Lampizator is not your average audio electronics company. It’s chief designer Lukasz Fikus is very forthright about what is and isn’t important when it comes to building the best gear. When it comes to the product category where Lampizator made its name – digital to analogue converters – Fikus makes clear how much influence the various elements have on the final result. In contrast to most DAC manufacturers he believes that the DAC chip itself is not that important and credits the analogue stage and its associated power supply as being the most important elements in the mix. Being a valve man this means using NOS valves of the high power variety, silver wiring, Duelund capacitors, and iron core transformers.
Those of a cynical bent might think that he takes this approach because the output stage and power supply are the areas where it is easiest to make a difference to the sound. Not many audio companies have the knowledge required to build their own converters, but amplifier technology is a widely understood science, even when you are talking about single-ended valve based engineering. That said, Lampizator does offer a discrete ladder DAC in its top model, the Golden Gate, so it must know of what it speaks. The fact that the brand has also built the biggest profile of any east European electronics company also suggests that they are doing something right.
The Lite 7 is a more affordable version of Lampizator’s Big 7 DAC. It is just as huge, but has transistor rather than tube rectification in front of the Psvane 101D valves supplied as standard for the output stage. The converter is ready for DSD up to DSD128 and PCM to 24/192, whereas the Big 7 takes both these numbers two notches higher. Volume control with remote and a front panel display is a €1,000 option, but this upgrade also affords an analogue input: two more can be added at extra cost. Other optional extras include a DSD512 DAC, balanced outputs, headphone out, and Lamipizator’s discrete R2R ladder DAC. You are also at leisure to change the output valves to 2a3, 300B, 45, 6A3, 245 or 345 triodes, but remember to select the right setting on the rear panel. The line out version has only a single switch on the front panel and this selects between PCM and DSD operation; this is the first example of such a switch I’ve come across and one provided because Lukasz uses a different chip for each format. Input switching between USB, RCA coax and AES/EBU balanced is via a toggle switch at the back of the box, which seems inconvenient until you realise that casework over half a metre deep requires a top shelf location in most situations.
Given that most equipment supports are not that deep, Lampizator has the sense to include six rather than four feet, so that the rear portion of the DAC can protrude from the rack. Why so big? The main reason is that it uses the same chassis as the Big 7, but it is also a single-ended triode amplifier with a DAC onboard, so it has two power supplies with separate transformers for each and those have secondary windings for the various elements. On the other hand, it has only one amplification stage, one capacitor in series with the signal, and no output transformers. The box still seems excessive until you realise that it can be upgraded to Lampizator’s top spec, which can include balanced operation with four output valves.
The USB input is unusual in that it does not require power from the source device like many DACs, which eliminates one source of noise in a stroke. It presumably runs an Amero receiver because this is the driver that Windows PCs need to hook up with it. I was concerned that this would make the Melco N1A digital transport redundant, but the Lite 7 is a full class 2 device and the combination worked fine. I started by using the standard output valves and the USB input with the CAD CAT JRiver powered digital transport and CAD’s powerline free USB cable.