Anyone interested in a modular dCS system?

Here is another idea, for a modular dCS system.

  1. Basic system: a separate power supply + a separate system unit, which contains:
  • Ring DAC and buffer
  • digital inputs
  • analogue outputs
  • basic clock
  • basic display
  • volume knob
  • 6 modular bays at the front
  1. Optional modules:

a. network board with own display, 1. with USB and ethernet 2. USB and both standard and optical ethernet, HDMI in/ out
b. upsampler board with own display, 1. basic 2. totl
c. clock upgrade board, 1. basic 2. totl
d. headphones amp, with 2x XLR3, XLR4 and jack/ pentaconn out, with Expanse
e. DSP board with room correction
f. phono board
g. analogue inputs + ADC
h. VU meters board

  1. Additional player:

A. CD only

To start your dCS system, everyone needs 1. and when the time and urge come (and/ or the cash), you can expand and upgrade according to your wishes and need.

Working title: dCS Prokofiev (master of all trades).

I look forward to your comments.

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Its a nice idea to play with. Unfortunately the history of such products would lead me to be cautious both as a consumer or if I were a manufacturer.

Putting aside the simple option of e.g. a preamplifier that comes with a single option of phono board or not, many products I can think of with more ambition in the modular approach seem to have often run into difficulties beyond the announcement stage. The main issue seems to be actually producing the modules. I can recall the Boothroyd- Stuart/Meridian modular amp of the early 1980s where lots of modules with different functions were announced but it is doubtful how many were actually produced. Examples coming on to the used market are collectors items only and are as rare as hen’s teeth.

Similarly and up to date, an audio friend of mine owns a one box product with a “module available for everything” approach ( DAC, streamer, amplifier, phonostage etc). It is around 4 or 5 years old and every time now that he now seeks to add a module as his requirements change the response is “not available”. This product is from one of the largest, if not the largest, audio only manufacturer in the world.

I guess from a manufacturer’s viewpoint there must be difficulty in estimating demand for each module and thus in assigning resources to them. I speculate that one reason the modules from historic examples are rarely found is that insufficient punters in real life wanted them. Its no good if it turns out in practice that only 75 customers want that phono/analogue input/ADC board if you need to sell 500 to break even. So the manufacturer may not even go into production until he gets , say, 200 orders and feels it worth the risk for the rest. We must all be aware of announcements of the “The x board will be available in Q3 next year” type where the board never actually reaches production for one reason or another.

Complex one box (OK three in your example) modular products are always a bit of a hostage to fortune IMO.


If they can get it to a two box solution like MSB I would be very happy. One more box for those who require and CD/SACD player. The number, the cost and the space it takes to cable a Vivaldi set-up “can” be and issue.

Off the top of my head in your list I do not require headphone anything, room correction, phono board, analogue inputs or VU meters.

In the case of dCS, the technique for the optional modules a, b, c and d already is ‘available’, they ‘just’ need to be made modular.

The modular concept would make the upgrade path so much more easy. Also for present Vivaldi stack owners. They do not need to/ cannot upgrade anymore, but when a Vivaldi successor comes…

I own a Bartók and a Rossini clock. I can either upgrade to full Rossini (loosing the headamp), or make the big leap to the Vivaldi successor, which is to what and when?

Well, what’s missing? Cassette player may be ? I would call it dCS Rémy Bricka :joy:
But not sure it would sound good to the dCS marketing department :laughing:

Not a modular system for me either.
I would like to see a Vivaldi UpNP streamer, Roon Ready

  • Without Upsampler
  • 2x Word Clock Inputs
  • 2x AES/EBU XLR output connectors
  • USB Audio output for High-End USB DAC’s

Hey dCS team, here’s a vote for ignoring these fanciful suggestions. :wink: Don’t get me wrong; they’re fun to talk about, like arguing over sports teams from different eras, but don’t let it distract you from whatever you are doing! Stay focused.

Talk the talk, then :wink:

I would like to hear all your substantive comments on a modular approach.

I don’t really have any substantive comments to offer on the concept. I have never been a big fan of the modular approach to product line segmentation. But that’s just my viewpoint. But I am happy to read the talk, while I urge dCS to remain focused. :wink:
P.S. I do hope that whatever comes out of the lab to replace Vivaldi has a 10mHz input for an external reference clock.

Fantastic post, Pete. (Fun idea too, Erno. I can see how this would be perfect for some people.)

I to and fro on how I feel about this sort of thing. Generally I land with wanting a product company to do the work in deciding which of all of the possible combinations they’ll offer, rather than pushing it out to me to decide. I have enough decisions in my life. Let the dCS product managers take some of them on for me. They’re doing a pretty good job so far.

An associated consideration is that add-ons can be a fantastic way to make life not just complex, but more expensive. (On both sides of the wallet — me as well as the manufacturer.) Keeping stock and different configurations tested and available is one thing, so is testing updates to all the different combinations — software can be hard enough already. This all adds up. And it normally shows up on the price list eventually, with a chunky contribution margin for the add-ons, not unlike guacamole on your nachos :slightly_smiling_face:

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Building a modular chassis-based system takes a lot of effort that does not add to the state-of-the-art in sound quality; bulk of the effort would go into getting the various modules to just interconnect properly and be interchangeable. So, thats a hard “no” from me as well :laughing:

Rather than debating form-factor, I think the more interesting question is how might dCS go about improving on sound quality? Considering distortion and noise is already at almost human hearing thresholds (or so we think), are there any avenues left for a leap-frog in sound quality beyond the current Ring DAC? Maybe a Ring DAC 4.0?

Expanse is the kind of innovation that sets dCS apart from so many other wannabes, and after 8 years with the Vivaldi (which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed), it would be fantastic to see dCS set another benchmark for the next decade, organically from Vivaldi or otherwise :wink:

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I have to disagree. MSB’s Reference and Select offerings are state of the art and modular.

Not really. I own a Select II. It is not modular in the way that Erno posited. One can choose to make a Select Super-Uber, but one cannot turn a Reference into a Select.

I was not trying to say that you can upgrade the Reference to Select II rather just stating that they are “both” modular and state of the art.

Granted a modular system offers “custom” flexibility for users, but the added “system cost” of that flexibility has nothing do with sound quality.

Given equal sound quality, I’d venture a guess that most MSB users would rather have a lower price with a fixed configuration, than higher price with flexible configuration.

Just so Anup as to the SQ. Though I can see there might be a class of users willing to pay a premium for future flexibility. Heck, I guess I am in that class, since I have taken advantage of that capability to purchase and/or swap upgraded modules and additional capabilities. Candidly, MSB gets you both ways. :wink: There is no single platform that one can build up into the very top end. There are several different DACs, none inexpensive, but each can be slightly customized with different modules, such as a more precise clock, extra analog outputs, I2S, USB and network inputs, etc. But none can be “upgraded” to be as good as the next model up. And each no doubt costs more than it would were it built/offered as a “closed case.” Still, if one started out with a USB system, and then wanted to add network streaming, I guess it would be good to have the option.

So to Jim’s point, there is something of a “feature/function modularity,” and maybe that’s all people really want. There is an advantage to this approach: when MSB improves or replaces a module, you can swap in the new one and in fact possibly improve one’s SQ. That’s the case with their Pro USB fiber optic module. It’s also true that one can upgrade the clock (though it’s much smarter to just choose the best clock at time of purchase). But one cannot swap the DAC section itself. And while the MSB DACs do receive occasional firmware updates, IMHO their design is nowhere near as amenable to significant upgrades as the FPGA architecture.

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