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Hi-Rez Highway: REVIEW: DCS Puccini CD Player/Recorder by Luminator

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REVIEW: DCS Puccini CD Player/Recorder

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Model: Puccini
Category: CD Player/Recorder
Suggested Retail Price: $20,000
Description: One-box CD/SACD player
Manufacturer URL: DCS
Model Picture: View

Review by Luminator on September 09, 2008 at 10:35:29
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for the Puccini

Before proceeding any further, please click on the following links. Enjoy looking at the pictures, reading the descriptions, and discovering what, for many of you, is new music.

Part 1 - box, silver color, accessories, remote
Part 2 - logo, display
Part 3 - rear panel
Part 4 - burn-in, menu
Part 5 - interconnects, powercords
Part 6 - SACD, volume control
Part 7 - Esoteric DV-60, Filter 1
Part 8 - Filters 3 and 4
Part 9 - Filter 2, Simaudio Andromeda
Part 10 - no video, EAR Acute

Yes, after you click on the links above, you can leave comments there.

Sorry, as of this writing, I have not been able to secure the dCS Puccini's natural rival, the EMM Labs CDSA SE. Plans for a one-on-one comparison never materialized.

I have never had a product evince this degree of difficulty, when it came to writing a review. Normally, a product has clear-cut strengths and weaknesses, which elicit strong opinions. As a conclusion, as a reviewer, I can easily conclude that "Product Z will work for A, B, and C, but not for Q, R, and S." With the dCS Puccini, that is not quite the case.

First of all, let's get the easy stuff out of the way. 1.) Everyone agrees that US$20k is not cheap. You can argue that the Puccini is a fraction of the Paganini and Scarlatti, but that is just avoiding the $20k bill due, should you decide to pursue or get a Puccini. 2.) The Puccini, unlike many other high-end audio components, doesn't care which interconnect it uses. Heck, it sounded fine with a Kimber PBJ. As my friends and I like to say, when it comes to interconnects, "just pick your poison." :-) 3.) Everyone agrees that the Puccini plays back "high quality sound." But after that, opinions divulge and disperse.

And let me give you a sampling of said reactions and commentary:

Tran the IT guy: Wow, does it have internet access?
Donald: $20,000, and it doesn't even play DVD!
Chris the drummer: Fuck you. Just go to Circuit City, plunk down a hundred dollars, and get your own damn DVD player.
Steven the drummer: Wow, does this thing double as a drum machine?
Lina: its sound is so clear and refreshing, it's like the glaciers before there was global warming.
Sara: no karaoke? What a disappointment!
Lilkilljoy: At least Aiden doesn't get his fingerprints all over it.
Aiden (if he could talk): I much rather get my hands all over the EAR Acute, with its bas-relief buttons and mirror-like chrome faceplate.
Judy the doctor: Ooooh, why can't my x-ray machine be this cool?!
Judy the teacher: I think I'd rather spend $20,000 on real [musical] instruments for my kids.
John the teacher: Speaking of $20,000, there goes the kids' [college] tuition!
Lina: I think [dCS] neutered the Puccini, so that they could sell more Scarlattis.
Chris the durmmer: Eh, I think it's the [Nordost] Valhalla of CD players.
Bruce: Mmmm, I don't know. It's kind of like dating. While I respect her, I'm not so sure I'd fall in love with her.

Bruce's opinion sums up how most people, when they actually get to use the Puccini , feel about it. If you have never seen or heard the Puccini (or any product), you don't have an opinion.

I myself hemmed and hawed over my final assessment of the Puccini. It does give you five listening modes to play with. It certainly has good focus, speed, and resolution. Indeed, when you find sympathetic associated equipment [we felt the Puccini sounded smoother and more cohesive with, say, the Sonus Faber Guarneri Memento and Wilson Benesch ARC, than the Thiel CS2.4 or Totem The One], the Puccini is very intellectually satisfying. But let me cite a few musical selections which highlight why the Puccini may be out-gunned by other CD players.

From lite rock to Michael Tilson Thomas leading the San Francisco Symphony (I was born and raised in S.F.) to Testament's new album, the EAR Acute, better than any other CD system I've heard, mimics the actual sound of instruments.

The Simaudio Andromeda just nails The Outfield's "For You." The Andromeda perfectly captures Tony Lewis' nasal voice, without becoming warbly (as on vinyl) and annoying (as on lesser CD players). The Puccini captures all of the detail, but leaves some of the nuance, color, and reflection behind. The Andromeda definitely does a better job at capturing the music's soul and power.

And when we turned to The Outfield's anthem, "Winning It All," my friend Larry said it best: "[With the Puccini], it's like playing this song during the regular season. But on [the Andromeda], it's like hearing it while your team's in the Stanley Cup playoffs."

Another caveat is that, and this isn't the Puccini's fault, there aren't very many SACDs. When we did play SACDs, Chris the drummer remarked that they sound "modern." By that, he was referring to the easy-to-see images, and the complete lack of grain, grunge, and hash.

So if, like us, you don't have many SACDs, your library will consist of regular redbook CDs. And if that is the case, see the listening notes above.

Don't get me wrong; everybody respected and liked the Puccini's sound. It's just that I didn't see any of my friends excitedly falling head over heels for it.

But sometimes, you need a good-looking, one-box, drawer-loading CD/SACD player. Sometimes, you need a CD player which has no operational quirks, which has an informative display, and which does not generate noise or heat. Sometimes, you need a CD player with digital inputs and outputs. Sometimes, you need a CD player with a transparent volume control. Sometimes, you need an honest CD player with top-notch, no-frills sound. For the above, the dCS Puccini clearly fits the bill.

But then there were three Inmates who asked, "What if you like the Puccini, want something like it, but can't afford or justify $20k?" Easy. Move the Esoteric DV-60 higher on your list. Plus, the DV-60 plays DVD-A and DVD-video, so Donald will be happy :-)

Lina likened the Puccini's sound to that of High-Definition video: "Sure, there's detail galore, but it'll never fool you into thinking you're seeing the real thing."

It is very odd that, when my friends observed the Puccini, there was very little arguing, very little fighting, and none of the pissing contests normally associated with audio gear. We were just tongue-tied, occasionally uncomfortable, and stricken with 85%-full/15% empty conundrums. It has been very difficult to put into words and pictures how the Puccini influenced us. But I hope I have armed you with enough information, so that you yourself can determine whether an audition of the dCS Puccini is worthwhile and mandated.

-Lummy The Seahorse

Product Weakness: takes forever to burn-in; price; display, though informative, is too small; plastic remote; fast search modes aren't fast or smooth enough
Product Strengths: one box; 5 listening modes; all time functions; transparent volume control; read all of our CDs; not sensitive to interconnects; no sonic difference between single-ended and balanced

Associated Equipment for this Review:

Amplifier: Conrad-Johnson ET-250S; Mark Levinson No. 431, Simaudio W-8
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Conrad-Johnson Premier 18LS; Mark Levinson No. 326S; Simaudio P-8
Sources (CDP/Turntable): EAR Acute; Esoteric DV-60; Simaudio Andromeda
Speakers: Sonus Faber Guarneri Memento; Totem The One; Wilson Benesch ARC
Cables/Interconnects: Nordost Odin, XLO Limited Edition
Music Used (Genre/Selections): rock, pop, oldies, musicals, Hawaiian, death metal
Time Period/Length of Audition: 3 months
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): Nordost Thor; Power Wing
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: DCS Puccini CD Player/Recorder - Luminator 10:35:29 09/9/08 ( 10)