dCS Vivaldi 2.0 digital playback system

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Multi-format disc players,
Digital-to-analog converters,
Music servers and computer audio,
USB interfaces, clocks, and soundcards
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dCS Vivaldi Version 2.0

Let’s start with the software changes. The engineers at dCS have looked deep into their own RingDac and come up with two new 6MHz Mappers, a new DSD filter (filter 5) and implemented DSD128 on both USB and the Dual AES. They have also added a further pair of low level outputs of 0.2V and 0.6V though these are essentially for safety when using something like Spotify or Apple Airplay to avoid sudden volume occurrences. There is also improved RS232 integration and now, when utilising the variable volume output, the display is full screen for a few seconds.

The Upsampler has seen the aforementioned hardware upgrades that also add Tidal, Spotify, and the superb Roon software, plus the dual AES output options now support DSD/128 (DSDx2). The iPod input is no more but has been replaced by the ability to use Airplay instead. Again, the RS232 integration has been updated too and this has also been incorporated into the separate clock.

The Vivaldi always had four DSD filters but the new Filter 5 is much better with regards to out of band noise making it a lot more amplifier friendly particularly for those that choose to drive their power amplifier straight from the Vivaldi’s analogue outputs. The transport now includes a third upsampling mode for CD playback in the shape of DSDx2 (1 bit / 5.644MHz) plus there are a couple of changes to the way the display operates.

One of the major changes has been to the algorithm mapping of the Ring DAC itself. The Ring DAC has been improved over the years but, until now, the mapping algorithm has remained constant. In the original Vivaldi there was only a single setting, but Vivaldi 2.0 offers Maps 1 through 3, selectable through the menu system. Map 1 is the new default setting, Map 2 is the same as the original Vivaldi (3MHz) but it has undergone what dCS describe as some ‘housekeeping’ so I hear it as being both quieter and cleaner, while Map 3 is an ‘experimental’ version, included as the boys at dCS liked it so much. Users will need to scroll through and decide their default setting. It is easy to hear the subtle changes in musical ‘shape’, perspectives, and emphases when listening to each and which you choose will likely depend on your system and taste. There’s no right or wrong here. Choose the one you like the most is my advice and for the record, I am a Map 3 man myself, though I could, in certain circumstances, opt for Map 1.

All high-end equipment should be so musically engaging that it draws you in. Surely it must speak the language of music so eloquently that it encourages you to invest something of yourself in the performances and once you do that, how can you fail to become emotionally connected? Without this a system is really just a collection of very expensive boxes. This is what makes the Vivaldi 2.0 so special, because when number-crunching mathematics and music collide so spectacularly as this, then special things happen.

The Vivaldi 2.0 adds even more resolution. I think of the term as encapsulating everything about the music and the recording, from the rhythmic flow and movement, right through to the instrumental detail itself. This includes the playing techniques, phrasing, and of course the way this has been incorporated into the production. The Vivaldi 2.0 is so vibrant and dynamic that even the rather muted and small-sounding discs from the early days of CD are revealed as being far better than I had originally thought. The original Vivaldi excelled at this, but the new updates have taken things much further. Yes, even those old splashy and rather thin, bleached sounding Steely Dan discs can sound quite remarkable. I never thought I would write those words but it’s an indication of what dCS have achieved musically here and the way that their undoubted prowess when it comes to evolving the Ring DAC has paved the way for the music lover.

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