I only needed one system scenario to properly evaluate the AMR DP-777SE. My DAC comparator was a LampizatOr Golden Gate with Psvane direct-heated WE101D-L triodes and KR Audio 5U4G rectifier. The Trilogy 925 integrated amplifier and Boenicke W8 completed that setup but a FirstWatt F7 amp and Fikus Electric P17 speakers saw duty too. Here one thing needs to be said right off. AMR's deck doesn't do DSD at all whereas LampizatOr's is exclusively about that. So there really was no common ground on file formats. The only thing I could do was allow each to do what it does best: pure DSD or PCM resampled to DSD for the Polish DAC; pure PCM for the Brit. I don't believe in clear format winners so I can't state that one file type is better per se. Whilst for the LampizatOr DSD is exclusive, for the AMR's unique NOS DAC, Redbook really was the main consideration. Not to exploit that would be a mistake. I also wanted to see how the DP-777SE in direct drive through its volume control would fare against a standalone preamplifier. For that I defaulted to a Sanders Sound Systems Magtech + preamplifier separates combo.

Whenever tube DACs come into play, it's difficult to predict the outcome. Many times have I seen assumptions misfire. For the sake of the well-known stereotype, let's assume that valves equal warm and rich. To some degree, that became the story for this review. But there was a lot more to it. For starters, this machine was designed to sound very musical in general. Think emphasis on saturation, richness, vividness and tangibility. At what cost, you ask? Isn't there always a compromise? Here, not really; or if so, not in any overt crippling way. Although rich, the AMR DP-777SE didn't put an extra sugar coating on the music which was heard especially once this machine was auditioned in classic not HD mode. It didn't elevate the temperature excessively or paint the picture more colourful than desired. So let me elaborate. The best DACs known to me—reference Golden Gate aside—sport a feature beyond reach of most: the organic approach. By that one should understand vividness in its full glory as a lifelike wet very tangible tissue that coats the sound. It's difficult to describe this highly desirable phenomenon but whenever present, a well-seasoned listener recognizes it in an instant. It has appeared a handful of times on certain PCM1704 sources of my acquaintance. And now the AMR left no doubt that the same virtue was present in it, leading to one simple conclusion. It wouldn't sound artificial no matter what. Surely that was a major boon.

Let's return to PCM1704 ladder DACs for a moment. With those I've heard, there's been a tonal balance shift towards the lower mids. This translated to an outcome slightly dimmer than usual and a top served in a very subtle way - present yet never overbearing or too lit up. Here the AMR differed. Tangibility aside, no dimming took place. The treble was perfectly present and the sensation of wanting to have more of it never arose during my many months of use. The same was true for the bass. I heard no withdrawal or bumps in the mid bass. Extension wasn't sensationally low but the bass was fast. Since there were no complaints about texturing, hollowness was absent. Some people would probably want a bit more of this and a bit less of that as per usual. But for this scribe, the AMR DP-777SE's tonal balance was a textbook case of a job well done. To paint an even clearer picture, let's move to its direct competitor.

First things first. My LampizatOr Golden Gate sells for about €25'000 in Poland whereas the AMR DP-777SE can be had for a bit less than €5'000. That 5 x price gap is substantial to say the least. But if one expected a foregone outcome, one would be dead wrong. The quality difference surely wasn't night and day though each deck did present a unique flavour. Let me be clear then that the law of diminishing returns for my reference deck didn't kick in as much as that really its attitude differed greatly. Past many days of comparisons, it was safe to say that in the end everything comes down to what individual sets of ears would like to hear. The very first noticeable thing was how different the bass was. The Golden Gate played it more extended and substantial in general yet with calm music also slower. On tracks like "Runaljod" from Wardruna's Runaljod–Ragnarok album, this was very obvious. Ditto for Smadj's "Zakari" from his Spleen LP. It was either punchier yet slightly slower for the LampizatOr; or on the AMR, the exact opposite. Apples and oranges. Take your pick. With certainty, on poorly recorded music like early AC/DC or to a degree the Guns N' Roses type, LampizatOr's more muscular substantial character was desirable and beneficial. For more modern sound à la The Battles, Lorde or Massive Attack, it was a completely different and sometimes opposite story. Though this is subjective, one's ears know what needs to be emphasized more, what less. Where more body and downstairs shove were needed, the Golden Gate would happily provide it. If more speed and linear tonal balance were the ticket, the British machine delivered.