I always enjoy finding new elaborations on product categories that seem well traveled. About halfway into the Los Angeles show, meet organizer and colleague Warren Chi pulled me aside with one of his classic “you gotta see this” looks.
What happened next all starts with Steve from TheAudioNerd.com. Steve is a very likable guy with an infectious smile. He also runs a retail shop and site that offers a fine selection of brands including the easily identifiable orange Carrot series of budget, single tube, compact headphone amplifiers. In a similar fashion he was also showing off a new tube amp from a New Zealand company called Lampert that felt much in the same tone with its single 12AU7 vacuum tube pre stage and class A power stage SE amplification. The “Small Wonder” series Play It By Ear has a very small form factor that really opens up desktop space and possibilities for computer-driven work or home office rigs.
Now anyone who follows this site will know that we often put a small emphasis on desktop components with exceptional form factors. Maybe its just the extended amounts of time spent we actually spend at a desk thinking about the subject, but many of our readers fall into this fun, near-field category as much as a the big dedicated listen rooms or full fledged head fi rigs. It could almost be viewed a required second rig for those who share a passion for either of the latter categories. Where does the Lambert story lead us? Perhaps on to the next evolution of the desktop hifi rig. Laying inconspicuously next to the Play It By Ear was a series of separate components that shared a similar ascetic feel and from factor.
What you see in the picture above is desktop-friendly, full rig of component separates. This little setup features a miniature power conditioner and even mono blocks. And not just baby mono blocks, mono blocks rated with 100w of power. In theory they could be big enough to power even full size speakers, controlled from a desktop perch. While diving into the whole rig may end up landing near the cost of a respectable gathering of full size gear, the breakdown of individual components fairs pretty well on an individual basis.
The pre is called “Control” runs roughly $600. The simple layout of the front panel allow access to the sources 3 single ended analog outputs and also bluetooth 4.0 connectivity.
The middle amplifier here is called the “The Force” and retails for $700. The amplifier features two channel duties with 50w of power into each channel and includes a subwoofer pre out which can be used with the matching “Bottom Line” sub.
The setup on display was rounded out by a corresponding 2.1 loudspeaker package that includes a subwoofer and desktop friendly satellites costing roughly $3k. Perhaps one of the most interesting things to this reviewer was the mono blocks however. Very small, very unique with enough juice (on paper) to power some serious loudspeakers. The “Full Force” mono blocks run $650 a piece.
The desktop applications for a mono block setup that can fit in your hand really opens up the possibilities for many of the popular DAC combos currently on the market. A strong output from a well done mono could be a fine complement to the great set of $2000+ range DAC/PRE categories that contains the likes of the Auralic Vega, Benchmark DAC Series, Grace 920 and others.
The headphone amplifier is already available but Steve let met know that the prices are still in flux and things may change as the get closer to a launch date. Lambert is even considering going with the crowd funding approach so some availability to lower price points might not be off the table just yet.