LampizatOr Pacific Balanced DAC review

Francis Albert Sinatra.

Just say the name out loud in mixed company and you’re as likely to find those who worship the man’s lyrical abilities, legendary phrasing and stage presence as detractors who saw him as arrogant, political and overblown.

I’m in the former camp and could care less about his personal life or politics – I’ve fallen for his voice since I was a kid and my mother would drop the needle on one of the two-dozen odd Sinatra albums she had slotted into the stacks of my father’s 2,000-plus LP collection.

Like an eagle in my mind, Sinatra’s voice floated preternaturally above all else on every recording that I heard him belt out. That recollection as I sat in front of my parents turntable as a child is forever impressed upon me. Perhaps it’s just the way he’s recorded, but there is a way he’s supposed to sound to me that’s locked into my aural memory and when I hear him played back right it’s like the rangefinder cross-images of a Leica snapping into focus: CLICK he’s right there staring back at me through time from between the loudspeakers.

This ability to present the 3D-image of a recorded vocalist like Sinatra in a startlingly realistic spatial and timbral manner was one of many initial sonic impressions of the LampizatOr Pacific Balanced DAC that, like harshly-lit craters on the lunar surface when viewed at night from Earth, stood out in bold relief to me compared to other DACs I am familiar with.

Designed by Lukasz Fikus and built by hand at his small factory in Brzozowa in southern Poland, the Pacific is the company’s flagship DAC. Its gleaming clearcoated real-gold finish does nothing to dispel the aura of swaggering confidence the unit exudes (it even arrives on your doorstep in its own massive, custom flight case, replete with included white gloves for tube handling and keeping fingerprints off all that Au), in fact, the Pacific practically defies you to not look at it once you get it unpacked and set up. No piece of gear has ever elicited so many queries from friends visiting our home – “What is that gold thing with the all the glass sticking out of it?” – than the Pacific has.

Build and Design

The LampizatOr Pacific Balanced DAC

The Pacific weighs in at a substantial 50 pounds thanks in no small part to its massive solid brass and steel clearcoated chassis and enclosure panels which features high-quality fit and finish commensurate with its roughly $27,000 USD price tag (exchange-rate dependent). It has three thread-adjustable and substantial STACORE rubber-o-ringed brass/steel footers each with its own reversed-spiked bottom cup for levelling and vibration isolation. The front panel sports a modest (in both size and brightness – it conveniently fades a few seconds after usage) yellow-on-black LED panel which displays the input choice – S/PDIF, AES/EBU, USB, LAN/Roon Bridge, Preamp XLR and Preamp on my review unit – and volume output in dB increments (-63dB~0dB) of the smooth-rolling, discrete, in-house designed and built resistor-ladder Taras VC-04 volume control/menu-selector knob.

Up close and personal.

The rear panel sports a host of digital (aforementioned Ethernet, USB, BNC, AES/EBU, S/PDIF) and analog inputs (RCA and Balanced) and outputs (RCA and Balanced) along with a separate power rocker switch directly above the AC/Mains input plug. Also located on the top left of the rear panel is the Directly-Heated Triode tube selector switch (300B, 101D, PX4, 242 or 45) a large robust grounding plug and a voltage selection throw (115/230). Nomenclature on the back panel is gold on black and readily legible.

Directly-Heated Triode tube selector.

For those thinking this could be of the dCS Ring DAC or Chord DAC variety involving upsampling you would have thought incorrectly; the Pacific utilizes a zero-feedback, zero upsampling and zero oversampling DAC architecture of an unspecified Multibit chipset (more on this later in my interview with Fikus who told me “the role of the chip is an absolute minimum in terms of sound quality.”) and can handle PCM conversion of up to 24-bit/192kHz files via SPDIF, up to 705kHz DXD/512 DSD native via its FPGA asynchronous Amanero Combo384 USB digital interface and PCM 32-bit/356kHz via LAN (auto-sensing, auto switching), so there’s a lot of overhead for the exotic-file type crowd. That said, Fikus is not an MQA flag waver and has no plans for hardware support of the format. The output voltage signal of the Pacific is 3V pp (adjustable by request), but in my unit with volume control it is preset to 6V pp.

From a circuit-path/components viewpoint, the Pacific had its start with the previous flagship LampizatOr Golden Gate DAC (which is a rather lofty starting point if you’ve not heard it in person) but Fikus went through that model on a practically part-by-part basis before deciding on the final ingredients list to be used in the Pacific, which were all based on listening tests and ending up in certain cases with new parts that cost significantly less, but sounded significantly better. The DAC uses two bespoke toroidal transformers for separate, independent power supply of both the digital and analog circuitry. In the end, as I mentioned in my preview, Fikus chose to go with gold-plated PCB circuit paths, silver and gold solder throughout the DAC board design and input and output stages, oversize transformers, metal-foil power supply capacitors, MUNDORF silver and gold capacitors used in critical circuit-path junctures, custom wiring, custom-power USB and dual clocks. All the PCBs are connected via point-to-point wiring and along with the daughterboards all components are mounted on a veneered MDF main board chosen for its sonic properties.

Crowning glory.

The tube compliment I ended up crowning the vented top plate of the Pacific with consisted of one 274B rectifier, two 6H6P dual triodes and four SET DHT 300B triodes (only two 300Bs if you choose the unbalanced design) used with an output solution including not only Directly-Heated Triode/Single-Ended Triode, but also Active Dynamic Tube Anode Loading and Zero Feedback topology. *Of note: A couple of the KR Audio/Ricardo Kron 300B output tubes that shipped with the Pacific were damaged and after failing were substituted with Chinese-made variants suggested by Fikus himself for their superior sound quality and relatively easy availability compared to the Kron tubes. I also ended up swapping the 5U4G rectifier tube the Pacific came with for a Chinese-made 274B on LampizatOr North America distributor Fred Ainsley’s advice as a better match for the 300B replacements after several back-and-forth conversations on valve-matching.

Lampizator, Brzozowa 26A 05-552 Warszawianka, Poland

wwc's picture

Lucasz says that 20 bit 176khz in our future? I thought we were stuck with multiples of 48.1 for PCM?