dCS Bartok and DS Sr

Has anyone compared dCS Bartok and DS Dr ?

Yesterday I had a demo of dCS Rossini with clock in a local dealer here at Berkeley, CA. It was a really great experience.

Though, without Clock, in playing DSD over ethernet using Roon I felt it was not that impressive but with Clock it was outstanding. The outputs from playing CDs and low quality Mp3 from a usb drive were very very good too with and without the Clock.

It has very similar analog type of sound as that of DS Sr. But the sound was much more rich and engaging.

However, the price point is close to 5 times of DS Sr (I won’t recommend Rossani without Clock). I own DS Sr for last 5+ years. And after hearing Rossini, I realize more that DS Sr is a steal at its price point.

However, I found that now there is also dCS Bartok which they have released just at the end of last year which is at a price point similar to DS Sr (the price is more than double the price of DS Sr, though).

Wondering if anyone had heard the dCS Bartok and has done any comparison.



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John Darko did a review of it as a headphone amp in his latest video.

PSA gears have amazing SQ for the price. If money is no object I would
probably own dCS or Esoteric digital gear. But I have to spend carefully.
That’s why I am very happy with my PSA.

It’s not fair to compare PSA to some of the other manufacturers.


I heard the Vivaldi system about 5 or 6 years ago and it was so lucid and transparent (with a middling pair of Wilson speakers) that I realised there was no point chasing the best because I could not afford it. Forget all this stuff about sounding analogue, I really don’t know what that means, it just had air an space and sounded as good as I’d ever heard and have heard since. I remember the music was a Linn recording of Vivaldi and Nickel Creek’s first album, both played from CD.
I have also heard the Rossini, it was used at the launch of the Harbeth M40.2, an astonishingly good speaker. Again, the music was just effortless. I would expect the Bartok to be just as good. I still can’t afford it.


No one does.

The translation is “I like the sound.”

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Thanks … that is what I was trying to say.


I did an extensive audition of the Bartók in my system a month back, comparing it to my DS Sr. This was before I got the BHK, so the comparison was sequential, which can be tricky.

My conclusion was that the Bartok is a good DAC, and if it were the first one I heard, I might very well have bought it and been happy. But compared to a DS baseline, it did not wow me: while it had good resolution and dynamics, and no obvious issues or sonic artifacts, it struck me as a “really good hi fi”, in contrast to the organic, involving, toe tapping music produced by the DS.

More recently I had the opportunity to do a level matched comparison (through the BHK) of the DS and the MSB Premier. Certainly not “fair” - there’s a 1:4 price difference.

Nonetheless it was impressive how much the DS held its own. Both units have a similar “non hi fi” natural presentation and timbre. Unsurprisingly, over multiple tracks it became apparent that the MSB conveys far greater natural detail, instrument separation, 3D soundstage and articulation. It will be interesting how the more comparably-priced Obsidian will fare in such a comparison.


Yes it is…I’ve personally Christened the Stellar Stack (SGCD & 2x m700’s) as the McIitosh KIllers ! Hmmm…let’s see…$5k for a shiny 150WPC @ 8ohms amp with great sound and blue bouncing meters, black glass and shiny knobs for $4k ? Or 2x 350W @8ohms awesome sounding m700’s and a sweet Stellar Gain Cell DAC/Preamp all for $4k ?

It’s a no brainer ! Going on 4 months with my Stack. :blush:

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Being able to read experiences with other brands actually helps me making choices, where would one be able to do A-B listening with equipment of choice? Hardly anywhere and even if you found a dealer happy to facilitate you obviously feel obliged to buy there. I feel these comparisons on the forum are very good and yes they made me buy my PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell DAC.
Following this thread the discussion would prompt me into the direction of the Direct Stream DAC even if I had dCS budget. I find my SGCD sounds superb, so I wonder how the DS Sr sounds, which brought me to this thread. To my humble opinion the comparisons only benefit PS Audio.

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A less expensive option.

I have been very happy with the sound quality from the DS Sr in my setup and cannot afford a dCS Bartok however as most of my music is delivered via ethernet to the Bridge II in the DS Sr I did look at potential means of improving SQ through this route. As a result I now have a dCS Network bridge which gives a large improvement in SQ for a reasonable outlay. I can now really appreciate how very, very good is the DS Sr. DAC. I suggest you may find it worth investigating this option.

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Been looking at this option myself for my DS Snr.

How would you categorise the differences between the Bridge and the , uhm…, Bridge. :slightly_smiling_face:

Thanks very much.

Comparing the SQ from the PS Bridge II with that from the dCS Network Bridge (connected via single AES to the DS Snr) I am hearing more detail and ambience with the music. Image depth is greater. Violins are sweeter and there is more ‘body’ to the sound. Bass is better defined and the music flows better. Transients are better defined. Trumpets ‘rasp’ convincingly. More inner detail is now audible in loud, complex orchestral works. There appears to be greater dynamic range in music, with the quietest passages noticeably more delicate. Overall the sound is yet more ‘natural’ and engrossing.
A benefit I was not expecting is that there is a slight improvement in sound quality from the other DAC inputs with the ethernet connection removed from the Bridge II.
As reported elsewhere on this forum other users have heard an improvement in SQ when they removed the PS Bridge II board from the DS Snr., so I’m going to try that next - I’ll report on what I hear.

Happy listening.


Thanks for that David.

Yeah, had read nothing but glowing reviews of the dCS Bridge, really great to get some direct experience with it hooked up to the DS Dac.

I removed my Bridge recently (My modded Oppo 203 sounds better over i2s) and yup, there was an improvement in overall sound quality.
Think you’ll notice it too.
Interesting too your connection from the dCS Bridge is AES, that’s the way I’ll connect too.

Thanks for sharing your experience, very helpful.

I’ve been burning in a new Bartok and comparing it to my DSS+LTA MZ3 headphone combo. There are things that are clearly better…but not everything. The Bartok makes the DSS sound muddy because of its level of clarity, transparency and big soundstage. On the other hand, I’m not enjoying listening to music as much as with my DSS+MZ3 combo. The DSS sounds more raw, filled out, expansive, textured, warm and fluid, with much more bass, even if the Bartok clarity and imaging are superior. DCS does sound more like a PCM DAC, albeit with virtually no digital artifacts or thinness. It’s a very crisp pinpoint sound, in some ways it has a similar core presentation to the DSS, but more resolution, sharp edges, and maybe more reserved.

My assessment could be that the DCS demands big upgrades in cabling etc to sound right because it is so unvarnished and truthful, and I’m not there yet. I still have a much more emotional connection to the DSS. It could be that I’m doing the Bartok wrong, or I just like the 1 bit thing and Ted’s coding.


You might try changing the Bartok filters as well as the upsampling method.

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I had a similar feeling when I did similar comparision in my home.

I even did not find the extra detailing, soundstage etc worth 2 time cost of Bartok.

I recently did another home demo comparision using Rossini. There you start seeing real dCS quality. With Rossini, irrespective of the 4 times price difference with DS Sr it is to me worth investment.


I think maybe the Bartok can be pushed farther than the DSS with cabling etc, but it seems you are right that as a DAC it isn’t quite worth price difference.

Apparently years from now the Bartok will sound similar to what the Rossini sounds like today, as the only real difference between them is an additional power supply, more robust case, and most importantly the DAC mapper algorithm. They decided to intentionally hold the Bartok major software one release behind the Rossini so as to not undercut it. That’s also why the DSD upsampling on the Bartok isn’t great, it can only do single rate DSD which isn’t anywhere near enough to get equivalent performance to the DXD upsampling, or Ted’s design.

Getting into Rossini pricing is something I hope never to do! And if it was in some way feasible, I would probably also look at an EMM Labs or MSB.

I think apart from the latest Mapper (5.644 or 6.14MHz) the additional power supply makes the difference too.

And I do agree that if I am paying $25k for a dac I shall try MSB too. The great thing with MBS is they would do upgrade from Discreet to Premier at original price. So one can start at lesser cost to see one likes its sound or not.

And then in that price range the other great mystery soon to be unfold is TSS.


I spent some time burning this guy in, and trying different cables. One thing I noticed is that the Bartok really likes good power, and with a Shunyata Sigma NR it has incredibly powerful and authoritative bass. In comparison, DSS is a midrange animal. I can now really appreciate the more transparent sound, and yet…for some reason my tinnitus flares up every time I listen to it. I was hoping it would calm down, but I’m thinking the uncompromising sound really isn’t compromising with my ears. I could live with, but for that.

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Interesting observation on the tinnitus. Ted has made several comments to this effect when testing his creations or listening to other systems. I too have noticed a slight increase, but don’t have another DAC to compare to. Can we assume the Bartok does not effect your tinnitus?