dCS for headphone users

Hello everyone, a proud new Bartok owner here.

I know this has been discussed to death already, but wondering what are other dCS headphone users planning to do long term. I have been swapping DACs and AMPs for a couple of years now, kinda tried every Chord DAC, always struggled with FOMO about what AMP to pair it with, stuff like that.

Now with Bartok being a nice all-in-one, I started thinking what could be my upgrade in the future (not necessarily now). Should I go back to the business of trying to find a good headphone amp (like Woo Audio WA33, Riviera AIC 10, Luxman, Formula, Bakoon, etc), or should I stay with Bartok until Rosini adds a headphone amp?

I know I could get to the next level of fidelity by adding Rosini clock to my Bartok, and I know I can get even better results by Rosini DAC + Clock + TOTL amp, but I am just in love with having all-in-one box, that (believe it or not) I actually carry around the house with me (I listen in different rooms all the time, that’s why I am a headphone, not spearker user).

For those wondering, my headphones of choice are Abyss AB-1266 TC, which are quite power hungry (not as much as Susvara nor SR1a of course). But not having to worry about an amp (cables and all the FOMO that comes with it), just makes me so happy.

I was surprised how good Bartok sounds with AB-1266, I really thought the amp would be too weak, but I do not lack over V281 or TT2 at all, which both were more powerful.

So, what is your plan long term? Did you go with a separate amp and therefore it made sense for you to upgrade to Rosini DAC who does not have headphone amp, or did you add Rosini clock to your Bartok, waiting until Rosini 2 adds a headphone amp?

Looking forward to your input, thanks!

Wow: 16.7kg / 36.8lbs.

Great to hear that you are enjoying your Bartok.

There is, however, no sensible answer to your question. Rossini is a mature product and the addition of a major hardware change is most unlikely. By the time the replacement for Rossini comes along in some years time your Abyss AB-1266 TC or Susvara or SR1a may well be considered old hat and will likely either have been replaced in the hierarchy of cans by their own successors or by newcomers from as yet unheard of manufacturers.

You cannot predict what will happen. dCS may well not add a headphone amp to any future products. They may equally add one to all future products. Nobody knows (probably not even dCS right now). If you want to improve upon what you have now then you can only resort to what is available now.

Hey, if you are loving what you have right now and it is new then why on earth are you thinking about replacing it already? Especially with things that don’t yet exist.

And with a very long mains lead?

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Haha, since you can plug your own cable to the back of the unit I have 4 cables right now ready in every room that I use Bartok in. The same for ethernet cable that goes into it.

I have a major case of FOMO (clinically diagnosed, affects everytging in my life, not only audio). The trick is to limit myself on intake (for me it is all-in-one so that I have very limited options) and knowing what the future plan is, so that I stick to the plan.

As anyone else, I am after a better sound, but need to work with the psychology of my brain, to play to its strengths and manage it’s weaknesses. That’s why I have reached out, to consult dCS elders, haha.

This is a very good point. Bartok may not be as successful as they wanted (I doubt but I don’t see sales data), or better received than the expected, warranting more all in ones (Vivaldi one one).

It may help if I give you a little idea about how dCS normally works.

They are a small company with a world wide following. Their products are normally made to order so they do not carry an inventory of finished items. So think of certain super car manufacturers - it’s kind of like that. So a lead time from receipt of order of up to 3 months is not unusual.

One result is that there must be limits to production capacity with a corollary that refreshing the whole or large parts of their range of products is not done simultaneously. Hence products are designed for a long production life and refreshing the range happens over a cycle of time. Due to the way dCS designs products upgrades to products in the field can take place. Hence the extended period of production of a given model may not result in it becoming outdated.

So far their mode of introducing new models is to create a flagship model then over the coming years to replace or introduce models lower in the hierarchy of products one by one.These will incorporate as much of the technology of the flagship as is possible at their price point. The whole cycle may roll over several years which makes prediction of future products difficult, not only to when it will be but also to what it will be as over this extended time both technology and demand will alter.

We are approximately now at a point where some are guessing that a replacement for the current flagship , Vivaldi, is likely. Exactly when this may be is, however, uncertain. It isn’t like my TV set where I know that every year the manufacturer will announce the new year’s models in April and they will hit the shops in June.

So expect a replacement for Vivaldi first as not only is it the flagship but it has now been in production the longest. Then presumably a replacement for Rossini a year or two later, subsequently Bartok some years after that . Of course there is also the wild card of some new and completely unanticipated model.

My advice therefore is not to try to plan for the future too precisely. You could, of course, simply put money away against the fact that something new will come along eventually. You can plan short term with clearer facts but only with regard to existing products.

I would think that Bartok has been very successful judging from the amount of traffic relating to it that has been generated here since its introduction. I would expect it to remain in production for a number of coming years . That is only a guess informed by dCS’ past behaviour.

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Thank you for sharing all the info, I really appreciate that. I do understand that it is nor possible to predict the future on past behaviour (else I would be much more financially successful), but it is good to know that they operate on this trickle down principle.

Was Bartok a surprise to you all? Were you instead expecting a refresh to Vivaldi? Could a new product be Bartok clock? Or instead a separate headphone amplifier? Only the time will tell, I know.

Not a surprise as at the time we were anticipating a replacement for the old entry level DAC, Debussy, which by then had been in production for the longest time ( approx. 2011-2019) and therefore was in its due position in the cycle of product refreshment . Bartok is effectively that replacement , albeit with the addition of network streaming . The addition of the headphone option was novel however and therefore that feature was indeed a surprise.

Bartok clock? Debussy did not have a separate clock so on that basis I would not anticipate one for Bartok . There was a separate clock for a product line called Puccini which sat above Debussy but below Paganini ( closest equivalent now is Rossini which has some conceptual elements of both Puccini and Paganini - all in one box for the former and next to the flagship for the latter). That was called the U Clock and some Debussy users added it . However as Puccini no longer has an equivalent the nearest for a system clock now is Rossini Clock. Could dCS make a significantly cheaper version?

Quite a few have asked for that. However is a purely analogue product ( dCS headphone amp + DAC already exists of course) somehow outside of dCS’ business ethos ( it is after all Data Conversion Systems) ?

I am very happy that they did. Else I would have not bought into dCS. Now that I heard Bartok, I just want more refinement of the same. That’s perhaps why I am after an all-in-one device, so that someone who understands the domain optimises end to end for me, rather than me having FOMO when reading articles/forums and wanting to swap components left and right.

Please don’t take the following in an adversarial tone, Flying.

If you are sincere about having a medically-diagnosed disorder affecting your life, what in the world are you doing on forums, be it these or others, audio or not, where there will always be a better “something” than what you already have? I would think such triggering places would be the last you’d want to be exposed to.

Paradoxically, focusing on what you might miss out on will make you miss out on the only matter that’s finite, and, ultimately, important: your time.

According to my therapist it is all about having a balanced relationship to your hobbies. Take for example a person with an eating disorder - the advice is not as simple as “avoid food”, one has to eat. It is very different from alcohol, where you could advise the person to stop drinking. Of course, this is oversimplification on methods used to deal with such addictions.

Unfortunately, I have another disability, this time called misophonia. I sleep, work, travel, talk to people, always wearing headphones. Unless I am showering, I am wearing some sort of headphones, there is no way around it. It has become my life, and that’s why I am closed to the bucket of “need it as much as food” as opposed to “a nice cold alcoholic beverage I happen to be addicted to”.

So in short, I do need headphones, but yes, I don’t need to spent time on online forums. The thing is though that since it is such a big part of my life (like cooking for many), I want to spent time in this hobby, learn from others, enjoy it. Combine that with my other issue, the one you are pointing to (aka FOMO), it brings me back to having a balance. I learned coping mechanisms on how to deal with it, and as long as it is contributing to my happiness (I don’t have much else going on else than music in my life, so that’s that) I am good, the moment it starts getting on the ugly side, my therapist usually notices and helps me get back from the obsession.

I hope this context explains a bit more about what I am struggling with and why I have reached out to other folks on this forum, to help me keep that balance. If mods/admins believe this type of personal information does not belong to this forum, please remove this post.

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I understand, and certainly no need to justify yourself. And once again, please don’t take any of that which I wrote as disrespectful.

Oh no, I did not take it that way at all, actually it felt nice that you took interest in my life.

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My recommendation is XI Audio’s formula S or Benchmark’s HPA4 based on my trials.
This week I’m going to place an order for a black “formula S”.
Unfortunately XI Audio no longer offers silver one.
I’m now using Final’s D8000Pro with Bartok+.

Good luck!!

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How do you find it compared to Bartók’s headphone out? Do you hear any loss in transparency? Does it provide more low end power? Any impressions are welcome!

My trial environment was…

  1. Bartok+ -> RCA -> formula S -> XLR -> D8000pro
  2. Bartok+ -> XLR -> HPA4 -> XLR -> D8000pro

Normally D8000pro is directly connected to Bartok+'s XLR balanced phone out.
It is good enough. But formula S provided me more “dead quiet background” and “expanded sound stage” without any losses in transparency with D8000Pro.
It was the same with D8000Std.
I think HPA4 is improving speaker sound as it is set in between Bartok+ and Pre-AMP.
It is my impressions only. I think others can tell different stories.

Anyway please try them!!

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