What does the 22 Watt per channel, point-to-point wired, pure Class A Line Magnetic Audio LM-845iA Integrated Amplifier sound like? Perhaps surprisingly, it doesn’t sound like much of anything except pure power.
Line Magnetic Audio was established in Zhuhai, China in 2005 by brothers Zheng Cai and Zheng Xi. Both passionate audiophiles, the company offers a wide range of products from amplifiers, preamplifiers, integrated amplifiers, a DAC, and loudspeakers. They are also well known for their replicas of classic drivers and electronics from companies like Western Electric, Altec, and Jensen. As with every product from Line Magnetic I’ve seen, the LM-845iA is built to a very high standard. Think world-class.
As we learned in our In Barn post, the LM-845iA employs 2x 12AX7 input tubes, 1x 5AR4 rectifier, and 2x 6P3P driver tubes driving a pair of 845 triode output tubes. As we were reminded in my recent review of the Kora TB140 Hybrid Integrated Amplifier, in a classic tube amplifier like the Line Magnetic, the output tubes deliver the output voltage while the Japanese Audio Grade EI output transformers provide the current needed to control your speakers. The LM-845iA’s specified 22 Watts of output power should provide enough juice for most sensibly designed speakers but other factors are at play in any amp/speaker pairing puzzle including room size, distance between you and your speakers, and how loud you like to listen. When in doubt, try it out.
The LM-845iA offers three speaker connectors with 4, 8, and 16 Ohms taps, 3 line level (RCA) inputs, and Pre-In if you’d rather use your own outboard preamplifier. I often wonder why anyone would buy an integrated amplifier only to use it as an amplifier but my mind is filled with wonder. Since the LM-845iA ships with the tubes seated in place, getting music playing is simply a matter of lifting this 77lb beast from its double box, putting it where it’s going to live (ideally once), connecting your sources, plugging it in, and turning it on. The LM employs a SoftStart, time-delayed circuit which takes about 30 seconds to complete before you’ll hear your music. The included and nicely made aluminum remote controls volume and mute.
I never needed to adjust the LM-845iA’s top-mounted bias controls because it ran dead silent from the get go, which is kind of a shame because I didn’t get watch that glowing VU Meter’s needle bounce. If you’re thinking those lovely glowing 845s must put off some heat, they do and it’s enough heat to hurt if you touch one after its been running so you’ll want to place the LM-845iA in a place with plenty of air around it and out of reach of anyone who may be drawn like a moth to a triode. I kept the included tube cage in place during the duration of the review period except when taking the nudie pics.
I’ve had the opportunity to see and hear a number of amplifiers and integrated amplifiers from Line Magnetic and they share outstanding build quality and an obvious love of and respect for classic HiFi. I also have to share that their LM-212PA monoblocks (US version), which employ a 300B as a driver tube for the massive 212 triodes, is one of the craziest amps I’ve ever seen as those honking 212s can be lowered into the chassis, as if on an elevator, when not in use. I can hear the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey playing when those 212s rise up from their protective womb.
I spent my time with the Line Magnetic LM-845iA paired with the DeVore Fidelity O/93s and totaldac d1-tube DAC/Streamer as source.
In HiFi, control is a good thing as is the case with ballroom dancing where a firm grip and confident movement make for a balanced pairing with seamless unified movement. Like Fred and Ginger, the Line Magnetic Audio LM-845iA Integrated Amplifier led the DeVore Fidelity O/93s to dance-inducing heights.
Music through the LM-845iA was as big, bold, and authoritative as I’ve heard in Barn making music that much more physically involving. When a drummer hits a drum, you can feel the amount of force. This kind of thrill led to many a listening session with volume levels going up and up again until “Since I’ve Been Loving You” from Led Zeppelin III rattled my bones with Bonham-pounding delight. Coupled with the LM-845iA’s explosive power was a sound image that engulfed the DeVore’s like some fairy tale giant barely fitting inside the Barn’s rather spacious dimensions. Think big, bold, and beautiful or this thing should come with a seat belt!
Marc Ribot is among my favorite guitar players for his work as a solo artist as well as his work with Tom Waits and The Lounge Lizards. On the latter’s Voice Of Chunk album, Ribot rips a solo on the title track that sees him digging way down into classic blues-rock riffs with mostly bass and drum accompaniment and it is one thrilling ride. With the LM-845iA, “Voice of Chunk” sounded downright dangerous.
Do you remember the old Batman TV show starring Adam West? If you do, you’ll also recall those nice Pop Art captions that accompanied the fight scenes — “Pow!” “Thwack!!!” “Blam!!!” When listening to “Siren” from John McLaughlin’s Devotion I could easily envision these flying around the Barn following Larry Young’s monster organ. Kapow!! Blam!! Splat!!! If you enjoy your music served up on the physically engaging side, the LM-845iA has got your number. Pow!! When the first big bad bass notes throb on African Head Charge’s “God Is Great” from Songs of Praise, the LM makes them sound ominous with the amount of sheer force on tap. Blam!!
The Line Magnetic LM-845iA also does delicate and when I finally forced myself away from Monster Truck music mode, there was plenty of nuance and texture to capture my attention. Nick Drake’s guitar and vocals on “Pink Moon” were crisp and clean and when the piano enters the scene it had the right amount of body and sparkle. While the recently reviewed Kora TB140 sounds lighter on its feet, offering up a faster-sounding presentation with more apparent micro-detail on display, my proclivities had me preferring the LM-845iA’s more powerful punch.
The resident Ayre EX-8 came closer to the Line Magnetic’s physicality but even the Ayre sounded less full bodied and less just plain big. On the other hand, the Ayre edges out the LM-845iA in its depth of clarity and fine-grained detail while never sounding overly harsh or artificial. The Line Magnetic by comparison sounds smoother and less interested in micro-detail and nuance but I consider the Ayre a stand-out in this regard. It’s also worth noting that the Ayre EX-8 adds more than a grand to the LM’s asking price.
I’ve been on a Maurizio Pollini jag since the 1980s due to his willingness to play contemporary and challenging classical music. Of late, I’ve been devouring his take on Chopin, most notably the Nocturnes, Mazurkas, Berceuse, Sonata, Opp. 55-58 on Deutsche Grammophon from 2018, and during one late night in the dark listening session the feeling crossed my mind that the LM-845iA wasn’t an amplifier as much as it was a projector, giving larger-than-life presence to Maurizio Pollini and his piano right here in the Barn. Living 3D with its beguiling balance of power and delicacy.
If you were waiting for the part of this review where I talk about warmth, big bloated bass, and a soft glow covering the music like fog, you’ve got the wrong tube amp. The Line Magnetic LM-845iA is a tube integrated amplifier for people who think they need massive megawatt solid state monoblocks to get real beastly power. At less than 5 grand, the Line Magnetic LM-845iA walks the walk.
Beauty And The Beast
The Line Magnetic LM-845iA doesn’t have a sound so much as it has a force. Of course it imparts a sonic fingerprint, every amplifier has sticky fingers, but its touch in this regard is rather light. What you get out of the LM845iA feels like what you put in with every last ounce of energy in tact from the refined to the ferocious. Bravo!
Line Magnetic LM-845iA
US Distributor’s Website: Tone Imports