dCS Bartók Digital-to-Analog Converter $14,500 Review

August 14, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“These days, $2000-$2500 buys most audiophiles a near-state-of-the-art DAC. Whether an FPGA design from PS Audio or Chord Electronics, a multibit model from Schiit Audio, or a delta-sigma from Benchmark or Mytek, to name just a few, there’s no shortage of excellent options. In fact, you could buy a Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ ($2195) just like mine, plug it into your high-dollar system, and I’m confident you’d be shocked at how clean and resolving its sound is. And you’d be right. My extensive praise for the dCS Bartók might have given the impression that a substantial chasm in sound quality yawns between it and, say, the more proletarian Mytek that hails from Poland. That chasm is narrower than you might think.

With the Bach Partita, Viktoria Mullova’s delicious violin sounded about as transparent through the Mytek as it had through the more-than-six-times-as-costly dCS. That alone is a huge achievement. Still, the Bartók’s re-creation of the Allemanda was distinct in some subtle ways. The soundstage was a touch more compressed through the Mytek — Mullova’s instrument sounded slightly more two-dimensional. Gone was the dCS’s analog-like ease and liquidity, replaced by a more urgent and vivid sound with a more mechanical, stereotypically “digital” feel. I actually enjoy that sort of well-articulated sound, but it’s inherently unnatural, and ultimately, I preferred the Bartók’s version.”

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