dCS DeBussy to dCS Rossini: A comparison review of two DACs Page 3

But what about sound quality, sonic differences?

Everything that deeply impressed me about the Debussy/Network Bridge combo, the Rossini does exponentially better. Tonality, timbre, pitch and bass definition were the immediate standouts for the most basic differences apparent right out of the gate, yet both possess that unique ability to instantly engage me in what’s being played and not in a “shiny bit of foil over here” way, but in an introspective and erudite manner. This isn’t a sound about flash, or crazy ‘oomph’ or bells and whistles, in fact it’s the exact opposite of that, it’s a sound that lures you in, makes you think, elicits emotional responses and triggers memories. Much like a great novel, film or piece of music is capable of, it captivates your attention more with its subtlety, undercurrent of power and finesse of the 12 notes that nestle between the octaves that music calls home.

All my listening was done with the Debussy being fed via dual-AESBEU from the Network Bridge, local files via USB two-terabyte hard drive and outputting via XLR into a McIntosh Labs C2600 preamplifier, driving McIntosh Labs MC611 mono blocks via XLR and Audio Note AN-E/SPe HE loudspeakers. The Rossini was fed streaming files via ethernet, local files via the same USB two-terabyte hard drive and outputting via XLR into the same McIntosh Labs/Audio Note combo. All digital cables used were Tellurium Q, with Clarus Crimson AC cables used throughout the system.

Playing Tidal HI-Fi 16/44 and MQA tracks through the Rossini via its network interface and a dedicated two-terabyte audio hard drive filled with a mix of high-resolution FLAC, WAV, DSD and even MP3s was a revelatory experience that showed off the DAC’s ability to clearly unravel densely-packed, hyper-threaded tracks like those found on Radiohead’s Amnesiac.

Through the Debussy the crushing sonic wall of noise was disassembled with ease, but playing the same tracks through the Rossini brought further clarity, insight and musicality to every track – along with a noticeable increase in resolution – a firmer grip on instrument and vocal placements within the recording and an increase in bass response that felt as if the DAC had plumbed fully past a further octave to grunt out the lowest registers without a trace of compression, convincing me that the Rossini has real headroom to deal with big dynamic swings and not at the expense of microdynamics or detail, all with a genuine analog warmth that reminded me more of my current Thales TTT-Slim II, Simplicity tonearm and EMT JSD VM moving-coil cartridge set-up than any approximation of analog.

This was simply analog listening as far as I was concerned. Presentation within the context of my system is of the more laid-back variety, quite different than the more forward disposition of the totaldac d-1 direct ($20,500 USD) I spent time comparing it to. I found myself leaning in to listen more closely whereas the d-1 tends to push me back into the sofa more – soaking it all in. Both are equally adept at loosening any aural knots that a recording may present to challenge a DAC’s ability to loosen-up massed strings, or dense electronic passages with the Rossini’s tenor tinged slightly more to the warm side of the spectrum, but again, ears are ears and YMMV.

Whether it was EDM, jazz, rock, pop, disco, classical, punk, country or a closed-mic’d singer alone with their guitar or piano (Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Comes Around) the Rossini brought me closer to the recorded moment than some may be comfortable with, but despite the emotional weight and heft that the DAC embued every track with, I kept coming back for more. Trumpets, saxophones, trombones all shone with deep, burnished brassy glory, high hat and cymbals all crashed with shimmering delight, piano notes had real gravitas, bloom and delicious decay and wood-bodied instruments were all represented with aplomb with believable body resonance, resin-on-bow squeals, scale and weight to plucked or strummed strings. Ditto for sticks and brushes on the skins and kick drums put a foot through my bass drivers.

Having gotten exceedingly familiar with the dCS sound, I can say without pretense that it is a standout among heavyweight DACs I've heard. Fair warning: Acquiring a dCS Rossini puts one in peril of physically succumbing to the heartache, melancholy and rapturous beauty that the best recorded musical events are suffused with. Much like that small chickadee captured my attention, so too, did the Rossini wholeheartedly capture mine. Buyer beware.

Look for a follow-up to this comparison in the coming weeks when dCS release their V2.0 of software and firmware updates for the Rossini platform, of which Quick had this to add:

“The 2.0 upgrade will bring to Rossini what 2.0 brought to Vivaldi: an improved mapping algorithm for the pattern that fires the 32 of 48 current sources in each channel of the Ring DAC analog board that builds up the analog signal from the incoming digital one… MAP 1 and MAP 3 run at ~6MHZ (5.644 for 44.1k-base material, 6.14MHz for 48k-base material) and offer different balances of 2nd- and 3rd-order harmonic distortion (meaning one highlights space and resolution, the other highlights texture and tonality); MAP 2 is the ‘classic’ algorithm that runs at 2.822/3.07MHz as Rossini does today.

 

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