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Review Preview: dCS Vivaldi Digital Playback System

It’s an easy decision to call dCS’ new Vivaldi the most ambitious digital playback system ever created. This four-box player (transport, DAC, upsampler, clock) is a no-holds barred upgrade of dCS’ Scarlatti, which itself had been long considered the state-of-the-art. It’s no coincidence that so many electronics and loudspeaker manufacturers own the Scarlatti and use it to demonstrate their products at shows.

The Vivaldi benefits from improved parts and new hardware and software that extracts more performance from the platform. For example, the Vivaldi has 200 times the computing processing power of the Scarlatti, power that’s put to use with more sophisticated digital filtering, for example. dCS’s fabled Ring DAC now gets a new implementation with 48 discrete latches rather than the 12 quad-latches in the Scarlatti. With each latch in its own package, there’s less crosstalk between the latches. In addition, the new latches are higher in performance. This is just a hint at the Vivaldi’s new technology; I’ll have a full report, including photos of my tour of the dCS factory where I watched the Vivaldi being built, in my upcoming review.

Sonically, the Vivaldi is nothing short of revelatory when playing CD, SACD, or files from a music server. I’ve heard some of the best digital playback components, but none approach the Vivaldi’s sound quality. The sheer density of information makes the Vivaldi sound so analog-like, and conventional digital playback seem a bit “skeletal,” as though the presentation isn’t fully fleshed out. The Vivaldi’s spatial presentation is stunning, with depth, image focus, and sense of space between images that must be heard to be believed. The dynamics are startling in their immediacy and impact, and the bass performance is beyond reproach. If you can afford the astronomical $110,000 price, the Vivaldi has no sonic equal.

By Robert Harley

My older brother Stephen introduced me to music when I was about 12 years old. Stephen was a prodigious musical talent (he went on to get a degree in Composition) who generously shared his records and passion for music with his little brother.

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