A Remarkable Legacy

From designing radar systems for naval jets, to developing the world’s first high-resolution digital converters, our past is filled with extraordinary moments. Take a look at some of our landmark innovations and projects, and discover how we became a leading force in digital audio.

1987

Where the journey began

dCS is founded in Cambridge, England by Oxford University graduate Mike Story and a team of electronics engineers. The company starts out offering consultancy services to aviation and aerospace companies, and soon earns a reputation as a leading expert in signal conversion. Its work in this field leads to collaborations with the Ministry of Defence, including a commission to design the Blue Vixen radar system for the Royal Navy’s Sea Harrier FA 2 jets.

Alongside its work in aviation, dCS begins exploring how its technologies can be applied to digital audio. Mike – an audiophile with friends in the recording industry – sets his sights on creating digital converters for professional studios.

1989

dCS makes history with the launch of the dCS 900: the world’s first 24-bit analogue-to-digital converter. Thanks to its innovative design and unique 'Ring DAC' circuit, the 900 is able to record audio at a much higher resolution than conventional ADCs, resulting in a more natural, nuanced and spacious sound. The device becomes an instant hit with professional engineers, including Bob Ludwig, Tony Faulkner and Bert van der Wolf.

“When I heard my first dCS converter it immediately shot to the top of the pack”

Bob Ludwig, Gateway Mastering Studios

“dCS were the first people who came up with an A-to-D converter that we could plug into our PCM gear and make it sound better”

Tony Faulkner, Green Room Productions

1993

Following the success of the 900, dCS releases the world’s first 24-bit digital-to-analogue converter, the dCS 950. Created for professional use, it soon becomes popular with consumers in Japan, with audiophiles using the device to extract a more analogue sound from their home Hi-Fi systems

1996

Inspired by the success of the 950, dCS teams up with industrial designer Allen Boothroyd to create the Elgar – its first consumer product, and the world’s first 24-bit resolution DAC designed for home use. The device marks a major step forward in digital playback, bringing studio quality sound to music lovers around the world.

Alongside making history with the Elgar, dCS works on a major commission for the British Broadcasting Corporation, creating bespoke high-speed converters and a specialised clocking system to transfer audio from the organisation’s archive to its broadcast centre in central London. The project allows the BBC to transfer 192kS/s audio at 6x speed (a feat that was previously unheard of), and is one of several collaborations between the BBC and dCS.   

“I reviewed the original Elgar DAC in July 1997. It floored me with its sound quality”

John Atkinson, Stereophile magazine

1997

Within a few months of the Elgar’s release, dCS releases another landmark device, the 972 – a 24/96 digital-to-digital converter that can be used to convert audio from one native bit depth and sample rate to another. The launch of the system leads dCS to discover an effect known as upsampling - a then-unknown term in the audio world. By the mid 2000s, upsampling has become a globally recognised technique, inspiring a whole new generation of audio products.

1998

Direct Stream Digital arrives, and dCS becomes one of the first companies in the world to embrace the format. Alongside developing several DSD-compatible software updates for its existing converters and the Elgar DAC, dCS works with Philips to create P3D (released 1999), a format that enables the native storing of DSD recordings.

dCS also licenses the Ring DAC to hi-fi manufacturer Arcam for use in its Alpha 9 CD player, which receives critical acclaim for its clean, open and even sound.

1999

dCS pioneers the use of external clocks in digital audio with the launch of the 992 master clock. Designed to reduce jitter, it allows engineers to sync multiple converters to a single reference signal, leading to greater accuracy and enhanced sound quality when using dCS equipment. The Verona, a consumer master clock, follows soon after, along with another studio clock, the 995.

dCS also expands its product range with the launch of the 24/192 Delius DAC and the world's first 24/192 dedicated Upsampler, the dCS Purcell.

2000

The dCS product range expands with the launch of the 974, a digital-to-digital converter; the dCS Verdi CD/SACD transport, and the 905: the world’s first analogue-to-digital converter capable of processing audio at up to 384 kS/s.

Engineer Bob Ludwig masters the world’s first commercial Super Audio CD – a recording of Guano Apes’ Don’t Give Me Names – using dCS converters. The project follows dCS's instrumental role in the creation of the SACD format, with the company developing ADC and DAC software compatible with 24/352.8 and 24/384 audio (later named DXD).


2004

dCS creates two new converters, the 578 and 978b, which are acquired by the BBC for use at their local radio centre in London.

2005

Following the departure of founder Mike Story, dCS appoints a new managing director – David M Steven – and new leadership, with Andy McHarg taking on the role of Technical Director, and Chris Hales becoming Product Development Director. The changes mark the start of a new era for dCS, with the company shifting its focus to creating playback systems for the home. This new era begins with the launch of the p8i - a CD player with in-built upsampler.

2007

After two years of intensive development, dCS launches the Scarlatti: a three-box system with a CD transport, clock and DAC. The first multi-box dCS system created for home use, it is an instant success, transforming perceptions of digital playback with its crisp, clear and ultra-detailed sound.

Its release is quickly followed by the Paganini DAC and Puccini CD/SACD player. Their launch sees dCS adopt a whole new design language, with cases featuring a distinctive wave fascia.

“This disc-spinner is the finest-sounding digital player we’ve ever heard… Regardless of which format you choose, the amount of detail extracted is staggering. Not only is the dCS getting every bit of detail off the disc, it’s arranging all this information impeccably.”

What Hi-Fi? reviews the dCS Scarlatti

2008

With a growing number of people switching CDs for music files stored on their computer or hard drive, dCS develops a custom USB interface to improve playback from a USB source. The interface synchronises audio by providing a feedback pipe to the computer – reducing the jitter often experienced when playing audio via USB.

With jitter a common issue affecting most DACs available at the time, dCS decides to license its unique hardware and software to other audio manufacturers for use in their DACs, bringing improved sound quality to a wide range of hi-fi systems.

2009

dCS suffers a huge loss with the sudden and unexpected death of David M Steven. His son, David J Steven – former sales and marketing director at dCS – takes on the role of Managing Director. Building on his father’s vision, and the company’s success in Hi-Fi, David and the team devise a new plan to expand dCS’s audio innovation work and develop platform agnostic systems capable of playing music from any digital source. This new vision sees dCS embrace new audio formats and develop pioneering technologies to advance the standard of digital streaming.

“He laid foundation stones for dCS that others could only dream of, both in terms of envisaging that [the company] could not only survive but grow, and also in leaving a little room for a little fun too”

David J Steven remembers former Managing Director, David M Steven

2010

dCS launches the Debussy – a DAC designed to support audio from a wide range of digital sources including disc and USB – and moves to new headquarters in South Cambridgeshire. The new facility provides the company with more space for research, development, testing and assembly, and allows the team to realise a long-held ambition: creating a custom-built, acoustically modified listening room open to fans, customers and distributors.

At the same time, Andy McHarg and Chris Hales begin work on major upgrades to dCS’s proprietary technologies, including the company’s famous Ring DAC and digital processing platform.

2012

Following exhaustive research and development, dCS sets a new standard for music playback with the launch of the Vivaldi: a four-box system with a dedicated DAC, upsampler, CD/SACD transport and master clock. Compatible with all major digital audio formats, the system features an all-new technical DNA - including improved versions of our Ring DAC system and digital processing platform - which allows us to reproduce audio with even greater precision.

The system receives glowing reviews in Europe, Asia and the Americas, winning a coveted Golden Sound Award from Stereo Sound in Japan, as well as Product of the Year in Hi-Fi Review Hong Kong, and earns global recognition for its transparent, natural and three-dimensional sound.


“The Vivaldi system is in a class of its own in every category – technical sophistication, capabilities, and most importantly, sound quality. There is simply nothing else like it”

Robert Harley, Editor, The Absolute Sound, reviews the Vivaldi

2015

dCS builds on its vision for the future with the launch of the Rossini: a network DAC that allows listeners to stream audio direct from NAS drives, streaming services and Apple Airplay, as well as devices connected via USB, AES or S/PDIF inputs.

The system uses the same core technologies developed for the Vivaldi range, and - like its predecessor - combines unrivalled technical performance with a flexible, futureproof design. Its launch is followed by the release of the Rossini CD/SACD transport and master clock, providing listeners with the option of a three-box system or a powerful single-box music player.

“There’s just so much resolution here. We hear textures in instruments and dynamic nuances that most rivals simply don’t notice. The Rossini combination just lays it all bare. Everything is easy to follow and kept under control, and without the system ever sounding overly controlled”

What Hi-Fi? reviews the dCS Rossini

2016

Four years on from the Vivaldi’s release, dCS releases a major upgrade to the system’s performance. The Vivaldi 2.0 includes a new mapping algorithm along with double-speed upsampling in the CD/SACD transport, and a network interface that supports TIDAL, Airplay and Spotify connect - bringing enhancements in both user experience and sound quality, and cementing the Vivaldi’s reputation as the reference system. A Rossini 2.0 upgrade follows soon after.

“Both addictive and musically immersive…. Aural art at its finest”

Hi-Fi+ reviews the Vivaldi 2.0


“The most versatile digital system I’ve used and also – by far – the most sonically complete"

The Audio Beat reviews the Vivaldi 2.0

2017

In honour of its 30th anniversary, dCS launches the Vivaldi One: a limited-edition product bringing together three decades of engineering excellence in a single, exquisite case. Available in a choice of three finishes - gloss white, piano black and 24k gold - in addition to standard anodised casework, the system combines state-of-the-art streaming functionalities with a powerful integrated CD/SACD transport and the latest generation dCS Ring DAC.

“A majestic performer that enraptures the listener, whatever one chooses to play.”

Hi-Fi News reviews the Vivaldi One

2018

A new digital audio icon arrives in the form of the dCS Bartók: a powerful network streaming DAC that brings the dCS experience to both headphone and stereo listeners for the first time. Combining a DAC, music streamer, pre-amp and headphone amp in a single, streamlined design, the Bartók brings together dCS’s past, present and future - building on technologies developed for our Vivaldi and Rossini series to create a system that brings a whole new level of realism to headphone playback. The system receives numerous awards, and earns global recognition for its transparent, dynamic and expressive sound.

“The dCS Bartok is a truly spectacular product”

CanJam Global producer Ethan Opolion reviews the dCS Bartók


“One of the most important high end streaming DACs of this generation”

StereoNET on the dCS Bartók

2019

dCS receives The Queen’s Award for Enterprise – Innovation, in recognition of our pioneering work in digital playback, and the technologies developed for the Vivaldi system. The accolade makes us one of a small number of companies to receive the highest award for British business.

We also announce the launch of Mosaic: a custom streaming and playback platform that allows dCS owners to access music from multiple sources - including streaming services, NAS drives and external devices connected via home networks or digital inputs - from a single mobile app. With its advanced search, playback and control functions, the platform allows users to access a vast range of music and tailor all of the settings on their dCS system through a single, intuitive interface - all while enjoying true 24-bit sound.

2020

dCS celebrates outstanding work in music production with the launch of dCS Legends: an award and campaign honouring the work of group of recording, mixing and mastering engineers who have strived throughout their careers to deliver the finest possible listening experience. The campaign reveals the production stories behind a number of GRAMMY-winning albums, and explores the craft that goes into making an iconic recording. dCS Legends recipients are awarded with a limited-edition gold version of our Bartok Headphone DAC, in recognition of their contribution to music.

dCS also launches a new software platform designed to enhance headphone listening on the Bartok Headphone DAC. Expanse uses a unique processing method to bring the headphone experience closer to the studio listening experience - providing listeners with a heightened sense of realism when listening to stereo recordings.

The story continues…