In this review we take a close look at the dCS LINA amplifier. It’s dCS Audio’s newest reference headphone amplifier and it is selling for $9,100 USD or just over €10K in Euro.
Disclaimer: dCS Audio is not related to Headfonia in any way. The dCS LINA stack was sent to us on loan to be featured on Headfonia.com and will be returned to dCS after the review.
If you’re familiar with dCS, then you know that they engineer high-end products for the top end of the market. dCS has mainly been focusing on the hi-fi market, but with the Bartok they also have a very good headphone product. For those of you that aren’t familiar with dCS yet, here’s a quick intro to the company.
We’ve been shaping the future of digital audio for over 30 years, developing unique products and technologies that have revolutionized music recording and playback. Founded in 1987, we started out developing digital converters for aviation and aerospace companies, before shifting our focus to digital audio. Over the past 35 years, we have developed a succession of pioneering products and proprietary technologies for music lovers and recording professionals – from the first ever high-resolution DACs and ADCs to the multi-award winning dCS Bartok Headphone DAC.
Our products are renowned for their outstanding technical performance, exquisite craftsmanship and profound musicality. Through continuous innovation, and an obsessive attention to detail, we create products that uncover the true depth and essence of recorded sound and bring people closer to the music and the artists they love.
You can find out all about dCS here on their website. This is the first real dCS product review on Headfonia, but when the LINA system was announced, we did preview the full stack here:
So, what is the dCS LINA? In short it is a brand new dCS system, purpose built for headphone listeners.
With LINA, dCS set out to create the definitive system for headphone playback – one that drives a huge range of headphones to their full potential and reproduces sound with every nuance intact.
The dCS LINA system consists out of 3 components: a dedicated Network DAC, a Class AB Headphone
Amplifier, and a Grade 1 Master Clock. It according to dCS “offers the ultimate sonic escape for music and head-fi connoisseurs”.
The LINA system is DCs’ smallest product series yet, and it is designed for use in a wide range of environments. Its state-of the-art circuitry, electronics and digital processing allow dCS to deliver a huge range of features in a compact format with zero compromise on sound and performance. The dCS LINA system is designed and hand-assembled in the UK and manufactured using the finest materials – including solid aluminium casing for enhanced performance with minimal vibration and noise. The dCS LINA system is created using proprietary hardware and software developed by dCS, such as their FPGA-based firmware.
LINA is an exciting new step in a journey that began over 30 years ago. At dCS, we’ve always strived to create products that bring people closer to the music and artists they love. Inspired by the rise of headphone listening, and the head-fi community’s tremendous passion and enthusiasm, we have developed our first product range designed specifically for the dedicated headphone listener – a product that we believe sets a new standard for headphone playback. After over 2 years of intensive development and testing, we’re delighted to be launching dCS LINA.
The LINA product range benefits from a suite of technologies that are unique to dCS, including the dCS Ring DAC™ and headphone processing platform, dCS Expanse. These technologies are the culmination of intensive research and development, and you can find out all about dCS’ technical developments and achievements here.
The total price of this high-end system is €32.850 Euro including VAT. This clearly is a high-end product with a corresponding price tag, one we’re not really used to in our headphone world. dCS is really targeting the top end market with this setup, a market that is used to seeing these kind prices (and more) from the high-end HiFi world. At the same time, it’s “easy” nowadays to attain such budgets. A high-end amplifier like the Envy 300B (with upgrades), with the Musician Aquarius DAC and Abyss headphone with upgrade cable (just to give an example), also easily pushes you above the $20-25K mark.
You can find out everything about the dCS LINA system on dCS Audio’s dedicated website here: https://shop.dcsaudio.com/products/lina-system
dCS LINA components
As said, the LINA stack is composed of 3 full size desktop components: a DAC, a Master Clock and a headphone amplifier. You can link up the units for power control and there are multiple connection options with the DAC and clock. You can place the units next to each other or on top of each other (DAC -> Clock -> AMP top down).
“Designed to drive a vast range of headphones, and deliver spectacular sound, it offers the ultimate sonic escape for music and headfi connoisseurs”
The LINA design is simple yet classy. The build quality is perfect as you would expect. I love the choice dCS made for the materials used, though I for one prefer the Bartok type of design more. These units are a lot smaller though, fitting more in a desktop (headphone) setup. Do note that this is a heavy setup with all units weighing over 7kg. Make sure your desk is up to the task.
You can find out all about the 3 components here:
dCS LINA DAC: https://shop.dcsaudio.com/products/lina-dac
dCS LINA Master Clock: https://shop.dcsaudio.com/products/lina-clock
dCS LINA Headphone Amplifier: https://shop.dcsaudio.com/products/lina-amplifier
In this article we’re looking at the Headphone amplifier of this unique dCS full stack. If you want to see more videos about the dCS LINA system, go to dCS Audio’s Youtube Channel.
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