Lampizator Baltic 3 vs DirectStream w/ Upgraded Edcor Transformers

I recently bought the Capital Audio Fest demo of the Lampi Baltic 3, spent a few more days breaking it in and tube rolling with my already broken-in tubes, and then after almost a week evaluated it against my DSD modded with the upgraded Edcor transformers.

TLDR: I ended up returning the Baltic 3.

Given what I had been reading across a number of forums, I was incredibly excited for the Lampi. I’ve recently come from an all tube system, and over the last year have been finding myself go solid state. For reference, my system comprises of:

Wilson Yvette
SVS SB-4000 subs
T+A 3000 HV Series preamp, amp, and PS
DSD with upgraded Edcor
NAD M50.2 streamer
Uptone EtherRegen with Farad LPS
Synergistic Research PowerCell SX
Synergistic Research Active Ground Block
Full loom of Synergistic Research Atmosphere and Galileo SX cables

Having gone all solid state, I was curious about adding tubes back in, especially at the source since I thought it would be much quieter than adding them at the amp stage. With the Baltic 3 in particular, I was excited because I already had a huge collection of great tubes given the configuration of the 5U4G, 6SN7 and 12AU7 tubes. As the DAC arrived, I spent time cycling through both the stock tubes and my own, ending up with the EML 5U4G mesh plate, Tung Sol 6F8G Round Plates, and Psvane 12AU7. Both DACs also used SR Blue fuses and Isoacoustics Orea footers. This was now a fully loaded Lampi with approximately $1K of add-ons from stock.

Initial impressions of the Lampi were very favorable. I once again had a much bigger, more involving center image than the DSD. The midrange had more texture, more meat on its bones. It was generally more organic - there was no etch, and the sound was overall smoother. What’s best, it illuminated the haze that the DSD has in the midrange and overcomes it. One example is in the MFSL version of Natalie Merchant’s San Andreas Fault. A few minutes into the track, acoustic percussion like a conga drum plays out the right channel. With the DSD, it was harder to make the instrument out as the imaging was more smeared with others, but with the Lampi, there it was, what I knew was missing from having a tube system in the past. The outline of the percussion, the meat were all there.

But despite the glorious midrange in the Lampi, the DSD bested it in some other ways. The bass in the DSD was much more desirable. With Lorde’s Royals, it was fast, textured, and unrestricted. The slam of the percussion at the beginning came quick and plentiful, and the I could more easily hear the texture and vibrato in the bass (and even sub bass) lines. With the Lampi, the bass tried to be big, but it felt more like a midbass bloom, whereas the bass was more rounded with a sag that I attributed to the tube rectifier.

Probably unsurprising, the top end was more articulate in the DSD as well. It just gave the impressions of a quieter unit that allowed high frequency detail to shine, and this resulted in a wider soundstage with much more precise imaging of elements on the stage. Slow Meadow’s Artificial Algorithm is especially a good comparison track for this. But for the frequency extremes, DSD was the clear winner. It brought the quality of what great solid state can do. Those that have gone down the tube route and have emerged with high end solid state know what I am talking about here, and once you’ve heard it, you can’t go back to sacrificing the noise floor for a change in sonic signature.

At the end of the day, I felt if I kept the Lampi it would have been a lateral move, not a straight out upgrade, as I was clearly hearing what I was gaining and missing from both and knew I wouldn’t be completely happy. If you listen only to smaller ensembles, purely acoustic such as jazz and female vocal (which I listen to plenty of, but I’m not limited to that), I highly recommend the Lampizator Baltic 3.

But as a performer across the board, the DSD still has some benefits. As such, I’ve decided that my next DAC will be solid state. I have been eagerly awaiting the TSS but have lost patience. I’m now awaiting the DC toggle board @jkrichards is designing so I can employ the extra Farad LPS I have in possession for the DSD. I’m also observing the progress on the DSD MK II to see if that might be my cup of tea, but given recent research, I am becoming more enamored with the EMM DA2 and/or DV2, as well as the MSB Premier. If anyone has compared those units with a modded DSD, I’d love to hear about it.

For now, I’ve decided to hold off on another DAC purchase and instead have upgraded my streamer to the Aurender N30SA. And that, my friends, is a keeper and a story for another post in the near future.


Great post, thanks much for the good description! I expected some result like that. The Farad will give further bass control, 3D imaging, air and focus.

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Thank you for the thoughtful analysis.

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Thanks for the analysis. I tried Lampi as well. The Golden Atlantic I believe. Really did love the Dac. I (like you) thought it did really well in many areas. Hard to say that it “beat” the DSD but it it did if you were looking for specific areas of improvement perhaps. Not so much overall. The DSD holds its own against many. I too (despite the availability of a couple Lampi’s) have decided in the DAC world SS is the way to go. However my current Aqua has a FPGA, R2R, and a tube output stage. Seems to be the best of both worlds (3 worlds, 4 worlds whatever-there is a lot of tech in there). Would love to A/B with DSD MkII if that ever makes it out. I suspect next year.

One day I’ll go the streamer route but for now PC to DAC, then integrated then Wilson Sasha.

Happy listening…


I’m glad your experience is similar to mine. I was also looking at the Aqua DACs. When did you get yours, and in what ways did it differ from the DSD?

I got the Aqua about a week ago so still giving it some critical evaluation but it seems to meet and/or exceed my expectations on every genre, format etc. The build quality is excellent and operation very simple. The tech inside you can read about for hours and there are a few reviews out there as well.

I like DACs and it is sort of a sub-hobby within the overall stereo hobby itself. This is proving to be the best DAC I have owned to date. What it really does well is balance. The detail is striking which I really enjoy but it does not seem to sacrifice musicality at any time regardless of what I am playing. I’m 100% digital so maybe that has a bearing here, I’ll let you be the judge. Image and sound stage are first rate. I also (two days ago) had Wilson out to do a perfect alignment on my speakers as I have just moved. This improved the overall experience as you might imagine. I can’t think of a “step up” based on what I’m hearing at least within any price range I’m willing to entertain. This unit stomps the Dave and beats the Bartok imho. Just a really great balance of what you want to hear presented in my system.
I recommend an audition if you get the chance. The Formula is the next Aqua up but it has a reputation for being a bit more clinical. I wanted as much detail as I could get without any bite. This unit seems to add a level of detail above any previous DAC I have owned but with all the “smooth” and musicality one could ask for. I hope this helps. I’m not much of a reviewer…lol.


Thank you for your thoughts on this!

Np! PM if I can be of any help. Best of luck