dCS Vivaldi at EARSNOVA
Earlier today I made the 50 or so mile trip into Manhattan for the US premier of the dCS Vivaldi Digital Playback System at NYC retailer EARSNOVA. As you can see, the Vivaldi system continues the dCS tradition of the stack. From top to bottom we have the Vivaldi DAC ($34,999), Vivaldi Transport ($39,999), Vivaldi Master Clock ($13,499), and the Vivaldi Upsampler ($19,999). The Vivaldi stack represents a ground up redesign and all out assault on the state of the art as dCS defines it which adds up to $108k more or less and the ability to play back nearly every digital format you can get your hands, hard drive or NAS on including CD, SACD, FLAC, WAV, AIFF, WMA, ALAC, MP3 (could you imagine?), M4a, AAC, OGG, DXD (24/352.8 and 384kHz), and DSD (via DoP which dCS initiated).
David Steven, dCS' Managing Director, gave a very informative introduction and overview and then handed off the nitty gritty to Technical Director Andy McHarg and Chris Hales, Director of Product Development (and apparently the company mixologist who makes a mean Gimlet). John R. Quick of Tempo High Fidelity handled the DJ duties and played us a few CDs, SACDs, CD-quality files, HD files, and one DSD track and then David Steven stepped back in to play some music from the NAS.
The associated system consisted of a pair of Rockport Technologies Altair Speakers ($97,500/pair) driven by Constellation Audio Centaur Mono Amplifiers ($48,000/pair), and a Constellation Audio Virgo preamplifier ($19,000). The dCS gear sat on an HRS rack and the one cable I noted was the AudioQuest Diamond USB ($549/.75m) which connected the Vivaldi DAC to a MacBook Pro running Audirvana Plus.
So what does all this add up to? What words can you use to talk about the sound of a $270K+ hi-fi that you listened to for minutes not hours? Good? Great? Really really good? Accurate? People who shop for and buy products in this league probably do. I certainly enjoyed myself, but I often do when listening to music, and I found EARSNOVA to be a comfortable place, with some rooms decorated more like a home than a hi-fi shop (which I like). All of the music sounded big and bold, and some sounded positively beautiful and those Rockports throw around some fairly serious bass which sounded a bit lumpy at times but I was sitting well off center near a corner so I may have been hearing a different picture than those up front center. I really don't have much to add except to say that the one DSD track we heard reinforced my recent comments regarding DSD play back which is to say it sounded smooth, natural and effortless.
Back to the Vivaldi, owners of the stack can upsample to DXD or DSD or leave things at their native resolution, and connect to a network via Ethernet and stream files stored on a NAS since the Upsampler is a UPnP device. There's a dCS app for iOS or Android devices to control NAS playback. You can also buy just the DAC since it comes equipped with a host of inputs including Asynchronous USB, AES/EBU, 4 S/PDIF (2 Coax, 1 BNC, 1 Toslink), and 1 S/PDIF-2 (2x BNC). The Vivaldi DAC also includes the "‘next generation versions of the dCS Ring DAC, Digital Processing Platform and Clocking System" as well as a digital volume control so you can skip a preamplifier if you so desire.
And here's a visual tour of EARSNOVA's other rooms: