What struck us from the first tones was how well the Atlantic handled tonality and timbre. Each instrument offered up a very rich palette. Stringed instruments had nice woody basses and nylon strings were easily distinguishable by their rich overtones from the more direct projection of steel-core strings. In a class of its own were Jake Shimabukuro's Nashville Sessions. Jake plays ukulele—really—but not just any uke. When we first heard this recording, we were really struck and played it again right away. Jake plays soprano ukulele, tenor ukulele, baritone ukulele and electrical ukulele. On this recording he is mainly accompanied by just bass and drums. The recording is exemplary in its clarity and lack of manipulation. In fact it is one of the few recordings with decent kick drum. Musically the style is instrumental prog rock/jazz rock. It's great at preceding, let's say Larry Carlton in a playlist. With the Atlantic in the system, Jake's high-energy tracks made us smile and it was impossible not to tap our feet or bop our heads. Where unadulterated timbres were nicely distinguishable in She's, Jake at times feeds his ukes through a range of effect pedals, masking the actual size of the ukulele being played. Another recording we discovered lately was Agnes Obel's Aventine, an album full of melancholy via piano and cello making the bed for Agnes' close-miked and eerily reverb'd vocals. For style, think a little early Enya. This album underwent a lot of processing in the mix and is a litmus test for what a DAC is capable of when handling subtleties. Let's just say that the Atlantic passed with flying colours.

These photos by LampizatOr

We next switched settings to full PCM processing. That meant HQPlayer ran the same poly sinc filter but now in combination with 5th order noise shaping and 384kHz for the sample rate. From our experience with the XXHighEnd player, we knew how buffer size has an audible effect. We already had determined that 20ms creates more relaxed playback so we stuck to that setting. Now the hardest part of our review began. Was there a difference with DSD playback? Yes. Was it subtle? Not really. Was it better? Uh - yes. There was a noticeable difference. Just like we had preferred DSD with the T+A, again we liked DSD better with the Atlantic, only even more so. Perhaps that shouldn't have been surprising given that in our setup, HQPlayer used tremendous processing power in the custom-computer/server from Monaco to first convert PCM to DSD before the Atlantic's FPGA simply low-passed that signal into the tube output stage for a very clean signal path with minimal manipulation, all heavy lifting of PCM to quad DSD conversion already done in the dedicated music PC.

Compared to DSD, playing straight PCM through the Atlantic's ladder DAC lacked the same extremely fine separation of instruments. They became more fused though not smeared together. DSD also offered a greater live feeling especially with well-recorded music. An album that made this especially clear was Melanie de Biasio's No Deal. This is very enveloping with some q-sound effects. This enveloping effect was much stronger with DSD than PCM. Next we noticed that playing PCM was more tiring as though the brain had to do more processing than with DSD.

During the review period of the Atlantic, we received two pair of loudspeakers for subsequent reviews – the Mark & Daniel Maximus Ruby MkII and the Volya Systems Bouquet. Both speakers are wildly different. One is a heavy 2-way synthetic stone bookshelf model, the other a nearly 2-metre tall hand-painted 5-driver 4-way with Accuton drivers. When we used these speakers instead of the Pnoe horns, we came to the same conclusion - that the LampizatOr Atlantic DAC was able to extract every bit of information we knew from the incoming digital signal and put out a dynamic, fully detailed and very believable analog signal that simply needed some amplification. The DAC handled PCM very well but truly excelled at DSD. So for us, streaming audio really is the way to go. With more and more options to output high-quality DSD from intelligent streamers, there is no more excuse left not to go with DSD. Here the Atlantic becomes a great ally. It handles PCM from now almost vintage spinning media as one of the best on the market, then operates at the top of the league when it comes to the best-sounding of DSD converters - for €4'000. From Poland with love...
For a second opinion plus how the Atlantic model compares to the range-topping LampizatOr Golden Gate, Warsaw contributor Dawid Grzyb has the rest of the story.

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