steve rb

An evening with DCS and the new Vivaldi range....

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Had a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening evening at DCS in Huntingdon last night. Dom (parkandbike) had kindly extended an invite to a few of us, including Stuart (Cambs12) and Gregg (catcando) to visit DCS with him for an evening of music and a walk through their range, including the latest and greatest Vivaldi gear. It’s not often one gets a personal demo of such esoteric high end gear and sadly much of it is currently outside my spending envelope but it gives us audiophiles both something to aspire to and a bit of a benchmark on what the best part of a quarter of a million pounds worth of kit sounds like!

Firstly, what a great team, enthusiastic, open and generally relaxing to be around, they are clearly proud of their accomplishments, heritage, professional accolades and milestone developments. Their products are renowned as being the epitome of high end digital, they are UK built and hugely successful both at home and (mainly) in export to the wealthier audiophile markets of Japan, Russia, China and the US – it’s great to see a British company and it’s relatively small team of 17 be burgeoning with orders for such luxury goods in the current economic climate too.

Drinks and refreshments done, along with 20 minutes of oogling both the DCS kit and partnering gear, we began a short journey through the range, starting with the ‘entry’ level Debussy DAC, through the Puccini system & clock, up to a full tower of the new Vivaldi front end launched just back in August this year. No sales pitch, great music and a passionate crew. Sadly I forgot to snap any pics, but the room was a custom build, not too big, I’d guess 24x14 with a bowed back and tapered walls – to be honest, not enough treatment and you could clearly hear the room being excited at points, not enough to distract from what was going on and they also know there is more work to do in there.

As for the partnering gear, wow, first up, some brand new Wilson Sashas :

1wilson.jpg

$30K dollars worth may seem a lot to most of us, but actually it was likely one of the cheapest items in use! I’m personally a fan of the Wilson ‘sound’ it’s very forward and wide imaging, walk-in presentation and clear but not brittle top end, the dynamics and power these things delivered was incredible, real tangible punch and pressure you could feel.

Allied to these were a pair of frankly HUGE VTL Siegfried monoblocks, boasting 600w per channel (330w in triode), generated by 32 KT88 valves (and an appropriate amount of heat…), they are more like server cabinets than hifi amps and photos don’t do their size justice, they didn’t look much smaller than the Wilsons! They are VTL's top of the range monoblocks, fully balanced and employ a short, fast negative feedback loop and zero global negative feedback. In addition, VTL’s variable damping factor feedback control allows the user to precisely adjust the amplifier’s output impedance to best suit the loudspeaker load. Mundorf silver oil capacitors are among a suite of top end bits, as you would expect for $65K a pair….

vtl_sigfried_ii.jpg

Also on the rack (the floor…) was Dan D’Agostino's Momentum amplifier, lovely looking thing I’ve been dying to hear. A similar 300W into 8 ohms, 600W into 4 ohms, and 1200W into 2 ohms, and a known affinity in driving Wilsons, it was another lovely bit of kit and the perfect solid state partner to the VTL’s thermionics! Sadly we didn’t get a chance to listen to this $42K beauty, instead stuck with the VTLs for this session to keep us warm!

Dan-DAgostino-Momentum-Amplifier-1.jpg

Interestingly then, an entirely US amplification and speaker arrangement....

Finally onto the DCS kit, the Debussy DAC and Puccini system are fairly well known, with these and the Paganini range being based on the same proprietary ring DAC and software upgradeable system. The Vivaldi is new, very new in fact, this particular set had it’s first minutes of life playing to us having just come off the production line – no run in here then (although 50 hours is still claimed to provide further benefits).

91512ears10.jpg

In the rack above was the same gear we went through (although on a far nicer rack, machined from solid, and no doubt worth more on it’s own than my whole system…). From top to bottom we have the Vivaldi DAC ($35K), Vivaldi Transport ($40K), Vivaldi Master Clock ($14K), and the Vivaldi Upsampler ($20K). The Vivaldi is DCS’s tour de force – a complete rethink of their digital system that will play pretty much anything on the plant, from pretty much any media, it streams, it upsamples everything, it does DSD, PCM, DXD (more on that later), it’s asynchronous, it takes flash sticks directly or runs a NAS – has it’s own Apple app for control and is probably a technophobes worst nightmare, 4 huge boxes weighing in at 70Kg, not counting the NAS / PC / MAC (and that’s something DCS are working on and planning to unveil soon too – we got a sneak preview!), just to turn 1s and 0s into something to feed to your amp!

The whole schebang is wired up with (at a guess…) another 30Ks worth of Valhallas, Transparent and MIT cables… All in all a system worth more than the average house costs in the UK at present. So it should be fucking EPIC right…?

We didn’t spend long on the first two systems, but it was an interesting transition through the range, I’d be thrilled to own the Debussy to be honest, but you could indeed hear the fairly noticeable difference between it and the Vivaldi despite the common heritage. The Puccini threw out the 24/192 version of the Eagles Hotel California with stunning power, obviously the Wilsons and VTL’s doing the business end, but the instrument separation, detail and realism the full combo delivered was indeed Epic – things took another step towards disbelief as we tackled Leonard Cohen’s finale to his Live in London concert – it was incredibly real, in fact one of the best tracks I’ve ever heard reproduced anywhere, is was headshaking stuff.

To the Vivaldi, and a stunning rendition of Carmans Aria I’ve not heard before, I jumped out of my seat a couple of times, which I’m sure was the intent, but so visceral and so real was the presentation it was just unavoidable…. Dom amazed us with some Wagner and I put on a quick blast of some Jack Johnson to keep the pace up, all beautifully rendered and portrayed with an incredible sense of musical cohesion and dare I say it, intimacy –you are involved in what ever was playing, I often feel I’m ‘looking into’ a performance, Wilsons do tend to drag you in further, but this was truly encompassing. Finally we looked at a new tool, that of upsampling to DxD level – which (I think…) is pretty much the master format used for DSD recordings and runs at 24/384 – to my ears (and other’s comments were similar) this gaves transients a better leading edge and decay, I didn’t notice much different at the lower registers, which I suppose makes sense at high sample rates, but the top was definitely more ‘etched’.

In short then, a lovely welcoming bunch of people and a spellbinding set-up that would be one of my lottery list moments….

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DXD is the editing format in some DSD recording/editing equipment. The DSD recordings can be converted to DXD just for the edit intervals. Some SACD-producing companies do record in DXD too, but most record in DSD.

Sounds like you had a wonderful time Steve. Would love to have gone myself :^

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Great write-up Steve.

Although I've not been a fan of the DCS digital gear I've heard (same goes for Esoteric) I'd still have loved to have heard that lot.

That Dan D’Agostino's Momentum amplifier looks utterly awesome - me want.:love:

Oh and in light of the mammoth thread currently going on in the 2 channel section did you all tell them that cables don't make a difference.:P

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The new DCS gear blew me away when I heard it at the Whittlebury show. I didnt like their older gear, sounded too hifi and uninvolving to my ears; but the newer kit is absolutely amazing.

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Love the 'oogling' bit!

Funny that they'd demo with Eagles, which is.....30ish years old!

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Love the 'oogling' bit!

Funny that they'd demo with Eagles, which is.....30ish years old!

There waas drooling too....as for the Eagles, for those that have heard it the remastered DVD-A at 24/192 is truly superb, Pretty maids all in a row, Life in the fast lane also so well recorded...

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There waas drooling too....as for the Eagles, for those that have heard it the remastered DVD-A at 24/192 is truly superb, Pretty maids all in a row, Life in the fast lane also so well recorded...

I sold my Eagles DVD-A a while ago, but the 24/192 master was used fairly recently to make an SACD version.

http://www.sa-cd.net/showtitle/7348

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Great write up Steve, amazing stock photo's, utter drool. At those prices 90% of the average jo-blogs hi--fi enthusiast can't afford, nice to dream though.

Beautiful gear.....

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Great write-up Steve.

Although I've not been a fan of the DCS digital gear I've heard (same goes for Esoteric) I'd still have loved to have heard that lot.

That Dan D’Agostino's Momentum amplifier looks utterly awesome - me want.:love:

Oh and in light of the mammoth thread currently going on in the 2 channel section did you all tell them that cables don't make a difference.:P

That's why he didn't get to listen to the D'Agostino amp, he'd been kicked out. :clout:

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So stunned by the last session that I forgot to retrieve the Leonard Cohen disc and did not realise until Liam got in touch today

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I was sceptical of dCS for a long time. All to many show rooms with ear splitting highs and a lack of substance, dCS own dems of Scarletti being amoungst the worst. A Debussy in my system for a couple of weeks showed that like all systems synergy is the key as it performed beautifully. I've since heard several dCS front ends sound great.

Looks like a great day out, thanks for sharing.

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It was a fabulous evening.The DCS guys are real music enthusiasts(as the air-guitar during The Eagles will testify!).

The whole system was astonishingly good.For me,the highlight was the First product we listened to,the Debussy Dac.Having bought a new Dac recently,i really don't need to change,but admit to having spent a an hour or two looking at the figures to see if i can justify looking for a used one,so impressed that i was.(It's like an illness,Hifi!).

Certainly goes against the reviews i have read,that suggest it is flat or whatever,when used without a preamp.Absolute nonsense.It had depth,air,everything in spades.

Every step up the ladder made a significant jump.Forget the b******s written about DCS on forums,they are much much better.And although they get every last bit of detail of the disc,in no way was this sterile or whatever.

The recent thread suggesting you don't need to spend 192 k on a cd player is absolutely right.About 70k-ish is absolutely ample.:D

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It was a fabulous evening.The DCS guys are real music enthusiasts(as the air-guitar during The Eagles will testify!).

The whole system was astonishingly good.For me,the highlight was the First product we listened to,the Debussy Dac.Having bought a new Dac recently,i really don't need to change,but admit to having spent a an hour or two looking at the figures to see if i can justify looking for a used one,so impressed that i was.(It's like an illness,Hifi!).

Certainly goes against the reviews i have read,that suggest it is flat or whatever,when used without a preamp.Absolute nonsense.It had depth,air,everything in spades.

Every step up the ladder made a significant jump.Forget the b******s written about DCS on forums,they are much much better.And although they get every last bit of detail of the disc,in no way was this sterile or whatever.

The recent thread suggesting you don't need to spend 192 k on a cd player is absolutely right.About 70k-ish is absolutely ample.:D

:goodone:

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Brilliant thread, thanks so much for the report.

I've heard dCS in a friend's system and I have serious, serious envy. It's the best I've heard, and I occasionally wonder if I could possibly justify a second-hand purchase mid-recession. The answer is no of course, but it doesn't hurt to dream. I would LOVE to hear the system described above.

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