British digital-audio specialists dCS (Data Conversion Systems) has been on a roll. Since the September 2015 introduction of the Rossini DAC ($23,999), the single-box Rossini Player ($28,499), and the Rossini Clock ($7499), they’ve released a number of new products and software/firmware updates. In 2016 came network firmware updates that established dCS DACs and Players as Roon endpoints. 2017 brought improved (v1.05) software for the Rossini DAC and Player, and 2018 an update to process MQA, followed by the October 2018 introduction of the Rossini upsampling SACD Transport ($23,500see John Atkinson’s review in the May 2019 Stereophile). Then, in January 2019, dCS released their Rossini v2.0 software, which applies to both the Rossini DAC and the Rossini Player, and which is offered free to Rossini owners.
Upgrading the Rossini DAC or Rossini Player from v1.10 to v2.0 is easily accomplished: just open the Rossini’s iOS app, go first to Configure, then to Information, then tap the Check for Updates bar. The process takes 1520 minutes. Upon completion, a message appears requesting that you restart the DAC.
Rossini v2.0 brings to its associated products virtually all the upgrades introduced with the dCS Vivaldi DAC’s v2.0 firmware. Rossini v2.0 offers a choice of six PCM filters (F1F6) plus the single MQA filter. V2.0 increases the number of DSD filters to five. PCM is now upsampled to DXD (24/352.8 or 24/384), DSD, or DSD128. Rossini’s original Ring DAC algorithm (Map 2) has been augmented by Maps 1 and 3, both of which are optimized for the v.2.0 architecture.
The update’s completely re-written Roon Ready module is of great importance to dCS owners who find that Roon music playback software is superior to the alternatives. According to John Quick, General Manager of dCS Americas, dCS developed its firmware around UPnP, Airplay, Tidal, and Spotify. When Roon gained popularity, dCS and Roon had to perform a workaround because Roon uses its own unique protocol. dCS’s new Roon Ready module addresses that earlier deficiency.
So that I could evaluate the changes, if any, brought about by the arrival of v2.0, dCS loaned me two Rossini DACs, loaded with software v1.10 and v2.0. I also had on hand a number of other dCS products: a dCS Vivaldi DAC v2.11 with Network Bridge v1.02, Rossini and Paganini transports (the latter now discontinued), and a Scarlatti Clock (also discontinued, replaced by the Rossini Clock). Comprising the rest of the system were an Intel NUC loaded with Roon’s ROCK operating system, Dan D’Agostino Master Systems Progression monoblock amplifiers, Wilson Audio Specialties Alexia 2 speakers, Nordost Odin 2 cabling, Wireworld Platinum Starlight Cat8 and AudioQuest Diamond Ethernet cables, Grand Prix Monaco racks, and other accessories.
This review also compares the sound of Rossini v2.0 with that of the Vivaldi DAC (v2.11). Those with weak hearts are warned against contemplating what all the cable and product switches required for these comparisons entailed. Suffice it to say, no humans, animals, or components were harmed in the making of this review.
Given that the Roon module is part of the Rossini v2.0 upgrade and cannot be evaluated separately, I first evaluated the Roon upgrade in a different context. I used Roon to play the beginning of my go-to track for dynamics, transparency, massed forces, huge and deep soundstage, pounding bass and tinkling trianglesIván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra’s performance of Mahler’s Symphony 3 (DSD64/Channel Classics CCS SA 38817)through Network Bridge/Vivaldi v2.11 before and immediately after performing the latest Network Bridge 406 firmware upgrade. This comparison revealed that the new module enables Roon to deliver fuller and more naturally color-saturated sound.
What’s the deal with these new “MAPs”? Quick says the dCS RingDAC is comprised of more than discreet hardware; software is an essential component of its design. The hardware serves the software, whose mapping algorithm remained virtually unchanged from the RingDAC’s inception over 25 years ago until the 2016 release of Vivaldi v2.0. The Vivaldi and Rossini DACs include a large number of adjacent discreet current sources. The mapping algorithm turns them on and off in a calculated pattern 36 million times per second, depending upon the digital signal and choice of mapper. The sequence and rate at of switching determines the amount of noise generated by the process. MAPs 1 and 3 run at twice the speed as the original algorithm used in MAP 2.
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