12 January, 2019

Grommes Little Jewel 5 LJ5 6V6 Authenticap

Note the replacement electrolytic cap (Authenticap).

Grommes Little Jewel 5 LJ5, Part I

My 6V6 Overview
Grommes LJ-6 Review (by Audiocraft 1958)

For details of my Systems, see sidebar to the right.

Grommes has always had a good reputation. Like some of its contemporaries, it offered kits as well as fully assembled products. It survives today as Grommes Precision, whose sloppy website has a History Page. There are also low res pics of pamphlets, which unfortunately cannot be downloaded. Most useful perhaps is the Past Product Guide. However, even there the info given are of dubious accuracy. The LJ2 and LJ5 are both "circa 1952", which cannot be.

One can see that, as in Bell products, by the time of LJ5 (likely 1956-7) the noval 12AX7 had replaced the octal 6SL7 used in its predecessor LJ2. There is more info on LJ5 (as well as LJ2 and LJ6) in radiomuseum. While there is little info on the net regarding the various models in the long running series, I did quite a bit of picture searching. Like Bell 2122, the LJ2 uses 6SC7 (just 1 though) and 6SL7. By the time of LJ3, these were already replaced by 2 x 12AX7, and this tube complement was maintained all the way to LJ6. There were minor cosmetic changes and I think the basic circuit likely changed little. I noticed two changes in the LJ6: the power transformer is mounted with the laminations horizontal rather than vertical (using some perspective scaling, I think it is smaller); and the rectifier changed to 6X5. Both of these I suspect are cost-cutting measures. By 1959, like Bell, Grommes amps had become slim-line as well.

Those interested should read the very detailed review of the similar LJ6 (link above).

LJ5 ; Grommes Precision (ID = 1977382) Ampl/MixerMy two units were bought separately a long time ago. If my memory serves me, it was not long after I acquired and enjoyed my Bell 2122's, and so wanted to further explore 6V6 amps. Their electrolytic capacitors needed replacement and recently after listening to the Bell 2122, Kevin replaced them for me, using German Authenticap. Initially I balked at the price of these cans, but after listening at my home recently, I am actually glad that these reputable caps were used, so good the result is.

The innards can look rather uneven, the more so as some of these were from kits built by amateurs. Parts quality were not bad, though the audiophile is likely to frown upon the ceramic caps even if they are known to be more reliable. My units are more or less stock and look like the pic from radiomuseum.

At first we listened to them briefly at Kevin's (here), where we found the sound to be softer than the Bell 2122, with less microdynamic nuance even if the smoothness was eminently suitable for classical replay. We surmised that the ceramic coupling capacitors were compromising the sound.

After I took them home, I hooked them up and was really surprised by how differently and brilliantly they performed in my setupsI swapped out the Grommes LJ5 for the Wavac MD-811 and was delighted by the results.

Bruckner: Les 9 Symphonies Product ImageUsed as Power Amps Either Line Inputs were used. The volume was turned all the way up. Treble and Bass controls were in their flat positions. With both my recently fired up System I (Manley 300B preamp) or System II (Shindo Monbrisson as preamp), the sound was just as good, if not better than before. Compared to the SET Wavac, the midrange is just as transparent and sweet, whereas the treble is a tad smoother and the bass a tad more fulsome and rolling. Curiously, in my system, there is none of the overly smooth and somewhat restrained manner experienced at Kevin's. I double-checked with my Mangar Test CD, and everything sounded just wonderful. I did not compare directly with the Bell 2122, but my memory tells me the Bell is likely to be a little airier and sharper, but the Grommes' richer palette is at least just as good - it is so good that I refuse to take them out!

Symphony No. 9 In D Minor (Vinyl, LP, Stereo, Quadraphonic) album coverUsed as Integrated Amp For this, I recruited my System III, but  wired the Schiit Saga directly to the line input of the Grommes. I maxed out the volume of the Saga and hence it is a 1:1 buffer only. I controlled the volume using the Grommes. The sound is slightly less punchy than through my big preamps, but of sufficient dynamics to play big classical pieces. I am going through yet another Bruckner cycle on CD (Nezet-Sequin on Atma). So far I have played Symphony 2 and 3, and enjoyed the sound of both very much. Used as integrated, the sound of the woodwinds are even more mellifluous than through the big preamps (the Symphony 2 I had played also through the Shindo), and that is not a bad trade off for the small loss in dynamics. Phono Section I hooked up the Thorens TD-124/SME 3012/Denon DL-103 (System I) via the Bob's Devices SUT into the Magnetic Phono Input (RIAA used; there are two other settings - Flat and "Old LP"). Sound is surprisingly quiet and excellent, given there is only one tube at work (12AX7), fully commensurate with the sound of System III through the Schiit Saga. Giulini's Chicago Bruckner 9th (a two Christopher's recording) was exciting and dramatic, which can also be said of Charles Gerhardt/Wilkinson's Borodin Symphony No. 2 (RCA, National PO/Tjeknavorian). What was most impressive about the phono section was that the different hall sound of each recording is easily audible. Believe me, most systems do not make such a good distinction. And the gain is sufficient; in fact, phono sounds a little more dynamic than the line level inputs.

Bruckner 9th (Giulini/Chicago on Angel) playing.

When I get the chance, I shall take this to Andy's place and give it another sounding. Grommes, like Bell, in an old name that has a solid reputation. But I kinda suspect many other 6V6 amps (though not all, as some are pretty flimsy) will sound great too with horns.

No comments:

Post a Comment