The dCS Puccini is also versatile. It has two digital inputs, so the advantages of the Ring DAC technology can be extended to another transport, or perhaps DAB radio, it has a digital output (though I am slightly struggling to think what real-world use you might put it to, given the obvious strengths of the onboard DAC and the fact that it can only be used to access the PCM signal, so an SACD or DSD datastream can’t be output). There is also a variable output level, analogue output volume is adjusted in the digital domain so the unit can be used as a digital preamp. It is also possible to connect an external word clock, such as dCS’ own Paganini unit for yet greater precision, something I have yet to experience but am keen to try.
Other players sound unfocused, in comparison with the dCS. Possessed by the Balanescu Quartet (MUTE 9 61421-2) has a sinewy, urgent quality through the Puccini. It is still compelling through other players, but one is not left quite so breathless or bereft when the music stops. If timing is at the heart of the dCS approach, as I think it is, then the Puccini has it, in spades.
Mostly very, very positive, I have nevertheless been left with curiously mixed feelings about this player: on the one hand, it has strengths which leave me feeling overwhelmingly enthusiastic, the sound of DSD-upsampled CD and SACD is beyond what I’ve heard elsewhere, it is infectious and addictive; on the other hand there is something niggling away at me which I haven’t isolated. I did the ‘Frame’ test on an Accuphase DP500, a superb CD player at around half the price of the dCS and it gave a very good account of itself, as it should. Although ultimately not even close to the mightily impressive dCS, it did however have a wonderfully natural sense of ease and liquid phrasing which the dCS would struggle to better. I’ve also heard dCS at shows sound distinctly off the pace. It occurs to me that perhaps dCS have concentrated on their peerless digital expertise and the analogue output hasn’t had quite the attention of more organic-sounding players from Accuphase, Audio Research or Zanden, for example. I’d like to stick my neck out and wonder aloud just how good the dCS Puccini would be, with a genuinely top notch analogue output stage. It is already one of the great one-box players, dCS may have to ask very, very nicely indeed if they want it back.
Type: Upsampling CD/SACD player
DAC: dCS Ring DAC, upsampling to DSD before oversampling.
Inputs: Two digital (S/PDIF) RCA Phono connectors, accepting up to 24 bit PCM at 32, 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96 kHz. One word clock input on 75 Ohm BNC connector
Outputs: Two digital coaxial output, one unbalanced analogue output, one balanced analogue output, one word clock output on 75 Ohm BNC connector
Output Level: 2.0V rms or 6.0V rms, variable output level as digital preamp
Dimensions (WxHxD, in mm): 460x101x410
Available finishes: Silver or black
Remote control: Yes, optional programmable remote
Data Conversion Systems Ltd
Tel: +44 (0)1799 531999