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This review first appeared in the September 2010 issue of hi-end hifi magazine High Fidelity of Poland. You can also read this review of the Linear Audio Research IA-30T in its original Polish version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with publisher Wojciech Pacula. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of High Fidelity or LAR - Ed.

Reviewer: Wojciech Pacuła
CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Air 
Phono preamp: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC
Cartridges: Air Tight Supreme, Miyajima Laboratory Waza
Preamp: Ayon Audio Polaris III with ReGenerator II power supply
Power amp: Tenor Audio 175S and Soulution 710
Integrated amp: Leben CS300XS custom
Loudspeakers: Harpia Acoustics Dobermann
Headphones: AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro 600 Ω
Interconnects: CD-preamp Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, preamp-power amp Wireworld Platinum Eclipse, speaker cable Tara Labs Omega Onyx
Power cords: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300 (all equipment)
Power conditioning: Gigawatt PF-2 Filtering Power Strip
audio stand: Base under all components, Pro Audio Bono under CD
Resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under the CD, turntables change continuously
Review component retail: 6.990zł in Poland

I’ve chronicled the Linear Audio Research company from its very launch when Mr. Eugeniusz Czyżewski decided to commercialise the manufacture of components he initially made for friends, mostly musicians (a short biography can be found in my review of his Nazca v2 amplifier here). Initially LAR was called Orlik. However another company already used that name so Linear Audio Research it soon became, a much better name in my opinion. I encountered their first AI-45 integrated amplifier for Sound and Vision. It followed the request of a recording studio and was based on their A-45 power amplifier. Mr. Czyżewski is an electronics engineer who for many years worked at the Politechnika Wrocławska where he gained his Ph.D in technical science before contracting for the military. This connection implies high standards on safety, reliability, craftsmanship and performance. Here was a man with a good technical education and experience of projects that require precision and a solid measurement foundation. Interestingly then, the AI-45 was a tube amplifier at least in its output stage where common knowledge holds that tubes may sound lovely but don’t measure too well.

Why then would someone with a background in exacting measurements—for whom noise should be the devil incarnate, harmonic distortion his concubine and hum their bastard offspring—want to author a tube amp? Many possible answers suggested themselves but likely none exhausted the true reason. Perhaps he answered to specifications from the recording studio where many engineers and musicians are fond of valves?

Maybe it was the challenge of a difficult design proposition where most makers go easy on measured perfection (with the notable exception of Canor whose TP-106 VR+ amplifier measured spot on)? Or perhaps it was a personal conviction that a tube is the most suitable amplification element for hifi purposes? That last assumption would seem supported by the fact the Mr. Eugeniusz’ personal amplifier are his own Linear Audio Research Nazca v2 monos which run 845s in their output stage.

Incidentally the IA-30T didn’t start life as it is now. In the well-written owner’s manual we learn that "the signal path of both channels relies on vacuum tubes exclusively. The input selection is by sealed contactron relays with gold-plated contacts placed close to the inputs. The amplifier uses two E82CC input tubes, two ECC83 drivers and four EL34 in push/pull."

Contactrons are probably the very best albeit expensive switching elements and also championed by McIntosh and ASR for example. They are ultra reliable with splendid electrical specifications. In 20 years they will work as well as today. The same combination of tubes already figured in the very first LAR amplifier, the A-45. Today’s preamp stage is the novelty. Measurements and logic would suggest that transistors are preferable and ICs best. That was the precise thinking in the AI-45 and its MkII version to make for somewhat unusual because hybrids which usually rely on valves in the preamp stage and solid-state devices in the output. As a result of circuit analysis and its requirements rather than an inverted fashion statement, LAR was different by taking into account real needs rather than traditional preferences. KR Audio’s Kronzilla SXI-S follows a similar path but such transistor/tube hybrids are rare [Nagra’s new 300B amps are another such exception – Ed].

What drove Mr. Czyżewski to go all tube now? Again there are a few possible answers. Speculating I’d say it was probably what music lovers and audiophiles expect as his hybrid approach must have seemed alien to them because they view as a proper tube amp only one that’s tube from beginning to end. Or the designer from Kamieniec simply came up with a valve voltage gain stage which more satisfied him more on sound and the test bench than his previous transistor solution?

Discs used for reviewing - Akiko Grace, Illume, JRoom/Columbia Music Entertainment, COCB-53546, CD; Ben Heit Quartet, Magnetism, Acousence Records/Linn Records, ACO80108, 24/192, FLAC 24/192; Clifford Brown and Max Roach, Study In Brown, EmArcy/Universal Music Japan, UCJU-9072, 180g LP; Frank Sinatra, I Remember Tommy, Reprise/Universal Music Japan/Sinatra Society of Japan, UICY-94599, SHM-CD; Jim Hall, Live!, Horizon/A&M Records/Universal Music Japan, UCCM-9225, CD; King Crimson In The Court Of The Crimson King, Discipline/Universal Music Japan, UICE-9051, HDCD; Kings of Leon, Only By The Night, RCA/BMJ Japan, BVCP-40058, CD; Laurie Anderson, Homeland, Nonesuch, 524055-2, CD+DVD; Maria Callas, Maria Callas Live, EMI Classic, 3 31461 2, 8 x CD; Michael Jackson, Thriller. 25th Anniversary, Epic/Sony Music Japan, EICP-963-4, CD+DVD; Perry Como, Como Sings, RCA/BMG Japan, BVCJ-37258, K2 CD; Savage, Tonight, Extravaganza Publishing Srl/Klub80, CD001, 25th Anniversary Limited Edition, CD; Stan Getz Quartet, The Soft Swing, Verve/Universal Music Japan, POCJ-2721, CD; Vera Lynn, Golden Greats, Disky Communications, MP 790102, 3 x CD.