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September 2015
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Enjoy the Music.com 20/20 Award   Best Audiophile Product Of 2015 Blue Note Award
World Premiere Follow-Up!
LampizatOr Generation 5 Level 4 DAC
Computer audio to satisfy an analog lover.
Review By Wayne Donnelly

 

LampizatOr Generation 5 Level 4 DAC

 The first part of this review of the LampizatOr Level 4 Generation 5 DAC was in December 2014 and I discussed the unit's performance on CDs played on a CD transport with an S/PDIF cable connection. This completion reviews the DAC's performance playing high-resolution PCM and DSD computer files. Computer audio is really the principal application that designer Lukasz Fikus is addressing in this DAC. I urge the reader to check out the initial review, which contains a lot of information, not repeated here, about the company and the design approach.

 

First, An Update
The performance I reported in the initial review has now been significantly improved. The ModWright-modified Denon 3910 player I was using at that time died an honorable death a few months ago. I replaced it with a Steinmusic-modified Grundig Fine Arts CD player upgraded with a massive power supply and several additional Steinmusic tweaks. It is a superb standalone player, and a much better transport, providing greater dynamic range and more extended frequency response, especially in low frequencies. At the same time, Holger Stein also sent me his SP/DIF cable, which proved to be another significant improvement. (This player would be worthy of a separate review, but it is not imported into North America.) After about 200 hours of burn-in, the player has proven good enough that I could be content using it to play CDs. But it is also much better than my old player for feeding CDs to the LampizatOr. The sonic improvements from a better transport are testament to the excellence of the LampizatOr DAC.

 

Review Setup
My audio system and listening environment are described in detail in my recently updated Writer's Bio. The computer audio station is on a table four feet in front of the equipment rack that holds the LampizatOr DAC. Because I am physically unable to get behind my equipment racks, which about five feet out from the wall, I have the DAC on a low shelf so that I can reach its rear panel, which has toggle switches that select power on/off and SP/DIF or USB input. Selecting play from PCM or DSD files is via the illuminated pushbutton on the front panel.

LampizatOr Generation 5 Level 4 DAC

The computer is a Windows laptop with an outboard disk drive holding over 7,000 digital files. I also use a 27-inch monitor so that I can magnify listings to compensate for my impaired vision. I use JRiver software to organize and access computer files. The 12-foot DanaCable USB (also reviewed in this issue) allows me to route the cable so that I can roll my wheelchair up to the DAC without running over the cable. As I describe in detail in the DanaCable USB review, the performance of the DanaCable USB has elevated the sound of computer audio through the LampizatOr DAC to a greater degree than I had originally thought possible. All of the remarks below reflect the combination of the LampizatOr Level 4 Generation 5 DAC and the DanaCable USB.

 

Listening to Computer Audio
I gave the Reference Recordings CD of Britten's Orchestra (Michael Stern conducting the Kansas City Symphony) a Blue Note award in 2010. Janice Mancuso at Reference later sent me an HRX disc that, as a .wav file, was downloadable. It was one of the first PCM files I tried. I have now experienced that recording three ways: first as a superior-sounding CD, then as a PCM file through my original USB cable, and finally through the DanaCable USB. I was unprepared for the stunning result of combining the LampizatOr DAC and the DanaCable USB. In the Young Person's Guide To the Orchestra, the soundscape not only grew wider and deeper, but each section of the orchestra was firmly placed within that stage. Violins took on a silky sweetness I had not quite heard before; low strings became more guttural, allowing me to hear wood as well as strings. Woodwinds had that breathy, "reedy" timbre that is so difficult to record, and the brass had the "bite" that I hear in live performances. The massive drum strikes that open the Sinfonia da Requiem felt like physical punches.

LampizatOr Generation 5 Level 4 DAC

Mahler’s "Resurrection" Symphony No. 2 with Otto Klemperer leading the Philharmonia Orchestra & Chorus is one of the greatest of Mahler recordings. The 1962 EMI LPs remain valuable demo recordings at 50+ years old. I had compared the LPs and the DSD files when I first implemented computer audio.  Initially I still preferred the LPs, which sounded more harmonically rich and simply more naturally musical than the DSD version. But after fully burning in the discrete DSD section of the LampizatOr and adding the DanaCable USB, I find that the DSD files convey a wonderful sweetness and musicality, and of course the DSD background is quieter than my EMI LPs.

Patricia Barber's Modern Cool and Nightclub are among my favorites. I have those recordings on LP, on original and remastered CDs, and in DSD files. Again, the LPs previously ha∂ come the closest to capturing the feeling of her live performances, but I now give a slight edge to the DSD files.

 

The Bottom Line
As I commented in the first review of the LampizatOr Level 4 Generation 5 DAC, my physical disabilities make it hard to play LPs. Even before implementing computer audio, I was beginning to find that the LampizatOr was making it easier for me to enjoy CDs without feeling that I was overly compromising the sound. Now, with its excellence in reproducing high-resolution music files, the LampizatOr Level 4 Generation 5 DAC truly frees me from worrying about the sound and lets me relax and enjoy the music.

Even before experiencing it on computer audio, I thought that at a retail price of $5195, the LampizatOr Level 4 Generation 5 DAC was a fine value for anyone who wants the best sound digital audio could achieve. Now that I have found in my own system that high-resolution computer audio can rival – and in many cases surpass – my beloved analog system, I can more fervently make that recommendation.

LampizatOr Generation 5 Level 4 DAC

 

Tonality

Sub-bass (10Hz - 60Hz)

Mid-bass (80Hz - 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz - 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear  
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

Specifications
Type: Vacuum tube digital to analog converter.
OPCM conversion engine with tube power supply based on 6X5 diode
Stereo tube output circuit
Three separate independent power supplies, three chokes
DAC: 32-bit architecture, 32-bit/384 kHz file format
Outputs: Stereo RCA
Digital Inputs: S/PDIF RCA and asynchronous USB 
Five-winding transformer, 50 VA total 
Paper-in-oil output capacitors 
Black or silver front panel
Price: $5195

 

Company Information
LampizatOr of Poland
Website: www.LampizatOr.eu

North American Distribution:
Voice: (631) 813-8992
E-mail: fred@lampizatorna.com
Website: www.LampizatOrNA.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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