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2017

February

DAT’s Entertainment
7th February 2017

When Sony introduced Digital Audio Tape thirty years ago, many people genuinely thought it to be the future of music. Looked at now though, DAT is an irrelevance – a long gone and largely forgotten curio from those awkward early days of consumer digital audio.

The year after its launch – 1988 – saw Compact Cassette replace the vinyl LP as Britain’s best selling music format. So the idea of another serial-access tape system, wasn’t necessarily a turn off back then. Indeed, many people thought DAT to be the very height of sophistication – its tape was fully enclosed from the outside world, less than half the size of cassette and able to carry up to 180 minutes of music. Better still, it was digital – which was of course the future of everything, as far as eighties punters were concerned. Digital fuel injection, digital watches, digital climate control, Digital Audio Tape; what was not to like?

Indeed the hi-fi magazines of the day were intrigued, many seeing it as an exciting new technology. Okay, so it may have been a traditional magnetic tape-based format in an increasingly random-access laser disc world, but it did promise superior sound to CD. As we all know, silver discs of the day only allowed 16-bit, 44.1kHz resolution, but new-fangled DAT ran at a sampling frequency of 48kHz – and therefore represented the state of the art. No consumer digital audio system bettered it. Only in the pro sphere was it surpassed, when a decade or so later dCS analogue-to-digital converters worked with the Nagra D recorder to make the first 24/96 hi-res recordings possible.
Although DAT’s 48kHz sampling rate doesn’t seem much these days, Compact Disc’s  was so low that the sound-degrading phase effects from its filtering got worryingly close to the audio band. DAT on the other hand lifted these up just a touch, to where they were far less consequential to the sound. The result was a larger improvement in sonics than you might expect; that extra headroom made one hell of a difference. Early demonstrations of DAT showed a substantially sweeter and crisper sound; the later machines could be switched to record at Compact Disc’s lower resolution, and when you did this the difference was clear to hear. The hi-fi press was certainly charmed; one specialist magazine even went so far as to claim, “DAT wipes out CD”, on its front cover.

With all the marketing muscle of the giant Sony Corporation behind it, this new format could hardly fail, could it? Well, exactly one decade earlier, the Japanese giant had just discontinued its short-lived Elcaset format – a kind of reel-to-reel tape inside a VHS-sized cassette. This gave excellent analogue sound, but no one cared because it was too big for consumers already used to the far smaller Compact Cassette. Surely then, the dinky DAT format could succeed? Sony certainly thought so, and began releasing albums in its native Japan, from avant-garde artists such as New Order and Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Yet it was not to be. Despite having a host of clever features that Compact Cassette lacked, such as real time tape counting and track numbering, DAT did not prevail. Even its superior sound to CD couldn’t compensate, and sales barely got off the ground. People realised it was too expensive, fiddly and sometimes quite unreliable too. It certainly wasn’t the sort of object that you could throw into your car’s glovebox, next to a bag of melted Werther’s Originals.

Then suddenly the format took off in recording studios. Just when we least expected it, a generation of small-to-medium sized studios began using DAT as a mastering medium. This happened to coincide with a surge in new music-making technology; hard disk recording was becoming affordable, and songs were now being crafted on computers with Cubase. MIDI synthesisers and sequencers were getting cheaper, and whole dance music records could be laid down digitally then mastered for posterity on – of all things – DAT. As is so often the case with audio formats, it ended up being used for a different purpose than was originally intended. Oddly, DAT became cool amongst a generation of small studio-based nineties musicians.

Plug a classic Sony DAT player into a modern dCS DAC now, and it’s surprising how good it sounds. A well fettled DAT machine is still capable of working as a fine digital transport, and the developments in DAC technology that dCS has brought in the intervening years have done nothing but good to the old format’s sound. Even though the Bitstream DACs fitted to most DAT recorders were very highly regarded at the time, they are miles behind a Debussy, for example. So farewell to an ill-fated format that meant something to some people for some time; it joins the ranks of Digital Compact Cassette (DCC) and MiniDisc (MD) in the story of doomed digital audio. Despite this, never forget that for a short period in the late eighties, it really did look like the future.

January

The Absolute Sound – dCS Vivaldi Version 2.0
31st January 2017

Review by Jacob Heilbrunn

“the dCS conveyed it with a sense of weight and gravity, majesty and grandeur that I had not heretofore experienced, apart from a live performance”

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The Audio Beat – dCS Vivaldi 2.0
The Audio Beat – dCS Vivaldi 2.0
22nd January 2017

Review by Marc Mickelson

. . . the most versatile digital system I’ve used and also — by far — the most sonically complete.

Read the full review.

 

 

 

Audio Esoterica  – Rossini Player and Rossini Clock
Audio Esoterica – Rossini Player and Rossini Clock
18th January 2017

Review by Edgar Kramer

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2016

December

Stereophile Magazine – dCS Rossini Player & Rossini Clock
31st December 2016

Review by John Aitkinson

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November

dCS Vivaldi 2.0 digital replay system  – Equipment Review
dCS Vivaldi 2.0 digital replay system – Equipment Review
1st November 2016

HiFi+ , November 2016

Review by Chris Thomas

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October

dCS Rossini – HiFi i Muzyka Poland
dCS Rossini – HiFi i Muzyka Poland
12th October 2016

Review of dCS Rossini CD Player by Paweł Gołębiewski in Źródło: HFM 06/2016.

Read the full review.

July

Hacked By GeNErAL
Hacked By GeNErAL
15th July 2016

Hacked By GeNErAL

June

Raising the Bar – dCS Rossini
1st June 2016

Review by Jeff Dorgay

Tone Audio #77

The sutle growl in Plastikman’s “Mind Encode”
rolls out into my listening room in such a sinister,
encompassing way, it’s almost frightening. It
instantly reminds me of the aural magic that its
much more expensive sibling, the four box Vivaldi,
which until now was the only digital playback
system capable of being this visceral.

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May

Still Impressive! dCS Elgar DAC
31st May 2016

Review by Jeff Dorgay

Tone Audio #77

It’s always a blast to take a trip in the wayback machine,
especially in the world of digital audio, where years are like
dog years. Back in 1996, dCS introduced the world’s first high
performance DAC, the Elgar, with 24/96 capabilities. (And a
$12,000 price tag) It was later updated to Elgar Plus, allowing
for 24/192 and DSD capabilities and there was no price
increase of note, until the exchange rates forced the importer
to raise the final price to $15,000. Having spent the last six
years using dCS as my digital reference, revisiting the Elgar, or
in this case an Elgar Plus, supplied to us by Music Lovers in
San Francisco – a premier dCS dealer.

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April

dCS Rossini Player and Clock – HiFi Critic
dCS Rossini Player and Clock – HiFi Critic
2nd April 2016

Review by Chris Binns

HiFi Critic

April  2016

‘The Rossini excels in creating a sense of believable musical realism, and that is far closer to where I would like digital audio reproduction to be.’

 

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March

Vivaldi y Rossini: de nuevo la magia de dCS
Vivaldi y Rossini: de nuevo la magia de dCS
1st March 2016

Pocas marcas han sabido hilar tan fino a la hora de dotar de “alma” al audio digital doméstico
como la británica dCS. ¿El motivo? Un dominio de la tecnología “pro” más avanzada cuya expresión
más reciente la encontramos en el modelo Rossini, presentado en sociedad en el icónico loft de la
barcelonesa Werner.

Por Salvador Dangla

AV Premium

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February

dCS Rossini DAC and Clock
dCS Rossini DAC and Clock
18th February 2016

by Michael Lavorgna, Audiostream

“The dCS Rossini DAC and Clock are capable of exploding the listening experience into a fabulous psychedelic adventure constrained only by imagination and time. ”

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2015

December

dCS Rossini Player and Clock
4th December 2015

Review of dCS Rossini Streaming CD Player and Master Clock

“The dCS Rossini sets a high standard for digital audio of all kinds today. You may find ‘different’ but you won’t find ‘better’ at anything even close to this level.”

Alan Sircom, Editor

Read the online review

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2014

October

dCS Vivaldi – System Review
13th October 2014

HiFiLive Magazine (available in Spanish and English)

Review by Miguel Castro

Read the review online

June

dCS Vivaldi DAC Review
dCS Vivaldi DAC Review
15th June 2014

Ultra High End Review, June 2014

Review by Frank Berryman

Read the review online

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January

dCS Vivaldi Digital Playback System – Equipment Review
1st January 2014

Stereophile, January 2014

Review by Michael Fremer

Read the review online

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2013

November

dCS Vivaldi System Review – Part 1&2
dCS Vivaldi System Review – Part 1&2
1st November 2013

HiFi Plus Issue 104 & 105,  November 2013

Review by Chris Thomas

Read the review online

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May

Ne Plus Ultra – dCS Vivaldi Digital Playback System
1st May 2013

The Absolute Sound Issue 233, May 2013

Review by Robert Harley

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