The best cost no object tube DAC


Hi agoners,

I just upgraded my system from Mcintosh MC75+C22 amp/pre to Accuphase A-250 monoblocks with C-3900 (right now still using pre function from a loaner E-650 while waiting for C-3900 to arrive). Source is Kuzma XL DC for analog and Cary DMS-600 for digital (Used to be dCS Bartok but I didn’t like it for the price compared to my dirt cheap Cary DMS-600 which I bought pre owned).


The sound quality is night and day difference between my previous setup and the latest one, I have no regret at all as Accuphase is the only SS brand that can tickle my fancy and made me a convert from tube to SS. However, I have to admit that I still miss some tube signature on my music, particularly in the mid range department. I originally wanted to use tube preamp instead of Accuphase C-3900 but I didn’t want to take a risk at this price level of equipment and ultimately decided to just stick with one brand in the power and control department, I also want DG-68 in the future, an ultra high end digital voicing equalizer from Accuphase and it’s full functionality is only possible with Accuphase to Accuphase combo.


The big question is, if I really want to add a bit of tube sound properties on my system, does it make sense to do it from the source? In this case the DAC? If that will work, what would be the best tube based DAC at cost no object level and is Roon Ready? I considered Lampizator but have no detailed informations about it. The website is a bit confusing to me.


Thanks in advance for any advice 🙏
uwiikz
I think your reasoning is excellent about applying tubes in the source. I have not owned any Lampizator products, but his progression over the years was perhaps the most intense ever applied to analyzing every aspect of digital and especially how to best handle the signal once converted to analog with tubes. My only concern with tubes is that they are applied in a linear and neutral way to not impose colorations that you might soon identify and tire of. Tubes can be very neutral and honest, but many designers seem to lean on coloration to make their product stand out as having a different sound. My experience is with Audio Logic and Altis, both made by a now deceased designer, Jerry Ozment. Upon first hearing his 24/96 updated Model 34, it simply sounded more real to me than any SS DACs I had heard and I won't budge and am never disappointed or wishing for something I think I am missing.
Tubes and DACs are oil and vinegar. You can shake them up and make a dressing but its quality is solely determined by the ingredients.
Sorry forgot to mention, the tube DAC have to handle DSD/PCM and Roon Ready if possible so I don’t need extra streamer. I don’t really care about MQA. 
Very interested with Lampizator but it’s not Roon Ready. Is it possible to just connect the Lampizator to my Mini PC as Roon Core/controller and ethernet/USB out the signal directly to Lampizator and still play hi res stream? 
Or I am just stupid and DAC is DAC and Roon is Roon. DAC doesn’t have to be Roon ready to play via Roon core? 
@uwiikz 

Or I am just stupid and DAC is DAC and Roon is Roon. DAC doesn’t have to be Roon ready to play via Roon core?

Correct. Its the streamer that needs to be Roon ready. A DAC is a DAC.

Sweet... I’ll take a long and hard look at Lampizator... thanks 
Lampizator, Aesthetix. i own both.
a Pandora Exclipse is a formidable beast..... your milage may vary
What do you think about Lampizator? 
Here is another way you can add some 'tubiness' to your system...Buy the DAC of your dreams but add a tube buffer

TPB.V1 Tube Preamp Buffer | Tortuga Audio

How does it sound?

Review: Tortuga Audio’s LDR3.V25 Passive Preamp And TPB.V1 Tube Preamp Buffer | Wall of Sound | Audio and Music Reviews
@uwiikz,

Please don’t use a Mac mini with Lampizator DAC...that’s like putting a Corolla engine in Ferrari. And yes, the quality of streamer / server just as important as DAC.

With your Accuphase gear, I would recommend that you audition Lampizator Pacific and EMM Labs DA2. DA2 is SS but it is one of best DAC’s currently available and synergy with Accuphase is impeccable. I can say unequivocally that my digital competes favorably with my Analog rig (SME 15A-V with Hana Umami Red cart).  
https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/8046
Lampizator makes awesome DACs.  I have a few customers running them and they love how musical they are.  The stock tubes stink so assume you are going to need to replace those to get the most out of it.  This is a bit below what I would define as "cost no object".   

Regarding Roon, it has two parts.  Roon Server and Roon Player.  If a DAC is "Roon Ready" it is equipped with Roon Player software and serves as a renderer.  It is always best to have those two things happen on separate devices.  This is the approach taken by Antipodes with its servers and players though the player is unnecessary if you have a good Roon ready DAC.  Off hand, I can't think of a tube DAC that is Roon ready.  

To go beyond Lampizator, check out Jadis.  The JS1 MkV is insanely good and is based around the AKM 4197 chip which is used in many of the worlds best DACs.  Gorgeous in terms of aesthetics, and it sounds better than it looks.  

Another alternative would be the Ypsillon NOS DAC.  This is one of the most natural sounding DACs in the world and uses a very interesting approach.  

Either of these is going to give you insanely good sound and naturally would be best paired with something like an Antipodes K50.  PM me if you are interested in either as an alternative to Lampizator.  
Cost no object I would by a used Dave and the balanced TBP.V1.   
Just me.
I don’t claim it’s the best but it’s one of the best: Nagra Classic Tube Dac.
uwiikz: I own a Lampizator Golden Atlantic since two years. I am very, very happy with it, it is musical and detailed. I mainly listen to classical music and it is fantastic, with it and with all other ones.
I sincerely recommend it.
Regarding your requirements and as you do not have any problem with cost, the Lampizator flagship model: Pacific is Roon ready or Roon bridge or the way that you want to call it and offers WiFi and Ethernet connectivity.
They offer a 7 days trial period although I do not know if this is worldwide.
If it cost no object with the sound quality that comes with it 
Audio Note 
I have only heard a few DACs. 

NAGRA HD DAC X

https://www.nagraaudio.com/product/hd-dac-x/

I would pair it with an Innuos Statement music server

https://parttimeaudiophile.com/2020/04/26/innuos-statement-music-server-review/

I did hear these two together and thought it was outstanding

Good luck with your search

Jim Perry
Hats off to The Pioneering of Jerry Ozmet- I owned his tube 
R2R dacs 20 years ago -RIP !!

today Lampi   Pacific around $26k is considered a state of the art Vacuum tube dac .
When or two things to consider ,matching a very good power cord to the dac makes a world of difference , as well as the Digital cable . Lampi recommends and I own the Final touch audio USB cable it is a very detailed natural cable 
all built one at a time using a very unique method ,the Copper has a high degree of Silver in it ,only found in a few places in Europe  and then hammered annealed 
it is a winner. I had the Wireworld platinum 7 which had a bit more resolution 
but was not as real or involving , the New Wireworld 8 usb  will be out 
Thanks for all the excellent suggestions. I will be away from the forum for a while. My dad just had a emergency heart bypass surgery and I have to help my mom takes care of him.