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Review dCS Network Bridge

Pros

  • Perfect operation
  • Possibly the best streamer ever in my system
  • Uncoloured display
  • Pure music player

Cons

  • Can't think of anything
  • Price: € 3990

    Build quality
    Usability
    Sound
    Price
    dCS Network Bridge

    Intro

    The abbreviation dCS stands for Data Conversion Systems and most audiophiles go a little faster when they hear the name dCS. After all, dCS has the name of one of the best digital to analog conversion systems to deliver. Preferably used in combination with a dCS wordclock for ultimate results and ultra low jitter values. The first step to a dCS system, or a big step in upgrading your own streaming solution, can be the purchase of a dCS Network Bridge. The link between your digitally stored music and your DAC.

    The Network Bridge is a hardware platform with the same technology and App as the top model uses the Vivaldi of dCS. Developed in-house – including the software – and built in England with a precision that would not be out of place in space travel.

    On the Network Bridge you connect your network and/or a USB disk. You connect to music services like Tidal and Spotify or you use Roon as a platform. If necessary, Apple Airplay if that makes you happy (we don’t recommend it because of loss of musicality). The Network Bridge works with a UPnP server protocol if you do not use Roon. That server works fast and, as you may expect from dCS, without any problems.

    dCS Network Bridge

    The large number of connections to the Network Bridge has everything to do with other dCS products, the clock functions and use in professional environments. From left to right on the back a dual AES/EBU connection for sample rates up to 192kHz on the single AES/EBU and 384kHz on the dual, a regular S/PDIF out via coax, an S/PDIF-2 with separate data and clock, a non activated Wifi antenna connection, two inputs for an external clock, network RJ/45 for gigabit Ethernet, USB 2.0 and the connection to the mains.

    At home you will almost certainly only use the first AES/EBU or the S/PDIF output, the RJ/45 and possibly the USB. Or you must be the lucky owner of a dCS system, a DAC with separate data and clock inputs or even a nice wordclock owned by dCS, Grimm Audio, Esoteric and a handful of other creators.

    A note about a wordclock: you can only deepen a dCS by adding an external clock. The result is a larger stereo image, more definition, more tranquillity, fewer digital artifacts, more detail, everything a little more positive. A costly upgrade, but anyone who has ever used an external clock knows there is no turning back.

    The heart of the dCS Network Bridge

    At the heart of the Network Bridge is a powerful FPGA in which all digital conversions and control take place. Files can be played back up to 24-bit at 384kHz in the major Codec’s and native or DoP DSD64 and DSD128. The FPGA can convert DXD or DSD to PCM 176.4/192 or 88.2/96kHz for the connected DAC. The MQA core decoder on board does the first unfold to 88.2 or 96kHz, depending on the file. If you have a DAC that can handle up to 96kHz, set the AES/EBU or the S/PDIF output to that value and the Network Bridge will adjust the sample rate for you.

    If you release dCS on a design you can be sure that the supply voltage of the digital circuit is separate from the clock circuit for the lowest jitter value, that the number of voltage regulators needed for high end display is present and that you can easily upgrade the Network Bridge to the latest firmware.

    Finally, the colors and price… The dCS Network Bridge is available in silver or black, measures 36 x 24.5 x 6.7cm and weighs 4.6 kilos, the finish is perfect and at the front a modest blue LED is the only interruption of the front panel. As is often the case with these types of devices, you never turn it off and then it’s nice that the Network Bridge uses only 6.5 Watts at rest. The price for the dCS Network Bridge is € 3.990.

    Setups

    The listening is done in two setups where in the smallest set is used a Metrum Acoustics Adagio DAC and Forte power amplifier, coupled to Falcon LS3/5a reproducers, and in the second setup is a Metrum Acoustics Pavane DAC, an Audia Flight Strumento No.1 line amplifier and a Pass Labs X250.5 output stage.

    In this set PMC fact.12 speakers combined with Townshend Supertweeters. Both sets normally contain a Metrum Ambre streamer connected to the DAC’s via Metrum’s own I2S. With the dCS Network Bridge I have to move to AES/EBU and S/PDIF.

    Music we get from a Melco N10 Music Library, for the small setup via switches over the LAN port, in the large set the dCS is directly on the Melco Player ethernet port. Partly we use the UPnP renderer function in the dCS, most of the time the Network Bridge works as a Roon endpoint.

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