dCS Rossini v2.0 firmware upgrade Page 2

The differences in sound between mappers is based on their different balances of second and third-order distortion. As Quick explained during a break at Definitive Audio's Music Matters 14 event in Seattle, "Of the new mappers, MAP 1 has a slightly higher proportion of third-order to second, which is considered more 'solid-state' sounding; MAP 3 is the inverse, with more second-order to third, and is considered more 'tube-like' and benign."

Using Rossini v2.0 and the Rossini transport and upsampling to 24/352.8 DXD, I heard major differences between MAPs 1 and 3 while playing divine jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan's 1982 studio recording of "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," from Crazy and Mixed Up (JVS XRCD VIC-J 60098). Through MAP 3, Vaughan's voice sounded smoother and warmer, Roland Hanna's piano warmer and less tinkly; with MAP 1, color differences and the artificial reverb around Vaughan's voice were more apparent, and Harold Jones's brushes sounded crisper and realistically hot. Similarly, using Roon to play the London Symphony Orchestra's recently released live recording of Beethoven's Triple Concerto, with Bernard Haitink conducting violinist Gordan Nikolitch, cellist Tim Hugh, and pianist Lars Vogt (DSD 64, LSO0745), timbral contrasts and subtle shadings (aka "microshadings") were more contrasted with MAP 1.

While MAPs 1 and 3 certainly sounded different, I'm not convinced that solid-state vs tube generalizations are particularly useful descriptors at a time when some tube products actually sound more neutral and detailed than their solid-state counterparts. Regardless, for the remainder of my listening, I opted for the greater detail and color differentiation of MAP 1. With PCM files, I alternated between PCM filter F2 for files with sampling rates of 48 and 96, and PCM filter F6 for CDs upsampled to 24/352.8 by the Rossini transport. For DSD files and SACD, I chose DSD filters F1 in Rossini v1.10 and the new F5 in Rossini v2.0. Evaluations were conducted solo and with visitors from the Pacific Northwest Audio Society. A final listening session included PNWAS member/photographer Rey Alvarado, a Port Townsend resident and music lover who has photographed many rock and jazz artists.


Given that I used the Rossini upsampling SACD transport for disc playback, it's germane to note that it's an entirely different animal than my former reference, the discontinued Paganini transport. The second I heard a familiar CD, Murray Perahia's performance, on piano, of Handel's joyous Harpsichord Suite in E, HWV 430 (CD, Sony Classical 62785), my mouth opened wide at how much more air, hall resonance, and realistic depth the Rossini SACD transport conveyed.

Using the Rossini transport or Roon-sourced files together with the Scarlatti Clock for all comparisons, I began by torturing myself with final listens to the Vivaldi DAC v2.11/Network Bridge v.1.02 combo before the DAC was sent back to dCS. The pairing produced a bigger and noticeably more open sense of acoustic space, greater three-dimensionality, and superior transparency than the Rossini v2.0 did. Images were weightier, rounder, and more substantial, with considerably more texture and detail. At the beginning of the aforementioned Mahler Symphony 3, instruments were set farther back in a more spatially convincing soundstage. Through Rossini v2.0, huge bass drum thwacks had less impact, and cymbals less sizzle, than they did with the Vivaldi. About 5 minutes in, when Mahler transitions from dark pessimism to a brief burst of light-filled hope, the magic of shimmering strings scented with the fragrance of spring conveyed by the Vivaldi was diminished through the Rossini. The scale of this grand symphony was better conveyed by Vivaldi v2.11/Network Bridge. Those improvements don't come cheap—$41,749 vs $23,999.

Regardless, Rossini v2.0 represents a major step forward from Rossini v1.2—at no cost to Rossini owners. Mahler's Third had far less sense of acoustic and tonal depth with the old software—v2.0 reached deeper into the music and revealed far more richness of tone. On very different music, John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension's "Discovery" and "Lost and Found," from the CD To the One (Abstract Logix ABLX 027), Rossini v2.0 was far better at conveying three-dimensionality and the hot clatter of cymbals. Rossini v1.2 sounded flatter, cymbals glassier. With the old software, chimes were less sustained—less multi-dimensional—and the background drone was less colorful. Rossini v2.0 conveyed more liveliness and color differentiation across the board, granting keyboards more natural resonance, sparkle and color.

Alvarado said about these recordings by McLaughlin, whom he's hung with and photographed, "Rossini v2.0 is more emotionally engaging. You can hear how the electronic keyboard overlaps the acoustic one without competing for attention, and how the musicians articulate different timbres. You couldn't hear that with v1.10."

I went to town with Rossini v2.0 on two blasts from my distant past, Santana's "Black Magic Woman" and "Gypsy Queen" from the MoFi hi-rez remastering of Abraxas (UDSACD 2152). I loved the depth around voices, the warm midrange, the excellent colors. Rossini v1.2, by comparison, sounded more lightweight. Voices had a fuzzy edge and piano less color—the presentation was less substantial. Differences between Rossini before and after remained consistent on the aforementioned DSD64 files of Beethoven's Triple Concerto, Harrison's Violin Concerto, that good old Mahler, and a number of other tracks. Whatever I threw at it, Rossini v2.0 was well ahead of Rossini v1.10.

Summing Up
In late 2016, in his review of the Rossini Player and Clock, John Atkinson wrote, "The combination ... produced what was, overall, the best sound from digital I have experienced in my system." I wonder what he would have written had he experienced the new revelations dCS's v2.0 software brings to the Rossini DAC and Player.


Ortofan's picture

...the mouth of JVS open while listening to the CD of Murray Perahia playing Handel's Harpsichord Suite in E major when played back via a Marantz CD5004?

JA1 stated that "The Marantz CD5004's measured performance indicates that its intrinsic resolution is better than is needed by the CD medium. That it can offer this level of performance for just $350 is astonishing."

The replacement for the CD5004 - the CD5005 - is available for $399.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

..... so wide that, JVS was singing like Luciano Pavarotti, while listening to dCS :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

BTW ,,,,, Marantz CD 5004 has 'nice sounding' 3rd harmonic distortion (although, low in level) ....... Marantz integrated amps also have 3rd harmonic distortion :-) ........

davip's picture

'Mapping algorithm' and 'upsampling' = made-up music. This comment -- "...produced a bigger and noticeably more open sense of acoustic space, greater three-dimensionality, and superior transparency than..." is pretty damning, as it amounts to conceding that those whose jobs it is to objectively assess equipment merit can be fooled by software trickery, contrivance, and 'mathmatistry' (to use Box' (1976) felicitous phrase).

...algorithms, necessity of an iOS computer, software, updating firmware... Who in their right mind takes audio down the computer path? If you're doing so in the quest for quality sound then analogue is the simple answer. You gotta do all this after dropping $40K on a digital source that sounds worse than a turntable 100x cheaper?!

My record player never fails to work when the 'on' button is pushed -- unlike my router -- and it sounds better than any digital source in the world playing the same media. I'm beginning to wonder about the point of subjective reviewing when digital is involved, and this is the thin-end of the wedge that led to the late and unlamented Audiostream site and its denizen who listened to the non-existent differences between SD cards...

Jason Victor Serinus's picture


Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be JVS could review the new Krell Solo 575 XD mono-blocks with I-Bias? :-) ..........

supamark's picture

You seem to be confusing your personal taste (opinion) with objectivity. You *like* the sound of your turntable more than any digital source you've heard (and that's cool - it's your ears/brain), but I assure you that your turntable is less *accurate* and less true to the original sound than top quality digital. The amount of signal manipulation, not to mention that every playback degrades your record a little bit, is actually higher with vinyl (and analog tape) than you find w/ digital (huge amounts of EQ, which means huge amounts of phase shift, are required to get the record playable due to physics of needle/groove interaction, not to mention the sound gets continuously worse as the record plays from outer to inner grooves because again physics).

You might also want to consider that the universe is essentially "digital" (quantized, probably at a frequency around Planck time... but this isn't the forum to discuss such things).

Oh, and it costs considerably more money for a vinyl based system to reach roughly equivalent performance compared to digital (dCS is an outlier, you can get an excellent DAC with an excellent analog stage for a few $thousand and it won't wear out like your needle/albums/berings/belt, etc does in a vinyl system).

Sure, if I could afford a quarter million dollar vinyl playback system like Mr. Fremer has I'd probably listen to a LOT of vinyl but that's simply not practical (that's like decent house in a mid-sized city money...).

and as JVS said, audiostream.com is still up and running strong under new editorship - just scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the logo right next to the Stereophile logo.

off topic, pretty cool that Hi-Finews is now available same way.

davip's picture

"...You seem to be confusing your personal taste (opinion) with objectivity. You *like* the sound of your turntable more than any digital source you've heard (and that's cool - it's your ears/brain), but I assure you that your turntable is less *accurate* and less true to the original sound than top quality digital".

The only thing that I find "confusing" is that what I describe is labelled by you as subjective opinion whilst we are to accept what you write as an 'assurance'. I come across people like you every day in my work as a planetary geologist, usually spouting some physics-based assurance related to measurement but who always miss that their models are all paramaterised upon assumptions that need to be grounded empirically first (and usually are not). So it is here. Please look at Robitaille and Crothers (2015) if you want a better understanding of the non-physical significance of Planck Time and photic travel across Planck Length -- an arbitrary measurement scale within which light still behaves as a wave.

The straw-man in your audio argument is that "...the amount of signal manipulation is actually higher with vinyl (and analog tape) than you find w/ digital", but you omit to mention that > 99.9% of the music that we listen to is pre-recorded in analogue, and digitising that music makes it sound worse. Don't take my word (opinion) for it -- ask MF, JA, even the author of this Stereophile piece. Whether or not digitising audio at source is better at capturing sound than analogue methods is entirely conceptual (thus irrelevant) when 99.5% of what you listen to is a 16/44.1 copy of something that is forever analogue, just as the touted superiority of DSD512/DXD are irrelevant when little or nothing is available in those formats. You and I will both be long-dead before LZ II is available in octa-DSD; 'Five Leaves Left' will now never be.

My vinyl playback system (STD 305M/Hadcock GH228/Nagaoka MP11) cost me £160 in 1981 (plus new styli and £40 in new belts) -- not a "...quarter million dollar vinyl playback system", but one that will demonstrably trounce any "few $thousand" (or few-million) digital system you can put against it. Why? Because the REAL source -- the media -- is a native analogue copy of the analogue R2R tape in vinyl but a quantised-copy in digital (and a poor one at that in Redbook).

If 16-bit quantisation is good enough for you then I honestly could not be happier for you; just don't ever compare a CD of LZ IV / PG III / Foxtrot / Unknown Pleasures / Reggatta de Blanc / For your Pleasure, etc. with vinyl copies of the same on even the most rudimentary turntable, as it will destroy your little digital universe forever.

In regard to that 'digital universe', in music as in life, reality is preferable to abstraction and make-believe. So it is in my case.

N.B. Yes, Audiostream continues to run under new editorship, as does Innerfidelity. Ask someone in Stereophile to publish the number of site-hits for either now. The SD-card-listener is now Twittering elsewhere and that -- my point -- is the good thing.

CG's picture

I will continue to argue that the constant re-mastering of albums, which mostly began when CDs first appeared on the market, is not making things better.

Fast forward a couple decades and the target audience for most recording companies now seems to be users who listen through cell phones and earbuds. The re-mastering is done with that in mind. So, you get unbridled compression and all sorts of effects that might grab your attention, but may not be what some of us want to listen to.

That all suggests that if you want source material more suited for listening at home, you're better served by using good copies of old vinyl. The best digital playback possible will only faithfully reproduce whatever crap is on the recording.

michaelavorgna's picture

Never mind. Your comments speak for themselves.

Michael Lavorgna
Twittering Machines

ok's picture

for addressing how big an improvement can be achieved in our digital age for virtually nothing.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Thank you for posting about the Rossini DAC. I'm not sure that it costs virtually nothing, but if you do own one, the upgrade is free. And it sure sounds good.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be it is time to re-visit Linn Klimax Solo mono-block power-amps? ....... JVS is the perfect person to do it :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Lyn Me :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be just one more? ....... Chord Ultima Mono Reference Power amps :-) ..........

Ortofan's picture

... note that the Marantz CD5004 reviewed in 2011 (and whose "intrinsic resolution is better than is needed by the CD medium") uses a DAC chip that is of no newer than year 2000 vintage.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Year 2000 was a very good year ....... The climate was perfect ........ So, they dug up some sand and made silicon ingots and wafers, and subsequently some semiconductor chips ....... The sound quality was sweet, full of body and without any bitterness or harshness :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

BTW ...... Those year 2000 silicon ingots are stored in a secret, un-disclosed location ........ Indiana Jones is searching for that location :-) ........