Published: 1. November 2012, No. 102
It would seem that audio components are inanimate objects, dead by definition. We, audiophiles, naturally anthropomorphize them giving them human traits for we are attached to them both emotionally and – well – financially. However, that doesn’t change what I just wrote: components are dead. Period.
Yet it’s also true that despite their objective deadness some components set off a reaction in US which makes them less dead; they become a little more “alive”. Then we do something that we wouldn’t think to do with another product and even if we did it would be rather figured out than “received”.
That was exactly what happened with a tiny thing that one day arrived at my house from Italy. LYM 1.0T PHONO integrated amplifier to which I refer manufactured by Italian Lysis-May SRL is more or less half the size of a school notebook. One can put an XRCD disc on it and although the map will slightly sticking out on one end the other end will be conceal deep in the shadow. Still, however, we deal with an integrated amplifier additionally equipped with a phono stage!
As one can easily guess the baby must operate in class D to work at all without overheating and to deliver – as declared by the manufacturer – 2 x 17 W into 4 Ω and 2 x 10 W into 8 Ω.
Amplifiers working in that class are based on one of a few of modules from well-known manufacturers. This time it is no different. The Lym 1.0T is built on TA2024C from Tripath, the author of a patent for “Class T” being a variant of class D. The amplifier is one of the two models currently offered by LYM, or to be more precise one of the two versions of the same model.
Mr. Matteo Malguzzi, head of the company, explains it thus:
Dear Mr. Wojciech Pacula,
I hope you are enjoy listening music come out from our little amp. I write to inform you that the updates made on the model (LYM 1.0T PHONO new coils, new response curves, more power) are available just for this model. Anyway customers will be able to request these updates for the LINE version at a cost of 30 euros (ampli 230 + power supply 30 + upgrades 30= 290). Thanks again for your precious time you give us.
And it was the amp that inspired me to something we don’t often do but that was self-evident at that moment, as if the LYM 1.0T PHONO set off something in me, as if it said something to me… I received a clear impulse: to set up an audio system around the amplifier. I had two inputs at my disposal, a line input and a MM phono input. You may or may not believe me but nearly at the same moment came to my mind both accompanying components I had no doubts would sound perfect with the LYM.
First of them was the rLINK converter, a completely new model from Arcam. I knew it would be OK as I’d recently reviewed for “Audio” its little brother from the same “litter”, so to speak, the rPACK converter with USB input. The rLINK has two S/PDIF digital inputs – TOSLINK and RCA. Both accept signal up to 24-bit 192 kHz. The unit is housed in a small, very solid and simply lovely die-cast aluminum enclosure. There’s only one LED on the top panel, lighting in different colors to indicate the status of the device. The DAC is powered by a walwart power supply.
The choice of turntable was also immediately clear to me although in this case I took advantage of the fact that it was almost next door at Eter Audio, Music Hall’s distributor. That’s where I fetched the Music Hall mmf-2.2 from, equipped with a Tracker cartridge custom manufactured by Goldring for Roy Hall. I already knew the turntable as I’d reviewed it for "Audio". I plugged the DAC into the line input and the turntable into the phono input.
I deliberately did not choose speakers for that system. That’s a part entirely dependent on customer’s room size, music taste, aesthetics, etc. At the end of the review, however, I will give a few clues that are worth noting.
The components played only with each other, I compared them as a whole (system) against my reference system in which the DAC equivalent was Ancient Audio Lektor Air V-edition CD player, the amp equivalent was the combination of the Ayon Audio Polaris III [Custom Version] preamplifier and the Soulution 710 power amplifier while the turntable equivalent was the Xtension 10 turntable from Pro-Ject I was just reviewing for “Audio”.
The DAC was coupled to a number of sources. First of all to the Philips CD-Pro2 LF drive in the Ancient but also to the Blu-ray drive in Cambridge Audio Azur 751BD (see HERE). The Cambridge player also worked as media player, fed via Ethernet from a small Synology NAS and from flash memory sticks.
I used speaker cables and analog interconnects from Acoustic Revive (solid core) and a new digital cable from Ear Stream.
A selection of recordings used during auditions:
CDs and SACDs
- A Day at Jazz Spot 'Basie'. Selected by Shoji "Swifty" Sugawara, Stereo Sound Reference Record, SSRR6-7, SACD/CD (2011).
- Carol Sloane, Little Girl Blue, Sinatra Society of Japan, XQAM-1036, HQCD (2010).
- Dead Can Dance, Anastasis, [PIAS] Entertainment Group, PIASR311CDX, Special Edition Hardbound Box Set, CD+USB drive 24/44,1 WAV (2012).
- Jean-Michel Jarre, Magnetic Fields, Dreyfus Disques/Epic, EPC 488138 2, CD (1981/1997).
- Komeda Quintet, Astigmatic, Polskie Nagrania Muza/Polskie Nagrania, PNCD 905, "Polish Jazz Vol. 5", CD (1966/2004).
- Kraftwerk, Minimum-Maximum, Kling-Klang Produkt/EMI, 3349962, 2 x SACD/CD (2005).
- Portishead, Dummy, Go! Discs Limited/Universal Music [Japan], UICY-20164, SHM-CD (1994/2011).
- Sting, Sacred Love, A&M Records, 9860618, Limited Edition, SACD/CD (2003).
- Sting, Songs From The Labyrinth, Deutsche Grammophon, 170 3139, CD (2006).
- Sting, The dream of the blue turtles, A&M Records/Mobile Fidelity, UDCD 528, gold-CD (1985/1990).
- The Beatles, Rubber Soul, Parlophone/Apple/Toshiba-EMI, TOCP-51116, CD (1965/1998).
- Thom Yorke, The Eraser, XL/Warner Music Japan, WPCB-100001, CD (2006/2007).
- Vangelis, Spiral, RCA/BMG Japan, 176 63561, K2, SHM-CD (1977/2008).
- Yo-Yo MA & Bobby McFerrin, Hush, Sony Music/Sony Music Hong Kong Ltd., 543282, No. 0441, K2HD Mastering, CD (1992/2012).
- David Sylvian, World Citizen (I Won't Be Disappointed) + Angels [z:] David Sylvian, Sleepwalkers, P-Vine Records, PVCP-8790, WAV, rip z CD.
- Dead Can Dance, Anastasis, [PIAS] Entertainment Group, PIASR311CDX, Special Edition Hardbound Box Set, USB drive 24/44,1 WAV (2012).
- Kankawa, Dear Myself [z:] Kankawa, Organist, T-TOC Records, UMVD-0001-0004, Ultimate Master Vinyl, 24/192 WAV; review HERE.
- Keith Jarrett, January 24 1975. Part I [z:] Keith Jarrett, Köln Concert, WAV 24/96, HDTracks..
- Pieter Nooten & Michael Brook, Searching [z:] Pieter Nooten & Michael Brook, Sleeps With The Fishes, 4AD, GAD 710 CD, WAV, rip z CD.
- Sonny Rollins Tenor Madness [z:] Sonny Rollins, Tenor Madness, WAV 24/96, HDTracks..
- Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto, Corcovado (Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars) [z:] Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto, Getz/Gilberto, WAV 24/96, HDTracks.
- The Alan Parsons Project, Sirius + Eye In The Sky [z:] The Alan Parsons Project, Eye In The Sky, WAV 24/192, rip z DVD-A.
- AC/DC, If You Want A Blood, Atlantic, ATL 50 532, LP (1978).
- Brendan Perry, Ark, Cooking Vinyl/Vinyl 180, VIN180LP040, 2 x 180 g LP (2011).
- Budka Suflera, Cień wielkiej góry, Live 2011 + studio 1975 (box), Polskie Nagrania Muza/Budka Suflera Productions, BSP 05-2011, 2 x 180 g LP + 2 x CD; review HERE.
- Komeda Quintet, Astigmatic, Polskie Nagrania Muza/Polskie Nagrania, XL 0298, "Polish Jazz Vol. 5", LP (1966/2007).
- Kraftwerk, Autobahn, King Klang Produkt/EMI, STUMM 303, Digital Master, 180 g LP (1974/2009); review HERE.
- Mel Tormé, Oh, You Beautiful Doll, The Trumpets of Jericho, Silver Line, 904333-980, 180 g LP (2000).
Japanese editions available from
The amplifier is amazing in every way. The fact that it’s small and inexpensive is but a surprise we get quickly used to. The real revelation is its sound. If I hadn’t seen what I saw nor had I known what I knew I’d think I was listening to a not particularly powerful yet quite expensive tube amp. It was only when I heard the amp go into clipping different for solid state than tube that showed me the employed technology. Still, however, trying to guess the price would be much harder.
The amplifier presents us with full, large sound with excellent dynamics. That’s not some chirp-chirp but well-developed, muscular presentation with excellent bass foundation. Knowing LYM’s power output and price level its low extension is simply shocking. It was not deterred by nearly infrasonic drums from the new Dead Can Dance album Anastasis or low electronic rumble from Jean-Michel Jarre and Vangelis. The former album is very little compressed and the drum beat on track no. 2 regularly overloaded the amplifier, indicated by a flashing orange LED on the faceplate. However, since we are not too sensitive to low-frequency distortion and because that just happens to be the frequency band in which even the best speakers show greatest distortion that didn’t really bother me. The sound was very low, powerful and yet very – as I said, a result of psychoacoustics – clean.
Albums by Jarre (Magnetic Fields) and Vangelis (Spiral) were much easier since here bass is shallower and more compressed. Hence, it was possible to play them louder. All three albums proved it to be effortless presentation, without compression, which is amazing for an amplifier with such comparatively low nominal power and virtually no overload margin.
The other frequency extreme was basically a mirror of the low end – treble was well extended, clean and simply attractive. Amplifiers operating in class D almost always – with a few exceptions – tend to have rather limited bandwidth. That’s the result of the employed technology and an interaction of the output stage and speaker cables forming a part of the low-pass reconstruction filter at the output. Here that limitation has somehow been minimized. I’m not saying it’s been fully eliminated but it was not particularly audible. Only on recordings with higher sampling rates than the CD, like 96 and 192 kHz, it could be perceived as a slight closing of the spectrum, somewhat less defined acoustics and less air. But even they sounded very good and the CD sounded perfect.
I began my review from describing color, especially at both edges of the operating bandwidth as they usually pose a major problem to that type of amplifiers. In this case you will be surprised at how attractively, how cool they can be presented by an amplifier costing about as much as a plug in my power cord. Although one needs to remember an even cheaper DAC that fed the amplifier! Sticking to my last illustration let me put it this way: the system sounds insanely well and can be had for less than two plugs in my power cord…
But there is more. While bass will surprise us and treble will leave us in amazement, we’re in for a real shock listening to what’s going on in midrange department. You may have already guessed that presentation is deep and powerful and that vocals have great texture. Sure they do. Another revelation in addition to bass and treble extension, however, is an uncanny ability to differentiate midrange.
Even though I first mentioned electronic music, most of my listening tests – what I started and ended with – involved vocals-centered music, whether jazz, rock or classical. With every next album I was surprised how well it all fit together, how well it was united. There was no urge to analyze anything as I wasn’t annoyed by excessive details, “something this or that” didn’t suddenly jump out at me and instead I got coherent, consistent presentation.
Key to all that, however, was differentiation. The converter and the amplifier showed great differences between recordings. That The Eraser is highly compressed and not very clean, and that Anastasis by DCD has been recorded with fantastic energy, and that the 1997 remaster of Magnetic Fields is quite warm and limited on top and bottom, or that the tracks collected on Carol Sloane’s Little Girl Blue are radically different from each other, etc. All of that was naturally and simply audible.
Of course it was impossible to say precisely WHAT exactly and HOW it was changing because ultimately resolution and selectivity were limited, but one would have a general idea about the changes. In the end it’s not an expensive system (one would actually have to call it very cheap but for the fact that manufactures don’t like their product called “cheap”…) and can’t do some things. Yet within its limitations it’s wonderful. And although upon further reflection I might say that the system is slightly warm I would really need to bend over backwards. Normally that type of presentation is perceived as natural.
Despite coherence and interaction of all sound elements such as color, dynamics, resolution, selectivity, space presentation, texture, etc. the amplifier, since that’s the central component here, doesn’t lump it all together. It does unify some things – I’ve already said that one won’t hear exactly HOW something is done only that it IS done. To give an example, the system clearly demonstrated that Sting’s solo debut album, even in the best digital edition I have, Mobile Fidelity Gold CD, has been recorded quite average, despite common opinion to the contrary. It also showed that Ten Summoner’s Tales has been recorded better and that Sacred Love is very bad while Songs From The Labyrinth is embarrassing. The amplifier doesn’t homogenize anything and yet lets us enjoy each album. The only one I couldn’t really listen to was the last of the above mentioned Sting’s albums.
Phono input is what sets that amp apart from its “linear” brother. Although I started my listening tests with digital sources, it is the sound of an inexpensive turntable plugged into the LYM 1.0T PHONO that will undoubtedly be more important.
The overall presentation remains the same as with the Arcam rLINK DAC. It’s a big sound with high dynamics and excellent extension on both ends. Bass is less controlled and not as well differentiated as with the Arcam but such are ills of inexpensive turntables and cartridges. We won’t find much improvement for that kind of money. Still, there is no hum or oscillations. What happens with particularly low bass such as on Brendan Perry’s album Ark is that bottom end is more suggested than fully realized. Treble on the other hand is more vivid than from digital sources regardless of the origin of master source material, i.e. whether digital or analog. It was well shown by Komeda’s album Astigmatic or more precisely its 2007 re-edition. I'm not sure what the master source was but I’d bet it was a digital remaster. The album sounds really good regardless and the Lym Audio amplifier offered strong, very nicely accented not exaggerated treble. Actually, everything will sound good because the amplifier imposes its own perspective –full of energy yet with a slightly sweetened upper midrange. Interestingly, it’s more audible with digital material; with analog even though still highlighted and not perfect, midrange presentation is somewhat flatter and a bit more withdrawn.
The amplifier very well shows the differences in the dynamics of various material. Not everyone will like it but such are the charms of vinyl where the quality of pressing is much more important than on the CD (although even there it’s important – see HERE). And some pressings are simply bad such as the AC/DC live 1978 album If You Want Blood. Musically it’s great and it’s a good opportunity to listen to Bon Scott but the sound quality is rather poor. All its weaknesses – inferior dynamics, limited bandwidth and flat soundstage – were very well exposed by the Italian amplifier.
We also need to mention how it builds soundstage since it’s different than with digital material. I think that’s a general problem of inexpensive turntables and something you can’t avoid. What I mean here is that vocals are a bit further away from the listener; they are rather behind the speakers’ line than on it. Even vocals that are always shown very close up, such as Mel Tormé on Oh, You Beautiful Doll album containing historical recordings retrieved from shellac or Krzysztof Cugowski on the concert version of the album Cień wielkiej góry from the box set by the same title (reviewed HERE), this time were a little more distant, not so moving in their closeness. I heard the same thing before on the Perry’s album. The presentation itself was brilliant yet I couldn’t help but notice that. Perhaps at this price level some undeniable issues with vinyl are simply more obvious than the problems with digital sources? Who knows…
The soundstage, by contrast, its size and sheer sound intensity appear unbeatable with vinyl. Digital sources in that comparison come out very nice, well-ordered but somewhat “empty”. Vinyl creates a semi sphere in front of us, behind the speakers, wide and high, not limited by them. We play Dead Can Dance or Kraftwerk’s Autobahn and immediately hear that – expansiveness, size, momentum. At the same time the whole soundstage is further away from us than with the Arcam DAC.
The Italian amplifier that sat at the heart of this system is excellent. Although class D is still not quite linked with high-quality sound in this case it is synonymous. Obviously, I know some inexpensive amplifiers operating in Class AB, better equipped and larger, coming from well-known manufacturers such as NAD and Music Hall that are also very cool. But if I only had two (or three) source, including a turntable, I think I’d choose the Lym Audio. Its sound is unpretentious yet impressive enough to keep the listener before the speakers.
The Arcam rLINK and the mmf-2.2 LE from Music Hall proved a perfect fit for that sound. The former is an absolute stunner, doing great not only with the CD but also with high-res files. And it has two inputs making it possible to hook it up with both a CD or Blu-ray transport and a TV at the same time (with optical cable). I knew the Music Hall before and I knew what to expect from it. Again, it only confirmed its class.
I didn’t choose particular speakers for this review because they’re the biggest variable and the spread can be huge. Yet I can think of several “safe bets” that you must try with the system. Among floorstanders these would be the Polish Pylon Audio Pearl or the Monitor Reference 4 from British Monitor Audio. Alternatively, going a step higher, the Castle Knight 4. An example of stand-mount speakers would be the Knight series from Castle and something from Monitor. All of them have been tested by me personally.
That way we’ll get a really great, very versatile, compact and inexpensive system. It will prove an excellent entry into the wonderful world of audio for any beginner music lover. I’d start setting it up from the amplifier.
The system receives RED FINGERPRINT award.
LYM 1.0T PHONO
Mr. Matteo Malguzzi sent me a detailed description of his amplifier. Lym Audio is definitely not a manufacturer that wants to hide anything.
The amp is very small and measures just 192 mm x 139 mm x 61 mm. It weighs mere 550 g. The encloure is made of rigid aluminum panels. The unit’s small dimensions additionally improve rigidity. The front is a bit thicker than the other sides. It sports a small volume knob that doubles as a power switch, a small, pretty toggle switch to select the input and two LEDs. The white one indicates power-on while the orange signals overload. The latter is not on all the time and shows real, instantaneous overload. If it flashes from time to time there’s no need to worry. The rear panel features solid, gold-plated speaker terminals, two pairs of RCA inputs and a connector for an outboard power supply. The latter is a simple laptop power supply unit.
The whole circuit is mounted on a single sensibly laid out PCB. The quality of assembly is high. Right next to RCA inputs (plain; only grounding is gold plated) there’s a small PCB soldered to the main PCB. The input PCB contains three surface mount, excellent LME49860 chips from National Semiconductors working in the phono stage section. All components are surface mount. The circuit has two sections – power supply and RIAA correction. The correction is circuit fully passive with zero feedback. The PCB is double sided with one side used as a ground.
From the input PCB the signal is first fed to the mechanical input selector, then to a small “automotive-type” Alps potentiometer and in the end to Tripath TA2024C, soldered without heat sink. The PCB actually has holes for the heat sink. The output LP filter is two-stage with different inductors, including excellent inductors from Wurth, expensive and highly valued. On the side there is a small voltage controller section, additional filtering voltage from an outboard, switching-mode power supply. High quality, clean assembly work.
The Arcam DAC is housed in a tiny but excellent enclosure, resembling a miniature of rDAC. The top and sides are one cast aluminum alloy, and the bottom is bent sheet steel, also forming the front and rear panels. The bottom is finished with a thick rubber “sole” to prevent slipping and moving the unit. On the one end we have digital connectors and power socket for an external wallwart PSU, the other end sports a pair of RCA gold plated analog line outputs.
The electronic circuit is mounted on a single PCB. At the input is an IC with input selector. D/A converter is an advanced Burr-Brown PCM5102, capable of receiving signal up to 32-bit and sampling rates up to 384 kHz! Measurable parameters may not be impressive, with the signal-to-noise ratio of 112 dB (the unit is designed for mobile devices), but the theoretical capabilities are enormous. The chip comprises not only DAC with selectable digital filters, but also I/U converter, low-pass filters and a complete output stage with an amplifier and buffers. Hence the PCM1502 is coupled virtually directly to the output jacks. Note that at the input there is Wolfson WM8804 digital receiver that “sets” the input parameters at 24/192. A neat, nice device.
The Music Hall turntable is a classic, low mass non-decoupled design, with a 9 inch gimbal bearing tonearm. Its base is made of 29 mm MDF board painted black (also available in red) to resemble piano lacquer finish.
The left side of the base, at the rear, features a milled irregularly-shaped cutout for the motor. It's a small synchronous affair powered by an external wallwart 16 V AC power supply. Rotational speed is changed manually. One needs to remove the platter, move the drive belt from the upper part of a disc mounted on the motor shaft to the bottom and put the platter back. The disc is made of aluminum and has wide flanges between the two diameters.
Motor torque gets transferred via a short, flat rubber belt to a plastic, average size (143 mm) sub-platter. Embed in it is a steel spindle being the axle to support the platter and the record while the other end of the spindle forms part of the main platter bearing. Its other part – sleeve and bed – is made of brass. Lubrication is by Teflon-based oil that should last several years. If necessary, the manufacturer suggests using a few drops of Mobile 1motor oil. The platter is made of 2 mm extruded aluminum, painted black. A wide flange makes it look higher than it actually is. The flange is designed to add weight to the platter rim and improve rotation stability. A thin felt mat is placed on the platter.
The tonearm is a Pro-Ject gimbaled model with an aluminum tube of the same diameter and bearings with steel blade and sapphire bed. Counterweight is a small, brass cylinder, painted black with a plastic ring showing the scale in grams. The plastic shaft along which it moves is slightly lowered in relation to the tonearm tube, bringing the counterweight point of gravity nearer to the needle level (that’s good).
Anti-skating is a classic assemble of string with a weight attached to a short rod, protruding from the back side of the tonearm bearing. Audio signal is fed via stranded copper wire to RCA connectors. There is no option to connect another interconnect.
The turntable sits on three feet (two in front) made plastic and vibration-damping elastomer. The whole package includes a transparent anti-dust lid that needs to be lifted or – even better – taken off to play records. We also get a small plastic weight for cartridges, a 45 rpm (7 ") singles adapter and a plastic strip to set the cartridge geometry.
The turntable comes with a nice mounted and properly aligned Music Hall Tracker cartridge custom manufactured by Goldring. That’s an MM cartridge with elliptical stylus than can be inexpensively replaced – if needed –with a new one. Its tracking force is 1.5-2 g, 1.75 g being recommended value. For me it sounded slightly better with 1.9 g – there was a bit less treble but bass had more body.