“Why don’t you let me build you a new one?” my software developer friend offered.
One night, he brought by his custom programming server, downloaded a media player, transferred some song files, linked it up to my system and performed A/B comparisons with my Toshiba. We were astounded. It sounded identical, but was whippet quick – and without the dropouts.
As I mulled it over, I realized that wasn’t good enough. Bottom line, I wanted superior performance like I’d heard at Audio Expo North America (AXPONA), an annual show where thousands of audio enthusiasts flock as Muslims to Mecca.
I spent months reading reviews and researching Do It Yourself sites, high end parts and cases. I soon found that it wouldn’t be cheap and there were no guarantees that it would be any better than what my friend demoed at my home.
That’s when Lukasz Fikus of LampizatOr contacted me. I had posted some DIY findings at The Audiophile Group on Facebook. He suggested that I try their LampizatOr DSD Komputer music server (used to showcase their stunning $15,500 flagship Golden Gate Digital to Analog Converter at shows) and eliminate the headaches and guesswork in trying to build one. I already owned their Lite 7 DAC, that at one third the cost of the Golden Gate and half the cost of their Big 7, transformed my hi-fi setup. Why not?
When AXPONA 2016 concluded in April, Lukasz handed over a prototype of their DSD Komputer, now sealed in plastic, which had been paired with their Golden Gate DAC in one of their display rooms at the Westin O’Hare. “It’s heavy, so hold it with both hands,” he cautioned.
Output type: High end USB, S/PDIF (optionally LampizatOr tube S/PDIF)
Microprocessor: Four core with passive cooling
DSD supported data: 64x, 128x, 256x
PCM supported via S/PDIF: 384kHz/32 bit, all known file types
RAM: 16 GB (max 32 GB) DDR3
Storage: 1 TB SSD (max 8 TB SSD or 8 TB SSD)
OS: Linux for high end audio (embedded)
GUI: ROON (the buyer can also elect to have HQPlayer installed, as well)
Motherboard: High performance ATX with BIOS modified for audio purposes
PSU: Eight parallel linear type, fanless custom LampizatOr
AC power consumption: 65 W
Dimensions (shelf footprint): 43 CM (W) x 50 (D) x 13 (H), plus cable space
Net Weight: 15 kg (35 lbs.); shipping: 20 kg (46 lbs.)
User controller: Any tablet, smart phone or laptop computer
Video: HDMI output for local monitor; video playback with optional second SSD operating system for Blu Ray movies
Optical drive: External Blue Ray as an option
Quick playback options: Memory stick, CD USB drive, external 3 1/2 inch drive or from the internet.
Internet playback: Includes internet radio, Tidal and Spotify.
In June 2016, LampizatOr introduced an even higher end — and more expensive — version of the DSD Komputer. Dubbed the Super Komputer, it boasts the following characteristics:
Processor: Intel i7 Skylake
Motherboard: DDR4/Skylake type
RAM: 16 GB of PRO series DDR4
Drive boot: SUPER-SSD
Music storage: A four-dock bay with external access to 4 SSD drives of up to 8TB of SSD
(it comes stock with a one TB Samsung Pro SSD)
USB output: Highest spec audiophile SotM card USB3
Car battery operation: 12 V terminals are a paid option
S/PDIF option: Tube SPDIF output (versus solid state in the Komputer)
Software: Embedded Linux with ROON plus HQplayer
The DSD Komputer currently begins at 3900 Euro, while the Super Komputer starts at 6900. Their prices are consistent whether purchased from Lampizator North America or directly from the factory in Poland.
“I believe it's an essential addition to any digital front end, not just our own DACs,” he continues. “People often focus primarily on the DAC and forget the importance of the signal it’s being fed, which is a mistake. As you've observed, the server can make a dramatic difference.”
There’s a popular saying that “bits are bits” and that theoretically, since the data is stored digitally as 1s and 0s, the means by which it’s warehoused and transported should not make a difference. We will see.
· Straight Wire USB Link USB cable
· LampizatOr Lite 7 DAC
· Straight Wire Solo interconnects
· A boutique, handmade passive preamplifier with a TDK potentiometer and silver wiring sheathed in cotton braiding (it is more transparent and significantly more expensive than the Schiit SYS passive preamp it replaces)
· Straight Wire Solo interconnects with CAMAC connectors at the Mark Levinson amp’s input and RCA connectors to the passive preamp
· One pair of AudioQuest Hard Y Adapter (1 Male to 2 Female RCA splitting the SYS output to the amp and the subwoofer)
· Hsu Research ULS-15 Mk 2 subwoofer
· Mark Levinson ML-9 amplifier
· Straight Wire Pro Special speaker cable in external bi-wire mode
· Von Schweikert VR-5 Hoveland Special Edition speakers
Straight Wire, Inc. CEO, Steven Hill, visits my home after day two of AXPONA and declares my listening space “amazing”, noting that with a big opening to the left, reflections to that side virtually disappear, while on the right, the fireplace, the mantel and its contents largely diffuses them. It is 16’ x 20’ with 10’ ceilings and vinyl floors that make it a touch lively, but ambient. My components reside in a heavy maple entertainment center and the speakers sit forward several feet away from the wall. A cowhide rug lying in front of them helps mitigate the floor’s reflections.
The Komputer prototype is a little different looking than the final version; it appears to be a black brushed aluminum HDPlex fanless case (4 1/2 “ H x 12 ⅝” D x 17 ¼” W) with a power button to the left front side, cooling fins on the sides, whereas the final version is their more typical LampizatOr DAC case with a brushed aluminum faceplate and the name, LAMPIZATOR, etched into it ( a fisheye power button comprising the letter, “O” in the title). Venting is on top. The prototype also has a bank of USB ports in the rear, as well as one to the right side, a VGA video input and a couple CAT 5 ports. It does not come with a power cord so I plug in a premium Straight Wire Black Thunder power cable.
EDITOR's NOTE: Now, ROON has replaced Daphile music as the music player software (which was used during my review and was subsequently replaced by ROON under warranty) and comes completely pre-installed. Buyers can also have HQPlayer installed, as well.
I plug a CAT 6 cable to the Internet service from my AT&T TV wireless receiver out to the Komputer and connect an external hard drive chockful of my favorite music via USB cable. From there, the Komputer is connected to the DAC via USB cable (or S/PDIF), the system is turned on and -- presto!
Almost. Let me be frank: I am somewhat technically challenged and impulsive, and as is often my case with anything more than plugging in a few cables and pushing a few buttons, setup takes me considerably longer. Whether it was a case of an errant series of mouse clicks on my part or merely the Komputer prototype being specifically tweaked for the Golden Gate DAC, I do not know. Bottom line, I needed LampizatOr’s help, which they gladly provided, emailing instructions and, ultimately, dialing it in via remote access from Europe. The result: sonic bliss. I was elated.
I control the Komputer alternatively via my iPhone 7 with the iPeng 9 app and my MacBook Air laptop computer -- or alternatively with the Toshiba ( now relegated to ripping CDs and other duties) when my wife absconds with the Mac.
As Mr. Hill notes, comparing a high end music server like the DSD Komputer to a laptop is a “no contest.” And he’s right.
It’s like changing rides midcourse from a Toyota Camry to a Ferrari on a trip through the mountains. While the former provides a pleasant drive, it’s nowhere near the visceral experience that the stiffly suspended, high end sports car affords. Every bump, every nuance in the roads surface is conveyed with a newfound sense of texture and intimacy.
Pat Metheny is a prodigious jazz fusion guitarist and this selection (a 26 and a half minute segment of a 68 minute song split into four tracks for CD use) from this 2006 Grammy Award-winning album is stellar and a favorite of mine; it mirrors my courtship with my wife. It starts off intriguing and coy: A toy xylophone comped by Lyle Mays’ keyboard entices with a captivating arpeggio. at 15 seconds, Metheny’s electric guitar joins in. It builds in intensity and complexity; other instruments intermix, bursting into orgasmic crescendos, devolving and rising yet again. And the DSD Komputer conveys it with great clarity and balance.
The timbre and the tone of Metheny on various guitars, including the electric hollow body, the slide guitar, a warm-toned solid bodied electric and his patented, high pitched guitar synth sound with the Rolland GR-300 synthesizer and Synclavier controller (which joins the fray at 1:12) are well articulated and holographic. Uber-talented Antonio Sanchez’ wooden drumsticks knocking off dizzying riffs on snare, the ride and crash cymbals are spectacular. Cuong Vu’s atmospheric trumpet effects and lyrical solo at 18:30, Metheny’s frenetic, straight ahead jazz solo at 14:25, and Lyle Mays’ brilliant and luxuriant piano solo at 17:00 mesmerize in their delivery. Together with Gregoire Maret’s harmonica and Steve Rodby’s bass, they paint this intricate jazz/fusion dance in vivid and intoxicating three dimension.
Rising from a quiet moment, at 20:50 a gorgeous acoustic solo blooms and ushers in perhaps the most emotional, mournful-but hopeful melodic guitar solos I’ve heard by Metheny. It picks up again with a flourish, the song billowing into an impeccable Sanchez drum solo with plenty of slam and climaxing in a brilliant, cacophonous explosion. I think I need a cigarette.
From the drum roll leading into the late, great Mr. Vaughan’s patented Fender Stratocaster’s evocative blues solo undergirded by Tommy Shannon’s electric bass, the detail, warmth and sense of air tells me that this is something special. Chris Layton’s slow, lilting tapping, highlighted by the sporadic ring on the ride cymbal, the rim slaps on the snare playing off the masterful, clean defined bursts of notes, twangs and whammy bar-induced warbles of Vaughan’s big-sounding Strat float through the air and envelop the room. And then his distinctive, rugged baritone vocals kick in.
I am hooked.
Sitting here, listening, calls to mind a quote I’d read years ago from Larry Carlton: “Blues are good for the soul.” The sense of space and air, the spaces between notes, nuance, control and tone is spot on. I have read of speakers disappearing, but the Von Schweikerts, the Komputer, the Lite 7 DAC, the Hsu Research sub -- the huge entertainment center -- simply vanish as Stevie Ray and his band are channeled into the room! It is enthralling and sublime.
The timbre of Taylor’s rich baritone vocals are vivid and expansive, filling the room with the Komputer’s presentation of this lovely, but sad pop ballad from his 1998 Grammy Award winning album. The fiddle, cello, acoustic guitar, and the piano trade leads behind Taylor’s singing in a mix that is rich and features such luminaries as Sting on background vocals, Yo-Yo Ma on cello, Jimmy Johnson on bass and Luis Conte on percussion. While not as “in the room” as Vaughan’s “Tin Pan Alley”, there’s a lot of depth, three dimensionality and wonder as Taylor’s voice wafts about the room, dancing about with cello, guitar and piano in this touching goodbye song. It’s engrossing and a thoroughly engaging listen.
Another Grammy Award winner, this one delivers the goods. But is it me, or is the room spinning? My living room is transformed into a ambient, psychedelic New Orleans hall with a larger-than-life, funky, strutting electric guitar that sounds like it’s played through a slow rotating Leslie speaker, with the bass, the floor tom drum and high hat cymbal chiming in -- and a distorted, echoing guitar on refrains. I feel a buzz coming on -- which is strange because I’ve not had a drink! There is plenty of detail as Kraus’s and Plants’ vocals blend well, but sound somewhat deadpan in this dark, foreboding song that features T Bone Burnett on acoustic, electric and six string bass guitar. Towards the end, there are hints of the old Led Zeppelin vocal chops by Plant, which is delightful. Some nice snares, toms and slide guitar round out a catchy tune that envelops my space.
Wilson’s Grammy Award winning sumptuous, deep contralto voice pairs lusciously with Terrasson on piano in this spare, intimate recording is the closest thing to having a live jazz performance in my living room. It’s slow and ethereal. I hear the breaths and subtle textures in her silky, throaty voicing. Terrasson shows why he’s the winner of the 1993 Theolonius Monk Piano Competition with his wonderfully understated playing -- and the Komputer articulates it well. The decay of the notes on his delicious piano against the black silent backdrop is something to behold. Words escape me as my shoulders relax and I simply enjoy this intimate performance. Forget analog sounding -- it simply sounds true to life!
It’s the aural equivalent of a painting by photorealist Chuck Close (and not the pixelated ones!). No matter how close you look, you cannot tell it from a giant photograph. Talk about losing yourself in the music! Terrasson and Wilson are ever present in front of me. It’s spooky realistic.
The LampizatOr DSD Komputer is a professional Canon 400 mm f/2.8 lens, bringing astounding clarity and vivid imaging; when you are used to shooting photographs with a stock lens, the differences are astounding.
It wasn’t that my system lacked for clarity and detail before; the Von Schweikert VR-5 Hovland Special Edition is a very revealing speaker, but with the DSD Komputer as its source, my system’s performance is superb.
I recently hosted my mother’s 80th birthday celebration, when a greying friend in his 70s eased into the sweet spot on the couch and listened to the aforementioned “Tin Pan Alley” recording by Stevie Ray Vaughan. He sat transfixed. The ages seemed to roll back as a broad smile creased his parched skin.
When the song finished, he said, “I feel like I died and went to heaven!”
I couldn’t have said it better. An Audio Expo in my living room? Yes -- and more. With the LampizatOr DSD Komputer, my quest for a music server has ended.
Customers based in North America can access LampizatOr products through their exclusive American Importers, LampizatOr North America, at:
International customers may access them directly from their company at: