Enström & Engström’s The Lars Amplifier is named after its inventor and company founder Lars Engström. Lars was only twelve years old when he began constructing his first amplifiers. His talent for engineering nourished his ambition to create an amplifier that could produce perfectly pure sound. Now, almost 50 years and hundreds of circuit designs later, The Lars is the ultimate embodiment of his dream.
When asked what he’d like to do to improve The Lars , Lars indicated that he had worked all of his life to realize his design ambitions, and right now, he thought he had achieved everything he wanted in an amplifier. Of course, those of who know Lars’ relentless desire for perfection know that he will always be pursuing the edge of the art.
Something Old and Something New
During his exhaustive research, Lars Engström came to realize that not all old technology was obsolete. And not all new technology yielded musically satisfying results.
So his amplifier designs became an interesting blend of art and science. The trick was extracting the best of the old – the tried and true – and applying it to the latest thinking, but only when it resulted in a pure, musical result, rather than a technological triumph with boring sound.
Zero TIM and the sound of music
Influenced by the work of Dr. Matti Otala in Finland, Lars Engström was determined to eliminate the damaging effects (now known as TIM, Transient Inter Modulation distortion) of negative feedback.
Basically TIM is distortion that occurs when negative feedback is applied around a device or a circuit. The problem is that the feedback is always a tiny bit too late (or maybe a lot too late with overall global negative feedback). This a perfect example of modern design engineers embracing a technique that undoubtedly produces lower measured distortion on test signals, but plays havoc with constantly changing musical waveforms.
But prior to Otala’s ground breaking research, most engineers (and marketing departments) fully adopted negative feedback as a technique to reduce measured distortion. Sadly, many still do today.
Lars sought to design a circuit with a linear construction that amplified sound without changing it (as negative feedback always does). All the components in his designs are carefully selcted to support this linear process of amplification. Triodes, for example, are the most linear types of tubes. And tubes – those relics from a bygone era – are still the most linear amplification devices…
Only the very best is good enough for the Engström & Engström THE LARS amplifiers.
For example, its bespoke output transformer is a major contributor to the incredibly pure and dynamic sound of The Lars.
In order to avoid energy loss or other undesirable sonic influences, THE LARS uses foil capacitors exclusively. No electrolytic capacitors can be found, because none are permitted. This selection of foil capacitors is just one of countless examples of the prime components and materials that can be found throughout The Lars.
While there’s not room to mention them all, there are a few which, when combined with the other top devices and advanced design architecture, bring a new level of performance to music lovers worldwide…
An example is the special silver-plated wiring and custom silver solder that is employed throughout The Lars. Most silver-plated wire imparts a “bright” coloration to the sound. That wasn’t acceptable. We valued the resolution of such cabling, but not the coloration. After relentless development, the unique-to-E&E internal wire finally became a reality. The difference is easily heard and appreciated.
In a design that reaches for the highest level of performance, you would expect to find the highest-quality tubes. And you would be correct. But even that is not enough at Engstrom & Engstrom. Be sure to see Amplifier & Tube Break-In below.
Special C-core transformers are used for inter-stage coupling instead of capacitors. In summary, every detail and aspect of THE LARS is designed to produce the purest sound. In fact, that philosophy extends to amplifier break-in – see Amplifier & Tube Break-In below.
Amplifier & Tube Break-In
We are always amused when we hear, "Don’t even listen to the xyz amplifier for the first 500 hours. It has to break in."
Or, "Just leave your tube amp running for a couple hundred hours until the tubes break-in."
It must be said that, more often than not, there is an element of truth in these unfortunate statements. Circuit components, wire, transformers, tubes, etc., all benefit from a break-in period.
Where Engstrom & Engstrom differs is where and how the break-in process should occur.
Where - amplifier
We think it should be done at the factory, not in your home. When you receive your THE LARS amplifier, you can begin listening to the performance that you paid for right away. No need to go though hundreds of hours of break-in. We’ve done it for you.
How - amplifier
When your The Lars amplifier is completed, and it has gone through initial QC testing, it is moved to a special break-in area. Here it is subjected to hundreds of hours of on/off cycling, at random times. This is done so that the break-in is similar to what might be encountered in actual use.
A protracted running time is no real break in, not does it cycle critical parts that are needed in this process. So not only is your amplifier properly and fully broken-in, it has passed through numerous random length critical turn-on/warm-up/play/turn-off processes that any new electronic component needs to have to insure the highest reliability to the purchaser.
That’s one reason why we can confidently provide our purchasers with a Seven Year Parts (excluding vacuum tubes) and Labor Warranty, the longest in the audio industry for vacuum tube amplifiers.
Where - Tubes
We think it should be done at the factory, not in your home. We put vacuum tubes through a special break-in process. We have actually constructed a special vacuum-tube test/break-in facility, dedicated to breaking in and testing your tubes to be certain that they meet our standards.
If you buy more tubes from Engstrom & Enstrom, you can be certain that they will never be shipped until they are broken-in the proper way, insuring better sound and longer life.
How - Tubes
We never just turn them on and let them run. That thinking has been proven to be inadequate for serious vacuum-tube break-in. They go through a series of shorter cycles somewhere between a few minutes and a few hours (up to as long as four). This lengthy process ensures that the tubes have a much longer life, as well as get fully broken in. When you receive your THE LARS, all of the tubes have been fully broken in and tested. You can immediately begin to enjoy your music at a new higher level.
The appearance of The Lars amplifiers, designed by Timo Engström, originates from his desire to match pure sound quality with an equally elegant form. Timo’s inspiration came from his appreciation of classic Swedish radio and TV furniture.
Timo’s design pays homage to the Swedish tradition of creating a form to serve the function. The Lars amplifier is perhaps the ultimate expression of the Form Follows Function design philosophy.
The Lars is available in ten different finish combinations. Choose between Palisander, Ebony, Maple, Walnut, and Black Lacquer - with metalwork plated in either chrome or gold.
Timo Engstrom says,
"The glass outer mantle serves three purposes:
- It symbolizes the ability of The Lars to provide a transparent quality to voices and instruments.
- It protects the tubes, while allowing them to be visible.
- It completes the esthetic impression by balancing the heavy base with an upward flowing lightness."
The purity of The Lars’ sound is obvious upon hearing the first few notes. But pure sound has benefits beyond those of "normal" hearing/listening pleasure.
Research has shown that slight impurities in the reproduced sound of music – what scientists call 'gray sound' – irritates the mind and causes stress and fatigue. Using less-than-linear amplification devices is where gray sound begins.
Less-than-linear amplification devices need negative feedback for stability. Even most designs built around linear devices will employ negative feedback. TIM (Transient Inter Modulation) distortion (a by-product of negative feedback) is a key element of gray sound.
There is zero negative feedback and therefore zero TIM distortion in THE LARS amplifiers. Gray sound has been completely eradicated. That’s why listeners instinctively know that there is a “rightness” to the sound of The Lars.
The Bad News
Ironically, the act of listening to music to relax can amplify the very stress we want to minimize. The culprit is gray sound.
The Good News
You will never get tired or fatigued from listening to your music with The Lars amplifier. Although we’ll admit that it is hard to use The Lars Type 2 for playing background music. Interesting little details emerge that’ll have you saying “What was that?”, and the next thing you know, you’re listening intently. But that’s not a bad thing, is it?
Inputs and connectors
The Lars Type 1 has four inputs, two balanced XLR connectors and two unbalanced RCA connectors. The level attenuator and input selector are relay controlled and are maneuvered from one of the two amplifiers.
The Lars Type 2 has two inputs, one balanced XLR connector and one unbalanced RCA connector. A switch on the back of the amplifier is used to select which input connector to use.