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Engstrom Sound from Sweden - the Pinnacle of Scandinavian School



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    What a modern super tube amp! PT, can you share more details? Does this pair go to WF? Why you are using SRA Ohio, but not Virginia?
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    Damn cool aesthetical form.  I wonder if you guys have adequate run in time. But it must be something special designed by LARS Engstrom 
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    Do you have the Eric super amp?  Why you are so quiet about them?  Aren't you some sort of a spokesman for Engström super electronics?

    I can't quite follow your current state of affairs.  Are you running a full suite of Engström?  I was told you are also parallel running some German tank solid state.  

    Do you mind if you spare some time to share what is the leading edge over your den?

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    Yes, I am running a Engstrom Monica+Type2.  Indeed it is by far the best amp pair driving Cessaro in my system.  You know me, I swap play a number of gears and one of the recent combo I am using is the Synaestec Bivium+Saxum.  It has its own magnetism attracting the core fans of pure blood solid state preamp and mega sized power amp with the lowest measurable S/N ratio.

    Unlike all the super rich in this forum where Eric superamp is just a phone call away, I really need to save up for this 'major acquisition' plus the fact that I am always betrayed by my ownself for being unable to resist temptations like Jmf3.7, Trinity Reference AC Filter....

    Recently Master Chik has visited my place and made some acoustics improvement and fine matching the acoustics with the Rach subwoofer.  I am stunned by the Lars amp pair taking my system performance to a few notches up.  Timo from Lars will be shocked.  Do I need Eric to be the spokesman for Lars, I think it is still a statement of reaching the ultimate but I believe my current setup is more than enough to shock the majority.  Come and experience it !!

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    Finally, the second pair of 乾隆 is on the way to us.

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    Thank you for your encouraging words.
    I´m truly looking forward to visit you and experience your improvements.
    To me, LARS and ERIC are two very different products that fullfil different tastes and goals in what one wants to achieve. We have costumers who use two pairs of LARS in bi-amp configuration because that fits their setup and like the character of the LARS and the music they listen to. MONICA has double setup of outputs making it great in driving two pairs of power-amps, LARS, ERIC, any other power-amp or an active subwoofer.
    We now have a number of different tubes for the LARS to fine tune the character preferred even more. KR 300B XLS, KR 842, EML 300B-XLS and EML 320B-XLS.
    With the double power of ERIC it can of course drive much heavier loads and dig deeper with even larger dynamic power making it perfect for music lovers who don't use horn speakers and wants to listen to big organ music, electronic music or heavy metal.

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    Regarding your question on the ERIC.
    The one pair we made for the AE Super Show was sold to a client. We are now placing ERIC into series production. This process takes a lot of time in the initial work but makes it better and more reliable for future production. ERIC will still be a work by hand with all the point to point circuits. We make the production preparation in a similar way that most large manufacturers do. Some small high end manufacturers only build their exclusive reference products one by one on demand. We want to make our products reliable and being able to give long term service and production no matter what happens. This is a costly and time consuming process but we believe it´s the right thing to do for the customers who decide to invest and trust in our products and us.
    This is the reason why you have not heard more about ERIC since the show. When the first batch is ready you will hear much more.

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    I was floored by the dynamic of the Monica V2/Type 2 300B mono amp with trinity phono driving the Qian Long speakers.   I do not think any one can tell from a blind test that the speakers are driving by a pair of 300B push pull amp.  The tone is extremely pure. The sound field is very open.  And coherence is simply lyrical. On some of violin recordings, the techniques of the performer are fully revealed with intensity and vigor.  Music is so vividly conveyed to my senses. Reproduction of jazz is soulful.  The PRAT factor is no different from solid state to my ears based on the grandeur replay of the percussions recording. 

    Lars Engström is indeed a living legend. 
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    It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane Its Super....

    I have been looking for a suitable amplifier for my speakers for over a year without much success and PT has asked me to audition a pair of push-pull 300B amplifiers. Initially, I told him point blank, in no ambiguity, “I have never heard a good push-pull amplifier”. Big mouth I guess. If anything, I’ve been an SET guy for a decade. Loved the simplicity and directness of a good pair of low powered single ended triodes with lovely harmonics and its portray of bloom and 3 dimensionality. Great SETs simply has more ability to bring you back to the recording studio in terms of atmosphere and emotional content. A properly built SET can also be very linear. But there’s a crunch; there’s a lack of power. Go parallel single-end and you get just a little bit more power, but you loose subtlety in equal measure. Go up the triode ladder, 2A3> 300B>845 (211 no thanks!)>212>833 etc and before long, you end up getting the required power, maintain subtlety; but you also gain the sonic signature of the tube in a big way; some of which was never meant for audio amplification in the first place. Nice 2nd order harmonics? Sure!, Is that a real, natural and accurate portrayal of the voice/instrument in real life?.. Nop. How bout’ Push-pull? PP is the tube brigade’s attempt to be transistors. Sure, as you up the number of KT88/120/150 pentode tube count, you get more than enough driving power for any low efficiency speakers out there, but you loose even more in terms of delicacy of the music signal, the minutiae of the piano/violin tone as the sound dissipates in space is somehow artificial. You loose the ability to connect with the music, the more tube count, the more “accurate” it sounds (read feedback), the less involvement, compared with SETs. Mind you, its still a nice “warm” creamy kinda sound, but not real.


    It is with this background and personal bias that I was urged to try the Engstrom Lars power amplifier with the Monica preamp.


    3 minutes of listening to a live piano recording tells me Engstrom is no push-pull pentode. It is not single-end triode either. Nor is it OTL.

    What is very surprising is something very difficult to describe in mere words, and it is not even related to sound; but I’ll try: Listening to these amps has a calming unrushed psychological effect.

    This is easily demonstrated in the way it portrays silence. With live recordings, it reproduces the hushness of the audience before a concert in a very accurate and calm manner. There is a lack of a nastiness in many amplifiers tube or solid-state where the silence is portrayed.

    In some solid state amps, the silence is like a vacuum, without life, a nothingness that keeps you fidgeting, something you don’t get in real-life concerts. I guess if you measure it with a device, it may be zero decibels, but I’m human.

    In tube amps, even the great SET varieties, silences are portrayed with perhaps a bit more “hiss” in absolute terms, but they are more gentle and forgiving, but there is no denying that it is artificial, it’s nice, it’s euphonic, but “nasty” in the sense of it being unnatural.

    In Engstrom, I am not able to smell any nastiness, it doesn’t even have the sonic signature of the 300B, vintage or new. There is just a rightness to it, totally  indescribable, totally true. Can you measure it, Gawd knows.


    How about sound?


    Again what strikes you is the Beauty of Tone. Ah, I better be more careful here. Beauty as in Correctness of Tone, how unamplified acoustic music or voice is portrayed in an acoustic space. Here’s what it doesn’t have:


    It doesn’t have the lushness of a single ended 300B in the vintage western electric variety that is enticing, but way too syrupy compared to real life. Engstrom has just the right balance of warmth , speed and texture. Compared to absolute neutrality, it’s tube nature is exposed in its ever so slight SET warmth with a linearity and speed that even most solid state amps are left behind. I’m not talking about the lightning fast transients that some solid state amps portray, with its edgy transients, that are exciting in demos, but tiring at home (I have gone down that path, and I’m not returning!).

    Transients in Engstrom are portrayed so fast that you don’t notice it, flying across, and you start to wonder, a 300B tube amp?


    So, here we are at last, it’s not a Bird ( a small SET triode that’s light and airy and sweet), it’s not a Plane (huge transistor or pentode push pull amp), its Superman!, way out of the ordinary, something that cannot be classified in the current scheme of tube amplifiers.


    Guess its too long, I’ll stop here….

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    edited March 2017
    It was great to ones again come to HK, my favorit city, to experience the hospitality and generosity of AE.
    A big congratulation to Master Chick, PT and JLam on the new showroom.
    Ever since the AE show last summer, I had been looking forward to experience the combination of the Qian Long speaker, LARS and MONICA. This was great fun and a wonderful setup.

    Thank you for your writing. I´m happy that you appreciate our efforts of the MONICA Mk2.

    I´m touched by how you describe and nail what we are trying to achieve.

    // Timo
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    Thank you for your kind words.

    I must congratulate you for the visual design of your amplifiers. They are so understated, elegant and yet fully functional. They are works of Art that I'm sure worthy of a slot in the annals of any amplifier design Gallery.

    It is also amazing how the visual and the sonic qualities match so well together: understated, but brilliant.

    Sonic wise,  I am still at a loss as to how Engstrom sounds so right tonally. Your website explanations regarding push -pull circuits and lack of negative feedback, or even balanced circuitry etc are in fact touted by many current tube amps, but your amps react to the music signal in a hugely different manner. It does not appear that you voice your amplifiers by parts selection as it usually gives a rather strong "coloration" to the sound. Its very easy to spot the silver transformers and what-not capacitors within the circuit, imparting its signature on every music note it plays.

    The Monica Preamp appears to behave in a  very transparent manner and yet without appearing "over-transparent"; that is the "sheen" that is associated with some predominantly solid state designs that emphasizes "transparency" and at the end overdid it. What type of volume control and what kind of tubes are used in the Monica?

    "To me, LARS and ERIC are two very different products that fullfil different tastes and goals in what one wants to achieve"

    Would you mind expanding on that?
    How different are they and what tubes does ERIC uses?



    PS: if someone asks me what LARs/MONICA sounds like, I would simply ask them to go fetch any recording made by 1 record label, the Swedish Society Discofil, or for audiophiles, PROPRIUS. 

    Guess that's a compliment......

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