I'm sure the actual L2 is a better machine but it's slightly disappointing to face a sudden depreciation in LIO concept (and therefore value) after investing quite a bit in modules based on the concept of upgrades with 100% money back.
Thank you for your post.
The fact that the L2 Preamplifer and L2 Monoblocks have been created and are in production should not
in any way invalidate or depreciate the concept of LIO and its ultracapacitor and modular concept. And more importantly, it should not
reduce your enjoyment of listening to it. LIO still remains and will continue to remain a phenomenal sounding product that provides excellent value and a highly unique design approach (modular system, ultracapacitor powered banks that act like batteries detached from the AC mains, andmodules that all fit into a single enclosure) that our customers love and will hopefully continue to love listening to for many years to come. I am still building LIO orders and enjoying having new customers come on board! It has been going strong since late 2014 when I introduced it, so it has been 4 years already.
Yes, the L2 components are in a higher class of performance, but this naturally comes at a higher price point. Not everyone can spend or even wishes to spend this much on an audio system, and I completely understand and accept this. For me personally, my passion is in creating unique design solutions that perform well above their price, and I do have high aspirations to offer new products over time that compete in higher price classes and that are less restrictive to me in terms of design/production budget. As with many other things (cars, homes, clothes, restaurants, etc.), there will be different price tiers and not all of the components introduced are going to be fit for everyone. For some, LIO is far too expensive to be considered. For others, LIO (and even L2) are too inexpensive
to even be considered.
I had expected the L2 to be a development of this proven idea - an improved ultra cap base and improved modules to be added on with a trade up policy.
Regarding the L2 components not using the ultracapacitor banks, there are good reasons for this that I will try to make more clear:L2 Signature Preamplifer
: I wanted to take the Directly Heated Triode (DHT) linestage approach to a even higher level of performance, and fully optimize the new L2 Preamplifier design solely for a DHT linestage application (it is not "fully" modular as it only has options for L2 Dac and L2 Phonostage. It also cannot be made into an integrated amplifer). One of the things that I learned was that in order to make the DHT hum (50/60 Hz hum pick up) essentially inaudible, I needed the enclosure tied to AC ground, as well as other parts of the circuit coupled to AC ground [The LIO is a “floating” supply like a battery, as the two ultracapacitor banks are both like battery banks that are not connected to their power supply and they instead “float” with respect to AC ground]. And the shields around the tubes needed to tie to AC ground as well.
I also had to keep the power supply output paths as short as possible (so the L2's shielded power supplies are built-in and not external as in the LIO, and their shield enclosures are tied to AC ground), along with using a different voltage regulation approach that included new OEM Belleson super-regulators for heating the cathodes of each tube, and dedicated Belleson super-regulators for the plates of each tube, and for an all-new biasing approach.
If the L2 Preamp was not based on directly-heated triodes, an ultracapactor-based supply would have been highly considered!L2 Signature Monoblocks:
Compared to LIO MOSFET AMP, the L2 Siganture Monoblocks output higher power and run on a split-supply (approx. +/- 48Vdc, so nearly 100Vdc rail to rail). This would require many more ultracapacitors in series, for both voltage rails and for each bank, and this would result in higher ESR (making one of the more attractive things about using them become, well, less attractive). They do make larger, higher capacity ultracaps (nearly the size of Coke cans!) that would still allow for the very low ESR, and in theory, I could have used 40 of such caps per bank, times 2 banks = 80 of them. But this means the amplifiers would be very, very large (and I wanted to keep the L2 Monoblocks form factor not to big, but very dense and solid feeling), and significantly more expensive. So with the L2 Signature Monoblocks, I instead opted for a high current linear power supply design with a built-in AC filtering, a custom-made transformer (better load and line regulation, lower hum than most off-the-shelf types), very low ESR rails, and a wide-bandwidth amplifier circuit that has its own high power supply rejection ratio (PSRR) and common-mode rejection ratio (CMRR).
So in both cases above, we have different products than LIO, designed to different price-points, with different design requirements - and using a different method for the power supply. Having said this: 1)
The fact that using the ultracapacitor banks was not best-suited for the new L2 components did not
and should not
stop me from designing them.2)
Not using ultracapacitors in the new L2 components does not
and should not
invalidate the use of the ultracapacitor banks in the LIO design - I believe they work very well for that application and will continue to do so! It also does not and should not invalidate LIO's all-in-one approach, which we all know is highly flexible and allows itself to be configured as essentially any and all components, including what is now becoming more common - a "super integrated amplifier" (but with limited output power in its offered enclosure size), and keeps the price lower than separate components, with fewer cables needed, etc.
- Regarding trade-up policy, I have actually already given a few LIO customers 100% trade-in credit
towards an L2 Preamp + Monoblock combo. And partial trade-in credit for those who only want the L2 Preamplifier or only want the L2 Monoblocks. Both of these options are really the very best that I can do, and as with the 10-year warranty offered on LIO and L2, is something that most companies would never even consider offering or simply cannot offer and remain in business.
- I have not had much time to start a thread about it, but the all-new L2 Phonostage module design is compatible with LIO
and is a completely new design from the ground-up (I collaborated withe Brian Lowe of Belleson on its design) and is a significant upgrade over the previous LIO Phonostage (at least as large as an upgrade when going from LIO DAC 1.0 to LIO DAC 2.0)... but it does require a LIO firmware update on its front panel to properly display the new remote cartridge loading values (remote cartridge loading is built-into the new L2 Phonostage). So LIO was not forgotten in all of this because I specifically had to consider things when designing the L2 Phonostage to make sure it could also work with LIO. It does!
To wrap this up for now, I am (finally) learning to come to terms with the fact that for me to keep being me, and to keep doing what I love to do and continue to grow and evolve in the process, I will never be able to make everyone happy all of the time. I do hope that this post helps clear things up a bit (it sure has taken me a lot of time to write all of this - LOL!). I wish I have gone into this level of detail sooner, but I am truly busier than ever and I just don't see any down time over the next few months, and at that point, the 2019 audio show season begins!