Scheduled APEX Upgrades

I got the email to ship my Rossini for APEX upgrade and all went very smooth and I received it back the following week. I must admit I got a little emotional after listening for a short while because of the improvements which seem to be across the board; more detailed & accurate tone with more meat on the midrange bone and a richer mid-bass and bass weight right out of the box. Also smoother with more air and separation of the players and greater soundstage depth. Well worth it for the results IMHO it really blew me away which did not happen to this extent when I originally purchased it and the new parts are still breaking in. Thanks DCS and Jim Fuller for the great work and smooth and quick turnaround!

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I have written a short review of what I hear in my Rossini Apex in an instagram post:

https://www.instagram.com/p/CisVLGPumhR/?igshid=ZGNkOWFmMTU=

I’d love to read what you’ve got to say, Miguel, but am allergic to Meta. Any chance you could paste it here too?

(@Raven2 I hope your new Clock prompts the full waterworks :stuck_out_tongue:)

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Insta what…how about simply using the this forum? You a shareholder or whatever in this other, channel of “information”? Or you simply trying to raise your profile over there? After all, why did you think this dCS forum was created. Sorry for the rant, but this represents a bigger issue than you might suspect.

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If you want to see what I wrote you can go to instagram.

Ok, that’s a nicer way to ask so yes…

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I have had a dCS Rossini DAC for 5 years in my system. I have upgraded to the Apex version and these are my impressions of the changes after 200 hrs break-in. There is more #bass, deeper #soundstage, better #decay, more #charm. More specifically, I hear three notable improvements:

1- Color: There’s greater #color in the notes, better #resolution of #tone and character of the sound, higher #density in the #presentation.

2- Bite: Notes have more #realistic #bite - #sharpness without #harshness - #Piazzolla’s bandoneon is more menacing and alive.

3- Disappearance: Previously music was being played like puppets - you could picture the strings driving the notes. Now music has freed itself from those strings, it exists freely and wholly in space, the DAC disappears.

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I am obviously comparing the godawful original Rossini 2.0 :rofl::rofl::rofl: with the gorgeous new Rossini Apex :sunglasses::sunglasses::sunglasses: (nevermind they look the same)

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Thanks for your comments. They align with my own for the Vivaldi APEX. It’s a wonder that all of the improvements wrought by the upgrades seemed to have come from what appears to have been a bit of diversion in Chris’s everyday activities. But I really cannot believe that this was the case.

Ha! Imagine if he put his mind to it :wink:

Thanks for the comments, Miguel. Has me excited for mine. Drool.

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Pretty sure what happened is over the last 10 yrs (I think that’s about the age of the previous Ring DAC board design) they figured out things like “Oh shoulda used that regulator” or “This slightly different current source design is better” or “Once we moved to 5MHz with Vivaldi/Rossini 2.0 we discovered these traces would be better in this other place”… I imagine a bunch of these gotchas accumulated over time and Apex is the result of that.

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Thanks Ben I’ll make sure I’m sipping my Baker’s 7 Bourbon to prepare for next stage Apex nirvana.

The Stereophile review of the Rossini Apex is up now:

Yes please.

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Thanks for posting this @all2ofme.

Four things that came to my mind in reading this review:

(A) great incremental detail and explanation of the Ring DAC and the APEX changes, some of which I had not read elsewhere
(B) very high praise for the EMM Labs DV2 DAC, even versus Vivaldi, which surprised me
(C) I was pleased to see they used a $2,500 Roon Nucleus as the music server paired with $100,000+ of gear and even Nordost Oden cabling. Ostensibly price is no object in this system, and that says a lot. I also use Roon Nucleus as a source.
(D) I was confused, but I guess not surprised, that the reviewer listened to a lot of MQA, more precisely: “24/96 MQA”. Since it’s a known lossy codec, I have to admit I don’t even know what 24/96 MQA means. Are there different resolutions of MQA? Is high res MQA more or less lossy than low res MQA? Is anyone using Rossini or Vivaldi bandwidth or storage constrained? Stereophile appears to be still all-in with Meridian, and it’s a big knock to their objectivity, IMHO.

There are three physical file formats (ie the actual FLAC files) for MQA files right now:

1- MQA 16bit/44.1KHz - there’s no high res or embedded unfolding here, MQA is simply a form of mastering (call it “MQA beautification” - there is some processing done to the sound) and MQA authentication. Arguably these files are lossy and less that 16bit in depth (some bit depth is required to authenticate MQA)

2- MQA 24bit/44.1KHz - these are files where 'higher than 44.1KHz" information is encoded in the 8 least significant bits of the 24bit word - so the first 16bits are “bit perfect” and the higher frequency information is buried into the remaining 8 bits.

3- MQA 24bit/48KHz - very similar to ‘2’ but for the 48KHz family of sampling rates

MQA involves two stages of “decoding”:

A- “Unfolding” - this is where the 8 least significant bits get transformed into higher frequency data. For type ‘2’ this is transformed into 88.2KHz sampling, for type ‘3’ into 96KHz sampling. Type ‘1’ does not include this information and thus is not unfolded. I should really clarify here that files where the original master sampling rate was 44.1/48 are not unfolded to my knowledge - the 24bit word is all real 24bit data as is. This is a fairly common final master resolution as of late.

B- “Rendering” (aka upsampling) - the unfolded data includes a selection of the upsampling filter to be used (I think there are 32 choices) and what the “reference final sampling rate” is. So a file might say the final sampling rate is 96KHz or 384KHz - it’s just a label really, DACs will always pick a filter and upsample to their max rate regardless.

Although type ‘1’ does no unfolding (there’s simply no data to unfold with a file bit depth of 16bit) it might choose an upsampling filter, I don’t know.

Finally, MQA files should really be classified into a few different types based on how they were created, but the most important difference is “white glove treatment” vs the rest. In the “white glove” method, the MQA team went to the original master tapes (and these are analog masters in all of the cases I know of) and re-transferred them with great care to the reading of the analog information, and correcting for any possible issues the ADC they are using might have. This renders files that sound great, but you could possibly argue this has little to do with MQA and more to do with careful remastering.

“White Glove” files are FEW AND FAR BETWEEN. The VAST majority of MQA files are “dummy encoding” - the files get sent to MQA and they encode them without ever listening to them.

My experience listening to MQA: White Glove is almost always amazing - eg Aretha Franklin’s albums in MQA, which I purchased because IMHO they are the best sounding versions. All the others are a mixed bag IMO.

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Wow, @miguelito you just explained MQA better than anyone at MQA (or Meridian) ever did! They should hire you for marketing and comms, though, I suspect they cannot afford your fees ; )

“The VAST majority of MQA files are “dummy encoding” - the files get sent to MQA and they encode them without ever listening to them.”

Agreed. And I can’t get past the Golden Sound videos…

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Yes, in fact they do.

I have a couple of MQA CDs which contain 44.1/16 tracks that read as standard redbook tracks. However, when ripped, MQATagRestored, and streamed to the dCS system, they MQA render to various upsampled rates, and not necessarily the maximum rate supported by the DAC; for example, Rebecca Pidgeon’s “The Raven” MQA CD renders to 176.4/24, whereas Oscar Peterson Trio’s “We Get Request” MQA CD renders to 352.8/24.

The render rate is essentially a label. When you play any file at a given sample rate, the DAC will indicate that sample rate, but internally most (all?) DACs that upsample do so to the max rate of the chip.

Regardless, there’s fundamentally no information to unfold in an MQA CD, the most you can do is choose a rendering method, ie authenticate as MQA and choose the render filter setting. My gripe with all of this is that the data from this MQA CD has less than 16bit/44.1KHz resolution as some of the data bandwidth is used for MQA authentication and rendering choice.

I’m not sure if you mean MQA specifically or you’re talking about DACs in general, and if so, I think you’re talking about oversampling within the DAC chips, not upsampling. There’s a difference.

Yes, I’m well aware MQA CDs contain less than 16bits of actual musical content.

Other than the math used to interpolate/increase bit depth, what is the difference between upsampling and oversampling?

Understood, but that is my point: upsampling is a mathematical method to interpolate effectively. Oversampling is essentially a simpler method of upsampling. And as upsampling goes, the methods to do so are many.

Regardless, my point is very simple: MQA is choosing some upsampling method but it is simply upsampling rather than unfolding. Unfolding actually decodes higher frequency “true” data buried in the 8 LSBs.