MHDT Orchid or Lampizator Amber 3?


I’m considering one of these. Please share your thoughts, especially if you’ve heard them. I will be streaming 70% and CD’s 30%

Jazz, R&B and classical in that order are my listening habits.

My room is 20x30 and very nice acoustics.

Current system:
Dali Epicon 8, Luxman 509X, PS Audio NuWave DSD, Cambridge CXC, Shunyata interconnects & Nordost speaker cable

Thank you!!!

jzzmusician
I have heard both and reviewed the Orchard professionally. Both are very musical DACs. However, the Lampizator costs $1,550.00 more and is not a better sounding piece. If you get the Orchid spend 50 bucks and roll in a NOS Western Electric 396 and you will be in for a musical treat.
Teajay,
Thank you.  I was sort of hoping somebody would say that.
- Bob
Don't know if the Orchid will be an improvement over the Nuwave DAC, which is an underrated yet excellent DAC. The Orchid is OK but nothing extraordinary or special, IMO, and only outputs 16/44, which may not be a concern of yours. But the only way you'll ever know is to buy the Orchid and decide for yourself whether or not it was worth it.  I own the Orchid; PS Audio PW MkII, and Schitt Gungnir Multibit DACs. 
Probably not very helpful, but I have an audio mirror tubadour III se and have compared it to two ps audio products, both the perfectwave mk2 and directstream. I found it better in every regard... It's also in your price range. 
If  you want an MHDT DAC that will do hi rez, look no further than the excellent Pagoda.

Oz




I have the Orchid and it sounds amazing.  It is an easy best buy for sheer musicality and enjoyment of your music.  I simply love mine and agree with upgrading to the WE tube.

If you upgrade the output caps and key resistors around the tube you will be treated with even greater sonics as this unit really responds to parts like Vishay Zfoil resistors and top grade output caps from companies like Miflex, Jupiter, Vcap and others. 

My unit plays up to 24/192 as is a great match with my Innuos streamer and Qobuzz.  


Allow me to chime in if I may. I either presently own or have in the very recent past (this year) owned the following dacs: Chord Dave, Nagra Classic Dac, Lampizator Golden Atlantic, Lampizator Amber 3, Border Patrol Dac SE, MHDT Orchid, TotalDac D1-Tube-Mk2, Aqua La Scala Optologic, Audio Mirror Tubadour Mk3 with all the upgrades. In the distant past some of the better dacs I’ve had range from Cary 306 pro, Wadia 861se, McIntosh MDA1000 and I began experimenting with streaming in 2004 with a Macbook feeding the optical input of a Cary 306-200 cd player.

Yes, things have progressed mightily over the past 15 years and today I stream from an Innuos Zenith Mk3 using a FTA Callisto usb cable. We really are fortunate that there are so many wonderful choices available to the audio community for they are virtually all vastly superior to what could even be conceived of just a mere decade ago. I tend to appreciate the tubier side of the sound spectrum, I have 3 systems and have just this year owned (not borrowed) Nagra Classic and Pass Labs XA25 solid state amps and Audio Research Ref75se, Shindo, VTL , LTA and Leben amps on the tube side of the scale. Cabling is presently Tellurium Q and Auditorium 23 with Kubala and Cardas bounced in an out on occasion. With all of this in context, I would like to comment on this topic.


With all due respect to @teajay (and I do deeply respect teajay for his fearless advocacy of products he believes set a new bar) as well as the others here who have commented and in recognition that we all hear differently and every ancillary difference affects everything else, I offer the following observations. The MHDT Orchid and the Lampizator Amber 3 are both terrific dacs but in no way is the Orchid the equal to the Amber 3. Now, this is in my system, my room and my ears. My experience with these two dacs, side by side for an extended period leave me confident in this appraisal for the following reasons. The Amber 3 is so much more refined, dynamic and fully fleshed out that my belief is that this offering must be a loss leader for Lampizator. The bass performance is exceptional, a liquid, almost illuminated mid range is complimented with a delicate yet robust top end. Its really mind boggling, to me anyway, that they can sell this dac for less than $3,000!


The Orchid is an exceptional dac as well and if you are shopping at its pricepoint you can feel confident that you will enjoy your music and not be missing the party. Make no mistake though, the Orchid is not the equal of the Lampizator Amber 3. So, where would I place the Orchid among the dacs I have spent considerable time with? I would place the Orchid slightly ahead of the Border Patrol DAC SE (I have yet to experience the new SEI version). I prefer the Audio Mirror Tubadour to the Orchid and I prefer the Amber 3 to the upgraded Tubadour I have. I believe the Amber 3 is on par with the Lampizator Golden Atlantic and the Aqua La Scala Optologic, so close in fact that the minor differences are quite subjective in the smallest degree.


So, what should you do and which dac is right for you? You should arrange a listen to each and decide for yourself which you prefer. The Orchid is referred to by many as a giant killer and I guess it just depends on the giant it is facing. Without monetary constraints of any kind, I would consider the Orchid a superb dac unless I heard it back to back compared to the Audio Mirror Tubadour. The Tubadour is a better dac in every way to my ears than the Orchid. The Amber 3 is better still than the Tubadour, again to my ears, and you have to spend a whole lot more money to materially better its performance. 

To be quite frank, if I compare the Chord Dave to the Amber 3 I prefer the Amber 3. The Dave has more features, it probably “measures better” to the crowd that decides before hearing for themselves which dac is better but it just isn’t as musically satisfying to me.


Buy what YOU like, there are alot of choices out there and they are all terrific in their own way. Good luck and peace to all.
This is so subjective as we all know. I have not liked the Lampi sound in the past and owned and quickly sold two of their dacs. Are the new ones better for my tastes? Don’t know, but perhaps worth a try. Found them too forced and forward.

In my rig I would own the Orchid over the Aqua LaVoce S2 and Audio Mirror.
@grannyring how true, how true!

I was not overly impressed by Lampizator dacs until the Golden Atlantic came along. Your assessment about their prior dacs is consistent with my memory although I never had one for any material length of time.

Was your Tubadour stock or did it have the upgraded caps, etc.? To be fair, try to remember the sound of your Orchid stock, before you modded it and upgraded it so considerably. The stock Orchid (prior to you infusing it with your magic touch) is not at the same level as the upgraded Tubadour. I cant comment on a stock Tubadour as I’ve never heard one. The Amber 3 granny, you really should hear it. Its quite an accomplishment given its price.

I hope your cable business is still thriving. I enjoy your Schroeder Method interconnects (I use them between a recorder and an integrated). Best to all.
The Amber is very interesting. I know they offer a trial at full price.....may try one 😊. I preferred the stock Orchid with an upgraded fuse and good power cord to the Aqua LaVoce S2. The upgrades I performed on the Orchid really do bring it to another level for reasonable cost really.

My comments on the AM dac are based on a friend trying one and comparing to an MHDT and LaVoce. It was an AM with upgrades that cost $1880. We have the same taste and he felt the AM dac was good, but not as full bodied as the others. We both desire a full bodied sound that stays clear of leanness and hyper detail. The AM dac was not far enough along the full bodied spectrum. He ended up with a LaVoce S3 which he says is better than the S2.



"My unit plays up to 24/192..."

Maybe yours is modified but the stock Orchid has a 16bit chip DAC. It does accept 24/192 but only outputs 16/44.1.  As for the comparison with the LampizatOr, I have the older Amber not 3 and have compared it with the Orchid in my system. I thought they both sound very good but the Amber had a little more balanced sound, especially after I switched to better/NOS tubes. That said, if I were to buy either new, given the price difference I'd go for the Orchid unless the new Amber is significantly better than the older version I have. I doubt if its twice better than the Orchid. As mentioned before, I think Pagoda is a better option and worth the additional cost especially if your content is more from streaming than Redbook CD.  
If I had been the VP of Marketing for Lampizator, I wouldn’t have named the new dac the Amber 3 but they were also likely trying to keep their naming conventions more consistent than in the past.

The Amber 2 I heard in the past(not in my system) sounded fine and the Amber 3 is literally a completely different animal to my ears. The new digital engine will challenge what you thought was possible for under $5-6,000. I am a R2R fan and I simply can’t believe this sound is possible from a ds chip. Mind boggling. Once again, I would place the Amber 3 on par with the Aqua La Scala Optologic dac for almost one third the money. Keep in mind, I wasn’t trying to decide which one to purchase, I already owned both along with the TotalDac. The Amber 3 is on par with the Aqua and it wasn’t embarrassed by the TotalDac.

Listen, everyone should buy and enjoy what they can afford and what they like. With that said, I don’t want what I’m trying to convey to come off as some comparative justification to feel good about purchasing one product over another. I still have many of the aforementioned dacs, I’m just trying to tell you what I am hearing in my home with these dacs. I’m happy with each purchase...they are all fine dacs but the Amber 3 is, in my opinion, a disruptive kind of product. It so blurs the the cost-benefit ratio that the law of diminishing returns shifts materially.

Choose to listen to one or don’t but make no mistake, the Amber 3 is not an upgraded Amber 2 to my ears. The Amber 3 in time may be considered an entry into the top tier of dacs rather than just an entry into the Lampizator line. If the Amber 3, the Aqua Optologic and my Totaldac were in my system at the same time, to my ears, you could remove any two of them and I would not get fussy. Its that good. YMMV.
ghasley, it's good to know that Amber 3 is that much better. Another nice thing about these DACs is that aside from tube rolling one could also upgrade passive components like capacitors to make them sound even better. I'll just need to wait until one comes up for sale in the used market.
@ghasley 

Can you describe the sound differences between the Amber 3 and the LaScala? 

Thanks
@facten The La Scala Optologic is a terrific dac. It has a very nice and sincere presentation. Its not too "showy" meaning the mids are the right scale and color, not over or under emphasized. The low end is nice and full without being plump. Just the right amount of overhang and decay. The high end is exceptional and frankly, I believe the high end bests the TotalDac Tube dac. Its a terrific dac.

The Amber 3 has a more pronounced low end and the mids, while not as pronounced as the Lampizators of yesteryear, is a bit more present than the Aqua. The high end is too close to call but the Amber 3 seems more layered and 3 dimensional to me than the Aqua.  Where the Amber just has me shaking my head wondering how did they do it at this price point is in the area of tempo or jump factor. It just seems to have a little more PRAT or life to the music. Hey, it might all be due to something very minor like output voltage or something along those lines. The Amber 3 just feels a bit more dynamic I guess is how I would describe it. Not artificially so (like the Chord Dave to me). 

Mine is a single ended unit so I didn't compare it against the balanced outputs of the Aqua. The Nagra and the TotalDac are a more "comprehensive" presentation but the gap between the Amber 3 and the aforementioned is closer than it has any right to be. Factor in the cost differential and I am left grateful that digital technology has matured so elegantly. I say this alot on Audiogon but aren't we all so very lucky to be enjoying a hobby where the small manufacturers have innovated things to such a degree? Peace to all.
@ghasley

Do you know if the new engine in the Amber 3 is what is also in the Atlantic TRP upgrade? I own an Atlantic Plus and have wondered if the TRP upgrade is worth it.
@ghasley Thanks so much for the detailed comparisons... Super useful and really nice to read someone who doesn't feel compelled to defend themselves. Every component sounds different in different systems. Would love to try an Amber 3 now that you've described it... 
@ghasley , great info. Any way you can compare the Amber 3 to the Cambridge audio 851N or Primaluna 100 DACs?

Sounds like you have too many DACs, so I'll help you out and take the Amber 3 off your hands (at a steep discount of course..LOL)

@t_ramey I believe the engine is the same, however, that is a question better posed to the Lampizator folks. I have heard the TRP is supposed to be exceptional but I have not heard one. Many say that it approaches the GG but I will leave that to the experts with experience with the TRP. The guys at Lampizator NA will tell you I purchased the Amber 3 to reside in my 3rd system, it was a default/impulse buy based on my wonderful experience with my Golden Atlantic. It was intended to be for background listening in my office but alas...its too good for that.

I have left my Border Patrol in my 3rd system, the Amber 3 is in my second system and I will leave my main system out of the discussion for now. One cool use that I discovered about the Border Patrol DAC SE is that I use it in a system that I use to digitally record using a Tascam digital recorder. Originally used to capture my vinyl, I accidentally discovered that if your Border Patrol DAC SE is the usb only model that the rca-spdif output from the Border Patrol is a very high quality output. So much so that if someone was inclined to want to capture a digital data stream from a streaming service like Qobuz or Tidal or Roon and wanted to drop it onto a flash memory card or hard drive it really works well. One of my cars has a flash memory port so its really easy to make "mix tapes" for those times where I feel like listening to certain specific artists in the car without utilizing my phone or eating up bandwidth while traveling. DISCLAIMER: I would not support in any way anyone who offloads the streams onto media as a way of not having to purchase the music.
@dfairc777a  I am not familiar with Cambridge gear nor have I heard the Primaluna dac. I did read up on the Primaluna a while back thinking that it looked like a neat effort.  With that tube compliment and the Kevin Deal/Upscale Audio/Primaluna partnership it would be hard to go wrong. It appears to be nicely over built with an exceptional preamp/output stage built in and its likely a very high quality dac. The jury is out on the tube clock from where I stand but I believe Kevin Deal is a straight shooter. I've seen posts where he can be a bit short with exhaustive tirekickers but my experience with him has always been wonderful. I believe Upscale does not charge a restocking fee on Primaluna gear purchased from them but that is from memory so dont quote me. Once again, alot of really neat gear out there to savor and covet. Good luck.
I know this is getting far afield from the OP but I’m curious, has anyone heard the T&A DAC8 compared to those already mentioned?
Lots of really good info here.  Thank you to everybody!
ghashley

Txs for the insights on the Amber and LaScala
I tried the Orchid, Pagoda, Denafrips Pontus and none made any difference to the sound quality of my system. I ended up buying the Pure Audio Lotus 5 dac. With my all tube set up it added more air, and an overall more dynamic sound but I can't comment on how it would go with SS equipment. Oh I couldn't afford the Amber 3 so didn't try it but did think about it. Another plus with the Pure Audio is that it has many inputs. 2 x coax, 2x optical, 1x AES/EBU, 1x usb and 1x llS/dsd as well as balanced and RCA outputs.
No comparison I know both well the s Amber 3 easily beats it
in most every way , and you can roll different rectifier tubes 
as well as 12au7 tubes it is also much more I feel it is the best dac  under $6 k I had ps audio $6 k dac, and I sold it for the Amber 3
It has a very natural performance.
Somebody live near Nashville, TN with the Amber? Love to compare my tricked out Orchid which sounds fantastic to this unit. My Orchid cost me $1350 after the upgrades. The Amber is $2800 with no discount if you want a trial. My Orchid sounds so good I have a hard time believing the Amber is anything but a little different sounding. The Orchid really responds in spades with smartly done upgrades. My Orchid after upgrades is much more resolute, open and nuanced.

I want a shootout in my humble rig! 🤓 Any takers?

It is really a hassle to trial the Lampi line based on how far they are shipped and the shipping cost. Shipping back and forth is very, very expensive if one decides to send it back and eat the shipping costs. The shipping cost on top of the $2800 unit is $150 just one way!

This Amber may well be better, but I have some doubts based on owning a slew of other good dacs including the Lampi Level 4 and 5 going back a few years. I am very curious about this Amber due to all the praise is it getting from well respected Agoners.  
Lampizator last I checked shipped the lower end models out of East Coast USA
the Lampizator I have heard are organic and not forward, might I also suggest a used Aesthetix Pandora, FPGA, Jim White build quality, Sonics and support.

have fun and enjoy the journey and music
To reiterate: the Orchid can accept signals up to 24/192 khz, yet still outputs only 16/44 khz. I don't know if everyone gets this.
I have the Orchid for about 6 months and I really like it. But if I tase you I would consider the Chord Qutest. The sound is a little different but I could easily live with it.
It has a smaller footprint, and you can change the sound with the built in filters.

I have borrowed the Qutest for 2 weeks so I have heard it in my system.
We get the Orchid outputs 16/44 and sounds great. I like NOS dacs!
Lampi NY charges $150 for shipping direct out of Poland.
With all due deference to the OP, he/she started this thread to question a binary comparo between the Orchid and the Amber 3. I apologize if my posts introduced the idea for others to begin recommending their dacs. The OP may or may not want those recommendations. I was just trying to communicate reference points and a baseline for context.

@grannyring why don’t you PM me, since you have made me some cables in the past and you have an exemplary reputation, I would be happy to send you my Amber 3 for an appropriate period of time so that you may listen for yourself. All you would be out is shipping and insurance both ways.
The Orchid is a terrific dac and I’m sure with the modifications you have made it is extraordinary. If you are happy with both the sound you are getting and the investment made, comparing the two may be a rabbit hole you would rather avoid. Its your choice as I have no skin in the game but if nothing else, you will either feel better about your choice or come to the conclusion that doubling your investment in a dac brings only minor improvements to your system. Let me know. Peace.
I too would be very interested in a comparison between a modified Orchid (which I have been considering) and Amber 3.  I'm hoping to build a house this year, and I'm slowly planning my listening room, as well as significant equipment upgrades.  The discussion thus far has been very helpful to me. 
@grannyring I’m in Nashville and have a Golden Atlantic TRP on the floor. Happy to arrange an Amber 3 demo. They sound lovely.

- Colin
  
LampizatOr dealer
https://gestalt.audio
@ghasley. Very kind of you to offer. I will contact the local dealer first, but big thank you!

Colin, very nice of you to offer a demo and will contact you for arrangements.
What about a Musical Paradise?

http://www.musicalparadise.ca/store/index.php?route=product/product&path=61&product_id=97

It was reviewed to hit well above its class...Thomas and Stereo gave a fairly comprehensive review on one of these (actually the lower cost version than the link to the unit I’m suggesting). I’m considering one, but am personally focussed on a lower budget than the units suggested here.
Wow, very cool grannyring!  Hopefully your'e able to demo in your listening room and make a great comparison.


@grannyring Wow, this thread is a wonderful example of the value of the Audiogon community. A friendly exchange of ideas, no one felt insulted that some may prefer brand x over their brand y dac while others love their dac (which may be manufactured by slave labor that sells for $99) and then a friendly brick and mortar dealer near you has what you wish to hear! Thats what Audiogon is all about.

I hope @gestalt has an Amber 3 in stock in order to expedite your curiosity although I would be surprised as they seem to be tough to see in the wild, they are made to order and I understand there is a backlog. At a minimum, you should go hear the Golden Atlantic TRP. It will give you a taste of the modern evolution of Lampizator dacs. Best wishes and happy holidays to all.
Given that it worked out for GR, I'll also say that I'd be happy to bring my AMT3se over for a comparison if anyone is around Denver...
@gestalt, thanks for making your presence known.  I live within 3 hours of Nashville and have a strong interest in the Amber and possibly the GA.  I may get in touch after the holidays.  I'd love to hear both of the Lampi Dacs.
@brownsfan always a pleasure meeting new people in the area! Happy to help you audition when you're ready.

- Colin

LampizatOr dealer
https://gestalt.audio
Hello all. Today I compared the $10,000 Atlantic Golden TRP to my $1400 or so upgraded Orchid. Yes, not a fair comparison due to the vast price difference.

Colin of Gestalt Audio in Nashville had it set up in his killer system. Did I find my Orchid as good as the Golden TRP? Honestly, I did not. The Orchid was not embarrassed however and actually had better weight and fullness or more “meat on the bones”. However, the Atlantic Golden was more resolute and effortless sounding. It also spread a wider stage. I liked it very much. Great dac. I cannot spend $10,000 and am assuming the Amber 3 will share the same strengths compared to the Orchid. This is speculation, but I liked the Lampizator sound coming through the Atlantic Golden. Sometimes that extra 10% in performance is worth the cost as it just brings you closer to the music/performance.

I had fun and really enjoyed the Zellaton, Gershman Acoustic speakers and Lamm gear Colin has on hand.

I am going to proceed on getting the Amber 3 and placing it in my system for further  Colin is great to work with and suspect I will be back to his listening room soon 🙂.
@grannyring which tubes was Colin running in the Golden Atlantic TRP?
I will let Colin respond as I don’t remember. The Golden Atlantic spread a vivid and lively soundstage that placed the instruments and vocalists in the space with you. It was more vivid sounding than the Orchid. I found myself wanting to turn up the Orchid up to match the vividness and scale of the Golden Atlantic. However, the  increased volume was not enough to match the scale and vividness of the Golden Atlantic.
@grannyring it was a pleasure.

@ghasley NOS USAF 596 rectifier and Gold Lion new production KT66 output tubes. I have a fair number of other tubes available (KR 5U4G RK, NOS EL34, NOS Brimar 6L6G, new production KT77, NOS Russian 5C3S, etc) for audition but we purposefully avoided rolling the tubes for this session in an attempt to fairly represent the Amber 3.

@gestalt What's the turnaround time on getting an Amber?
@facten looking like mid-January as a realistic delivery date.
Very cool. @grannyring now that you’ve heard the Golden Atlantic, isn’t it uncanny how different the recent Lampizators sound versus just a few years ago. Weren’t you surprised when you thought back to when you first formed your unfavorable impression of the Lampizator sound?

Whether or not you find the Amber 3 the right dac for you, whether you find that it improves those musical areas you value, its fun to experience something new. Kudos to the OP for posing a valid question that provoked a civil conversation and challenged a respected member here to experience it for himself and kudos to @grannyring for making the effort to go listen. No matter the outcome, this is an example to us all. @grannyring  was admittedly predisposed that the Lampizator sound wasn’t to his tastes and he came away with the initial bias, a bias we all have from time to time, overcome.

The moral to the story: search out and listen for yourself.


For those of you that have heard the Amber 3, can you comment on the Lampizator volume control?  I don't currently have a preamp and I'm weighing the difference between buying a low cost passive pre like the Schiit Freya or ordering the Amber with volume.