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Article: dCS Bartok Review

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25 minutes ago, AnotherSpin said:

 

Exactly. That is why I couldn't see the point for dismissal of one's likes or dislikes, be it audio or anything else.

Maybe there's no point at all, then, in sharing each other's opinions and evaluations...

 

Here it's a 13K$ point. I'd like to see rankings on scales ; ie : if, for free once you have HQP or if you're testing it, you can set your perceived evaluation of differences between,  say, mqa mp and long lp filters to 10, how much is the perceived difference between 2K and 25 K Dacs (3, 8, 9 ; need to set a new range where that difference is 20 while the difference between filters become 7 or what have you...)

 

dCS can send me a Rossini to change my mind ; I'm not convinced that 20 K put in a DAC brings much more than a change of filters


 

HQP Embedded  (REW + RePhase created convolution filters for correcting frequency and time domains for the actual results presented below/IIR/Wide/overlap-ADD/ [email protected], mqa lp @ above Frequency Rates/DSD5EC) on a cooled mid 2012 15" rMacBP > Cat 6 UTP Ethernet> Airport TC > Cat 6 UTP Ethernet > NAA (Miska's image on UP NUC)> 2.0 certified Supra USB > Green Regen > TEAC UD 501> (balanced output) >Cardas Golden Cross> JRRG all balanced pre> Cabasse 4 ways 8 amps active system played at realistic SPL (key factor IMO). MCH files (matrixed to Stereo) on an attached HDD, the rest on a G-Tech HDD attached to the AirPort and WIFI accessed, as Qobuz, via Audirvana fronting HQPlayer Embedded.

 

 

 

Proofing B&K C @ -9 copie-Modifier-2.jpg

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2 hours ago, Le Concombre Masqué said:

Maybe there's no point at all, then, in sharing each other's opinions and evaluations...

[...]

True to some extent... Even our own evaluation of anything in this visible world would change drastically in no time

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7 hours ago, austinpop said:

 

Like it or not, a DAC is so much more than "just" its filtering and D/A conversion design. Indeed, if my experience has taught me anything, it's that modern DACs live and die by how well they get the good old-fashioned basics right:

  1. analog output stage design
  2. power supply design
  3. clock architecture
  4. design or choice of chipsets used for interfaces like USB, ethernet
  5. Electrical isolation strategy - both at input, as well as internally
  6. Mechanical isolation via careful chassis design
  7. Parts quality, board layout, and quality of connectors
  8. And last, but certainly not least - filtering and D/A conversion design.

To focus on #8 alone is to miss all the other factors that distinguish DACs from each other.

Right but never said that only #8 matters ; wrote : "I'm not convinced that 20 K put in a DAC brings much more than a change of filters". OK I get where I could be misunderstood : I did not mean that the 20K are invested in filtering and D/A conversion design ; I meant that a simple change of filters in HQP might yield the perception of changes of the same order of magnitude 


 

HQP Embedded  (REW + RePhase created convolution filters for correcting frequency and time domains for the actual results presented below/IIR/Wide/overlap-ADD/ [email protected], mqa lp @ above Frequency Rates/DSD5EC) on a cooled mid 2012 15" rMacBP > Cat 6 UTP Ethernet> Airport TC > Cat 6 UTP Ethernet > NAA (Miska's image on UP NUC)> 2.0 certified Supra USB > Green Regen > TEAC UD 501> (balanced output) >Cardas Golden Cross> JRRG all balanced pre> Cabasse 4 ways 8 amps active system played at realistic SPL (key factor IMO). MCH files (matrixed to Stereo) on an attached HDD, the rest on a G-Tech HDD attached to the AirPort and WIFI accessed, as Qobuz, via Audirvana fronting HQPlayer Embedded.

 

 

 

Proofing B&K C @ -9 copie-Modifier-2.jpg

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Thanks Rajiv for a very informative and enjoyable read. I found this interesting as I'm exploring ladder DACs again as an antidote to harshness.

 

“...ladder DACs are inherently prone to non-linearity, but Delta-Sigma types are prone to problems caused by timing errors and switching noise. The Ring DAC occupies the “sweet spot” where the benefits of high speed and multi-bit intersects. Note that even with the tightest practical tolerances, a ladder DAC cannot come close to the linearity of the RingDAC.

 

I do wish I hadn't heard about the Rossini tho' :) 


Tidal Streaming only: ATL DC Blocker > Topaz 2.5Kva Isolation Transformer > Sine SA5 Cryo 5 power strip > Aqvox 8 port network switch > Antipodes Dxe roon core> PS Audio Directstream Junior Dac 'Windom' > Decware SE84UFO3 Mono Amps > Omega Super Alnico Monitors.

PH SR4 power supplies

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8 hours ago, tapatrick said:

Thanks Rajiv for a very informative and enjoyable read. I found this interesting as I'm exploring ladder DACs again as an antidote to harshness.

 

“...ladder DACs are inherently prone to non-linearity, but Delta-Sigma types are prone to problems caused by timing errors and switching noise. The Ring DAC occupies the “sweet spot” where the benefits of high speed and multi-bit intersects. Note that even with the tightest practical tolerances, a ladder DAC cannot come close to the linearity of the RingDAC.

 

I do wish I hadn't heard about the Rossini tho' :) 

If you are interested in a ladder DAC, check out the Holo Spring 2. I love mine.

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On 10/26/2019 at 4:30 PM, Le Concombre Masqué said:

Maybe there's no point at all, then, in sharing each other's opinions and evaluations...

 

Here it's a 13K$ point. I'd like to see rankings on scales ; ie : if, for free once you have HQP or if you're testing it, you can set your perceived evaluation of differences between,  say, mqa mp and long lp filters to 10, how much is the perceived difference between 2K and 25 K Dacs (3, 8, 9 ; need to set a new range where that difference is 20 while the difference between filters become 7 or what have you...)

 

dCS can send me a Rossini to change my mind ; I'm not convinced that 20 K put in a DAC brings much more than a change of filters


i assume that your local dealer could help you in having a rossini/bartok to have with you a test feeding these DAC with HQ Player. You are more than welcome to share your experience when it would be done. without that you can argue for hours. Anyway these devices are more than dac with the streaming feature and the efforts put on the software side.

 

BR


patatorz.com / Leedh E2 glass / dCS Vivaldi / Ypsilon Phaethon

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4 hours ago, Patatorz said:


i assume that your local dealer could help you in having a rossini/bartok to have with you a test feeding these DAC with HQ Player. You are more than welcome to share your experience when it would be done. without that you can argue for hours. Anyway these devices are more than dac with the streaming feature and the efforts put on the software side.

 

BR

thanks. the closest dealer is in f**** Paris, hundreds miles away. Anyway I'm quite happy with what I have


 

HQP Embedded  (REW + RePhase created convolution filters for correcting frequency and time domains for the actual results presented below/IIR/Wide/overlap-ADD/ [email protected], mqa lp @ above Frequency Rates/DSD5EC) on a cooled mid 2012 15" rMacBP > Cat 6 UTP Ethernet> Airport TC > Cat 6 UTP Ethernet > NAA (Miska's image on UP NUC)> 2.0 certified Supra USB > Green Regen > TEAC UD 501> (balanced output) >Cardas Golden Cross> JRRG all balanced pre> Cabasse 4 ways 8 amps active system played at realistic SPL (key factor IMO). MCH files (matrixed to Stereo) on an attached HDD, the rest on a G-Tech HDD attached to the AirPort and WIFI accessed, as Qobuz, via Audirvana fronting HQPlayer Embedded.

 

 

 

Proofing B&K C @ -9 copie-Modifier-2.jpg

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On 10/23/2019 at 10:45 AM, The Computer Audiophile said:

I absolutely love this review!

 

As I told Rajiv / @austinpop, the saying, "I'm not worthy" from Wayne's World comes to mind when I read through this review. Such a great effort, I feel honored to publish such a fine piece of work. 

 

 

Great review, indeed. AudiophileStyle feels like the natural home for this. If there is another audiophile media outlet more "worthy" of this review, I've yet to find it. 

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1 hour ago, Temporal_Dissident said:

If there is another audiophile media outlet more "worthy" of this review, I've yet to find it. 

FWIW I also enjoyed the Bartók review by Chris Thomas in HiFi+. His reviews of some David Berning amplifiers got my attention, and I ended up buying the pre/power pair after audition.

 

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Clearly Rajiv has an affinity for this kind of work.  I was particularly interested in his comparisons of combinations of upstream components with USB and Ethernet input.  We all seem to be looking for that magical optimization.

 

But when I saw he was listening to Sylvia McNair (my favorite female voice), I knew this review was serious stuff ;)

 

Well done.

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5 hours ago, Darryl R said:

Clearly Rajiv has an affinity for this kind of work.  I was particularly interested in his comparisons of combinations of upstream components with USB and Ethernet input.  We all seem to be looking for that magical optimization.

 

But when I saw he was listening to Sylvia McNair (my favorite female voice), I knew this review was serious stuff ;)

 

Well done.

 

Hi Darry,

 

Thanks for your positive comments.

 

When I first started writing reviews, I was a bit apprehensive about revealing my musical tastes and choices, which are so uniquely personal. I'm glad I overcame that, because the response here - to my identifying the music I used and my sharing of playlists - has been overwhelmingly positive. Enjoying the music that moves us is ultimately what this shared passion of ours is all about.

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55 minutes ago, austinpop said:

 

Hi Darry,

 

Thanks for your positive comments.

 

When I first started writing reviews, I was a bit apprehensive about revealing my musical tastes and choices, which are so uniquely personal. I'm glad I overcame that, because the response here - to my identifying the music I used and my sharing of playlists - has been overwhelmingly positive. Enjoying the music that moves us is ultimately what this shared passion of ours is all about.

 

Honestly, we must attribute a good portion of your talent to the fact that you live in the greatest state in the union ;)

 

PS - If you liked Sylvia McNair in the Laudamus Te, you must hear her in the Slatkin Carmina Burana, In trutina and Dulcissime, where she soars to the heavens.  PM me if you're interested.  I also have a lot of Queyras' recordings.

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3 hours ago, Darryl R said:

 

Honestly, we must attribute a good portion of your talent to the fact that you live in the greatest state in the union ;)

 

PS - If you liked Sylvia McNair in the Laudamus Te, you must hear her in the Slatkin Carmina Burana, In trutina and Dulcissime, where she soars to the heavens.  PM me if you're interested.  I also have a lot of Queyras' recordings.


Thanks for the pointer to Sylvia’s Carmina with Slatkin/St Louis. It’s lovely. But dammit I was peacefully working here, and this made me go and listen to a bunch of Carmina’s and now ... totus floreo, with no domicella around! 🤓

 

For the record, the Ozawa/BPO version, with Thomas Hampson and Edita Gruberova, is still my favorite Carmina Burana. 
http://open.qobuz.com/album/fm0kymmr3f05a

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Great, you have it.  Carmina's can be addictive.  The Slatkin is my favorite, even though I have better recorded ones in the Runnicles and more recently the Richard Cooke/RPO SACD rip.

 

You've made me want to go listen to some Laudamus Te's, so we're even.

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Given your comment above about Roon, I must ask about Alan Taffel's review of the Rossini in the September 2018 issue of TAS. He reports that there is a significant difference with Roon bettering dCS significantly. He "blames" it on the renderer. According to him, Roon's renderer and dCS' renderer (for UPnP) run side by side on the same network card. In comparing Roon to dCS' own proprietary renderer Taffel reports "It took no time at all to determine that Roon constitutes a significant sonic upgrade over dCS' renderer." After citing a few examples he goes on to say "The improvements Roon reaps are not subtle; rather, they're immediately and definitively obvious." These quotes coming on page 161 although he broaches the subject on page 154. Is he for real?

 

I can't believe that this sat very well with dCS or that they would leave this issue unaddressed. While the Rossini is beyond my means, I have been considering the Bartok for my system and am concerned that this disparity of sonic performance would be part of the Bartok as well. I was glad to see your brief comment above but am still looking for some kind of response from dCS about Taffel's assessment.

 

My biggest challenge is to get just a DAC. Don't need a player; don't need a preamp, don't need streaming, don't need Roon, don't want MQA, don't need headphone amps, all of which are price included in the Bartok. My current digital front ends consist of an ARC CD Reference 7 with CD 8 power supply and an OPPO 105D. I have not been able to assess the SQ of either DAC relative to what is available today in the $10k to $15k price range, including used gear. I was directed to your article and this site from an Audiogon Discussion Forum and am glad to have found it. Thanks for your review.

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Since I was notified of this response and have some experience dCS, I'll throw in my two cents before Rajiv comments.  It comes as no surprise to me a reviewer would allege Roon sounds better.  dCS is not a software development company, and based on my experience with the Vivaldi and Network Bridge (which I owned before trading up to the MSB Select II), their interface engineering leaves something to be desired (track pops with rate changes and DSD track transitions, track start skipping, and basic performance problems with their streaming software).  That said, their DACs sound fine, and they may have improved their software in the interim.  There are many variables to consider.

 

Btw, you say you want just a DAC, but I wouldn't build a system around an optical disk player.  For digitial systems, you're going to need interfacing hardware (e.g. bridge, renderer, EtherREGEN, Alpha USB) and software (player), especially if you want to play hi-res PCM.  In the price range you specify, I think the Berkeley DAC is a good buy.

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11 hours ago, donem said:

Given your comment above about Roon, I must ask about Alan Taffel's review of the Rossini in the September 2018 issue of TAS. He reports that there is a significant difference with Roon bettering dCS significantly. He "blames" it on the renderer. According to him, Roon's renderer and dCS' renderer (for UPnP) run side by side on the same network card. In comparing Roon to dCS' own proprietary renderer Taffel reports "It took no time at all to determine that Roon constitutes a significant sonic upgrade over dCS' renderer." After citing a few examples he goes on to say "The improvements Roon reaps are not subtle; rather, they're immediately and definitively obvious." These quotes coming on page 161 although he broaches the subject on page 154. Is he for real?

 

I can't believe that this sat very well with dCS or that they would leave this issue unaddressed. While the Rossini is beyond my means, I have been considering the Bartok for my system and am concerned that this disparity of sonic performance would be part of the Bartok as well. I was glad to see your brief comment above but am still looking for some kind of response from dCS about Taffel's assessment.

 

My biggest challenge is to get just a DAC. Don't need a player; don't need a preamp, don't need streaming, don't need Roon, don't want MQA, don't need headphone amps, all of which are price included in the Bartok. My current digital front ends consist of an ARC CD Reference 7 with CD 8 power supply and an OPPO 105D. I have not been able to assess the SQ of either DAC relative to what is available today in the $10k to $15k price range, including used gear. I was directed to your article and this site from an Audiogon Discussion Forum and am glad to have found it. Thanks for your review.

 

Hi @donem

 

Welcome to Audiophile Style.

 

I  can't speak to the TAS review or the state of the dCS renderer in 2018, since my experiences with both the Bartók and Rossini were more recent. All I can say is that my listening tests did not show any significant Roon advantage. My detailed findings are in the review.

 

As you are probably aware, the Bartók does come in a flavor that does not include the headphone amp, priced at $13,500.

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Coming late to this, but I must say like others that it’s a really great review: I particularly value the comparisons to other DACs and between config options. Most reviews just say the unit sounds great which – as you say – is just table stakes at the price point, so gives you precisely zero new information. 

 

FWIW, I spent 2–3 weeks doing an extended home trial and direct comparison of the Bartok with my Benchmark DAC3 HGC earlier this year (mid-March). Music sources were streaming from Qobuz and from local files on a basic WD NAS, some hi-res inc. 96/192 and DSD, mostly 16/44. For the Benchmark I was using the bottom-of-the-range Auralic Mini to handle the streaming, so roughly a £2750 combo compared to £10,000 for the Bartok (ignoring the headphone amp, though the review sample did have this). Downstream I was listening to Harbeth SL5+ Anniversary Editions via a Benchmark AHB2. I also listened on headphones, which while a little bit more revealing is something I rarely do as I much prefer the experience of listening via speakers. (The more so since developing mild tinnitus.)

 

I listen primarily to classical music (I  play piano and violin to a fairly high amateur standard, and go to a lot of classical concerts, so have a good idea of what I want these instruments to sound like), and for me the priority is perceived realism/naturalism of acoustic instruments and groups from solo piano/violin up to full symphony and chorus. I also enjoy a much contemporary jazz and listened to a fair bit of this during the trial. 

 

My findings:

 

* It wasn’t always easy to tell the two apart: often you had to listen very closely to pick up minor details. Probably half the tracks I listened to fell into this category: I simply couldn’t have distinguished which DAC was playing without really focussing hard (and sometimes not even then).


* Other times, there was a clearly perceivable advantage to the dCS: this was most frequently in terms of either (a) greater perceived naturalism/realism (especialy on human voice or violin) or (b) more presence/body to the bass (e.g. double bass in jazz ensemble, bass section in orchestra). In other cases the dCS advantage was one of better separating musical voices, e.g. allowing easier following of separate lines/polyphony and clarification of complex textures, or more vivid presentation (dynamics?). 

 

Overall, though, my personal conclusion was that although the DCS offered real advantages, and that the differences all played directly to my priorities, the benefits of the dCS were not sufficiently large to warrant the additional cost – the “problem” was that the Benchmark is just too good, even if not *quite* as good as the dCS. 

 

I ended up sending back the dCS rather reluctanly, as I’d seen myself as the sort of listener that would enjoy being a dCS owner, but was forced to admit the Benchmark came too close for me to spend the extra cash. I also bore in mind that this comparison was done with a very modest streaming unit upstream of the Benchmark (the Aries Mini) which could potentially be upgraded for significantly less than the cost of upgrading to the dCS.

 

Just one listener’s opinion, of course …

 

(PS: I ended up spending the cash I’d earmarked on renovating my Steinway Model O, so it’s still gone in the service of music (re)production!)

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