dCS DeBussy to dCS Rossini: A comparison review of two DACs

I watched, a smile slowly spreading across my face while I sipped my tea, as the little chickadee gracefully alighted upon the string holding the small set of wind chimes hanging in our back garden causing them to delicately tinkle in the quiet morning air. The bird’s movements and the pure sound of the chimes instantly put me in mind of the listening session I’d had the evening before with the dCS Rossini network-streaming DAC.

The chickadee’s lighter-than-air swoops, dives and sudden rests on pliant plant stalks as it explored the overgrown and rain-dampened flora of the yard not only surfaced as a metaphor for the sound signature of the Rossini in my mind, but the balance of the DACs sound too. Much like this little bird is part of nature’s balance in the outside world that occupies the area demarcated by fence, hedge and home that I am privy to witness through my dining-room sliding doors. So too, the dCS is part of the balance of my home’s high-fidelity ecosystem which I am fortunate enough to be privy to bear witness to.

Whether a marketing stroke of genius, or merely as an honest statement of intent in their naming conventions, choosing 18th and 19th century composers’ names to represent their hi-fi efforts is appropriate for the sound capabilities of the dCS DACs I currently have on loan.

John Quick, the General Manager for dCS Americas Inc. shipped out a Debussy and a Network Bridge post haste after we had an initial phone conversation a couple weeks after I took the helm here at AudioStream and I’ve been thankful ever since as my personal time with dCS gear had been limited – I’d heard their kit in the context of several rooms at a number of shows and at a friend’s home in Seattle – up to the point I took delivery of the Bridge and Debussy. But, it was the impact every encounter with the dCS gear built upon from each previous encounter that was starting to leave a mark; an imprint if you will, on my level of respect for what the company was achieving sonically with their designs.

I’ve written previously of what I would describe as the dCS “house” sound: open, organic highs and a midrange that draws you as a listener into every cut being played, with equal parts warmth and resolution, and deep bass without masking any critical frequency information between the lowest octaves. Let me put it this way, they make it sound like this level of sound quality is easy, when I know for a fact it isn’t.

The Debussy and Bridge were very recently followed-up with delivery of the next model up the dCS chain: the dCS Rossini network-streaming DAC. Jumping from the Debussy/Bridge combo decreases your box count as the Rossini no longer required the Bridge to connect online streaming services such as Tidal, Spotify or AirPlay with my system. That ability is built in with the Rossini via an RJ45 10/100/1000 network connection.

The idea behind this climb up the dCS ladder of DAC offerings was to firmly acquaint myself with their sound signature in the context of my home system, their presentation of differing file formats (FLAC, MP3, DSD, WAV, etc.) and proprietary software interface capabilities and to prepare for the imminent release of the Debussy replacement, the Bartók which I previewed briefly here.

The Debussy is a perfect example of how dCS treats it’s lineup of products. On the market in roughly the same basic construct since 2010, it should be noted that the original 24/96 USB hardware received an upgrade in late-2011 to the current XMOS chipset, that now incorporates the model’s final software version that was released in December 2017 and handles DSD128 and DXD. Basic specs from the dCS website are as follows:

  • Asynchronous USB input allows direct connection of a computer and supports high resolution audio up to 24-bit, 384kS/s and DSD/128 in DoP format (DSD over PCM).
  • An array of independently-selectable digital inputs completes the versatility of this powerful machine, elevating the performance of Red Book CD or high resolution audio from digital streamers and servers to a new level.
  • The enhanced digital volume control allows direct connection to a power amplifier, removing the need for a separate preamplifier.
  • Maximum output can be set at either two or six volts to suit different amplifier and loudspeaker combinations.
  • Debussy also benefits from the ‘soft’ approach to programmable logic, allowing new software to be loaded from a dCS update disc or connected computer in order to add new features and adapt to future changes in digital audio.

The Network Bridge (MSRP $4,750 USD) hit the market in the first half of 2017 and was hailed as a hydra-headed toolkit for connecting digital devices in your system. Some basic specs off the dCS website:

  • Streamlined FPGA-based design.
  • Accepts data from UPnP, asynchronous USB-on-the-Go and Apple Airplay.
  • Streaming services supported include TIDAL, and Spotify Connect.
  • Roon ready.
  • Optional down-sampling to match legacy DACs.
  • Auto clocking system improves ease of use and minimizes jitter.
  • Multi-stage power regulation isolates digital and sensitive clock circuitry.
  • Firmware-upgradeable from the Internet for future functionality and performance upgrades.
  • MQA™ Core Decoder unfolds the MQA™ file once to deliver even higher than CD-quality. The first unfold recovers all the direct music-related information. Output is 88.2kHz or 96kHz.

The $11,999 USD Debussy, like the $23,999 USD Rossini uses dCS’ proprietary Ring DAC technology which oversamples all incoming data to 5-bits at 2.822 or 3.07MS/s. Also like its bigger brother, it has a plethora of digital inputs including Dual AES EBU, 2x SPDIF, 1x RCA Phono and 1x BNC and Asynchronous USB (Type-A and Type-B USB handle 24-bit PCM at up to 384kS/s plus DSD64 and DSD128 in DoP format on the Rossini), unlike the Rossini, the Debussy has no Network interface (hence reliance on the Bridge), which on the Rossini handles 24-bit 384kS/s as its native sample rate, plus DSD64 and DSD128 in DFF/DSF. Like the Rossini it has adjustable output (2V or 6V, preference is yours), balanced and unbalanced outputs, but it doesn’t feature a full-spec MQA decoder, multi-stage power regulation and the Debussy also does not feature the dCS ‘auto-clocking’ architecture (minimizes jitter, said to significantly improve sound quality) or the latest dCS Digital Processing Platform that is used in the company’s flagship Vivaldi digital-playback system.

So, you’re getting a lot more tech and hardware/software capability for your money with the Rossini, plus a dedicated Rossini app that I found as easy and intuitive to use as the Network Bridge app.

Data Conversion Systems Ltd
Unit 1 Buckingway Business Park, Swavesey, Cambridgeshire CB24 4AE, United Kingdom
+44 (0)1954 233950

Ali's picture

Thanks for the article, I wonder if you have trying Rossini directly connected to amp and bypasding pre?

Rafe Arnott's picture
If you read this review on the McIntosh MC611 I wrote last week, I get into how I tried several DACs directly hooked up to my mono blocks and via the preamplifier and found I preferred all the DACs through the C2600 pre.