Lukasz Fikus was a cult figure on the audio scene long before the launch of his wildly successful commercial brand Lampizator. Previously he was known as THE guy that modified common or garden audio products and elevated them to giant-killing stature, now he makes what some believe to be the best audio available right now. Hifi Pig speaks to him. Interviewed in 2019…

HP: You gained quite a reputation, some would say cult-like status, with your modifications to common audio products, where did the idea to modify these products come from and where does the Lampizator name come from?

LF: Curiosity, itching fingers, dissatisfaction with status-quo, the pursuit of perfection, poverty. All of the above factors led me to tinkering with the existing products and tubes proved to be the tool to make things better.
A person who does the above-mentioned activity can be called – with a grain of humour – the Lampizator – in the Polish language. Of course, a part of it is the play on words with Terminator the tough guy.

HP: What was the most successful of your mods and what made it stand out from the rest?

LF: The TDA1541A CD player with fully tubed conversion tube stage – this is a giant killer and uber cool audio product. Like the Grundig 9009 CD player.

HP: Poland has a strong reputation for DIY in audio, where do you think this comes from?

LF: Poverty and high-education entwined.

HP: What was the spark that launched the business as a commercial concern? What was your first commercial product and how was it received?

LF: The so-called spark was the meeting with one of the greatest audiophiles of all time – Mr. Carl Bernstein from New York who listened to my DAC S.N. #001 in his all Audionote system and said that I must be insane not to try and monetize successfully these toys of mine, and at the same time getting utterly sick of my employer – the multi-mega-matrix corporation.

HP: You designed a well-received open baffle DIY loudspeaker, do you have any plans to make this a commercially available product?

LF: The loudpeaker business – as a business – is extremely different from the electronics business and as in my opinion doesn’t fit my business model. Before anything else I am a speaker specialist, I am really good at designing speakers, I understand drivers, I understand crossovers, I listened to all the world’s greatest and less great speakers, I know how to make any type of speaker you want – but I am not gonna make them as Lampizator. Having said that I do offer P17 as the best speaker ever – that 6000 Euro can buy, with very limited success because my marketing efforts are 1% of what is needed to move that business forward. It could be made into an MBA case study why it is impossible for my business to successfully sell great speakers.

HP: The majority of your products use tubes (valves), what do you think valves bring to the table that solid-state cannot, and do you have a favourite valve and if so why?

LF: I am an electrician, which has nothing to do with electronics. I am great at understanding electricity and dynamics of the transformers and circuits – energy – power – voltage – current – signal – wave etc. I am very lousy at understanding transistors. Hence, I chose the easy path for me and that was the tube path. I know how to make tube sound great but not the transistor. There are specialised transistor people, but they know how to make them work but not how to make them sound great. The people who know how to make transistors sound great haven’t been born yet, perhaps…

HP: Valves in DACs, for example, sounds little counter-intuitive, what do valves bring to the digital domain?

LF: Valves bring simplicity of the circuit. The nature of the beast (valve) is that it can do all that I need to do around the DAC chips and do it with grace, simplicity and utmost purity. The resulting sound is open, natural, spacious, vibrant, transparent and free of distortions. It has none of the grunge associated with op-amps and countless feedback loops of op-amped filters. These circuits – after exposure to tube converters – become unlistenable.

HP: What was your first proper Hifi system?

LF: Pioneer upside-down transport, Audio Note DAC2SE, VTL Mono Triode 120 monos and KEF DIY transmission lines. It was awesome after my regular technics rig.

HP: What aspect of the sound and the way your products are voiced is most important to you?

LF: Around the head type of cloud.

HP: We use a Big 7 DAC as our reference in our main system, but since then you have introduced the Pacific DAC, can you tell Hifi Pig readers about its design and how you feel it sets itself apart from the competition?

LF: We took 3 quiet uninterrupted years of shipping out Golden Gate DAC in unchanged form, and in the background every day we tried to outdo ourselves, prototyping various kinds of incremental improvements. What was planned as Golden Gate 2 after 3 years of very intense research became a new product; all of its parts, right down to the smallest one, became improved and new and so instead of making it GG2 I opted for a frog leap into the new ocean. After spending a year of listening to gradual refinements of the Pacific prototypes – I KNEW for sure was onto something special – perhaps the ultimate DAC ever. (laughing…). So, I just HAD to make it the biggest ocean we have – The Pacific. I’ve kind of run out of oceans by now.

HP: You now make amplifiers, streamers and a whole host of products, which product is your favourite and why?

LF: My best ever and favourite product is literally unknown because it doesn’t look cool on pictures, specs look like nothing at all and it is not well known at all – this is the power DAC or Daco-Amp – a special DAC plus AMP in one circuit. I insist – not in one box but in one circuit. It is so shockingly good that people don’t know what to say and don’t buy it. It is called The Amber Amp. We sold only 5 of them and this is criminal.

HP: What products do you see in Lampizator’s future?

LF: I will always want to have one product on top of the world’s shopping list like the current Pacific is. What I care most though is a superb product for the regular folks like us – the middle class – in the 3000 – 5000 Euro range. This is my “home base” of the DAC for the people, and If we can bring more great amplifiers to the affordable price range then I will be happy. So, my next mid-term plan for 2019 is a stereo amplifier that people actually can afford. I want to trickle down from the monumental investment in the Pacific range of DACs and Amps – as much as possible without hurting the Pacific itself. The future looks very bright for us. And The most immediate plan – as always – is to organise an audiophile sailing week in the Adriatic with friends, customers, dealers, reviewers and Hifi Pig of course. If only more people wanted to sail…

 

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