Time to upgrade

Hi all, pending the upgrade of my Rossini to the Apex version, I was also thinking of a new amplifier.

I currently have the Rossini Player + Clock, SPEC FX33 amplifier, and Suesskind Beo EX loudspeakers (3 way, with a wonderful ribbon tweeter).

I have a shortlist for the amplifier: Dan D’Agostino Progression integrated, or darTZeel CT-8550 MKII integrated. Maybe you have some experiences to share?

I want to improve the amplifier from 60W/8Ohm (the Suesskind are 4 Ohm) to something more substantial. Timbrically I have nothing to say about the Spec (a high end class D amplifier) which sounds beautifully especially with female voices, violins and strings in general, with very good imaging and depth. It is not harsh at all, with beautiful attack, possibly something to improve about sustain and decay refinement. All in all, a great amplifier (a friend of mine says it reminds him of the sound of 300B’s), maybe lacking somewhat in dynamics.

Thank you and Merry Christmas!


I can only say encouraging things about your shortlisted brands — the two best amps I’ve heard with my Rossini Apex and dealer Vivaldi Apexes were from D’Agostino (the S250 MxV) and darTZeel (the 108 Model Two).

I realise that these are a good deal dearer than the two you listed, but if you were only looking at the integrateds because you were an entirely sensible human and didn’t want to spend as much as the brand’s separates require then I would encourage you to try the power amps direct from the Rossini. Assuming you don’t need other inputs often, obviously.

For what it’s worth I have never been more sure of a component purchase than I was of my darTZeels — genuinely wonderful-sounding gear. And if I hadn’t heard the 108 Model Two I would have bought the D’Agostino. Fantastic gear.

The sun even came out on my Rossini’s volume knob in encouragement the other day:

(Temp setup — I won’t be stacking like this for long :-))


Do add Soulution to your shortlist. I have the 330 integrated amp which I use with my Bartok and it sounds fantastic. A great match.

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Try with Benchmark, HPA4 pre + AHB2 amp , just one on stereo mode or two units mono bridge depending your speakers. I think this is one of the best possible ways to preserve intact the signal coming out from your Rossini. I’m using this with my Bartok and I like it. And the budget to do this is really moderate.

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is this a Vivaldi clock under the Rossini DAC?

Yep! Wouldn’t be without it :+1:

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Gryphon integrated amp is good as well.

I bought a second hand Audiomat Solfège reference 20…Stupendous…But it is not the kind of amp you are after…

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Since Rossini is my only source, I think about selling my Nagra pre-amp and Rossini/clock to fund a Vivaldi DAC. But this move means that the Vivaldi has to work as pre-amp as well (Power amp is a Nagra Classic). The Nagra pre-amp is a beast SQ wise…

Yes, do that, it cannot be a bad move.

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Using the DAC directly may or not work for you depending upon all sorts of variables. There seems to be no overall consensus as to which , with or without preamp, is overall the best solution. Many find direct connection lacking in some way.

You have a Rossini and you have a Nagra preamp. So currently you seem have a preference for using a preamp. I would certainly not make a commitment to getting rid of the preamp without a lengthy test period connecting the DAC to power amp directly. I say lengthy as a swift A/B comparison will often indicate a result that longer familiarity proves to be wrong step regarding musical satisfaction rather than from a strictly sonic viewpoint.

BTW I have had every generation of domestic dCS processors including Vivaldi and , whilst admiring the result of direct connection , have always felt the need to revert to the use of a preamp after a few days. You may ,of course, find the opposite result.

You may like the change but take time before you jump.


Thank you, this is really an important point. And I want to thank all other contributions as well. You all are giving me some food for thought.

Only one small correction: I have a SPEC FX-33 integrated amp. (nvm: I see you actually answered a Nagra owner)

Anyway what you are saying is that I could easily fall at first sight for the increased quality of, say, a D’Agostino Progression power amplifier over a integrated Progression, only to discover a couple weeks later that I am not satisfied with something that I didn’t notice before. Yes it is possible, and I understand now that some differences are not just subtle nuances. I will be glad to go deeper into this, I think this one is going to be my definitive amp for 5 - 10 years, then I will have to check if my ears are still working.

Thank you again, have a happy Christmas!


Interesting to hear that Pete … unless there’s a physical impedance matching issue between the unit and the power amps that the preamp is interfacing between then there must be a sonic characteristic of the preamp that you are simply more predisposed to liking (as nothing downstream can make a source “better” or add back something that simply isn’t there).

I have a couple of A.N.Other manufacturers preamps - one around £12k and one around £20k and they definitely impose that manufacturers sonic thumbprint on the audio output of all the dCS kit that I’ve tried pushing through them.




That is the purpose of a preamp, making the sound pleasant, I guess every one here has enough experience with stereo and live music and that no one expects reproducing live music with a stereo !

So now that is definitely an hypothesis we put aside, what would be then the purpose of a pre amplifier ?

Of course if you have more than one source than the preamp is mandatory, but here we discuss the case of a single source.

So phil i get what you are saying about pre amps adding tone or whatever to the mix, but what about the pre built into my vivaldi dac, doesn’t that also add to the mix?

The reason i ask is because, I have tried going directly to my amp and i also slightly preferred the amp/pre to direct. This was a few year ago now probably, also using a rossini player and not my vivaldi apex. I guess that the apex will be better going direct than non apex, but at the same time be also better going into a pre?
Just to add my amp and pre are the naim 500dr and 552dr.

Cheers dunc

Phil, you may be surprised but I agree with you ( even if that sounds contradictory).

I connect my dCS processer ( 3 so far) directly and love what I hear. However, as you might suspect there is a “but” coming.

The “but” was best expressed by Jonathan Scull way back in his review for Stereophile of Elgar Plus. Unfortunately I cannot find it posted in the archives at the website but from memory he spoke of direct connection saying that it sounded great except, after a while with familiar music, what would be a big musical moment would pass by unnoticed ( I am paraphrasing). That is what I have found and is why I talk about the need to revert to a preamp " after a few days". One day if I will try the Vivaldi Apex and see how the new output stages get on.

Perfectly correct. I have three preamps here and they all sound different which can’t be right !

Yet I still prefer to use a preamp. I wonder why this preference exists. I have spent lots of time thinking about this and think that @ChrisK has it :slight_smile:

We are listening to an illusion which involves a compromised source in that commercial recordings are deliberately imperfect in order to perform on all sorts of consumer equipment , often of poor quality from an audiophile standpoint.However if the magician reveals too much of how the illusion is achieved the effect is destroyed!

So once I have a collection of perfect ( in an absolutist sense) recordings then it’s direct connection for me :smiley:.

The other main reason for a preamp is that I have a headphone amp and phono preamp to cater for. So I also need a tape loop and analogue input. Not really germane to a discussion of what sounds best but I have found that without those provisions the LPs and cans are very quiet :wink:.


Here it is:

Thanks Erno. I forgot that it was a follow up piece. However it doesn’t contain the referral to direct connection that I recall ( as I said I am working from memory). As I am certain that the comment was made t must be in one of the other Stereophile dCS reviews. Anyway it doesn’t affect the main point of my post.

Accuphase is a make well worth exploring, beautifully built, made to last and sound superb.


Hi Pete, Chris and Duncan,

I hope you don’t mind me rolling all three of your replies together and answering as one but you’ve all done that really wonderful thing and made a bunch of the right sort of comments as well as asking a whole bunch of the right sort of questions which is absolutely brilliant! :slight_smile:


Surprised no … terrified yes … that makes me wonder whether the universe is suddenly about to start making sense and my fear is always that if it does suddenly make sense then will it be stopped while we sleep in a “Dark City” meets “Douglas Adams” sort of way to be replaced by something even more confusing - thereby also confirming that there is at least a higher power involved too. shudder

[…one could also suggest that there’s also an argument that if you were sold the “perfect” product then the labels would then have nothing more to sell you other than new material and their back catalogues would (essentially) be worthless but that’s a totally different discussion. :-D]

OK so it really depends on how far you (and by “you” I don’t mean “you” as in “Pete” I mean “you” as in an abstract entity) go with this … there are a few examples that I can give that hopefully will kind of show that this can work both ways.

Right, so lets take two specific examples that have always stuck in my mind, U2’s “Joshua Tree” and Madonna’s “Music” … if I play those on a basic stereo they sound OK and I want a bit more of them … I’d like to listen to both albums louder, and on a system with more punch and drive … but when you do listen to both those albums of a good system that does have more punch and drive then it’s just a louder version of what you heard before which is a really flat and bland version of what you hoped you’d be hearing if only you had something better to listen to it through.

Going the other way, Massive Attack’s “Protection” … I bought that CD many years ago and absolutely hated it when I listened to it back then on (IIRC) a Pioneer AX10i and TDL RTL3’s. It sounded awful and I didn’t listen to it again for many years until one day I decided to give it a spin on a totally different system that was able to turn the “sows ear” mushy mess that the AX10i / RTL3’s made of that album into at least a half decent wallet (if not a “silk purse”) and I still enjoy that album nowadays.

Now … does anyone remember back in the late 80’s / early 90’s there was a CD of the 1812 Overture done that had a warning printed on the cover that the CD contained uncompressed audio and the manufacturers were not responsible for any system damage that may occur? We all went and bought it as we all thought that was going to be the best sounding thing ever … and then when we listened to it it was incredibly annoying as you were constantly adjusting the volume to actually be able to hear it without it being too quiet or too loud.

So it’s not really a case of having access to perfect recordings, more a reason why the best recording engineers really are worthy of serious respect and admiration. :slight_smile:

It’s absolutely right in that all your preamps are likely to sound different - more so if they’re from different manufacturers. If they didn’t then what would be the point of buying a “better” (read “more expensive”) preamp if they all sounded the same?

Totally! Agree with you 100%! :thumbsup:

(…and as far as I’m concerned it is also TOTALLY relevant to the discussion.)

The purpose of a preamp is as an intermediate matching / interfacing stage between two pieces of kit that have different output / input requirements.

Just like an ISP supplied “router” (which does many many other “network” things than routing) a “preamp” has become a catch-all term for a device that generally does many more things than level and impedance matching and include volume control, input switching, tone controls, equalisation, room correction etc.

Analogue circuits have a sonic fingerprint … if you like the sonic fingerprint of a particular analogue circuit then that will sound pleasant to you but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will also sound pleasant to someone else (and neither are any indication that the sonic fingerprint is at all accurate - in fact HAVING a sonic fingerprint means that it by definition ISN’T accurate.).

Some HiFi manufacturers have a very strong “house sound” and as such they will have a part of their product development cycle to ensure that any new product follows their house sound and if it doesn’t then the design will be corrected to ensure that it does.

People will often align themselves with a house sound that they find appealing or comforting - hence the oft used phrase “I don’t know [insert whatever here] but I know what I like.”

There’s no reason why not … it is perfectly possible to hook up instruments and microphones (using preamps or a mixer for level and impedance matching) to a “stereo” and in a “previous life” we did exactly that with a fairly well known classical guitarist as a demonstration of reproduction of a musical instrument that hadn’t been recorded and post processed (the mixer was used to apply noise gating, limiting and compression but that is absolutely normal) and as a demo it worked really well.

A HiFi wouldn’t be rugged enough / loud enough / convenient enough for “gigging” use and of course you wouldn’t fill a stadium to ear-splitting levels with a HiFi but there’s absolutely no reason why a HiFi can’t be used for the accurate reproduction of a live performance.

Ahha! Absolutely fantastic question but would you believe that there isn’t one?

(I promise you I’ll come back to this … it’s not a flippant reply.)

I have both of those (albeit the non-DR versions) in my stash too and I’m very familiar with that particular house sound with both the DR and non-DR units, I have quite a number of other DR and non-DR devices from that particular stable in my stash as well…

OK so to come back to @Dunc 's query about the preamp in a dCS Vivaldi (and this applies to any dCS units that have volume control) … there isn’t a traditional “preamp” circuit in any of those units in as far as there isn’t an analogue circuit that varies its overall gain/attenuation dependent upon the setting of a variable control between the output of the Ring DAC and the sockets on the rear panel.

In dCS kit the outputs of the RingDAC are almost directly tied to the rear panel connectors with only essential buffering / impedance matching between the two.

Volume control in dCS kit is done mathematically BEFORE the RingDAC using the FPGA and it is done as part of the manipulation that the FPGA already does so it avoids the resolution loss inherent in basic digital volume scaling and if you have the volume set to 0db (as you would when using it as a source component) then there is simply no volume adjustment applied - it just isn’t there … so no, there isn’t a preamp on the output of the dCS DACs with variable output.

ATB and I hope you’ve all had a great Xmas!



Hi Phil,

My hear must going wrong these days, I am 59.

I bought a Taylor GS mini to my daughter for x-mas, far from bring a high end guitar, but still a Taylor…when she plays in front of me at the same distance I listen to music on my stereo…how to say that…even a 99% hear deficient person would notice the difference (huge) between this modest Taylor and the best recording I got from an acoustic guitar…

I went to hear the 5th Mahler symphony one month ago, 8th or 9ne row…well if I can hear a system doing half as good as I heard that day, I will buy it immediately :wink:

So…it can be my hear and I might be more “sensitive” to live music than other people…but to go in your direction, it was 3 years ago I went to hear Joe Satriani, and it was painful, horrible sound, every time I heard him on a stereo it was way better than live :joy: