DAC decision: Lampizator Pacific vs TotalDac Balanced Output Options

CDC77

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Hello, as this is my first post on this Forum, let me say I have been engaged in this hobby about 3 years. Was persuaded from the start to go all digital, streaming Qobuz through Roon. Last year, I traded up from our entry level system with new speakers, new integrated amp, new server/streamer. All great choices. When it came to the DAC, I became intrigued with TotalDac and was actually thinking of visiting them in France to listen when the pandemic struck. But there was a glitch. My integrated amp will only accept XLR balanced input, and in my research, the TotalDac “direct” approach (resulting in unbalanced output) seems to win out over the balanced output approach. Back to the drawing board, I recently listened to a Lampizator Pacific with balanced output and am strongly considering going in that direction, which would introduce tubes into my otherwise all solid state system. But before I take the next plunge, I thought I would take a new “audio friend“‘s suggestion and run my questions past this forum. On TotalDac, am I making too much out of the direct/unbalanced vs. balanced output choices? Has anyone compared TotalDac to Lampizator Pacific? (If so, which versions of TotalDac)? Thank you.
 

dorch

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Apr 8, 2020
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I can't help with the TotalDac to Lampizator comparison, but I do have some experience with TotalDac and balanced operation.
I also run all digital and have enjoyed several TotalDac products over many years. Always running with XLR cables into fully balanced amplification. My most recent upgrade of the dac was from a fully balanced d1-dual TotalDac to the d1-direct TotalDac. The d1-direct is a big improvement even over the excellent d1-dual. I chose this over the d1-seven on the advice of Vincent Brient (of TotalDac) who believes it provides the best single-box sound quality if you can work with the low output levels. My listening experience is that it really is excellent. From a practical point of view input is from the AES-EBU output of the TotalDac using a balanced XLR cable. Output is through XLR balanced cable to TotalDac two-box monobloc d1-drivers then through their balanced XLR outputs to my fully balanced power amp. It gives me XLR connections throughout, and all works really, really well.
 

CDC77

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Thank you, “Dorch”. someone else suggested the same solution, but is there concern that I would be running from the DAC through the two-box monobloc d1-drivers into an integrated amp, that includes the pre-amp function? The drivers plus the preamp inside the integrated amp seems redundant, right? Is there a sonic loss from redundancy?
 

dorch

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Apr 8, 2020
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This gets into complicated territory about the need for pre-amps, relative input and output impedance, ongoing upgrades etc. etc. Its worth reading Vincents view on his website about the way that TotalDac products control volume and the experiments he went through to find a solution that had minimal effect on sound quality. You can find lots of views online about the challenges with pre-amps (effect of potentiometers, switches etc.). There a quite a few TotalDac users who have a pre-amp in the system just to manage impedances and help reduce reflections back up to the source, and leave the preamp set to no attenuation and just use the TotalDac approach to volume control within the DAC itself. Thats also what the d1-drivers effectively do.
Assuming you are in Europe, Vincent has a very good approach to sending people units to try. If that works for you, then you could get one to try and see how it interoperates with your existing integrated amp. And then experiment later with other upgrades.
 
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Sablon Audio

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May 22, 2015
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Hi, as neither of these dacs are dual differential designs needing xlr for optimal sq, there’s another option to consider which is to run an rca into xlr terminated interconnect cable. Whilst you would lose balanced operation, there would be a more direct signal path and, in the case of the lampi dac, a decent cost saving. You could easily experiment with some cardas adaptors to see if there’s enough gain.
 

CDC77

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May 27, 2021
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Chicago
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This gets into complicated territory about the need for pre-amps, relative input and output impedance, ongoing upgrades etc. etc. Its worth reading Vincents view on his website about the way that TotalDac products control volume and the experiments he went through to find a solution that had minimal effect on sound quality. You can find lots of views online about the challenges with pre-amps (effect of potentiometers, switches etc.). There a quite a few TotalDac users who have a pre-amp in the system just to manage impedances and help reduce reflections back up to the source, and leave the preamp set to no attenuation and just use the TotalDac approach to volume control within the DAC itself. Thats also what the d1-drivers effectively do.
Assuming you are in Europe, Vincent has a very good approach to sending people units to try. If that works for you, then you could get one to try and see how it interoperates with your existing integrated amp. And then experiment later with other upgrades.
We’re in Chicago. Posted a photo from our last trip to Europe :)
 

KeithR

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it really comes down to if you like tube dacs. if so, consider the Lampi and Nagra. if not, the TotalDac and MSB are typical high end ladder dac options. also, if DSD is very important to you I believe Lampi has a really good solution there.

i wish it was easier to demo TotalDac in the US- i went with MSB for that reason. have heard nothing but good things about them though.
 
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bonzo75

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nothing to do with tube or not. Same with amps, except amps have drive requirements dependent on the speaker
 

cal3713

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I would recommend using a DAC with a balanced connection whether you choose Lampizator or another brand:

Although there are indisputable benefits of balanced design, there is also quite a bit of evidence that some listeners like second harmonic distortion and some manufacturers explicitly design their equipment to create second harmonic dominant designs (e.g. Nelson Pass' First Watt F4). Balanced equipment achieves lower distortion by cancelling out all even harmonics. I consistently prefer single-ended designs despite the higher distortion, so I assume I fall into the above camp of listeners.
 

witchdoctor

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Apr 23, 2016
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Although there are indisputable benefits of balanced design, there is also quite a bit of evidence that some listeners like second harmonic distortion and some manufacturers explicitly design their equipment to create second harmonic dominant designs (e.g. Nelson Pass' First Watt F4). Balanced equipment achieves lower distortion by cancelling out all even harmonics. I consistently prefer single-ended designs despite the higher distortion, so I assume I fall into the above camp of listeners.
Yeah, Paul McGowan mentions that second harmonic design in the video and says they can be quite good.
 
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cpcat

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Jun 20, 2016
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Hi, as neither of these dacs are dual differential designs needing xlr for optimal sq, there’s another option to consider which is to run an rca into xlr terminated interconnect cable. Whilst you would lose balanced operation, there would be a more direct signal path and, in the case of the lampi dac, a decent cost saving. You could easily experiment with some cardas adaptors to see if there’s enough gain.
Are you saying the balanced Lampi isn’t dual differential? According to their website it is.
 
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Sablon Audio

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Are you saying the balanced Lampi isn’t dual differential? According to their website it is.
They double up circuitry for the out of phase leg needed in balanced version, which i would regard as being an implementation /extrapolation rather than the underlying dac chip being innately dual differential.
 
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cpcat

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They double up circuitry for the out of phase leg needed in balanced version, which i would regard as being an implementation /extrapolation rather than the underlying dac chip being innately dual differential.
From the LampizatorPoland website :
“The chips are current production, latest models and not nostalgic 16 bit units. It is a multi bit top model with fully differential balanced outputs and 384 kHz PCM / 8xDSD capability.”

 
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CDC77

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Curious that at one point it appears Lampizator was using R2R ladders but abandoned that approach for the chip some members have been discussing here. Did I read that correctly? If so, does anyone know why?
 

Golum

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Curious that at one point it appears Lampizator was using R2R ladders but abandoned that approach for the chip some members have been discussing here. Did I read that correctly? If so, does anyone know why?
Just sounds better...had GG2 with r2r - Pac with E57 is better.
 

heihei

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I've not spent much time doing direct comparisons between Lampi and TotalDAC but have heard both. To a degree, they are cut from the same cloth in terms of style of presentation, majoring on the flow of music and tonality rather than extracting the maximum detail. They go about it in different ways - Lampi is exclusively tube-based and TotalDAC mostly solid-state, but as Bonzo75 says, this is not the defining factor, although the ability to tube-roll gives Lampi a degree of customisation of the sound. I could quite happily live with either, but having gone down the Lampi route, I'm in the process of upgrading from GG2 to Pacific.
I played a bit with the D1 Driver and found, whilst good, didn't match a very good pre-amp but this was in a non TotalDAC system.
 

CDC77

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Thanks to all that responded. Some good advice here. Pleased to say I’ve made a purchase. I would like to emphasize it was a difficult choice, heck it was difficult just to narrow down to my 2 final choices. And I must say, both of these companies were extremely pleasurable to work with. Very responsive, all questions answered, no hard sell ...
 

microstrip

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They double up circuitry for the out of phase leg needed in balanced version, which i would regard as being an implementation /extrapolation rather than the underlying dac chip being innately dual differential.

Do they feed a separate DAC for the out of phase leg with data "inverted" in the digital domain?
 

witchdoctor

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Apr 23, 2016
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Thanks to all that responded. Some good advice here. Pleased to say I’ve made a purchase. I would like to emphasize it was a difficult choice, heck it was difficult just to narrow down to my 2 final choices. And I must say, both of these companies were extremely pleasurable to work with. Very responsive, all questions answered, no hard sell ...
What did you buy?
 

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