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Integrated amplifier
Linear Audio Research IA-30T

Price: 6990 zł

Polish distributor: Linear Audio Research

ul. Wiosenna 5, 55-002 Kamieniec Wrocławski

tel. +601 89 29 48
fax +71 381 95 30



Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Photography: Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski

I am with the company Linear Audio Research since the very beginning, when Mr. Eugeniusz Czyżewski decided to commercialize the manufacture of devices he was making for his friends, mostly musicians (a short biography can be found in the test of the amplifier Nazca v2 HERE). Initially the LAR was called Orlik. However it turned out, that another company already uses that name, so Linear Audio Research was the second choice – a name, which is much better in my opinion. The first amplifier I encountered was the integrated AI-45, which I tested for “Sound and Vision”. It was created on request from a recording studio, in the form of the power amplifier A-45. And here it starts to become interesting – Mr. Czyżewski is an engineer, an electronics engineer to be exact, who worked for years on Politechnika Wrocławska, where he gained the PhD title in technical science, and worked for the military sector. And that means high standards – in terms of safety, endurance, craftsmanship and working. With all this I just want to say, that this is a man with good technical education, having experience with projects requiring precision and relying on measurable, solid foundation. An now: the AI-45 was a tube amplifier, at least when we talk about the output stage. And common knowledge is, that tubes are maybe nicely sounding elements, but not faring well in measurements. So why are they found in an amplifier built by somebody with a measurement background, for whom noise is the devil incorporated, distortion its concubine, and hum their filthy associate? There are probably many possible answers, but none will exhaust the case: maybe the influence of people from the recording studio, where many sound engineers and musicians know the power of the tube, maybe it was the need to tackle a difficult problem, where the measurement part was put aside by almost all manufacturers (with the notable exception of Canor, whose amplifier TP-106 VR+ measures perfectly), or maybe just the conviction, that a tube is the most fitting amplification element in audio. This last assumption seems to be supported by the fact, that the amplifier Mr. Eugeniusz uses privately, is the Nazca v2 monoblocks, with 845 tubes on the output.

But the IA-30T was not immediately what it is now. In the well prepared manual we read: “In the sound path of both channels only vacuum tubes are used. One of the five inputs is selected using contactron relays, with sealed, gold plated contacts, placed close to the input sockets.” And: “The amplifier uses the following tubes: Two E82CC amplify the input signals, Two ECC83 works as the control stage for the output tubes, Four EL34 work in two push-pull output stages.” Contactrons – a good thing, those are probably the best, albeit expensive, switching elements, used, among others, by McIntosh (for example HERE), or ASR (HERE). Those are very stable in time, they do not break down and have splendid electrical characteristics. In twenty years they will work as well as today. The output and control tubes – I mentioned them already. The same combination worked in the very first LAR amplifier, the power amplifier A-45. The preamplifier stage is a novelty. Measurements and logic indicate, that it best to use solid state elements in that place, preferably ICs. And this was the case in the AI-45, and in its MkII version (HERE). This is unusual, because when we deal with a hybrid amplifier, then usually the preamplifier is tube based, and the power stage is transistorized. LAR was different. This is absolutely not typical, but – I will repeat that – it was the result of the analysis of the circuit and its logical decomposition, taking into account the “essence” and not the “tradition”. LAR is not alone in that approach, because the same way of think was in KR Audio (integrated Kronzilla SXI-S HERE). But those constructions are truly rare. So what drove Mr. Czyżewski to this change? Again – there are a few possible answers, but speculating, I would say, that this is probably what music lovers and audiophiles expect, because for them the approach depicted above is not understandable (not on its own, but for them), as for them a tube amplifier is tubed from the beginning to the end. But maybe the constructor from Kamieniec created a voltage stage, which satisfied him in terms of sound and measurements.

To date we tested:

  • phonostage Linear Audio Research ARGUS MMP-02 - MkI+MkII
  • integrated amplifier Linear Audio Research IA-120
  • integrated amplifier Linear Audio Research AI-45 MkII
  • integrated amplifier Linear Audio Research Nazca v2


Discs used for testing:

  • 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, 180 g 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.
  • Pery 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.

Japanese versions of the discs available on CD Japan

IA-30T is one of the cleanest sounding tube amplifiers I know. This is a complete opposite to the Leben CS-600, and also not exactly the same path as Prima Luna and Mystère (for example the ia-11). This is a sound much closer to the Leben CS-300, Canora TP-106 VR+, and on a further plane Ancient Audio Silver Grand Mono. I am naming only tube devices on purpose, because I would not like to create the misconception, that is easy with that character of sound – this is not a “technical” or “transistor” sound, in the common understanding of those descriptions. Although it based on the same elements, like clarity, lack of withdrawal of treble, tight, well controlled bass and lack of distortion, yet there is a better sound stage, better differentiated elements, especially on the midrange and treble. The sound is less distorted. I am repeating myself, like a street organ, but I want you to understand – there are no typical distortions here – typical for tube units, and solid state ones – what opens new possibilities for the LAR amplifier.

But I will start the analysis from the things, that call our attention in the negative way. Maybe this is not politically correct, as it is better to praise, praise and then at the end, with a small font, write some small critique. This is of course one of the strategies, I use it myself sometimes, but always with some lead thought, not because I want to whiten anything, but to attract the reader’s attention to something, what is most important in my opinion. LAR is a company, as is its creator, that does not need socio-technical tricks, and I think that it better to start from the end – there will be no offence, frowning, but rather knowledge and an open road to the next step. The thing I would like to change in the IA-30T is the saturation of the bass. It sounds incredibly coherent, are splendidly controlled and differentiated. Much better than the tested not so long ago, and having a similar output power, amplifier Impetus from Audio Akustyka (HERE), and also better than in the CS-600 from Leben, I mentioned earlier. In a general view, this subrange is similar to that in my CS-300 X (SP), but in the Japanese amp it is more saturated. Sometimes, like in the piece Transitory Life opening the disc Homeland Laurie Anderson, and in the next one, My Right Eye, the strong hits of the bass were not as “palpable”, as fleshy, as with the Leben, or the reference amplifier. This is not a light sound. I will come to that in time, because those are the elements completely unfitting to this device, but sometimes a stronger hit, a more massive attack, would be desired. I am not talking about going as low as with the Luxman M-800A, or the Tenor Audio 175S, because I am a realist, and I know what context means, but a little more – and it would be perfect. Interesting enough, it seems to be the result of the need to have the best bass control, from the need to keep it as clean as possible, and not from the lack of knowledge or relinquishment. I know that from other, good constructions, and it was always about placing the compromises in such a way, that they would allow to realize a vision, principles related to the sound and measurements. So I see it this way – as an effect of a series of choices. If in the future it would be possible to go lower, more fleshy, while keeping differentiation and control on the same level as it is now, then it would be even better. We can of course level this element, at least to a certain level, choosing the right loudspeakers, source, cables or even exchanging tubes. And – I am sure about that – you will get a coherence, hard to find anywhere else. The IA-30T is such a complete and well thought through product, it has such splendid elements, that it would be better not to mess with its company, but to choose elements as even sounding as the LAR itself. Writing so much about bass I did not mention, that it is not lacking in the sense, that the midrange and treble dominates. This is really a learning experience, to listen to a device, which does not manipulate timbre. This is the result of different choices and is not preset. This is the reason, that everything sounds incredibly coherent and there is no impression of any surplus or deficiency.

In this context the midrange is especially worth our attention. It is not enough that it is clean, it is “human”, natural, what does not often come together. I noticed that especially, because usually if the sound is clear, disciplined, then it usually is rather thin, or too “technical”, I mean devoid from the emotional factor. The LAR is different. Yes, it is a very clean sound, but it is showing all the shades, showing the shape of the vocals. I was struck by that when listening to I Remember Tommy… Frank Sinatra. This is the new re-edition on SHM-CD, with a beautiful cover (the disc is available on CD Japan), which has a much better sound than all the previous, digital versions. The IA-30T played it with soaring, keeping the dynamic contrasts, but the most important thing for me was the fact, that the voice had a natural timbre, there was the “feeling”, making everything swing – Tommy Dorsey, to whom it is devoted, and with whom Sinatra made his first steps, is the king of the big-band. The vocal was clearly distinguished, but not as a sheet of paper – it had a nice shape, a man standing in front of the orchestra – this is the way I perceived it, even if it was placed only in one channel. And further – recordings difficult to “split” into separate voices, pop recordings, also were shown from their best side. The voices of Michael Jackson (Thriller. 25th Anniversary) or Roberto Zanetti – aka Savage – (Tonight. 25th Anniversary Limited Edition), although a bit quiet – in comparison with the instruments at least – not very well captured, sounded splendid with this amplifier! It could be hears, that the sound engineer mixed them into the background, but there was also no problem to imagine, that they are standing between the instruments, different, and with other goals, than percussion or guitar.

The tonal balance is not warm per se, so it is also not “pushing” the voice out, or enlarging it. It can happen, that internally we will feel, that the virtual sources should be bigger, but we will not get that. We should think about that when choosing the loudspeakers. The LAR will be the basis, on which we can place any other levels, and they will give the system the final character. To close down the case of the vocals, I took two discs with old recordings: Golden Greats, a three disc issue with Vera Lynn, and Maria Callas Live, eight disc box with live recordings from 1952 to 1964. The first one contains really old recordings, and the Callas discs contain mostly amateur recordings, technically very weak souvenirs. Both are interconnected with one thing – the voices are quite bright, and the whole is often distorted, what can be heard best with a sudden volume jump, for example when the voice reaches higher octaves. LAR behaved like a real pro – it did not brighten them and allowed to listen to them with joy. It did not warm anything, not enlarge anything, but rather followed the recordings, not trying to be before them, and yet it did not kill the music with precision or neutrality in the “hyper” version.

This way of shaping the sound is due to the way the treble is handled. This is an element usually warped in tube amplifiers – warmed, withdrawn or distorted. This is the way I think, despite the opinions about the supremacy of tube amps in this area. I think, that this kind of perception is due to the specific way the distortion are placed in this part of the sound spectrum, with their “forgiving” nature, often mistaken for “naturalness”. An amplifier of that kind, confronted with even a good solid state device, seems to sound nicer, less mechanical. Well – in the end the thing what counts, is how we perceive the sound, and not measurements, this is the reason, that with restraint, but I am positive towards that. But when there is an amplifier like IA-30T (I’ll just remind you, that this is the same school of the sound like Ancient Audio), I depart from this position without remorse. The treble of this amplifier is incredibly resolved, more so than in my Leben, better than almost everything below 20000zl. It can be done more pleasurable by withdrawing the treble – even solid state amps do it now – but nothing sounds so true, so natural nothing, for the given money that is. The cymbals have their weight, are fantastically differentiated, delineated, shown on a splendid stage, almost a holographic one. It could be heard on the disc In The Court of The Crimson King King Crimson, where the cymbals play a big role, but also on Soft Swing Stan Getz Quartet. When it scraped and rustled – then it just scraped and rustled; when it was a clear hit, then it was clear. Without underlining this part of the sound spectrum, without brightening. Sometimes I had the impression, that the upper treble, but really the topmost one, is stronger than it should be, but this was not a clear error. Such good treble was not only present in good recordings, but also with the pop discs I talked about earlier, where – especially Savage – it sounded just brilliant. Nevertheless it could even be improved, and about that a little later.

Create Audio Fuses 3A/250V (20 mm)

Listening to fuses can seem an aberration, and probably many readers will think just that. But before you reach this conclusion, I would like to encourage you to a certain, daring experiment – before making the judgment, please listen for yourself to standard fuses, and then for example to Create Audio ones (made by Synergy Hi-Fi). I assure you, that there is a significant change, that you will not return to the previous sound. Some of you this will probably devote from a moment of triumph, but if you are music lovers, and you care for the best sound, the it is worth to make that sacrifice – there will be other occasions… But it is important to try. Listening to fuses is not a simple thing, especially in tube devices. Because you cannot make quick AB comparisons. You probably know how I think about them (and I do not have high esteem for those – I think, that such comparisons are not objective, as they do not recreate the nature of music, based on TIME), but they are OK as a supportive element. Here they are impossible, because changing the fuse takes some time. And in tube devices you need to wait for some time after switching them off to put them back on – if we do not wait, the anode current shock will be so big, that it can destroy a tube, and for sure make its life shorter. So only long listening sessions are possible. But my God!, make them alone, or with friends, and you will see, that in good devices it is worth to take care of even the smallest details. The Chinese fuses waited for their turn a long time (I’ll just remind, that earlier I tested the 300B tubes of that company, bought by me and Janusz from KSS, HERE), but finally I managed to listen to them with my Leben and LAR in short period of time. The results of the sessions were the same, although in the case of the Polish amplifier the result of the change was much more spectacular.

I never listened to the voice of the “tweakers”, fighting with fuses, because I thought, that such a small element, about 15mm of wire and two contacts, is too small to pay attention to it. I was wrong. But it is important, to put the changes in the right perspective. Those are not fundamental changes, like when we change a device or cabling. Their effect is on a higher level, a finishing touch in general perception and during long listening sessions (best heard when returning to the original fuses). The sound of LAR got nobler. The treble was sweeter, nothing was troubling me in it anymore. But most surprising was for me the bass – a bit deeper and more saturated. Like I say, those were in no way big changes, but incredible in terms of quality. The bass from the Laurie Anderson disc did not gain weight, but the things that had a better timbre, were also better articulated in terms of dynamics. I think, that everything can be attributed to the improvement of resolution. Because the changes I am talking about were not heard on their own, but because everything seemed deeper, more organized. More was heard, not details, but rather the “tissue” connecting the individual sounds. It was not bad before, but with the Create Audio fuses it was as if the separate islands of sound were connected creating an archipelago. I am sure, that all became glued together due to the improved resolution.

Price: 20 USD a piece.
(Recently the company Create Audio has a Polish distributor, which prepared a nice web page:


IA-30T is an integrated amplifier. On my request, Mr. Czyżewski equipped it with a headphone output. I thought, that if the amplifiers from Leben, the CS-600 and most of all CS-300 work as good with headphones as with loudspeakers, why not try it with the LAR. And in the Leben, as well as in the LAR, the signal for the headphone output is taken from the loudspeaker outputs, without having a dedicated winding on the output transformers. Despite that, the sound is very nice. LAR with Create Audio fuses sounds better, than the standard Leben CS-300, and in many aspects better than the X(S) version. Not everything is ideal, but in general it is one of the best headphone amplifiers (yes!), you can currently get. Its sound combines precision and splendid space. The latter is artifact in headphones, but if we adjust to that kind of presentation, then it will become apparent, that much can be done in that aspect. The LAR is an incredibly resolving amplifier, with an even tonal balance, what can be heard on loudspeakers and headphones. It seems not to be predestined to certain headphones, because the character of the latter is more audible, than its character. However I have the impression, that loudspeakers with high impedance sounded better, like the Sennheiser HD800 and DT-990Pro (version from the year 2000) Beyerdynamic, both with 600Ω impedance. AKG K701 sounded very nice, but in their case their round, warm and forgiving sound slightly limited the sound stage and precision of the treble – and it is worth cultivating. My version of the Leben sounds deeper, has a better saturated midrange, and most of all, it has a stronger bass. The X(S) version also sounds with a deeper bass than the LAR, but in terms of resolution and extension of the treble it is worse. This was nicely heard on the piano from the disc Illume of the Japanese piano player Akiko Grace (the disc was produced by Bill Laswell), which had an incredibly clean attack and long reverb with the IA-30T. Actually I did not analyze it that way, but those elements contribute to the pleasure I had listening to this disc. Leben and LAR are top headphone amplifiers, with which we also get a refined, fully fledged integrated amplifier – this is a good deal, isn’t it? LAR is more powerful and handles more difficult loudspeakers better, as well as bigger rooms. But both are in the group of elite amplifiers, that will fit in almost every system.


Mr. Eugeniusz Czyżewski’s amplifier is a solid device, made with precision and an idea behind it. Being high and not so deep (with a standard front panel) is a direct result of practice and internal setup, and reach as far back as the first amplifier from the Argos series, the AI-45, prepared initially for a recording studio. IA-30T is very similar (if not a copy) of the exterior design of the model IA-120, which we have tested HERE. I must say, that this kind of utilitarian form of art, taking into account the human point of view, is something special for me. Especially when it is perfectly made. The whole enclosure is made from bent aluminum sheets, except for the front panel, made from non-magnetic steel. All surfaces, except the last mentioned one, are varnished black. The front is dark graphite, but it is not matte, it shines delicately, as if there would be some mica. In the middle there is a bolted silver stripe, made from metal and with rounded edges. Those sides enclose two metal knobs – the left one for selecting inputs and the right one to control volume. Those are medium sized, polished and fit the whole nicely. Between the knobs there are two round, really beautiful VU meters. Those have yellow-green background and being backlit look brilliant in darkness. There is also an amber LED in the very middle of the panel, indicating power on state. Fortunately it is not blue, so it does not disturb the look of the amp.

On the back we have two pairs of single loudspeaker terminals. Those are solid, gold plated, but placed quite close together, so you have to be careful if you use cables with spades, that you do not short-circuit the amplifier. Nothing should happen, as the amplifier has a very quick protection circuit, but it is better not to take the risk. Next to the right channel terminals there is a standard headphone socket of the big-jack type (ø 6.5mm), mounted on my demand. In the middle there is a double row of RCA sockets – five line inputs and a recording output, fixed level. Those sockets are not of the highest quality, soldered directly to the PCB, but ale fully gold plated. Similar sockets were used also in the amplifier T+A elektroakustik E-Series Power Plant MkII.

The inside will shock anyone, especially taking into account the price of the unit. Or even without this limitation. This compact, heavy construction is especially packed with elements. It can be seen, that from the beginning to the end it is a dual-mono construction. The individual sections are mounted on separate PCBs, placed in a cascade one above another. The inputs are soldered into the PCB with the best switching elements I know – contactrons. We have here two separate circuits stabilizing voltage for this section. Further, with shielded cables, we go to a PCB placed lower, containing the preamplifier. It is made using one tube per channel – a double triode ECC82. Very nice tubes were used – NOS Siemens E82CC. This section has stabilized voltages for heating and anode. Next section, placed on a PCB even lower, also has stabilized heating voltage – for the phase inverter and output tube driver. Here we have classic audio tubes, double triodes ECC83, one per channel. Those are also Siemens NOS. In the output section we have another classic, power pentodes EL34, a very good version of those, the EL34B from Tung-Sol (Russian, from 2006). Those tubes work in AB class, push-pull, ultralinear, with a stabilized mesh voltage, which makes the sound independent from power voltage. From the preamplifier the signal returns to the input PCB and runs to the Alps “Blue Velvet” with shielded cables, returns and then, via splendid connectors (similar to those in the Tenor Audio 175S) runs to the lower PCB.

Everywhere are splendid capacitors from Vishay, precise resistors and care for each connection, cable placing, etc. I know that from Japanese devices. The power is supplied by two, separate for each channel, classic EI transformers. The output transistors, with twelve sections, are also of that type. Like I wrote, there are only single loudspeaker terminals on the back plate, powered from a single winding of the transformer. The manufacturer writes in the manual, that the loudspeakers should have an impedance between 6-8Ω. However I had no problems in powering the 4-ohm Chario Academy Sonnet. The signal for the headphone socket is taken from the loudspeaker outputs – the loudspeaker sockets are disconnected with a relay, when a plug is placed in the socket. At the power socket there is a nice, big, shielded filter. The device has no remote control.

Technical data (according to manufacturer):
Output power (1kHz): 2 x 30W/8Ω
Signal to noise ratio: -80dB
Frequency response (1W): 10-40 000Hz (± 3dB)
THD (1W, 20Hz-20kHz, 8Ω, 20Hz-20 Hz): < 1%
Input impedance: 22kΩ
Input sensitivity (30W, 8Ω, 1kHz): 0.775V
Dimensions: 430 x 290 x 150mm
Weight: 15kg

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  • CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Prime (tested HERE)
  • Phono preamp: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC (tested HERE)
  • Preamp: Leben RS-28CX (tested HERE; soon to be changed to Polaris II, tested HERE)
  • Power amp: Luxman M-800A (tested HERE)
  • Integrated amp: Leben CS300 (reviewed HERE)
  • Loudspeakers: Harpia Acoustics Dobermann (tested HERE)
  • headphones: AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, 600 Ω version (reviewed HERE, HERE, and HERE)
  • interconnects: CD-preamp: Wireworld Gold Eclipse 52 (tested HERE; soon to be changed to Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, article HERE), preamp-power amp: Velum NF-G SE (tested HERE)
  • speaker cable: Velum LS-G (tested HERE)
  • power cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9100 (CD; reviewed HERE) and 2 x Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC7100 (preamp, power amp (reviewed HERE)
  • power conditioning: Gigawatt PF-2 Filtering Power Strip (reviewed HERE)
  • audio stand Base
  • resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under the CD (article HERE ) Turntables change continuously, as do cartridges. My dream setup: SME 30 with Series V tone-arm and Air Tight PC-1 cartridge (also in the PC-1 Mono version).