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Digital to Analogue Converter



Price (when reviewed): 92 000 zł

ul. Brzozowa 2G
05-552 Wola Mrokowska | Polska


Product supplied for test by: LAMPIZATOR

uman memory is not always reliable, so I had to go back to the "High Fidelity" archive to find out when I tested one of Lukasz Fikus products for the first time. It turns out that it was in March 2012, so more than three years ago. It was the DAC Level 4 with the associated music player, called by the TranspOrt. Later I listened to USB converter, and finally the DAC Level 7 in the company of the monoblock amplifiers using Russian GM70 tubes. Each of these products showed great class and they definitely were to my taste. Therefore, I am always eager to reach out for new products coming from Mr Fikus.

The second reason is no less important - I support Polish products / brands / companies and I'm not going to stop doing that. There is no shortage in our country of really good and very good products and not only in the audio industry, even though it is that which interests us most. More and more Lampizator reviews are appearing which allows me to follow company's development, which reveals progress not only in terms of sound quality, but also for what is for many also very important, aesthetics. Just do a little search with "Uncle Google's" help to see that this is still one of most widely recognized Polish brands around the world..

Last time we met (during the previous review) Mr Fikus told me straight out that he somehow neglected the Polish market focusing on foreign ones, with the US market leading the way. And that's probably why there are so many usually very well written reviews of products coming from this Polish brand in the US and also in such exotic (to us) countries like Australia. However the company's attitude towards the Polish market is changing now, just as promised by Mr Lampizator. They recently exhibited at the Audio Show in Poland (from the next edition the name for our National Audio Show changes to Audio Video Show - by the way), and there are also new entry-level items available in their portfolio allowing less-wealthy music enthusiasts to join the band, too.

I must admit that after the last test I did, the Level 7 DAC, a long time I was missing this device that gave me so much joy in communing with the music. For a long time my main sources have been the turntable and the computer. After listening to many DACs with different price levels (probably as a fan of the analogue approach) I hit the ranks of those who committed themselves to the DSD files playback over PCM (just preference, not to judge what's better). And when it came to DSD files Lampizator used a simplest possible solution without any chip on-board or conversions involved, and only with appropriate filters, and as a result, in my humble opinion, he was and still is beating all competition I have heard by not a small margin.

It's one of the best known examples to me confirming the old truth that "the simpler the audio device is, the better the sound". There is for sure a possibility to find some DACs which will play better PCM files, but from my point of view as a declared DSD fan, it doesn't matter. My main interest is DSD playback so the fact that PCM does not sound quite as good as the other makes little difference and is easy to live with anyway. Therefore, since few months my ears are constantly enjoying Big 7 sound (more or less at the time I tested Level 7 the company decided that it is going to be a "Big 7" - a model in a single housing as part of the main product range, whereas the two-box Level 7 will be made only by special request).

Shortly after I bought it Mr. Fikus said that customers are pushing him to do even greater model, and at that time he even had this name in his head - the Golden Gate (yes, the famous bridge in San Francisco). So finally, when the new flagship DAC hit the markets worldwide, with the price, let me say: well worth its worldwide reputation, I could not resist the temptation to see whether there is still a possibility to raise the bar even higher - in relation to already outstanding Big 7 DAC.

Golden Gate

As with most Lampizator models GG also is a fully customizable product - meaning as on the top of what comes as a standard, the customer can choose amongst a range of options for their DAC. Mr. Fikus provided for this test a Full-Monty, balanced version of the GG DAC, with the latest DSD module (now supporting 256kHz files - my Big 7 plays "only" 64 and 128), additional volume control module (so I could connect it directly to my ModWright power amplifier without using a separate line stage). With an extra line input employed in this DAC with VC I was not only able to simplify connections by using the DAC directly, but such a DAC with analogue inputs could host my phono stage as well, reducing need for having pre amp at all.

Of course the choice of digital inputs is vast. Our sample on test in addition to basic USB input (type B), was also equipped with the AES/EBU input and two S/PDIF inputs (RCA and BNC – switchable). Only one analogue input comes as a standard with the VC unit - and it is an RCA input. One more however can be added at extra cost. Outputs in the fully-balanced machine: RCA (unbalanced) and XLR (balanced). The single-ended version of the DAC just has the single unbalanced RCA output of course.

Because the version I tested was fully balanced, then in addition to the rectifier tube and a pair of output valves there are two more of type 101D - replica Western Electric valves currently produced by Psvane. A significant change from the unbalanced version is that not all the tube options are available in this version. It's one of the fantastic features of the Big 7 - the possibility of multiple tube rolling.

For my every day listening I am using the cheaper version of the 101D which comes as a standard with the Big 7 DACs. I fell in love with a pair of 6A3 NOS valves I had been lent for review as well. For vocals sometimes I use my precious Western Electric 300B, although a loan pair of NOS 45s did it even better and with PX-25 and 2A3 which I also tried the DAC sounds equally excellent. In the balanced version choice is more limited. Mr Fikus himself prefers these WE101D Psvane replicas in his circuit, but balanced GG can be used also with 300B and PX-4, but not 45 or 2A3 however.

In front of the quad of output tubes proudly stands the rectifier - here it is an Emission Labs type 274 dual diode - obviously chosen not by accident. In its place, you can put others, but following Mr Fikus advice - this brings the best out of the circuit.

External differences if compared to the Big 7 are obvious. Firstly, the Golden Gate has a large part of the housing made of brushed and lacquered copper - that brings a bit of a resemblance to Kondo, but in the end where to get inspiration from, if not the best? Lampizator's copper however, and I'm talking here about the colour purely, looks more "coppery" than the Japanese - meaning the copper colour over the chassis is more vivid. The visual effect is very impressive indeed.

Front remains virtually unchanged - that's somehow Lampizator's hallmark - a thick piece of aluminum in silver or black (optional) color. A small display in the VC equipped version is available in choice of four colors, as is the famous "eye," or the letter "O" in the logo if you wish. Single knob on the front matches a choice of fascia - that's all. To be honest - I liked the front plate look from the first unit I tested. Though it seems that for the Golden Gate possibly something more sophisticated could be created to match its looks even better and depart it from the traditional look the remaining range offers, better matched to its copper casing Well perhaps, but that's just my opinion.

Volume control knob is the same, but in the Big7 it served also to navigate through the menu of your device - here, this function was abandoned. Knob still manually by-passes volume control but switching inputs is left to remote control exclusively. The latter today is more versatile, good-looking, but it lacks the aesthetics of the DAC itself. It is not the end however and a dedicated RC to match Golden Gate's copper glamour is already under development.

Another difference that can not be seen at first glance are the feet - at the bottom of the device there are three pairs of rubber feet mounted - the unit is extremely deep so it comes in handy, but also, if your rack is short, then the DAC will be standing on 4 feet only giving the unit stable working conditions. Apart from them, there is also another set added. This are three wobbly devices sporting a pair of aluminum discs equipped with hard surfaced semi-spherical indentations to hold a ball between them. The upper one is permanently attached to the bottom of the unit, bottom ones with the ball put into the place goes under them. This solution is used today by many companies (eg. Symposium, read HERE, Polish), although they differ in (mainly) the material from which the bearing elements are made. According to the designer, such "roller-blocks" make the sound better, more present and realistic and significantly better separated from the speakers.

For the record it have to be said, while Lampizator does not offer any standard power cord coming with its product, our review sample had been delivered with separate power cord. On that occasion it was Sablon Audio's Corona Reserva, which Wojtek tested in August (read HERE). As the test came out so well and even the DAC's designer recommended to use it to justify Golden Gate's quality, I was also was keen to give it a go.

Well, yes I forgot about another "little thing". Now the Golden Gate comes in a huge, solid, stage case. The case inside is lined with perfectly formed foam to secure the product during delivery. There is enough space inside to create a compartment for equally safe delivery of the tubes in their own boxes. This is nice touch as they are not cheap themselves and equally precious. Such a solution was unavoidable, because the majority of Lampizator products will take a long, often intercontinental journey to the future prospective owners - and in this package it will for sure arrive without damage. Also if the owner decides to send it back to the factory for an upgrade, thanks to this package the item will be safely returned even from the farthest corner of the Earth. By the way, it shows company's forward thinking too - the Golden Gate can be a chart-topping product today, but that does not mean that in the future there won't be some upgrades available...

Constructor, owner

"As an engineer, I am a doubting Thomas kind of person. I have to touch the tissue, test it, verify the problem - to believe. I simply can not stand any mysterious voodoo-spells like explanation which I read a lot of in the audio industry. Falling into this category is also very expensive so-called "Boutique" electronic parts. Often 100 or even 1,000 times more expensive than the basic sort of parts with the same parameters, but no boutique branding. Dealing daily with a very demanding audiophile customers, I'm exposed to continuous pressure for the use of such parts to build our most expensive product range however.

I lost the energy to fight this argument back, that it makes no sense to throw money that way and it is better to buy an expensive pair of speakers perhaps, to allow the system overall to fly higher. Or holiday on Bali if you wish. I was purely a tilting at the windmills. I fought until the moment when I gave up. The situation turned 180 degrees, and I said: you want expensive parts - fine, there you go. All I can buy - I will and I'll apply all those most expensive parts in one time to our flagship DAC the BIG-7. And so was born the Golden Gate. Then we had to choose only the parts that together make sense. Voice the unit right as it is not just about the parts in the end.

Here one can find a whole array of the most recognized brands of the world: Furutech, WBT, Mundorf, Jupiter, DUELUND, ClarityCaps, Kendeila, Vishay, and the like. On top of this materials such as horrendously expensive solid copper and that means virgin sourced from mined ore with proper purity, not recycled one. Also wood, silver, Teflon (for insulation), even tin containing silver and gold. In my view - total madness!

And, I must admit, I was ready to put my bet on that the changes can not heard. And I would lose - now I know it. It can be heard like crazy. Particularly in very expensive systems where the Golden Gate usually becomes a part. I don't know why this happens but the music takes you in her possession, becomes engaging, makes you want to listen to it over and over again and all thoughts about hardware just disappear, they become invalid. It's like a pheromone, is something that defines what the whole audiophile culture should be about. Well now OK, I am converted. Doubting Thomas believed."

Recordings used for testing (a selection):

  • AC/DC, Back in Black, Sony B000089RV6, CD/FLAC.
  • McCoy Tyner, Solo: Live from San Francisco, Half Note Records B002F3BPSQ, CD/FLAC.
  • Michael Jackson, Dangerous, Epic/Legacy XSON90686F96, FLAC 24/96.
  • Isao Suzuki, Blow up, Three Blind Mice B000682FAE, CD/FLAC.
  • The Ray Brown Trio, Summer Wind, Concord Jazz CCD-4426, CD/FLAC.
  • Renaud Garcia-Fons, Oriental bass, Enja B000005CD8, CD/FLAC.
  • Leszek Możdżer, Kaczmarek by Możdżer, Universal Music 273 643-7, CD/FLAC.
  • Michał Wróblewski Trio, City Album, Ellite Records, CD/FLAC.
  • Arne Domnérus, Antiphone Blues, Proprius PRCD 7744, CD/FLAC.
  • Rodrigo y Gabriela, 11:11, EMI Music Poland 5651702, CD/FLAC.
  • Rachmaninow, Symphonic dances, Etudes-tableaux, Reference Recordings HRx, 24/176, WAV.
  • Natural jazz recordings, fonejazz, DSD64.
  • Thirty years in classical music, fonejazz, DSD64.
  • Mozart, Piano concertos, Eugene Istomin, Reference Recordings HRx.
  • Pavarotti, The 50 greatest tracks, Decca 478 5944, CD/FLAC.
  • Hans Zimmer, The Dark Knight Rises, WaterTower Music B008645YEE, CD/FLAC.
  • Buddy Guy, Born to play guitar, RCA/Sony 88875120371, CD/FLAC.
  • Mozart, Le nozze di Figaro, dyr. Teodor Currentzis, MusicAeterna Orchestra, Sony Classical B00GK8P1EG, CD/FLAC.
  • Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington, The Complete Session. Deluxe Edition, Roulette Jazz 7243 5 24547 2 2 (i 3), CD/FLAC.
Japanese issues available at

Well, this test was - at least to me - not just a comparison, but Golden Gate vs. Big7 duel. I think you perfectly understand my statement here. You are putting a new element into the system, which plays music back so wonderfully that for the months after you can not get away (OK, I have to tear myself away to review other things), and here the manufacturer comes back again to say about newer product that: "It will blow your socks off..." compared to your already beloved machine, which already left you bare footed, so? Sock-less already what do I have to lose? Especially that he claims in the same time that it is basically the same thing just beefed up, kind-of "on steroids like".

It turned into the fact that what I still can loose is my spine. DACs are perhaps not the most heavy components in the audio rig (even though Lampizator DACs are bigger and heavier than many others), but other toys on my racks, unfortunately, are. I did not have too much time available for this write up, and our hero arrived just in time when I was loaded already with other equipment. So we ended up at the beginning with the Golden Gate struck between two turntables and connected directly to the XLR inputs of my ModWright amp. First day then it played the music only being used purely as a... linear pre-amplifier, which allowed me to finish my test of the phono pre-amplifier.

It replaced in this duty my ModWright and was doing really well. It became apparent that my LS100 was a slightly warmer sounding device. Goldie seemed to be very clear and transparent when tested with the Avid Pulsare 2, which is known as a very transparent and neutrally sounding phono stage and Goldie not only prevented loss of this quality, but even didn't provide slightest changes to the original unit's voicing. What became immediately clear and obvious is that the Golden Gate was able to drive my ModWright power amplifier without a smallest trace of problem. With the analogue input on board, when used as a pre only it was in the same class with my home resident line stage and actually could permanently replace an external preamplifier in my system. And the simpler the system the better, according to many. And I have agree with them that there is definitely something right about that. The pre-amplifier module in this Lampizator DAC was not even the subject of the test, but as the situation forced that to happen it has to be said that it did it's duty and performed very well, in fact surprisingly well.

The next day I could start listening (though still not directly compare the GG vs Big7) to the Golden Gate as a DAC, still directly connected and controlling my KWA100SE. For clarification: my streaming PC is using JRiver set up to convert on the fly each file (except native DSD) to DSD 128. The Big 7 did already prove itself to be capable of brilliant DSD files playback, perfect for PCM files converted to DSD and finally very good for PCM itself.

As both DACs share the same circuit (although the Golden Gate's engine supports DSD256 and Big 7's does not), I assumed, therefore, that there won't be any major differences in playback in this respect. Such a software setup is also very convenient as whatever files come in also come out with no need for switching, or getting annoying sudden silence in the room when the format changes in the stream. An attempt to set the conversion to DSD256 failed - on my computer files kept coming out choked, with hiccups I can not stand. So as I do not have the native DSD256 files I ended up listening to the DSD128 stream.

As I was expecting to have my socks blown off, as I have been told I felt a bit disappointed at first. Do not get me wrong. It all had been played absolutely right and many elements reminded me of what my Big 7 does for me on daily basis or even Level 7 did as well in the past. But there was no WOW factor to the extent I set up my mind to expect. The playback was remarkably smooth, with breathe-easiness, consistence, vividness. As always beautifully involving. Then it came for the 1st time to my mind that it might be the "freshness" factor which is responsible for that. As the unit was a new build and not settled, delivered to me after last minute agreement I started to think that I should give it a little more use before taking any notes. As it kept changing during this session and I wasn't aware how much, if any time had been already put on it after initial testing I set up a playlist and left it playing some music in the background all day long. I was listening with pleasure, but without any critical analysis.

After a few hours on my playlist there appeared DSD files, from Holst's Planets under Zubin Mehta recording. The difference between this album and vinyl, which I also have, is that here in addition to the Planets was also added as a bonus the music from Star Wars. As a big fan, awaiting for the next part of the cult saga to be screened, once the first sounds of the soundtrack appeared I put a volume up, in fact, I turned up the volume beyond the limit of decency (in relation to my neighbors) and finally I started to feel that I am actually losing my socks ! It seemed that the DAC began finally play up to the expected level.

Finally, I started to hear when the balanced Golden Gate DAC's presentation clearly outperformed my DAC. I'm talking about the dynamics of both: the orchestra at the macro level and the level of individual instruments, sounds even, the speed of the attack, about the impression of immediate presence of large and powerful, but also the quietest and most delicate, and yet, thanks to its excellent separation, clearly audible sounds. In each of these aspects, the new flagship dominated the Big 7 clearly (to certain degree of my memory). For me it was a real musical feast, the next phase of preparation for "The Force Awakens" and during a few days I was listening to the DAC constantly and kept returning to the track after track with delight.

Next tunes which followed by were equally dynamic - soundtracks from Gladiator and The Dark Knight, the new album of Buddy Guy, as well as one of my favorite Lee Ritenour's albums. All praise previously expressed regarding speed, immediacy and the rapid fire dynamics had been confirmed 100%, and on the Buddy Guy's music it could be additionally appreciated how great Lampizator is in leading the rhythm of the recording, as well as complies with the difficult task of serving music with perfect timing. I love the blues, but the fact it is simple in notation does not mean it has no demand for the playback quality. Pretty much the opposite. To keep your hands clapping and your legs tapping the rhythm or your head nodding constantly it have to be played superbly, with feeling, with a great sense of rhythm to make the finicky fan (read: me) to forget about God's World and sink into a simple, but very addictive rhythm. In this case, it took me maybe five seconds, despite the fact that the disc was new to me and listened to maybe twice before. Most important however was that when I went back to listening at normal volume levels my socks still kept blowing off and I could not help it - so it was not just the effect of listening to the music loud.

Sometime after midnight (where's the day gone ??!) there appeared on a playlist the great Miles Davis. A disk which I am listening to continuously for several months now and it never made me bored - Tribute to Jack Johnson. An amazing, hypnotic powerful act (plus, of course, the masterful trumpet and drums). Absolute departure! Extremely voiced, shiny metal, firmly guided bass, natural (yeah ... natural - electrical :)) keys, and on top of this the golden TRUMPET! Goldie (as you probably noticed, I nicknamed the Golden Gate DAC) was able to create an unprecedented climate, the kind of in which a man without a second thought falls headfirst with a smile on his face.

Reflection came only when the last note silenced - it was absolutely lovely, fantastic and brilliant, but I could not quite distinguish it from the memory if referred to at last 10, perhaps 15 listening sessions I had with my Big7. I could not really determine what the difference really was. So let's skip two days, when I managed to fit both machines into the system and listen to them face to face - although it should be noted that the Big 7 was connected - inevitably - to the line input of my power amplifier, not balanced as the Golden Gate and with a new and better cable – absolutely genial Hijiri IC from Mr. Kiuchi (test HERE).

I will say it this way: in my opinion, single-ended DAC, like my beloved SET amplifiers has after all one, maybe a little, but for me still significant advantage over the flagship Lampizator product - the phantom images are even more tangible, palpable, even better filled. The issue here is not even a specific placement it puts of the event on stage (SE Goldie should then raise bar even further), and even the way it sketches contour (because there probably also the Golden Gate has an advantage), but rather in a more tangible fulfillment of these contours, in giving them the appropriate weight, the body that you can almost touch. It is difficult to describe it better. Golden Gate is building a great and multi-layered scene. It can play with good material very precisely, without losing that precision neither on width or depth.

Therefore the Big 7 created, to my ears, images more holographic, making the presence of Jarrett's piano or Miles' trumpet in my room more realistic and Patricia Barber's singing two meters away from me more life-like. Once again - the Golden Gate gave a similar impression, but into my ears with a lower intensity. Well, what could I do with a feeling like that? Well, nothing - the audio is always a compromise. The Big 7 with a good SET will create a different kind of musical spectacle than balanced the Golden Gate with balanced power amplifier. Such is the reality, the rest is a matter of your personal preferences.


Thinking about it at that moment it reminded me what Mr Fikus said when he brought me his latest DAC. According to his words when using the DAC in the RCA rig - only one pair of tubes is used: the one positioned closer to the back of the unit, just like in SE DAC. First row, closer to the listener should be left where they are, but those making actual playback can be exchanged for another pair. I connected the Golden Gate's RCA line outputs, using the same reference Hijiri IC into the linear RCA input in my ModWright. The answer to all my doubts came clear after a few minutes of listening - if I was myself able to afford to buy the Golden Gate DAC I should do it immediately.

As already I have established dominance of the balanced GG over unbalanced Big 7 in the balanced system in most aspects (actually all except the one mentioned above) as clearly audible there was nothing more left to find. When I connected it to the line input, maybe dynamics dropped a tad, perhaps not quite as sensational immediacy of each attack being present, but it seemed like they were better than the Big 7 anyway. However, the intensity of the materialization of each source was equally apparent in both machines. All right, alright, it was probably more than a little bit better, but I found it hard to admit even to myself. Perhaps because it is difficult to find the way to enjoy your own reference after encounter a much better device which ownership remains difficult to afford.


In the end I decided to see how the Golden Gate handles PCM files. I did not expect a revolution, because of the internal structure of both DACs remains the same. But since the DSD files sounded better, might it just be the case for PCM? Surprisingly - yes, they sounded better. It was still not level of DSD performance, but PCM gained not only growth with transparency and equally resolution, but also with the tonal balance and musicality.

It's interesting, because - if I understand well - the layout of the circuit is the same. So the only changes result from the use of better components and balanced structure. Anyway changes are for sure present and definitely positive. DSD still, I think, sounds much better, but the PCM sounds better than before too. Interestingly, there are some rumors that Lampizator is now working on a new implementation for his PCM-in, of course to premise them to sound much better, maybe even as good as, DSD ... In the last however I won't believe before I can hear it, but it's probably a good direction of work. Having the opportunity to listen to the last DAC from Soulution: model 560, costing as much as the Golden Gate, I can say that Lampi actually might need to do some job to improve PCM playback more, though regarding DSD playback, in my opinion, of course, Lukasz Fikus can still sleep easy - the whole competition in that department is far behind what he has achieved. Though somehow I am convinced that he does not sleep quietly at all and probably he is already planning to bring some more surprises to the daylight...

Knock, knock: Polish DAC for over 90,000 PLN...

Made in Poland DAC with a 90,000 PLN price tag ?!? I can imagine lots of people probably tapping their heads significantly right now with their fingers. Unfortunately there are many Polish audiophiles like that, against which/whom I personally, also here in "High Fidelity" am keeping my crusade going. Unfortunately the famous government slogan " It's good, because it's Polish" still doesn't catch up with many of my countrymen. Although, to my joy, the proportions begin to change and the number of users is growing for Polish equipment. Meanwhile the Polish designers, in this case Mr Lukasz Fikus, but not only him, are constantly proving that native products are no worse than Western imports. And certainly not when you compare the sound quality. As for the aesthetic yet still few things can be improved though progress is clear, even taking the Big 7 as an example (especially the version I have, that no longer is the latest and had been replaced with a visual sibling to the GG, but made of steel instead).

Copper housing makes a job and "stands out". No doubt about that. The front panel I personally like but to emphasize the uniqueness of the Golden Gate I think something different / nicer / better unified with its overall aesthetics could make it stand out even more... For the interior, where the point-to-point assembly had been replaced by large printed circuit boards, it is difficult to have any objections. The quality matches here the well-recognized companies - top parts all over the place from Furutech , WBT and Neutrik sockets, to Mundorf, Jupiter, or DUELUND alike capacitors - in no way inferior if anyone would like to confirm against any other high-end competitors. The feet with roller-balls excel as well, and their performance also brings significant improvement to the sound.

Visually, I can only put a critical note on the rear panel of the device - top quality sockets is one thing, but the descriptions under realized with stickers is the other. Still labels do the job and never fall down but some people might not like it. Hearing that they are already working on their own remote control, which surely will have much better presence than now included universal one, I am convinced that sooner or later, for the sake of peace, Mr Lampizator will also prepare rear panels to equally high standard to match the rest.

What matters to me however is a judgment made purely on the sound quality. I said it once and I am going to say that again: In the case of "native" DSD playback the Golden Gate has no competition. FULL STOP. Sure, I have not listened to all the DACs around the world, but did hear enough to reach this simple conclusion - conversion doesn't improve things at all, the subject must be addressed in easiest possible way - just like Lukasz did it. It is the most similar to analog playback, which so far is most natural to me and is sounding closest to how instruments (mainly acoustic) really do sound live.


This balanced Golden Gate DAC combines musicality, beautiful timbre reproduction, tangibility, fluidity and smoothness of playing with an explosive (as needed) dynamics and punctual bass, with great rhythm keeping, with openness, spaciousness and voicing from another galaxy. Interestingly, from my point of view, the PCM also sounds better than on my Big 7's - but similarly again, despite the progress achieved with DSD going back to PCM files does not hurt at all and one can live easily without setting his streaming PC to permanent on fly conversion mode. More of that, being balanced, its pre-amplifier module has no problem driving any balanced power amplifier and it holds this duty very well indeed. In fact it does it so good that if I could afford it I would sell my pre-amplifier.

And to sum up. As this is fully customizable unit, meaning that one might order himself exactly what he needs, plus some extra cosmetics like front panel, switch and display colors. Each choice has obviously an impact on the final price of the device, so the client can get a device adapted to his needs and a few thousand Euros cheaper if you just do not need the optional components, or even choose the basic unbalanced version.

As if that was not enough, so in the future (of course for an extra fee) the gates stay open and one will be able to change these options, or adopt his existing Lampizator DAC when something new comes up or a system change. That is another money saving solution as one doesn't have to sell his existing machine on s/h market and lose money on it. Not to mention that the custom approach offered here is not available from majority of the main stream suppliers, and if is, to some extend it always comes with much bigger bill to pay for.

Golden Gate's size is roughly the same as Big 7's – so to be honest, as for a D/A Converter, it is huge! 500 (G) x 440 (S) x 280 mm (W – together with rectifier tube I tested it with) suggest rather an amplifier than DAC. Its weight - 16kg is also not something one sees often in the word of D/A Converters. Golden Gate holds two DACs inside it – one can see only one USB input but DSD and PCM signal go to completely separate sections. GG sports not only a USB input but also others. Which ones? It depends a lot on customer's needs. The version under review offered: AES/EBU, and a coaxial one, although with two different connectors: RCA and BNC. This version included also an optional volume controlled (sort of resistors leader) and a pre section with a single RCA input which allowed me to use GG also as a preamplifier for my phonostage.

The main part of the chassis – a cover with side walls – is made of copper, stamped and powder clear-coated which ensures that copper won't change color for many years. Same cover holds five high quality, Teflon tube sockets made by CNC. These sockets, as standard, host four Psvane 101D Western Electric replicas, and an Emission Labs 274 rectifier. It looks damn good! Front panel is same as it's „always” (meaning as far as I remember) been – a thick aluminum plate in silver (or optionally on black) with a small monochromatic display (in one of four optional colors), a Lampizator logo with the famous „eye” - „O” backlit using same color as display, and a knob that is a volume control only (in Big7 it allowed also to move around in device's menu). The bottom and rear panel are in fact one piece of a black colored steel. It hold, apart from already mentioned digital inputs, also analogue outputs – XLR and RCA. If the pre section is also on board one will find there also another pair of RCA sockets – a linear input that is. Sockets come from manufacturers like: Furutech, WBT and Neutrik – one of the best available on the market. There is also a IEC socket with voltage switch, and the on/off switch. The whole chassis sports 6 (!) rubber feet, but for those who demand best solutions manufacturer proposes three so called roller-blocks. Golden Gate is, for now, delivered with a universal remote control, but a much nicer looking, copper one is under development and should be available soon. The device is delivered in a solid case together with tubes.

Inside one won't find point-to-point connections anymore. Instead there are few nicely designed blue PCBs with the largest one holding an analogue section. What makes Golden Gate different from Big7 is a whole selection of highest quality components like: ATOM Vishay first capacitor after the tube, Mundorf M-Lytic HV electrolytes in second stage of PSU, Mundorf Foil MKP capacitors in third, final stage of power supply just before the tube anode and output capacitors are the huge Jupiter-Copper 1uF caps bypassed by Duelund Pure Silver caps. From USB input signal goes into the same chip, as in Big7 – Amanero. Then signal travels either to PCM module or a separate DSD one (user has to choose that manually). The former works in dual-mono configuration. We don't know which chip is used, what we know is that is is capable of processing signal up to 32 bits and 384 kHz. The later is a proprietary solution developed by Lampizator. It accepts DSD64, 128 and 256 (Big 7 does not accept DSD256). It is an array of filters, no chips are used, no data manipulation. Then signal goes directly to the grid of DHT (Direct Heated Triodes). It is a particularly minimalist design and that's what makes it so unique and so amazingly sounding. There are some Polish accents within the design two – chokes and a large transformer with multiple secondary windings come from Mr Leszek Ogonowski, our own, Polish specialist know in audio worlds mainly (although not exclusively) for his transformers for tube amplifiers. During the test Golden Gate was used with Sablon Audio Corona Reserva power chord supplied by Mr Fikus.