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LFD Zero LE integrated amplifier and MM0 phono stage

[LFD Zero LE amplifier]
[Click on the image for full resolution]
[Italian version]

The Integrated Zero LE is a 60 Watt MOSFET integrated amplifier with typically British features: i.e. none.
There are five line inputs, a tape output, power, volume and balance controls, and that's it. The wide and deep case (43 x 33 x 6.3cm) looks sharp with its thick grey-speckled front, while the sole catchy aspect of the innards is the liberal use of (sometimes non-insulated!) solid core OFC cabling.
At an additional cost an MM/MC phono preamplifier can be built in, but this had not been done to the device-under-test, so instead we reverted to the equivalent stand-alone MM0 for vinyl playback. This phono stage is part of LFD's more costly separates range, so its dimensions differed from the LE (30 x 38 x 6.2cm), although the finish is quite the same.
The MM0 is a phono preamp optimised for MM cartridges, as its name suggests, although gain can (internally) be switched to accommodate MCs of the louder variety as well.
The electronics are based on standard-quality 5534 ICs, but the size of the power supply is absolutely breath-taking: a statement in blunt over-engineering if I ever saw one!

There also exists a cheaper version of the integrated amp: the Integrated Zero, this being much the same as its LE brother, but specified at 50 Watts and with lower-quality passive components.

The LFDs were put to test in the company of the components that from now on will constitute the stable base of my anno-1995 system, namely a Gyropowered Michell GyroDec turntable with Rega RB-300 arm and Audio Technica OC-9 moving coil cartridge, a heavily modified Marantz CD-52SE CD-player, and finally the Magnepan SMGb magnetostatic loudspeakers.
Cabling is the Deskadel I-1 pure silver wire, Prefer MGK-226 (actually a professional OFC microphone cable) and AudioQuest F-18 solid core.
Now that you know about these trivia we can continue with the relevant bits: how do the LFD boxes sound?

The Integrated Zero LE blends a sound that can be described as somewhat tubelike with some of the control and precision of transistor designs: mid and treble are very smooth and liquid, leading to a most definitely unfatigueing yet involving rendering of music.
In the bass the amp sounds actually the same, i.e. smooth, not really tight, but neither overblown and precise enough for the task it is meant for: listening to music.
Imaging is a bit soft-focus: the earlier reviewed NAD 214 is quite a bit more explicit and sharp here, but the LFD still manages to sound pleasant and natural.

The Phonostage MM0 was more difficult to gauge. Its sound seemed to be on the same level as the Zero LE, i.e. undeniably good and musical, but as I had no superior alternatives available to compare with, it was impossible to hear what the MM0 really was worth. Apart from this, its limited compatibility with MC cartridges makes it not the most appealing phono preamp on the market.

Concluding, I find the Zero LE an interesting and welcome amplifier, which, combined with a sympathetic loudspeaker, has a beguiling sound quality to it.
Further, I assume that the much cheaper LFD Zero will have much of its sibling's qualities, possibly making that amp very high value for money.
The MM0 phono stage I think is a bit overpriced, given its engineering contents and its rather low flexibility, although its sound is most certainly not bad.
Still, the same sort of money buys you a Michell ISO or an EAR, which are in another league altogether.
On the other hand, the electronics of the MM0 can be added as a plug-in board to the Zero for about $300, in which case the picture looks totally different!


Copyright © 1997 Werner Ogiers

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