dCS Puccini CD/SACD Player

I first heard about British high-end manufacturer dCS many years ago when I read a white paper from the company extolling the audible virtue of PCM digital audio recorded and played back at 192kHz with 24-bit resolution. Since then, it seems that dCS has embraced DSD—the digital-audio format used by SACD—in its CD/SACD playback systems, including the all-in-one Puccini.

The Puccini incorporates the company's Ring DAC, which can transcode CD PCM data to DSD before converting it to analog. The Ring DAC is unique in that it doesn't use off-the-shelf DAC chips—instead, it uses FPGA (field-programmable gate array), DSP, and microcontroller chips, allowing it to be reconfigured by software. According to dCS, it's the "softest hardware on the market."

In addition to balanced and unbalanced analog outputs, the Puccini also provides two digital-audio RCA inputs and outputs. Why include digital inputs on a disc player? Because that allows other PCM digital sources to be converted to analog by the internal Ring DAC.

The internal clock provides excellent performance, but for even less jitter, you can add the outboard Puccini U-Clock. In addition, the U-Clock provides a USB-to-S/PDIF converter, which lets you connect it to a computer and stream audio files through the player's Ring DAC.

The Puccini is the least-expensive audio-disc playback system from dCS. Still, $18,000 ain't cheap, and the price gets $5000 steeper if you add the U-Clock. But as John Atkinson concluded in his review for Stereophile, "Overall, there was something very right about the sound of the dCS Puccini system, not only when playing SACDs (which always tend to sound good) or well-recorded CDs, but also when playing PCM data sourced from my Mac mini via USB and the U-Clock."