Advice from you all

Hi all

I have just signed up to the forum seeking advice.
I am 34 extremely into listening to music and have been since my dad got me a basic NAD system for my 16th birthday.
Over the past 5 years I have built up a nice system that I have worked very hard for consisting of a full Naim classics separates system. Obviously this is not at the level of DCS but this is what leads me on to my question to you all.
I have a very young family so my listening time is generally of an evening once the children have gone to bed. Listening levels are therefore low also and my wife who likes music isn’t one unfortunately to want to sit and immerse like myself. Due to these factors I have thought about trading in my existing Naim system for a DCS Bartok and some nice headphones like Utopias for example.
I know DCS state that the life of the product will be upgradable over time but I worry that I will invest in a system that in a number of years time will be obsolete and not usable. Is this something I needn’t worry about?

Thanks all


Popeye :grinning::+1:t2:

I purchased a Bartok HDAC a couple months ago, also for headphone use. I had no qualms doing so, as it is not going to magically stop working when whatever the next gen dCS gear is gets released. And dCS has a track record for supporting their products. So I easily expect the Bartok to still serve me a decade from now.

(FWIW, I use Roon for 99% of my music playback, and the dCS network board is a very good Roon Ready implementation. This isolates me from dCS needing to update Mosaic if streaming services come or go in the future.)

Thanks. Yes I am also a life time member of Roon and use it solely with Qobuz.

This quite a hard question as I sense that the purchase of a Bartok+headphone amp may be a stretch for you ( it would for me).

First point is that the Bartok is a recent dCS product, dCS have a reputation for long product lives and the technical structure of dCS products means that during their production life software updates can and are applied without cost to the owner. When the time may come to move onwards to the next generation of products dCS are unusually supportive of their customers ( why I have been with them for over 20 years).

So hopefully having dealt with your future security, should you do it? Given your circumstances it sounds like you will need closed back headphones which for audiophile use are less abundant then open types. There are limited choices and I have to say having heard Focus Utopias via a number of both SS and tube amplifiers I hated them! In any case given your description of your circumstances you need Stellias. However a good friend who owns both Stellias and Utopias says that although the Bartok sounds incredible with both of them he is adamant that one should not use the supplied Focus cables which he says do not allow for their ultimate performance ( I am being polite about this). He is, bluntly, not alone in this opinion. The aftermarket cables that he uses add another $1700 to the bill.

In these covid times auditioning is either difficult or impossible. In normal circumstances I would advise you getting to hear every 'phone/amplifier combination that interests you. Otherwise launching, what may be , circa $20K on what you haven’t heard by relying upon stranger’s opinions seems less than prudent. Can you put it off for a year or so until ( hopefully) things become a bit more normal? Or can you arrange home auditions ?


Difficult decisions, and as Pete notes, difficult times making auditions. Still, as a guy who loves his headphone systems, and his speaker system, I want to encourage you to move forward.

The Bartok is an excellent system. It is of recent vintage, and you can probably look forward to many years of dCS upgrade and support. If I was forced to have only one system to meet all my audio desires, it would probably be a Bartok. I love my MSB Select II and my Vivaldi. But they are not very flexible. The Bartok does so much with the dCS trademark musicality.

FWIW, I would not choose Utopias as my only headphone. I own Utopia. They are quite nice. But for only one headphone, with only one non-electrostatic headphone amp, I would probably own ZMF (closed), maybe the MySphere 3.2 (open), which I also own. Just my $.02.

+1 to the comments from the rest.

Just to add, it’s not just dCS’ product longevity in terms of durability and continued support from dCS. In terms of sound quality and features, historically dCS have remained very competitive for a decade or more, and so holds it’s value incredible well.

Pick-up any 20 year old dCS product and it’ll still be competitive against current crop of top-of-the-line machines. About 3 years ago I picked up the legendary and now nearly 20-year old, dCS 974 DDC - It does things with PCM and DSD that no current consumer device can do, even today. :exploding_head:

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Adding my two cents and being a bit of an outlier and devils advocate.

I am familiar with your system as I am a 20+ year Naim user and run a full Naim 552/500 fronted by Linn sources - Klimax DS and LP12. I bought a Bartok for a headphone only system in my bedroom and spent significant time comparing it to my Linn Klimax DS/HeadAmp GSX Mini amplifier with Utopia Headphones.

The Bartok is an extremely impressive source - enough for me to return it and upgrade to a Rossini and Master Clock (which ultimately replaced the Linn in my two channel Naim 500 system).

While I feel that dCS did an amazing job with their first attempt at a headphone amplifier I still believe that my HeadAmp GSX Mini ($1700) offers better performance. I think you can safely buy a Bartok HA and be perfectly happy OR you can consider a Bartok without the internal headphone amp and consider using an external third party headphone amplifier for even better performance.

In this scenario the Bartok, as a DAC/Streamer only, is a giant killer for at $15k it comes oh so close to equaling the performance of a $24k Linn KDS.

Your mileage may vary.


PS - another TOTL closed back headphone to consider (if you can still find it) is the Sony Signature Series Z1R

Thanks all.

If I do go down this route it would be an exchange and shouldn’t need any further financial input. I am in the UK so auditioning is not a problem for the moment but could change at any point.
At the moment I am just doing all my research. I suppose the main concern for me is having all my eggs in one basket (one bartok box :wink:).
It’s the digital technology in anything that changes at a rate of knots. Amp/pre amp technology not so much.
I don’t know necessarily I would need closed back headphones, so long as they aren’t so openly loud that they would wake sleep children upstairs in their bedrooms.
All food for thought, thanks all


Starting my morning off with a twinge of envy and a trip back in the time machine. :wink:

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Fair point. I have a closed back version of the ZMF Verité, just for occasional quiet times. It’s a superb all-around can, as is their open-back variety. Not as ultra-detailed as my electrostatic or ribbons, but very pleasing and engaging. Easier. longer listening session wearing that the Utopias, Senns, or Audeze. All my other cans are open back or open earfield.

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I went through the same thought process that you are going through. We downsized into a condo and I no longer had a listening room for my MBL speaker system. I ended up getting a dCS Bartok (with HP amp). I use it with Focal Utopia, Focal Stellia and ZMF Verite Closed, each for a different listening purpose. I would echo the need to upgrade the cable on the Focal Utopia - I have found the Transparent Ultra to be an excellent match. I would say that my listening has transitioned from primarily SACD source, to FLAC files to now 95% streaming from Tidal and Qobuz. The Bartok + Utopia is an excellent combination for this.

Before making the purchase of the Bartok, I was able to get a 2 week at-home demo of the unit. That sealed the deal for me, to use it in the exact listening environment. I had heard about the introduction of the Bartok months earlier and delayed the acquisition until it was available. Many companies produce new models each year, making the earlier model obsolete. dCS is not one of them. I am sure that the Bartok is designed to be digitally upgradeable for quite a while, before it is superseded. So I made the investment in the Bartok for the technical performance as well as the longevity of the model. I am very satisfied with my decision.