dCS announces the release of a software update that provides MQA compatibility to all
current product ranges – bringing the MQA experience into what many regard as the best
digital music source in the world.
MQA, Master Quality Authenticated, provides a means to efficiently encode
and transmit high
resolution audio. MQA is based on the axiom that, in audio, high resolution can be more
accurately defined in the analogue domain in terms of temporal fine structure and lack of
modulation noise, than by any description in the digital domain, particularly one that relies on
sample rate or bit depth numbers.
MQA works by converting the analogue music to digital and back to analogue again. The
conceptual framework models analogue as an infinite sample rate representation, which can be
approximated by a hierarchical chain of downward and upward splines. The MQA encoder takes
account of and corrects aspects of the original analogue-to-digital and studio preparation chain.
Although a listener can enjoy the encoded stream at CD quality without a decoder, the best
result comes with an MQA Decoder, or a combination of MQA Core Decoder and Renderer,
which reconstructs exactly what was heard in the studio.
The MQA Renderer performs sampling reconstruction under song-by-song instruction from the
encoder, while at the same time matching and optimising the attached DAC to deliver an
authenticated analogue output.
MQA Decoders include a Renderer which is customised for each built-in digital-to-analogue
converter. Generally, the converter includes an integrated DAC which is not wholly configurable
and may have some performance limitations. For this reason, most MQA decoders include precompensation
for the built-in converter.
dCS does not use IC converters in its DACs; instead the process of reconstructing analogue
from the digital stream is entirely custom, using specific software and discrete hardware to make
a DAC. However, unlike other non-integrated DACs, the dCS is still modelled on reconstruction
using oversampling, filtering and high-speed conversion.
David Steven, Managing Director, dCS states:
“The dCS and MQA teams have been in discussion, development and testing for almost a year.
This is a unique and exciting implementation made possible by the flexibility and capability of
our platform, as well as the fact that both companies have aligned philosophies, strong mutual
respect and trust.”
Bob Stuart, Founder & CTO, MQA adds:
“In the case of the dCS Rossini, the MQA and dCS teams were able to work together to develop
code which accurately matched the MQA hierarchical ideal reconstruction to analogue. This
MQA implementation is unique, as it is the first opportunity to enable a DAC which, by providing
exact rendering to beyond 16x (768 kHz), matches the desired temporal response with very low
dCS owners can update their firmware to support MQA via the ‘internet download and update’
dCS Rossini – October 2017
dCS Vivaldi One – November 2017
dCS Network Bridge – November 2017
dCS Vivaldi DAC & Upsampler – December 2017
The advent of Covid-19 – officially declared a global pandemic on March 11th, 2020 – is already having effects that run far beyond the tragic fatalities that the media is currently focusing on. The mass social isolation needed to suppress its spread is beginning to cause problems for most sectors of the world’s economy, as it becomes apparent that it could take years and not months, for normality to be restored…
Although the coronavirus outbreak is affecting different parts of the global economy in different ways, it’s now becoming clear that the music industry has already been hit hard. In the UK for example, we know from several sources that CD sales have dropped by around a half in the past month. In recent years we have witnessed a clear move towards music streaming, and the coronavirus pandemic will surely have accelerated this. Yet the music business still gets much of its revenue stream from physical media sales – which are now drying up.
This is down to both the traditional high street music retailers being closed due to the lockdown, and their online equivalents being unable to get discs delivered due to logistical reasons. For example, Amazon – which sells around fifty percent of all Compact Discs in the UK – reportedly hasn’t restocked many titles, having perfectly understandably chosen to concentrate on delivering home essentials instead.
If you sympathise with the major music retail chains struggling to cope with the lockdown, spare a thought for the smaller independent music shops. Arguably, these are more grounded in their local community – so the prospect of being shut down will have come as a terrible surprise. Historically, they’ve played an important role in the British music scene, with many great band members whiling their younger lives away in iconic shops like Rough Trade and Honest Jon’s. As such, it would be a tragedy to lose them, not least because they’ve been a social and creative hub for so many great recording artists over the years.
Geoff Taylor of the British Phonographic Industry recently said that, “the BPI is determined to help protect the sector as much as it can, but revenues will obviously decline in the short term, and we are concerned that the crisis may threaten the ongoing viability of some physical music retailers.” It’s becoming clear that the government may have to look at innovative solutions to get people back into shops such as these, once the lockdown is over. The BPI suggests a temporary freeze on VAT for physical music once stores reopen, to help the sector get back on its feet.
There’s a little light at the end of the tunnel, as some good comes out of this terrible pandemic. For example, Sony Music’s parent company has just announced a $100m global relief fund to bring help to those impacted by Covid-19. The One World: Together at Home Special event – held in association with the World Health Organisation – saw The Rolling Stones perform a socially distanced rendition of You Can’t Always Get What You Want, with each member of the band playing together from a separate location (link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7pZgQepXfA). Lady Gaga, Celine Dion, Lang Lang, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and Sam Smith also took part, among many others.
The hope is that the lockdown will begin to be eased in mid-May in the UK, but other countries that have already begun to do this are staging it in a way that large concert gatherings are pretty much at the bottom of the list. Major music venues may be able to weather the storm, but it’s less certain that small independent ones – effectively the grassroots of the industry – will be able to survive this seismic shock. The Music Venues Trust, which represents 670 grassroots live spaces across the UK, has said that over three quarters face imminent closure, due to not being able to pay their rent. Some types of government help may be available, but again the worry is that many venues will fall down between the cracks, so to speak.
The only small crumb of comfort is that before the pandemic struck, the UK’s music industry was actually in very good health; this country was the second biggest music exporter in the world after the USA, and revenues climbed by 7.3% per cent last year – which was the fourth successive year of growth. Because the fundamentals are basically good, the hope is that the 72% of British musicians who are self-employed can start performing and recording again in some capacity, soon.
By John Darko
Thank you to P.L Audio www.plaudio.com for sharing this review with us and being kind enough to translate the toplines!
“In a class of its own!”
+ Flexible all in one solution
Very good sound
High performance Headphone Amplifier
– Except the price ? No!
“Sure it is a substantial investment but you will get not only a
D/A converter with extreme performance and a Headphone
Amplifier with extraordinary sound. No, you will not have to
spend money on a Pre-amp, because you will need something
very good to match the dramatic transparent sound of the Bartok
directly connected to the Power amplifier! None of the Pre-Amps we
had at our disposal could match the Bartok directly connected to
our Burmester 956 MkII. Bartok must be heard – with or without
“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”, John Lennon famously said. In the past few weeks, the world has changed in a way that no one has experienced since 2008’s sudden credit crunch – and that’s possibly a conservative estimate. The human race now finds itself in the eye of a perfect storm – a global pandemic for which there is no known cure, and the resultant seismic economic shockwaves that are now battering the world.
The Covid-19 crisis pretty much came from nowhere, to grab at the throat of the world economy. It started back in November as a cluster of five hundred or so cases in one of China’s many vast provinces, only to spread all around the globe. It’s now overrunning the health services of western countries, and understandably the world’s economy has taken fright – causing stock market collapses all around the globe. The fact that such dramatic events on the international markets have gone relatively unreported by the media, is a testament to the terrible human toll the coronavirus is taking. Within the space of just weeks, governments have introduced stern social distancing measures, home working initiatives and emergency medical packages, the like of which we have never before seen in peace time. On top of this, the finance ministers of economically stable and prosperous countries – the USA, UK, France and Germany, for example – have announced huge financial aid packages to businesses and citizens. The problems which manifested themselves in 2007 and 2008 leading up to the credit crunch have taken place in the course of less than two weeks, this time round. Governments have been forced to come up with immediate policy responses as stocks plummet faster than during the dotcom bust and Lehman crisis. In less than a month, major indices have fallen almost thirty percent, with stocks in sectors such as oil and travel down by eighty percent. By any measure, March 2020 has been a remarkable month. Until a vaccine can be found, the only way to deal with the threat from Covid-19 is suppression – which is to say social distancing and home-working. This amounts to partial, self-imposed quarantine at home, so much of the world is now effectively hibernating, keeping their distance from other people. Unsurprisingly we have seen the Geneva Motor Show, London Marathon and Euro 2020 cancelled – to list just a few. There’s no understating just how disruptive this pandemic has been, on so many levels. Effectively then, the coronavirus has produced a dramatic and near instantaneous change in people’s behaviour, and we’re already seeing the results.
Of course, the hi-fi industry has not gone unscathed. The Munich High End Show – traditionally an international rallying point where new products are launched to press and public alike, from all around the world – was cancelled at the end of February. Manufacturers who rely on global parts supply lines are having to rearrange them, and shortages of some components are beginning to appear due to China having to shut down parts of its economy. More important even than this is the threat to consumer confidence, which may cause people to postpone purchasing decisions.
There’s no doubt we’re entering an unusual period for a while at least, where people will be more home-focused – but perhaps this isn’t necessarily a bad thing? The music industry may have lost its big set-piece events this like Glastonbury Music Festival, South By Southwest, Coachella and Record Store Day this year, but there are signs of individual artists already responding to ‘the lockdown’ in innovative ways. Rock artists like Coldplay and Kodaline for example, are stepping into the void by streaming live music direct from their studios. Instagram is playing an important role in the pop world, with Charli XCX, Christine And The Queens, Diplo, Kim Petras and Clairo all live-streaming content. Rita Ora’s latest single, How To Be Lonely, is perfectly timed!
Of course, any global pandemic is a terrible thing – but it isn’t so much shutting down human activity, as moving it online. There are early signs of this as broadband providers report a major upswing in demand. Music is of course perfect for this moment, being one of the greatest ways to keep people calm and emotionally fulfilled during such a challenging period. Stay safe!
Dear friends of dCS,
During this unprecedented and challenging time, the safety and well-being of our employees remains our first priority.
Throughout the last few weeks we have followed the UK government policy which currently states that people must socially distance from each other and can only leave home for essential shopping or to travel to work if their duties cannot be performed at home. For several weeks, we’ve been adapting our business in response to the pandemic, for example implementing stricter hygiene policies, reconfiguring workspaces to ensure safe distances and introducing a work from home policy for all staff where it has been practical to do so.
At the same time, we have also been planning to temporarily close the factory part of our business as this work cannot be performed remotely. This temporary closure, effective close of business Friday 27th March 2020, will allow our Production staff to be at home and socially distance from others during a critical time for our country and its health services. We hope this temporary measure plays a very small part in helping the UK get on top of the situation and manage the spread of this virus.
Our decision to close the factory will be reviewed weekly by myself and the Directors but in the meantime myself plus our R&D, Technical Support and Marketing staff continue to work from their remote locations. Our sales team are still taking orders and assisting dealers, distributors and end users through our usual channels and our aim is for the factory to be back fully operational within 2-3 weeks.
Thank you to our valued partners in distribution and retail for the immense effort you have expended working through these difficult times. I respect the tough decisions many of you have made to close your own businesses in order to protect the health of your staff and others.
Whilst the scale of this pandemic is unprecedented, I hope everyone of you and those close to you come through this in good health. That is all that matters.
Further updates will be provided as the situation develops and you can keep in touch with us via our social media channels where we are sharing content to lift our spirits and keep the music playing. Also, should you require technical assistance then please contact us on our community forum (https://dcs.community/) or via our website.
In the meantime, please stay safe, stay connected with loved ones and I wish you all good health.
Just over a decade ago, the music industry was in dire straits. The credit crunch was crippling sales in many western countries, and the way that people consumed music was changing apace. Indeed, for a short while it began to look like content producers and distributors were losing control of their product. For many industry watchers, peer-to-peer sites like The Pirate Bay gloomily foretold the future – where everyone was downloading music for free and spreading it willy-nilly. Given that the hi-fi industry was still largely CD-based at the time, that didn’t bode well for hardware sales either.
Then, in April 2009, things began to change. In The Pirate Bay’s native Sweden, its founders were convicted of assisting in copyright infringement, fined and sentenced to a year in prison each. Soon after, many countries’ Internet Service Providers switched off access to block the website, and then later its proxies. This was the first of a chain of events that began to rehabilitate the music industry, and in turn transform the hi-fi world…
The law of intended consequences kicked in. The Pirate Bay’s five year ascent caused mayhem, almost completely wiping out that country’s physical music market. Indeed, one could argue that it lead the birth of Spotify in 2008, which was the world’s first major streaming service and also Swedish. Next door, its Norwegian neighbour saw the appearance of WiMP – launched exactly a decade ago this month – which branched off to form Tidal. From then on, Scandinavia was seen as a trailblazing music market, one that industry watchers look to as the shape of things to come. It’s widely regarded as a sort of crystal ball for the wider streaming phenomenon.
To illustrate this, IFPI figures show that the British music industry’s revenue from music streaming in 2018 was – in percentage terms – only slightly higher than Sweden’s back in 2012 – it accounted for 61.5% of trade value. In 2018 however, Sweden got 89.4% of trade value from streaming – while its Norwegian cousin was even higher at 90.5% – which is close to saturation point. In the past few years, this figure has only been inching up slowly, after what was previously faster growth.
The fear is that – while the UK and other mature global music markets are currently experiencing heady rises in streaming – the good times won’t last forever. As any economist will tell you, product sales traditionally follow a ‘bell curve’ – where there’s slow growth from a low point, then steep growth, then slow growth at a high point and then growth stagnates at the top of the ‘bell’. It then drops down the other way in an inverse pattern. Scandinavian music streaming now seems close to its peak, so people are wondering how long the good times can last?
One important factor that the music industry – traditionally a ‘software’ provider – often overlooks is the hardware side. dCS was of course very early to market with streaming functionality on its DACs, but these are by their nature premium-priced specialist high end products. More mainstream manufacturers have followed with budget priced music streamers, and these are becoming more widespread. At the same time, the fall in prices of broadband and mobile phone data services have further fuelled streaming growth. In short, experiencing music this way is getting cheaper and easier.
This likely explains why the British music industry had its best year since the credit crunch in 2019, and also why the hardware market is moving away from physical media so rapidly. However, some industry insiders are now fretting about what to do when things begin to run to out of steam a few years down the road. Indeed, there have recently been stern warnings from the business side of the industry about streaming revenues dropping off, as the market gets close to saturation. Warner Music’s CEO Steve Cooper recently said that so-called ‘Average Revenue Per User’ from streaming services needs to start rising again. While there are an estimated 200 million people now signed up to streaming services around the world, ARPU has been falling on services like Spotify.
The worry is that if streaming service providers raise their prices to push profits back up, it’s going to blunt the take-up of streaming. That’s why there’s now a debate going on behind the scenes at these service providers about how best to package them to potential customers. There’s a feeling, for example, that ‘family plans’ that allow up to six users on £14.99 subscription could be hurting the industry’s bottom line.
It’s fascinating to watch the transformation of the world’s music business to an online streaming model, one that’s just as intriguing as the shift now happening in how we all consume television and films. Each market has its own particular characteristics, but the trend is clear wherever you look. It’s still relatively early days, because as yet streamed music accounts for just 3% of the world’s population. Back in Scandinavia, revenues are rising solidly, so even in super-mature markets, it appears there’s still a fair way to go. That’s why some in the music business are now thinking about a post-physical media world – it may be just around the corner.
Remember 2006? Taylor Swift released her first single, while Eminem, Beyoncé, Snow Patrol and Keane dominated the charts – and the music industry felt like a happy and prosperous place. Then in December of that year, Tower Records went into liquidation and closed many music stores around the world. Suddenly a chill went through the industry, as insiders feared it was a portent of things to come…
Tower’s demise was a sign of two things, one of which was immediate and the other long term. First, it showed that the economic boom the West had enjoyed since the fall of the Berlin Wall in the late eighties, was finally drawing to a close. History records that Western consumers were up to their eyeballs in debt, thanks to a decade of cheap money. The end of that year was the beginning of what we now call ‘the credit crunch’, which pushed the economies of the USA, UK and Europe into a tailspin. Tower Records was simply collateral damage, because the first things that over-indebted consumers cut back on are luxury goods.
The events of that year also marked the beginning of the end for physical media – albeit indirectly. Downloads were not making a serious dent into Compact Disc sales back in 2006, but when people started buying music again in serious quantities nearly a decade later – many simply didn’t return to CD. Indeed streaming was appearing on the scene, and that’s what music buyers seemed most interested in. From 2015 onwards, the business began its long crawl back to health – aided and abetted by the rise of streaming, rather than a CD revival.
2019 saw the British music industry finally approach the giddy heights of 2006. Last year was its best in almost a decade and a half. The British Phonographic Institute reports that the equivalent of 154 million albums were bought – up 7.5% on 2018. This rate of growth suggests that next year should surpass the highest ever number of albums sold – 161.4 million in 2006. The BPI also points out the seismic shift in UK music consumption habits. There were 114 billon music streams in 2019, a 3,000% increase on 2012, which was the first year that annual figures were available. Streaming rose by 26% year-on-year, accounting for three quarters of so-called Album Equivalent Sales. Last year was the first ever to see over a billion streams.
There’s a wealth of rock, jazz and classical music on streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Tidal and Qobuz. But it’s mass market pop that’s driving this transition with songs like Lewis Capaldi’s Someone You Loved – which was the most streamed song of last year, played over 228 million times. Other star attractions include Ed Sheeran, Billie Eilish and Tones and I. The latter’s hit Dance Monkey spent eleven weeks at the top of the UK’s Official Singles Chart in 2019. In the album charts, Rod Stewart, Harry Styles and Mark Ronson all made their mark.
Beneath the dramatic headlines, there are some interesting sub-plots going on. CD sales fell by 26.5% in 2019, yet the little silver disc continues to be what the BPI calls a “kingmaker” for number one albums. In the majority of weeks last year, physical media formed over half the chart-eligible sales of the number one album. There were, reports the BPI, thirteen weeks when physical media was over three quarters of the sales of album chart toppers. Interestingly then, CD still packs a punch in mainstream album sales – it’s the smaller and/or niche titles where streaming really pulls ahead.
Whilst streaming is an easy and affordable ‘off-the-shelf’ option, physical media buyers are looking for a custom fit. That’s why box sets, or special edition albums, continue to be highly popular with music buyers. The 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of The Beatles’ Abbey Road is a case in point here, selling in significant quantities. Multi-CD box sets are things for collectors to cherish, and the music industry is coming up with ever more expensive and elaborate releases. As a sidebar to this, the vinyl LP is continuing to grow, rising for twelfth year in a row, and accounting for one in eight of all albums bought. 4.3 million were sold in 2019, an increase of 4.1 per cent over last year and up 2,000 percent on the format’s low point in 2007.
Given that a rising tide raises all boats, the British music industry’s renaissance is no bad thing for the hi-fi world. As ever, the challenge for the industry is to keep abreast of market trends and offer high quality products that deliver what customers want.
Bartók Headphone DAC Review by Jeff Dorgay, TONEAudio
“As I’ve said before, the dCS DACs have always deliver supreme musicality, and I have hung my hat on their products, using them as a reference tool for over a decade. However, what I love about dCS is the way they serve the music and not the other way around. This is a player than I can listen to for 12-16 hours a day (and have on many occasions) with zero fatigue.”
Read the full review here.
Review by Rafe Arnott – AudioStream
Click here for the full review.
Every new piece of market research that comes out these days, shows that almost without exception the Western world is moving to digital streaming – and away from buying physical music media. Yet this migration is proving far-from-straightforward, because rather like the nineteen eighties when the world shifted from vinyl LP to CD, things are not quite as they appear…
Pop music drives the recording industry – on the surface at least – because new singles and albums sales greatly impact the music business’s bottom line. Yet look closer, and you’ll see the huge amounts of money made from reissuing classic recordings and/or artists from the past. Oddly, this is just as much the case with classical music as it is with rock – indeed the two genres are strikingly similar in this regard. In short, the ‘legacy music’ market makes up a large part of the revenue stream of the music industry, so is taken very seriously indeed.
That’s why the music industry’s ‘powers that be’ are more agnostic about formats than one might expect. Despite having invested heavily to get their wares on music streaming platforms, they remain surprisingly preoccupied with physical media releases – albeit these days in the form of LP records complete with free digital downloads, and lavish LP/CD/DVD box sets for the completist market. The latter often contain an assortment of digital formats, often with Blu-ray-based video and/or hi-res music content thrown in. These are aimed primarily at affluent middle-aged collectors willing to pay serious sums of money for that all-important ‘lost recording’ of their favourite band – especially when it arrives at their front door in a nice, shiny box with a poster inside.
As any subscriber to TIDAL, Spotify or Qobuz will tell you, streaming services still have a fair way to go to cater for this type of muso. Most mainstream music is now available online, yet there are still sizeable gaps in the repertoire. Collectors know there’s plenty of music on LP and CD that hasn’t reached the cloud yet – ranging from fifties jazz rarities to sixties psychedelic classics, seventies new wave gems to eighties indie rock standards.
As the streaming services strive to widen their rosters, the record companies continue to grind on with re-releases, reissues and repackaging. Indeed, they’re currently doing it with such energy that it must be a market with great potential. The trouble is that many believe the quality of these limited editions and/or box sets to be patchy. The industry has been here before, in the rush to get CDs out of the door in serious quantities, back in the eighties. Remember their use of sub-par masters when making the first generation of rock and classical Compact Discs? Along with this, there was the incorrect handling of Dolby A noise reduction, and the doomed attempts of some mastering engineers to breach Red Book CD’s 74 minute limit. As for rusting disc surfaces, the less said the better…
History is now repeating itself. The rise of social media – with numerous audiophile and music collector Facebook groups – means that we’re now reading all about poor curation of classic rock reissues, with schoolboy errors in the mastering and authoring of some of them. Some pretty major rock acts’ names have been sullied by association with glitchy Blu-ray discs in their luxury box sets, for example. Others have been let down by poor handling of meta-data in the accompanying free downloads – one recent example saw the bugs going on to appear on every streaming service, too. This isn’t a good look for the industry, to put it mildly.
Much of the music industry’s revenue stream comes from these completist music fans who collect the output of their favourite artists in an almost religious way. And because they spend real money on their hobby, they won’t suffer shoddy products gladly. As the recording industry migrates online, it can’t afford to take its eye of the ball offline – otherwise it risks alienating a band of dedicated and high spending enthusiasts. At the same time, the rise of the premium-priced music box set begs the question, will collectors ever relinquish the idea of having an actual physical product to have and to hold – as well as listen to?
In Paradise Lost, John Milton wrote that, “the mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven” – in other words, it’s all relative. This strikes a chord for anyone who has followed the development of digital audio from its consumer debut back in the early nineteen eighties, up to now…
The very first Compact Disc players seemed amazing at the time, not least because they had none of the faults of the vinyl LP format that we had all become so accustomed to. The new digital disc had no wow and flutter, no tracking error distortion, no turntable bearing rumble – and of course the ‘snap, crackle and pop’ from all those vinyl surface imperfections was also banished. Instead, the new format came over as strikingly clean and open, so much so that some critics declared that it was actually too stark and forward to be listenable.
We didn’t realise it at the time, but many complaints about the new format’s bright sound were simply because most audiophiles had built their hi-fi systems around analogue front ends that were rather veiled in real terms. For example, the reference moving coil cartridge of the day was Supex’s SD900, which when fitted to most reviewers’ favourite turntable – the Linn Sondek LP12 – sounded rather warm. To counter this, many opted for forward sounding amplification or loudspeakers. Inevitably then, when you put a new CD player into such a system, it sounded bright.
As the decade progressed, audiophiles began to better integrate digital into their hi-fi systems, building them around their new Compact Disc front ends. The controversy about ‘the sound of digital’ began to subside, and the new format began to gain mass appeal. Then Philips launched its new Bitstream DAC and digital filter, which found its way into countless mainstream CD players from all around the world. It further smoothed out digital sound, having less of the ‘glare’ that characterised earlier generations of multi-bit DACs. By the early nineties, Compact Disc was now a mature technology giving pleasure to huge numbers of people.
There was resistance at the top, though – in the high end market analogue still held sway. Ironically the latter half of the nineteen eighties saw some major leaps forward in terms of pick-up cartridge and tonearm technology, which made LPs sound cleaner and more accurate than ever before. In 1996 dCS launched the Elgar, the company’s first ever consumer digital-to-analogue converter. This proved a major market disruptor, offering more transparent and neutral sound than any other digital source on sale, as many critics attested. It ratcheted up the audio quality from silver disc significantly, finally making digital audio the choice of many high end users.
At that time, Elgar showed that many people using lesser digital front ends had indeed been making “a heaven of hell”, as they hadn’t realised what the CD format was capable of until they heard it. Yet as time went by, Elgar itself was eclipsed. The launch of Debussy in 2008 was a major inflection point, because it offered greater performance despite being the company’s ‘entry-level’ product. Its newer implementation of the Ring DAC was a real step up, bringing more refinement and insight into the recording, and giving a less constrained soundstage.
Due to the unique way that dCS DACs are made, they have upgradeable firmware which allows the company’s engineers to update them with new features and/or format compatibility. That’s why they have far longer production lives than rival manufacturers, most of which use bought-in silicon chips that cannot be improved upon after the design is finalised. For this reason, dCS DACs are not routinely replaced – they stay in the range for a protracted period of time and are only replaced when there’s a comprehensive improvement possible.
Now that time has come for Debussy. The DAC that made the once state-of-the-art Elgar look ordinary, has itself now bowed out to be replaced by the Bartók. It’s quite a thing to compare the two. Separated in time by a decade, the new DAC sports a hi-res OLED display, which is necessary to control its wide range of modern features. This includes full streaming capability and the option of a high quality headphone amplifier – plus of course full app control.
The key difference is in its sound, though. Major tweaks to the Ring DAC control board, ancillary circuitry and the computer code that runs things have delivered a step-change in performance. Bartók sounds dramatically faster, more open, engaging and insightful than its predecessor. It has a more tuneful bass, superior rendition of the music’s rhythms and greater dynamism – which makes the once-excellent Debussy seem rather laid-back by comparison. This shows two things, the first being that despite dCS having used the Ring DAC for three decades, it has constantly been improved over the years. Second, the things that we think are pretty special at one point in history, are never as good as it gets. “Time and tide wait for no man”, as the saying goes…
by Rajiv Arora
Read the full review here
Mastering Icon Bob Ludwig announced as Initial Recipient
NEW YORK CITY, NY; October 16, 2019. At a special reception held in conjunction with the 147th Audio Engineering Society (AES) Convention, dCS (Data Conversion Systems Ltd.) unveiled today its new dCS Legends Award program.
The award was conceived to acknowledge the outstanding efforts of an elite group of recording, mixing and mastering engineers who have strived throughout their careers to deliver the finest music experience possible. The award also underscores the growing trend towards ‘studio quality’ high resolution download and streaming services for music enthusiasts.
“As a pioneer in high resolution audio and a leading manufacturer of digital converters for more than three decades, dCS is proud to provide both consumers and professionals alike with state-of-the-art audio components” stated David Steven, Managing Director of dCS. “Our mission is to continually develop products that bring listeners closer to the music that the artist, producer and engineer intended. We are pleased to join with the Recording Academy Producers & Engineers Wing today in presenting the initial dCS Legends Award to renowned mastering engineer Bob Ludwig”.
“A Mastering Engineer’s Engineer”
Often described as “a mastering engineer’s engineer”, Bob Ludwig has been universally recognized for his outstanding talents and his passionate pursuit of the latest recording technologies. With nearly a dozen GRAMMY® Awards to his credit, his work has spanned virtually every music genre, including such well-known recordings as Babel, Beyonce (surround mix), Brothers In Arms, The Layla Sessions, Morning Phase and Random Access Memories.
In addition to Bob Ludwig, during the coming year, the dCS Legends Award will celebrate other recording industry icons for their achievements. Upcoming recipients include Chuck Ainlay, Ed Cherney, Tony Faulkner, Frank Filipetti, James Guthrie, Leslie Ann Jones, George Massenburg, John Newton, Elliot Scheiner, Al Schmitt and Mark Wilder. All of these recipients will receive a limited edition, commemorative version of dCS’ acclaimed Bartok DAC (Digital Audio Converter)
Year-Long Global Campaign
Each engineer’s story will be told as part of a year-long global campaign that encompasses a number of potential elements, including both consumer and trade advertising, as well as dealer materials and event signage that highlights album artwork from their GRAMMYR winning titles. Additionally, the campaign will feature interviews of these dCS Legends Award recipients, which will be available – along with select music clips from their recordings – on a variety of podcasts, websites and social media.
For more information on the dCS Legends Award, contact Krysti Hamilton, Head of Marketing and Communications for dCS at KHamilton@dcsltd.co.uk