CD transport options for Bartok

Im looking for a suitable CD transport for my new Bartok. During the Bartok’s initial audition, three things became abundantly clear to me…

  1. The Bartok killed my desire to listen to quality vinyl playback (credit to DCS and yes I was a serious vinyl listener - TT is now sold).
  2. My cheap Cambridge Audio Azur 350C CD player used as a transport sounded incredibly good through the Bartok (to my surprise) and to my ears overall, sounded a better than most Tidal streams.
  3. How much better would it sound through a dedicated transport with a word clock in sync? (the $$$ cost of a DCS transport is out of my reach).
    So yes, the biggest question being - how important is the clock sync function with alternative transports. Only three choices come to mind from my research - CEC, Esoteric and Aqua. Thoughts on this would be much appreciated.
    Current system: Bartok, Cambridge Cd, Modwright LS36.5DM/KWA150SE, Spendor D9.

You might want to look for a prior generation dCS transport (Paganini and Scarlatti are good candidates) as these are not only excellent transports but are both capable of transmitting DSD to a dCS transport via dual AES. No other transport will be able to do that with one of our products. It’s worth chatting with your dealer about this as there may be some certified pre-owned units available and those typically come with a warranty.

This is really going to come down to how the clocking circuit in the transport is implemented. Some are very good and some most certainly are not.


I’m a Bartok owner and new to the brand. Many of the Paganini players on the used market have been or are coupled to or available together with that matching clock or the Puccini clock.
If ones future aim is have this player and the Bartok together connected by a master clock, what should be considered in choosing a Paganini or Puccini clock or a Rossini clock to complete the system, besides cost ?

As a first step you can use the word clock output on the Bartók to sync with any dCS transport.

If your end goal is to use a master clock then I would strongly recommend the Rossini clock for the convenience that it offers. The older clocks only output one frequency at a time which means that when switching sample rates between those that are multiples of 44.1k and 48k you will need to manually switch the output frequency of the master clock. This can become a hassle when using the network and USB inputs. The Rossini clock has two separate outputs (it’s basically two clocks in the same box) and with those will supply both 44.1k and 48k simultaneously.

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Thank you Andrew that’s helpful information. If I purchase a Paganini can I send it in to dCS for a checkup and if so are there limitations to maintenance beyond cosmetics in terms of functional parts or labor that dCS can perform, especially on the disk drive ?
What is the Certification of used gear and what impact does choosing to buy non certified dCS have on the buyer ? Should one avoid undocumented dCS gear if that is all that’s currently available ? I read the used gear page but it is lite on specifics.
I believe a serial number check has been submitted although it’s not clear to me how this helps and while I wait the unit in question remains on the market.
Thanks, John

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A question please about the UMK5 transport used in the DCS Paganini.

Is this the same thing as Esoteric’s VRDS-NEO VMK5?

And how does the Paganini transport compare to say the Vivaldi which I would assume is a higher performing CD transport?



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Yes the Paganini’s UMK5 mechanism is from Esoteric. It is slightly different though in detail from other UMK5s used in Esoteric’s own transports or from other manufacturers , for example having a metal loading tray. Of course the electronics in the complete dCS transport are entirely different. The UMK-5 and the NEO VMK-5 are not the same .

The difference between the Paganini and Vivaldi transport is substantial not only in mechanism ( which is a VRDS NEO in the latter) but the Vivaldi also has a later generation of electronics and coding plus a significantly more substantial chassis ( not that the Paganini is exactly lightweight).

The sonic difference between the two is not slight and I would advise anyone who cannot afford the Vivaldi not to compare the two in an audition :grinning:

BTW, if your reference to the discontinued Paganini means that you are considering the used market for both please be warned that the transport mechanism used in the Vivaldi is/was incredibly costly ( dCS have a stock) and I would expect any repair or service bills to reflect that.

I would also consider the pairing of a Vivaldi transport with a Bartok a qualitative mismatch. The Paganini is more reasonable.


I wish there was some sort of universal protocol for clock sync for high end transports… I have Mcintosh MCD600 SACD on order and considering my options as well… because at $7500 US, it’s unable to work with my Rossini Clock… And the dCS options are limited and expensive…

I’ve heard of people using their clock (against dCS recommendations) while connected via SPDIF but the owners manual explicitly states that the SPDIF output should set to Audio and not Word Clock when using a non-dCS transport.

Thanks, Pete, your comments are very helpful. You are right. I am thinking potentially about the used market but not really a used Vivaldi. I was trying to decide whether I should prefer a P-05 Esoteric which I believe has the VRDS-Neo Mk5, or a Paganini which I guess has the UMK5 (different as you clarified from the VRDS-Neo Mk5). I wonder if you have any observations about Esoteric? In any case, many thanks.

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Well this is the dCS Community forum so I will only say that Esoteric make good, well engineered products.

If you are just after a decent transport then Esoteric are a good brand to consider. dCS really make digital systems and a lot of the advantages of the individual components are lost when not used with the partnering equipment that they were intended for. In some cases when used with other brands you cannot even connect them optimally! For example you will be unable to use a dCS transport for playing SACDs unless your DAC has dual AES/EBU inputs or perhaps ( if it’s an older transport) IEEE1394 inputs.

If I knew what you intended to pair the dCS or other transport with then that may (or may not :grinning:) help provide a less generalised answer.

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Hi Guys, when I bought my fabulous Bartok a year ago, I also wanted a decent (clock sync-able) transport but didn’t have the $$ for a DCS transport and wasn’t interested in a used option such as a Paganini. After doing some research I found Esoteric were the only brand (in my area) that offered suitable clock syncing for the Bartok. Here’s what happened…

  1. I auditioned an Esoteric K-05x SACD player to be used as a transport for the Bartok. I went for the player over a dedicated Esoteric transport because it offered me the extra option of SACD if played as a stand alone unit.

  2. I auditioned via SPDIF with and without clock syncing and found while the sound was really good without, it definitely improved when synced (most notably around bass as it sounded and felt quicker and more real). Clock syncing was done in Master mode whilst non syncing was Audio mode.

  3. The unexpected… I tried the player as a standalone, and to my ears discovered it was every bit as good as the clock synced Bartok/player combination! This was a real surprise (and relief) as I could now use it as a standalone without the hassle of needing an extra lead for clocking and as mentioned before the added bonus of SACD.

  4. The cream on the cake… When I decided to purchase the Esoteric K-05xs (upgrade to the auditioned K-05x) as it would obviously improve things further, a demo K-03xs for similar $$ was offered from another dealer which I immediately grabbed!!
    I couldn’t be happier as I now have fabulous sounding CD for less than half the cost of a DCS transport and the brilliant Bartok is being used just as often for streaming Tidal (also plan to use with a server down the track).


Pete, your point about DCS’ systems approach does make sense. I would probably prefer the DCS Paganini transport for those and other reasons when I am actually ready to get myself a transport. It’s early in the game for me with my Bartok, which is an absolutely stunning DAC. I suppose eventually I may look for a clock and transport. I was just wondering as I looked at this thread how much flexibility I have with choice of transport etc. The Esoteric D-05 idea came up for me when I saw a used listing. FWIW the D-05 does have dual AES that I assume would work with the Bartok, but again perhaps a DCS clock would work better if all the digital components in the system were DCS made. I just read 992Sam’s comment above about clock syncing which would also be relevant to my decision. And that too is in line with your comments about DCS’ system approach. Thanks for the helpful insights.

Hasan, did you actually mean the Esoteric P-05 Transport (the D-05 is a DAC) - the P-05 has a Word-clock input, so it’ll work perfectly synced with your Bartok for Redbook discs.

If you don’t have a Rossini clock with your Bartok, then set the Bartok Sync Mode to “Master Mode” and connect the Bartok’s Word-Clock Out into the P-05’s Word-Sync in.

If you’re using Rossini clock, then Output 3 (default 44.1kHz) Word clock output would connect to the P-05’s Word Sync input.

The Word-Clock interface is the “universal protocol” for synchronizing components. It’s been around for decades. :wink:

Thank you Anup. That is very helpful. Yes I did in fact mean the P-05. I don’t have a clock yet, never have, only heard about it. Before the Bartok I had been using the DCS Network Bridge with a Pass Labs D1 DAC. I will think about a clock for some time in future, so you got that part right too. Sounds like the Rossini clock might be the one to shoot for.
But are you saying that the P-05 will only work with Bartok for redbook and not SACD? I do have a few SACDs.

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That’s correct unfortunately. :laughing:

The P-05 uses an i.LINK interface (IEEE 1394) for SACD DSD stream transport to a DAC. Since the Bartok does not have such a FireWire interface (nor the requisite DTCP support I believe), you won’t be able to listen to SACDs natively via the P-05-to-Bartok, only Redbook via the AES/XLR interfaces (dual-AES should work if you’re upsampling Redbook on the P-05).

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Thanks Anup. That is very good to know. I will stick with computer audio for now, enjoy my Bartok and perhaps dream/drool about a Rossini for the future! I am using a Roon Nucleus to stream to the Bartok with some isolation of noise provided by a pair of TP-link fiber-optic converters just before the Bartok.

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Very interesting information. I will follow the Esoteric P-05 on the second hand market.

Wouldn’t you rather pick up a dCS transport instead on 2nd hand market? :wink:

That will also require some expertise to match with Bartok. Verdi La Scala uses an IEEE 1394 interface for DSD. Paganini and Scarlatti the same except for those with the final firmware ( v.1.11) where Vivaldi Mode enables the use of dual AES for DSD. The only obvious trouble free matching transport to Bartok is Rossini Transport but the economics make that choice difficult. There are probably zero Rossini Transports available on the used market at this point anyway. Plus good ones when they emerge will be very costly.

The other matter that has to be borne in mind is that most used Verdi, Paganini, Scarlatti and Vivaldi transports will have had a lot of use. OPUs and the gearing mechanism that switches redbook to SACD are likely to fail eventually and the cost of replacement should also be borne in mind. In respect of Scarlatti and Vivaldi the VRDS Neo mechanism makes me anticipate costly repair bills.

Yeah, it was mostly a tongue-in-cheek response :wink:. (Mind you’ve [I’ve] been keeping an eye out for a 2nd-hand Rossini Transport to pair with my Bartok in the Study).