The Rossini is emphatically a dCS product. It is beautifully constructed inside and out with a simple elegance to its design. It sports the full range of AES/EBU connections, balanced and single-ended outs, USB and Ethernet inputs and of course clock connections. There is also an excellent analogue volume control for those who might want to forgo a system preamplifier and operate directly into a power amplifier. The machine can be controlled by a comprehensive app while the latest dCS remote control is entirely logical and fit for purpose in a way that the previous hunk of metal never really managed. It is the first dCS player not to include SACD due to the shenanigans of the Esoteric brand and its supply to those who incorporated it. But dCS, having sniffed danger from afar, availed itself of sufficient stock to cover all eventualities. The Rossini utilises a Stream Unlimited drive and as a standalone CD player it is, in my experience, second only to the Vivaldi. But it has many more strings to its bow and is available with and without the drive itself which leaves potential customers with a large CD library with a stark choice. Do I buy the CD version or might I perhaps rip my entire collection onto a NAS drive and go with the DAC? Up until relatively recently, this was not a relevant question as comparing ripped files to the disc would in the vast majority of cases, bring a thumbs up for the disc, but not any longer though. If you heard streaming and files ripped onto NAS drive a few years ago you will, like me, be astounded at how much better the whole technology has become.
So what does a Rossini high-end streaming and NAS based system actually look like? The simplest way to explain is probably to run through my domestic set-up and the solutions to everyday situations that I was presented with when the system was installed. It would have been nice if the router was next to the audio side of things, but it wasn’t so I needed a decent cable – an Audioquest in this case – that runs to the system and straight into a five-way ethernet switch. This small (and cheap) device becomes the switching hub into which I have plugged a NAS, the Nucleus that runs the Roon software and the Rossini. There are no USB connections into the DAC as it’s all done via its ethernet input. That’s about it and it is a very compact yet powerful interface that has proved itself remarkably stable and glitch-free since the Nucleus took over the Roon processing responsibilities from my MacBook.
There is something very special about the way the Rossini deals with digitally stored and streamed files. It is a full blown digital system hub in itself. It doesn’t need a separate Upsampler or the dCS Bridge to open the world of Tidal, or other subscription-based music software. It is all done internally. The unfolding and decoding as well as the conversion is achieved within the Rossini and this is a very good thing indeed. Files from a NAS drive also sound very good and the high res files, in my opinion, are the best of all. Ripped files are more impressive than I have ever heard before and I have been dipping my toe in and out of this particular pool for years. So, unless you have a very high quality CD replay system I would suggest that ripping your CD collection will bring superior results but would also strongly suggest you try and get hold of some of the higher res files that are becoming more obtainable these days. I have been staggered at a 192kHz / 24bit Pet Sounds[Capitol] as well as a copy of Bill Evans’ Waltz For Debby[Riverside/OJC] at the same resolution. I don’t know how many times I have heard different versions of the Beach Boys’ famous old album over the years. I thought I knew it but the new file has allowed me to understand the whole thing much better. All the vocals and instrumentation are so vastly different from what I assumed from listening to the original vinyl and subsequent CD’s, even the re-released, re-mastered marketing nonsense that has provided the record companies so much extra revenue over the years are sterile, flat and rather crude in comparison. The aged quaint and thin sound is all but gone and the vocal harmonies are a revelation. The Bill Evans file merely enforces what a wonderfully tasteful and expressive player he was. Nothing superfluous, just the language of music, now heard with a greater range of tonal colours and extraordinarily beautiful dynamic pushes and sustain than I have ever enjoyed it with before, except perhaps on a very high-end record player some years ago.