I have a feeling that, for many, the Bartók Apex upgrade is difficult to justify* given what they would have paid for their original Bartók.
I’m going to guess, at least not without lots of glowing reviews that say it makes financial sense to do so, many will either remain with their standard Bartók or upgrade to the Rossini (Apex or non-Apex).
*I wanted to add this is not the same as saying you’re not getting your money’s worth as you are getting a Vivaldi part as the heart of the machine!
For what it is worth, when I dropped off my Bartok at my Canadian dealer last week for the Apex upgrade, they noted the demand for APEX was so high that the US technician couldn’t keep up and that our lot of 7 Bartok units was being sent to the Cambridge factory to be updated.
Certainly. Buying at this level will require serious listening. However serious comparative listening is very hard to arrange. HiFi News did review a non-Apex Bartok in an earlier edition but this was before v.2.0. In any case reviewers do not keep a stock of products that they have reviewed. They have them in their hands for what is often a comparatively short period then they are returned. Dealers often do not have both models either as they cannot afford the inventory so the original has therefore been upgraded or sold to fund a new one. Home owners either have no earlier model being first time buyers or can only hear the upgrade after it has been carried out.
Magazine reviews don’t really tell you much other than the product is in existence and that the reviewer ( whose views you need to become very familiar with over time to even get an inkling of whether or not he or she aligns with yours) is positive or not. Further the short time reviewers have to form their opinion may not allow for them to properly understand complex products like the dCS range. Things like the filters and how to choose them often seems a bit beyond them ( this review implies this and is not alone).
What to do? When I had my Vivaldi upgraded to Apex I found the actual user comments here interesting but I had to take a risk in the end. However it was taken knowing that dCS is a highly reliable company whose products I have used for a quarter of a century and whose new models/upgrades have always offered genuine improvements once they were in my system.
Sigh! The usual kind of review (for most magazines, not just HFN): “it sounds great playing my favourite music”. I have heard, briefly, and via unfamiliar headphones, the two versions of Bartok side by side. I correctly identified the Apex version, and it was indeed better by a decent margin. I won’t add anything more, because it was a very short listen. I did think though, that for the money, one ought to be able get better sound elsewhere. A heretical thought, I know.
I think about this a fair amount. To start, I’ve been very satisfied with the three pieces of dCS gear I have owned, including the Rossini. But, the price inflation has been quite rapid.
Some might find this a strange analogy, but I do not: When I worked on Wall Street, I briefly covered Gillette, which dominated the razor market. Gillette had a history of innovation and succeeded in moving its users “up the line,” from the Sensor, to the Mach 3, Mach 3 Turbo, etc. Through this progression shaving became more and more expensive. Eventually, users got fed up, and a new company and model emerged, Dollar Shave Club, which rapidly gained market share, and wiped out billions of Gillette’s value.
I do wonder with the combination of AI and processing/filtering software, if we will soon face a moment like this in the DAC space…
There is only so much true innovation possible for an item like a razor compared to a DAC, but as an analogy I think this works for a segment of Bartok owners who due to Apex pricing structure look elsewhere. It opens the door, so to speak. Only dCS knows if this was the right move or not