Integrated Amplifiers

Lindemann 882 Stereo Integrated Amplifier

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Unfortunately, due to the short time I had the 882, I was not able to run the normal bench tests I usually do, so my impressions of the product will be entirely based on how the amp sounds. Luckily, the 882 sounded exceptionally good, as it should for fifteen thousand clams. Just how good? Well, the 882 got the best overall sound quality out of my venerable Gallo Reference 3.1s I have ever heard. Even better than with the DEQ-X room correction processor, although I do live in a new house that is acoustically much better than my previous place. Lots of audiophiles believe sound quality is all in the speakers. I even would have bought into this, or at least said the speakers were the primary driver for a system's sound quality. The Lindemann turned that assumption on its head for me a little bit. With the 882 replacing my normal separate preamp and power amps, not only did the sound quality improve, it sounded like I had a whole new (and much better) system. I know this is an audio cliché, but I'm sorry. This time it was true. The 882's improved performance found its way into every part of the music. In fact, that was the most impressive part of the 882: its coherence.

What I mean by that is the 882 raised the bar in every nuance of its presentation, without any one part being better or worse than other parts. Lots of components have particularly good imaging or soundstaging or timbral presentation. The 882 has particularly good everything. I think one of the key reasons for this across the board improvement is the spectacularly low level of perceived noise. The background of the 882 seemed as black as I have ever heard, both in static terms (background noise level), and even more importantly in dynamic terms. Compared to the 882, my reference Emotiva RSP-1 and XPA-1s seemed to smear the start and stop of every transient, making the sound seem muddled and messy by comparison. The ability of the 882 to transition from inky silence to a sharp transient and then back to silence is a key part of the amazing detail I was able to hear.

The black background combined with the amazing dynamic agility brought out some completely new abilities that my Gallos had never shown before. I had always been able to hear soundstage depth, but what the 882 brought to the table was the ability to present the most realistic, three-dimensional images I have ever heard in my room. On good recordings, like Jon Faddis' 24 bit 96 kHz Remembrances, every instrument had its own 3-dimensional location in the soundstage, with the depth dimension every bit as well defined as the lateral dimensions. On top of that, each image was uniquely three-dimensional: Faddis' flugelhorn was a different size from the piano, the bass and the drums. In fact, each part of the drum kit had it's own three-dimensional shape, size and position in the sound stage. This presentation was amazingly precise and repeatable. Initially, I didn't believe it. I had to re-play sections of tracks, move a bit in the sweet spot and convince myself I wasn't imagining it. I didn't think changing the preamp and amp could do this. It can.

The detail presented in each one of those images was also quite amazing. Not just the timbre and tone of the sound, but its texture was there. What I mean by that was the ability to extract those time dependent details that allow you to "feel" the sound. Examples from Faddis' album are the slight bubbly liquid sound you get from a brass instrument when the player's lips are just a bit too moist and they're playing quietly, the texture of brushes moving across a cymbal or the sound of a bass player's fingers moving along the textured string. When a system reproduces these sounds right, I get a chill of déjà vu style reality that is almost scary. The Lindemann 882 allowed my relatively pedestrian Gallo 3.1s to do the job. No other electronics have been able to do the same. The 882 also brought some of its magic to less well-done recordings, which is also something I didn't expect. Usually, components that can reveal amazing detail are not kind to poor recordings, or even mediocre ones. The 882 certainly didn't do any favors to truly terrible recordings (like a MP3 only version of MC 900 Ft. Jesus' "One Step Ahead of the Spider" I have). This sounded every bit as dynamically flat and artificial as you'd think, but still managed to be more three-dimensional than before.

One of my favorite albums I love to complain about in reviews is Bebel Gilberto's "Tanto Tempo Remixes." I love the music on this album, but complain about the flat, overproduced recordings that steal away some of the excitement from the music. On my Denon AH-D7000 headphones there's some excitement still there, but through the normal system the sound was always disappointingly uninvolving. The 882 took care of that issue, presenting sharp 3D detailed images that took away some of the spatial flatness. The ability to sharpen up transients and preserve the silence between notes dramatically improved the sound of this album. The result was an album that I listened to all the way through with a smile on my face. It's like it got re-recorded.

One area where I was expecting the 882 to do less well was in the bass. My normal amps are Emotiva XPA-1 monoblocks that are conservatively rated at 500W into 8 ohms. They actually deliver 680W into 8 ohms and 1100W into 4. I was expecting that this firepower would generate control and impact in the bass that the 882 couldn't match. That turned out to be not the case. One of the signs of bass control for me is the sharpness of transient attacks in the bass. One of the things the XPA-1 brought to my system was very good transient sharpness in the bass that was able to deliver really powerful dynamic contrast.

This is something that makes music sound real and exciting for me. The 882 gave up absolutely nothing to the twice as powerful XPA-1s. If anything, the performance was elevated by the 882s ability to reveal hidden textures and details in the bass that were slightly veiled with the XPA-1s. This effect might not necessarily be due to the bass performance, but to superior reproduction of sounds at other frequencies that go along with the bass (like the sound of fingers on a bass string, or better reproduction of higher order overtones and harmonics in electronic music).

The final element of the Lindemann 882s sound I found truly transformative is something a little harder to explain or easily put your finger on. I also expect it is something almost impossible to measure, since I'm not sure anyone understands what causes it. I'm sure most everyone reading this has heard bad digital sound. Whether it's a crappy, high jitter CD player or a low bit rate MP3, digital harshness sounds like an uncomfortable pressure on your ears. Pressing "stop" relieves that pressure. Over time, that glare results in listener fatigue or even headaches.

It's also something you don't typically notice specifically until it is taken away. Switching from my Emotiva components to the 882 resulted in the same reduction of "pressure" and an added sense of ease and relaxation that was truly remarkable. I could listen longer and be more relaxed and at ease while listening to my system powered by the 882 than ever before. This isn't to say that my normal equipment is somehow full of glare and hardness, because it's not. The 882, however, was able to offer an improvement in this regard I've never heard with any component in my listening room, speaker, electronics or otherwise.