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Abbingdon Music Research LS-77 Reference Class Monitor Review

Chris Redmond's special report on this reference class professional monitor

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AMR LS77 Monitor

After listening to the AMR CD-77 for what must be the best part of a year, then the matching AM-77 amplifier and before the addition of the LS-77 monitors completed the trilogy, I’d anticipated this final review was going to be particularly straightforward, as the only ‘work’ involved was the actual writing. All evaluation was done and dusted so no more humping equipment up and down the thirteen stone steps to the bedroom system and no more physical contortions required around the back of the equipment rack to replace power-cords, interconnects or speaker cable. All I would need to do was relax in the recliner with lap top and a glass of wine, while recalling my experiences since that first shady looking transferral of a flight-case containing the CD-77 from the back of one vehicle to another in a pub car park many moons ago.

Yes, it should have been so simple, but, as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men….

Abbingdon Music Research AMR LS77 Speaker System

It’s the last week in December 2008 and there’s a phone call from Vincent Luke (aka Vince) of AMR which I’d been expecting since earlier communications. He explained that Thorsten Loesch, designer for AMR and general head honcho, was over here in the UK and had brought a new AM-77.1 in titanium finish to replace the resident champagne gold AM-77 veteran, along with one or two bits and bobs needed to update my own CD-77 to near-as-damn-it the latest 77.1 spec. Not all the updates are retro-fittable by the way, so existing owners of earlier CD-77s/AM-77s might be as well contacting their AMR dealer to see which, if any updates they can get.

The details of what went on during Thorsten and Vince’s visit, besides the audio related matters, shall remain secret. Suffice to say it involved pythons, strippers, a politician, copious amounts of vodka and the bribing of a police officer; I knew the politician would come in handy, I just wish he’d not used my money to do the bribing.

Back to reality however, and the result of updates which took almost an hour in total to fit (complete circuit boards were replaced rather than individual components) was that a spanner had been thrown into the works of the AMR system review, and in fact the earlier reviews of the CD-77 and AM-77 should be viewed as references only for anyone buying a used AMR CD-77 or AM-77 as things have moved on a little for the latest models. Simply put, the system I’m listening to now is significantly better than before, and when the system as it stood was exceptional at the price, in fact regardless of price, you can imagine what level of performance I believe AMR have now reached.

In the AM-77 review, I compared it to my Border patrol SET amp which should have been the kiss of death, but was more a congratulatory pat on the back. The AM-77 was more than a lush push-pull soundalike and got closer to SET than I could have reasonably expected, and all with speakers that would have had even the Border Patrol with its off board power supply ready to wave the white flag.

Impressive stuff indeed, but for someone who is now well and truly converted to SETs with a born again fanaticism, still no cigar, which in a way I’ll admit was quite reassuring as it reinforced my belief that SETs – the best SETs at least – had a certain something that could not be replicated elsewhere. Something which meant the cost of replacing 300Bs, the lack of power and hence the limited choice of worthwhile speakers.

AMR LS77 Monitor front viewBefore venturing further I should reiterate that both CDP and amp were upgraded at the same time so it isn’t the case I can specify what percentage of the improvements is attributable to the CD-77 and what is attributable to the AM-77. What I can say is that previously the bass of the amp was musical and defined, but perhaps not as hard hitting as I’d have expected from an 180wpc design which possessed such substantial power-supplies. No such reservations now however. Synthesised bass lines demonstrate that the system is going deeper, yes, yet of far more relevance is the increased attack and ‘thwack’ of drum kits in the upper-bass and a more authoritative grip allied to increased resolution at all frequencies.

The CD-77 never had any problems with bass depth and control of it’s bass before, and in fact it was widely accepted to be particularly strong in this regard, so logic suggests the AMR system’s turbo-charging in this area is primarily down to the amp. For anyone wondering why there has been virtually no mention of the LS-77 loudspeakers up to now, it can be regarded as a compliment that their contribution to the system has remained so anonymous in my musings.

The fact is, the LS-77 Monitors do the job they were intended to do so efficiently I’m probably guilty of taking them for granted since they migrated downstairs; for a few frustrating weeks, upstairs was a different kettle of fish.
First impressions when used upstairs certainly weren’t favourable as there was a certain edge/harshness to vocals which no amount of messing around by me could quite eliminate, yet the reference Dynaudio Contour 1.3 Mk2s sang very sweetly and had me scratching my head in
bewilderment. The LS-77s have user-interchangeable resistors for the crossover, accessed by removing four screws and a small backplate from the rear of the speaker, but none of the three available values seemed to cure the problem. At one stage I was even using the speakers upside down to have the isoplanar high frequency driver more in line with my ears, which did noticeably improve matters, yet recommending the LS-77s to anyone other than an audio masochist seemed a long way off.

Something I could alter for the better without such puzzlement was the décor and layout of the living room, and completion of the renovation finally enabled installation of the system downstairs, complete with dedicated Kimber Kable wired mains spur, solid asphalt floor (as opposed to wooden sprung upstairs) and a reclining settee to park my backside on while listening rather than being perched on the edge of the bed. This would give me a chance to experiment more with the resistors, positioning, stands, cables et cetera, to see if the LS-77’s very slight – but for me fatal – issue could be improved or solved.

Now I’m not sure how many I speak for here, but there’s something very satisfying about assembling a full audio system from the ground up, checking all the parts, making new connections, arranging cabling, levelling the rack(s) and speakers etc. It’s probably a guy-thing and yes, I did have Lego when I was a kid before progressing to Mechano….(Me, too! Mom still keeps my whole bucket of it around her home and let my nephew play with it whenever he’s visiting. –Ed.)

A recent acquisition from China was a ‘Spider’ rack, which I’m assuming is a copy of the original German design. I’m genuinely not sure as the build is faultless; instead of having shelves, the rack uses four horizontal supporting legs for each component. Hard to describe so I’ll submit a photo or two to Constantine which should demonstrate how the rack compliments the AMR equipment perfectly, and is also the only rack I’ve had which could accommodate the PS Audio P600 power regenerator anywhere other than the top shelf. The system is duly assembled with the rear of the speakers exactly twelve inches from the rear wall and six feet apart centre to centre, toed in but not quite facing me in my seat which forms the venerable equilateral triangle with the speakers.

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