dCS – First impressions
These are our very first impressions of the full setup used as a stack. dCS suggested to first use the units in the same setup, before using them with other gear in our collection, so I have done just that (even though I have sneakily used the DAC with the Headonia 2A3 and Envy amp). A setup of this importance and value of course deserves a lengthy full review and this one will be published in a few weeks around the holiday period.
As mentioned, the system is on loan, and it will go back to dCS at one point.
dCS Lina’s tuning is neutrally musical. There is no added warmth or body, but the delivery is liquid and very musical. The dCS Lina stack is a very strong technical performer, and it’s probably the best technical performing solid state amp I have ever heard. It’s not the most neutral or flat sounding setup we’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to, but here it’s more about the high technical performance combined with a lively, musical and super dynamic delivery.
The dCS Lina setup never becomes analytical or dry, but it’s exciting and hyper precise at all times. It’s a pure joy to listen to, no matter what headphones you hook up to it. (See later).
The overall amount of body and presence is good. You get a full sound at all times, but a natural one. The dCS stack connects subbass (so deep) to bass to mids and treble in a way you’ve never heard before. It’s a rounded presentation, with the perfect amount of air, separation, and spaciousness. Soundstage-wise the combo, well trio, is very wide as well as deep. The layering is exemplary, and the positioning and 3-dimensionality are as good as it gets.
The note extension and decay also are very good and especially with high end headphones this is very impressive. The dCS stack plays well with both orthodynamic as well as dynamic headphones. In the high gain mode, the planars will get the most current and you will be impressed with the result.
I have been reviewing for over 10 years now and there comes a time when you think it’s impossible to hear something better, and then this happens. Too bad I can’t afford the setup myself, but it is so nice to experience this.
dCS – First impressions – Headphones
All headphones mentioned in this report have been used in balanced mode, using the XLR output.
Abyss Headphones sent me a new Diana TC to use with this dCS setup as they feel the synergy is magic. I have to say that I agree, but it took a few good hours of burn in for the TC to sound the way it should. With the dCS Lina stack, the TC sounds very wide, spacious and open, with impressive depth and layering. The detail retrieval is as you expect from a high-end combo, really good. I also like the 3-dimensionality, stereo image and positioning with this specific combo.
In fact, there isn’t really a specific headphone that doesn’t play well with the Lina setup. Two of my favorite headphones I am often using are the Meze ELITE and the Hifiman Susvara. On a slightly lower level, I also absolutely like the Beyerdynamic DT1990PRO’s, and the Hifiman Arya Stealth’s synergy with the Lina setup. The latter combo has some more warmth and presence, but it’s so easy, soft and musical to listen to. The Beyer brings superb openness and hearth warming vocals to the party. The Beyer treble is extended, energetic and lively, but never sounds harsh or sharp.
You could perhaps think that the Sennheiser HD 800 (not the S) would sound overly detailed, wide and boring with such a high-end amp, but that’s completely not the case. Even in low gain, the Lina amplifier handles it perfectly and delivers great dynamics and a highly musical presentation.
The Hifiman HE6SE also gets all it needs from the Lina stack, even though I have heard it sound “fuller” from amps such as the Violectric Niimbus US4+. This headphone is a bit trickier with the dCS stack, but that’s more about personal preference than it is about driveability. I was expecting to see something new at the High-End show from HEDD Audio in the headphone department, but they couldn’t say anything about it yet, leaving me a bit disappointed. Anyway, the HEDDphone synergy with the Lina setup is extremely good, and it could well be the best I have heard the HEDDphone sound so far. And that says a lot, seeing I have used it with many high-end amplifiers.
The Audeze LCD-5 – which was very present at the Munich show – also plays well with the Lina setup, but the synergy for me is not as great as with some other amps. I think the vocals are bothering me a bit with the LCD-5 in this setup. The LCD-XC on the other hand (pre-fazor) plays extremely well with the Lina. That other closed back flagship headphone, the Hifiman HE-R10P, also plays wonderfully with the Lina, and it delivers great fulness, spaciousness, note decay and overall extension. Each time I listen to this headphone I am blown away by it’s technical excellence and the way it sounds so open for a close back headphone. The synergy with the Lina setup is also one of the better ones.
The dCS Lina setup is one of the very best solid state full systems I have ever listened to. I am not saying this because I was lucky to be selected or because we can keep the gear (we can’t) or because it’s expensive. It simply is very impressive in all possible ways. I am sure the different previews and reviews will tell you the same.
I don’t think it will be easy to listen to the Lina setup at shows as only a select few “sellers” will be chosen by dCS, but if you do get the chance to listen to it, don’t hesitate. It’s a bit like with the Sennheiser HE-1: you don’t want to miss a listening session with it as you rarely get that opportunity.
The dCS Lina is a high-end unit with a corresponding €32.850 Euro price tag, but if you want to experience one of the best solid-state performances I have ever heard, you better start saving up (big time).