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Having just bought a Rossini, I may be biased, but the Rossini is a very nice piece. In my system, the Rossini replaced a Meridian 808.5. While not inexpensive by any measure, the Rossini sounded better than any digital front-end I've listened to. The volume control is very good and makes the decision to go direct to the power amp easy.
Thanks, still hoping someone will chime in who has heard both in credible "A/B" fashion. But congrats on your Rossini. I have to say, I have heard the Vivaldi (all things equal) with and without a preamp. While it's true that a 32-bit attenuator should bridge the gap between digital and analog volume control, the Vivaldi with high quality preamp bettered direct-to-amp by a sizable margin. Not even close! That said, the preamp in this case cost more than the Rossini! But whatever works. Enjoy, you have a great product. D
Thanks for these latest posts. I'm queued up for the upgrade program, ref 1 to 2, but it may take a while. Great to hear the change is substantial. I too am scratching my head over your experience with vs without preamp. It raises the question of whether you have a cabling issue? I also run the same Ayre products and with ref1, using the KX-R 20 sounds vastly superior, well beyond issues of attenuation. Enjoy!
The Berkeley upgrade is Substantial, not subtle. You will be pleased. I have no cabling issue. If I drive my Atma Sphere MA-1 amps, the sound is both much more dynamic and focused using the Ayre preamp in the chain. So I am not universally bemoaning the use of a preamp. Preamps have merit. I'm just saying that I prefer the sound of the Berkeley Reference 2 DAC driving my Ayre MX-R Twenties directly, with no preamp. I have two runs of balanced Synergistic Element CTS, so its a piece of cake to A\B the sound with or without a preamp. With the Ayre preamp in the chain, the sound is more focused, so I prefer the more airy Synergistic presentation. With the Berkeley driving the Ayre amps directly, I prefer a shade more focus, and run Audioquest WEL. I hear more details, and more realistic harmonics around those details without the preamp, in this case.
Sounds great! As always, every room, system and ear is different. I will certainly A/B with and without the KX-R twenty again after my Berkeley update. I am #79 in the queue and they have temporarily suspended the conversion process until they finish the MQA upgrade. There is a groundswell of glow over MQA but I haven't heard samples from a fully compatible system so I don't have an opinion. But kudos to Berkeley for having a pathway to improvement for existing owners, even though they always (should be in caps) take longer than their well-intentioned estimates. Happy listening!
Yeah. I was #82 in the queue. Got tired of waiting. Contacted my dealer, Galen Carol. Swapped my V1 for V2 for $8K. Don't regret it for a second. The Reference 2 sounds like a whole different processor. When I got it, I had my old V1 in house also. I placed them both in my rack, and was prepared for an A/B session. I listened to three familiar songs thru the V2. It wasn't even fully warmed up. Then I simply packed up the V1 and sent it to Galen. No comparison needed. Its a No Brainer.
I haven't spent Big Money on power conditioning. I live in a small town out in Wyoming and the power is quite clean. But since you asked, I run an API power wedge, an older model with three isolation transformers. And I run a Shunyata Venom cord. I do plan to check out the Shunyata Denali system. For the price, it looks intriguing.
While awaiting Imgoodwithtools' answer, i will chime in by saying you've introduced many variables, focusing a systemic comparison on one component. That said, as a ref sac 1 user, the impact of the Shunyata Hydra Triton v3 (and previously v2) is HUGE in my room- Berkeley/ Nagra/ Rockport/ Transparent. I previously owned the complete Nordost QRT system, but the Shunyata just blows it away. How much of that is an effect on the sac, I couldn't say. Quieter, more transparent allowing fine detail to emerge were primary effects. Slightly greater sense of weight at the bottom noted as well.
In my system, its more about isolating the components from each other. I use Shunyata Venom digital cables on both my PS Audio Perfectwave transport and my Esoteric SACD player. Shunyata Venom power cables to the Berkeley and the Ayre preamp. Then I plug the two transports into one isolation transformer since they are never used at the same time, the Berkeley into its own iso, and the preamp into its own iso. Like I said, I plan to check out the Shunyata Denali system. There is a review online at Absolute Sound, if you're curious.
Sounds good! I too have worked with Galen Carol, who is quite knowledgeable about Shunyata products- you have a good resource at hand! I am using a Zitron Sigma HC with my Triton- I'm not looking back or forward at this time, it's hear to stay (sorry, bad pun). I have read the Denali reviews, surely great products. BTW, I used a Power Wedge isolation trans.-type processor from about 1992 to about two years ago. The physics involved in these products defies both my knowledge and interest, but in my system and on my power grid, I can only regret waiting so long to let it go and move on. Isolation transformers are great for protection, however. I have used them in other applications. You have some fun toys!
Thanks. I've settled on two things. The Berkeley Alpha Reference 2 DAC. And my Wilson Alexia loudspeakers. Will investigate the merits of MQA once its more fully established. I'm still playing with amps. Will likely sell my Atma Sphere amps, mainly on the different presentation of the Berkeley 2. It makes my Ayre amps, now completely acceptable. But as I say that, I have a D'Agostino S-250 on the way. Lol. Will settle on interconnects once the amp decision is made. Also plan to play around a bit with that Shunyata Denali system. It Never Ends.
The D'Ag will be fun to compare with Nagra. I've owned both; though I owned a D'Ag Integrated, I've heard the separates. It's hard to say one is better than the other, but they are different. Since you're playing with top-end gear and since our systems have a lot in common, let me just tell you that the best amps I've heard are from Vitus, which is now supported in the US. Best amps and preamps- Vitus and Koda. I haven't heard the venerated Gryphon products, which as a Rockport lover (I've owned Wilson- outstanding but not my preferred flavor) may represent the best. Gryphon is not supported in the US. Just an opinion. That's all any of these posts are worth.
There must not be that many people who have heard both the dCS and the Berkeley DACs. But I did have a dealer, and it wasn't Galen, tell me he preferred the Ref 2 to the dCS stuff. But he is a Berkeley dealer, so take that one with a grain of salt. When I initially talked to Galen about upgrading to a Ref 2, he mentioned to me he was running one direct into a pair of big Jeff Rowland amps in one of his showrooms, to great effect. So, if you have one, I highly recommend at least trying direct. And FWIW, I noted a substantial improvement on AC cords swapping to a Venom Digital on my transport. The Berkeley seems to like the regular Venom cord just fine.
I have heard both the dCS and Berkeley DACs in comparison but not in my system. Maier Shadi at The Audio Salon in Santa Monica carries Berkeley, dCS, Wilson, D’Agostino, Transparent etc and is a most accommodating proprietor. I chose a partial dCS Vivaldi stack ( no transport since I use a NAS directly into the Upsampler) but easily understand the allure of the Berkeley. I also run the DAC directly to my Momentum S-250. I had Transparent XL Gen V balanced ICs custom tuned to interface between the Vivaldi DAC and the Dag and have yet to find a preamp that improves on that setup.
Heresy, I know!
Heresy indeed! Another vote against the preamp. I will have to revisit this. I just ordered two pairs of Transparent Audio Ref. interconnects and a pair of Ref. speaker cables, which arrive tomorrow. I will break them in and listen both ways.
Perhaps I will speak with Maier- thanks for the reference. The Vivaldi is a transcendent piece! Just to refocus, I visited Music Lovers in San Francisco, which also sells both Berkeley and dCS, where I heard a well controlled comparison of three dacs- Berkeley Ref 1, Rossini and Vivaldi, no upsampler or clock with the dCS units. All were fabulous, but to my ear, the Rossini bettered the Berk. by enough to justify the price gap; the Rossini took it several flights up, and I gather the other "stack" accessories just keep sweetening it up. I was leaning toward letting the Berk go for Rossini when I learned of the upgrade option from Berk 1 to Berk 2, at a nominal cost. So it seems I owe to myself to learn whether Berk has narrowed the gap on Rossini before spilling more money on this obsessive hobby.
Again, thanks for your interesting post. Music Lovers is now breaking in their Berk Ref 2, so perhaps I will be able to answer my own question in a few weeks?
Best to all, D
Imgoodwithtools I have heard the Berkeley Rv2 and still feel the dCS Rossini is preferable. The Rossini is so good and got so close the Vivaldi 1.0 that they needed to release the Vivaldi 2.0 update way early to mollify that siituation.
The Berkeley is sweet, polite, pleasant and eminently listenable. But somewhat homogenized to my ears. It is airy and diaphanous but also somewhat amorphous. To my ears it only worked well with high end transports. Data files and streaming were subpar.
The dCS is a chameleon. Fire breathing dragon or 2 day old lab puppies depending on the file.
Texture, front to back sound stage, precision of instrumental placement, lack of upper midrange glare, precise articulate bass, noise floor, body and density of the instruments/voices were superior with the dCS.
The Berkeley's interfaces make it instantly obsolete IMHO.
I think people will like delta sigma DACs or r2r DACs ultimately.
dCS makes the best delta sigma DACs and I'm still deciding if MSB or Lampizator makes the best r2r. And boy do they sound spectacular. What a golden age for digital.
I'm also interested in the comparison of the Berkley DAC Ref 2 vs. Rossini. I know the Rossini provides for an external clock connection, how about the Berkley DAC Ref 2? Most of the Rossini reviews state that the SQ improvement when the dCS Rossini clock is used is not subtle.
I realize that the dCS Rossini clock is an additional $7k, but at least the Rossini provides this option. Besides there may be less expensive external clock options such as the PERF10 from Stanford Research Systems.
FWIW - Gyphon is now available in the USA -- Suncoast Audio is the only dealer/distributor as of now (late July 2017).
I haven't heard the Berkeley Ref2, but have a Rossini and a Debussy. I sat and listened to the Vivaldi partial stack (no transport because everything was digital via Roon). The Vivaldi 1.0 still bests the Rossini, but it is a narrow margin.
The Rossini has approx 6 filters (depends on if you're listening to PCM or DSD). Once you get those figured out, it starts to show its stripes and you can no longer call it a "chameleon" -- but that is a good analogy for the Rossini. It's also way more geared up with tech than the Ref2. It has direct Ethernet and can directly stream Tidal and others (perhaps they'll make it a Roon RAAT supported device -- that would be awesome.) It also has direct USB inputs. I have to agree that the Ref2 is way behind still using that old school separate USB to AES converter.
Be prepared to shell out 1/3 the cost of the Rossini on the separate clock. It almost makes you consider a plain Vivaldi DAC since you're about 2K difference at that point. But the Rossini by itself sounds better than the Vivaldi by itself. It's when you put the two together with their clocks, and add the upsampler to the Vivaldi that the Vivaldi takes the lead.
Truth be told, the Debussy isn't a slouch when compared to the Rossini though. There are some characteristics that are better with the Debussy. I'd characterize the Rossini as "laid back", and the Debussy as "forward" in presentation.
I really would be interested in hearing someone's direct comparison of the Rossini vs the Berkeley Ref 2 just like the OP. Despite the technology differences, I am always more interested in the sound. It's hard to find a dealer that has both -- they're just in the top of the game so most pick one.
Allen, thanks for weighing in. And I’m sorry to abandon my own post but the question I raised has become somewhat irrelevant to me personally. Berkeley’s ongoing delays- now both the paused update process and the late MQA software- are the final straw. I believe they are committed to quality and well intentioned in every realm, but their time estimates are a joke. So I’ll be moving on. The question now is Rossini vs. Linn and I’ll be able to do a side-by-side comparison with Definitive Audio in Seattle. Which ever sounds better to my ear is going home with me. I will likely use NAS/ Ethernet in lieu of my current Aurender server. So in effect, screw Berkeley- thanks for wasting my time yet again! I must disagree with the notion that the Rossini dac betters the Vivaldi when both are used sans clock, upsampler. I found the Vivaldi (2.0) superior by a huge margin. I agree with you however that the gap is narrow between Vivaldi (1.0) and Rossini. My candid thoughts! Add a few bucks and it’ll get you a cup of java.
I have a Berkeley Ref (1st gen) in my system currently. It is so outclassed by my AMR DP 777 SE and my AMR CD 77.1 I simply can’t understand any adulation for the unit. My AMR gear sounds like my turntable, the Berkeley sounds like hard digital. The Berkeley is certainly not terrible but there is absolutely nothing that would draw me to its presentation. The dealer also told me (great dealer by the way) that they (manufacturers) always claim that the difference with the mk2 is huge, but that in reality (in this case at least) it is subtle.
I have experience with the Vivaldi stack and it is far far beyond the Berkeley. The Berkeley is the type of sound that has analog only people still believing digital can’t compete. I have two turntables and a fully sorted R2R system so I know that digital when done right can get very close to pure analog.
My Museatex Bidat is far better than the Berkeley Ref. I honestly don’t understand some of these online reviewers, unless they are on the take, and a LOT of them are on the take, I would say my former Metrum Acoustics Hex would easily upstage the Berkeley.
Well I may as well re-enter this old post of mine to see if there is any life left in it, and to close by reporting my decision- i bought a Vivaldi DAC. I never got to hear any of the dCS products compared to the Berkeley Ref. Series 2. For that matter, i never heard the Series 2 at all. Nor did I hear the Linn product. In case you are not aware, Berkeley has not resumed its upgrade process for original Series 1 owners, nor will they discuss the future of the process. All of this straight from the horses (bite tongue) mouth- Michael Ritter. Final straw! Now I’m left to accept a pittance for the used Berk. But aside from whining, I REALLY like MQA, which rules out Linn. And i really don’t want to be DAC shopping any time soon. And the Vivaldi really does deliver a bit of magic. Now I have to see how long I can go without buying the clock? Thanks everyone.
True shame about the Berkeley upgrade, and not good for business, one would think. I was afraid that might happen when the upgrades crawled to a halt late 2016. That's why back in Feb 2017, I bit the bullet and traded my Berkeley Ref 1 for a Ref 2. No regrets. I Love my Berkeley Ref 2 MQA. Although I've never heard dCS components in my system, they have always sounded outstanding when I have heard them. So you should be well equipped, aldenberry.
I also researched for 6 months familiarising myself with all contenders and price. I eventually chose the Debussy, Network Bridge and Clock. The Debussy has most of the tech features of the Rossini by way of trickle down and does sound awesome at home. I compared the two in the shop with the same accompanying equipment and there wasn't much to separate them, the Rossini a but fuller perhaps. Then it may have been an expectation of sound that I heard.
Glad you like your Vivaldi. I looked at the price and did a quick double take. If I had the requisites, the Vivaldi would be in my house too.
Thanks imgoodwithtools and amg56. AMG56, I'm going with the Network Bridge as well, building a Roon Server around that (maybe Nucleus) to replace my Aurender server. Hopefully a Clock when the piggy bank refills. But I could live very happily with what you've assembled, and probably with a Berk. Series 2 as well.
@aldenberry As long as you are loving the sound of your system!!! I found the Network Bridge made the most significant change to the quality of my music. I have been so used to it now, I experimented by taking it offline. The music was flat. Definitely get the Bridge, with any DAC actually. Cheers. A.
Interesting conversation here. I am struggling deciding what to do, going for a dCS Rossini SACD player, DAC and clock and keep my Soulution 520 pre or go the extra mile for a Vivaldi CD/SACD Upsampling Transport, DAC and clock and sell my 520 pre. I have troubles to decide. I simply do not have the opportunity for a shoot-out. By the way, I am not asking you to make the decision for me, but maybe there is someone out there that has a Vivaldi directly to his amp. I can't extract that from this conversation.
By the way Aldenberry, it seems you like your Vivaldi DAC. Do you use a pre-amp? Thanks!
You have found yourself in a common quandary, I can relate. I have not tried Vivaldi with vs. without preamp, but I have done that experiment many times in the past with other gear and always preferred having a pre in the chain. Opinions on this run the gamut, of course . I am using Ayre Twenty Series gear (not my very favorite but I had a nice opportunity) which is pretty neutral in terms of timbral coloration. With the Berkeley Ref DAC, removing the preamp was slightly more detailed but somehow lacked the full weight and body I heard with pre. As value goes, the preamp gives the least bang for buck of everything on the rack, but now that I have it, it’s going nowhere. Imgoodwithtools, who posted in this thread, drew the opposite conclusion, using the same DAC and amps that I was running! So what gives? I have not heard the Soulution products but I gather they are pretty special and you might miss it if it goes. BTW, I looked at your related posts and I certainly agree with folkfreak, cables and cords will make a bigger difference than pre vs. no pre.
I have a dCS Network Bridge and two Transparent XL digital cables arriving tomorrow and I’m looking forward to hearing the Vivaldi for the first time with proper server implementation. I am also switching from Aurender to Roon, using a Nucleus. I will probably add the clock in a year or so, when the piggybank gets bloated again. Once I’m broken in, I would be happy to repeat the experiment for you, but I’m not sure that would be worth any more than my opinion about anything else. I also noted the sources you are considering. To my ear Roon off a noisy laptop sounds better than the Aurender N10. Perhaps the W20 w/ Vivaldi and master clock would be different?
I have heard a Vivaldi vs. Rossini shootout (DAC only) and it was no contest. Since you (like me and many others) seem to have a generous budget but not an unlimited one, perhaps you might consider a Vivaldi DAC now and Transport later? I don’t have any SACDs but I am curious to know what the pending Rossini transport will offer. If that device is compatible with Vivaldi, and deemed worthy, that might be an option for both of us.
Rambling aside, I suppose if I were to just answer your question, I would much prefer to have a Vivaldi without my preamp than Rossini with? Good luck! David
Regarding the use of a preamp or not, way back when I was running Ayre equipment, I came to the conclusion that I could do without the preamp. The Berkeley driving the Ayre amps directly sounded great. I contacted Galen Carol, from whom I purchased the DAC, and at the time he was running the Berkeley direct into a pair of big Rowland amps with good results.
My system has evolved considerably over the past year. I am now running both VTL and Lamm amps. In both cases, the system sounds considerably better with a preamp in the chain, in this case a VTL TL7.5 III. I consider my preamp a cornerstone to the system, now.
So, all I can suggest is to listen to as many options as you can, and to trust your ears.
That's quite a change, good for you! I may eventually reintroduce tubes. I've become a fan of Nagra products, for one. Galen Carol has been helpful to me as well and it's hard to disagree with his belief that a preamp imposes a signature of its own; you either like what it does or you don't. I don't care about accuracy per se, I just want to be enchanted.
I too made the decision to go with Vivaldi v2.02 DAC, with Network Bridge, and full loom of Transparent Gen 5 ref digital and analog, and speaker cables, with Roon Nucleus + and dedicated NAS, thru a Veloce battery powered tube pre, since its used in combo 2 channel/HT rig, requires a pre...also use Shuynata Triton 3 for power conditioning with its Sigma power cord...best sounding digital I've heard, auditioned the Aurender and Berkeley, also at Shadi's place in Santa Monica, found it easier dealing with Brian at Audio Elements in Pasadena. Love listening now, off the chase of gear.
Not to throw a wrinkle, but I've also had a very positive improvement by adding the eMats under my Roon, Dac, pre, and amp..very reasonable tweak for quality improvement.
Thanks mribob, will look into eMats. Otherwise we have very similar configurations. Mine sounds like crap right now, so I have to remind myself that break-in is still happening while I also double check my dCS settings. So it is reassuring the read that yours is performing well.
Shadi has just gotten too busy. Good for him, of course, but he was going to send my a Nucleus for home trial and never did! I think he's well intentioned but I moved on.. Though tubes will probably find their way back into my system, I REALLY want to stop thinking about gear, for a good long while. But I am looking forward to the MQA update for the Vivaldi DAC. Take Care!
dCS settings can be very confusing and complex....especially when using dual AES to get hi res from NB and DSD. My dealer has been great for the few times I've managed to screw things up, often a simple phone call with instructions has me back listening again. I just started streaming Tidal, but I am also waiting to have the Vivaldi decode MQA, since the NB already is compatible....strange that the Rossini has this feature for almost one year now...
Brian and SP of Audio Element worked hard at my room, re-configuring my snake pit of cables behind the rig, helped to reduce my ground loop, and overall helped with speaker set up, toe in, etc, even though I only bought a modest amount of gear from him...he has great ears, and is a great person to work with....