dCS Lina system: the holy grail of headphone playback?

dCS Lina
(Image credit: dCS)

dCS is out to offer the head-fi community “the definitive system for headphone playback” with its latest product series, Lina. The all-new, three-strong component range comprises a dedicated network DAC, headphone amplifier and master clock, which can be purchased individually or as a complete system.

The concept for the Lina range originated from the development of the UK-based company’s 2018-released, five-star Bartók, a hugely capable one-box music streamer, DAC and headphone amp that was designed for both headphone and speaker listening. During the journey to create Bartók, dCS engineers learnt a whole lot about amplification and playback – so much so that they have taken the next step by designing this dedicated headphone component range.

The Bartok was designed to support both headphone and stereo listening, and the feedback received from both the head-fi and hi-fi communities was hugely positive. Through making the system, dCS learned a great deal about headphone amplification and playback, and the unique requirements of headphone listeners. This experience – coupled with the Bartók’s success – inspired the leap to go one step further and create a new product range tailor-made for headphone listening. Lina is, of course, the fruit of that labour – the culmination of two years of development.

dCS Lina

(Image credit: dCS)

The brand says it has worked hard to deliver the same highly detailed, transparent and musical sound that people have come to expect, in a package that delivers new features and functions that reflect the differences in headphone versus two-channel listening. With that in mind, Lina introduces all-new electronic and mechanical designs, including circuitry that it says tested the limits of PCB design. And a new touch screen UI is, if you like, the cherry on the proverbial cake.

So, let's break down the Lina range. The Lina Network DAC supports hi-res streaming via Roon, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, Deezer and AirPlay to name just a handful of compatible services, with control courtesy of that touch-screen or the dCS Mosiac app. The company's Expanse technology promises enhanced crossfeed optimisation "for a more natural and immersive experience", while its digital processing platform has "unlimited scope" for future upgrades – always a relief in a high-end digital product such as this.

dCS Lina

The headphone amp offers dual 3-pin balanced XLR, single 4-pin balanced XLR and 6.35mm headphone sockets (Image credit: dCS)

The Lina Master Clock, meanwhile, uses two oven-controlled quartz crystals – one for 44.1kHz sample rates and one for 48kHz – for accurately clocking all audio samples and frequencies, and allows the range's streaming DAC to be locked to a single master signal for improved performance. And, last but not least, the Lina Headphone Amplifier is a solid-state Class AB design with a DC servo system and offers three headphone outputs – a dual 3-pin balanced XLR, a single 4-pin balanced XLR and a 6.35mm jack.

The dCS Lina product line is now available, priced £11,750 / $9100 / AU$20,000 for the streaming DAC; £8400 / $12,750 / AU$14,300 for the headphone amp; and £6750 / $7300 / AU$11,500 for the clock.


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Becky Roberts

Becky is the managing editor of What Hi-Fi? and, since her recent move to Melbourne, also the editor of Australian Hi-Fi magazine. During her 10 years in the hi-fi industry, she has been fortunate enough to travel the world to report on the biggest and most exciting brands in hi-fi and consumer tech (and has had the jetlag and hangovers to remember them by). In her spare time, Becky can often be found running, watching Liverpool FC and horror movies, and hunting for gluten-free cake.