Lumin X1 or dCS Bartok


Both of these beasts look like they could be that “forever purchase”. These are basically the newest offerings from both well respected companies and are within spitting distance of each other price wise  (without the Bartok headphone option installed). Anybody heard both and able to comment?
spinaker01
One has a Fiber Optic input.
same conundrum for me, except a level up and including the NAIM 555.....

right now, DCS is winning
I carry Lumin and have the X1 here, and was just at a client's place last week who has a dCS Vivaldi stack. I'd say the sound character goals of Lumin and dCS are probably best considered as different, so you'd need to hear them to decide which direction best matches what you're looking for.
@nekoaudio   How are they different? Thanks.
@david_ten well, Lumin is using output transformers as part of their analog stage which adds some color but otherwise retains the detail provided by the ESS DAC chips.

To a large degree the goal and result is similar to that of the DAC I designed, which also uses output transformers combined with PCM1794A DAC chips.

dCS is not aiming for the same thing with their products, although with multiple filter settings you can influence the sound.
Listening to the Rossini right now, which has similar character to the Bartok. I came from a Mytek Manhattan II which is based on the ESS Pro. All I can say is it’s not even close between those two. The dCS has this smooth, natural presentation with incredible detail and separation. I loved the sound of the Mytek but it always had this hint of brittleness that I believe the dCS ring DAC and upsampling provide. 
@mayoradamwest I think you meant to say the dCS approach does not have the hint of brittleness that you heard with the Mytek?
Right, I think I missed a word in there. The dCS approach really takes the edge off, but to be clear, both sound wonderful. That said, I can't think why I'd want to spend 10k on an ESS-based DAC when there are so many wonderful options, like the Mytek, at half the price.
I’ve heard the X1 and Bartok in the same system, and they definitely have different sound characters. I preferred the X1 by a considerable margin, in fact I thought the Lumin T2 bested the Bartok (at less than 1/3 of the price). The Bartok is no slouch though, and includes digital inputs and the optional head amp neither of which are available on the Lumins.


Also, don’t agree that the X1 isn’t a good value because it runs a Sabre chip. There are DACs based on the 1704 chip which cost a few hundred dollars, while the Trinity DAC uses the same chip and costs $60,000. So much more to it than that.
Interesting comments. Can you please expand on the differences between the X1 and Bartok and why you preferred the X1.

I have an Ayre QX5 and a Mytek Manhattan II, both using the latest ESS chips, which I find extremely good. I prefer both of these to the Chord DAVE/Blu 2 which I owned. I've also been considering the Bartok, but wondering whether it is a real upgrade.
Interesting about the Dave. I have the Hugo 2 (along with the mentioned Mytek Manhattan II, dCS Rossini, Mytek Brooklyn DAC+, and a Violectric DAC). To me, the dCS is by far the most natural. The Mytek overemphasis on highs becomes tiring. That said, I do find the Chord Hugo to really lack in resolution. It’s a nice, pleasant sound, but lacks the finesse of the dCS or Manhattan. (The Brooklyn being my least favorite, but still excellent). 
I can only speak to the Lumin.  I have owned the D1, A1and now the X1.  I ended up selling my Emm Lab Dac after getting the X1.  I had a Raven Integrated Reflection MK2 amp and SF Amati Tradition Homage speakers.  People who came to my house were amazed at the quality of my sound.  My whole music library is digital and I also used Tidal.  The ease and simplicity of the Lumin ap is what initially sold me on Lumin.  Each iteration I went to improved the sound dramatically.   
The best way I could describe the difference would be that the Lumin’s sounded more real and natural. Guitars, pianos, voices, etc... sounded more like they do in real life. As a result everything sounds less like a recording. I went in expecting the Bartok to be clearly superior, and I was also prejudiced against Sabre chip based DACs. The Bartok has a much better feature set, and will undoubtedly hold its value better, the Lumin’s just sounded better. 
Thanks, that is helpful (and surprising!).
The reviews of the Bartok and my experience would lead me to suggest you hear them. You’d be hard pressed to find a bad word written about the dCS. 
I have to say the upgradability of the dcs ring dac firmware would also be a factor. This provides for a 7-8 year free upgrade path which is nice considering the buy in price.
We are a major Lumin dealer and have had extensive experience with DCS in the past, in fact Wilgolf is one of our clients.

The battle between DCS and Lumin can be summed up with DCS tends to favor resolution over musicality, not saying the DCS is harsh, but there is a distinctly clean uncolored but not harsh presentation to the DCS while the Lumin tends to be a very dimensional, and very engaging sound also with excellent resolution. 

We had a client many years ago trade in a DCS Rossini for a Lumin A1 which he found to offer a more relaxed presentation while still offering much of the clarity of the DCS. 

Lumin's products are also a technological tour de force, Lumin is a division of Pixel magic a large Taiwanese manufacturer of broadcast video products. There engineering dept has the resources of a very large high end company.

Spinaker  the Lumin X1 also uses a FPGA as well, the reality is a FPGA really doesn't mean much, most of these companies use mature filtering techniques and don't need to come up with magic software upgrades every few months, the advantage of an FPGA is that you can add and improve features easily through firmware, 

The Lundhal transformers are really magical and do help the X1 with its liquid sounding midrange. 

Very few people will walk away from the X1 to hear one is to fall in love with one.

The X1 has a huge three dimensional sound stage, good top and bottom extension, excellent resolution and air, a warm full bodied midrange and a great feature set, MQA, Roon endpoint, a great app, easy software upgrades, optical isolation 

We sell some of the world's best digital products from Aqua, Light Harmonic, T+A, Naim, Innous, and a few others. 

The summation is that the X1 can only be bettered by spending a lot more money,

Tomic the X1 is a far better deal than the Naim and in most ways far outperforms the Naim for way less.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Lumin dealers
Does the X1 run Roon core or do a need another computer for this! Hope not at this price?! 
@grannyring

Says "roon ready" so that to me indicates it is a streamer only.


Lumin is using output transformers as part of their analog stage which adds some color but otherwise retains the detail provided by the ESS DAC chips.

@nekoaudio

Love transformer coupled output stages, especially in balanced outputs. :) Yumm.

TBC: I've never heard or seen a Lumin, just saying I love the idea.

Best,

E
@grannyring   You will need to run a Roon Core into the X1.
Yikes! Too bad.  I thought is was a one box solution.  Thanks! 
It is [a one box solution] if you are not using Roon. Tidal, Qobuz, etc. can be streamed directly.

If you are already using Roon, would you not have a Roon Core already?
Yes indeed. I have an Innuos, but was hoping to sell and help fund this purchase.  I love Roon.  I understand this unit sounds fantastic and I like the simplicity and direct ethernet hook up. Bummer on the need for a separate wired/dedicated computer for Roon core. 
If you want to avoid having an additional networked computer to run Roon Core, there are NAS setups which some find sufficient to run it while also providing your library file storage.
I ran my Roon core on a laptop for a year with no problems.  
Re transformers, McIntosh uses transformers. They have their followers, but many people do not consider them high-end (coloration, pace, etc). At the same time, I think dCS cut corners with Bartok. Imagine you have a Ferrari and now you want to cut corners on it. I still remember some silly Mercedes Benz whose corners were so much cut that it no longer looked like Mercedes.I investigated 100s of forums and formed an opinion that both of these products have their MSRPs ballooned big time to begin with (the truth of the matter, though, is that the MSRPs of lower tiers, Mytek etc. are ballooned too).In conclusion, I think neither of these products can justify their hefty MSRP.
@fiza you have concluded that based on actually hearing these units?  
Or on the basis of forum research/
Fiza, your explanation of your findings is not based on fact.

Lumin uses Lundhal output transformers which acts as a buffer between the output stage and the incomming signal from the Luimin into the  preamplfier or power amplifier.

A Macintosh amplifier uses an autoformer as a load matching device which contains thousands of feet of wire, vs a the Lundhal which uses a tiny amount of wire in comparison to an output or load matching transformer.  

The Macintosh amplfiers use this technique to enable the amplifier to see a common load vs a direct coupled solid state amplfication stage which can provide enough current to power an arc welder. 

Also your assumptions on cost of the Lumin are just wrong, the case of both the power supply and main chassis are cut from solid billet aluminum this drives up costs dramatically and provides a very inert chassis, factor in the cost of the dac chips, two circuit boards the Lundhal output transformers, three high end toridial main power transformers you can see this is not an inexpensive product, that also doesn't take into consideration the rest of the costs in manufacturing, the importers profit, shipping and research and development.

The fact that the Lumin X1 compares to much more expensive front ends is testament to its value proposition. 

We have a store full of dacs, in order to beat the X1 you have to spend $30k- 50k, The X1 sounds dramatically better than the less expensive digital products.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Lumin dealers

I can’t imagine what corners were cut on the Bartok. Weighs a ton and it’s universally raved about. If one feels that the Bartok has corners cut the Rossini is there for 10k more. I think the Rossini has a more sophisticated power supply and a more luxurious box. It too is universally praised. Only the consumer can decide if the 10k is worth it. Better is always in conflict with good. 
Currently, I compare Bartok and X1 in a A/B comparison. I do not hear much differences (if any and only when I play selected songs). Maybe the Bartok has slightly more dynamics/resolution but I am still not finished with my comparison
Schelle, have you used the  upsampling/cross conversion tab in the Lumin? 

Most of our clients prefer running their X1 with the PCM 44k tab set to DSD 128 which usually makes the Lumin' sound more liquid.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Lumin dealers
I prefer my X1 playing files in their native format and resolution. I'm not sure how it would be possible to sound more liquid than it does already!
Ross a set of Critical Mass Centerstage footers will also make a huge difference. 
Thanks, I will have a look at them. I tried the Isoacoustic footers but prefer it without. 
I upsampled pcm 44k to dsd 128. I hardly heard any difference. Maybe with top level headphones? Same applies to Bartok, settings do not have an impact for me
Biggest difference is that the X1 is the best that Lumin can do... meanwhile the Bartok is DCS’s entry level product.  The Lumin wins.
That’s some flawed logic right there, dznutz. How does that make the X1 the winner?
perhaps yes, but I have owned the X1 and I have heard the Bartok along with the Rossini.  To my ears, not only do they simply sound different but the Lumin sounds more refined.  At around $15K I would hope to be buying the best a company can do, not their cheapest implementation.