What do you get when you upgrade what we not long ago called "one of the best sounding digital sources" with an overhauled Ring DAC circuit that, in a sibling product, we noted was capable of "transparency of the highest order"? By name, the dCS Bartók Apex; and by talent, perhaps a class leader in its field.
The dCS Bartók Apex represents the next generation of the network streaming DAC, following on from the 2018-released model that we praised for being well-equipped, superly made and sonically hugely capable, and consequently awarded five stars to. While the Bartók received a 'Bartók 2.0' software update last year that upgraded the mapping algorithm that controlled its dCS Ring DAC technology and introduced new digital filters and improvements to its DSD upsampling, the Bartók Apex evolves the model further with both more advanced hardware and software. Primarily, the new Bartók gets the company's Ring DAC Apex technology.
This technology, which was introduced to dCS’s top-end Vivaldi and Rossini products in 2022 (we recently labelled the latter "the most capable digital-to-analogue converter we’ve ever reviewed"), features changes to the reference power supply that feeds the DAC circuitry, sees new components with a reconfigured layout on the circuit board, and introduces an all-new output stage. The software side of things has also been revised. Those who are interested in a deeper dive into Apex can read dCS's 'APEX: A Closer Look' article.
Considering the performance heights of the previous Bartók, and the fact that the Bartók Apex shares the same electronics as its Vivaldi and five-star Rossini systems as well as the clocking architecture and digital processing that make up its Ring DAC Apex platform, we have high hopes for this new model within this revered level of the market.
The dCS Bartók Apex comes in two variants: one with an integrated headphone amplifier (£21,500 / AU$34,995) and one without (£19,000 / AU$29,995). Existing Bartók owners can upgrade their machine with Apex for £7500 (AU$tbc).
Read our full dCS Rossini Apex DAC review
Read our dCS Bartók review (2018 model)