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Integrated amplifier

Lavardin Technologies

Price (when reviewed): 16 490 zł (black front)

CEVL SARL 42, Rue de la République
37230 Fondettes | France


Provided for test by: MOJE AUDIO

mall companies, including audio companies, do not change their lineup often. If we look closely, it turns out that there is really no such thing as "lineup" in their case. At least if by lineup one understands the ordered, structured logically fitting to different price shelves set of devices, then only medium and large size manufacturers are able to plan the lineup and refresh it on regular basis.

For specialists companies, such as the French LAVARDIN TECHNOLOGIES, it's an advantage and disadvantage at the same time – it depends on how we look at it. On the one hand, new devices appear spontaneously when the designer - usually the owner at the same time - prepares something that can be called a "new" and at the same time "satisfying" his expectations product. In such a case, we are offered something really new and well-thought-through. This is an advantage that I would call "personal".

But there is also the other side of the coin. The bigger manufacturers can do more - it's a truism, but it perfectly shows the importance of the so-called "large scale". Purchasing a larger number of components of a certain kind a given manufacturer is able to negotiate a much better price for them. As a result they constitute a much smaller percentage of the costs of a given device. This is an advantage which we must naturally call a "scale".

No wonder that the Lavardin company, which we are talking about this time, does not hurry with new products. It is small, so it can't use the effect of a scale, nor is the brand known to the mass customer, so it is not compelled to regularly refresh the offer. Partially for this reason, the previous IT amplifier has evolved extremely slowly - the basic model was created in 1996, the color of the knobs was changed in 2003, and in 2005 the input circuit was improved and the recording output was added. Version with these modifications was given the name 2K5. And only in 2011 we tested the 15th Anniversary version of the IT-15 and the latest incarnation, model ITx 20 is a device prepared for the 20th Anniversary.


Similarly, the ISx series celebrates the 20th Anniversary of Lavardin Technologies. This is an amplifier that uses all solutions known from IT, but sold at a lower price. As the manufacturer says, it is able to perfectly present what was so exciting about the IT model. There are two versions available - the basic ISx and the more "awesome" ISx Reference. It can be even more "sexy" if we order it with a beautiful red front panel. This version is called ISx (symbol series) Reference (better version) Red Edition (information about the color of the front panel).

Memory distortions | "Exclusive high speed solid state circuits with low memory distortion" - this is how Lavardin describes the type of circuit they use in their amplifiers. We elaborated on it on the occasion of the IT-15 model review, but let me remind you. "Memory distortions" is a special type of interference introduced into the music signal by "remains" after a signal that has previously passed through electronic components. Although it has not been noticed before, it turns out that they modify the signal in an unfavorable way, giving it a cool and rough character.

Disregarding them is interesting because the negative impact of MC cartridges magnetization has been known for many years - special demagnetizing systems are used to get rid of it. And magnetization is one of the main components of the "memory distortions", which is also accompanied by permanent polarity of electric charges in conductors. The Audioquest company has strongly engaged to fight this negative effects recently, and they use use a special, active system in their cables that permanently polarizes the dielectric.

Lavardin believes that no other company has paid attention to it, because classical measurement methods are not appropriate when it comes to music. Signals with a fixed frequency or with a set level are almost always used for measurements. And yet those appear – as Lavardin Technologies claims – in less than 0.01% of the entire track.

Such a strong emphasis on one type of distortion has two functions: a marketing and information ones and both are validated. The marketing role allows company to set their own "identity", or something that separates them from the other manufacturers. It is about drawing the potential customers' attention to an aspect that is unique to a given company. Lavardin combines this with something outside of marketing, which is the second part of it being different from competitors – the sound delivered by their devices. This French company wants the sound of its devices to be both "tube" and "transistor" like, with emphasis on the former. The ideal feature is "focused transparency" in the midrange, reminding of "the best tube amplifiers".

Options | The ISx Reference Amplifier is a classic device designed according to the "less is more" principle. Its creators gave up almost all features that make using the device more convenient, except for the remote control. I'm pretty sure that if they could, they would get rid of it too. Since today the remote control is a standard feature they had to offer it but to stay in harmony with their conscience, they used a circuit of their own idea, which they called "Zero Side Effect Remote Volume Control".

One can order a device with one of three additional options: a phono MM preamplifier, a front panel in the red color and with a "bypass" input. Mounting inside the phonostage module means one of the line inputs - number 4 – is used for it. In the technical data we can find information that the sensitivity of this input is 2 mV, which means that it is suitable not only for classic MM cartridges with a 4-5 mV output voltage, but also for the MC HO type, usually with an output voltage of 2-3 mV.

The front panel in red looks great and I can not imagine that I could order this amplifier in black. On the pictures posted on the Internet, apart from the red front, the amplifier also has red rims of the volume and input selector knobs – the reviewed unit had these elements in silver, so I do not know which one is the actual version.

And finally you can combine this amplifier with a home theater system - optionally you can change the input number 1 into the amp in, bypassing the attenuator. I have not found any information about the sensitivity of this input. The MM and bypass inputs are characteristic for devices built not only for the European market but also for the North American one where they are considered a must have. Exactly the same reasoning was used when preparing functionalities of the Struss amplifier DM 250 (more HERE).

The tested unit was a Red Edition, i.e. with a red front panel, but without the other two options. One could argue it's the most puristic version. It's a small device, it does not warm up too much when used, so it can be placed anywhere. However, it is worth taking care of a proper anti-vibration platform - the sound will be even more focused and rich with it. During the test as a source I used the Ayon Audio CD-35 HF SACD player using the Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM interconnects, and the amplifier was powered by the Power Reference Triple-C cable from the same company. The Lavardin drove my Harbeth M40.1 loudspeakers and I have to say it was a perfect combination. So let me suggest using any "BBC" loudspeakers with it.

  • REVIEW: Lavardin Technologies IT-15 | integrated amplifier
  • REVIEW: Lecontoure Loudspeakers Stabile 210 | Lavardin Technologies Model C62 + Model AP150 + CMA317 + CML83 + CMR250 | system audio

  • Recordings used for the test (a selec- tion)

    • Puer natus est, Stile Antico, Harmonia Mundi USA HMU 807817, SACD/CD (2010)
    • Anna Essipowa, Anna Essipowa plays Chopin, Verdi-Liszt, Schumann, d’ Albert and Thalberg, „Pulpils of Leschetzky Vol. 1”, Sakuraphon SKRP-33005, CD (2015)
    • Bogdan Hołownia, Chwile, Sony Music Polska 5052882, „Pre-Mastering Version”, Master CD-R (2000)
    • Mayo Nakano Piano Trio, MIWAKU, Briphonic BRPN-7007GL, Extreme Hard Glass CD-R (2017);
    • Rammstein, Stripped, Motor Music 044 141-2, maxi single CD (1998)
    • Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio, Misty, Three Blind Mice/First Impression Music FIM SACD 062 SACD/HDCD (1974/2004)

    Japanese issues available at

    From the beginning I noticed supremacy of the melody over the rhythm, the tonality over the ultimate control with the French amplifier. It perfectly combined all these advantages into something more, which allowed music to flow without restrictions and inhibitions, which allows it to build a large, dense, powerful presentation in front of me. So Lavardin sounded incredibly "analog", because that's what this type of presentation is associated with, but also intensely.

    The intensity of such presentation is placing the foreground slightly in front of the line connecting the speakers and focusing listener's attention on this element. But it is not about highlighting the events on the axis, but rather about allowing listener to appreciate them. I noticed that already when listening to the first album with Anna Essipova's recordings from 1906-1907 transferred from rolls to the digital domain by the Japanese company Sakuraphon. The sound was, given the age of recordings, phenomenal in its truthness. But I also know that it is rather distanced and shown further away from listener than newer productions. The French amplifier brought the piano closer and enlarged it. It did not matter that it was a modification, because it allowed for great contact with both music and the musician.

    It is not that every recording sounds the same way. The tools used to create it are the same, but each album has its own sound. And when I listened to the Bogdan Hołownia's Chwile I heard the same approach as with Essipova, that is, warming up, adding layers, saturation. It sounded different, though, in a way that was appropriate for this recording, which I'd listened to hundreds of times before. The trumpet and piano were in the foreground and they were not pushed towards me. Percussion and percussion instruments placed further away by sound engineer, often behind other instruments, here were exactly there and did not lean towards the listener.

    What creates an interesting effects with albums, that are not considered “audiophile” editions, such as, for example, Stripped by Rammstein. This is the only single from the album For The Masses, where the top rock bands interpret the songs of the Depeche Mode. The recording is very compressed and quite "technical", that is, harsh. Lavardin remodeled it in such a way that it rounded the edges and warmed it up - this procedure it applies to every material. And this could sum it all up if I decided to rest with only simplifications and stereotypes. The tested amplifier is not stereotypical though, it breaks out of it quite quickly.

    It beautifully presented the main feature of such music, that is the fantastic rhythm, the pulse, the succession of events at precisely defined time intervals. It was similar with remixes of this song, including the excellent, electronic Psilonaut Mix. There was something in this music that droved it forward, thus engaging me in it. The stereotypical "tube" amplifier, regardless of whether it was built using tubes or semiconductors, usually plays quite slowly, quenching the pulse.

    Lavardin does not do it, and it seems to me a derivative of a very, very good speed of this sound. "Tube-like" is only tonality and saturation, maybe also a way of presenting the sound stage, on which what is happening at the back of the stage is not as important as what is in its front, but the micro-dynamics is not. Which is a paradox, because the "fastest" amplifiers I know are tube amplifiers, but built around 300B tubes. The ISx Reference is not as transparent or as fast, but with the tonality similar to that of KT120 and EL34 tubes, it outperforms them in terms of micro-dynamics and keeps everything in perfect order.

    This is an advantage that gives any music a value, which it lacks with many other, still great devices. In rock and electronic, it allows music to reach us with drive and power, while in jazz and classical music it brings out the speed which is hidden in the music itself. So let's play something like Misty by Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio from the First Impression Music SACD disc and we shall know that it's incredibly good recording played by fantastic musicians and including a remarkable music.

    The top of the band is maybe even most interesting. The Misty album is one of the top achievements of the Japanese art of sound recording, because of the remarkably well conveyed sound attack. Lavardin gently rounded it, but it did not slow it down - something I rarely hear. It rounded it up because it is a warm amplifier and it warms up treble. But it does not withdraw the entire treble - it was immediately clear that this recording was made on analog tape without any noise reduction system. The noise of the tape was perfectly audible in quiet passages, but it was neither emphasized nor dampened - it sounded just like form a high quality turntable.

    The only cost, a kind of "tribute", that we have to pay for such sound aesthetics, is how the low tones are formed. They are perfectly saturated, tonally rich and just nice sounding. But there will be no perfect control at the bottom, one should not expect exceptional clarity or focus. So that we understand each other - it's a refined sound and I can not hear any problems with it. But also as part of this offer, bass presentation is something that we have to get used to. Unless it's exactly what you're looking for, then there is nothing to talk about at all.


    ISx Reference in its basic form is an amplifier with no elaborated functions apart from a remote control, hat seems to be a “luxury” addition in this case. But it's not about functionality here, it's a “sound-only” amplifier. If this is a good approach for you, you will be totally happy with it. This is a device with a "soul", involving, one may even say "spiritual." It offers beautiful tonality and is incredibly fast. It produces a warm sound and the bass, though nicely extended and full, is not strongly focused. The sound stage is a derivative of the foreground and tonality. But the sound has a large volume and is powerful. A beautifully, beautifully sounding amplifier!

    The ISx Reference Red Edition from Lavardin Technologies is an integrated, solid-state amplifier with an output of as much as 50 W per channel at 8 Ω and 70 W at 4 Ω. Company materials state that at 2 Ω it reaches as much as 104 W. Its chassis is made of very thick, bent aluminum sheets, and the front is made of thick aluminum plate. The metal sheets are painted black and the front is anodized for a perfect red color. The amplifier features three rubber feet - two in the front and one in the back.

    | Front and rear

    The front in addition to the red color features also silver accents - two aluminum knobs that allow user to adjust volume and select input, as well as a plate in the middle with the company's logo and a red power LED. In the back you can see what I mentioned at the beginning, namely that small companies have to count every penny. The descriptions of inputs and outputs are placed on stickers. RCA sockets are of good quality, gold-plated with Teflon spacers, but it is also not of the top shelf. Similarly as not-gold-plated loudspeaker sockets. All connectors are placed quite close to each other, so one has to check whether plugs of one's cables are going to fit.

    Next to the sockets, you can see plugs - the amplifier uses chassis shared with other models of this company, which allows to reduce costs. It is worth paying attention to the red dot painted on the power socket – with the amplifier you will receive a phase probe that will allow you to establish which of the IEC connector pins is “hot”. Next to the socket there is a power switch – its placement might suggest that the device should be left on all the time.

    | Inside

    The electronic circuit is assembled on a single printed circuit board. This is a classic example of a system prepared by passionate people who have striven for the highest possible production efficiency and for the highest quality possible. The system is entirely composed of transistors. Finally, a complementary pairs of bipolar transistors operate in the AB-push-pull system in the Darlington TIP 147 + TIP 142 National Semiconductors circuit:

    A Darlington pair is two transistors that act as a single transistor but with a much higher current gain. This mean that a tiny amount of current from a sensor, micro-controller or similar can be used to drive a larger load.

    The same transistors work in IT models. The system is fully threaded, made of high quality components - I have not seen so many resistors in one place for a long time. All film capacitors are EVOX polypropylene capacitors.

    The transistors are fixed using elastic elements to the aluminum profile and they are not bolted. This is to help with mechanical decoupling. The aluminum profile in turn is screwed to the bottom of the chassis, which acts as a heat sink. The signal from the input sockets with short solid-core copper wires enters the PCB, and the selection of an active input is made in relays. The signal is then attenuated using the Blue Velvet Alps potentiometer. This is a motorized potentiometer - the company declares that the control system is completely "invisible" for the audio circuit.

    The transformer is hidden under an aluminum screen, and this whole part was decoupled from the chassis with rubber spacers; it was bolted from one side to the bottom and from the other to the back wall, which is to help reduce vibrations. From the transformer comes a single secondary, symmetrical winding, therefore there is one rectifier bridge – based on high-speed Schottky diodes; between the channels, only the capacitors suppressing the ripple from the power grid are separated. These are Vishay capacitors.

    | Remote

    The remote control is made by Lavardin in-house and perhaps that is why it is not particularly good looking one - it is a metal "boat" with an aluminum plate screwed from the top. Using two buttons one can adjust volume level.

    A perfectly made system with excellent components inside and good quality connectors outside. It is obvious that it is not a mass-product. But the whole makes a good impression - the amplifier look really good. This is what we expect from specialist manufacturer.

    Technical specifications (according to manufacturer)

    2 x 50W/8Ω | 2 x 70W/4Ω | 104W/2Ω
    THD: <-85dB (0.0055%)
    Input impedance: 10kΩ
    Input sensitivity: 280mV (330mV – according to manufacturer's www)
    Max. power consumption: 200W
    Dimensions (W x H x D): 430 x 85 x 346mm
    Weight: 6kg



    - Turntable: AVID HIFI Acutus SP [Custom Version]
    - Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory ZERO (mono) | Denon DL-103SA, review HERE
    - Phono stage: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE

    - Compact Disc Player: Ancient Audio AIR V-edition, review HERE

    - Line Preamplifier: Polaris III [Custom Version] + AC Regenerator, regular version review (in Polish) HERE
    - Power amplifier: Soulution 710
    - Integrated Amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE

    - Stand mount Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
    - Stands for Harbeths: Acoustic Revive Custom Series Loudspeaker Stands
    - Real-Sound Processor: SPEC RSP-101/GL
    - Integrated Amplifier/Headphone amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
    - Headphones: HIFIMAN HE-6, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-300, review HERE | Sennheiser HD800 | AKG K701, review (in Polish) HERE | Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, version 600 - reviews (in Polish): HERE, HERE, HERE
    - Headphone Stands: Klutz Design CanCans (x 3), review (in Polish) HERE
    - Headphone Cables: Entreq Konstantin 2010/Sennheiser HD800/HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE

    - Portable Player: HIFIMAN HM-801
    - USB Cables: Acoustic Revive USB-1.0SP (1 m) | Acoustic Revive USB-5.0PL (5 m), review HERE
    - LAN Cables: Acoustic Revive LAN-1.0 PA (kable ) | RLI-1 (filtry), review HERE
    - Router: Liksys WAG320N
    - NAS: Synology DS410j/8 TB
    System I
    - Interconnects: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, review HERE | preamplifier-power amplifier: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
    - Loudspeaker Cables: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review (in Polish) HERE
    System II
    - Interconnects: Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0PA | XLR-1.0PA II
    - Loudspeaker Cables: Acoustic Revive SPC-PA

    System I
    - Power Cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300, all system, review HERE
    - Power Distributor: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate, review HERE
    - Power Line: power cable Oyaide Tunami Nigo (6m); wall sockets 3 x Furutech FT-SWS (R)
    System II
    - Power Cables: Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version, review (in Polish) HERE | Oyaide GPX-R (x 4 ), review HERE
    - Power Distributor: Oyaide MTS-4e, review HERE
    - Stolik: SolidBase IV Custom, read HERE/all system
    - Anti-vibration Platforms: Acoustic Revive RAF-48H, review HERE/digital sources | Pro Audio Bono [Custom Version]/headphone amplifier/integrated amplifier, review HERE | Acoustic Revive RST-38H/loudspeakers under review/stands for loudspeakers under review
    - Anti-vibration Feets: Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc/ CD Player/Ayon Polaris II Power Supply /products under review, review HERE | Finite Elemente CeraPuc/ products under review, review HERE | Audio Replas OPT-30HG-SC/PL HR Quartz, review HERE
    - Anti-vibration accsories: Audio Replas CNS-7000SZ/power cable, review HERE
    - Quartz Isolators: Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010/CP-4

    - FM Radio: Tivoli Audio Model One