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Brief First Impressions from an Editor's Notebook: The LampizatOr Pacific DAC

07-06-2019 | By David W. Robinson | Issue 104

Self-portrait, 2017

In medias res…

From time to time, I shake out my ongoing audio journal, and comment on some products and items that have accumulated over the past few months. Nothing too lengthy or intense, but quick thoughts and bullet points indicative of fine audio designs/products that I think our readers should be aware of.

Digging in!

LampizatOr Pacific DAC

The LampizatOr Pacific DAC (unbalanced)

Here's an advance shout-out for some astounding top-flight digital brilliance, including all flavors of DSD.

I've spent a handful of years following the adventures of Lukasz Fikus of LampizatOr and his merry company of tubular wizards, as they've applied the science of glass, electricity, and vacuum to the challenges of digital audio conversion. Also a key member of the team is his US distributor, Fred Ainsley, who has been a helpful friend as I've explored the development of LampizatOr's designs over time. I have commented on the original Golden Gate DAC in my 2015 Brutus Award. PF reviewer Bill Malcolm likewise enthused about the Golden Gate DAC right HERE. What a gorgeous, and gorgeous-sounding tubed DAC this was! Always musical; nicely SET tubular, for sure, in all the very best ways.

The Golden Gate's successor, the Golden Gate 2, was a major step forward, though. As I comment in the linked essay, Fikus shifted the feel in the direction of a greater neutrality, more spaciousness, and advances in transparency…that last always leading to more detail. The GG2 showed that the MESH 45 tube could get leaner and meaner, without losing musical values, thus shredding the stereotypes about SETs…even in Quad DSD DAC application.

But the story does not stop there.

No, no.

Lukasz Fikus with the Pacific DAC:  A portrait. Munich, 2018

LampizatOr released the next generation of its statement DAC, the Pacific SE…in significant numbers in 2018. Positive Feedback's Mark Pearson saw and heard an advance prototype of the Pacific in the fall of 2017, and reported on the experience back in Issue 94 HERE. I saw it at Munich 2018 in a static display. Fred and Lukasz promised to get me a full final production version ASAP, after they caught up with worldwide back orders, which were pretty significant.

No problem; I'm a patient guy. And there were some technical refinements that Lukasz and his team worked on continuously, both internally and in the case work. 

LampizatOr Pacific DAC

Finally, the Pacific arrived in the late winter of 2019. Glory, glory! A truly stunning look and feel. This was the unbalanced version without volume control (VC), since our applications here didn't need VC…although balanced out would have been nice to have.

There were some complications that I had to deal with, though. The firmware needed to be flashed for optimized use with Windows 10, and the latest version of Pacific's Amanero drivers needed to be installed in our dedicated Dell i7 notebook. (The Amanero driver set has since been further updated, to allow both Windows 10 and Linux users to have a single unified driver for either operating system.)

This required the careful removal of the lid and a specific procedure to get everything done correctly. This sort of thing is old hat to me…way too many years in Information Technology, you see…and following the LampizatOr guides with the help of Fred Ainsley made this work nicely, the very first time.

Fred Ainsley at AXPONA 2019

Quick note to tube-rollers:  The Pacific DAC is heaven for you. It allows for five different tube complements to be used in the output section. These tubes range from the 300B to 101D to 6A3, 242, PX4, to 245 and my beloved MESH 45. All are easily switchable by a knob on the back of the Pacific…excellent. (Note that the MESH 45 output tubes that I'm using are the exact same tubes that I used first in the Golden Gate, and then transferred to the Golden Gate 2. Ditto with my 5U4G rectifiers. The tubes have been constant, which takes away a major variable as I've listened over the years.)

Rear view of the LampizatOr Pacific DAC (unbalanced, without volume control); note the Ethernet input with Roon Bridge to the upper right of the rear section. The tube selector knob is on the other side. USB, BNC, S/PDIF, and TOSLink round out the input set, with RCA analog outputs. The ground is a nice touch.

In fact, LampizatOr's Web site boasts of the following major elements in the Pacific's design:

  • DSD native filter technique, and the most advanced PCM processing known
  • Use of DHT tubes in one stage, zero feedback fashion, in purest Active Anode Load SET mode
  • MUNDORF silver/gold capacitors selected after testing all the world leading caps
  • Hand made with silver wiring in Teflon insulation, gold plated PCB traces
  • Tube "diode and chokes" power supply with grossly oversized parameters
  • Use of metal foil power supply capacitors instead of cheap electrolytics
  • Use of the best FPGA asynchronous and custom powered USB with two of its own clocks and customized firmware
  • Use of resistor ladder discrete volume control
  • The tubes we use are 101D, 300B, 6A3, 245 or 45's, 242 and PX4 (interchangeable). Yes - you CAN roll them all in every DAC, which is an ultra-rare solution. We are proud in being the pioneer of this technology.
  • We also used DHD - directly heated diodes as rectifiers (5U4G is the standard), but one can roll 274B, 5c3s, 5U4, 5R4, GZ34, or 5Y3.

All of this is a banquet of excellence in audio design, and helps to explain the roughly $27K expense (depending on configuration) of the Pacific DAC.

Better and better:  The Pacific supports DSD all the way out to DSD512 (8x DSD) via USB and Ethernet, and DXD/PCM out to 705kHz via USB or 384kHz/32-bit via Ethernet. (S/PDIF handles its usual fading standard of 192kHz/24-bit.)

My evaluation of DSD512 will be starting soon, now that NativeDSD.com is supplying DSD512 downloads. (Check their site for the eight titles currently available in DSD512, with more to come.)

Damnation. This is impressive work of the highest order.

Having spent a number of weeks with the Pacific DAC, breaking it in with many hours of Single, Double, and Quad DSD recordings in our reference stereo listening room, readers of PF need to hear from me now. There's no reason to wait for a more extended review right now…that will come in time, as I gauge and continue to detail the long-term virtues of this brilliant DAC with more extended notes…but I shouldn't wait any longer to shout!

What are you looking for in a state-of-the-art DAC? 

Transparency? It's here...crystalline. Detail? Killer. Dynamics? Absolutely, and without flagging. Soundstaging? The Pacific is a holodeck. Imaging? Very definitely. Harmonic integration? Yes, with amazing an organic feel...and yet, without any lush romance at all. Head and heart are one with while listening to great DSD with the Pacific. It's an effortless love affair that lets you think while you connect with the music, but doesn't leave you with grim analysis. Instead, you float away on your recordings at the highest level of oneness with the music.

Sound good? Brother, it is!

Don't believe me? Go listen for yourself.

As I said, this is a short first-impression article, and I won't let myself get bogged down.

But I can already tell you this right now, amigos: 

The LampizatOr Pacific DAC has joined the very tip-top-of-the-top of true reference DACs in my experience here. And this is a very small group of designs at PF River-City-and-up-the-hill.

Furthermore, it's the only tubed high-resolution DAC currently at the top o' the heap for me.

So:  The LampizatOr Pacific DAC is a monster stereotype slayer, sui generis amongst the greatest DACs on the planet. If you're looking for supreme high-end audio accomplishment in high-resolution DACs with no compromise on DSD at any level, and (as always) have the budget...and at around $27,000, it's a heavy lift...then the Pacific DAC is one that you simply must hear. And that's especially if you love great tubes done right, the way that I do.

I suspect that you'll be in truly serious danger of purchasing it.

Don't say that I didn't warn you….

(My full review will be out before the end of the year...in the autumn, likely.)

Price: Around $27,000, depending on configuration

For more information:

LampizatOr North America

Fred Ainsley

[email protected]



All photographs and image processing by Robinson; classic Alice in Wonderland drawings by Sir John Tenniel, in the public domain.