For several years, data conversion systems, known to most audiophiles as dCS, has been working on a new statement digital playback system. This past Friday it debuted the four-box Vivaldi at Ears Nova, an elegant new store in Manhattan owned and run by longtime audio expert Joshua Cohn. There’s no point in pussyfooting around: the Vivaldi sounded smashing, as the Brits like to say, and it accomplished a few things that I have not heretofore heard, or even suspected was attainable, from digital reproduction.
Cohn, who has some exceedingly fine equipment in his audio emporium, assembled a system worthy of the Vivaldi, which comes in at a not insubstantial $110,000. The Vivaldi was coupled with the new Constellation performance line preamp and Centaur mono blocks, which sounded extremely refined and resolute. The presence of the Rockport Altair loudspeaker did not hurt, either. Put bluntly, this was a stellar system. Add to that the fact that Cohn has gone all-out for his store , which features several listening rooms boasting ceilings of at least 11’ in height, and you had a recipe for excellent sound.
But there are lots of great systems out there. What distinguished the dCS Vivaldi, as far as I could tell from listening to a variety of music, ranging from pop to orchestral, was a stability of image extending to the rear corners of the recording studio that endowed instruments with a refulgence and sense of presence that is seldom, if ever, heard when playing digital recordings. It is also the case that the timbral fidelity of instruments such as the tuba was markedly increased over the predecessor of the Vivaldi, the dCS Scarlatti, which was no slouch. The subjective speed of instruments—and instrumental sections—is also much improved.
TAS editor Robert Harley will soon be receiving the Vivaldi and provide the first review of its prodigious capabilities. While the Vivaldi may consist of no less than four boxes—though you can, of course, dispense with the transport if you just want to stream music—it is quite user-friendly. For David Steven, the owner of dCS, and John Quick, its American representative, it was a worthy premiere that had everyone all ears.