by Rafe Arnott
The archeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun buried deep in the Valley of the Kings in 1922. The tomb was, for all intents, and purposes, intact, and became legend for the quantity of golden treasure that was buried within.
Casting my eyes upon the LampizatOr Pacific DAC ($29,995 USD) in all its splendour at AXPONA I was reminded of Carter’s story of discovery (and subsequent curse) as I gazed upon my reflection in its glossy, golden-brass casework, and marvelled at the compliment of 300B, 5U4G, and 6H6P tubes sprouting from its top like a crown.
The DSD 512, PCM 32/384 DAC was part of a system consisting of LampizatOr’s own Super Computer music server ($8,500 USD) Linear Tube Audio’s MicroZOTL Preamplifier ($4,000 USD), and Ultralinear ZOTL (Zero-Hysteresis Output Transformerless) Power Amplifier ($6,800 USD). Speakers were the always mouth-wateringly beautiful Daedalus Audio Apollo 11 (touted as the final version here, with their unique MTTM (mid/tweeter/tweeter/mid) design which starts at $17,400 USD, but in this configuration at Chicago had an MSRP of $22,800 USD. Skogrund Vivaldi Series cables were taking care of the missing links with their interconnects, speaker cables, and AC cords.
The reason I mentioned King Tut earlier is two-fold, firstly because of the gorgeous DAC chassis, secondly is the curse. I say curse because I feel that way every time I see this DAC: I must possess one somehow, and do it soon. I swoon every time I see it, and to hear it through a holistic, balanced system (particularly through the amplification work of Mark Schneider at Linear Tube Audio) is to fall deeply into the intent of the recorded music being played through it.
Stringed instruments in particular seem to burst into existence in the very air between the loudspeakers during my short listening session in room 654 of the Renaissance Hotel… ditto for emotive piano notes, the plaintive wail of brass from saxophones, or trumpets, and the too-numerous subtleties of brushwork on drum skins that were revealed during my time with this set-up.
The large Apollo 11 loudspeakers are equipped with a proprietary 10-inch woofer, sealed crossover compartments, and what Daedalus describes as “asymmetrical hardwood cabinets.”
Bass definition, and control of the lowest notes through the Apollo 11 was particularly impressive considering the size of the driver, and the fact that LTA’s Ultralinear power amp outputs 18 watts/channel. The amp, which is based around one of industry legend David Berning’s Zero-hysteresis designs is operational without traditional output transformers, relying instead on a unique impedance converter. I’ve heard others describe OTL amps as having rolled-off bass, nothing further from that here in my experience.
A beautifully curated system that played to emotional musicality, warmth, true tone, and timbre without sacrificing detail or resolution, the LampizatOr/LTA/Daedalus/Skogrund combo proved itself to be a sonic standout more interested in connecting with my mind, and heart, then just my ears, and a collection of gear I’d like to hear again.
Curse or no curse.