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    dCS Paganini DAC, Paganini Upsampler, and Puccini U-Clock Review

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    prodphto_dcs093-25-thumb.jpgAh, the life of an audio writer. Receive the best components money can buy. Use the components for a couple months. Send aforementioned components back to manufacturer. Hang head low for a week while getting used to the real world again. I'm in the sulking phase right now as the <i>d</i>CS stack is in boxes awaiting pickup. The last several weeks were pure sonic bliss, as evidenced by my Twitter post from 11:22 PM November 12, 2009. <i>"I've never had better sound in my listening room. Ever. I believe I've found a winning combination of components. Articles to follow :~)"</i> It's finally time to spill the beans and let Computer Audiophile readers in on the best sound I've ever heard in my listening room. Here is my review of the <i>d</i>CS Paganini DAC, Paganini Upsampler, and Puccini U-Clock.

    [PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]

     

     

     

    <b>Intro</b>

     

    Most CA readers know I sold my last CD Player years ago and never looked back. While working with <i>d</i>CS and its U.S. distributor we toyed with the idea of throwing a transport into this mix of components, but decided against that as it's really not my cup of tea. It would have been nice to play some SACDs, but in my book physical media is to be ripped and stored incase of an emergency. We settled on a review of the Paganini DAC, Paganini Upsampler, and Puccini U-Clock. This combination offers so many input, output, and clocking options I highly recommend working with a local <i>d</i>CS dealer until one has an understanding of everything these components can accomplish. Luckily David Steven Jr. and Andy McHarg from <i>d</i>CS headquarters in the United Kingdom, and John Quick the U.S. distributor where an easy phone call away during this review period. I liken this <i>d</i>CS stack to a high performance Formula 1 race car. An F1 car is capable of incredible performance but a pit crew is needed to get the car to the starting line. Fortunately the <i>d</i>CS stack does not need intermittent pit stops. Most users will set it and forget it.

     

     

     

     

    <b>The Three Amigos</b>

     

     

    <i>Paganini DAC</i>

     

    <img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs065-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left">The Paganini DAC is unique among its competitors in the industry. According to <i>d</i>CS, <i>"Our products use both discrete and software configurable approach to digital signal processing. While most audiophile DACs are based on standard DAC chips from one of approximately six manufacturers, our patented <i>d</i>CS Ring DAC circuit uses around 40 chips, none of which are DAC chips. Our digital processing circuitry is based around Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) chips, Digital Signal Processing (DSP) chips and a microcontroller system, all of which runs code developed and maintained by <i>d</i>CS. Our PCM interface and Phase Locked Loop (PLL) circuitry are essentially discrete. This means our hardware is completely controlled and reconfigurable by software."</i> In addition to the <i>d</i>CS Rind DAC there are a few R2R Ladder DACs available today but most DACs are the Delta-Sigma type. Manufacturers often use ?? (Delta-Sigma) DACs because they are very linear and inexpensive. Attaining the highest levels of quality in digital to analog conversion is not easy. Few manufacturers have the ability to develop something as high performance and complex as the <i>d</i>CS Ring DAC. The Paganini DAC has four digital inputs that accept a range of sample rates. Two AES/EBU inputs accept from 32 to 192 kHz. Note that dual wire AES is required for sample rates of 176.4 and 192 kHz. Readers with a Lynx AES16 card need to connect outputs one and two from the card to the corresponding Paganini AES inputs and enable dual wire in the Lynx Mixer software for these higher sample rates. Currently the Lynx / <i>d</i>CS combination does not support external clocking at sample rates of 176.4 and 192 kHz. I've been told Lynx may offer an easy solution to this incompatibility via software or firmware upgrade at some point it the future. The reason for the incompatibility is that <i>d</i>CS components send what is called a base-rate clock signal of 44.1 or 48k to external devices. The Lynx internal digital I/O audio cards do not currently have the capability to multiply that base rate by 4x to achieve higher sampling rates. My understanding is that external lynx devices such as the Aurora line do support multiplying a base-rate word clock and would work perfect with the <i>d</i>CS components. The Paganini has two coaxial S/PDIF inputs that accept from 32 to 96 kHz digital audio. An IEEE 1394 (FireWire) interface is used only for an encrypted DSD signal. Users will not be able to connect a computer to this port via FireWire cable to play music. Analog outputs are single-ended RCA and electronically balanced XLR connections. The analog output stage is discrete Class A. The output levels can be adjusted from 2v rms to 6v rms via the Paganini's menu system. During this review I used the Paganini DAC set at 6v rms output directly into to my McIntosh MC275 tube amplifier driving a pair of Verity Fidelio loudspeakers. 2v rms just was not enough "juice" for my liking because I did not use any preamplifier during the review. The Paganini DAC's digital volume control is implemented extremely well and, to my ears, has no sonic degradation. As I eluded to previously the Paganini DAC also has word clock in and out allowing it to be a slave or master clock.

     

     

     

    <i>Paganini Upsampler</i>

     

    <img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_img023-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left">The Paganini Upsampler is really a digital to digital converter that accepts sample rates from 32 to 96 kHz. The device can output this digital signal at an equivalent or higher sample rate than the incoming data. A standard 16/44.1 audio signal can be output to the Paganini DAC at 16/44.1, 24/88.2, 24/176.4, or DSD. 24/96 material from sites like HDtracks and Blue Coast Records can be output at 24/96, 24/192, or DSD. This Upsampler has three types of digital inputs and three types of digital outputs. The outputs are standard coaxial S/PDIF, AES/EBU single and dual wire, and IEEE 1394. Dual wire is required to output a digital signal at 24/176.4 and 24/192 kHz. The digital inputs are two coaxial S/PDIF RCA connections, one single wire AES/EBU XLR connection, and one asynchronous USB connection. Yes, this is the highly desirable asynchronous USB technology like Wavelength and Ayre use. Note this is not to be confused with asynchronous sample rate conversion. ASRC is completely different and does not play any part in the <i>d</i>CS USB implementation or in the Paganini Upsampler. <i>d</i>CS is not licensing anything from anyone for its USB interface. Its asynchronous implementation was created completely in-house by its highly skilled team of engineers. Using the Paganini asynchronous USB input will be a popular option for those who want to set it and forget it. Using a Mac Mini or MacBook with Amarra outputting via USB to the Upsampler allows one to play anything up to 24/96 and take advantage of the upsampling settings of their choice. Upsamplers have a fair share of skeptics and "purists" who don't believe in the technology. During the review period I used every possible configuration with the Paganini Upsampler. I will share my preferred Upsampler settings a bit later in this review.

     

     

     

    <i>Puccini U-Clock</i>

     

    <img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_IMG_026-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left">The Puccini U-Clock is perhaps my favorite component in the <i>d</i>CS line. This "favored component status" stems from my experience using external word clocks and realizing the benefits such clocking can have in a high performance audio system. Plus the Puccini U-Clock contains an asynchronous USB to coaxial S/PDIF converter. Again, the same highly sought asynchronous USB implementation that's contained in the Paganini Upsampler using the TAS1020B chip. The U-Clock's USB board layout was designed with an eye on the future. When the inevitable higher sampling rates are available via USB the U-Clock's USB board is designed to be swapped out by a local dealer saving the expense of over seas shipping back to <i>d</i>CS in the UK. <i>d</i>CS had no comment on the availability of a 24/192 USB interface for its components. As its name suggests the U-Clock is an external master clock for any component that accepts an industry standard word clock signal via 75 ohm BNC connection. The Puccini U-Clock has four word clock outputs. During the review period I clocked everything with the U-Clock when possible. When using a Lynx AES16 card connected to the Paganini Upsampler I used the U-Clock to send word clock signals to the Lynx, the DAC, and the Upsampler. Thus all components had the same clock source. According to the <i>d</i>CS product manuals the best sound quality comes from a configuration where the U-Clock is the single clock source for the complete digital front end. After weeks of listening to many different clocking schemes I agree with <i>d</i>CS. In its system sending word clock from the U-Clock to all components pushes performance to another level. There are other schools of thought when it comes to external clocking. One common clock scheme is using the clock source that is as close to the DAC chip as possible. This would mean sending clock from the DAC to the front end components. On other systems that may work best, but with the <i>d</i>CS stack in my listening room the best performance came when word clock was sourced from the Puccini U-Clock.

     

     

     

    <b>Music Servers</b>

     

    Music servers used during this review include the following.

    <ul>

    <li>Mac Pro, OS X Snow Leopard, Dual 2.8 GHz Intel Xeon Quad core CPUs, 10GB RAM, 64GB SSD, iTunes & Amarra, Lynx AES16e digital I/O</li>

    <li>Mac Pro, Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit, Dual 2.8 GHz Intel Xeon Quad core CPUs, 10GB RAM, 64GB SSD, MediaMonkey, Lynx AES16e digital I/O</li>

    <li>Mac G5, OS X Tiger, Dual 2.0 GHz PowerPC CPUs, 3GB RAM, 64GB SSD, iTunes & Amarra, Lynx AES16 digital I/O</li>

    <li>Custom Linux server - Details withheld at this time.</li>

    <li>Thecus N5200B Pro NAS</li>

    <li>MacBook Air Remote Control</li>

    <ul>

     

     

     

     

     

    <b>High Performance</b>

     

    <img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs162-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left">This <i>d</i>CS stack unequivocally gave me the best sound I've ever heard in my listening room. Period. It produced the most refined and natural sound I've heard in recent memory. This natural sound was most apparent with acoustic music. I've been on a Jack Johnson kick for a while. I listened to his albums a few times each through the <i>d</i>CS components and through other components I currently have available here. No other components gave me goose bumps like the <i>d</i>CS stack. I certainly was not in the studio for a Jack Johnson recording and do not know what his guitar is "supposed" to sound like, but the sound in my room had to be pretty close. The resonance of his guitar was so real the musical illusion was incredible. As I stated earlier, I used the Paganini Upsampler in every conceivable configuration and with many different types of music. After tens of hours comparing all the Upsampling options I wound up preferring no Upsampling at all. Oddly enough this doesn't mean I prefer no Upsampler at all. Over the last few days I discovered that I like the sound of the Upsampler via USB better than the U-Clock via USB. I was very surprised that I heard any difference whatsoever. I sent an email to <i>d</i>CS detailing the configuration and my preference for the Upsampler USB input. I received a response from Andy McHarg, one of the brilliant digital engineers at <i>d</i>CS, stating, <i>"...the two *should* sound identical with the same settings..."</i> It's entirely possible my preference for the Upsampler's USB input over the U-Clock's USB input could be based on psychoacoustics. Right now I don't think that's the case. When I switched USB inputs I was not looking to compare the sound quality rather I was going to test a different clocking configuration. The sonic difference was immediately noticeable to me. I had been using the Upsampler's USB input exclusively for a couple weeks so I was intimately familiar with the sound. It was like placing a new component into one's system after years of listening to one set of components. Differences are easily noticed. A possible explanation for this sonic difference could involve cabling. Using the U-Clock's USB input I used a WireWorld USB cable and a Kimber Select coaxial S/PDIF digital cable for the output to the DAC. Using the Upsampler's USB input is used the same WireWorld USB cable, but I used a pair of Tera Labs AES/EBU digital cable from the Upsampler to the DAC. I don't want to make a mound out of a mole hill. This USB sonic difference was such a tiny part of the whole review period and overall experience I really could have written it in a side-note. Anyway, my preference for no upsampling was readily apparent after an evening listening to Frank Sinatra's <i>Only The Lonely</i> (<a href="http://www.mofi.com/store/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=140&idcategory=0">Mobile Fidelity UDCD 792</a>). The last track on the album, One For My Baby (And One More For The Road) sounded vastly different when I passed the 16/44.1 signal straight through the Upsampler at 16/44.1 versus when I upsampled from 16/44.1 to DSD. This difference in sonics was expected, but the outcome was unexpected. Without upsampling Sinatra's voice had wonderful reverb and space surrounding it. When I upsampled to DSD I lost the reverb trail. His voice sounded a bit tighter, but thinner and less full. The following day I talked to the US Distributor about what I heard. He relayed his honest opinion to me that detailed vastly different results. He'd heard increased reverb with the Upsampler and much better sound on a wide array of audio systems. Granted this was with different albums and much different audio equipment, but it's another data point for CA readers to consider. Back to overall performance. I punched up one of my favorite, Grammy nominated, Classical albums more than a few times throughout this review period. The Minnesota Orchestra's <i>Bolero! Orchestral Fireworks</i> (<a href="https://www.hdtracks.com/index.php?file=catalogdetail&valbum_code=030911109226">Reference Recordings RR-92 HDCD</a>). I'm no classical aficionado but I was immediately sucked into the concert hall with the awesome power of the transients on this album. I've never heard this album sound better anywhere. The highest highs and the lowest lows were reproduced faithfully and the critical midrange was the most realistic I've heard to date. I can't complete this review without mentioning Shelby Lynne's album <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Lynne-t.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all"><i>Just A Little Lovin'</i></a>. This album was recorded by world-class engineer Al Schmitt on a two inch Studer tape machine. Like the previous albums mentioned above, I've never heard this recording sound so real. I must have played it over and over about twenty times this month alone. Through the <i>d</i>CS stack Shelby's voice didn't emanate from the speakers. It was right between the speakers, not to far back or forward. Her voice just hung there transparently in space. On the title track the sparse cymbals were so realistic it was hard to believe a 16/44.1 recording could sound so good. The decay of the cymbals from the left speaker to the right was dead-on. There are many more superlatives to describe what this album sounded like thought the <i>d</i>CS stack but I'm sure CA readers get the point without dragging this one out any further.

     

    Comparing the <i>d</i>CS stack to other components is a bit difficult because it includes an external clock, DAC, and Upsampler. Nonetheless I did swap the Paganini DAC with a few DACs I had on hand. Most of the comparisons weren't very useful as the cost of the sales tax for the <i>d</i>CS stack is more than the total price of some of these DACs. The comparison I was most interested in was the <i>d</i>CS Paganini DAC and the Alpha DAC. The Alpha DAC is still my reference DAC because it's relatively inexpensive and I own an Alpha. In my listening room the <i>d</i>CS Paganini was sonically superior and would be my DAC of choice could I afford the purchase price. Compared to the Paganini the Alpha sounded a bit forward, a tad less natural and a tad less coherent. Don't get me wrong, the Alpha is still one of the best DACs on the market and has received many accolades to that affect. It's just not quite up to the level of the <i>d</i>CS Paganini DAC.

     

     

     

     

     

    <b>Conclusion</b>

     

     

    The <i>d</i>CS Paganini DAC, Upsampler, and Puccini U-Clock is the best digital front end I've ever heard in my listening room. Since the <i>d</i>CS components are boxed up Jack Johnson, Shelby Lynne, and the Minnesota Orchestra have left the building. The <i>d</i>CS stack not only made the Computer Audiophile Suggested Hardware List, these components are exactly why the CASH List was created. Well done <i>d</i>CS.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    <div style=" border-top : 1px solid #E9EFF3; border-right : 1px solid #E9EFF3; border-bottom : 1px solid #E9EFF3; border-left : 1px solid #E9EFF3">

    Manufacturer: <a href="http://www.dcsltd.co.uk"><i>d</i>CS (Data Converson Systems)</a>

    Prices:

    <li>Paganini DAC (PDC) - $17,999</li>

    <li>Paganini Upsampler (PUP) - $10,499</li>

    <li>Puccini uClock (PUU) - $4,999</li>

    Availability: <a href="http://www.dcsltd.co.uk/page/dealerlocator">Dealers and Distributors</a>

    Documents:

    <li><a href="http://files.computeraudiophile.com/2009/1208/Paganini_DAC_Manual_v1_0x.pdf">Paganini DAC Manual</a></li>

    <li><a href="http://files.computeraudiophile.com/2009/1208/Puccini_U-Clock_Manual_v1_0x.pdf">Puccini U-Clock Manual</a></li>

    </div>

     

     

     

     

    Associated Equipment: Kimber USB cable v1 & v2, Benchmark DAC1 PRE, Kimber Select cabling, Verity Audio Fidelio loudspeakers, McIntosh MC275 amplification, Richard Gray's Power Company cables, Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC, Wavelength Audio Proton & Cosecant, Ayre AX-7e Integrated Amp, Windows XP "Music Server for a Song," Focal Diablo Utopia loudspeakers, Bel Canto USB Link, Antelope Audio Isochrone OCX Master Clock.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Click to enlarge

     

    <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_img029.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_img029-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_img023.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_img023-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_img013.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_img013-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_img010.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_img010-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_img007.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_img007-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_IMG_048.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_IMG_048-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_IMG_043.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_IMG_043-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_IMG_037.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_IMG_037-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_IMG_031.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_IMG_031-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_IMG_026.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_IMG_026-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_IMG_022.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_IMG_022-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_IMG_016.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_IMG_016-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_IMG_010.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_IMG_010-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs162.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs162-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs160.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs160-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs159.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs159-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs148.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs148-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs135.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs135-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs133.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs133-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs093.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs093-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs079.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs079-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs075.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs075-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs065.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs065-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="dCS 01"></a>   <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs063.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="dCS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2009/1208/prodphto_dcs063-25.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" alt="dCS 01"></a>

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Just in case any one is interested ... in my research looking at the dCS Kit, I have discovered that the RME HDSPe AES card (used as an alternative to the Lynx) should be able to accept base level (44.1 or 48) word clock and multiply it for 88.2 / 176.4 / 96 and 192 sample rates. The RME card is also compatible with dual wire mode.<br />

    <br />

    Now Chris ... when do you get the Scarlatti stack to review?<br />

    <br />

    Eloise<br />

    <br />

    PS. Were you able to compare the single and balanced outputs as I've read they have independent paths and one may be better than the other?

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    ... is happy with all clock rates... and is switchable between single- and dual-wire modes.<br />

    <br />

    Mani.

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    dCS is great but it also seems to be the most expensive gear you have reviewed...so the findings should not have been totally unexpected. If you are able to do a comparative review with other devices in the same price range, say Boulder or Wadia 9 Series it might be more meaningful. <br />

    <br />

    Nevertheless, your other comments about this fine product on USB have been enlightening.

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    Hi Chris,<br />

    <br />

    I couldn't wait for this article to be released :)<br />

    Glad to read you've joined the dCS (fan) club.<br />

    <br />

    About upsampling, my own experience with my dCS stack (delius + purcell, previous gen) indicates better reverbs. Funny you got opposite results, but that's definitely not the must have part of the stack (the dac is really incredible).<br />

    As soon as the clock gets the 24/192 usb input and dual/aes output, I'll buy it (your recommandation is most welcomed).<br />

    <br />

    Many thanks Chris.<br />

    <br />

    Elp

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    Chris,<br />

    <br />

    Could you elaborate a bit more on how the Paganini DAC connected to the PC via U-Clock compares the Paganini DAC connected to the PC via Lynx soundcard? It would be great to have this comparison to get an idea which computer interface is superior. <br />

    <br />

    Thanks!<br />

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    Hi Chris,<br />

    <br />

    after reading your review and coming to the point where you state the price of the Paganini DAC (17,999 US$) I pause. The best sounding device I have ever heard, Metric Halo's ULN-8 (http://tinyurl.com/ye9q8tb) retails for 6000,- US$. It is the heart of my 5.1 mixing & mastering space (http://levingroom.blumlein.net/) and I hear all there is to hear in my recordings, which I know for a fact because I did them and was in the same space at the time the music was created :-)<br />

    <br />

    So you can get three ULN-8's for the price of one Paganini, and that'd give you 24 channels of 92.5 dB gain mic-pres (or separate line-inputs), ADC, DAC, analog sends, three front panel controls etc. Which means that if you need "only" stereo you could feed 12 pairs of loudspeakers all over your house, remote controlled from one to three locations. How is that for the bargain of the century? And don't get me started on the 80 bit signal path and flexible DSP-matrix ;-)<br />

    <br />

    BTW, the ULN-8 is the same machine as the Sonic-branded 305 (http://tinyurl.com/ykhwnen)…<br />

    <br />

    Regards,<br />

    <br />

    blumlein records - Andrew Levine<br />

    (who has been lucky to beta-test the ULN-8 from late 2006 on)

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    Andrew, have you compared the ULN-8 to any of the dCS gear? I wonder how they compare directly.<br />

    <br />

    Cheers.

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    Chris-<br />

    <br />

    Enjoyed your review, but I think you miss an opportunity to compare<br />

    one of the last remaining hi end transports to your computers.<br />

    <br />

    I'd like to know if SACD playback via the Paganini Transport can outperform hi rez playback from a PC.<br />

    <br />

    Aloha,<br />

    <br />

    Dan<br />

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    Hi Thomas,<br />

    <br />

    I have not had the chance to try out any gear by dCS. Also my budget is limited to the price of top pro audio gear--which strangely enough is less expensive than a lot of high-end audio equipment. My listening forays into that realm have not impressed me so far though, and I know that the people who develop & build the tools I use daily always strive for the optimum.<br />

    <br />

    Regards,<br />

    <br />

    blumlein records - Andrew Levine

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    It’s a lonely road researching, confirming, and anticipating purchases based on vicariously reviewing the reviews of our silver-tongued audiophile pundits. And just before taking the plunge—making the commitment—with heart in mouth, weak knees, and justification for selling my two kids to pay for the indulgence, I now find that I must sell my wife as well!!! Is life fair?

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    Chris, you noted some time ago that you had a Antelope Isochrone OCX which you were testing. Can you comment on these tests, particularly if you had a chance to use the OCX with the Alpha DAC or any of the other DACs you have on hand? Also, you noted some time back that you preferred the Alpha DAC to the ULN-8....can you comment a bit further on that comparison.<br />

    <br />

    Thanks,<br />

    <br />

    David

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    @Andrew<br />

    Ah, the old argument : I can't buy it so it can't be good !<br />

    <br />

    Yes, audiophile products are outrageously overpriced.<br />

    Back then when dCS was making pro gears, they were significantly less expensive than their audiophile counterparts.<br />

    <br />

    CA is a yet a world apart, but most audiophiles investing even the 6k$ for the UNL-8 would want it to match their needs, and to look like something that can be shown, and not a cold war styled product.<br />

    <br />

    Plus there is the inevitable difference of domestic vs foreign products prices.<br />

    Most american electronics are costing twice their domestic price here in europe (and still I am buying american products, based on listening tests).<br />

    <br />

    Finally, as far as reaching the best possible implementation is concerned, this is definitely something that can be credited to dCS guys. Everything is built from scratch, with dedicated solutions. This is a huge effort that can only lead to somehow "big" prices from a small company.<br />

    <br />

    Elp

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    Hi Elp,<br />

    <br />

    > Ah, the old argument : I can't buy it so it can't be good !<br />

    <br />

    Did I say that? No, and if I did it is not true.<br />

    <br />

    What I did say is that I know what happens at the concerts & sessions I record, and that is what I want to hear, which is what I get--and more--using the ULN-8. And I am glad it is in the affordable bracket of pricing (which of course is highly subjective) because for me it is a must have.<br />

    <br />

    > audiophile products are outrageously overpriced.<br />

    <br />

    IMHO "you get what you pay for" is true for the lower half of the price range while the upper half is dominated by "they take as much as you can pay". Not that I don't estimate the amount of R&D that goes into many fine tools nor the difficulty of affixing a price tag to a finished product.<br />

    <br />

    > most audiophiles investing even the 6k$ for the UNL-8 would want it [...] <br />

    > to look like something that can be shown, and not a cold war styled product.<br />

    <br />

    According to my blog-entry on the sonophiles (http://sonophile.blumlein.net/) this is attributable to the "Touch&Feel"-component. I personally care foremost about what I hear, then again I don't mind the design of the ULN-8. It's handling is functional and the metering outstanding.<br />

    <br />

    Regards,<br />

    <br />

    blumlein records - Andrew Levine

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    I had the Scarlatti set up here last year and just playing cd's I didn't think it was as good as my reference dac and 'cheap' Tascam spinner, but I haven't heard the Puccini here and certainly not through my mac.<br />

    £32k is an awful lot for a cd player imho.<br />

    Keith.

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    What is your "reference" DAC? And what's its retail cost?<br />

    <br />

    You know the Paganini is lower in the dCS range than the Scarlatti don't you?<br />

    <br />

    Eloise

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    Eloise Hi, i did like the dacs very much, I was seriously thinking of selling it, hence the extended home loan, I compared it to lavry 924 Prism DA- ? and Mike Stahl's dac which I had over to evaluate, the Scarlatti was the full set ,three boxes ( I think ) the other dacs just used my Tascam cdp.<br />

    I preferred the Stahl-Tek and the DCa went back, I remember being much more impressed with the previous DCS reference the Elgar plus ,Verona etc when that was here a few years back, I guess things move on and the competition catch up.Keith.<br />

    Haven't heard the Puccini here,just as shows.

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    @Andrew<br />

    I've discovered your blog entry just after posting, and agree with most of it (and with the fact that I tend to belong to several categories, in different times).<br />

    <br />

    > Did I say that? No, and if I did it is not true.<br />

    Without being too insightful that's not so hard to deduce from your 2 preceeding posts.<br />

    But that's ok, I misunderstood, and I apologize.<br />

    <br />

    > I personally care foremost about what I hear, then again I don't mind the design of the ULN-8.<br />

    Me too, my personal case (delius + purcell) is rather ugly to look at.<br />

    I meant that at a certain price tag (depends on your wealth), most people also want something that looks good. For instance, the high-end case body of Linn products costs 1500€ alone. You won't expect the product to be cheap in that case, and I'm pretty sure this would be far more difficult to sell it as top of the line without it.<br />

    <br />

    You're also not mentioning the question of the needs. At this price tag, I would more gladly pay for the Alpha dac, than something that provides me with an awful lot of functions I would never use.<br />

    <br />

    On another ground, is there no way to buy "your" music outside iTunes and the mp3 club ?<br />

    <br />

    @Keith<br />

    > £32k is an awful lot for a cd player imho.<br />

    I agree with you. Someone would have to be very wealthy and in love with the spinning technology to buy such an expensive drive. On the other hand, I you can buy it...<br />

    <br />

    > I remember being much more impressed with the previous DCS reference<br />

    Funny, most reliable people I know tell me so.<br />

    <br />

    Elp

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    Yeah £32,000 is a lot for a CD player ... but take the Scarlatti DAC at £13000 (or Paganini at £9600) and add a computer with Lynx / RME HDSPe / Weiss AFI1 and I think you'll get a rather good outcome - of course you'll also need suitable power amp and speakers...<br />

    <br />

    Eloise

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    Hi again Elp,<br />

    <br />

    > I've discovered your blog entry just after posting, and agree with most of it<br />

    > (and with the fact that I tend to belong to several categories, in different times).<br />

    <br />

    Me too.<br />

    <br />

    >> Did I say that? No, and if I did it is not true.<br />

    > Without being too insightful that's not so hard to deduce from your 2 preceeding posts.<br />

    > But that's ok, I misunderstood, and I apologize.<br />

    <br />

    No problem.<br />

    <br />

    > You're also not mentioning the question of the needs. At this price tag, I would more gladly pay for the Alpha dac,<br />

    > than something that provides me with an awful lot of functions I would never use.<br />

    <br />

    True. I was just contrasting the price of the ULN-8 with the Paganini.<br />

    <br />

    > On another ground, is there no way to buy "your" music outside iTunes and the mp3 club ?<br />

    <br />

    Certainly :-) Most of the releases have been issued as CDs and now and then I attempt to get into the HDtracks-distribution. Currently my label is too small to be considered.<br />

    <br />

    Here are a few things I'm hoping to release in better than CD quality and 5.1 soon:<br />

    <br />

    http://surround.blumlein.net/ac3/040829.ac3 (William Byrd: Mass for four voices - Kyrie eleison)<br />

    http://surround.blumlein.net/ac3/051116_Goldefaden.ac3 (Duo KomplementAir #1)<br />

    http://surround.blumlein.net/ac3/051116_Reger.ac3 (Duo KomplementAir #1)<br />

    http://surround.blumlein.net/ac3/060527_Mahler.ac3 (Gustav Mahler: 5th symphony - Adagietto)<br />

    <br />

    Oh yes, this was a fun project too :-)<br />

    <br />

    http://ijmf.blumlein.net/<br />

    <br />

    Regards,<br />

    <br />

    blumlein records - Andrew Levine

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    Andrew - A couple things here, I don't want the comments following the review of dCS components to drift into the Metric Halo v. dCS or the Metric Halo fanboy club discussion. There is plenty of room in the forum for this discussion. Also, I don't want this to turn into the Blumlein advertisement You may do great work, but a this is not the place to publish links to your work. Note: I unpublished your post with several links to your downloads. Lastly, I find it very odd that you're using yourself as a reference -> <i>"According to my blog-entry on the sonophiles"</i>. The article may be good or bad, but citing yourself as a reference doesn't really count.<br />

    <br />

    Please take this in the spirit in which it's intended.

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    Eloise Hi, don't get me wrong DCS sounds good, but I seem to remember that the upsampler is in the box with the transport? I am sure it sounded best as a complete three box unit.<br />

    Keith.

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    Hi Chris,<br />

    <br />

    > I don't want the comments following the review of dCS components to drift [...]<br />

    <br />

    well, I felt they were appropriate, but obviously that is not the issue here.<br />

    <br />

    > There is plenty of room in the forum for this discussion.<br />

    <br />

    I'd appreciate it if you pointed me in the "right" direction--if there is any interest in the readers of this forum regarding my thoughts on the matter.<br />

    <br />

    > Also, I don't want this to turn into the Blumlein advertisement<br />

    <br />

    Neither do I. I just thought I'd do the questioner a favor, and since I don't know how else to contact him or her I took the chance.<br />

    <br />

    > Note: I unpublished your post [...]<br />

    <br />

    I'd have thought a personal reply would have been more appropriate than a public display, but then this is your forum.<br />

    <br />

    > Lastly, I find it very odd that you're using yourself as a reference [...]<br />

    <br />

    I didn't intend to cite myself as a reference. I just didn't want to restate my original writing.<br />

    <br />

    Regards,<br />

    <br />

    blumlein records - Andrew Levine

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    The transports (both Scarlatti and Paganini) have built in upsamplers (to DSD only IIRC).<br />

    <br />

    There is also available a separate upsampler box for both systems which is more versatile and can upsample to DSD or 88/2 / 176.4 PCM.<br />

    <br />

    Alternatively the DACs can be used without upsamper.<br />

    <br />

    Eloise

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    <br />

    Andrew,<br />

    <br />

    Chris is referring to the 'Forum' itself - click on the link on the left hand side of the home page - for posting comments. While Chris' moderation style allows wide ranging discussions relative to a given post subject, he, rightfully in my opinion, wants to contain 'comments' on equipment reviews to the subject of his review.<br />

    <br />

    Said another way, it is considered rather poor form here to throw in a comment about a completely different product, esp. along with the acknowledgement that you'd never heard the product under review.<br />

    <br />

    clay<br />

    <br />

    PS, I'm not aware of any use of the term 'fanboy' that is not considered perjorative in nature, so I was a little surprised to see it pop up in Chris' comment relative to Metric Halo (for the second time, as I recall), as it conjures up images of overtly biased commentary. <br />

    <br />

    PPS, also Chris, please allow me to comment on your recently used phrase: "please take this comment in the spirit it was intended". Absent specific knowledge of the spirit intended, it's difficult to do that. Allow me to provide an analogy - I once was the ass't coach of youth girls soccer team - utilizing a former member of the NY Cosmos as a trainer. When the girls performed a play exceptionally well (i.e., exactly according to script), he would exclaim "how good was that!". The girls had no idea. :)<br />

    <br />

    Perhaps this post would also be better served in the 'forum', and if so, perhaps Chris will re-direct it (or delete as appropriate).<br />

    <br />

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    Hi Clay - I certainly did not mean to offend anyone here with a pejorative use of the term fanboy. I was quite surprised to see the post talking all about the MH product as if the review was all about MH. In addition this was the first time I have ever used that term on the site, and maybe ever. The above post may have been easier to understand if it actually compared personal experience with the MH gear and dCS gear.<br />

    <br />

    I did make a comment a week ago about the intensity of posts or number of posts not being equivalent to the quality of a piece of equipment. That was in a post referencing MH gear. I've received many personal emails from people asking what is going on with all the MH related posts when the topic is seemingly unrelated or the OP is uninterested in the features such a component offers. In that thread I was only trying to ad a bit of balance. Fortunately I've listened to a few MH products and have a good feel for where they fall on the continuum of DACs I've used. <br />

    <br />

    Again, no harm was meant. Nothing is accomplished by bashing one's own readers :~)<br />

    <br />

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