9 Apr 2013

"Make Mozart Not Nukes!" Lampizator GM 70 SE Amplifier - WORLD FIRST REVIEW

There's no time for good music like a revolution.
By Angelo Agathangelou: DACs (Digital to Analogue Converters) are rocking magic. Until this point the CD failed to live up to the hype. Some of us who are so addicted to music could not give up our turntables and vinyl records. I would argue strongly that this is now an historic issue. It wasn't the CD It was the player! Stereo Mojo "It turns out all the digital nasties we've all heard over the years was not indigenous to the CD itself, but the technology available to decode it."
Enough music fanatics or lovers ;) know about the now legendary Lampizator DAC 4 and I can attest to the hype... In my opinion of course, it's all true. MP3's now sound quite good but if you are fortunate enough to have a master...Ouch! I can not imagine it sounded better at the studio in which it was recorded, but then again here comes another personal paradigm shift with this GM70 test and I only just found out about DSD*. Anyway, for me that is now finally, after too many years, a done deal in that already CD's sound like vinyl, without the pops crackles etc.. This is all quite handy given the times we live in as there's no time for good music like a revolution and vinyl is not the current medium of choice. 

This is where the needle hits the record of this story and the world discovered Mr Lukas Fikus, creator of the GM70SE, with the early appreciation of his generation 3 DAC4. Of the moment in more ways than one, it doesn't hurt that he is a serial modifier with a grudge to knock out ultimate mega bucks systems at a fraction of the cost in these troubled times. He has resisted my suggestion to use silver transformer wire (for when you run out of places to bury your precious metals). Lukasz offers a no expense spared approach for the sound but there's no 'Gucci' stuff here. (Note: Everything else is wired end to end with solid silver in Teflon so we must conclude, as Polish creator Mr Lukasz Fikus as ever has tested alternative metals alloys including Siltech that clearly, solid silver counts in the signal path.)

Before I move on to a first encounter with the main event, a couple of points. First, the title "Make Mozart Not Nukes!" is the motto of Mr Lukasz Fikus 'The Lampizator' himself and there's substance to the statement, Lukasz uses Soviet military parts to create the magic! Now that's cool.

Substance and Style
Lukasz gives a great explanation of the evolution. Follow this, a CD player is sort of like a record player spinning with a laser taking the place of a needle. A light beam searching for data on a spinning disc is far from ideal and there are many errors when compared to a RAM buffer that can apparently read a CD of data with rare errors in a couple of seconds compared to a CD drive that would take a couple of minutes to do a sloppy job. Add to that thorough research of available micro chips for the best sound and by ear tuning of 'old fashioned' yet leading edge lamp technology and voila. 

So now for the main event. The long awaited "Lampizator GM70 'Special Edition' Amplifier Review" is now on! Three boxes arrived approximately 80Kg and I can hardly contain my excitement. Lukasz said each of the mono amplifiers for shipment weighed 33kg. I am already a convert armed with the daddy-ship (DAC4 gen4 + Lampizator Transport) and now I am getting the chance to test drive the Ongaku for the people 'hyper drive'.

Getting with the program, this is all hand made, strictly orthodox, A class prototype stuff and some of the earliest incarnations were reportedly cosmetically austere. I can report that my generation 4 DAC4 has nothing to be ashamed of. It could have sexier feet, but so could the amps. The rest of the amps are masculine, built like a tank, they are simple and elegant. The fit and finish, on first inspection is a 9 to My DAC4's 8, one point off for the feet otherwise absolutely spot on. Beautiful wood sides with seriously chunky anodized aluminium top and front plates and the lamps when on, especially after this horrible extended UK winter, with the glow from the huge GM70's it's like coming home to a warm fire place, not just visually, they do get extremely 'dare not keep your hand on the top plate' hot too. (About 200W worth of consumption per mono says Lukasz, accounts for the heat)

So this is a first taste. I can report that straight out of the boxes (after about 20 minutes warm up time) these babies sound good, very good in fact. Put simply, after my first 6 hours of casual listening I was not left wanting for clarity or substance. Given my limited experience with things tube, I venture to say things will improve further after some time, at least a week of good use, especially to settle after their flight from Poland and anyone who cares knows things invariably need fine tuning. So I will leave it there for the first installment and report further after some run in time.

In the end, this whole music affair is about fine tuning. From the incoming current to the sound emanating from the speakers, from the tip of your toe, to the tip of the hair on your head. Try Listening to your hifi with your hat and scarf on, tweak;-) To be continued...


For the test, my modest faithful old Marantz PM17KI Amplifier. Marantz CD17KI, QED Reference IC's, Jamo Concert 8 Speakers, Silver Speaker cables, Broadside speaker stands. Standard Power Cables.

Against the apparently wipes the floor with all-comers, iMac, Lampizator GM70 'Special Edition', Lampizator DAC4 gen4, Highly Secret Prototype Exotic North Polish IC's, Lampizator wireless Transport (not yet integrated into the test), Solid silver digital IC, Spendor S100 Speakers, Nordost red dawn speaker cables, Nordost Blue Heaven power cables, £20 worth of concrete blocks for speaker stands.

Fink 'perfect darkness'
The Black Keys 'el camino'
Ruckus Roboticus 'playing with scratches'
Led Zeppelin
Pink Floyd
Tone of Jazz, world music, rap, hip hop, 
Caxton Press

Update 11/4/2013:
Listening to Pink Floyd 'another brick in the wall' parts one and two and a heap of jazz. It struck me how much good recordings are particularly good with this format. The space around each individual instrument and clarity and distance and positioning were virtually orgasmic during part one. There is such a level of transparency with the right recordings that you really are getting to hear certain albums anew. The ghost voice over 'The Doors' 'riders on the storm' absolutely clear and separate. There is a damned good attempt to precisely reflect the base recorded. The base is so full and controlled and the clarity exposes lighter instruments to their place to often paint a very different picture to the one I have generally perceived from past listening. Clarity does Hendrix 'cross town traffic' no favors (this is cleared up when played through the Transport... perhaps you need the ultimate clarity to be able to appreciate the ruckus). The setup loves all things Fink. No sign of fabled lamp amplifier sound warmth, feels colourless. On reflection, taking a point off for boring feet is unfair as in everyday use they are completely unnoticed.

Pictures 'The Bunker' SGW-CHQ and 'The GM 70 SE' by WD


Update 13/4/2013:

GM70 'Special Edition' Lampizater Amplifier Review Part 2 

The Layer Cake

"Its not about nostalgia, it's about purity, transparency!" 
By Angelo Agathangelou: Caught up with Lukasz yesterday for a quick chat. We discussed 'The Silk', Bitcoins, and the sound. Opened with ..think I have to try the Silk! As you caught my first impressions in part 1 of the GM70 'Special edition' mono amplifiers review you might guess that this is a reflection of my very positive first impression of the GM70 mono's.

So what is "The Silk"? Lukasz notes that it's a reincarnation of and earlier creation of his from the 90's he discovered whilst working commercially within the strict electrical standards of fire equipment (he's glad he escaped). It offers independent phase flipping and "'NOT OVERFILTERING' just gently removing the RFI and keeping all AC wave intact." Yawn!

Problem is the sound. It's good, so good that though the tech may be uninteresting in the extreme, I am talking about an extension lead here glorified way beyond standard reason, but once you have caught on to what Lukasz is trying to achieve, you know you will just have to take that leap of faith. If it's on offer, it is so because it will do things just so. I briefly relayed my first impressions to Lukasz, his response crystallizes 'just so' a little better, in reference to my "I didn't notice any of the fabled lamp amplifier warmth, it sounds clean and sort of right." Lukasz clarified "It's not about nostalgia, it's about purity, transparency." Within this discourse lies the heart of this review.

Do you need to be warned that the pursuit of purity and transparency is highly addictive? This is the major issue with Lampizator products. You will soon discover the other items in your stack that were not built upon such lofty principals but instead the faux commercialism mass production of the crumbling past and present. My beloved solid state Marantz PM17KI has a similar dial to the functional one on the GM70SE's that is indeed faux and nostalgic and a warm sound in comparison to their GM70's 'pure' delivery. PM17 is not as capable of transmitting as detailed and accurate a reflection of the original recording and though the GM70's are rated 30W to the PM17's 60W (it can make more noise, get louder) the dials of the GM70 at 12 o'clock fills my 4m x 4m listening room and three o'clock would suffice for a party in my opinion. About 10 o'clock for low level listening. The sound remains constant as it increases in volume. It is noteworthy that late lower level listening is also enhanced, that is to say the music does not lose all substance at lower levels and become a much weaker version of itself.

I do perceive small improvements after a few days but I can only describe these as more. This could be my own adjustment to the new sound.

Unfortunately Lukasz and I only touched on the subject of Bitcoins as with rather bad timing, my plumber arrived (to provide a little purity and transparency to our plumbing) and our conversation was cut short but Lukasz said he found the concept interesting. You may have heard it here first and be able to buy your Lampizator products in the future with Bitcoins!

Update 14/4/2013:

The Layer Cake

Did I mention that I had not yet introduced the Lampizator ‘Transport’ into the mix?

Apparently the magic comes from, the oddest place, an old Logitech duet. Our resident serial modder has as ever searched high and low and bearing in mind that these chips are reportedly no longer produced it turns out this humble item held the key. The translation is, if you are impressed with the DAC4, be prepared for an inexplicable yet quite tangible further upgrade to the sound quality. More silky more palpable, in fact this is close your eyes and you are there territory.

Without the usual music school grad foo, let me put it like this, the essential vinyl sound you get through the DAC4 is only a flavor of the dare I say it, the pinnacle extension into clarity and unencumbered energy, speed, subtlety etc. that is exposed through the addition of the transport given breath by the GM70's. This is there but not half as blatant when played through my own Marantz PM17KI amplifier.

Note: I have been playing iTunes library from iMac via optical spdif to DAC4, ‘Top Secret’ exotic RCA to GM70 mono’s and Nordost Red Dawn Speaker cable to S100’s so far.

In the Transport configuration, I am connected through iMac wireless to the transport and then access my music library via iPeng on my iPhone or Logitech Media Server through my computer browser. Now the Transport is played through the DAC4 connected by a solid silver RCA type digital connector supplied by Lukasz. Giving new meaning to the statement "sound money"... This may be an opportune moment to add that all the innards of this high end Lampizator stuff are connected with 'solid silver' wire in Teflon in single short or double twisted runs. Silver fans take note.

With all this glowing review, here’s a shocker. The transport interface isn’t perfect! You are now limited to your own music library. You do have a great bonus with the internet radio features but you have to switch out and use the DAC4 only when browsing and listening online, watching movies etc.

Hold on, let me check. Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Etta James, Stan Getz & João Gilberto, Depeche Mode, Straits, Keith Sweat, KRS-1, Lowkey, Muse, Portishead, Saul Williams, Snoop, Stelios Gazangidis, Stevie Wonder, The The, Barrington Levy, The Courteeners, check! It’s all good! Standing ovation! I can live with that. Concerning this stack, I am searching for words but I come to the conclusion that conveying what is there might be a fun exercise in conglomerations of sesquipedalian verbiage, but in fact it's simpler and more honest to convey what is missing. From my perspective, regarding the sound, nothing much. If only we could keep that quality across the board, i.e. when browsing, watching/listening to movies etc.. That must be the next step.
Note: Volume control might be useful. Having lived with the DAC 4 and transport for half a year I am already aware that in daily use a convenient volume control is important. For one thing, you lose iMac volume control, so you will get a shock if you've switched from loud music listening to work and Victoria tells you the time. "IT'S 11:45!!! Arrrggh!" she says, and knocks you off your chair! Marantz PM17KI takes care of this with a rather dashing remote control and accessible manual volume control, but then it is also an integrated stereo. Swapping to the GM70, unless you specify the volume control (€800 option) you are now controlling volume manually and left right independently. 
True to his modder ethics, Lukasz (left photo) encourages customers to find their own knobs for the GM70's and others with volume control, (and your own replacement feet I suppose;) therefore he supplies the amplifiers, as on our test units with basic aluminium knobs, these are quite acceptable but... without a dial, its like trying to tell the time on a dress watch, you can, but it's a guesstimate. This would not matter with a unified volume control but with two mono's, I find myself rocking left and right to check sound levels by ear. I would say as much as a new knob, especially due to the fact that you are dealing with mono's, it would be useful to have a dial laser etched into the top plate or control volume through one knob on your DAC with added remote control.
Lukasz recommends including his optional extra built in manual and remote controlled preamp volume control with the DAC (and its half the price of remote volume option on the amps). This will not only facilitate switching between DAC direct for computer work and Transport for dedicated music enjoyment that is otherwise inconveniently controlled manually by a toggle switch at the back of the DAC, but also make the above volume control issue a mute point as you can then leave the amps at twelve o'clock (or at 5, that's full volume if you prefer) and are back to maximum convenience/control. DAC with built in preamp!
Over the next few days I will try a few cable swaps, catch up with Lukas again and conclude in part 3. Microphonic fine tuning progressing. To be concluded... 

Update 17/4/2013 TO BE EXTENDED! Lukasz has released his ultimate, DAC6 aka 'The "Fikus" DAC!' What's more he's paying us a visit from Poland (he'll be braving the UK border sphincter search! That's dedication.) to bring his ultimate DAC soon! In the meantime he's sending ahead the 'Silk' so I'll report my phase flipping and other results soon. Lukasz has recommended the new USB on the DAC6 interface as far superior to my current optical and apparently arguably equal to any other interface for connection to iMac or PC (Is this the next step I mentioned when reviewing the Transport? Lukasz sounds confident.) so this will be a new factor in the Extended "Ground A MIG!" GM70SE + FIKUS DAC6 'Ultimate Music Lovers Combo' Review! "In single weeks." says Mr Fikus. The Polish among you will understand if that means sooner or later... Is it like the Jamaican "soon come" I am not quite sure... but I'm on the edge of my seat ;)

Review continued:  
GM70 Special Edition, SILK + Lukasz Fikus UK visit
Lampizator 'BIG SIX' DAC - World First Review - "The best sound we can possibly make"  

Update 10th May 2014: World First: DAC7 - Flavour Of The New Lampizator Flagship - Preview

First Encounter With A Lampizator Golden Gate 7

December 2nd 2015: 
"Make Mozart, Not Nukes!" Pilgrimage To LampizatOr Country

Photos by WD
GM70SE Mono perspectives - Marantz PM17KI 
Wireless Lampizator Transport and The Lampizator Generation 4 DAC4 
'Load of' Music - Marantz Remote Control
Mr Lampizator - Upgrade volume knob - WD
The 'BIG SIX' 
Spendor S100-henge

*Additional: WTF is DSD??? Better than CD, better than vinyl been about since the 90's? Should we be pleased or irritated by the implications? Has analogue found its high tech groove? This is surely the fault of the NWO and their patent and copyright fascism! ;-) ....but seriously what are we missing?

What is DSD audio - A Simple Explanation
By Paul McGowen ...1-bit audio is very, very different (to DC).  Today we’re going to simply give you an overview of how it works, which is a simple process, and then we’ll get into the nitty gritty of the process which can be a little disturbing to say the least.  But let’s save the disturbing stuff for later once we’re all on the same page.
1-bit audio is simple to understand in concept.  There are no samples, there are no words, there is no code.  Instead there is a continuous streaming “train” of single identical bits that are either on or off.  The more bits that are on, the higher the eventual output voltage becomes.  The more bits that are off, the lower the eventual output voltage.  We refer to this type of scheme as Pulse Density Modulation because when you have a greater number of on bits it appears as more densely populated.  Here’s a picture that will help you visualize a 1-bit system.
Pulse density modulation 2 periods How dense are you?
Note the blue areas are on and the white areas are off.  Also note the periodicity between single bits is identical.  The red sine wave overlaid on this image shows the results of more bits or fewer bits.  Where there are no on bits (all white) the sine wave is at its lowest point – lots of on bits and it’s at its highest point.
The speed of the bits is 64 times the sample rate of a CD and some DSD schemes run at 128 times faster than a CD.
Here’s the interesting part of this: if you take a DSD stream and run it through a simple analog lowpass filter to smooth out the on/off transitions, you get music!  This is amazing considering that if you do the same with PCM you get only noise.
DSD is a lot closer to analog than PCM ever thought to be.

Additional 20th July:
New Mono and Stereo GM70 video 

Presented by Matej Isak Owner & Editor-in-Chief of Mono & Stereo ultra high-end audio magazine 

The Ecstacy of Silver Gold
Are YOU Involved or Institutionalized?

Liberating Music - Gilad Atzmon


  1. Excellent writing Angelo and spot on observations
    regarding GM 70 SE and Level 4 gen4 DAC. I linked
    your review into LampizatOr reviews page on my web:


    Lukasz and I are really appreciated that you took your time and
    shared your experience with LampizatOr playback system with
    other music enthusiasts. Thank you very much and enjoy your
    time with this excellent products and your favorite music ; )

    Greg Drygala
    G Point - Audio
    UK LampizatOr appointed trading partner.