DACs Deciphered: The 4 Major Types Explained | Moon Audio

Bartok APEX DAC Headphone Amplifier


Astonishing transparency & detail for headphone enthusiasts. More details

DACs Deciphered: The 4 Major Types Explained | Moon Audio

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dCS Bartok APEX Sounds Even More Transparent

The Bartók APEX DAC, music streamer, upsampler, preamp, and headphone amplifier is equipped with dCS' next-generation APEX Ring DAC for an even more transparent and immersive listening experience than the original Bartók. Enjoy powerful, dynamic, and detailed sound with new levels of resolution and refinement. With flexible and upgradeable software and hardware, the Bartók APEX can grow and evolve, providing a state-of-the-art listening experience for years to come.

Designed and built by hand at dCS headquarters in Cambridgeshire, England, the Bartók APEX boasts an elegant and timeless aesthetic that combines meticulous craftsmanship and obsessive attention to detail. Available in silver or black, the Bartók APEX showcases dCS' uncompromising approach to design.


  • Latest generation dCS Digital Processing Platform brings state-of-the-art signal processing and flexibility
  • dCS Ring DAC™ fitted, as used in the dCS Vivaldi digital playback system
  • High-quality streaming from TIDAL, Qobuz, Deezer and internet radio via the dCS Mosaic Control app
  • Roon Ready, AirPlay, Spotify Connect and UPnP compatible
  • USB, AES, Dual AES and S/PDIF digital audio inputs
  • Headphone amplifier with balanced and unbalanced outputs, suitable for high and low impedance headphones
  • Accepts encrypted SACD data from dCS Transports via Dual AES inputs. Oversampling design with switchable DSD upsampling; user-selectable PCM and DSD filters
  • Multi-stage DXD oversampling design with switchable DSD upsampling; user-selectable PCM and DSD filters
  • Auto clocking system improves ease of use and minimizes jitter
  • Multi-stage power regulation and twin mains transformers to isolate the DAC section from the headphone amplifier
  • Firmware-upgradeable for future functionality and performance upgrades

Bartók APEX Features a New Version of dCS' Ring DAC

Renowned for its technical and sonic performance, the dCS Ring DAC system has been continuously developed and refined over the past three decades. Initially available for the Vivaldi and the Rossini, the APEX Ring DAC upgrade is now included with the Bartók. For existing Bartok owners, the upgrade will be available as a download beginning in March 2023.

Released in 2022, APEX is a substantial update to dCS' proprietary Ring DAC™. The first thing dCS did was to reconfigure the circuit board. The result is improved DSD upscaling performance as well as DSD128 support, and lower output impedance. Plus, new filter options enhance transparency. Additionally, a new analog output stage helps to lower distortion and increase linearity.

Bartok APEX DAC Amplifier back panel by dCS on a black background
Bartok APEX DAC Amplifier, back panel by dCS on a black background

Ring DAC upgrades include:

  • Modified reference supply that feeds the Ring DAC, resulting in lower output impedance
  • Enhanced the filter, summing and output stages of the Ring DAC
  • Improved the symmetry of summing stages
  • Created an all-new output stage
  • Reconfigured the main Ring DAC circuit board
  • Replaced individual transistors on the board with a compound pair

How Does the Bartók APEX Sound vs. the Original Bartók?

For those in pursuit of the ultimate in transparency and realism, APEX sets a new benchmark. Building on the detail and finesse of the original Bartók, it resolves the finest details and uncovers textures and subtleties that most systems overlook. From the broadest dynamic swings in volume to the subtlest shifts in tone, the Bartók APEX reveals each aspect of a recording with a sense of effortless refinement and control.

Headphone Listening Reimagined

Starting with the dCS analog output stage, benchmark amplifier performance is maintained with true Class A operation through the amplifier's balanced and unbalanced outputs.

The amplifier design also features dedicated power supplies for analog and digital processing, which are isolated from the DAC section of the system for enhanced precision with minimal crosstalk and noise. This unique architecture allows for a powerful and transparent performance that uncovers the unique character and potential of your headphones.

The Bartók APEX DAC features a unique processing platform called Expanse that reimagines how sound is optimized for headphones. Expanse is an optional feature that can be engaged with a wide range of stereo recordings to provide a greater sense of realism, space, and depth.

The Bartók APEX headphone amplifier is engineered to handle a vast range of headphones regardless of efficiency or impedance. To use headphones, simply plug them in, switch the line output, and adjust volume levels using the volume dial or the Mosaic control app (no need for a separate preamp). With a choice of four adjustable gain settings, you can adjust performance to suit your setup.

Bartok APEX DAC Amplifier back panel by dCS on a black background
Bartok APEX DAC Amplifier front by dCS on a black background

Music on Your Terms

The Bartók APEX can adapt to serve whatever mood or music you ask it to. With its wide range of inputs and outputs, high-performance UPnP streamer, and extensive choice of filters, it offers limitless capabilities and an effortless listening experience.

Compatible with all major file formats, the Bartók APEX provides instant access to music from a wide range of streaming services, including Roon, TIDAL, Spotify, Qobuz, Deezer and Internet Radio. It also plays files direct from personal devices or storage drives via USB, AES or S/PDIF inputs, and from Apple devices using Apple AirPlay.

Its streaming interface supports all major lossless codecs, plus DSD in native and DoP formats, and ensures true 24-bit resolution audio when streaming via Ethernet. Playback is easily managed via the dCS Mosaic app, which allows you to access music from multiple sources and adjust the settings on your system through a single, intuitive interface.

Available on all Android and iOS devices, the Mosaic control app is supported by a powerful processing platform that runs on custom code developed by dCS. This software-driven design means its performance can be upgraded and enhanced over time, allowing dCS to add new streaming functionalities as platforms and services develop.


Upsampling Network DAC with Headphone Amplifier
Silver or Black
444mm / 17.5” x 430mm / 17.0” x 115mm / 4.6“. Allow extra depth for cable connectors
16.7kg / 36.8lbs
Converter Type
dCS proprietary Ring DAC™ topology
Digital Inputs
Ethernet network port on RJ45 connector, accepts 24-bit 44.1 – 384kS/s PCM, DSD/64 & DSD128 in DFF/DSF format; USB 2.0 interface on B-type connector, accepts 24-bit 44.1 – 384kS/s PCM, DSD/64 & DSD128 in DoP format; USB On-The-Go interface on A-type connector, accepts 24-bit 44.1 – 384kS/s PCM, DSD/64 & DSD128 in DFF/DSF format; 2 x AES/EBU inputs on 3-pin female XLR connectors, accepts 24-bit 44.1 – 192kS/s PCM, DSD/64 & DSD/128 in DoP format; 1 x Dual AES pair, accepts 24-bit 88.2 – 384kS/s PCM, DSD/64 & DSD/128 in DoP format; 1 x SPDIF on RCA Phono connector, accepts 24-bit 44.1 – 192kS/s PCM & DSD/64 in DoP format; 1 x SPDIF on BNC connector, accepts 24-bit 44.1 – 192kS/s PCM & DSD/64 in DoP format; 1 x SPDIF optical on TOSLINK connector, accepts 24-bit 44.1 – 96kS/s PCM
Analogue Outputs
1 x pair balanced outputs on 2 x XLR connectors. Output levels: 0.2V, 0.6V, 2V, 6V rms for a full-scale input, set in the menu. Output impedance: 3Ω. Maximum load: 600Ω (10k-100kΩ is recommended); 1 x pair unbalanced outputs on 2 x RCA connectors. Output levels: 0.2V, 0.6V, 2V, 6V rms for a full-scale input, set in the menu. Output impedance: 52Ω. Maximum load: 600Ω (10k-100kΩ is recommended)
Headphone Outputs
1 x stereo balanced output 4-pin male XLR connector; 1 x stereo unbalanced output on 6.35mm (1/4”) 3-pole jack. Full-scale output levels: 1.4W rms into 33Ω, 0.15W rms into 300Ω. Minimum headphone impedance: 33Ω
Wordclock I/O
2 x Word Clock Inputs on 2 x BNC connectors, accept standard Word Clock at 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4 or 192kHz. The data rate can be the same as the clock rate or an exact multiple of the clock rate. Sensitive to TTL levels. 1 x Word Clock Output on 1x BNC connector. With Sync Mode set to Master, a TTL-compatible Word Clock is output
Full decoding and rendering of MQA data from the Network and USB2 inputs. Final rendering of unfolded MQA data only from the other inputs
Residual Noise
24-bit data: Better than –113dB0, 20Hz - 20kHz unweighted (6V output setting)
L R Crosstalk
Better than -115dB0, 20Hz – 20kHz
Spurious Responses
Better than -105dB0, 20Hz – 20kHz
PCM mode: up to 6 filters give different trade-offs between the Nyquist image rejection and the phase response. DSD mode: 4 filters progressively reduce out-of-audio band noise level
DXD as standard or optional DSD upsampling
Software Updates
Download and update functionality available via dCS Mosaic Control app
Local Control
dCS Mosaic Control app for unit configuration and playback. RS232 interface (controlled by a 3rd party automation system). dCS Universal Remote is available as an optional extra
Power Supply
Factory set to either 100, 115/120, 220 or 230/240V AC 50/60Hz
Power Consumption
30 Watts typical / 50 Watts maximum