dCS enters the personal audio space with the $20,000 Bartók headphone amplifier and DAC
dCS has just marked its first foray into the world of personal audio with its new Bartók headphone amplifier and DAC.
dCS is a mainstay in the rarefied world of ultra-high-end audio thanks to its über high-performance DACs like the S$40,700 Vivaldi.
One key reason why dCS’ DACs are so sought after is because it doesn’t use off-the-shelf solutions from chipmakers like AKM and ESS. Instead, dCS’ so-called Ring DAC uses a network of FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays) that are programmed to run dCS’ digital-to-analog conversion and digital filters.
The Bartók features the same Ring DAC that is used in the flagship Vivaldi DAC. It accepts your usual range of digital inputs including USB, S/PDIF (BNC, coaxial, and optical), and AES/EBU.
It can also function as a pre-amp and offers unbalanced RCA output and balanced XLR output allowing you to plug the Bartók into an amplifier or even powered speakers.
It also has Ethernet ports and can act as a network streamer via a router or NAS. It supports TIDAL, Spotify, and can play Apple devices wireless using AirPlay. It is also Roon Ready. Wireless streaming is not supported because dCS believes it compromises on audio fidelity.
The Bartók supports both PCM and DSD files. Up to 24-bit/384KHz PCM and DSD128. It will also support full MQA decoding and rendering.
For headphones, the Bartók features single and balanced outputs via a 6.35mm jack and 4-pin XLR connector. dCS recommends headphones with a minimum impedance of 33 ohms. That rules out a good number of IEMs. Power output is 1.4W into 33 ohms and 150mW into 300 ohms, which sounds little but is actually plenty. The amplifier section runs in pure Class A.
At the launch event, the Bartók was driving a Focal Utopia and it was fed music from a MacBook Pro running TIDAL Hi-Fi.
It's hard to form an opinion on gear that you not familiar with and in less than ideal conditions (the launch venue was noisy and Utopia is an open-back headphone), but what I can say is that I liked what I heard. This combination produced a sublime sound that was alluring, effortless, clear, and spacious.
All I can say is that if you have deep, deep pockets and want to invest in an über high-end endgame setup for listening to headphones, you have got to audition the Bartók.
The dCS Bartók is priced at S$20,000 and it is available now. For auditions, please get in touch with Absolute Sound.