Help on upgrade route - Scarlatti to?

I would love to hear thoughts on possible upgrade routes - objective being ‘best bang for buck’!

The current system is a mishmash of units - Scarlatti Dac, Vivaldi upsampler plus, and Rossini clock. I’ve owned dCS since the early noughties, Elgar v 1 then v2 then upsampler then adding Verdi, Paganini upsampler - u- clock, before getting the Vivaldi upsampler just before Ab Snds took on distribution.

The current situation is at least stable - before, all manner of issues surfaced because of the intergenerational nature of the system. It is stable because I accept the compromise of upsampling to a 44.1 multiple, the Rossini clock 44 and 48 outs serve the upsampler, whilst the remaining single fixed out feeds the dac meaning a 48 file is upsampled in my case to 352.8 or DSD.

This seemed fine as in the past I had very few 48 files - but now my main new music source is Qobuz and I reckon the division in my library is more toward at least a third at 48. Added to this - Pete (PAR) set the worm off in my head with a recent comment on the compromised upsampling regime.

So options given the ‘best bang for buck’ objective. There are of course obvious options - but cost might extend into the tens of k and maybe a much much lower k option might yield best value?

I see two main paths basically pre and post Apex and muse as follows- please forgive any brashness in my statements or beliefs - they are not meant to offend if you have invested in what I consider to be a marginal upgrade - I don’t mind admitting I’m not the most discerning listener: two years back I had the privilege of borrowing a 3 box Vivaldi (pre re-mapping upgrade) and my acid test is always not how wowed I am on initial listening - rather how dismayed I am when plugging my kit back in. I was not dismayed.

Here is my thinking, and to give some perspective let me put a £10k budget limit just to really constrain it - any of my current boxes can be traded of course. In true thought experiment style, let’s assume this is an end game move with no further cost additions possible. Note given the constraints I think the Vivaldi dac options are not an option.

Option 1. Pre apex Bartok. Can’t see it myself - the advantages of the remapping software might yield some improvement but I loose the discrete power supplies of the Scarlatti. If I drop my upsampler I may be cash positive, and get to keep the clock which solves all upsampling issues, but lose the performance advantage of keeping the network card in a separate box.

Option 2. Pre apex Rossini. I’ve heard via others that the unit prior to the mapping upgrade might be equal to Scarlatti, another felt not - I’m assuming it must be better post mapping. Again the main benefit would be low cost especially if I drop the upsampler. Another route would be to use the upsampler and trade the clock instead, I feel this would be beyond budget.

Invest in Post Apex DAC units and accept there will be little second hand potential

Option 3. apex Bartok - main question would be which would bring better performance - keep the clock or upsampler?

Option 5. apex Rossini. The only way this is realistic is to trade the upsampler. This is probably the most obvious route, however whilst I like the clock design I’m no lover of the dac aesthetic, minor issue I know, so the ‘bang for buck’ valuation may overcome this.

Option 6. Get out of dCS. It would be a sad day but, it might be time to accept that economic constraints and performance potential is better met elsewhere.

I long ramble and I be grateful for any comments on even single options here as it feels like a minefield of possible routes and value consequences.

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I am afraid that his is very difficult to answer in the way you anticipate.

Yes all of the ways you mention are feasible. However are they going to be right for you? I don’t know.

When buying or upgrading you need to first establish what you really need. Otherwise you just have a list of possibilities which without further information are of equal value.

The only clear specification is a 10k budget limit which is not going to achieve too much of an upgrade at new prices especially if you stay with dCS. Used prices and availability vary - I don’t even know which country you are which is a major factor.

I think you need to work out what you need first. For example do you want access to streaming services? If so , which one or ones? what formats need handling and which may just be nice to have but not essential? How much space have you to house the result - a 4 box Vivaldi Apex takes up a lot of room :grinning:? What type of music do you like? Do you need upsampling and , if so, why?How about the required interface with your amplification? Is the latter appropriate for the upgrade you envisage, likewise the speakers. Would the money be better spent there instead? etc. etc.

I could go on but to keep things brief just start from listing your needs . Don’t get distracted by theoretical considerations as theory does not always translate into good practical execution and, in any case, all audio equipment is a compromise in practice .Without knowing want you need ( rather than what is available) you won’t be in a position to choose the appropriate compromises. And remember, not upgrading is also an option.


Well looking at it, and keeping the dCS, there is only really a few options.

I would i think looking at what you have, sell the vivaldi upsampler and Scarlatti dac, and go get a rossini dac, and if you can stretch to an apex version, then even better.

This then will work fantastically with your clock, you will also get streaming and upsampling.
Will all work together.
Will look fantastic.
Plus maybe with the sale off the vivaldi upsampler, and the dac, plus add in your £10k budget, you should be fine on a secondhand or x demo maybe rossini dac.

Or if you can find a secondhand vivaldi for sale, this obviously will be non apex at this budget. Then sell the rossini clock and your dac.
But i feel this will push your budget much higher.

Obviously you have the Bartok, but i think you have the funds to go rossini if you shop carefully.

Cheers dunc


Martin I have just upgraded from a Scarlatti dac, fed by DCS NWB to Rockna Wavelight pre/dac. I have a Mutec ref 10 se120 clocking a Mutec mc3+ which in turn provides a single clock into the nwb. The nwb aes output is also reclocked by the mc3 and feeds the dac. This clocking arrangement IMO is far more flexible and future proof than any dcs clock, and is certainly more cost effective especially in needing only 2 clock cables total. I have been a dcs user for over 20 years starting with Elgar and Purcell. For my system etc, the Wavelight gives a far more musical and natural in-depth sound than the Scarlatti. I have never heard or tried any other dcs dac as an upgrade simply because of the cost and potential system cost if you go for a whole stack. Thus you need to consider how much you think it’s worth spending, and keep spending, to fulfil your dream. I have also invested in mains conditioning and cables from Coherent Systems which made a more significant difference to the dac change. My experience has been that mains then clocking is more important to get right and invest in than going for new “boxes”. I tried an Aurender n20 in place of the nwb, having done all the other changes, and although there was a difference, I’m still very happy with the nwb for now. I would recommend you try the Mutec kit, there are several others on this forum who use it, and re locking the data stream, to me, is the biggest benefit of this set-up. Good luck :wink:


Thanks for your thoughts Dunc, yes the Rossini route hits the objectives of clocking correctly my growing library of 48 ks/s and as you note, the budget is enhanced considerably by the 3 assets I currently own when taken as a whole.

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Simon thanks - really pleased to read about your findings - I will investigate further.

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Martin, just my 2cents on this…

You could jump out of dCS, but I suspect you’ll never be truly happy if you do :laughing:

You could hold out for a Vivaldi DAC. Having moved from a Scarlatti stack to the Vivaldi stack myself, I know first hand how good of a jump up in sound quality it is. But then you’d need to upgrade your Clock as well. Which, all in, would likely put you way over your budget.

In which case, I’d agree with Duncan, the only logical path forward would be Option 2 or 5, meaning the Rossini. And I wouldn’t wait, I’d go do it now. Opportunity costs.


Thanks for your thoughts Pete.

Anupc, I think you may well be right on both counts. I find it compelling to hold out for a Vivaldi, they are few and far between in the second hand ‘ non grey import market, but occasionally one pops up in the UK. I’d have to keep the upsampler and sacrifice the clock I think.

In the meantime I’ll try to borrow a unit to do some listening with my own setup.

You dont see my vivaldi dacs secondhand at all for sale, i was lucky to get mine x demo, plus it had just been apex’ed.

But i had the rossini player and clock, i now have the vivaldi and upsampler.
Secondhand prices for the clock on trade in are £5000 max in uk, don’t know what your dac would fetch, probably not much these days, so going this way is going to leave you very short on the money front against a vivaldi dac, even secondhand.

The rossini is really the only right way forward for you, plus it gives you more money as the upsampler will fetch twice as much or more, than the rossini clock. Plus you could probably just about buy new with the budget or x demo, so more off a chance then finding one secondhand.

Plus as said it will all match, work together, plus be fantastic upgrade on what you have now.
As the apex upgrade you will also get in your budget with the rossini, will also see you sorted for many years to come.

So you can just sit back and enjoy the music, rather than worry about what the next upgrade might bring

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As many mentioned here, Rossini is probably will give u most value for money right now.

I got my Rossini Apex Dac with Rossini Transport around 10 months back. I am still awe stuck with the performance. I am very sure Vivaldi apex even much better. But what u get in Rossini Apex itself may be more than what one can ask for many years to come.


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Dunc I think you will be right on what is achievable unless I wait quite a while. Scarlatti dacs typically get advertised for £6k, but I imagine they actually fetch less - must say it’s still an amazing piece of kit for that money. Pleased to hear you got lucky with your Vivaldi, there’s one bricks and mortar outfit offering ex dem on the V, no price advertised though

Sourav, it’s great to hear that the initial euphoric response is still going strong ten months on!

Just giving my two cents as well. I would either:

(a) sell Vivaldi Upsampler and Scarlatti DAC, and buy Rossini DAC; or

(b) sell Scarlatti DAC and Rossini clock and buy Vivaldi DAC;

If there is a funding gap I would look for more things to sell to achieve (a) or (b). For example, do you use a pre-amp? dCS almost always demos their gear direct (including at the factory listening room). Do you have any high end cables that might be “downgraded” to a better price/performance combination, etc.

If you have Vivaldi DAC and Vivaldi Upsampler, even w/o Apex and even without a clock, that is a very serious front end.


It’s a great point and yes the Vivaldi / upsampler combo appeals and would yield a valuable power cord and a clock cable pair I believe. I’m pretty sure my pre amp will stay though - both it and the power amp are configurable for gain and at 2V from the dCS my power amp runs at +12dB gain ensuring the best possible SNR, the pre is set at +4dB and the top end of its volume control - which is beyond the Dac’s 2V max - gets occasionally exercised on movies or very quiet recordings - playing Dire Straits Telegraph Road yesterday had me at 25 of 31 on the volume where normal is 12 - I could easily have gone to 31 (we listen around 78 - 82dB at seat mostly). I do understand that I might achieve the same via the ‘Vivaldi output voltage though and the only other reason I have is the pre also drives a subwoofer via its unbalanced output and I’d not want to be switching voltage up to that.

Nowerdays the Vivaldi upsampler performs the switching functions of a pre amplifier in my digital system and the analog pre amp is just largely a volume control. Given it houses noisy stuff like the network card I’m really reticent to give it up, is the upsampler the least appreciated piece of kit in the digital system sometimes I think so yet I think it might just be the most critical part.

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There may be another option, call it 6a, especially if your budget is in the $10k area. Why not try a different brand to compare to your current setup. I used to own a Lumin S1 and was always impressed with the sound quality and world-class support Peter Lie provides. Their current flagship X1 DAC/Streamer has always received positive reviews. There’s a mint condition X1 currently on Audiomart asking $8,150, so $7,500 will likely be accepted.

Assuming you don’t want to use Roon, the native Lumin app is superior to the native Mosaic app that dCS provides. In addition to the Ethernet connection, the X1 offers a fiber connection which many claim raises the SQ up another notch. If you don’t like what you hear, sell it and likely only lose $500 - $1,000. My guess is you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the SQ & operation. You didn’t mention if you currently use or plan to use a pre-amp. In my experience with the Lumin S1 and dCS Rossini, both benefit from a high-end pre-amp but that’s a completely different topic with lots of opinions about it on this site.

As a current Rossini Apex owner, IMO the Rossini Clock doesn’t do a whole lot and I doubt I’d pass a blindfold test being able to tell if the clock is on or off.

I know I’m gonna hear about this last statement from Pete and Greg - lol. Perhaps it’s my ears going south which we’ll all fall victim to over time.

Good luck and enjoy your musical journey,

I’d argue it’s what you hear that counts - if you can’t hear a difference, it would seem futile paying to hear no difference :slight_smile:

I would add that, in my experience, the Rossini clock doesn’t change the sound of the instruments and vocals as such, but allows you to hear more of the tiny echos in the recording venue that form part of the imaging. I also suspect how much you hear of this might be system and room dependent.

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Brian, Thanks for the pointers - it’s looking like the dCS route is not really going to work out for me - shame after near 2 decades but I’ll look into the Lumin.

I agree on the clock though - about 40% of our listening is toslink fed audio video that isn’t clocked - I’m never really thinking about that when we are enjoying it.

Jeremy- I couldn’t agree more. My main focus of the last 5 years has been room acoustic mods.

For me the Rossini Clock gets into the area of diminishing returns. The Rossini Clock once outfitted with suitable power and clock cables costs considerably more than an Apex upgrade. I’ve seen countless debates about the SQ improvement the Rossini Clock makes. Your description that ‘it doesn’t change the sound of the instruments but rather allows us to hear more of the tiny echoes in the recording venue that form part of the imaging’ is as good as any description I’ve seen.

I will admit that in a prior post about the Clock, Greg @PaleRider pointed us to a Bill Evans recording where I was able to detect a bit more clarity in the drummers use of brushes on his kit. However this kind of suggested listening always makes me wonder if I’ve fallen victim to my own placebo effect.

I agree with you 100% when you say it’s what you hear that counts’.