2020: a year in review

As 2020 draws to a close, we’re taking some time to reflect on the past 12 months. It’s been a challenging year professionally and personally for all of us here at dCS – and, I’m sure, all of you too – but before we wrap up for the festive break, we’d like to share some of the things that we’ve been working on and extend our thanks to everyone who’s helped us along the way.

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To our friends and partners

As 2020 draws to a close, we’re taking some time to reflect on the past 12 months. It’s been a challenging year professionally and personally for all of us here at dCS – and, I’m sure, all of you too – but before we wrap up for the festive break, we’d like to share some of the things that we’ve been working on and extend our thanks to everyone who’s helped us along the way.

First, thank you to our customers. We’re incredibly grateful for your support, this year and always, and hope our systems bring you many happy hours of listening. The dCS community is hugely important to us and we hope it won’t be too long before we can get out to meet with you in person.

Thanks to our partners – the retailers and distributors who’ve gone above and beyond to deliver, install and support our systems in the toughest of circumstances. We can’t wait until it is safe to travel, and we can get back to sharing music and laughter with you at shows and events across the world.

Thanks also to all the creatives involved in making music – the artists, producers, engineers and the many people working behind the scenes to bring us something to listen to. The absence of live music events has left a massive hole in our lives, but we’ve found comfort, joy and inspiration in discovering new music and revisiting old favourites during the weeks and months we’ve spent at home. We know this has been a difficult year for the music industry, but we hope there are brighter times ahead.

And so, on to 2020…

It’s been a busy year for the team here and, like most businesses, we’ve found ourselves facing some strange and unexpected challenges. Our offices were closed for most of April due to national lockdowns, but we’ve since reconfigured our workspace and processes to allow some of our staff to return safely and others to collaborate and work remotely. Our production team are back at the factory and have done an incredible job in making up for lost time, building record numbers of products in 2020. And while most of our R&D and marketing staff are still mainly working from home, we have been able to make the occasional trip back to dCS HQ.

Sadly, we haven’t been able to host any visitors to our factory this year, but we’re hoping to welcome many more customers and partners for tours and training in the not too distant future. In the meantime, our listening room has provided a much-needed space for our staff to relax and escape - thanks to our friends at Nordost, Transparent, Wilson Audio, D’Agostino, Constellation and Rockport for providing some fantastic equipment.

New starters and fond farewells

We’ve welcomed several new members to the dCS team this year: John Giolas, Ady Man and Rachael Steven in sales and marketing, James Cook in technical support, Deya Sanchez and Jane Simpkins in R&D, Theresa Townsend and Mark Weedon in production, and Gerry Spencer in service. Between them, they bring a wealth of expertise, insight and new energy.

We also waved a fond farewell to Ray Wing, who retired this summer after almost 20 years at dCS. Ray wore many hats at dCS – during his time here, he was involved in Purchasing, Design, Quality Management and Health and Safety and he’ll be greatly missed by all of us. His half full mug of tea still sits on the kitchen worktop, and we’ll miss hearing about his guitars and his beloved Tottenham Hotspur, but we wish him all the best for the future and hope he enjoys some downtime.

dCS at CanJam

While we’ve been missing our usual trips to audio events, we had a great time meeting headphone listeners and fellow music lovers at CanJam Global in New York back in January, and have been delighted to see so many HeadFi enthusiasts enjoying our Bartók Headphone DAC. We’ll be taking part in lots more CanJam gatherings once shows are back up and running in 2021 – follow our social media pages for details and updates.

Playlists and podcasts

In other news, this year saw the launch of dCS Legends – a programme celebrating the outstanding efforts of an elite group of recording, mixing and mastering engineers who have strived throughout their career to deliver the finest listening experience possible.

As part of the Legends programme, we launched our first podcast series, The Other Side of the Glass, which features interviews with each Legend about their creative process and the making of GRAMMY-winning albums. It’s been humbling and inspiring to hear from the people who have worked on some of our favourite albums of all time, and we hope you’ve enjoyed listening to the podcast and playlists of their work as much as we have. If you haven’t tuned in yet, you can find the full series over at dcslegends.com.

We’ve also enjoyed bringing you an even bigger range of music recommendations. In addition to our Classical Choices series, curated by Charlotte Gardner, and our Album of the Month feature (both of which you can find here), we’ve been delving into the world of film scores and videogame soundtracks, and sharing a monthly selection of new and classic tracks selected by the dCS team. We’ll be sharing lots more great music with you next year but for now, you can find all of our playlists on Qobuz and TIDAL, or follow the dCS Facebook page for news of our latest picks.

News and reviews

Thanks also to Hi-Fi+, What Hi-Fi?, Sound Stage Ultra, Audiophile Fr, Stereonet Australia & New Zealand, Part-Time Audiophile, Hi-Fi Corner, Positive Feedback, Yellowbox, Headfonics and AudioStream for their fantastic reviews of the Bartók, and to Soundstage! Network for awarding the Bartók DAC with your Outstanding Performance Award - Product of the Year 2020. It’s inspiring to see people from all corners of the world enjoying our products, both in the press and on the dCS forum, and we’ve really enjoyed reading your feedback, observations and music recommendations.

The dCS forum

The dCS forum has gone from strength to strength this year and we’ve been delighted to see so many of our customers using it to share advice, tips and music. Thanks to our support team James Cook, Ben Ashcroft and Andrew Papanikolas for being on hand to answer questions, and thanks to everyone who’s taken part in discussions so far. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can do so at dcs.community.

Introducing dCS Expanse

Our R&D team rounded off this year with the release of Mosaic 1.1.1 – an updated version of our Mosaic platform – and an exciting new feature, dCS Expanse, available to owners of our Bartók Headphone DAC.

With Expanse, we set out to reimagine how sound is optimised for headphone listening and bring the headphone experience closer to the sound that artists and engineers hear when listening to a performance in the studio. After studying existing methods of headphone optimisation (most of which focus on using cross feed to move a perceived sound source out of a listener’s head and into the room in front of them, mirroring the effects of stereo listening), we found that none were able to optimise sound while also preserving the original reverberation in a recording. Most instead relied on using artificial reverberation – a tool we didn’t feel was appropriate for use in dCS products.

After extensive research, our R&D team used their expertise to develop an alternative approach that allows us to externalise sound without loss or damage to reverberation. This unique method means we are able to capture not just the fine details in a performance, but the overall sense of space and depth (something that is often lost when sound is translated for headphones) – providing a more immersive experience that remains faithful to the music.

Expanse is available now as part of Mosaic 1.1.1. You can find more information here, or see our technical paper for an in-depth look at Expanse. We’ve also put together a playlist with some recommended reference tracks to help you get started with Expanse, which you can find here.

dCS and DOSOCO

In addition to our work at dCS, we’ve been collaborating with the DOSOCO foundation, a Cambridge-based social enterprise that supports community projects using music for social good.

Alongside providing grants and technical support to DOSOCO, we teamed up with their partner organisation, We Are Sound, to support a virtual concert in aid of musicians and crews who’ve found themselves out of work due to Covid-19. The event was broadcast live on December 13 from a barn in the Suffolk countryside, and provided some welcome festive cheer, with winter-themed performances from some of the talented members of the We Are Sound band.


A final request

That’s almost it from us, but before we sign off for the holidays, we have one last request. We’ve been incredibly fortunate that, thanks to the support of our partners and friends, we’ve been able to continue manufacturing products, but there are thousands of people within the music industry who have seen their livelihoods put at risk by Covid-19 and ongoing restrictions around live events.

So please, do whatever you can to support artists, crews, venues and everyone in the industry who is struggling – whether it’s buying music or merchandise, attending a virtual gig, or making a donation to one of the many organisations working to help people and businesses affected by the pandemic. We’ve included a list of some UK organisations and fundraising campaigns below, but there are many others too that would be grateful for your support.

For now, we hope you have a restful break over the holidays and wish you all the very best for 2021.

 Regards

David Steven
Managing Director
dCS

 

Music organisations you can support

 

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