We discuss how upgradability became central to our design ethos, and how it relates to the recent release of the Bartók APEX upgrade.Tags: Bartok, Masters, Technology & Innovation, APEX, Design & Craft,
"When we develop a product at dCS, it's just the beginning. From that point on we are constantly thinking of ways to improve. We like to take customers on a journey with us all the way through a product's life."
- David Steven, dCS Managing Director
From the beginning, designing flexible and upgradable hardware has long been a critical tenet of dCS's culture. Since the Ring DAC is a discrete analogue device, it relies on a programmable software platform to carry out the signal processing and digital-to-analogue conversion stages.
Starting in the 1990s, dCS's engineers recognised the virtues of Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs)— configurable logics blocks that can be reprogrammed after manufacturing. All audio DACs require a range of clocking, filtering and signal-processing operations to reconstruct an audio waveform faithfully. In a dCS system, these functions are carried out using programmable circuits in the dCS Digital Processing Platform.
This architecture gives us complete control over the audio signal path. It also allows us to ensure that fixed processing chips or inflexible filter responses do not limit the performance of our products. And since the performance of dCS’s platform is software-controlled, we are able to continue delivering new product features and enhancements to our customers via simple software updates.
Such was the case with the recent Bartók 2.0 software update, which improved DSD upsampling and added new filter options. Bartók owners now had access to the same mappers originally designed for Vivaldi APEX and Rossini APEX—all without the need to change their systems.
"Upgradability has always been a key part of what dCS is about. I think there are a number of reasons for that, but one of them has to be the acknowledgement that dCS products are a significant investment. I feel like we have a duty to repay the investment of our customers by providing those upgrades through the life of the product and, indeed, to make sure that it truly is an investment as a product, not something which you replace after a couple of years."
- Chris Hales, Director of Product Development
We also engineer all of our platforms to support hardware upgrades. The modularity of our designs means we can modify one aspect of the design without changing the rest of the components. The Ring DAC APEX upgrade for Vivaldi and Rossini is a perfect example.
The Ring DAC APEX project began with a simple question, which our engineers perennially ask: Based on what we know today, are there ways we can improve the performance of a given component? Since the Ring DAC still offers state-of-the-art measured performance and remains at the pinnacle of music reproduction, the temptation for some companies would be to rest on their laurels. However, the engineers at dCS are driven by an obsession to improve performance and continuously reside at the apex of the state-of-the-art.
Therefore, it was only a matter of time before our design team developed an APEX upgrade for Bartók.
As Andy McHarg, dCS’s Technical Director, points out:
"It's what we do. dCS platforms are explicitly designed to let you improve over time. Any current dCS product has to be cutting-edge, and that's all there is to it. We've planned for upgradeability via software updates. When we've taken software as far as it can go, there is an investment you can make to increase the ability of the hardware.
"Everybody knows that we're obsessed with being the best. So, it's a really great opportunity to fit the Ring DAC APEX to Bartók to convert it into the Bartók APEX. APEX does push boundaries one step further. We always want to make our products the best you can get. We're excited to give Bartók customers the opportunity to experience Bartók APEX. I can't wait for people to hear it."
In case you missed it...
In this short film, we celebrate Bartók’s simple yet elegantly beautiful form factor and the craftspeople who lovingly build it to the same standards we demand from all our products.
Ready to experience Bartók APEX for yourself? Head to our Dealer Locator page for global listings.
You can also Subscribe to Events updates; to find out when our global team will be taking Bartók APEX to a city near you.
If you have any further questions or would like assistance booking a demo, please contact our Customer Service Team.