A visit to the dCS factory at Swavesey (Cambridge) was very eye opening in regard to what goes on in the manufacture of ultra premium audio.
Here are some pictures from my factory tour and other areas of dCS’ premises, and what making these terrific products entails;
Entrance to the factory involves an ElectroStatic Discharge station. You wear a static discharge strip from the soul of your shoe which touches your leg at the other end. A bit of water was needed for good contact with my dry skin!
Put your foot on the pad and then…..
push the button until you pass the test with a green light! It feels like you might be going into a nuclear power station or similar!
Vivaldi and Rossini Master clocks are heat and cold tested from -25 degrees centigrade to +50 degrees centigrade to test them over a range of conditions for best operation. At the same time crystals of DAC components are calibrated.
The big Excal branded machine being used looks like a big giant oven with shelves upon which Clocks are stacked, except unlike mine it is spotless!
A Bartók being made. You really get a feel for the machining that goes into the metal sides and panels, which are intricately milled. These are not of the ‘stick on’ type! The machined aluminium is bead blasted to create a luxury pitted feel and it is then anodised. Black cases need more anodising than silver to stop the silver coming through.
The control board, which is common to all dCS DACs is the big board at the front. In the Bartók it occupies two levels due to reasons of space.
A clue as to this being the headphone variant Bartók is the extra toroidal power supply to the left. The blue case houses another toroid, used to juice remaining electronics.
The latest iteration of dCS’ ring DAC board used in the Bartok (on the right). It provides for extremely low distortion and linearity. This is custom made and only used by dCS – The only type of DAC like this in the world. Note the two FPGA chips at the front for digital to analogue conversion and filtering needs.
Going down the production line unit, each has its paperwork in order. It looks a bit like when Boeing make aircraft – each part is tracked. No different here.
Each Bartok takes two weeks to make. dCS build around 130 units a month of all models through their production facility, which is smaller than you think!
After near final assembly each unit is electrically ‘soak’ tested over 96 hours in cycles, with all the inputs and outputs being tested. Then units are finished with remaining sides and the front panel.
dCS have actually had to build their own test stations in house as no such commercially available componentry is available;
Testing at the soak station ;
Before being inspected for any damage and signed off by three individuals, each unit is sound checked and loaded with a serial number;
Leaving the factory, dCS have a demo room and corridor lined with obsolete products and previous iterations of their Ring DACs
The latest Ring DAC board on display;
At the end of the corridor you are greeted with a demo room compromising all their premium Rossini and Vivaldi components, even a blinged up gold plated £58,500 dCS Vivaldi One Digital Music System.
and a pair of $100k Wilson Audio Alexx it looks like, and Dan A’Gostino power amps. The room is purpose built as you’d expect.
Upstairs in the headphone room, off dCS’ offices, is a further four box system with Wilson Audio speakers, and a dedicated headphone listening room with a Bartók and various pairs of premium headphones from the likes of Focal Utopia and HIFIMAN, such as the excellent HE1000 V2’s
Visitors can select music using an iPad using dCS’ latest app – mosaic. Clearly a lot of care and attention has gone into the demo room.
If you liked reading this have a look at my latest article on the Bartók here if you missed the link. Or watch the film below;