Having read a lot of hype about the LampizatOr DACs I wanted to give one a listen to hear what all the fuss is about and whether or not it would create an itch that needs scratching. To that end I organized to demo the Lampizator Atlantic courtesy of Audio Tweak / Ramsey and Joel of 13Hof.
My SCA2 preamp has two balanced and a number of SE inputs. I use Roon as my music server and front end and make use of ODROID C1 SOC devices running Roon Bridge as endpoints to stream audio from Roon Server to the DACs via USB. This gave me the opportunity to hook up my Schiit Yggdrasil, Vivere and the LampizatOr side by side, group them in Roon and stream to all 3 simultaneously. Volume matching was done by measuring pink noise played back on each of the DACs.
Setting the DACs up in Roon the first thing I noticed is that the LampizatOr uses the same USB chipset manufacturer as that in the Vivere, viz. Amanero. Whilst the Vivere USB identifies itself as Vivere Audio, and the Yggy as Schiit Audio Gen 3 USB Audio, the LampizatOr simply presents itself as Combo384 Amanero.
Following grouping in Roon and letting the LampizatOr warm up for 30 mins it was time to get some listening in. I had no idea what to expect from the LampizatOr, only that by all accounts it should sound great and get me itching.
I'm not quite sure how to say this, but the audition ended a lot sooner than I'd anticipated. I queued Marianne Thorsen/TrondheimSolistene Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 4 in D major K. 218 and pressed play...starting with the Yggdrasil as the selected input. It's a great piece, full of dynamics and detail, soft and loud passages and Thorsen's terrific violin interplay with a small orchestra. Anyhow, about a minute in I switch to the LampizatOr using my preamp's remote. My initial thoughts ... there's a slight change in tonality and downscale of soundstage, nothing dramatic or earth shattering to note, but it still sounds pretty good. About a minute in something starts bugging me, there's something different about what I'm hearing but I can't figure out what it is. It's like there's something extra in the music going on I've not heard before. I listen a little longer then get up and walk to one of the speakers wondering whether I'm hearing or imagining something. Yip, there's something there, muddying proceedings. A quieter passage starts and there it is - an electrical noise, so I pause playback and there it is clear as day. Crap!
I switch inputs to the Yggdrasil and there's dead silence. Switch back to the LampizatOr and the noise is back.
As I rarely use my preamp's SE inputs I wondered whether there was an issue with the preamp. Turned off the LampizatOr and switched its SE interconnects to the Yggy - again nothing but silence from the Yggy. So, I have to assume the LampizatOr is faulty and continuing to listen to it is pointless. A disappointing start.
A short chat with Ramsey and it's suggested there may be a ground loop...remove earth and try again. Reluctantly, I find a plug, remove earth from plug header and power up the LampizatOr again. Switch inputs on the pre back to the LampizatOr and it's still there. Crap^2, I'm fresh out of options...
Hope to be able to pick this up again once the unit's been inspected. For those curious as to the sound, I recorded it using my iPhone.