Here’s the thing, though. Despite making one of the best streaming front-ends I can think of, despite the excellence of the USB input, and the sublime performance of DSD playback under DoP (as you might expect from the company that first minted the concept), I still prefer the sound the Rossini makes when spinning a disc. I don’t think I’m channelling my inner luddite here, and this conclusion isn’t that dCS doesn’t know how to do streaming – if anything, I’d put dCS’ network and online streaming performance at the top of what is currently possible. Rather, it’s that CD replay is just more ‘organic’ sounding than file-based versions of the same. Even the like-for-like WAV file ripped from the disc doesn’t sound quite as ‘there’ as the CD. The problem is the dCS CD replay doesn’t just out-perform dCS’s take on ‘next-gen’ audio; it’s a universal thing, and using the Rossini as transport to the other DACs in this test (and more besides) pointed to the same conclusion. Every time. As someone who was early to adopt file-based music, this comes as something of a shock.
There is another thing about the Rossini that is a bit of a joy, mindful that I recently negotiated the monumental box-fest that is writing about systems: it’s incredibly consistent. The dCS Rossini is instantly recognisable and a similar force for audio good whether it’s going into a decent mid-range audio system or something really mighty. And while I’m still not entirely won over by dCS’ ‘you don’t need a preamp’ claims, the Rossini does sound good hooked directly to a power amp. OK, so it’s unlikely that a player that costs close to £20,000 will front an £800 amp and £1,000 loudspeakers, and that it is expected to be seen in systems costing nearer £50,000 and beyond; but regardless, the Rossini character is stamped across the system. App control makes the player a worthwhile addition to any portfolio, and because it can process virtually any digital format you can think of (SACD discs notwithstanding).
I’ve not logged enough Vivaldi hours to see where the jumps in performance lie between Rossini and its bigger brother. I’ll hand that one over to my colleague Chris Thomas in a long-term listening follow-up in a later edition of Hi-Fi+ because he has extensive experience with both systems. It seems, however, that although the Rossini is very good in all the ways the Vivaldi stack is good, the full Vivaldi experience raises that naturalness and completeness to another level. The dCS Rossini is more than just a scaled-down Vivaldi, though, and has a beguiling property of its own. What’s more, in systems that aren’t at the extreme limit of what’s currently possible from audio, the Rossini’s consistency might make for a better overall performance. Remember that in some of the systems that show what the Vivaldi can do to its best, the cost of connecting those four boxes with audio cable commensurate with its performance is more than a Rossini!
That, in essence, encapsulates what is so good about the Rossini, and it is an encapsulation as I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this player can do. To better it – especially when partnered with the matching clock (see box) – doesn’t just need a serious financial boost to the digital audio stages of your system, it probably needs a better system. The dCS Rossini sets a high standard for digital audio of all kinds today. You may find ‘different’ but you won’t find ‘better’ at anything even close to this level. The dCS Rossini is a powerful, confident player in all its guises and highly recommended for those fortunate enough to be able to take digital audio to the next level.