Lampizator Level 7 DAC
The latest Lampizator Dac, the Level 7, has been causing quite a stir amongst those who have had the pleasure to listen to one and when I was offered to review it I gladly accepted. I had been getting many emails and phone calls from consumers who had either listened to, bought one or wanted to know if I had heard one recently, that the offer came just as I was about to make the enquiries myself to get a sample delivered.
The Level 7 is Lampizator’s most minimalist DAC to date, utilising 2A3 power output tubes. Yes 2A3′s, that you only find in an amplifier! The chip is directly connected to the grid of the single ended triode, with absolutely no series components in the path.
Level 7 is a combination of insight from previous level DACs which due to the compliment of components could not be housed in a single enclosure, so there is a PSU box and that Lampizator refer to as the music box (the DAC).
The two units arrived in two separate double boxes and lined with medium density furniture foam, not the most professional of packaging but very effective nonetheless.
To connect the two units together there are two neutrik speakon type locking cables or umbilical chords, one for the main power and the other to power the 32bit Asyncronous USB, this one for the USB is very thick and substantial and the other even thicker again!
Connections on the sample I had were thin on the ground, a coaxial RCA and a USB, which is the standard input configuration for the base model, with a toggle switch on the rear to flick between them.
Lucazs’ primary goal is to keep the DAC as simplistic as possible in order not to injure the signal path in anyway.
Although when ordering there is the availability for any connection the heart desires as long as they are not balanced XLR outputs, which I’m sure you have already worked out due to the tube implementation of the design.
On purchase the end user has the option to choose the tube compliment. The DAC runs with two 6X5 rectifiers known for their low sag. The main tubes can be either 2A3, 45 or 300B, the variants are not interchangeable and the option must be specified on order.
A multitude of digital connections, AES/EBU, Coax, Optical, BNC, multiple analogue output sections in order to use the DAC as a multi room hub and volume controls can be specified, but be prepared for small compromises in sound with the likes of adding a volume control as this will sit in the signal path and disturb the purity of signal transfer.
All digital inputs will read files of up to 24/192, yet with a push of the button on the front of the music box the DAC enters DSD mode, allowing for USB streamed files to be read at 64X and 128X in DoP format.
The PSU is a completely separated dual mono power supply with vacuum tube rectification stage and choke, employed for filtering in each channel. The power reservoir is big enough to serve medium power Push Pull amplifiers. This is where Lampizator says the bass control secret lays.
The build of the Lampizator is somewhat industrial – it is a handmade product which could be more related to a workbench type product rather than a state of the art machined piece of engineering.
The front aluminium plate and it’s simplicity works for me and is the face of the product… the rest of the case, which has a more industrial feel to it is covered well in my rack.
Note – you are NOT paying for expensive casing, pretty appearance and a piece of jewellery here, what you ARE paying for are two well constructed boxes of the highest grade components and experience of implementation.
On first impressions the Lampi displays a purity of sound which I simply have not heard from any digital source, there is clarity and presence which can only described as true ‘realism’.
Kathryn Roberts ‘The White Hind’ conveys a breathtaking vocal which has its own three dimensional space in the centre of the soundstage, with hauntingly realistic height and an overall tonal balance which breathes with an organic and natural completeness that only vinyl enthusiasts with rigs of the highest quality would dream of. Sean Lakeman’s accompanying vocal similarly embodies its own presence and parameters of positioning totally different in character and expressively as convincing.
‘Hey Laura’ – Gregory Porter conveys a piano harmonic to the listener which is both totally accurate and harmonically proficient. The acoustic of the listening space is so developed, allowing for notes to appear to reflect off the rear wall of this intimate performance that it gave me the perception that my own listening room was a direct comparison in size of that of the recordings.
The Level 7 was really digging its heels into my listening experience to the point that it’s holographic representation of the music all but allowed me to walk through and around the performance with the ability to look each area part of the music up and down, through and through.
‘Liquid Spirit’ from the same album gave remarkable depth to the bands positioning within the recording, displaying what can only be referred to as a sculptured scene of sound waves. Differing depths and heights of brass, tambourine, bass, piano and Gregory’s own vocal which was convincingly a few feet back into the surrounding band simply gave that impression of undeniable realism. The Lampizator oozes a sound of pure single ended beauty and grace. I listened thinking of how correct the sound was, how natural it was presented to me and how for each instruments dynamic a truth could be heard, effortlessly spacious captivating the listener. With a bass that delved down into the notes deepest depths with a preciseness that left me gobsmacked.
Fond memories of listening to the TQ Iridium came to mind. The midrange of the Level 7 was absolutely crystal clear and liquid, it’s difficult to express an educated take on the balance when it just doesn’t seem that balance plays any factor in a sound which is so pure and true.
Being able to reproduce Laurie Anderson’s robotic vocal throughout a range of her music which is so heavily midrange dependant can be a chore. Her music is plagued with many synthesized sounds and to be quite honest annoyingly repetitive lyrics.
The DAC arranged portions of the music pretty amazingly, listening for tonal effects and representation of natural and computer generated notes was the only true appeal to her music for me, but nonetheless for a few review criteria such as complex staging and rendition of midband properties it can be quite an interesting listen, which reflected again at how cohesive the Lampizator can separate many different sounds whilst still displaying a complete image.
The DAC really does have that instant “draw in” factor, not a wow factor as I talk about so often, more of a mesmerising grasp, that sits the listener down in a hypnotic state for hours on end without even allowing thoughts of the day to enter the mind.
Dynamically strong and naturally expressive of harmonic flurries ‘The Courier’ Seth Lakeman explores fast violin work that soars across the right side of the soundstage stating its position firmly in its acoustic space. Bass notes are so full and deeply accurate. The speed of the track entwined with its dynamic flare adds an excitement to my system which is normally a more subtle affair, never noticeable until the Lampi reproduced it the way it does.
The good old saying ‘you can’t miss what you haven’t had’ comes to mind and then ‘you don’t know what you’ve lost until it’s gone’ comes shortly after removing the DAC from the system.
More beat driven music such as Derrin Nauendorf’s ‘Universe Demands’ lost out on its rhythmic flow and warmer fuller undertones for me, the tubes I were sent – the Psvane 2A3′s and their cleaner flavour didn’t embody the strength of the driven beat, although when talking to Greg at G-Point Audio (the UK importer) he said that the alternative mesh variants have a warmer and fuller bodied sound, which for me on this track would have been an improvement.
However ‘Ghost Town’ from the same artist with its more acoustic vibe hit bass notes of accurate proportions, tighter and incredibly well extended down to the darkest depths of my rooms resonant ability. The Level 7 may not have that fast punchy rhythmic flow of more up beat tracks but when it comes to reproducing the purest of natural bass notes, I simply have not heard anything that comes close.
This leaves me to reflect on the genres that I personally feel the Lampizator in its current incarnation is capable of reproducing. Acoustic and vocal was undeniably strong, involving and utterly to die for. This genre does make up the majority of my listening although I do like to listen to some other genres with a more driven beat.
Quite obviously Jazz was stunningly impressive. Ben Webster’s smooth sax was beautiful and emotional, each breath could be heard and the piecing nature of its dashing flow throughout the soundstage was absolutely gorgeous. Bass notes were bouncy and weighty but lacked that little bit of warmth I personally prefer which a tube roll could offer to this and some other performances.
Trad’ had overlays of articulation and undertones of fullness that were a more pleasing listen with the tube compliment to hand, exploring older recordings lower end detail far better for me without losing body, adding more depiction to a naturally warmer rounder tone.
I didn’t expect much from pop and dance music, but a fair few tracks I played were pretty good, the bass doesn’t have that slapstick speed on upper bass notes, but then we are talking about an all tube DAC here and who really goes out to buy a DAC of this type for this type of music? Clarity, sound staging, dynamics and air in the top end were great and there are strong harmonics nonetheless.
Rock was a little too refined and didn’t have a presence of weight and grunt to it which some of the other Lampizator models can do better with. I do predominantly think that this DAC excels mostly with instrument and vocal work and ‘excel’ truly is an understatement it is pretty damn incredible!
I don’t really listen to classical music, but exploring this genre was pretty impressive. Big orchestral movements were easily separated into differing proportions, singling out instruments as well as groups of brass or woodwind for example. Spatial awareness, large dynamic shifts and reverbs were conveyed again with that single ended type of purity and clarity with absolute control and sophistication.
The Level 7 can handle complicated arrays of dynamic surges with ease allowing for larger bass notes and finely tuned harmonics to scale the soundstage with absolute ease creating for a really complicated portrayal of a performance to sound so effortless.
Polished triangle and sharp strings floated around a particularly busy soundstage never losing there crisp appeal during busier fore-fronted brass and deep full bodied bass notes, allowing for their decay to never be overshadowed by lower end dynamic shifts.
The Lampizator Level 7 is a truly remarkable listen! It has the ability to reproduce naturally formed notes and vocals with an organic and breathtaking sensation of purity, embodying the true essence of a performance. It renders these aspects effortlessly giving a correct balance and tonal appreciation that is very difficult to question and can only be described as ‘lifelike’.
However, it doesn’t explore a huge range of genres and for me I require a DAC that can so this for the purposes of reviewing, but then it’s clear to tell when reviewing this product that it was clearly voiced and focused for the natural beauty an instrument and vocalist can offer, reproduced at it’s very best and as analogue as digital can truly be.
A very difficult task to really nail with true substance and if there has to be trade offs then who cares, if this DAC reproduces the music you love so much, that is the vast proportion of your listening material everything else just fades into the background and doesn’t matter, leaving the listener with the truest representations of these genres that I believe is available right now anywhere in this industry.
Personally I love the understated simple appearance of the two units and thought they looked fantastic on my rack. You are not spending your money on bling here, that is obvious, it’s all gone into the quality of the internal components and the obvious painstaking R&D which has given this DAC it’s stunningly regal sound.
I for one have been Lampizated!
Build Quality – 7.5/10
Sound Quality – 9/10
Value For Money- 8.5/10
Overall – 8.3/10
Price at time of review – £7200 plus £500 for DSD
Highly Recommend – For being at the pinnacle of what it’s been voiced to achieve, reproducing instruments and vocals in breathtaking fashion.
Author – Danny Worth