Jump to content
Computer Audiophile
  • The Computer Audiophile

    dCS Rossini DAC Review

    We've all had those weeks that never end, stress us out, and leave us feeling shattered by the time the weekend rolls around. This has been one of those weeks for me. I'm not complaining, there are many worse jobs and places to live in this world, rather I'm leading into the antidote to stress and exhaustion. Some people sooth with substances, but I've found a reference HiFi system can be much better. Right now my reference system is quarterbacked by the dCS Rossini digital to analog converter. 

     

    This evening I sat down in my listening chair for a final listening session with the dCS Rossini. All the lights were out. The blue glow of the power indicators on my Constellation Audio amplifiers could be seen as well as the front panel of the Rossini. Other than those items, the room pitch black. I leaned back in my chair and tapped play through Roon on Bob Dylan's The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan album. 

     

    As soon as the unmistakable acoustic guitar began in the right channel, my body eased up and started to unwind. Dylan's unique voice emanating from dead-center between the TAD CR1 loudspeakers put a smile on my face. The antidote was kicking in. By the time Dylan played the track out with his harmonica I was in a much better place physically and mentally than when I walked into my listening room. 

     

    The MoFi DSD remaster of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan ripped to dsf files and played through the dCS Rossini sounded so organic, so realistic, so full, so lush, that I listened to the first 11 tracks without as much as a volume adjustment. When something sounds this great I don't make changes. Why fix what's not broken? 

     

    Perennial skip-over tracks such as Down the Highway had me sucked-in. Dylan's acoustic guitar through the dCS Rossini had incredible depth and dimensionality down through the lowest frequencies. As Dylan strums and plucks, each string can be heard as it should be heard, as a distinct different sound with unique tonal characters and richness. And to think I usually skip over this track. I guess hearing it in all its glory, as it was meant to be heard, can change one's mind. It's a great song that sounds great through the Rossini. This experience gives me pause, to think about why I skip certain songs when listening on other components. 

     

    The dCS Rossini has made previously skipable tracks part of my must listen regimen. Yes, my listening regimen. The audio antidote to stress is a great HiFi system with great music. It's capable of restoring one's health after days and weeks we'd rather forget.

     

     

     


    regimen | ˈrejəmən |
    noun
    1. a prescribed course of medical treatment, way of life, or diet for the promotion or restoration of health.

     

     

     

     

    Still in a folky mood, I queued up the Audio Fidelity version of Peter, Paul and Mary's 1963 album In the Wind. Some of the tracks on this album aren't typically what I'd consider in my wheelhouse, but damn they sounded great. I couldn't stop listening. Again, the music continued reduced my anxiety and stress from the week by transporting me into another era. The song All My Trials was nothing short of amazing through the dCS Rossini. The full bodied and rich vocal harmony sounded so good it was like a drug of which I couldn't get enough. Listening to each individual vocalist when I wanted and listening to the magical blend of the group together most of the time seriously set me at ease. I don't know that I've ever heard a more touching version, a version that got to me this much, or a better reproduction of this track on any component or system I've heard to date. This is what HiFi is all about for me, listening to music and letting it get to me on many levels. The better sounding the system the better I feel. 


    A few weeks ago a good friend sent me an email suggesting I listen to Melody Gardot's new Live in Europe album. I gave it a digital spin at the time and wrote back that I was underwhelmed. Fast forward to this afternoon while I was driving in my car down I394 listening to Jazz 88 FM radio. The track My one and Only Thrill from this album came on and I was hooked. Upon returning home I email my friend back to say I was now onboard with the album. 

    Pressing play on this album through the dCS Rossini, connected to the direct input of my Constellation Audio Inspiration amplifiers, brought me much enjoyment. Listening to My One and Only Thrill through this system rather than my aftermarket car system gave me an even better feeling. The track opens with a piano but it's the very emotional sounding cello that sets the tone. Through the Rossini this cello sounds rich when out front, and mystically airy when backing Melody's vocal throughout the song. About 6:50 into the track the cello comes back to prominence and has this incredible smooth yet gritty sound that's extremely haunting. It's amazing that this is a live recording and it sounds so good considering it was released in 2018. Kudos to Melody Gardot for delivering the album and to dCS for enabling us to hear all of it as it was delivered by the artist. 

     

     

    A Bit About Hardware, Software, and Filters

     

    Before continuing with my listening experiences, I should at least get into the hardware and software of the dCS Rossini. This DAC is the opposite of typical DACs that use off the shelf parts assembled according to application notes. dCS uses its proprietary Ring DAC, custom user selectable filters, custom mapping algorithms, and custom software platform all developed in-house.  In addition, when many manufacturers of storied HiFi brands are cutting corners, dCS has managed to improve the quality of its products both inside and out. 

     

    dCS continually improves its products via software / firmware updates. With custom "everything" onboard, the company is free to add features and extend the life of its products until the hardware just doesn't have enough horsepower. During the review period I upgraded the Rossini with the click of a button that checked for the upgrade over the internet and automatically installed the newest version.

     

    Certainly (in some circles) the most controversial part of the latest upgrade was the addition of MQA decoding and rendering. However, the Rossini isn't just another MQA capable DAC. But first a little about filters. The Rossini features six dCS PCM filters, one MQA filter, and four DSD filters. All "designed" by dCS. I put the word designed in quotes because it isn't entirely true but it isn't entirely false. dCS (Andy McHarg) worked with MQA to develop the first implementation of the MQA Reference filter.  What this means is the dCS M1 MQA filter perfectly meets all 16 possible MQA filter coefficients exactly without having to be tailored to offset limitations or errors in the D/A converter.  Because of speed, linearity, and frequency response of the RingDAC dCS was able to exactly match the ideal MQA reconstruction filter coefficients all the way up to 768k.  So in other words, MQA came up with the theoretical ideal filter coefficients, and the flexibility of how dCS does things allowed the company to code those in to allow ideal filter responses.

     

    There are two other aspects to the dCS MQA implementation that are different from most other manufacturers.  First, with many other implementations, if MQA encode is turned on then all audio passes through the MQA filter.  With the Rossini and all other dCS devices the DAC or streamer determines whether MQA encoded music is playing before applying the filter.  Second, having a choice of filter responses is in the dCS DNA. From he very beginning, when the company approached the MQA project it was important that dCS users still had the ability to select traditional dCS filters with MQA material. Again, it's about flexibility and personal choice for dCS customers. 

     

    Control of the Rossini's features, including filter selection, can be accomplished most easily via the dCS iOS app (an Android app will be explored down the road). The app also enables the user to play music from a UPnP/DLNA server, Tidal, or a USB stick connected directly to the Rossini. In the true dCS spirit of flexibility for its customers, the company has also enabled AirPlay and Sotify playback.

     

    During the review I used Roon for playback much of the time because of the tight integration between Roon's iOS app and the Rossini. Adjusting volume within Roon also adjusted the volume directly on the Rossini and vice versa. Two-way communication between the Rossini and Roon is a very nice feature.  

    The analog outputs of the Rossini, like all dCS DACs, can be set at 2V or 6V. I used the Rossini at 6V output connected to the Direct input of my Constellation amplifiers. This Direct input bypasses a gain stage inside the amp and is to be used with Constellation preamps or a limited number of DACs. Some DACs work well with this input, but most sound pretty flat. The Rossini is a great match for this input. Other DACs connect to the XLR input of the Constellation amps and carry on without any issues. 

     

    The Rossini has a complete menu of options and features that most DACs can't come close to matching. The user can customize it until content or have a dealer set it and forget it. Like the Vivaldi, the Rossini is one of, if not the most, versatile DAC in the industry.

     

     

     

    img-0384.jpg

     

     

     

     


    Back to Listening


    Finishing up my listening session I put on some classical music, Michael Stern and the Kansas City Symphony. The Reference Recordings release of Britten's Orchestra (out of print) is a favorite of mine and is capable of transporting me into another world through a transparent audio system. Don't get me wrong, I could enjoy this album on any system. However, it takes exceptional components to reproduce all of this Keith Johnson 24/176.4 recording in a way that enables me to get completely lost in the music and hear each instrument individually as I drift through the performance in my listening room.

    At times I can be a stickler for good transient response in the audio components I use in my system. When listening to 176.4 kHz classical music such as this album I prefer the dCS filter number 5. This filter has a Gaussian response with no overshoot on transients and relaxed roll-off. As a side note, I prefer filter number 4 for 16/44.1 music because of its good transient response. 

     

    The opening track on this album, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, is a 17 minute mix of loud crescendos and soft sweet violin followed by violent percussion and stern yet smooth horns. This track touches all the bases and all frequencies for those listening to judge a playback system. Fortunately I listen to this for enjoyment as I really love the music (this coming from a Pearl Jam type of guy who'd rather not listen to much classical). 

    The dCS Rossini didn't disappoint throughout this track and the entire performance. The opening transients weren't memorialized, the violins were wispy yet rich in tone and texture, and the horns were brash when appropriate. The Rossini reproduced the complete performance with a full, rich sound that made it possible to hear the entire symphony as one or each individual instrument as a single piece of the larger whole. 

     

    Closing out the first track, with about 1:30 remaining, the symphony picks up steam enabling one to hear the whole sound much greater than the some of the parts. With about 30 seconds remaining the musicians are firing on all cylinders with loud transients, soft yet audible flutes, and crashing yet controlled cymbals. Through the Rossini this performance is reproduce at a level second to none. OK, second to nothing I've had in my listening room in recent memory. 
     


    Conclusion

     

    This wonderful hobby of ours isn't often about restraint but rather excess. The Rossini DAC is the sweet spot in the dCS lineup. It's $23,999 price tag doesn't scream moderation to many music lovers, but I assure you the Rossini is much more capable than the dCS Debussy ($11,999) but not up to the level of performance that's possible with the dCS Vivaldi ($35,999), the Rolls Royce of digital to analog conversion. 

     

    Given the complete control that dCS has over hardware and software, the digital wizards of Cambridge, England continue to find ways to improve the Rossini's capabilities and level of performance. Through software and firmware updates, available at no cost, new features have already been added to this fairly new DAC. These updates and product enhancements extend the life of dC products as far or further than any other digital product of which I'm aware. 

     

    The bottom line for many enthusiasts is performance. The dCS Rossini offers high performance, in addition to build quality, that's as good or better than anything I've heard in my system in recent memory. Whether one listens to folk, rock, vocal, jazz, or classical the Rossini is completely capable absolutely stellar music reproduction. I've had and continue to have more DACs come through my system over the years than I care to admit. Based on performance, support, and future upgradability the Rossini is one of two or three DACs that I'd really love to keep. When dCS finally comes calling for this one, at least I can keep it on the C.A.S.H. List for a long time. 

     

     


     

     

     


    Products Informtion:

    • Product - dCS, Rossini DAC ($23,999)
    • Product - Link
    • Product User Manual - Link

     

     

     

    Associated Music:

     

     

     

     

    Associated Equipment:

     

     

     



    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments



    I think dCS could not make good DAC even at 120k$.

    if you listen to dCS in a high sensitivity loudspeaker like living voice horn with kondo electronics you will find dCS is the most boring dac.

    i have listened to elgar and scarlatti, they just kill emotion of music.

     

    Amir

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I am listening to a Rossini + Master Clock to an Audio Note Kondo Ongaku to AvantGarde Duo Mezzo speakers - so pretty much what you described. See my signature for more.

     

    Sounds awesome, involving and alive. 

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    While I was reading this review I became very jealous......of how you somehow have all the great MFSL and AF sacd titles in digital DSD form on your server. How do you have these? I would love an article on the methods to get these proprietary top notch masterings on your server. They can't be bought, they have to be "ripped" somehow I know, but I am jealous that you have them.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    8 minutes ago, Deyorew said:

    While I was reading this review I became very jealous......of how you somehow have all the great MFSL and AF sacd titles in digital DSD form on your server. How do you have these? I would love an article on the methods to get these proprietary top notch masterings on your server. They can't be bought, they have to be "ripped" somehow I know, but I am jealous that you have them.

     

    Type "sacd ripping" into the search box and you should find the main threads on this site where this is discussed.

     

    The original method used a PS3 with a specific firmware level. The more recent method uses other, more easily obtained SACD players:

     

     

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    oh and as for the DCS here, i am sure it sounds amazing. I would have to turn the lights off because I think they are hideous! lol. Now I was drooling over the McIntosh DAC you reviewed months ago. That has the benefit of seeing it all in darkness and when the lights are on! DCS needs an asthetic makeover. The white box thing (especially as a stack of them) would be very difficult if impossible for me to look past.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Oh I know how you do it, but I don't have the true detailed knowledge of it, the players that do it and most importantly the time to rip my collection.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    41 minutes ago, Deyorew said:

    While I was reading this review I became very jealous......of how you somehow have all the great MFSL and AF sacd titles in digital DSD form on your server. How do you have these?

    I have a PS3 and it works great. I then use ISO2DSD to convert the ISO to individual DSF files, and finally tag the DSF files with Yate (there are many programs than can tag DSF files).

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Chris,

     

    I know it may sound ridiculous to some, but since you just reviewed it recently, can the Yggy Analog 2 go toe to toe with the Rossini, or is the Rossini is clear step better in your subjective opinion? 

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    53 minutes ago, Blake said:

    Chris,

     

    I know it may sound ridiculous to some, but since you just reviewed it recently, can the Yggy Analog 2 go toe to toe with the Rossini, or is the Rossini is clear step better in your subjective opinion? 

    Very logical question, but complicated to answer. The Rossini sounds better than the Yggy in my system, but also consider what one's room, one's choice of preamp (mandatory with Yggy) (I bypassed the pre with Rossini), one's listening preferences, PCM or DSD or MQA, feature set (Ethernet input, RoonReady etc...). Because the Yggy doesn't have Ethernet and RoonReady, you have to consider what input your using when thinking about the comparison, etc...

     

    To compare the Yggdrasil to the Rossini you must include the source component such as a Signature Rendu SE, the Yggy, and a preamp. The Rossini ethernet input and internal volume control (2V or 6V output) handles everything. 

     

    I could go on, but it's much more complicated than the question seems. 

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I have heard a DCS Rossini and a few other DCS models (I get confused with the model names) a few times. In short, I love DCS! 

     

    Of all the audio virtues, I place transparency and detail retrieval at the very top. Especially for a DAC. You can add salt and pepper to your taste by swapping tubes and amps but for me, a DAC and transport must extract every last bit of detail possible from the recording. DCS is unparalleled and it really stands alone in this regard, unmatched by every other high-end DAC I have compared it to. These other DAC's I have heard include Playback Designs, MSB, Esoteric, and so on. 

     

    I think the Rossini has a rather dry, clinical presentation that some people won't like. It is also extraordinarily precise - attacks and decays are super fast and super clean. 

     

    The only complaints I have for this DAC are the price and the tone. Unfortunately, for my system I need 8 DAC channels. I can afford to buy ONE Rossini. I can't afford to buy 4 of them. 

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    53 minutes ago, Keith_W said:

    I think the Rossini has a rather dry, clinical presentation that some people won't like. It is also extraordinarily precise - attacks and decays are super fast and super clean. 

     

    Well that’s a +1 for the measly Yggdrasil in my book.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    6 hours ago, Keith_W said:

    think the Rossini has a rather dry, clinical presentation that some people won't like. It is also extraordinarily precise - attacks and decays are super fast and super clean. 

     

    Not true in my system at all. If anything it is a deeper color presentation than some other DAC’s I’ve used (EmmLabs, TAD).

     

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    12 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    Please tell us what you really think. I'm struggling to read between the lines :~)

     

    The beauty of this hobby is that we all have a tremendous number of choices.

    Chris

    please consider It is clear that many audiophiles are happy with dCS and you are one of them.

    it is clear that many audiophiles prefer CD to LP and they are happy with playing CD or high rez files, i have no problem with their happynes.

    My critique is about sound of dCS not about your happyness with dCS.

    Chris your loudspeaker will change the game if you listen dCS in Living voice horn system. Living voice could render microdynamics of music with fuller harmonic structure . Living voice could show you dCS is not rich and dCS could not render microdynamics .

     

    Chris 

    i have heard TAD speaker , it is not sensitive and low sensitivity speakers do not sounds rich .

    if you compare LP vs CD then your speaker could not show the difference as a high sensitivity like living voice.

    if you listen to dCS with living voice or audio note speaker then you will find dCS is not good .

    Amir

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    25 minutes ago, amir57bs said:

    Chris

    please consider It is clear that many audiophiles are happy with dCS and you are one of them.

    it is clear that many audiophiles prefer CD to LP and they are happy with playing CD or high rez files, i have no problem with their happynes.

    My critique is about sound of dCS not about your happyness with dCS.

    Chris your loudspeaker will change the game if you listen dCS in Living voice horn system. Living voice could render microdynamics of music with fuller harmonic structure . Living voice could show you dCS is not rich and dCS could not render microdynamics .

     

    Amir

    Hi, im on this site to find a digital front end to match my analog sources, ive heard DCS Vivaldi and many others. Do you think digital can now match analog?

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Hi Chris

     

    I read through your review waiting for the section on what happens when a DCS (or other) external clock is added to the dac, but it wasn't there. Are you intending doing that at some point?

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    3 hours ago, Rexp said:

    Hi, im on this site to find a digital front end to match my analog sources, ive heard DCS Vivaldi and many others. Do you think digital can now match analog?

    dCS is good if you have low sensitivity speaker/high power high feedback solid-state amplifier . dcs is good for lean clean/High resolution systems not for live loudspeakers like living voice.

    I know between dry sounding DACs the dCS sound is more open than many other DACs but it will not shine in dynamic systems.

    if you want to be close to analog the digital as its best is combination of CEC TL0-X Transport with Bit-Perfect R-2R Kondo/Audionote UK/CEC DACs with a really good AC Regenarator and good SPDIF Cable .

    but even at those level properly setup Analog is better . 

    quality of media records is also different ,many CD records are not good in comparison by old LP records.

    long story short :

    we should judge audio equipments in a system that do not mask micro information of records.

    dCS is perfect if the loudspeaker/amplifier mask the micro information but dCS is not good if Loudspeaker/Amplifier reveal the micro information.

     

    Amir

     

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites



    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now

  • Superphonica
×