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It mattered not whether the micro iUSB3.0 was on the job alone or itself fronted by iFi's galvanic isolator. In comparison to the B.dac, the LampizatOr Pacific benefited from these far more. Truth be told, I no longer listen to the Pacific without these iFi cleaners since my laptop is no fancy transport. Whilst I can't be 100% sure, this experience led me to think that the French SJR circuitry was unusually effective. Otherwise differences between the two DACs with/without USB filters wouldn't have been this easily distinguishable and audible. The B.audio still benefited from the British additions but their improvement was mild at best whereas I found them mandatory with my Polish flagship DAC.
Comparing the two, the B.audio B.dac quickly revealed a very different voicing. I found it exceptionally entertaining that they didn't really share a single major thing. Switching from one to the other netted plainly different results and the more repertoire and hardware shifts I made, the more the French grew on me. Being familiar with several dozens different DACs is still limited but I hadn't heard one even remotely similar. Compared to my daily source, the French was rounder, with more downstairs weight and bloom, vocals placed a bit deeper on stage yet the first row's sides up close. Soundstage scale was fully developed if a bit smaller and darker than LampizatOr's. The Pacific sounded bigger, quicker and sketched instruments and vocals with extra contours to outline them more precisely but also in full-blown proportions. It clearly had a more hifi than romantic outlook and as such sounded more spectacular and flamboyant. Also, the Pacific delivered its stuff right away whereas the calmer French scored gentler and with a softer start to reveal its generously complex character bit by bit like a proper mood-maker would. Two quite opposite voicings clashed. Both had my full attention but via different measures. Very resolving, sporty and in general seasoned, LampizatOr's Pacific very efficiently glues me to the hot seat, quickly boils my blood on the right repertoire and tops it off with the 'just one more cut' syndrome. Its enormous soundstaging capabilities combined with smoothness, downstairs slam, clarity, torque and very tangible texturing without excess work for me as reviewer and enthusiast. Here the B.audio B.dac didn't compete.
Technically it provided the full audiophile package but purposely not exclusively. Sweeter, more suave and weighty, its tonal centre of gravity lower, the French didn't play the same hi-rez game to materialize events in front me as visibly and clearly but took me on a trip to less attended prettier places instead. Serving up the tunes in such a magical and unusually engaging way is what the B.dac did best.
Yet that magic wasn't short-lived or a one-trick pony. On audiophile counts like clarity, control, speed, decay, substance or smoothness, it scored very high, leading to the obvious conclusion that it was a very refined product with no apparent downsides. Neither did it suffer excessive push, grain or other unpleasantries associated with digital nor did it express undue warmth or coolness. Despite very present rotund bass, not once did I hear it boom. Even when served off the spotlight, the treble was always perfectly pleasant, generously decayed and weighty.
With speakers like mine, any shortcomings on imaging quickly become obvious but here the French delivered as well. A perfectly clean background was wedded to textural richness and inherent suaveness. Main vocals were set back a bit deeper than usual and a generally dark attitude contributed to the moody romantic effect. Such tuning wasn't random but clearly planned. When executed with care, it allows one to relax, drown in the sound and forget about the world. The B.dac did exactly that. It bypassed the analytical mind. I didn't crave for more air, contour or information but swiftly focused on this organic, round and utterly pleasing effect without hearing anything overly fuzzy, diluted, dull or insufficiently resolved for this coin.
The French stayed clear of the usual drawbacks associated with similar voicing and that's what made it unique. If I had to associate the B.dac with familiar hardware, the closest would probably be my calm, hefty, texturally rich and similarly dark yet informative Trilogy 925. Both share one distinctive feature which impresses beyond belief – musical presence. Both transform events in the soundstage and the space itself into something breathing, substantial, perceptibly physiological and very much dignified. My Lampizator doesn't fall short here but its airier nature does the same job in a more hifi-ish less magical way. Who knows, perhaps here the heavier more intimate Golden Gate LampizatOr would compete or even best the French but no longer owning it, I can't say.
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