pl | en



MEETING No. 101:


Price (when reviewed): 120,000 PLN


Distribution in Poland: AUDIOFAST

hen you kneel, it is hard to keep your head up. When you want to see what is going on around you, you have to stand up sometimes. However, this is really difficult indeed when something literally brings you down to your knees, overwhelms you and does not even let you look around. This is what happened once to all members of the Krakow Sonic Society. The giant that overwhelmed us was the dCS Vivaldi SACD player.
It is no exaggeration to say that it was one of the best three signal sources that I have ever heard in my life, regardless of the format. The two remaining ones belong to different worlds – I am talking about the TechDAS Air Force One turntable and the Studer A820 analogue studio tape recorder. We once listened to the latter during a meeting of the Krakow Sonic Society; it also played music during the Audio Video Show 2015.

Equating top analogue sources and a digital source may seem irresponsible for many music lovers who are also audiophiles. It is because I am talking about a function that seems secondary for the Vivaldi player – i.e. playing Compact Discs, which is, by definition, considered to be a mistake or a one-way street by many respectable and respected music lovers, audiophiles, and journalists.
The fact that I got carried away while listening to the Vivaldi player does not mean that I acted impulsively and later did not thoroughly think over what I had heard. I did not let anyone put a spell on me or trick me, either. However, if I did, then all of us were dumbfounded. After over a year since that listening session, my feelings about the system have not changed. On the contrary, they have even intensified, as they have been confirmed by subsequent listening sessions and tests.

However, let us be honest, we are talking about one of the most expensive signal sources currently available on the market. Four elements of the player (the SACD transport, digital-analogue converter, upsampler and clock) cost 108,000 USD, which is now equivalent to 400,000 PLN. All these elements, of course, were not suspended in vacuum. The rest of the equipment was also expensive: it included the excellent Artesania Audio table, Synergistic Research power cables and a whole bunch of digital connectors. The whole SYSTEM cost 526,360 PLN, i.e. five hundred twenty six thousand three hundred and sixty PLN (as for January 1st 2014 – today the sum is a few per cent higher). So, it is an equivalent of a nice cottage (with a garden), located close to the city.


However, this is top high-end and we should not be surprised. If we want the best products, we have to pay a lot for them, although there are a few exceptions to this rule. However, these exceptions are related to sound and not to a PRODUCT. It is because you can find products manufactured by small companies which sound better than more expensive devices made by well-known manufacturers. However, when it comes to a product itself, there are no such miracles.
Audio devices, as any other devices, comprise different elements, including: sound quality, design quality, functionality, efficiency, artistic design and brand. The last of these elements also includes so-called “brand perception.” Audiophiles have been continuously debating what value should be assigned to each of these components. I think this question cannot be answered, as people cannot reach any consensus in this field, as developing any ranking of these elements is a matter of personal taste and preferences.

It is possible to distinguish a few extremes here. On the one hand, there are idealists – hardcore adherents of the solely reigning sound. It is the only thing that matters, whereas the rest is noise and scum that must be removed. On the other hand, there are lifestyle nomads who care about design and functionality. Finally, there are “engineers” who estimate the value of a product based on measurement results, applied technical solutions and components, and design quality. As it can be seen, the audio domain is a well-equipped buffet from which everyone can choose something for themselves.

In real world, each of these elements is important and (as I assume, although I have not carried out any research in this field) most music “consumers” are somewhere between these extremes, and like one or another of the elements mentioned above more. It must be added that the balance usually changes with time and we start to value certain things higher as we grow old.
Taking all of this into account, we can easily get to the following conclusion: Vivaldi is such an exceptional product because it is brilliant in each of these aspects. It has no weaknesses and only something that was significantly better could change this opinion of mine – and probably will. However, not yet.


The CES 2016 exhibition in Las Vegas is the largest exhibition of household articles in the world. It was there where the news was announced that the production of SACD drives had been stopped. As we have learnt, this was caused by the fact that Sony has ceased to produce chips that control the drives. The news was of crucial importance from our point of view – the perspective of the micro-domain of audio. For the rest of consumers, it was just a curiosity, while most people did not notice it at all. Anyway, it would have had no repercussions. It is because the IT and audiovisual domains have been using a new generation of optical discs (Blu-ray), whereas it is likely that, with time, mechanical solutions will be completely eliminated and replaced with solid state memory.

What does this change for us, audiophiles? From our point of view, it is important only to the extent that SACD drives are in fact DVD drives programmed to read a different type of information. A SACD is constructed in exactly the same way as a DVD. These two formats differ with respect to signal recording. So, naturally, stopping the production of DVD drives means the end of SACD drives.

And that is where problems begin. When the CD market started to shrink slowly, being hugely taken over by the DVD technology, many CD drive manufacturers gave up producing them. A few most persistent ones, who either bought a license from large companies or designed their own mechanisms, remained on the market. Thus, we still have the popular Sony drive manufactured by the Taiwanese company ASA Tech (its different version is known from Cambridge Audio players), the high-end CD-Pro 2 Philips drive and drives manufactured by the Austrian company StreamUnlimited Engineering GmbH which employs engineers who used to work for Philips. Some manufacturers use computer CD-ROM or Blu-ray drives.

As regards SACD drives, things are more complicated. It is because only those manufacturers that either have their own products or modified other manufacturers’ drivers a long time ago (so that now they can talk about their own solutions) have remained on the market. These are: Esoteric (Teac), with the whole series of VRDS-NEO drives (a DVD version of the Vibration free Rigid Disc clamping System drive), Accuphase with its own version of a drive originating from a Sony drive and Luxman with the LxDTM drive, i.e. the Luxman original Disc Transport Mechanism. Accuphase and Luxman do not sell drives to external companies and that is why all top SACD players manufactured by other companies used Esoteric drives.


However, Esoteric has stopped selling its drives. dCS is the only external company that has access to them, unfortunately very limited when it comes to their number. For this reason, a few manufacturers, including Soulution and Musical Fidelity, have ceased to produce SACD players. Was it the reason why the Rossini Player is the first Compact Disc player in the dCS company history? I do not know, but it is very likely. There is another sensible reason – perhaps the new file player module that the device is equipped with is manufactured by the same company that produces the CD drive, i.e. StreamUnlimited. If yes, it would even make sense. As a result, however, we get a player dedicated to Compact Discs, whereas the Vivaldi is a SACD player that we used to play CDs.

The new transport (and, therefore, the whole platform) and the new file player are not the only changes that have been made. The “heart” of the player is still the same 5-bit RingDAC digital-to-analogue converter that we can find in the Vivaldi – at least this is what the manufacturer declares. However, the Rossini is an integrated player, so the transport and the DAC are placed in one housing, thanks to which their power supply units are smaller. The upsampler has also been put in the same housing. Only the Rossini Clock is available as an external device. Thanks to this, the Rossini costs over three times less than the Vivaldi.

I am not going to describe it in more detail, as we have already written about it twice: on the occasion of the 100th meeting of the Krakow Sonic Society in Warsaw and also last month, in connection with a formal review of the player. This listening session was different when it comes to the accompanying system, the use of the power adjustment function and the participation of people who had listened to the Vivaldi at the same place and with the same system. The only change that has taken place in the system since then was the replacement of 300B Takatsuki tubes in the Ancient Audio amps with Psvane tubes. The meeting took place at Janusz’s home, where we gathered after a two-year break.

The session devoted to the Rossini Player and the Rossini Clock was one of the most stormy ones that we have held during a meeting of the Krakow Sonic Society for a very long time. We regularly have different opinions. It is normal, as each of us interprets and evaluates what we hear in a different way. However, even when we had discussions and disagreed with one another, we fell within certain frames that made us speak unanimously.

The Rossini polarized the listeners completely and extremely. To tell you the truth, I cannot explain why. That is, I do not know why our opinions differed so much. Was it because of the expectations evoked by the Vivaldi? Perhaps yes. However, that was an issue of our expectations and not of the product itself. The assumption that a device that is three times cheaper than another one will produce comparable sound is not very realistic, the more that we are talking about the same company and devices having the same DNA. And perhaps, which is also likely, it was about that particular system, constructed strictly for Ancient Audio devices to be used in it, without a preamp? In the end, in the audio domain we always think about the system and not the product. No matter how we look at it, our discussion was close to a quarrel. So, let us allow the participants to have their say.

Jarek Waszczyszyn | Ancient Audio

I will say straight away that already after we had listened to the first recordings, I recalled how the Vivaldi had brought me to my knees. Nothing like this happened when it comes to the Rossini. I even think that some recordings sounded better with the Lektor Grand SE, but, let me stress that, not all of them. For example, an album with a Rubinstein’s recital, as well as Italian baroque with its vocal and the lute sounded better with the Rossini. I think that in those cases the Rossini player generally offered better articulated treble – there is simply more of it. However, it seems to me that the color of instruments (e.g. in the case of Smolik’s album or a track from True Detective) was nicer with the Lektor. The sound was better filled and differentiated. As for me, everything played with the Rossini sounded more or less the same.


I have not been influenced by the Vivaldi, since I did not take part in its listening test. Perhaps this is why I like the Rossini very much. I would even say that it brought me to my knees. As for me, it has excellent dynamics, it is very selective and gives you a lot of details, but does not highlight them. I personally like such lively and energetic music, and this is how the Rossini plays it. I could hear more instruments with it and I think it is good. The Lektor produced sound that was set lower and sometimes had more bass. However, the difference was not very distinct. As for me, Rossini was unquestionably better.


I am going to start with the following conclusion: the dCS device did nothing to bring me to my knees. I think that the Rossini is a very good player, similar to the Lektor when it comes to sound quality. Perhaps it is because the Vivaldi was simply outstanding and there were not ‘buts’. And here we get a high-end good player and that’s it.


I do not quite agree with Jarek or Tomek. For me, the Rossini simply played better. It is really a very high-quality device. It is true that we cannot talk about sound similar to the Vivaldi, but the price is totally different. However, listening to the Rossini was something that I really liked – it provided unrestricted expression, consistent sound within the whole frequency scale, as well as specific nobility or elegance of sound that is characteristic for top-class devices.

Rysiek B.

I cannot listen to this, people! The Rossini is a failure! I do not know why you liked anything about it – matt tone, a flat sound stage, weak differentiation. Frankly speaking, I did not especially like the Lektor today, either, but I did not like the dCS player at all, with any of the recordings! Never again!

Rysiek S.

Similarly to Marcin, I have never heard the Vivaldi. I do not know if it means anything or not, but I, just like Marcin, like the Rossini a lot. I do not understand the passion that Rysiek has spoken with. The musical message of the dCS device is very well thought-out. It is completely finished and closed. There is no coincidence or chaos here. This is rare and shows that someone had worked on it – someone with good auditory perception. When I listen to the Rossini, I know what it is all about, I perceive differences between individual instruments and albums. Sometimes the treble was not completely perfect, something was brighter, but it was not unpleasant – it is simply how some music sounds. The Lektor produces lower sound, it is darker and has lower bass.


I give the Rossini a big and strong NO. For me it is a failure and I understand what Rysiek has said. There is no denying that it is coherent, smooth sound. However, it is also shallow, with subdued colors, as well as rounded in a somewhat unnatural way. Of course, we have to remember that listening to any audio system has nothing in common with live listening – the sound of any instrument is not the same when rendered by any audio system. However, some systems sound better and more pleasant, and the Rossini is not one of them. After we put it in the system, everything got enclosed between the columns. In my opinion, a lack of the Esoteric drive strongly affected sound quality.


For me it is a failure and a mistake. It is grey, flat sound. I do not like the lack of differentiation – it resembles using sepia to paint music. Sound saturation is a few times better with the Lektor. I am amazed, especially after what I heard with the Vivaldi. I do not understand why the Rossini produces such flat sound. The Lektor goes lower, it is colorful and richer. I do not understand why the dCS company decided to launch the Rossini.

A few words from me

I did not elaborate on what the participants said, since they repeated the same arguments during the subsequent parts of the listening session and nobody changed their mind. The comparison consisted in listening to the system with the Ancient Audio Lektor Grand SE player, replacing the Lektor with the dCS player and then using the Lektor again. We listened to the same recording each time and made our comments. During the second part of the session we listened to different recordings. I noticed a bit more favorable opinions on the Lektor when we listened to Platinum SHM-CDs, but that was no breakthrough. The Lektor simply goes lower in bass (in this system) and has a lower-set midrange, which clearly does good to recordings.

As I have said – I have no idea why we had such different opinions. I also do not understand the participants who spoke about the Rossini’s weaknesses with such passion – I did not hear them. I could say that the place where I was sitting was the best, exactly in the middle, but it is not the case. We had sat like that many times before and managed to reach some coherent conclusions. Changing digital filters in the player did not bring us closer to reaching a consensus, either.

In my opinion, the Rossini played very well. It represented the Lektor’s level and with some recordings it was even better than the Polish player. Let me remind you that the Vivaldi device was the only signal source that produced significantly better sound in this system than the top-class Ancient Audio player – all other sources were worse. This time, sound was of the same quality, but it was also different. The Lektor produces lower sound and lower bass. It shows everything better in a listening room, in a more tangible way. It is excellent at holography and drawing elements on the sound stage, which the Rossini cannot do so well. However, from my point of view (position in space), the difference was not big and I would not have paid any attention to it, had it not been for the opinions that I wrote down.

I will say more – the dCS device seems to be a player which sounds similar to the Lektor, additionally offering better focus and a bit more modern aesthetics. Tomek pointed it out in follow-up talks and I agree with that. The Lektor produces what me may call ‘old school’ sound. It is closer to turntable sound in the sense that everything seems familiar with it, as someone from the neighborhood. The Rossini sounds more modern – it offers a fresh and open musical message with very good internal focus. The Lektor provides exceptional distribution. However, it encloses albums within the same frames of well known ‘classic’ sound. The Rossini also does that, but in a different way – as if it paid more attention to the whole than to its components.

This is probably why instruments and vocals had more weight with the Lektor, as if they were pulled towards the ground more. The player lets us focus on individual elements thanks to their distinctly different color, shape and expression. However, the Rossini showed something that I heard for the first time with the Vivaldi – it is also important how individual instruments and colors work with one another, how they create a bigger whole.


If we do not consider extreme opinions, as it is done in the case of many tests, we are left with something that a few participants articulated very clearly: Rossini is a robust, well-made player. It is a great product that provides high-quality sound. When compared to it, the Lektor can only be distinguished with regards to its sound which, in my (and not only my) opinion, is characterized by similar quality. As a product, the Rossini proves better than anything else.

Although I do not agree with those who totally rejected it, it must be mentioned that there are such people. I cannot explain why our opinions were so different. So, let us not forget that there were opinions that the Rossini did not make sense at all. However, it is a sign that the Rossini has to be listened to personally, in one’s own system and with one’s own records.

The conclusion is that, no matter what one thinks of the sound, it is one of the most interesting CD players available and, as such, it deserves recognition and respect – the dCS company deserves them. It is not the Vivaldi, it is simply not possible. However, let us not compare these two products. These are two different worlds when it comes to their prices and quality. Let us think of the Rossini as a player which costs 120,000 PLN and can be connected to an external clock that can be used to play files. Then we will be able to form our own opinion – and let us stick to this.


  • Compact Disc player/preamplifier: Ancient Audio LEKTOR GRAND SE
  • Power amplifier: Ancient Audio SILVER GRAND MONO
  • Power conditioner: Ancient Audio Re-Generator
  • Speakers: Sonus faber ELECTA AMATOR
  • Interconnects: Siltech TRIPLE CROWN (read HERE)
  • Speaker cable: Tara Labs OMEGA
  • Power cables (all elements): Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9500
  • Table: Base
  • Anti-vibration accessories: Acoustic Revive
  • Wine: