your preamp is no better than any other preamp that comes in from China.
I'd like to thank all of my fellow audiogoners who are contributing to this post. Lots of useful info.
I would like to leave you alone, but you've opened up a can of worms here with some serious accusations. You are telling me that all those who own Audio Horizon preamps and who post on that particular thread are "con artists". Now you're also saying that in the "preamp of the century" thread, those same owners of the Supratek preamps are also "con artists". I am sorry that you are so delusional. You did start this thread, but your negative comments up front about other preamps and those people who own them needed addressing. You really need to try to learn to take some of the medicine that you dish out. Also, I highly recommend that you do some research and find some real facts before you open your pie-hole making false statements and accusations. By the way, your sorry-ass excuse for being a sceptic because you are from New York only gives the good folks from New York a bad name. Shame on you, Bud.
Kensetsu is a perfect example of the Imposter Syndrome where inside every self assurred professional lives a frightened little neurotic who prays that he can somehow succeed before everyone discovers the fraud.
Sherod, It is what it is. If you don't like it then go. I stated the facts as I see them. Why the hell is it that you are in almost every thread that mentions this preamp. When the hell do you listen to music. Why is your life dedicated and devoted to a product that someone else made. You and your entire group should go start a cult. Oh! I forgot.. You already have. Leave me alone. Don't you get it. This can only hurt the manufacturer that you support. DO YOU REALLY WANT TO DRAW MORE NEGATIVE ATTENTION TO THIS NO NAME BRAND! Let it go.. As far as an accusation goes, I stated the way that it appeared. Get a life outside of helping to market that preamp. I can't imagine why anyone would expend so much effort to support a product so strongly if they didn't have an active financial interest in it. If you don't like that fact that I can state my own opinion or have a right to reject your piece of junk recommendation, then get lost. That includes you and all of the other little sissy girls who are going to join you in supporting this product, WHO are also extremely active in a thread about a damn preamp. Jeez. Go away.. GOT IT! It's my money and I'll spend it as I see fit. I'm not coming over to bother you on your thread. DON'T BOTHER ME. Let this be your official notice to cease with your harassins behavior. Further attempts to bother me will be reported to Audiogon.
Mark... Oh My God. Your response is laughable. I really needed the comic relief. Think about it "little boy". You called me a name and accused me of having a Syndrome, because I didn't agree with you. LOL!!! What's the other name for a baby cat? LOL!!!

You remind me of a little kid, who puts his underwear on over his pajamas, ties a towel around his neck, puts his mother's bra on his head and pretends to fly around the room.

Mark.. that's "make believe" and so is your attempt to demonstrate your knowledge of psychology, mental illness and the engineering of thought process, including but not limited to fear, insecurity, motives, etc.

Pal.... LOL! You have no idea just far in over your head you are. You, my man, are attempting to punch WAY OUT OF YOUR WEIGHT CLASS here in this subject area. I've eaten my fare share of PhD psychologist for breakfast. Especially the one's who lack the ability to think on their feet, apply what they think they've learned out of books that were written by people "like you", who's self esteem and need to be accepted are so great, that in a pitiful and desperate effort to get attention, create phrases like "imposter syndrome" to serve as a cry for help. An SOS if you will. It's like shouting. PLEASE.. SOMEONE HELP ME. NO ONE AGREES WITH ME.. I'M GONNA CRY.

Do we really need to address your statement and how it, IN FACT, is a reflection of your own insecurity and how it ties into a lack of self esteem and a tragic need for EXTERNAL validation to support you self worth. Actually, Mark... you're the one that's demonstrating easily labeled abnormal "psycho-social" behavior. Perhaps you and your group should go start your own society, built around your preamp. OK.. Mark you win... the world is flat... or round... I can effectively argue either point. Still, your efforts to undermine my opinions by trying to classify me as "being poorly integrated into society" are amateur and laughable.

So are your upcoming responses/counter accusations which will have absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand. In Layman's terms.. I'm referring to the "smoke screen" that you'll be using to hide your own failed efforts.

From this statement, It's obvious that your entire existence and ability to look at yourself in the mirror comes your need for others to agree with you. If you actually did have both self confidence and the strength of your convictions you wouldn't have to call people names when they don't agree with you.
Well well the poisonous toad finally crawls out from beneath the rock.
I still think Nick( Kensetsu) should consider a money-back trial of the AH preamp. (o:
Mark.. I suspect that you're endocrine system is dysfunctional. It's pumping out too much estrogen. I'm basing his on the fact that "men" usually know when to let something go. However... women? They really can't help themselves. Perhaps you should consider some Androderm patches. Of course, you could always change your sexual preference.. Then your inability to let something go and move one would be more easily explained.
Sherod... I will say one thing about you. You remain respectful and considerate. I'm impressed. If my decision was based on the class that you demonstrate, I'd purchase one of these preamps in a heartbeat. Still... There's the issue of more than one advocate for this product emailing me from the same IP address. How would I know this... Well.. I subscribe to pointormail.com. I just email that email address from a bogus one with the extension .pointof mail.com and when the recipient opens the email. BINGO. I get a return reciept with their IP address.

Sherod, since you've been able to behave as an adult, I'd like to ask you as an adult and a "man" to extend to ME, the same courtesy and respect that YOU would expect when asking someone to leave you alone. I wonder if Audio Horizons would appreciate it if I directed the 8 (middle aged female) subject editors that I have on staff to devote 30 minutes per day toward trashing this product (and everyone that mentions it) on Audiogon. LOL... Trust me... I recieve about 900 articles per month from female writers in 12 countries. If there's one thing that bridges culture, politics, religion, etc... it's there ability to bust a man's chops... Oh my God.. Just unsubscribe to that site. LOL... Thank God, they're actually on my side. Whew... By the way, did any of you guys notice that I only get a chance to check this forum/blog about once every 2 weeks.