Preamplifiers

Funk LAP-2.V3 Preamplifier

ARTICLE INDEX

The Funk LAP-2.V3 Preamplifier In Use

The review unit was sent to me from another reviewer, and so it didn't need to be broken in before the evaluation period. I still put it through normal daily use for two weeks before I started my critical listening.

My subjective evaluation of this preamp was largely based on listening to digital media over my Oppo BDP-83SE. This was the best source I had on hand at the time and offers the highest probability to pinpoint the sonic character of the Funk Tonstudiotechnik LAP-2.V3. Plus, the Oppo has a variable analog out, so I was able to compare the sound of the Funk versus a direct feed from the Oppo to my power amp.

I listened to numerous CD's and SACD's during the review period. I also watched several Blu-ray movies, listening to the high resolution PCM 2.0 track when available or downmixed to 2 channels from the lossless surround sound track on discs that do not have a 2-channel track. My setup included an SVS SB 13 Ultra subwoofer that I have in for review. This sealed sub has a 13.5" driver, a 1,000 watt RMS amp and a dual band parametric EQ. I dialed in the EQ and wound up with very flat response from the main listening seat (± 3 dB, 20 Hz - 80 Hz). So the system was set up and primed for optimal performance throughout the audible spectrum.

I wanted to mention the subwoofer here because the Funk's bass response on jazz, rock, and pop had a full, round and addictive quality. There was no trace of compression or smoothing of the bass, and the notes were rendered with natural harmonics. The synergy between the SVS sub and the Funk preamp was plainly heard. It was most apparent on discs with lively bass lines such as the Steely Dan "Gaucho" SACD.

It wasn't just the bass that impressed me but also the mid and upper ranges. This disc came through with no perceptible grain – the Funk preamp passed the extremely smooth output of the Oppo. The channel separation was also excellent, with pinpoint placement of musicians. But, when pushed too hard, the backup singers tended to smear into a single mass. Be that as it may, the most endearing quality of the LAP-2.V3 was its surprising rhythmic qualities. Take "My Rival" and its syncopated beat for example. Through the Funk, all the sound was in perfect synchrony. This little preamp's phase integrity offered pacing beyond reproach.

I don't want this to sound overly cliché, but the Funk proved to be so transparent, that I was having a hard time describing any sort of a sonic signature. The 2012 Blu-ray of The Lorax is a case in point. I watched this whole movie, planning to use it as the basis to describe the sound of the Funk. Later, when I was going through my listening notes, this is what I found, "Clean, dynamic, extended, timbrally accurate, channel separation, transient speed, Foley effects, bass response, harmonies, musical score." It was nothing more than a complete list of everything that sounded right over the Funk LAP-2.V3, and which I look for in various audio products that I review!

So, I had to get back to some pure music listening if I were going to characterize this little component. That's when I fired up my Neil Diamond Hot August Night/NYC. This Blu-ray was filmed live at Madison Square Garden in 2008. It is a very satisfying production that features an artist who sings with so much joy and love in everything he performs. The adoring audience is so enamored with the performance, that every last individual in the massive crowd winds up on their feet by the midpoint of the closing medley of his classic hits.

The very familiar and distinctive quality of Diamond's voice was unfettered during "Love on the Rocks". There was a pleasing frequency balance from the low bass all the way up through the highest octaves on "Pretty Amazing Grace". Then the horns on "Solitary Man" were right in front of me with excellent presence and spacing.

The Funk LAP-2.V3 never introduced any trace of an unpleasant sound. There was simply no harshness of any kind. I pulled the LAP-2.V3 out of the system and fed the amps directly off the Oppo BDP-83SE pre-outs for a few songs on Hot August Night to make a direct comparison. This experiment confirmed that there was no audible insertion loss with the Funk LAP-2.V3 in the system – nearly pure transparency was achieved.

After such a stirring performance from the Funk LAP-2.V3 as a linestage, I was very excited to give its headphone output a run for the money. But I was sadly disappointed in the performance I heard. Matching headphones with an amplifier can be akin to mating low efficiency speakers with low output triode amps – the proof is in the pudding. You can't always go off the specifications. The true test of a good match comes in the listening.

I started my evaluation of the Funk's headphone stage by listening to a pair of Audeo PFE 232. These dual armature earbuds are rated at 47 ohm nominal. Auditioning the Redbook CD of Amy Winehouse – Lioness, Hidden Treasures, I honestly thought there was something wrong with the earbuds or the CD at first. It was overly bright and clinical sounding, particularly over these low impedance buds.

So then I tried the Funk with a pair of 300 ohm Sennheiser HD 800's. These are very revealing headphones. Even into these higher impedance phones, the signal overloaded on crescendos. The bass was lean and detached, leaving a grainy and bright presentation overall. So, it was as if the headphone stage is there to help with record monitoring, but passes along very little information as to the quality of the recording. Bear in mind that the newer production models are claimed to output twice the current of my review unit.