The usual caveats apply: IMS, IMHO, no financial connection, etc.
I listen to mostly Classical (all types) and Folk/Americana, with some Rock and Jazz.
Current system configuration: Dedicated line, PI Audio Buss-Stop & Digi-Buss (all with Furutech outlets) > Mac Mini (SSD, 8GB Ram on an Atomic Audio Labs platform with an Ext. LaCie HD, AQ Jitterbug, & Pure Music) > PI Audio USB cable > Singxer SU-1 > Purist Audio Design Aqueous Aureus Praesto Digital IC (BNCs) > Lampizator Amber II > Kaplan Cables GS Mk. II interconnects > Rogue Cronus Magnum (Mundorf Evo Silver/Gold/Oil coupling caps, KT66s, NOS signal tubes, Synergistic Fuses) > Kaplan GS Mk. II speaker cables > Aural Acoustics Model Bs (on Mapleshade 4” platforms). Active electronics are on a Salamander Synergy rack. Footers are Daedalus and Herbie’s. Power cords are Triode Wire Labs Digital, HC Digital, 7+ and 8+. More info on my room and acoustic treatments is to be found under my system profile.
CDP/DACs I’ve owned include several Modwright “Truth” tube modded units ending with the Sony 9100ES, a Marantz SA15S2, and several DACs that were modded: Musical Fidelity Trivista 21, Audio Logic MXL 24, MHDT Havana, Eastern Electric DAC and DAC Plus. Units I’ve heard extensively in systems I was familiar with (including my own) encompass various Esoteric, Lecteur, Metronome, Audio Aero (Capitale), APL (Denon 3910s), Krell, and Bluenote.
I haven’t heard any of the latest high end DACs such as MSB (I’ll get there eventually Paul & Tree), Berkeley, Total DAC, Aqua, Playback Designs, Metrum, and LH. The most recent DACs and CDPs I have heard (aside from one I can’t remember the name of, at a dealer this year) were at a show a few years ago and included the AMR CD-777 (loved), Chord (probably Hugo?) and Schiit Gungnir (liked), and Mytek and Exasound (disliked). Nor have I heard any other Lampizators.
Most recently I used an EE DAC Plus with Dexa op-amps, VH Audio OIMP coupling caps, a Hi-Fi Tuning Fuse and an RT 6189. It is totally outclassed by the Amber II in every way.
The Amber II is a tube based (6922, 12AU7 & 6X5) delta sigma DAC (chip not specified) that does PCM to 384 and DSD to 128 (I’ve only used native 16/44 so far). It has one USB and one SPDIF input and proprietary Copper Foil coupling caps. This unit also has an optional Super Clock upgrade (handling both multiples of 44 and 48 kHz). It took over 200 hours to break in although it sounded excellent out of the box. I’ve not done, nor really been tempted to do, any tube rolling or fuse changing though I’m sure I’ll get to it at some point.
All of the reviews and comments on Lampizators hail a natural, extremely holographic sound with very full bodied images. The Amber II definitely possesses these qualities as well as good PRAT and a high degree of spatial & dynamic coherence (micro dynamics flow smoothly into macro ones). It is also highly tonally accurate, with a SET like delicacy and immersiveness.
Bass is very powerful but no part of the frequency spectrum is out of balance. For example, it makes upper strings sound fuller than I’ve ever heard before from digital (the Beethoven 6th Symphony by Monteux/VPO/Decca being a prime example), but without thickening the sound in the lower frequencies, unlike so many other (tube) DACs.
It doesn’t make a bad recording sound good (think old rock discs) but will make it easily listenable and enjoyable - without overly smoothing it out. Somehow the music comes out with the negative qualities (muddiness, brightness, excessive compression) reduced in scale.
Best of all to me is that it is very relaxing - not through a surfeit of warmth - but through an analog like continuousness approaching or meeting that of vinyl. For the first time, for me, eventual listening fatigue does not come from the discontinuity of digital itself, but just from having heard enough music.
The qualities of continuousness, holographic solid images, and tonal accuracy cannot be overstated. It has finally given me the sound I have been seeking (through multiple changes of every piece of gear) for a really long time.
PS: I used the Lampizator both direct from my Mac Mini to the USB input (with the Super Clocks thereby inline), and through the Singxer SU-1/PAD digital cable to the SPDIF input. The differences are clear but not large. Direct the sound has better PRAT. Through the SU-1 there is more bloom: the held notes and trailing transients are longer; while the leading edge transients are softer (sometimes a bit too much so). How much of this is due to the SU-1 versus the PAD cable is unknown, as I don’t have another quality cable to substitute in. Although it’s track dependent, overall I have a preference for keeping the SU-1/PAD in the chain.
PPS: I also tried an Uptone Regen connected with another length of PI Audio USB cabling running within each of the above paths. It added a small touch of further refinement either way but - as I decided to keep the SU-1 - in the interest of simplifying the chain I sold it.