With the new old stock of ladder chips, some small manufacturers continued to offer audiophile R-2R DACs. But there came a growing sense and urge for even more archaic solutions to D/A conversion. Instead of using miniaturized resistors in a chip, why not build a ladder DAC from discrete resistors? Over the years the quality of resistors increased dramatically. Tolerances of current SMD resistors are better than 1/100th of a percent. Combine that with the possibilities of a field-programmable gate array aka FPGA and a fully discrete DAC is possible. Add a very stable power supply and a high-quality output stage with top-notch caps - and tubes if your brand goes by LampizatOr.

We met Lukasz Fikus of LampizatOr at a side show of the Munich HighEnd where he asked us to review his latest DAC, the Atlantic. This uses a discrete R-2R ladder for its PCM processing plus separate DSD/FPGA conversion up to DSD256 and 4∏1L triode-strapped pentodes. Of course it has a high quality power supply with proprietary copper caps in the output stage. So far only the top-of-the-bill Golden Gate LampizatOr offered these capabilities (plus DSD512); at a price. The new Atlantic brings near Golden Gate sound at a fraction of the cost. Were we interested in the review?

The Atlantic arrived well packed and swiftly made its trip onto our main listening stage. Our review sample was the basic version: single ended, no volume control, solid-state rectification. LampizatOr options include tube rectification and volume control at additional costs. In the looks department, the DAC does not aim for bling or snazz. Think simple clear aluminium front with logo and characteristic ring switch that doubles as the 'O' in the company name. On top two tubes protrude proudly and the back is equally sober and functional. From left to right there a voltage selector and IEC mains input with fuse. A toggle switch selects either USB or AES/EBU. Output is via a pair of RCA terminals. Further digital inputs are S/PDIF on RCA and BNC.  

We placed the Polish DAC on equally Polish Franc Audio Classic ceramic footers on top of an Acoustic System sandwich board itself sitting on four Solid Tech spring-loaded footers. To make the DAC even more comfortable, we used another Polish product, an Audiomica Pearl Consequence USB cable, to connect the DAC to at first the Sound Galleries SGM2015 streamer. The Atlantic's output went via Nanotec interconnects to an Audio First passive preamp and subsequently via Grimm Audio interconnects to our nCore 1200 power amps. Final destination of the music signal were the Arcadian Audio Pnoe hornspeaker augmented by dual Zu Submission subwoofers. As the SGM2015 server is Windows based, there is always a driver issue. Apple managed better and any DAC is automatically recognized and operational with no need to install a driver. For Windows we had to unload the driver previously used for the T+A DAC8 and install the appropriate Amanero driver for the LampizatOr. This whole operation took just a few minutes. Next we had to adjust the streamer's HQPlayer settings to match the capabilities of the LampizatOr. Instead of outputting DSD512 which the T+A DAC8 could process, we set the output to DSD256, the max format the Atlantic accommodates.