Positive Feedback Logo

Impressions:  A Final Meditation on the LampizatOr Pacific DAC

09-01-2020 | By David W. Robinson | Issue 111

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Maya Angelou

"…how you made them feel."

What's true of human relationships is, in its own strange way, also true of certain audiophile designs and our connections to them. There are components that may not do much for you, and might even drive you out of the room. Then there are some that are good, solid, and workmanlike. And then there are those few that really make you sing, dance, and fill you with joy. There are more than a few of these last in my 31 years of memories…past reviews, past shows…and, when possible, I have invested in them staying in my world. Because these are the portals to the garden of audio delight, the pearls of great price, and you do what you can (legally) to get them.

"The Hand of the Maker," by Dan Zimmerman

Music is soul; soul unites body and spirit; all three resonate to song.

How well an audio component and its associated home system…and the complete system itself…open that gateway for our hearts is the measure of our pleasure.

"Thoughts," by Dan Zimmerman

Time for a meditation. Not a review; a reflection.

I do this sometimes.

DACs. A lot of DACs have been here over the decades.

Back to the early 90s, in fact. Starting with the early 44.1kHz/16-bit PCM models, at prices up to $15,000 per mono DAC pair, to contemporary models that handle all the way out to DSD512, and all flavors of streaming/music serving/wireless connectivity, too. The past 30 years have seen really incredible strides in digital formats and DAC technology. There has been a great flowering in DAC designs, with mass chipsets from the likes of ESS, custom FPGA designs like those from Playback Designs and PS Audio, and Ladder DACs. Native DSD playback, with no conversion to PCM, as well as DACs that convert PCM to higher resolution and more analog-like DSD (thank the Lord), are now commonplace, and quite affordable (for example, the remarkable iFi Pro iDSD).

But even in such a widely diverse world of digital design, there is a stand-out DAC that doesn't look, act, or even sound quite like anything else in my experience.

And that would be the truly unique LampizatOr Pacific DAC…in this case, the Single-Ended version. (A balanced model is also available.)

Image courtesy of LampizatOr

This isn't the first time that I've written about the Pacific DAC. Before continuing this meditation, you should read my If you check our archives, my first take on the LampizatOr DAC was written about a year ago, and details the procedures to update its firmware, its general specifications, as well as my initial listening impressions. You'll find this article HERE. Reading that will help to bring you up to speed about these final comments on the Pacific DAC. (In 2015 I had also written about the original unbalanced version of the LampizatOr Golden Gate DAC, giving it a Brutus Award that year. Additionally, Bill Malcolm of PF also wrote about the original unbalanced Golden Gate DAC, which review you'll find HERE. In 2018, I shared thoughts about its successor, the unbalanced Golden Gate 2 DAC, which was a definite step forward to a much greater transparency and clarity. You'll see that commentary HERE.)

Lukasz Fikus of LampizatOr:  a portrait with the Pacific DAC at Munich 2018 (photograph and image processing by David W. Robinson)

But then came the Pacific DAC, first shown at Munich 2018, and released to full production that year.

Was my first take on the Pacific DAC favorable? Yes, and incredibly so. In fact, in January of 2020 I included the LampizatOr Pacific in Part Two of my 2019 Brutus Awards.

Now that you're back…

Ever try to describe a really powerful perfume? Something that you can't resist?

Tough, isn't it?

The Pacific DAC is in that rarefied audio company.

For me, the seductive appeal of the LampizatOr Pacific DAC comes down to some supreme virtues that have made it irresistible.

The arrival of the Pacific DAC at PF Central (photograph and image processing by David W. Robinson)

First, there's simply no doubt that the sheer physical appearance of the Pacific DAC is dangerously close to that much overused word "awesome." When I first saw it at Munich 2018, I was really knocked out by its sheer beauty. Lukasz Fikus and company clearly spared no effort or expense to produce a DAC that is a real work of industrial art, and not simply another audio box.

The LampizatOr Pacific DAC, balanced version with volume control. Image courtesy of LampizatOr

The look brings to mind Bugatti, or Aston Martin, or Cord, or the great Porsches (my list is a long one)…great beauty, and terrible in seductive power. Magnets for money, if you have the funds.

The physical glory is obvious.

Beyond that, and without becoming analytical about it, over time I have found that the sonic virtues of the Pacific DAC to include:

  • A brilliant transparency, one that makes nonsense of stereotypes about DHT/SET, unbalanced operation, and the romantic lushness of tubes. Transparency is the king of audio virtues in my book; the Pacific DAC embodies it.
  • An elegant silkiness of presentation that begs me to use the word organic to describe the texture, timbre, and harmonic integration of the sound.
  • A remarkable spaciousness and sense of presence, which increases with resolution. As you move from DSD64 to DSD128 to DSD256 to DSD512, you feel the ever-more holographic soundstage, as it morphs into ever-greater soundstages. With the best recordings, soundstage becomes soundfield, the highest compliment that I can pay to a stereo recording. At that level, stereo approaches surround sound, with a presentation that envelops you.
  • Spot-on imaging, with no sense of the merely analytical creeping in. Location without analysis.

"Flying," by Dan Zimmerman

The Pacific is incredibly, inescapably romantic. But its romance, its allure, has nothing to do with its sound. It isn't stereotypically "tubey" in any way.

Crystalline in its transparency, without being glassy.

It's the way that it puts everything in the music clearly, cleanly, wonderfully into musically organic balance, with ease and effortless grace, and lets you forget that you're listening to a recording. The real transformation is happening at the level of soul, and not merely at that of sound, or of hearing only.

The result of all of this is that I can listen to the LampizatOr Pacific DAC for hours, with absolutely no fatigue, no any loss of delight as the day goes on. I can meditate, drift into reverie, and daydream with the Pacific in place, and not even be thinking of analyzing the music that I'm enjoying.

And that's cosmic, top-o'-the-heap, glorious performance, confirmed over the course of 1.5 years here at PF Central.

What can Lukasz and company possibly do to surpass the monumental achievement of the Pacific DAC?

I have no idea. Lukasz hasn't told me his current plans.

"William S. Hart Riding Across the Plains." Drawing by Dan Zimmerman.

How much "more" is out there on the audio frontier?

I don't know that either. I wait to hear from the other scouts riding the wilds with me.

What I do know is that the LampizatOr Pacific DAC is way up and way out, on the borderline world of the best of the best. I wouldn't want to go without it, based on long experience. It turns recorded music into magic.

Which is what I want. You should, too.

Because Maya Angelou was right:  you'll always remember the way that the Pacific DAC makes you feel….

Robinson portrait by John Robinson; other images as indicated.