It’s Friday afternoon somewhere near Cambridge and upon sitting on a leather sofa, neatly situated In a specially built ‘sound stage’ room, it’s clear judging from the menacing presence of 4 stand alone 300w speakers and treated, sound proofed walls that something magical is about to happen. To the left of the sofa is a Vivaldi Soundsystem, thought to be one of the loudest and highest quality systems in the world and manufacturers dCS (data compression systems) invited MEOKO to bring a stack of music to test the raw sound quality and sheer power of the audible juggernaut . Worth around £67,000 brand new, MEOKO found ourselves receiving a backstage view the intimate team of electronic engineers devising and producing the kit.
We’re faced with a stereo that has the power to decompress mp3 to analogue quality through one of it’s 4 pre-amp compression systems and deliver pin point precise sound, the company’s CEO starkly warns me: “this is a different way of listening to music. You can hear everything… and I do mean everything. If it’s badly produced or cutting corners, you’ll be able to hear it on the Vivaldi. It really brings your music to life”.
dCS are, sadly, a rare breed in this day in age. After the digital boom, Cambridgeshire’s rich history as a home for audio specialist manufacturing took flight as demand for better sound increased as commercialised sales glanced over quality. The company which have run for over twenty years stake the claim as the most expensive and audibly powerful unit in the world. Hand tested, crafted and built in the dCS factory, it’s fully centralised production model (plus promotion and usage of homegrown British standards) have made dCS one of the only companies to not compromise on their original mantra even in times of economic instability “Nothing But Only The Music”.
Most of the guys at dCS do the industrial design here points out David as we embark on a tour of the factory, pre-listening session. “We make everything including the circuit boards and writing the software by the team in here” he points out as we “the guys we employ have been working in audio for 20, 25 years and they are skilled highly. They are world class engineers and there aren’t that many people that can do what they can”. We’re standing at the end of a short corridor, with two doors on either side. “The room on the left is for ideas, whilst the second on the right is there for assembly and testing” pointing out the dCS’s specific but simple manufacturing model and division of labour. “When we step into the workshop like atmosphere, we’re surrounded by hardware of all shapes and sizes, middle aged men with soldering irons fixing together circuit boards and enough wiring to make the tidiest of people weep with anxiety.”
The way this all start with is a kit of parts which then have to pass the first couple of test stages” he begins at a rack of dCS manufactured parts, “We leave all the fancy stuff like the casing until later and assemble it electronically and of course when it passes all of the tests”. The only two components that aren’t from the UK in this setup are the mechanism (that spins the disc round) and a network board that comes from Austria. Everything else is made in the UK we’re one of the only companies of our kind that are doing that and we’re really proud of that fact.”
A blatantly obvious trait of dCS’s brand is their insistence on quality of the highest order. “You have to be thorough because some of our clients out in places like Japan are literally inspecting the product with a microscope when it’s delivered” laughs David. Not just quality materials and expert design, but a series of rigorous tests are designed to put the machine through its paces, starting with the basic ‘soak test’.
“Some people want to access their music through a network drive, while others want to simply spin a disc; here, we do both” states David of the system’s compression and conversion powers. “People like to own a physical product and sometimes you just want to interact with it a little more” he continues as we are struck in mesmeric awe by the velocity of sound, under the grip of Vivaldi’s spell as it converts digital sound jacked straight from a macbook running iTunes into true analogue sound, rich detailed and widescreen. “I do feel that in the future digital sound may even become such a high quality playback that it will be on par with a CD” explains David. “The people who buy our stuff, they connect to there music, they enjoy it and theyy feel immersed by it” David points out, “so the format isnt always a problem. But the one thing you can’t have with digital is a tangible product in your hand which digital will obviously always sidestep something more real.”
After guided around a series of tests, David showed us the gorgeous, sleek and solid design of the Vivaldi. “The front and unit case are made of hand carved, anodised metal” he informs, caressing the Vivaldi’s minimal but futuristic facia, gleaming and shining in the light. “Again, we insist on perfection there can’t be a single mark, blemish or mistake. It has to be completely perfect before it even gets assembled.”
Meticulous yes, but you can be sure that best part of 100K is buying you bespoke quality to such a tight and
professional level. After watching the dCSteam in action (and having been guided through their modest and tight knit factory)run by a total of around 20people in all we were in the listening room with the imposing sound stage setup, ready to listen to music in its greatest depth and clarity of sound. Listening to the likes of Orbital’s Halcyon + On + On, Pan Pot & cari Golden’s Captain My Captain and more diverse sounds from the likes of Jose Gonzalez and Bob Marley. Whatever you threw at the Vivaldi system, all of the converging power hits you square in the face. No mistake can be covered up by the musician on this behemoth there is no escaping the true sound of music you are listening to, be it psych-rock, dub reggae or slamming, driving techno.
With sound like that of the full Vivaldi set up, the colour and life within your music is on full display, in turn adding to the overall aesthetic of the listening experience. Captivating, arresting, demanding the Vivaldi is designed to capture your attention through near-perfect audible perfection.
If after ten minutes your mind starts to wander and you’re not focused on the music, then something is wrong” explains David of his deep connection to sound and the products he dedicates his work too. “Music should immerse you and grab your attention fully whether you’re tech buff, sound freak or not…” he states as this writer feels knocked back. And sure enough, he needn’t worry too much the music sounds so crisp, so alive, that ignoring its prowess and heavy nature is virtually impossible to ignore. Now to save up that cool 67k…. for this obsessional music fan, that’s money well spent.
Written by Joe Gamp
Pictures by Caterina Berardi
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