Negative Bartok review that I simply can't understand

Seriously, I can’t even begin to grasp what he’s saying, as without a word clock the Bartok is actually a little bright and harsh on initial attack, certainly not laid back or “too smooth.”

dCS Bartok Review - Smooth, too smooth

He’s quite a young chap and he did not test in a top amp/speaker setup which to me is required for such a product.

He may also have some wrong settings on the Bartok.

Or maybe he’s just looking for controversy to gain subscribers.

I too is what I sometimes notice with the Bartok.

with the wordclock this is solved? Can you comment a little more what is the change with the wordckock?

With the Rossini, piano notes can be slightly metallic sounding without a word clock; they become the softer yet still impactful attack of a felt hammer on a piano string as they should be when locked to the Rossini Clock.

Bartok owners I’ve talked to have reported a similar shift to a more natural sounding impact when connected to a word clock like the Rossini Clock.

I didn’t like the sound of the Bartok at all without a word clock, and the Rossini sounded better but still not great.

It took a Rossini with the Rossini Clock to sound better than my reference at the time, a Wadia S7i.

That’s what I initially purchased with Cardas Clear Digital clock cables between the Rossini Clock and my Rossini Player.

Changing the clock cables to AudioQuest WEL Signature made a rather large improvement over the sound I got with the Cardas Clear Digital clock cables, more of one than I thought changing clock cables could possibly make.

Hi Desertium and welcome to the community forum.

Actually if you replay the video you will find that he did test it using his friend’s Focal Grand Utopias and found that he had much the same opinion.

He seems not not to fully understand the Bartok e.g. his reference to the ability to connect a 10mHz clock (you can’t) and manages to contradict himself here and there e.g. at one point effectively saying that DACs are not reliant upon partnering equipment to reveal their characteristics then saying how he had tried to find synergy with the Bartok by trying it in various set ups. He also uses odd terminology as if headphones are somehow not 2 channel devices by using the term as a synonym for speaker setups ( I never heard it used it that sense, only in order to distinguish stereo from MCH set ups). However, these minor quibbles apart, I think he is honestly expressing what he found.

So why? I note that he seemed only to use one genre of music - electronic based pop. Of course being artificially created sound it is difficult for anyone to judge how it should sound. Those of us with a lot of experience using dCS equipment will know that it actually has little sound of its own ( dCS are proud of the fact that they do not “voice” their products) and it is possible to produce all sorts of end results according to both its configuration and its partnering equipment. It can be capable of revealing issues elsewhere in the chain of reproduction that other equipment either masks or artificially enhances. It is easy to attribute such issues to what you are testing ( as that is where your attention is) instead of their real source. I have done it myself :slightly_frowning_face:. As you say he seems to be a young man and perhaps further experience may make him a little less confident about such things.

Ultimately though he heard what he heard which I accept although, as a view, it is certainly an outlier.


My mistake on the test, I missed that. I have only ever heard the Focal Scala Utopia Evos on a few occasions and I have issues with those speakers. So he should have tested other DACs with the same setup to check it wasn’t the other equipment that were causing the issues.

There is a suggestion in his commentary that he actually did this as well as listening to Bartok in various different set ups. I can only speculate that despite the various setups a single common factor may have remained, other than Bartok itself, thus causing the same subjective outcome in each case and one which differs so much from most ( all?) other reviews and users’ experience.

NB: It wasn’t Focal Scala Utopias ( Evos or the earlier version) that he says he used but the top of the range Grande Utopias. I do not know whether your reservations may still apply. However as the reviewer says that the excessive smoothness was there using speakers, various cans, various headphone amps etc. it seems to be consistent and use of another speaker would likely produce the same outcome. That is why I suspect that there may have been a common set up factor involved that he overlooked or perhaps wrongly believed irrelevant.

Were there numerous confirmatory reviews instead of the opposite it would have more credence.

I am going to demo the Bartok against other DACs at that price so I will what these old ears find .

I had mine just a few days before going away and without knowing this review did not notice any lack of dynamics or blandnesss. I played a diverse range of music from Haydn’s Cello Concerto, John McLaughlin live at Ronnie to Regina Spector. Piano sounded more real than ever with real sense of leather hitting string and there was plenty of bite to cello and guitar. Once back I’ll do more critical listening and report back. I have four other DACs to compare

Same impression the Bartok gave to me. A little bit on the rough side with the attack of the piano notes, and a bit of unnecessary reverberation on the left hand keys.

The former was partially cured by the Rossini, both virtually disappeared with the clock.


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The reviewer doesn’t discuss or seem to understand any of the filter settings or discuss conversion to DSD in any form. Not sure he knows how to work the thing. What about the Mosiac Ap? Not much credence here.

I don’t think that the reviewer is clueless. (Ref. his videos on MQA.)

$18.5k of disagreement with his opinion of how the Bartok sounds though!

(A bright side: the review might free up some of the next units for other people :slight_smile:)

Contrary to this guys opinion and taste in music… I’m ready for a Rossini. Was any of that actually music. Maybe that’s the issue.

What I’ve said before is that if you are used to most DACs, you’re so used to the harsh attack of waveforms that when you hear a good DAC it can sound rolled off by comparison.

To make this extreme, if you listen to say a Sony CDP-302 from 1985 then a good DAC will sound like it’s missing HF energy.

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I enjoyed the Bartók a lot, so I disagree with the reviewer too. No product can please everybody though. I believe non-positive experiences are fine and might possibly be an expression of differing audiophile tastes or ways of listening.

The review is not serious nor reliable. Unless one convinces me that we can assess timbre with electronic music… :slight_smile:


I also replied in his comments section that I totally disagree with his findings. He does have a serious measurement set (An audio precision APx555b, that the company I work for received yesterday and I am evaluating this $40k tool as I write this).
But too smooth … no he has no clue, and he focusses on headphone use often. I have evaluated many DAC’s including the Meridian Ultra DAC that I found smoother.
To me a controversial review on an expensive piece will get a lot of likes as many “audiophiles” that can’t or won’t want to spend this kind of money will feel guided in their choice for budget gear.
A DAC like the Bartok needs a system that will cost at least another 30k for just the amps and speakers as a start and on a world wide scale there will be not a lot of people spending that on HiFi in todays world of Sonos and Bluetooth options
Cheers, Peter


The Golden Sound video has created quite a stir on HiFi Wigwam and PFM with one guy posting it and swallowing every word despite never having heard a dCS product
Mostly he was shot down in flames

I think Pete Roger’s summary was very balanced. But playing Devil’s Advocate, what a great way to build traffic /rep for your site /channel. Write an outlier review of a previously unanimously well-reviewed product and stand back and wait!