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The Lampizator (Epic) Journey...


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I have recently had the pleasure of hosting an example of the Lampizator Level 4 DAC

within my humble abode, and herein follow my observations of this infamous device,

compared primarily to the humble American that is the Schiit Audio Bifrost. As you can

see from the image, the Polish Beast completely overshadows the Yank - being of more

or less generic Hifi component size and weight. The "O" is both the power switch and

signal lock indicator in the most relieving of Reds :o

I came about this device courtesy of fellow SNAer Yoshio. I initialy declined the oppurtunity to borrow the DAC, because - at AUD$5,500 it was far and away more than I'd be prepared to pay for such a device. The gentleman insisted that I experience it for myself and so I took the chance to find out if there really is a significant performance gulf between the modest DACs I have been playing with in the sub AUD$1k field and this exotic, hand assembled European of considerable reputation.

The Calm before the Storm....

The first 24 hours of replay were akin to being dropped into a party at the PlayBoy Mansion. I quickly bounced through an eclectic collection of tunes across a number of genres giddy in delight at what I was hearing. Here was a device with a contemporary, 32 bit 192kHz sampling rate delta-sigma chip that sounded like my 16 bit NOS DAC. That is, everything we like about NOS DACs, with none of the drawbacks. More importantly, it did not suffer any of the typical problems associated with multilevel chips either.

Best of both worlds then. Have your cake and eat it too. Natural and above all - even, tonal presentation across the frequency response range. Not a hint of sibilance, transients presented without razor blades. Decay, space and air without the notion of dryness or brightness. Organic, flowing, natural sound. And this is what made it such an infuriating device to contrast and compare. I didn't want to a/b the thing, I just wanted to enjoy it. Soooo damned easy to listen to, for hours on end.

...Then in walked Bud....

As mentioned, the Lampi wiped the floor with my TDA1543 chipped NOS DAC (Pro-Ject DAC Box FL). I had bought, on a whim, a Schiit Audio Bifrost. No real need for it, I have something else on order. But I just needed a "filler" till it arrived, as a month of NOS had left me completely mellowed out and I needed a bit of spice in my life GODAMIT.

Preconceptions are a Dangerous Thing.

I had done some brief A/B with Lampi vs Bifrost, but none of it in realtime, and not even in the same listening session at this point. To make things more interesting I invited our good friend Joz over for the experiment. We started out with Lampi, and we both agreed it was a great device. But just how great. Surely the Yank would come up short by a distinct margin. Reailtime A/B, a selection of material. Both DACs output a nice 2.00V to RCA so no volume issues here.

Astounded. Disbelief. Frustration. We're talking splitting hairs. :(

Almost nothing in it. Surely not, something must be wrong here. We had a chat about the psychology of it all, I especially "wanted" the Lampi to be something special - after all - it's a big bad exotic thing. What gives ? Initial impressions suggested the Bifrost did not image quite as well, according to Joz, and I agreed. There was a bit more to it though, but just not all that much. Either the Lampi just failed to live up to expectations or the Bifrost is the most incredible value for money DAC on the planet. OR both ;)

Rinse and Repeat...

Righto then. Joz and I ended the evening a bit perplexed but ultimately resigned to the fact that diminishing returns with DACs kick in mighty hard and fast. Over the following week I proceeded to follow a routine with greater qualitative analysis to determine if the Lampi's reputation could be salvaged. No realtime A/B. A selection of tracks, one genre at a time - played through to completion, then compare to the Bifrost, same routine.

And in my case, backing off on the SPLs to give my speakers a chance to breath. Properly. The Lampi was clearly about the final 1% of performance, so I had to give it a chance to shine. Classical, Jazz, 80's rock and up-to-the-minute pop were used - in that order - to find the answer. And what started as a hairline fracture did reveal a (subtle) chasm.

Of Subtlety...

The Lampi is not about massive differences. If you like the Rega DAC, you must check out the Bifrost. Both are natural, organic sounding devices with little listener fatigue. But the Lampi takes this to the next level. Everything you like about either of these two sub AUD$1k DACs is just done better by the Lampi. Whilst drawing no attention to itself.

The answer is in the Tubes...

I am of the opinion that it is the Valves which Maketh the Lampi. In this device, they are not used to veil flaws in the electronics as often occurs in lesser designs. Here, they provide a medium through which the music can flow in order to provide that last hint of contrast to the rendering. Having played cello for many years when I was younger, I was really struck by the reproduction via the Lampi.

Yo-Yo Ma's bow swept across the strings, resulting in either lyrical vibrato or sonorous full-bodied bass. I have often thought that many DACs sound like the player is scraping their horse hair across the instrument, instead of bowing it. Not here. Richard Tognetti's borrowed Strad with gut strings did sound different to Ma's cello in the way in which you can generally - only appreciate live. Both played their respective Bach Sonatas' with aplomb but the performances were truly palpable.

The imaging was wide and deep, the proportions of the recording space properly denoted. Where this is often over-emphasized with devices using Sabre chips, here placement was not exaggerated. And above all - the performer appeared in his respective place. Not in your lap. Or somewhere in the distance.

This notion was taken to another level with a 24/96 version of the Buena Vista Social Club. Scary to be honest. My walls did disappear. The Adderley / Davis recording - Somethin' Else, was recorded in 1955. The stereo imaging is an extreme left/right affair, or so I thought. Here Miles' muted trumpet on Autumn leaves merged into Art Blakey's drums in front of me. The sound of Miles' horn was a completely holographic experience. No sibilances. This is a great tack for pre-ringing and echo artefacts for this reason. All I heard was melancholy. As it should be. The Bifrost shimmered the horns and narrowed the image.

Female vocals had to make an appearance. Enter Patricia Barber and Melody Gardot. What can I say. There was a delicate air to these ladies' dark-tinted glass voices which the bifrost could not manage. They were projected from their respective ensembles and not thrust upon you. Beautiful stuff.

U2 / The Police - let's talk (drumming) Bass. Think about apple products - precision, CNC-machined edges that feel pleasant to the touch. Tactile despite being carved from aluminium. Neither the Rega or the Bifrost reach as deep as the Lampi. Only the Sabre-based AudioLab M-DAC plumbed those reaches - but it did so with laser-guided precision, slam that robbed some texture from the music. The Lampi gives you the reach, and the kick-in-the-guts when called for, but there is sense of weight to those notes, not just impact.

Foster the People / Boy and Bear - Whistling. Yep. Something so simple yet highly distinctive. Their hits Pumped up Kicks and Feeding Line respectively - feature the trick with pursed lips. Via the Lampi, for the first time - this actually sounded like air being passed through someones' mouth.

Let's Get Real....

Any downsides then ? Gentleman's vocals which generally perceive to be laden with gravel take a throat lozenge via the Lampi. I could think of other minor quips but there really was nothing of note. The takeaway here is that I had to really sit down, close my eyes, and think about what was going on to draw these conclusions. When I was playing with Audiolabs' M-DAC, the Rega DAC and the Musical Fidelity M1 - differences were readily apparent after some basic realtime A/B. Not here.

It may be I'm biased - I admit I like what the Bifrost does, it is my best purchase by far and my preference over the above mentioned three. It gets so close to the Lampi in many respects that you may be left wondering why you should consider the Lampi. Well the Pole represents that final 1% - if you simply must have the best of everything, no compromise, and no (unnatural) colour - just flowing music - it could be the device you are looking for.

Both the Rega (from memory) and the Bifrost are burdened by a slight shimmer - Bhobba referred to it as steeliness recently. This is not present in the Lampi.

I will miss the Lampi, but I know my Bifrost gets awfully close, most of the time :)

Edited by lil Caeser
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Nice write-up!

I heard the Bifrost recently at Casa Del Darko and was very impressed with it. I can see how it could easily be a long-term companion. It's not in-your-face but all of the fine detail is still there.

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Great Writeup!--Was like a script!-- Yes the venerable Mike Moffat of Schiit can produce the goods when it comes to digital--Mike has been a good friend of mine since the early 80's when I met him hawking his Theta(not THAT Theta--yet) Multitubed Pre around the LA stores, as you know he went on to found Theta Digital with Neil Sinclair in the 90's.

Attended his wedding in Reno NV--at the Ponderosa Ranch of Bonanza Fame.

Enjoy the Bifrost

Willco

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Batty - tHe NFB-2 would be similar to the rega dac, both use wolfson chips, the audio gd the wm8741 whilst the rega has the wm8742. I personally prefer what the akm 4399 chip is doing in the Bifrost. The difference isn't huge, just a bit more air in the midrange and punch to the bass via the akm chip, I think.

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Batty - tHe NFB-2 would be similar to the rega dac, both use wolfson chips, the audio gd the wm8741 whilst the rega has the wm8742. I personally prefer what the akm 4399 chip is doing in the Bifrost. The difference isn't huge, just a bit more air in the midrange and punch to the bass via the akm chip, I think.

I concur with that assessment - I heard the Bifrost and NFB2.1 a few weeks back. The Bifrost had the deepest and tautest bass response out of the four DACs we listened to. I personally found the Bifrost to be less forward than the NFB 2.1 and a bit smoother overall, but there was still plenty of detail there for the taking. Very easy to listen to.

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Thanks everyone :)

There will be another DAC Off in the near future, featuring the Yank against his northern cousins in Canada - in the form of the NAD M51. I ought to be the first person in the country to actually take possession of this alien hybrid :)

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Hi Caesar, thanks for the opportunity to listen to these two mighty fine units.

It was interesting that the first time we switched DACs that we both noticed and felt the superiority of the Lampi.

But as we A/B switched on later tracks the differences seemed to be much less obvious.

Though with extended listening I would agree that the Lampi would show its subtlelty and finesse that you would no doubt miss it after removing it.

The lampi is a stunning peice and seemed so at home amongst the rest of your fine components.

A lovely setup by the way.:)

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Thanks for the great write up. Its so useful to me to read a home comparison rather then commercial interests.

I also find that's its great recording of acoustic instruments and voices that can reveal what a DAC can do.

Im a little concerned by the conclusion:

"It gets so close to the Lampi in many respects that you may be left wondering why you should consider the Lampi. Well the Pole represents that final 1% - if you simply must have the best of everything, no compromise, and no (unnatural) colour - just flowing music - it could be the device you are looking for."

Is it possible you have assumed that your experience represents an objective standard?

Surely other users may have a radically different experience to you?

Why?

1. More revealing CNS processing

ie it might takes months of listening to a superb system for the auditory processing in the brain to learn to discriminate what's its receiving ie the brain gets educated and changed by a better system. It is then able to discriminate subtle elements that before were not able to be recognised. Think of a wine taster who has only tasted plonk.

2. A more revealing and transparent system that is not a "bottleneck" limiting a better source and so creating an apparent levelling of sources.

3. Different values. Your 1% might be another's 10%.

4. Different Transports eg computer audio with upsampling filters like isotope that can allow a NOS design to shine

5. Different tubes

6. System matching

Edited by Nada
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Hi nada, yes I recognize exactly what you are saying and I generally agree. The hardest part about my post was the manner in which to best frame my opinion. I was tempted to put in some disclaimers and qualifications and I now realize that towards the end I did fall into the mindset of a commercial reviewer rather than that of a simple commentator.

I did try to keep things lighthearted though :).

Most important is your view re maturity of listening experience and transparency of the overall system / room. I acknowledge that those with premium hardware and more listening experience would get better mileage. But I didn't want to necessarily infer that in my post.

I will take these things on board for next time....

Edited by lil Caeser
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Hi lilC, just read this OP, and I can relate to your experience extremely closely - but with different gear.

I had the priviledge of spending 1 month with a Killerdac , that was on loan to me at no obligation. During this time, I spent alot of time comparing dacs. These comparisons often left me thinking, hey, there isn't alot in this. I have a handful of front end components, that I am fond of. 1 of my favorites is the very humbly priced Keces da-131m2, this Dac is a real all rounder, with nothing obvious in the presentation to distract me. This Keces Dac was my device that came the closest, to the point where I was saying - "hey there is nothing in this - splitting hairs. How can it be?"

But over time, the qualities of the Killerdac become more and more apparent. To the point where the gulf became huge. Before I handed back this loaner unit, I did 1 last A/B, and simply could not enjoy the Keces Dac any longer. That was the end for me, I knew where I had to head, there was no question.

Since owning the KDAC, and seeing the sometimes dramatic differences components make, that I've come to realise that while the tube output stage is a massive part of the solution, all the other pieces play a role. Output caps, chokes, resistors, different tda chips, they all affect the result.

Good write up lilC, I enjoyed the read.

[ATTACH=CONFIG]41656[/ATTACH]

I have recently had the pleasure of hosting an example of the Lampizator Level 4 DAC

within my humble abode, and herein follow my observations of this infamous device,

compared primarily to the humble American that is the Schiit Audio Bifrost. As you can

see from the image, the Polish Beast completely overshadows the Yank - being of more

or less generic Hifi component size and weight. The "O" is both the power switch and

signal lock indicator in the most relieving of Reds :)

I came about this device courtesy of fellow SNAer Yoshio. I initialy declined the oppurtunity to borrow the DAC, because - at AUD$5,500 it was far and away more than I'd be prepared to pay for such a device. The gentleman insisted that I experience it for myself and so I took the chance to find out if there really is a significant performance gulf between the modest DACs I have been playing with in the sub AUD$1k field and this exotic, hand assembled European of considerable reputation.

The Calm before the Storm....

The first 24 hours of replay were akin to being dropped into a party at the PlayBoy Mansion. I quickly bounced through an eclectic collection of tunes across a number of genres giddy in delight at what I was hearing. Here was a device with a contemporary, 32 bit 192kHz sampling rate delta-sigma chip that sounded like my 16 bit NOS DAC. That is, everything we like about NOS DACs, with none of the drawbacks. More importantly, it did not suffer any of the typical problems associated with multilevel chips either.

Best of both worlds then. Have your cake and eat it too. Natural and above all - even, tonal presentation across the frequency response range. Not a hint of sibilance, transients presented without razor blades. Decay, space and air without the notion of dryness or brightness. Organic, flowing, natural sound. And this is what made it such an infuriating device to contrast and compare. I didn't want to a/b the thing, I just wanted to enjoy it. Soooo damned easy to listen to, for hours on end.

...Then in walked Bud....

As mentioned, the Lampi wiped the floor with my TDA1543 chipped NOS DAC (Pro-Ject DAC Box FL). I had bought, on a whim, a Schiit Audio Bifrost. No real need for it, I have something else on order. But I just needed a "filler" till it arrived, as a month of NOS had left me completely mellowed out and I needed a bit of spice in my life GODAMIT.

Preconceptions are a Dangerous Thing.

I had done some brief A/B with Lampi vs Bifrost, but none of it in realtime, and not even in the same listening session at this point. To make things more interesting I invited our good friend Joz over for the experiment. We started out with Lampi, and we both agreed it was a great device. But just how great. Surely the Yank would come up short by a distinct margin. Reailtime A/B, a selection of material. Both DACs output a nice 2.00V to RCA so no volume issues here.

Astounded. Disbelief. Frustration. We're talking splitting hairs. :)

Almost nothing in it. Surely not, something must be wrong here. We had a chat about the psychology of it all, I especially "wanted" the Lampi to be something special - after all - it's a big bad exotic thing. What gives ? Initial impressions suggested the Bifrost did not image quite as well, according to Joz, and I agreed. There was a bit more to it though, but just not all that much. Either the Lampi just failed to live up to expectations or the Bifrost is the most incredible value for money DAC on the planet. OR both :)

Rinse and Repeat...

Righto then. Joz and I ended the evening a bit perplexed but ultimately resigned to the fact that diminishing returns with DACs kick in mighty hard and fast. Over the following week I proceeded to follow a routine with greater qualitative analysis to determine if the Lampi's reputation could be salvaged. No realtime A/B. A selection of tracks, one genre at a time - played through to completion, then compare to the Bifrost, same routine.

And in my case, backing off on the SPLs to give my speakers a chance to breath. Properly. The Lampi was clearly about the final 1% of performance, so I had to give it a chance to shine. Classical, Jazz, 80's rock and up-to-the-minute pop were used - in that order - to find the answer. And what started as a hairline fracture did reveal a (subtle) chasm.

Of Subtlety...

The Lampi is not about massive differences. If you like the Rega DAC, you must check out the Bifrost. Both are natural, organic sounding devices with little listener fatigue. But the Lampi takes this to the next level. Everything you like about either of these two sub AUD$1k DACs is just done better by the Lampi. Whilst drawing no attention to itself.

The answer is in the Tubes...

I am of the opinion that it is the Valves which Maketh the Lampi. In this device, they are not used to veil flaws in the electronics as often occurs in lesser designs. Here, they provide a medium through which the music can flow in order to provide that last hint of contrast to the rendering. Having played cello for many years when I was younger, I was really struck by the reproduction via the Lampi.

Yo-Yo Ma's bow swept across the strings, resulting in either lyrical vibrato or sonorous full-bodied bass. I have often thought that many DACs sound like the player is scraping their horse hair across the instrument, instead of bowing it. Not here. Richard Tognetti's borrowed Strad with gut strings did sound different to Ma's cello in the way in which you can generally - only appreciate live. Both played their respective Bach Sonatas' with aplomb but the performances were truly palpable.

The imaging was wide and deep, the proportions of the recording space properly denoted. Where this is often over-emphasized with devices using Sabre chips, here placement was not exaggerated. And above all - the performer appeared in his respective place. Not in your lap. Or somewhere in the distance.

This notion was taken to another level with a 24/96 version of the Buena Vista Social Club. Scary to be honest. My walls did disappear. The Adderley / Davis recording - Somethin' Else, was recorded in 1955. The stereo imaging is an extreme left/right affair, or so I thought. Here Miles' muted trumpet on Autumn leaves merged into Art Blakey's drums in front of me. The sound of Miles' horn was a completely holographic experience. No sibilances. This is a great tack for pre-ringing and echo artefacts for this reason. All I heard was melancholy. As it should be. The Bifrost shimmered the horns and narrowed the image.

Female vocals had to make an appearance. Enter Patricia Barber and Melody Gardot. What can I say. There was a delicate air to these ladies' dark-tinted glass voices which the bifrost could not manage. They were projected from their respective ensembles and not thrust upon you. Beautiful stuff.

U2 / The Police - let's talk (drumming) Bass. Think about apple products - precision, CNC-machined edges that feel pleasant to the touch. Tactile despite being carved from aluminium. Neither the Rega or the Bifrost reach as deep as the Lampi. Only the Sabre-based AudioLab M-DAC plumbed those reaches - but it did so with laser-guided precision, slam that robbed some texture from the music. The Lampi gives you the reach, and the kick-in-the-guts when called for, but there is sense of weight to those notes, not just impact.

Foster the People / Boy and Bear - Whistling. Yep. Something so simple yet highly distinctive. Their hits Pumped up Kicks and Feeding Line respectively - feature the trick with pursed lips. Via the Lampi, for the first time - this actually sounded like air being passed through someones' mouth.

Let's Get Real....

Any downsides then ? Gentleman's vocals which generally perceive to be laden with gravel take a throat lozenge via the Lampi. I could think of other minor quips but there really was nothing of note. The takeaway here is that I had to really sit down, close my eyes, and think about what was going on to draw these conclusions. When I was playing with Audiolabs' M-DAC, the Rega DAC and the Musical Fidelity M1 - differences were readily apparent after some basic realtime A/B. Not here.

It may be I'm biased - I admit I like what the Bifrost does, it is my best purchase by far and my preference over the above mentioned three. It gets so close to the Lampi in many respects that you may be left wondering why you should consider the Lampi. Well the Pole represents that final 1% - if you simply must have the best of everything, no compromise, and no (unnatural) colour - just flowing music - it could be the device you are looking for.

Both the Rega (from memory) and the Bifrost are burdened by a slight shimmer - Bhobba referred to it as steeliness recently. This is not present in the Lampi.

I will miss the Lampi, but I know my Bifrost gets awfully close, most of the time :)

Edited by ozmillsy
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Thanks for the great write up. Its so useful to me to read a home comparison rather then commercial interests.

I also find that's its great recording of acoustic instruments and voices that can reveal what a DAC can do.

Im a little concerned by the conclusion:

"It gets so close to the Lampi in many respects that you may be left wondering why you should consider the Lampi. Well the Pole represents that final 1% - if you simply must have the best of everything, no compromise, and no (unnatural) colour - just flowing music - it could be the device you are looking for."

Is it possible you have assumed that your experience represents an objective standard?

Surely other users may have a radically different experience to you?

Why?

1. More revealing CNS processing

ie it might takes months of listening to a superb system for the auditory processing in the brain to learn to discriminate what's its receiving ie the brain gets educated and changed by a better system. It is then able to discriminate subtle elements that before were not able to be recognised. Think of a wine taster who has only tasted plonk.

2. A more revealing and transparent system that is not a "bottleneck" limiting a better source and so creating an apparent levelling of sources.

3. Different values. Your 1% might be another's 10%.

4. Different Transports eg computer audio with upsampling filters like isotope that can allow a NOS design to shine

5. Different tubes

6. System matching

We must have been reading slightly different reviews.

The one I read seemed to be a very well written expression of lil Caeser's impression of the Lampi. At no point did it feel to me like he was implying an objective standard

EDIT: as an afterthought, can we consider any review to be an objective standard

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We must have been reading slightly different reviews.

The one I read seemed to be a very well written expression of lil Caeser's impression of the Lampi. At no point did it feel to me like he was implying an objective standard

EDIT: as an afterthought, can we consider any review to be an objective standard

I think the OP review is great. Very well written and unbiased. Much more trustworthy in my view then many reviews for commercial sites where the advertising revenue seems to detract from a transparent opinion.

My critique, if you care to look, was not for the whole review but only for one sentence that was quoted. I think Lil Caser did a great job. I wouldnt be game to do a write up like that myself so cudos to the man.

I think we all have a fundamental attribution to consider our personal view to be objective and correct. Clearly this cant be true. Except for my opinion of course. Im always write.

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