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A visit to Lyrita Audio and hearing the gm70 & 2a3 amps

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corElement

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This has been a long time coming. On Saturday 20th October I made my way from Gurgaon to Sarita Vihar to meet Mr Viren Bakhshi, the man behind Lyrita Audio and try out some of his tube amps.

Ever since I acquired the Jamo concert 8, the fact that it is a bright speaker has been quite apparent. But at the same time it is a very transparent, fast and accurate speaker. It's bass is lean and it's tonality, sharp, some have even said electrostatic-like sound quality. The perfect recipe for disaster if not paired properly to equipment that has synergy between each other. Everyone I spoke to who had previously owned the concert 8's had told me they can take full advantage of "Dark/Norwegian" sounding amplifiers such as older Electrocompaniets or warm sound signature tubes. I had been looking for an electrocompaniet ECI 2 but have had no luck so far. The closest counterpart I could experience locally, was Virenji's highly user-acclaimed tube amps.

I've grown up listening to a Philips push pull tube amp from 1973 on HiQ 8" fullrange sealed bookshelves which contrary to what most people say about tubes, did not sound very warm. In fact it's quite bright. Because of this I knew not all tube amps sound the same. Just like solid state amps. Visiting Lyrita would give me the opportunity to experience different tubes, and so it did.

I had brought over my Concert 8 from Gurgaon and with the help of Virenji set it up. Now before I progress further I'd like to say a few things about Mr Bakhshi, who is not only a gentleman but a surprisingly "FIT" senior gentleman. He manages to lift all his heavy equipment himself without breaking a sweat and quite honestly scared the living daylights out of me when I saw him lift an entire harmony 1 speaker himself. He has maintained himself extremely well and we should all so hope to be as blessed as him at his age to be as mobile and healthy as him. I have a feeling his love for what he does is the driving force behind his good health.

Anyway back to the topic.

So here's the equipments used:

GM70 specs:
Single ended power amplifier with a power output of 20 watts, using the Russian GM70 directly heated triode. Two stage design, with a triode connected 6E5P driver tube, coupled through an interstage transformer to the GM70 output tube. Separate transformers for high voltage, for filament current, for bias voltage.

2A3 SET integrated amplifier
Single-ended triode (SET) tube amplifier, using the 2A3 directly heated triode (DHT). The entire signal in each channel passes through a single output tube, making this class A operation. The tube input stage is capacitor coupled to the driver stage, which in turn is coupled through an interstage transformer to the tube output stage. No global feedback is used. All wiring is point to point. All transformers are custom designed for this amplifier. Fixed bias is used for the output tubes. No user adjustment is required. Specifications

Input Tubes: 5687 - USA NOS (2 nos)
Output Tubes: 2A3C - Shuguang (2 nos)
Rectifier Tube: 5V4G - NOS (1 nos)

Power Output Frequency Response Distortion(THD) Mains Power
3 watts into 8 ohms 40Hz to 20kHz < 1% 230V/50Hz,250W(max

Jamo concert 8:
Tweeter T25 Sonotex (inch/mm) 1 / 25 Ferro Fluid cooled
Seas Excel custom w17e002 Woofer (inch/mm) 6.5 / 165 Solid copper phase plug cooled
Sensitivity (dB - 2,8V / 1m) 90
Frequency range (Hz) 38 - 22000
Cross-over frequency (Hz) 2500
Impedance (Ohm) 4
Dimensions HxWxD 14.96x9.65x12.20

Chain:
Jamo Concert 8
Lyrita Speaker cable
Lyrita GM70 integrated with preamp bypassed / 2a3
Lyrita IC
Lyrita Lync preamplifier
Lyrita IC
Duma DAC
USB
Lenovo x220

Music played
- Dave Brubeck : Timeout (Jazz with Good recording)
- Dire Straits : Sultans of Swing (Rock with Good recording)
- Vangelis : Blade runner OST (Electronic with very dry recording)
- The ventures : Joy (Western oldie with bad recording)
- Love Story OST : Skating in Central Park (Western classical with dry/flat recording)
- Supercar : Storywriter (Japanese pop with sharp and well balanced recording)
- Lion King OST (Very very dry recording)

---------------

Review

After listening to some tracks on the GM70, the impression I got was that it sounded a lot like my Cambridge Audio Azur 840a. Which only further confirmed what I've always said about the 840a being a neutral amp on the warmer side. However after the sound sank into me, I started to notice the minor differences. The sound was more round, compact, cohesive was the word I used to describe it to Virenji. It was everything the ca840 was offerring me but without the rough edges. Now, here's a little interesting curveball. While the rough edges of the ca840a sounded rounded out on the gm70 and smoother, the GM70 on certain songs also lost certain details which the 840a did manage to reveal thanks to those rough edges to certain sounds.

The sound was not as warm as I hoped it to be however it was definitely warm. Warm enough to not sound harsh on the Jamo's (Because they sound VERY harsh on anything that's not warm). And because I know Lyrita interconnects are bright cables, changing them out for warmer cables like my Bogdan Audio Goldy's would further add to balancing the GM70 with the concert 8's (Yes it's that bright). I didn't physically do that because I know it would do the job. So overall, I felt like I was listening to a sister amp of the ca 840a which was very reassuring to me, some songs were better some songs were not, it was a 50/50 call for me.

Verdict: The GM70 with it's 20watts in Class A is capable of driving almost majority of under 200w 87db+ sensitivity speakers and sounds better than almost every solid state I've heard under 1 lakh capabale of driving medium loads. We didn't have to go beyond 30% to drive my 4ohm 90db jamos to very loud volumes. I seriously recommend everyone planning to buy an amp under 1 lakh to blindly consider the GM70 integrated if your speakers are around 90db @ 8ohms and under 130w. However I will not recommend pairing it with warm sounding speakers. But overall, the sound quality of the GM70 amp from lyrita is "neutral without the dry harshness of the majority of solid state neutral"

Now it was time to try something I was not sure if it would work out. Pairing the concert 8's to the 3watt 2a3 SET amp. Everything in the chain was the same, just the gm70 amp was swapped for a 2a3 poweramp. Was a bit hesitant about the 2a3's being able to drive the jamos.

The reason why I even wanted to try it was because from what I knew, the 1st watt on the SET is around 40-50db, the 2nd watt around 20-25db and the 3rd watt around 10-12, which just about falls short of the 90db mark the jamo's are specified at. But anyway we powered it up and started increasing the volume slowly from 0 on the knob and..... to my surprise the Jamo's actually opened up around 50% so I kept increasing but the volume didn't increase all that much at 75%, but when I pushed it from 75% to 100% the sound started to soft clip. So we went back to 50%, I realized my assumption of the db levels turned out to be relatively accurate. 2 watts was enough to juuuuuuuuust about fill the room on the 90db 4ohm 120w speaker.

Now it was time to sit down and listen properly. So stopped whatever was playing and started afresh.

Where should I start... the 2a3...

the 2a3 sounds NOTHING like the GM70 or any other amplifier I've heard. The midrange on the 2a3 is like a knife carving through butter. Oh what a beautiful sound on the Jamos. The default brightness of the jamos were still present but it had become a part of the music. The highs and mids had become as one in synergy. I got goosebumps from how lavish and rich the sound was compared to my 840a and the gm70.

But where it excelled in buttery midrange and twinkly highs, it was unable to control the lower frequencies like the gm70. The lack of low control is partially due to the fault of both the amp and the speaker.

I feel the amp has the potential to control bass better, but it's limited by it's hardware. As Virenji explained to me before, SET topologies are very transformer quality oriented. I would not be surprised if FM Prem noticed the same and it was the reason why he went out of his way to arrange for custom nickel transformers to be used in his 2a3 SET's. Because the sound of the 2a3 is absolutely FABULOUS, if it's shortcomings were overcome through the use of his transformers, this amp will leapfrog over almost everything under 3 lakhs when it comes to sound quality.

And as for the speakers fault, my speaker is at the orbiting boundaries of the 2a3's capability. 90db 4ohm is not very efficient compared to the speakers people normally drive 2a3 SET amps on (96 / 99db) But I have a feeling with better transformers it may have been able to do the full job with driving the Jamos. Regardless of the shortcomings, the midrange on the 2a3 is just something one has to hear to believe. Paired with high efficiency drivers where bass comes easier, it would be truly quite a combo.

And I would say it's best paired with bright to neutral or neutral to warm speakers, but not warm speakers. Heard the 2a3's connected to lyrita Harmony 1's. I felt the pairing was not as good as the pairing of the 2a3's with Viren's horn loaded eminence compression driver + 12" eminence woofer based speakers and my Jamo concert 8 speakers.

There was a lack of transparency in the sound of the Harmony 1's. Whatever it was playing, it was quite a musical enjoyable experience but there was definitely a lack of transparency. It may be because the warm+warm signature is a bit too dampening. My gut says the fostex 167 driver is the culprit here, the fostex 126 will likely fare better with the 2a3 considering it's known to be more revealing than the 167 series.

This might also explain why a lot of people find the Harmony 1's a more enjoyable experience with tripath topping amps against the 2a3's. Where the neutrality of the topping balances out the excessive warmth of the harmony 1's for a better synergy.

*Edit: I'd like to add what Avid said below about this combo 2a3+harmony 1 being Genre governed. Meaning if you listen to indian classicals, ghazals etc this combo then works out. But would not say it's an all round combo.

But if whoever is reading this can get their hands on a good fullrange driver or relatively efficient 2 way speakers OR have the money to upgrade the default transformers on the 2a3, you CANNOT go wrong with them with the above circumstances. It is a sleeping GIANT!

----------

As for what did I gain out of this?

My curiosity to hear what the jamos sound like on tubes was finally satisfied, and my faith in the Cambridge audio azur 840a rekindled. It may not be perfect, but it's a decent match with the concert 8's when paired with the interconnects I specifically chose for the task. The midrange from the 2a3 is stuck in my heart, it is definitely the way to go if I ever decide to get that sound, even with it's shortcomings it's still worth it.

- corElement
 
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avidyarthy

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...... and I kinda liked the 2A3 with Harmony 1 the most, compared to 'his' rest .. err .. whatever I have heard. Definitely leaving aside the inherent weakness on the 'slightly less' low frequencies on this combo, I have reasons to believe it is more genre governed.
 

corElement

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Yes, I think you have worded it better. That combo is definitely genre governed. I can definitely see Indian classical and open recordings sounding nice and full on that combo.
 

avidyarthy

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Yes, I think you have worded it better. That combo is definitely genre governed. I can definitely see Indian classical and open recordings sounding nice and full on that combo.

......... sounding the best on that combo .... (to my ears :)). Them are not all-rounders ... thats the sore part!
 

srinisundar

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Nice review core and good that you have written it from your heart without hiding any shortfall:cool:
 

gobble

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As for what did I gain out of this?

My curiosity to hear what the jamos sound like on tubes was finally satisfied, and my faith in the Cambridge audio azur 840a rekindled. It may not be perfect, but it's a decent match with the concert 8's when paired with the interconnects I specifically chose for the task. The midrange from the 2a3 is stuck in my heart, it is definitely the way to go if I ever decide to get that sound, even with it's shortcomings it's still worth it.

- corElement

My strong hunch is that pairing a good tube preamp like the Grounded Grid will remove the harshness you are experiencing with the 840a and it will remove the one fault you find with it.

--G0bble
 

corElement

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My strong hunch is that pairing a good tube preamp like the Grounded Grid will remove the harshness you are experiencing with the 840a and it will remove the one fault you find with it.

--G0bble

No way to use the 840a as a power amp / bypassing it's preamp sadly =\
 
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viren bakhshi

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Hello corElement,

It was great having you over! And, listening to a different pair of speakers helps put some perspective to my own listening.

As you found out, the power game is often overplayed. Specs don't really explain how an amp-speaker combination will play. The only way to know is to listen to them.

Music at home is meant to be enjoyed - just as we enjoy listening to a live concert. The way to do it is to build a music system that has the synergy to bring that emotional enjoyment. Musical tone is one of the important aspects of live sound. The music system has to reproduce that well - and that goes for each component. If one component is flawed (the speakers have a bright balance), putting a system together becomes a difficult task. You will always be hunting for the matching component.

In my opinion, cables should be the last resort in fine tuning a system. All components should offer a balanced sound to start with - if cables are used to balance the sound, then both are coloured.

Tone - vocal or musical sound, of a specific quality / accent or inflection expressive of a mood or emotion.

When you get the tone right in your home music system, you come closer to that live sound. It's a term far more expressive than "warm, or cold, or neutral". When it's there, you react instinctively to it, and get immersed in the music.

All I can say, is that I attempt to get you there, with Lyrita's music systems.

Regards,
Viren
 

GeorgeO

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I think we folks in India who don't have the kind of choices that people in the West are used to having, owe Viren big time for making this kind of gear available to Indian buyers. One can see, audition and then decide on a range of amps, preamps and speakers, which in the past was very restricted.
Thanks Viren.
 

corElement

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Hello corElement,

It was great having you over! And, listening to a different pair of speakers helps put some perspective to my own listening.

As you found out, the power game is often overplayed. Specs don't really explain how an amp-speaker combination will play. The only way to know is to listen to them.

Music at home is meant to be enjoyed - just as we enjoy listening to a live concert. The way to do it is to build a music system that has the synergy to bring that emotional enjoyment. Musical tone is one of the important aspects of live sound. The music system has to reproduce that well - and that goes for each component. If one component is flawed (the speakers have a bright balance), putting a system together becomes a difficult task. You will always be hunting for the matching component.

In my opinion, cables should be the last resort in fine tuning a system. All components should offer a balanced sound to start with - if cables are used to balance the sound, then both are coloured.

Tone - vocal or musical sound, of a specific quality / accent or inflection expressive of a mood or emotion.

When you get the tone right in your home music system, you come closer to that live sound. It's a term far more expressive than "warm, or cold, or neutral". When it's there, you react instinctively to it, and get immersed in the music.

All I can say, is that I attempt to get you there, with Lyrita's music systems.

Regards,
Viren

It was wonderful to finally meet you and hear your work!
I was absolutely bowled over by the 2a3's!

As for the cables, I agree. They were my 2nd last resort.

My personal belief and preference which does not have to apply to others, is that everything is coloured, in their own respect. Beyond a certain minimum quality standard, we just have to find the right components that offer a synergy suitable to our individual tonal preference.

And without a doubt, your gear at Lyrita, specifically the amps and preamps, leapfrog over almost any budget (By budget I mean around the 1 lakh mark) consumer gear available in the market today. Everyone buying KEF q300's and Dali ikon 2's or Epos epics or Jamo concert 603's or any other 2 way with medium loads NEEDS to hear the Lyrita gm70's and 2a3's before buying some other amplifier. ESPECIALLY if excellent music sound quality and tonality is the requirement.
 
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prem

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Hi Corelement/Avidyarthy


Most of the shortcomings of the 2A3 are overcome with better quality transformers in the chain. The Harmony 1 again has limited bandwidth. When you listen to a high bandwidth 2A3 amp with a high bandwidth single driver, most of the problem areas get sorted out.
 
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