Looking for Buying Advice - Bartok or Rossini?

Okay, I realize this question will require a subjective answer, nonetheless I am hoping to tap the experiential knowledge of the people who find themselves here in this forum.

I am not a current dCS customer, I am planning to replace my existing (and old) DAC in my primary listening system with a new one from dCS. Unfortunately, there are limited audition opportunities in my area so I am going to purchase one on the basis of the many reviews I’ve read. I am trying to decide between the following:

Bartok w/headphone amp + Rossini Clock
I get the headphone amp., which is not my primary listening mode but it’s nice to have the option when I feel like putting on the cans. I believe the addition of the clock will narrow the gap in performance with the straight Rossini.

Rossini
I believe with this option I would perhaps get better sound but would lose the headphone amp/option. I would also get the latest 2.0 software which is certainly nice but I believe at some point that will be available on the Bartok as well and I’m thinking about this as a long-term play. It would be interesting to compare the Rossini pre-2.0 with the Bartok as a better apples-to-apples comparison to get a sense for how much the different HW platforms (vs SW) contribute to the difference in audio performance.

Anyway, these two options price out about the same so it’s really a question of how much of a gap in sound I would have should I want the headphone amp.

Opinions valued and welcome

I have been a dCS customer for over 20 years. One thing I know is that all dCS products provide increased performance as the ranges elevate.

So you can rely upon a Rossini DAC being audibly better than a Bartok and a Vivaldi being better than a Rossini.

If the headphone amp is nice but incidental ( you say it is not your primary way of listening) then there is absolutely no question that a Rossini should be your purchase if you are able to be in that price bracket. The clock may improve the Bartok but if you can afford the Rossini you will find it superior even without the clock which, in any case, you can add later when you can afford it ( I would).

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For state of the art systems (e.g Wilson Sasha upwards, Focal Utopia EM etc) I would recommend Ros over Bartók. I upgraded from Debussy to Bartok (sans Cans amp) because that’s all I could afford to trade in, as well as having the old Focal Scalas. It’s too high risk to believe 2.0 updates will be delivered for the Bartók and to choose on that basis, or there is official news it will happen. With the clock options, I’m fairly confident that the jump from B+Clk to R+Clk is great enough to start with Ros first.

The more advanced Ring DAC mapping algorithm used in Rossini and Vivaldi 2.0 has a much more significant impact on sound quality than the addition of a master clock. In terms of real performance the Rossini will far exceed that of the Bartók + Master Clock.

As for adding the new mappers to Bartók, this is definitely possible, but we have not even considered a timeline of when we might do that. There is nothing on the near or medium term plan to implement this change and the smartest thing to do is to is to spend what you can afford on the right mix of features and performance that exists now.

If headphones are a secondary listening scenario for you now then you can always add a modest headphone amp to the second set of outputs on a Rossini. Should your listening preferences change then you can always upgrade that amp and still have a digital front-end that’s hard to beat at any price.

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Thanks for your opinion here, but any reason why it’s not being addressed currently? I have read the Bartoks reviews around, and they have been lukewarm, and often compared unfavourably to the Ros- (Audiophile Style Bartók review said it sounded ‘skeletal’ in comparison to it). In the end, I’m enjoying what Mosaic brings to dCS and quite support the idea of it evolving to be something special.

I have probably read every review in English of the Bartok. I have never read one that I can describe as lukewarm although JA2’s in Stereophile could have explored the product more fully IMO.

Austinpop’s review on Audiphile Style was one of the most thorough and well written reviews I have read of anything. He is very enthusiastic about Bartok concluding " The dCS Bartók is one of the most impressive pieces of audio gear I’ve had in my system: ever."

It distorts the review to quote the passage you refer to out of context.

As I indicated earlier in this thread the Rossini is better than the Bartok. One, however, costs considerably more than the other. In turn the Vivaldi is better than the Rossini. However all are superb performers at their price point.

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@PAR Thanks for your take in this, and I would agree with you wrt where dCS place their models at their respective price points. I have read dCS reviews since the Purcell/Elgar/Verona to know those products and successive models stood in a league of their own. Somehow what I get from Sphile and Austinpops Bartók reviews that competitors at very close to dCS’s entry level (Mytek, PSAudio, Chord). At least it is telling that out of the review, Austinpop has moved onto the the Chord DAVE. What I’m meant to convey is what might have been, had a more advance mapping been in place since launch?

Our products are a combination of bespoke hardware and software with the realized performance being roughly equal parts of the two. The value proposition of the Rossini is that it occupies a performance range that’s roughly midway between the Bartók and the Vivaldi. If we were to increase the performance of the Bartók with respect to the Rossini then that value proposition wouldn’t be as strong. The fact of the matter is that in order to bump up the performance of the Bartók there will need to be a commensurate increase in the performance of the Rossini as well.

One thing that I need to stress here is that although software has no “hard” costs in terms of components or assembly time it’s still extremely expensive to develop. You guys would be amazed at the amount of money that was spent in terms of developer pay in order to develop Rossini 2.0, Mosaic, or even the MQA implementation. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of £ and all of that has been delivered to our customers at no additional cost. Although no hardware changed Rossini 2.0 should be thought of as a completely different product than 1.x. The differences in performance are that great.

Bartók is a new product and it will see performance enhancements through software when the timing is appropriate.

This gave me a good chuckle. Thank you for that…

The fact of the matter is that Bartók in its current form is extremely close to Rossini 1.x in terms of measured and subjective performance. Rossini 1.x received absolutely stellar reviews and not one of those could have ever been inferred to be “lukewarm.”

In terms of a comparison of Bartók to Rossini 2.0 (i.e. the Audiophile Style review), while I may not have chosen the words used I would agree with the assessment. Rossini 2.0 has a lot more texture and “meat” when compared to Bartók and it should. It’s considerably more expensive.

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@Andrew,

I am in complete agreement with you, software is far from free and I further agree with you that keeping a price/performance separation between the Bartok and the Rossini makes perfect sense.

Thank you for your mention that Bartok is very close to Rossini 1.x, this gives some indication of what % of the performance is HW vs SW.

The way I read this is that a Bartok today would be close to a Rossini of yesterday (1.x), and that when Rossini 2.0 is replaced either by new SW or revised HW, the Bartok platform is likely to move to Bartok 2.0, the performance of which would be close to Rossini 2.0. However, this move is likely years away but should give reassurance to Bartok buyers in the longevity of the platform.

Thank you for your reply.

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