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December 2023

Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine

Superior Audio Equipment Review

 

World Premiere Review!
LampizatOr Pacific 2 DAC Review
One of the best values for a high-performance DAC.
Review By Dr. Matthew Clott

 

LampizatOr Pacific 2 DAC Review One of the best values for a high-performance DAC.

 

  When LampizatOr came out with their state-of-the-art $49,000 Horizon assault on DAC'dom, they had a larger plan in mind. The Horizon was the first in an entirely new redesign of LampizatOr's take on building a digital-to-analog converter. Everything learned from their first Big7 through the Golden Gate to the Pacific, was a foundation upon which the next generation of LampizatOr would be based. Somewhere during the past few years, it became apparent that they had taken their current designs and engineering schematics to the limits of what those circuits could yield.

To progress and advance LampizatOr into the future, a completely new engine, circuits, power supplies, and enclosure would be needed; and the Horizon was born. Moving forward, all of their new products will benefit from design principles inherent in the Horizon. Technically speaking, this new line relies on a massive step forward in digital processing implemented in their Engine Eleven, Eleven-P, and Eleven-X along with the use of the new JLS USB module. The Eleven, to quote their website, is:

Much more elaborate power supply, requiring six transformer windings to work.

Very tricky signal and clock isolation and ground separation (five grounds versus one)

New in this price segment current conversion DAC type, versus previous voltage type that results in very analog and sophisticated sound

Proprietary software managing the conversion process and setup

New, zero-relay design with software-controlled routing of inputs

Four input receiver chips serving all inputs without the need to choose and configure: USB, S/PDIF RCA, TosLink optical, and AES/EBU XLR... it's all there.

DSD512x now is a standard without compromise (or switching)

Perfect muting of all artifacts of switching

DC-coupled analog chip-to-tube interface, that opens a whole new window on what is happening in the bass.

 

 

I was excited when asked to review a newly released, in May of 2023, Pacific 2 DAC whose retail starts at ~$27,000 (and goes up based on options). It is essentially the original Pacific with the new Eleven-P chipset and associated circuits, and JLS USB inputs. Enhancements were also made to the analog stage, grounding scheme, clocks, manufacturing process, and component selection which contribute to the new generation of DACs. They also nixed the LAN input option available in the prior generation.

I took the opportunity to ask Fred from LampizatOr why they would continue offering the Classic lineup with the new generation of DACs on the horizon (no pun intended).... The answer I was given was essentially the following:

1) One of the points of the new model line is that it can work with currently available, easily sourced, common tubes. While the "Classic line" Pacific / Golden Gate / Big7 series is dependent on classic DHT and more "eclectic" tubes. As such, many audiophiles have and prefer those tubes and they didn't want to cut those customers off considering they truthfully have been their client base from the first days of LampizatOr.

2) The improvement in the Pacific with the new digital upgrades blew them away and they felt they had to offer it as an upgrade to their current clients. An upgrade from a Pacific to a Pacific 2 is only 4000.

3) They currently have in inventory and have secured a supply chain to acquire for the foreseeable future enough boards and enclosures to continue building new Pacific 2's for those who simply want to continue the tried and true, Directly Heated Triode (DHT) path.

 

 

So, the Big7 Mk3, Golden Gate Mk3, and the Pacific Mk2 have been designated the "Classic Products" series and will be available as upgrades and new product purchases for the foreseeable future.

With all of that said, having not heard the LampizatOr Pacific before the new digital upgrade, I am left telling you my opinion of the Pacific 2 on its own and in comparison to the circa 2019 Golden Gate 2 ($17,250 as reviewed) and to my current $50,000 reference Pilium Elektra DAC.

 

 

Performance
First and foremost, the LampizatOr Pacific 2 surpassed every performance category of the Golden Gate 2. Yes, it's been quite a while and my audio memory is certainly not so good that I can remember subtle nuance, but I do have notes. And when comparing notes, it was obvious the Pacific 2 bettered the prior generation Golden Gate 2 in every way. Surprising? No. At $17,250, the Golden Gate 2 was an emotionally solid performer and I would imagine the Eleven / JLS and other upgrades have taken that design to even further heights of emotional delight. I can say the build quality of the Pacific 2 is on a different level than that of the Golden Gate, and the overall appearance is much more appealing.

Now, comparing my reference Pilium Elektra to the Pacific 2 was a challenge; which is a huge compliment to the nearly $20,000 more affordable LampizatOr. Was the Elektra "better"? Yes. Did it extract more detail, subtlety, refinement, presence, and dynamics? Yes, it did! Having not personally heard the LampizatOr Horizon, this is what I would expect of the Horizon as well. But with the ability to swap out tubes and fine-tune the sonic signature, I was able to generate a more harmonically and emotionally engaging presentation with the Pacific 2 than the Elektra.

The tube complement of the LampizatOr Pacific 2 extracted a more robust presentation of saturation and color. The Elektra is an exceptional tool for reviewing but demands equally statement level everything else to get all it can give. For $20,000 less, the Pacific 2 was an exceptional tool for listening, no matter what I moved into or out of the system. As I remember with the Golden Gate 2, the Pacific 2 is more forgiving of the imperfections in the remainder of the system, cabling, recording, file format, room, everything. I could (and did) make it more accurate and detailed with tube swapping, but it just didn't feel right with Pacific 2. My final preference for tubes was the Tungsram 200/600 4V rectifier with adapter, EML PX4 driver tubes in a balanced quad configuration. The LampizatOr wants to give you a big hug, not just a simple handshake.

 

 

Listening Experience
Let's talk about the raw listening experience for a bit. I have been saying for a while that as the newer, better gear comes out (tube, solid state, Class D, whatever), it is all migrating to a more universally accepted standard of performance and personality. I know that statement is offensive to some, but I say it like I hear it. It's as if there is an apex and no matter the curve, all seem to be heading towards that same destination. LampizatOr's newest version of the Pacific reinforces these observations. While allowing me to fine-tune the result, the overall presentation was much less "tubey" than one would expect.

In fact, if you're looking for that warm, lush tube sound, don't waste your time with LampizatOr's current line-up (Classic or new). What the Pacific 2 did do oh so well was keep me completely and utterly engaged in the music. And while in comparison to my Elektra, I deducted a point for detail, subtly, refinement, presence, and dynamics in comparison it is neck and neck between these two units. Bass was extended, rich, textured, multi-layered, and held both resonance and impact to beautifully feed my nearly unrestricted on the low-end Wilson Alexx V's. Mid's were sensationally fleshed out, palpably complex, and blossomed like an apple orchard at full bloom. Never tonally over saturated or syrupy sweet. But just so engaging.

I kept going back to that word over and over.... The uppermost frequencies extended like traveling to the heavens; visually defined by a powerful yet elegant ascent through the beauty of a perfect blue sky. Then on, into the deep rich midnight blue of the outmost edge of our atmosphere... beyond still and into the perfectly clear blackness and void of deep space. Yet always aware that there was an infinity beyond what was tactile and palpably present. Sincerely and truly beautiful. Respect!

The DAC has an uncanny ability to extract three-dimensional cues and meticulously place them while simultaneously painting a wide and deep canvas with brush strokes of harmony, resonance, and timbre. That sounds super corny, I know. But it really did. Score one for DHT!

If you take the absolute value of the LampizatOr Pacific 2, ignoring all else, it stands on its own as one of the best values for performance at that price point. It stands tall against other DACs in the mid to high price range. If DHT is your jam and you're looking for a DAC then look no further. If you're looking for a spectacular DAC in this price range regardless of circuit design... look no further.

To me, if you're considering an upgrade from the original Pacific, just do it; no brainer; call them now and make it happen (yes, I just used two semi-colon's in a row)! What are you gonna do about it? Please do not misinterpret what could be considered belletristic tribulations as a condemnation of anything LampizatOr does or makes; quite the contrary! LampizatOr has accomplished the unthinkable these days, they have gone from eclectic to mainstream to recognized leaders. These product transitions and progressions represent LampizatOr's absolute dedication to state-of-the-art with a laser focus on build quality, premium parts, and modern design. Their signature "Lampy" sound with an in-depth understanding of where they were, and where they want to be tomorrow. The importer, Fred Ainsley (a truly great guy I might add!) sent me the below, which I feel is well worth adding.

 

 

A Bit Of Perspective
The introduction of Direct Heated Triode (DHT) output stages marked a pivotal moment in LampizatOr's history, garnering significant acclaim and recognition. DHTs offer unique and captivating audio qualities. Some of the things required of DHTs however (i.e. differing filament heater voltages, variations in current, variable output impedances, etc.) made them incompatible with the direction and engineering of the Horizon, and a different tube choice was decided upon for future builds.

That said, these DHT DACs are not planned for obsolescence. They will remain in our product line for the foreseeable future, but the designs will not be further developed this will simply represent our final expression of DHT-based LampizatOr's DACs, which we believe to be a phenomenal one.

 

Background Information
There were several models and generations before the Big 7 (at least ten of them). The Big 7 stood out because it marked our initial venture into incorporating directly heated triode tubes within our analog stage. Additionally, we achieved an engineering feat by integrating the two-chassis design, previously seen in our Level 7, into a singular, more compact "Big" Box. These innovations are key aspects of the product's identity and heritage it was also the birth of the shared footprint of the Golden Gate and Pacific chassis."

 

 

 

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
Emotionally Engaging

Value For The Money

 

 

 

Specifications
Type: Vacuum tube stereo Hi-Res Audio DAC
DHT triode vacuum tubes
Digital Inputs: AES/EBU via XLR, S/PDIF via RCA, TosLink optical, and USB
New OLED display
Total muting (keep switching noises down)
No drivers needed for any computer operating system
Volume control models have one analog input for analog sources

Variants
Single-ended RCA, no preamplifier / volume control
Single-ended RCA, with preamplifier / volume control
Fully balanced XLR & unbalanced RCA, yet no preamplifier / volume control
Fully balanced XLR & unbalanced RCA with preamplifier / volume control

Pricing
Unbalanced RCA: 24,000
Unbalanced RCA with volume control 27,000
Balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA: 27,000
Balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA with volume control: 30,000

 

 

 

Manufacturer
LampizatOr
Brzozowa 26A
05-552 Warszawianka
Poland

E-mail: LampizatOr@LampizatOr.eu 
Website: LampizatOrPoland.com

 

 

LampizatOr North America
Voice: (631) 813-8992
Email: Info@LampizatOrna.com 
Website: LampizatOr.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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