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Popular Mechanics

Date: 5th April 2016

Popular Mechanics

After nearly two years of concerted development, the new dCS Rossini is now on sale. It comes in two versions, DAC and Player – the latter featuring an CD transport mechanism built in. As you would expect from a major new dCS product, much effort went into sourcing this, and modifying to our own requirements. Sadly, the Esoteric mechanism used on the Puccini was no longer available, so the design team spent a long time searching for a replacement.

dCS Technical Director Andy McHarg recalls, “it was very difficult to find anything that met the technical specification. There are countless ROM-type mechanisms on the market and they’re mostly cheap and nasty. The other problem is that, as a rule, you’ve got to burst the audio out of them which we don’t really want to do. That’s why we ruled these out.”

Instead, a selection of bespoke CD mechs were sourced and evaluated. “We invalidated them mechanically if they were noisy – the last thing you want is a whirring in the corner of your room. Then we went on to test the read quality of the remaining ones, and their longevity.  The best solution we found was from Stream Unlimited, whose mechanism is a bespoke, single-speed, real time CD player. We then went on to modify it, with improved mechanics, disc clamping and vibration isolation; also, as you would expect, serious attention was paid to clocking.”  Sales of new CD players have fallen dramatically, as indeed have those of music CDs themselves – in the first half of last year for example, they dropped by over thirty percent in the United States. Despite this, and the apocalyptic talk of the format’s demise from some quarters, there was never any chance that dCS was going to produce a version of Rossini that could not play silver discs. It may be the ‘legacy’ format that some are now talking about, yet it remains hugely popular across the world – especially in some markets like Japan. Even customers who have fully embraced hi-res streaming will likely have a substantial collection of silver discs, and continue to buy them, every now and then.

Indeed, as all dCS users know, the format is capable of superb sound if the recording is properly done to a high standard. dCS was always going to make Rossini Player then, but its development process did throw up one regrettable issue. It was impossible to source an SACD-capable optical disc mechanism capable of meeting the exacting requirements of the design team. The number of SACD mechanisms has now dwindled to the point that those remaining are not available in the quantities required to sustain a production run of a new product. For this reason, it was not possible to include SACD playback in Rossini Player.

Andy McHarg explains, “if we could have fitted an SACD mechanism, we would have done. The issue with the Esoteric solution that we had previously used was that it featured a Sony DSD decoder chip, and this ceased production back in 2003. Esoteric have come to the end of their supply, and so the mechanism itself has now become obsolete. We looked into reverse engineering this chip, but the whichever way we looked at it, the price couldn’t justify the volumes we would use. We then looked at the possibility of a Blu-ray transport, but the BIOS changes every year, and you can’t easily clock them.”

dCS recognises that some of its loyal customers have SACD collections, which is why we’re constantly monitoring the situation; if high quality SACD-capable mechanisms become available, then Rossini Player will become thus-equipped. Meanwhile, both Rossini DAC and Player will still work with the dCS SACD transport you may already have, and the new DAC is capable of playing SACD-quality DSD, as well as all higher speed versions currently available. “We have done more than anyone else in the industry to make DSD work. That’s why we did with DSD over PCM (DoP) – we realised that at some point discs would be no more and you’d need a uniform way of playing stuff back”, McHarg points out.

“It’s a harsh reality of life thing, isn’t it?”, he says. “But it makes sense to do what we’ve done.” dCS has great affection for SACD, but ultimately DSD is the future – and has far more potential than the disc that first introduced it ever could. “Rossini still plays the CD layer of SACDs,” notes the Technical Director of dCS, “and it plays it extremely well, too…”