A cross-post from the Lampizator Amber 3 thread that I think people here would be interested in too...
Finished my dac shootout today... had the Lampizator Amber 3, Audio Mirror Tubadour 3 SE, ifi iDSD pro, and Shiit Bifrost 2 on hand. Previously also had a Matrix x-sabre pro, PS Audio Directstream, and PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC MK2 in the same system. All were fed lossless Tidal with the SPDIF output of a Magna Mano Ultra streamer. Speakers are Coincident PREs, amplified by First Watt F4 monoblocks, and a Don Sach's DS-3 6SN7 preamp (see my system page for full details).
First, I'd like to echo Bill's comments about
Colin of Gestalt Audio. Total class act, and highly recommended for any purchase. He's been responsive, helpful, and not at all pushy. Perfect service.
For review: In my system, the Audio Mirror was the winner. To my ears, it was the most real sounding of the bunch. It has beautiful "meat on the bones" and was the most holographic. The Amber sounded good, but in a very different way. For me, it was brighter and more lively. The soundstage was huge, but had less depth and liquidity than the AM. I also liked the iFi iDSD pro (used in tube+ mode with the bitperfect filter). It had great tonality, but was significantly flatter and less 3-dimensional than the AM. I think more people should give it a shot. The Shiit was good. Very even-handed and competent, but more "digital sounding" to my ears. My friend was listening blind and liked it the second best of the group (behind the AM).
Despite its king-of-the-hill status in specs (see Audio Science Review), I did not enjoy the Matrix x-Sabre Pro. It was very quiet and clean, with a nice mellow sound, but also a bit "grey" and sterile. I also did not like the PS Audio Directream, which just sounded wrong in my system. It felt disjointed. I don't know what the situation is, but for some reason it doesn't work with my ears. Unlike others, I actually preferred the PerfectWave over it (twice - as I tried upgrading two times over a 4 year span).
All in all, it was great to finally listen to a wide range of sources, and I could enjoy most of the ones in the stable. The experience also brought me closer to my AM T3-SE. A beautiful, highly recommended dac.