Lavardin Technologies Model IS Integrated Amplifier Review
Let’s face it, there’s no shortage of brands available to Hi-Fi enthusiasts around the world. Some have marketing budgets that rival soft drink and clothing companies, while others believe in spending their dollars on research and development and growing via word of mouth. These small operators, or ‘boutique’ manufacturers if you will, push the envelope and truly drive high-fidelity audio reproduction forward.
Lavardin Technologies is one such boutique company producing amplifiers, preamplifiers, cables and racks out of France. They’ve been doing so for more than 15 years, and their very first offering, the Model IT Integrated Amplifier is still produced and to this day widely regarded by many as a world-class reference amplifier.
With distributors appointed across nearly all continents, Lavardin still tends to fly somewhat under the radar. With the recent appointment of Australian distributor Audio Magic, more enthusiasts are now enjoying the chance to experience this brand.
Aside from the obvious understated appearance of the amplifier range, you won’t find all the bells and whistles here. Lavardin is about the sound quality and faithful reproduction. No remote controls (purist, remember?), no blue LEDs and no displays. Just an elegantly finished amplifier with a smooth and fluid volume control, and a source control that sinks solidly into position. First impressions are important, and you’re met with a feeling of confidence when setting up the Model IS.
Model IS Integrated Amplifier
The Model IS has the lowest power output of the four integrated amplifiers in the range, rated at 2x45 watts RMS (8 Ohms), with Lavardin claiming measurements of over 104w per channel on 2 Ohm loads, but more on that later.
There’s also a Model IS Reference; “Its exacting circuits and power supply receive special upgrades in order to further allow the fantastic potential of our low memory technology to come to fruition”. The output power remains the same as the standard Model IS.
Model IS features four unbalanced (RCA) inputs with an optional MM phono stage and Bypass input that needs to be factory fitted upon ordering.
While feeling solidly engineered, the full-width unit is not particularly heavy at just 6.5kg.
The Point of Difference
While routinely doing my research on the brand and technology, one such term caught my eye, “Memory Distortion”.
Lavardin describe this as:
Lavardin Technologies designs and manufactures high end audio amplifiers using exclusive and revolutionary design concepts which radically reduce what we have named the “memory distortion” of components.
Memory distortion is the property that is the dominant factor in causing solid state amplifiers to sound shrill and mechanical. Tube technology allows electrons to travel through a vacuum which leaves no storage or memory effect, but solid-state amplifiers use silicon components which keep a trace of current flow that has gone through.
New electron flow is continuously affected by the pattern of the immediately preceding electron flow. As soon as the memory effect of these solid state circuits is reduced, all the improvements that transistor technology brings, such as high output power, accuracy, very low harmonic distortion and extended and linear frequency response, can be added to the most alive and silky musical rendition of the best single-ended monotriode designs.
You can read this in more detail at: http://www.lavardin.com/lavardin-techE.html
Lavardin claims to have solved the memory distortion phenomenon in their amplifiers, remaining solid-state in design and avoiding the introduction of valves to become hybrid designs as some other manufacturers do. In theory, at least to this non-electronically inclined Hi-Fi enthusiast, this all sounds reasonable.
ENJOYING THE MUSIC
I’m still torn between vinyl and digital. When reviewing components digital is more convenient. It allows me the flexibility of a playlist of various genres and styles of music, male and female vocals, acoustic and electric. It’s a simple process to kick back with an iPad, a notepad and pen, dim the lights and cover it all. This is the normal process for me, and then once I’ve swiped through the playlist I’ll play a small selection of vinyl as well.
It becomes very much a routine and as the playlist kicked off with Born Again from Keri Noble’s Let Go (2009) album, something happened. Captivating, the sweet texture of Noble’s voice drew me in and left me wanting more. With a delicate trailing edge and decay on the cymbals, detail that had me reminiscing of working in a recording studio 15 years earlier. “Calm down there young fella', you’re only one track in”, I’d hear my father’s voice in my head.
As the memories of how those instruments sounded way back when, I cue up a favourite band of the era, Pearl Jam, but their 2013 release, Lightning Bolt. Future Days is a ballad with Eddie Vedder discussing the accidental death of a friend just a year earlier. At the risk of describing Eddie’s presence in the room being a little cliché, it was the first time I’ve ever heard this track with the emotion in which I am now sure it was recorded. I’d dare say that overall the track is more subdued than I typically hear with other amplifiers, but it just seemed right.
Little Axe’s Down & Dirty from their 2011 album, If You Want Loyalty Buy a Dog, is a blues track with a hint of reggae. I use this track mostly because I like it (isn’t that why we do this?) but secondly the timing of the instruments and composition makes for ease of singling out the sounds of each individual instrument. What was remarkable was the three-dimensional soundstage, wide and deep, as it should be. The Model IS obviously just gets right out of the way of the music.
Natalie Merchant’s Diver Boy from The House Carpenter’s Daughter (2003) starts slow and builds up to quite a complex mix of instruments that is just no challenge for the Model IS. Perhaps a common theme, but the presence of Merchant’s vocals is chilling.
The Model IS’ timing and detail with percussion is particularly noteworthy. It’s smooth yet clear and not blurred, which I think is complimented by what I suggest is a very smooth frequency response.
Transparency, detail and timing are words too easily thrown about when subjectively listening to Hi-Fi components, but I struggle to think of more appropriate terms when referring to the Model IS from Lavardin.
At times I erred towards wanting for a little bit more power. My Lenehan ML2 Reference (86.5dB) speakers certainly like power though, as do the Wilson Benesch Vector (89dB) loudspeakers, both of which I auditioned throughout the process. Model IT, the step above the Model IS Reference rated at 2x55w RMS (8 Ohms) might be a good proposition unless you have efficient speakers.
It’s been a pleasure to live with this integrated amplifier for some weeks, and as it ships back to Audio Magic, I already miss Eddie, Kerrie and Natalie whom I shared a room with briefly.
Whether it’s the absence of ‘Memory Distortion’, or just good design I’ll never know, but I’m eager to hear a few rungs up the Lavardin ladder now.
If you don’t require copious amounts of power, a remote control and a plethora of inputs and features, then the Lavardin Model IS amplifier is pure, honest and just lets the music breathe as it should.
The Model IS Integrated Amplifier is $3,950 RRP and is distributed in Australia by Audio Magic.
Brilliant Transparency, Detail and Resolution. Ability to get out of the way of the music.
No remote control. Conservative power.
- Inputs - 4 on gold plated high quality hand mounted cinch connector
- Input impedance - 10Kohms
- Input sensibility - 330 millivolts
- Line output - factory option
- MM phono input - factory option on input 4
- Input selection - sealed relays
- Relay contact- gold, silver, palladium alloy
- Output power - 2x45 W RMS on 8 Ohms / maximum 2x95 W on 2 Ohms
- Output impedance - nominal 8 Ohms
- Harmonic distortion - 0,005% @ max output
- Technology - High Speed and low Memory Distortion Solid State Circuits
- Size (mm) - H 80 L 430 P 340
- Finish - Black anodised and painted non magnetic high-grade aluminium
- Weight - 6.5 Kg net (13 lbs)
- Power consumption - 32 watts idle ; 180 watts maximum