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Contender: Lampizator Level 4 DAC with USB

A friend of mine (who also happens to be an audio dealer) mentioned in passing that it’s an odd name for a piece of gear. I mean, really. Lampizator? What the hell?

I’m sure there’s a story in there somewhere. All I know is this: this is a wonderful sounding piece of kit.

In case you didn’t know (I didn’t), the Lampizator is a tube DAC. As you may know, I’m not a huge fan of tubes. They’re either burning or burning out and it’s yet another PITA that I had no idea I was intolerant of, but hey, what can you do. You are what you are. Me? Well, it seems that I’m a whiner.

I am a little surprised at their choice of implementation, though. No, not that the unit uses tubes (for power rectification and in the DAC circuit), but rather, that there’s no way to see them. I mean, isn’t that part of the fun? Unless you upend the DAC like a schoolboy playing with turtles. The little cavity that the DAC tubes sit in is exposed (for ventilation, one would assume), but only if you’re looking up at the DAC from the bottom. Mirrored shelf, anyone? Anyway, I suppose one of the benefits of the setup is that there isn’t a ton of heat pouring off the unit (which is a huge plus, IMO), though I do worry about the AudiAV shelf I have it sitting on at the moment — even though they’re specifically and specially made to be heat-resistant, who knows what the hell those thermionic hell missiles will do to my shelf.

The DAC has pretty much nothing to fidget with. On my loaner version, there’s a toggle on the back to choose between USB input or RCA. Other inputs are available at ordering.

The front of the unit is an impressively minimalistic aluminum plate. There is a single button and it glows a delightfully malicious red when the unit is on. There are no readouts, so there’s really no way to tell if the unit is receiving unless sound is coming out of your speakers — and there’s no way to tell if the DAC is getting a “true” high resolution audio stream … unless you have some way to have (and trust) your computer to tell you. Not my favorite approach, but then, a readout might mar that rather lovely fascia. And it is rather lovely.

Don’t get me wrong, I am quite enamored of the sound that I am getting out of my system right now. It’s freakin’ spectacular and I can honestly say it’s the best I’ve heard so far. So, ergonomics aside, color me impressed.

Next week, I have a Playback Designs MPS-5 unit coming, and then the real head-to-head begins. To all reports, the DAC portion of the 5-series in the Playback gear is perhaps the best available, and at the very least competes very favorably with gear that is $40k-$80k. That’s an impressive set of creds.

And then, a couple of weeks later, the Berkeley Alpha Series 2 DAC with it’s long-anticipated sidekick, the Alpha USB, will be making an entrance. I’ve long been a fan of the Alpha, but the new Series 2 should have even more tricks up its sleeve (better clocks and isolation), and a pairing with their super-duper even-better-than-the-one-that-was-reviewed (better clocks — sensing a trend?) high-def capable computer “transport” is long overdue.

And then, after that? Light Harmonic is supposed to be sending me the latest version of the Davinci DAC. I’ve seen one twice now, and all joking about Darth Helmet aside, this is a fine sounding DAC. And “true” 384kHz support over USB!

Should be interesting. Stay tuned.

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About Scot Hull (979 Articles)

Founder, Editor and Publisher at Part-Time Audiophile and The Occasional Magazine.

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