Lampizator Horizon v. dCS Vivaldi Apex Listening Comparison

Ron Resnick

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Coming into this I knew nothing about Wadax. Today I still know nothing about "Wadax intenders" and "Wadax deniers." What is a "Wadax denier," anyway?

Is a "Wadax denier" somebody who doesn't believe that a Wadax DAC possibly could be the best-sounding DAC for him/her personally? Such a bias is ludicrous to me.

I have not been a part of, and I honestly have had zero interest in, those partisan fencing matches.

I think it is precisely because I do not own a DAC, because I have never owned a DAC, because I have no prior DAC "baggage," because I have no prior DAC "relationships" -- I don't even really like digital -- that makes me unusually objective at this point.
 

Ron Resnick

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i see a subset of listeners who are serious Wadax intenders, who are open to actually buy one, as coming to the party open handed.

then i see the others who are not serious Wadax intenders as carrying their baggage of prior opinions and relationships. these can effect their views. especially since the price of the Wadax has the potential to effect their neutrality.

it's just the way it works. always.

none of the Munich Wadax deniers were actually serious Wadax intenders. no problem, but they are more likely to be affected by the price negatively. and it's natural and understandable. "i don't care anyway one way or the other, and at that price it's not as good as my turntable, or i prefer discs, or my dog ate my homework".

so my first question is always; are you seriously considering to buy the Wadax with your own money? then; i pay attention to what they DO. extreme prices do have these effects, especially in a product category with so many alternatives and alliances involved.

Mike, respectfully, I am not a psychologist and you are not a psychologist. Yes, pre-existing biases can affect thought processes. But to say this is "the way it works always" is applying a scientific level of certitude to unpredictable human behavior.

You are suggesting that I am unavoidably personally biased, so I will answer personally. I may be delusional, but I truly believe I tend to be less susceptible to these kinds of biases than many other audiophiles.

For example, I have held for decades a bias against the sound of metal dome tweeter Wilson speakers. Small and midsize soft dome tweeter Wilson speakers never interested me, either. Yet the very first time I heard the XVX, I believed it was something very special, and with each additional listening session I have never stopped raving about it.

I made an actual purchase decision on the Pendragons – six years ago now -- after listening to the speaker for only four hours. Since then I have learned a lot about other speaker systems, and, especially, about horns and high-sensitivity cone systems. I am now aware of likely shortcomings of the Pendragons -- and of low-sensitivity loudspeakers in general -- that I did not understand when I first auditioned the Pendragons.

No cognitive dissonance protection mechanism has kicked in to make me pretend that I have not learned things as my experience has proceeded. Compared to some other audiophiles I think I am relatively intellectually honest.

Not having a dog in this hunt does not, itself, somehow psychologically conjure up my own dog in this hunt.

The fact that I like Lucasz personally does not factor into my listening impressions. The fact that I have friends who own Lampizators does not factor into my listening impressions. I also have friends who own MSB and Bricasti and Schitt and EMM; this does not factor into my listening impressions.

I am not factoring the prices of the DACs we are listening to into my listening impressions. The most expensive DAC we have listened to is 12 times more expensive than the least expensive DAC we have listened to. We listened to both of them the same way.

Do biases exist? Of course they do. I suspect a psychologist would say they are unavoidable. But my unusual personal situation here -- never having purchased a DAC, never having owned a DAC and not having to make a purchase decision here -- makes me more bias-free than is typical.

Don't you think a psychologist -- as well as most laymen -- would consider you to have a stronger bias in this situation (as a Wadax owner) than I do (as a don't-own-anything observer)?

I promise you, Mike, that when I sit down to these listening sessions the only things I'm trying to figure out are: 1) do I hear sonic differences, and 2) which sonic differences do I personally prefer?
 
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microstrip

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I can report that in our direct comparison of the dCS Vivaldi Apex to several other top DACs* on a leisurely, A/B basis in a familiar system expressions of "another league" and "no match" and "best" are inappropriate, hyperbolic and misleading.**

*I feel truly fortunate and grateful to be participating with pk_LA in a direct comparison audition survey in a familiar system of many of the current top DACs in the world -- a survey which literally no one else has undertaken with these DACs.

**Of course we cannot avoid the unresolvable issue about what quantitative or percentage improvement qualifies as "another league." In other words is a 5% improvement on some parameter "another league" and "no match," or is a 50% improvement on some parameter "another league" and "no match"?
Ron,

I will note that your survey was carried in a limited time with just a few recordings that are not representative of the best of current digital music and IMHO are looking for something that emulates the best turntables playing LPs - something I understand.

IMHO such crude comparisons (just swapping the DAC) in top systems using top gear can be misleading - we are mostly comparing the matching of the equipment being switched with the system. In a properly tuned top system digital gear will show night and day differences versus the other. We pay for these night and day differences and expect to get them. If we do not have such differences something is wrong with our system optimization.

The dCS Apex Vivaldi has now returned to my system. Yesterday an old acquaintance, younger than me, listened to the current system - Lamm L2ref/M1.2R/SoundLabs. He loves Hans Zimmerman music and we listened to some well know sound tracks from movies such as Sherlock Holmes, Batman and few I do not remember. Fabulous. A layered background of music with fantastic bass and solidity where many instruments floated with great musicality, with the proper decays, energy, density - the attributes we enjoy. I was not supposed to enjoy it so much.

But the point is that when I connected the alternative Kondo KSL DAC that was still idling, it was a disaster. I also appreciate it a lot, and have spent now a long time listening to it with great pleasure, knowing how good it can sound when used with the Audio Research REF40. But the difference was abysmal. I will soon put the KSL DAC on sale, but it will not surely be the choice of an Hans Zimmerman fan ... ;)

Again IMHO the quantification of subjective sound differences in the high end is extremely misleading - in fact it denies the essence of the high-end audiophile - pleasing his individual preferences.
 

Mike Lavigne

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Mike, respectfully, I am not a psychologist and you are not a psychologist. Yes, pre-existing biases can affect thought processes. But to say this is "the way it works always" is applying a scientific level of certitude to unpredictable human behavior.

You are suggesting that I am unavoidably personally biased, so I will answer personally. I may be delusional, but I truly believe I tend to be less susceptible to these kinds of biases than many other audiophiles.

For example, I have held for decades a bias against the sound of metal dome tweeter Wilson speakers. Small and midsize soft dome tweeter Wilson speakers never interested me, either. Yet the very first time I heard the XVX, I believed it was something very special, and with each additional listening session I have never stop raving about it.

I made an actual purchase decision on the Pendragons – six years ago now -- after listening to the speaker for only four hours. Since then I have learned a lot about other speaker systems, and, especially, about horns and high-sensitivity cone systems. I am now aware of likely shortcomings of the Pendragons -- and of low-sensitivity loudspeakers in general -- that I did not understand when I first auditioned the Pendragons.

No cognitive dissonance protection mechanism has kicked in to make me pretend that I have not learned things as my experience has proceeded. Compared to some other audiophiles I think I am relatively intellectually honest.

Not having a dog in this hunt does not, itself, somehow psychologically conjure up my own dog in this hunt.

The fact that I like Lucasz personally does not factor into my listening impressions. The fact that I have friends who own Lampizators does not factor into my listening impressions. I also have friends who own MSB and Bricasti and Schitt and EMM; this does not factor into my listening impressions.

I am not factoring the prices of the DACs we are listening to into my listening impressions. The most expensive DAC we have listened to is 12 times more expensive than the least expensive DAC we have listened to. We listened to both of them the same way.

Do biases exist? Of course they do. I suspect a psychologist would say they are unavoidable. But my unusual personal situation here -- never having purchased a DAC, never having owned a DAC and not having to make a purchase decision here -- makes me more bias-free than is typical.

Don't you think a psychologist -- as well as most laymen -- would consider you to have a stronger bias in this situation (as a Wadax owner) than I do (as a don't own anything observer)?

I promise you, Mike, that when I sit down to these listening sessions the only things I'm trying to figure out are: 1) do I hear sonic differences, and 2) which sonic differences do I personally prefer?

who wrote this post?

 

Ron Resnick

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I wrote that post:

I think the Horizon is the most genuinely transparent DAC I have heard, without the sense of transparency coming from artificial detail or edginess. (Prior to this I have always felt when listening to digital that if only I were listening to vinyl the whole presentation would be a little bit more transparent -- listening through a cleaner window.)

I had been planning to get the Baltic 3 at some point. I now think I will step up to at least a Golden Gate 2 when the time comes. It has been suggested that the Golden Gate 2 is a touch more "relaxed" sounding than the Pacific or than the Horizon. That is probably a safe way for me to introduce digital playback into my own system.


I wrote that post four months ago listening to the Lampizator by itself. Listening to a single DAC is far less valuable, interesting, probative and educational than is listening to a direct comparison of two DACs in a familiar system. (At this moment I am a lot more familiar with the sound of Pat's system than I am with the sound of Steve's system.)

And you see from my thinking out loud musings even back then I did not make a purchase decision for myself.

Is your implication that because I wrote this four months ago I am biased today while participating in this state-of-the-art DAC survey?
 
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Ron Resnick

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. . . when I connected the alternative Kondo KSL DAC that was still idling, it was a disaster. . . . the difference was abysmal.

Are you sure you are not being hyperbolic? A "disaster"? "Abysmal"?
 

Mike Lavigne

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I wrote that post:

I think the Horizon is the most genuinely transparent DAC I have heard, without the sense of transparency coming from artificial detail or edginess. (Prior to this I have always felt when listening to digital that if only I were listening to vinyl the whole presentation would be a little bit more transparent -- listening through a cleaner window.)

I had been planning to get the Baltic 3 at some point. I now think I will step up to at least a Golden Gate 2 when the time comes. It has been suggested that the Golden Gate 2 is a touch more "relaxed" sounding than the Pacific or than the Horizon. That is probably a safe way for me to introduce digital playback into my own system.


I wrote that post four months ago listening to the Lampizator by itself. Listening to a single DAC is far less valuable, interesting, probative and educational than is listening to a direct comparison of two DACs in a familiar system. (At this moment I am a lot more familiar with the sound of Pat's system than I am with the sound of Steve's system.)

And you see from my thinking out loud musings even back then I did not make a purchase decision for myself.

Is your implication that because I wrote this four months ago I am biased today while participating in this state-of-the-art DAC survey?
Ron,

the idea of you and a solid state dac is beyond logic. and so when you bring that baggage to a dac shootout sure, absolutely, it colors your perspective. i'm not holding you to buying a Lampi from your 4 month old post, but you are not a candidate for the Wadax, or any solid state dac, and yes, that means that your perspective is not relevant to the question. we don't need you to tell us about your biases, we already know them.

you are not neutral.

your listening feedback is a data point. with it's baggage attached. caveat emptor.
 
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microstrip

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(...) Listening to a single DAC is far less valuable, interesting, probative and educational than is listening to a direct comparison of two DACs in a familiar system. (At this moment I am a lot more familiar with the sound of Pat's system than I am with the sound of Steve's system.)

Considering the extreme dissimilarity of your future, already bought, system and pk_LA system I can't agree with this point. IMHO listening to Steve system has shown you how good digital can sound for you - you described it with enthusiasm and plenty of details. All I read in pk:LA comparison is that you deeply disliked the sound of the dCS in the Boulder system.

IMHO we learn from positives, not from negatives.
 

Audiocrack

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I suppose nobody is (100%) neutral. That said I really enjoyed Ron’ s writing and recognized quite a few points he made (notwithstanding the fact that my music choice would be quite different). And people/audiophiles can - and quite a few of them indeed - change their opinions during their audio journey due to new experiences. For example I am at heart a ‘tube guy’ and listened for many years to various tube dacs like eg the Kondo, Zanden and Lampi GG dac. All of them very enjoyable but the better my system became and the more I was able to lower the noisefloor - and as a consequence increase the transparency of my system - the more I became aware of the intrinsic noise (or if you will: distortion, although the latter might be pleasing to the ear) of tubes in a source component. So I eventually opted again for a ss dac (Tidal Camira at first and currently the Wadax reference dac).
 
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Ron Resnick

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Ron,

the idea of you and a solid state dac is beyond logic. and so when you bring that baggage to a dac shootout sure, absolutely, it colors your perspective. i'm not holding you to buying a Lampi from your 4 month old post, but you are not a candidate for the Wadax, or any solid state dac, and yes, that means that your perspective is not relevant to the question. we don't need you to tell us about your biases, we already know them.

you are not neutral.

your listening feedback is a data point. with it's baggage attached. caveat emptor.

Mike,

I am seeing your assumptions, but I am not seeing my "baggage." Yes, I typically prefer tube preamplifiers and tube amplifiers. However, my actual purchase decisions include a speaker system with solid-state woofer tower amplifiers, and a line-stage preamplifier with a solid-state output stage.

By the way, the MSB Premier has always been a contender for my personal decision (at least before the recent price increase, anyway), and, as KeithR will tell you, I think his MSB Reference is fantastic.

How does my general preference for tube preamplifiers and tube amplifiers create a bias concerning my sonic impressions from comparing two solid-state DACs?

I feel like I might be seeing here more bias you have about me, than bias I have about comparing DACs in the context that I have never purchased a DAC, that I don't own a DAC, and that my sonic impressions of the Wadax are based solely on a comparison with another solid-state DAC.
 
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andromedaaudio

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Most of us would agree i think that a loudspeaker is probably the most defining contribution to the end result of a sound system .
So the fact that somebody ( reviewer) does his / her testing with a Wilson XVX , Magico , Kharma or a Rockport or Horn will give mostly different results
The testing / inserting a component in ones system is more or less only relevant to the person who actuallly likes for example the sound of Wilson XVX Ls (newer wilsons in general ).
I can imagine a lot of people would not consider it to be SOTA.
A loudspeaker is like a looking glass , each has a different distortion
 
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KeithR

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i see a subset of listeners who are serious Wadax intenders, who are open to actually buy one, as coming to the party open handed.

then i see the others who are not serious Wadax intenders as carrying their baggage of prior opinions and relationships. these can effect their views. especially since the price of the Wadax has the potential to effect their neutrality.

it's just the way it works. always.

none of the Munich Wadax deniers were actually serious Wadax intenders. no problem, but they are more likely to be affected by the price negatively. and it's natural and understandable. "i don't care anyway one way or the other, and at that price it's not as good as my turntable, or i prefer discs, or my dog ate my homework".

so my first question is always; are you seriously considering to buy the Wadax with your own money? then; i pay attention to what they DO. extreme prices do have these effects, especially in a product category with so many alternatives and alliances involved.
So we need to qualify potential Wadax clients? Do your realize how arrogant this sounds?

If the Wadax was half the price of your former Select would you have even demo’d it?
 

Mike Lavigne

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So we need to qualify potential Wadax clients? Do your realize how arrogant this sounds?
no, no qualifiers, only if they are not actually interested in the Wadax for themselves, what are they interested in? and their attraction to that or those can be an influence on their views. justification is a strong influencer.

if i've settled on the Ideon, or the MSB, or my vinyl or tape, and have no personal interest in the Wadax for myself, then those intensions skew my perspective. then the price of the Wadax becomes an influence for a negative perspective.

not being able to afford the Wadax is not the issue, more commitment to other paths is the issue. how do we eliminate price as the obstacle? not easy when you are the most expensive by multiples.
If the Wadax was half the price of your former Select would you have even demo’d it?
what causes us to investigate a product? people contact me about products all the time. does it take a huge price to get my attention? trying to think of how to answer that. i had a prior relationship with Elliot from my visits to his room in 2019, so that led to him contacting me. but i did not commit until i did my head to head in my OWN room.

i've purchased lot's of modestly priced gear and loved it. and talked about it. the CS Port phono was $17k retail and i owned it and loved it for 3 years. it was about how it performed. i used an $1100 preamp for three years (Placette RVC) along side my $75k Rockport Sirius III. i think i listen and decide.

OTOH over-the-top ultra gear can get peoples attention...mine too. but expectations then go thru the roof and naysayers come out of the woodwork.
 
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christoph

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When became this a Wadax thread? :rolleyes:
 

Ron Resnick

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morricab

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i see a subset of listeners who are serious Wadax intenders, who are open to actually buy one, as coming to the party open handed.

then i see the others who are not serious Wadax intenders as carrying their baggage of prior opinions and relationships. these can effect their views. especially since the price of the Wadax has the potential to effect their neutrality.

it's just the way it works. always.

none of the Munich Wadax deniers were actually serious Wadax intenders. no problem, but they are more likely to be affected by the price negatively. and it's natural and understandable. "i don't care anyway one way or the other, and at that price it's not as good as my turntable, or i prefer discs, or my dog ate my homework".

so my first question is always; are you seriously considering to buy the Wadax with your own money? then; i pay attention to what they DO. extreme prices do have these effects, especially in a product category with so many alternatives and alliances involved.
So, now we have to be “intenders” or our ears are hopelessly biased?? You can’t be serious.

I am not an “ intender” for a full blown living Voice / Kondo system but it didn’t stop
Me from hearing how glorious it sounds.

These comments are frankly rather insulting…you act like the WADAX was the only Uber component at the show…hardly! Most of the stuff there fell into the same bucket of non”intender” some was great most was not.
 

pk_LA

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Ron,

I will note that your survey was carried in a limited time with just a few recordings that are not representative of the best of current digital music and IMHO are looking for something that emulates the best turntables playing LPs - something I understand.

IMHO such crude comparisons (just swapping the DAC) in top systems using top gear can be misleading - we are mostly comparing the matching of the equipment being switched with the system. In a properly tuned top system digital gear will show night and day differences versus the other. We pay for these night and day differences and expect to get them. If we do not have such differences something is wrong with our system optimization.

The dCS Apex Vivaldi has now returned to my system. Yesterday an old acquaintance, younger than me, listened to the current system - Lamm L2ref/M1.2R/SoundLabs. He loves Hans Zimmerman music and we listened to some well know sound tracks from movies such as Sherlock Holmes, Batman and few I do not remember. Fabulous. A layered background of music with fantastic bass and solidity where many instruments floated with great musicality, with the proper decays, energy, density - the attributes we enjoy. I was not supposed to enjoy it so much.

But the point is that when I connected the alternative Kondo KSL DAC that was still idling, it was a disaster. I also appreciate it a lot, and have spent now a long time listening to it with great pleasure, knowing how good it can sound when used with the Audio Research REF40. But the difference was abysmal. I will soon put the KSL DAC on sale, but it will not surely be the choice of an Hans Zimmerman fan ... ;)

Again IMHO the quantification of subjective sound differences in the high end is extremely misleading - in fact it denies the essence of the high-end audiophile - pleasing his individual preferences.
I find these reactions curious. I would certainly agree that the comparisons aren't up to snuff scientifically. But, I also cannot help but smirk when I read a post that negates the comparison that was done while using language like, "...remember..," and, "...fabulous..." to qualify one dac.

My audition process, while limited, does do the following.
a) It enables a review of the various dacs in one system - my system. With all other variables relatively constant.
b) It enables a continuous comparison against a great reference - the Vivaldi Apex

Again, while not perfect it is better than any other option that I am aware of short of buying all the dacs and reviewing them over a long period. If anyone has a better strategy I am all ears ;-)
 

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