dCS Lina Community DAC Evaluation — Headfonics

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We overview the brand new dCS Lina Community DAC, which is a high-end modular streamer and digital-to-analog converter primarily based on the well-known Ring DAC design. It’s priced at £11750.

Disclaimer: We obtained this pattern on a long-term mortgage in change for our trustworthy opinion. Headfonics is an impartial web site with no affiliate hyperlinks or standing. We admire the chance supplied by dCS.

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dCS Lina Community DAC Evaluation

The dCS Lina Community DAC is an outstandingly detailed and natural-sounding decoder with a ton of helpful options and a really trendy supporting app bringing the very best of the web and community proper to your fingertips. 

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Extremely resolving DAC

Huge Vary of Voltage output ranges

Wonderful integration with dCS Mosaic



No out of the field wi-fi

Sizzling after our dCS Lina Headphone Amplifier overview final month we now have what many contemplate to be the heartbeat of this high-end modular stack, the Lina Community DAC. 

Coming in at £11750 it’s not for the faint of coronary heart budget-wise however is a bit cheaper than the amp-free Bartok DAC model when it comes to pricing. There may be additionally some overlap on paper with the Bartok together with a really acquainted in-house DAC design and OS layer.

There may be additionally the same stage of distant integration utilizing dCS’s wonderful Mosaic app.

Just like the Bartok, this isn’t simply a normal desktop DAC both. The Lina Community DAC affords LAN fans the flexibility to stream utilizing a variety of companies. Maybe considerably, it’s appropriate with the brand new Lina Grasp Clock which is as game-changing for me because the Hugo M Scaler was for the efficiency of the Chord TT2.

dCS Lina Network DAC Review

Tech Highlights

Ring DAC

It’s in all probability no shock that the Lina Community DAC makes use of the corporate’s in-house and highly-rated Ring DAC implementation. Each single digital conversion system dCS has available in the market proper now makes use of one model or one other of this design.

dCS doesn’t use off-the-shelf delta-sigma DAC blocks or chipsets akin to Sabre, AKM, or Cirrus Logic. Quite, they use a community of FPGAs (Subject Programmable Gate Arrays) preloaded to execute dCS proprietary software program that does all of the digital filtering and digital-to-analog conversion.

For these coming from the likes of Chord, or even perhaps ladder-based frameworks akin to R2R, the proposition right here is comparatively related at a excessive stage with its resistor and match-based mechanism.

Nonetheless, the place it differs in managing its present supply is through dCS’s ‘thermometer coded’ DAC structure. This design successfully decorrelates errors from the audio sign through a mapper (mathematical guidelines) sample and converts them into white noise thus successfully decreasing distortion to a really low stage.

dCS Lina Network DAC Review
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Since our Bartok opinions the Ring DAC has had an improve with the brand new {hardware} modified APEX model launched on their summit items such because the Rossini earlier this 12 months, and the Bartok itself getting a software program “2.0” improve on its mapper.

The first distinction between 2.0 and the unique is in how the information is introduced for conversion with the two.0 model set at 5.644 or 6.14MHz and the Lina Community DAC model, or Map 2 within the Bartok set at a decrease 2.822 or 3.07MHz.

So far as I’m conscious, the Lina Community DAC makes use of the unique Ring DAC configuration with the Mapper V1.0 relatively than the Bartok 2.0 firmware. Maybe this can be a extra important manner of differentiating between the 2 DAC implementations and shifting the costlier Bartok to a barely increased aircraft.

The second level of differentiation is the bodily implementation. The Lina Community DAC housing is way narrower than the Bartok but it should accommodate primarily the identical board. To that finish, dCS primarily folded the board with key elements on the edges of the housing with ribbon connectors relatively than a extra spatially demanding authentic flat design.


Obsolescence deliberate or in any other case is a moot level with the Lina Community DAC’s firmware upgradeability. Which will even be a aid to these scratching their head on the decoding specs additionally as a result of like the unique Bartok this configuration has considerably of a low ceiling for decoding.

The Lina Community DAC top-level decoding charge, (USB), is ready at 32BIT/384kHz PCM with a local functionality of a most of DSD128 together with DSDX2 upsampling. So, no native DSD256/512 or PCM 768kHz although, just like the Bartok, you do get native rendering and unfolding of MQA which loads of audiophiles will welcome. 

The Lina Community DAC may also settle for digital indicators through AES at as much as 32BIT/384kHz, coaxial to 192k, and optical to its most 96k charge. Analog output is a user-selectable variable line out at 0.2, 0.6, and 2V or a extra excitable 6V relying in your preferences. 

I bear in mind talking to dCS within the authentic Bartok testing course of on why the shortage of DSD512 and so they talked about that it got here right down to business demand with DSD512 utilization ranges too low to justify the event at the moment. Nonetheless, because the Ring DAC is upgradeable then if the demand is there, dCS can usher in DSD256 and past. 

Community Streaming

Except for the classics and one thing dCS is an enormous supporter of is network-based streaming functionality, therefore the title, Lina Community DAC.

Just like the Bartok, the Lina will settle for an incoming sign through an RJ45 port, (ethernet) opening up a variety of companies both regionally, (UPnP or NAS), or through the web, by means of media servers akin to Roon, for which the Lina Community DAC is Roon Prepared. 

It might probably additionally instantly interface your TIDAL, Qobuz, or Spotify Join companies in addition to make the most of any Apple Airplay system you occur to be working. 

Importantly, the Lina Community DAC’s firmware will be upgraded through dCS Mosaic in addition to the software program appearing as that all-important distant management for media serving or system settings saving you the trouble of bodily train. Beautiful.

Grasp Clock Connectivity

Final however not least, is the flexibility for the Lina Community DAC to combine with the brand new Lina Grasp Clock. dCS has pitched this as non-compulsory and naturally, you don’t want to purchase it. Nonetheless, as you will notice in our overview, it is vitally onerous to disregard it and what it may do, particularly in relation to the efficiency of the DAC.

Primarily, the Grasp Clock hammers down on jitter, (and distortion), through twin crystal oscillators on the incoming digital sign earlier than sending it onto the DAC for conversion to its analog type. 

Greater than, when related, its impact on the standard of the output sound is, in my view, fairly transformative. It isn’t delicate, nuanced, or something of that nature however instantly noticeable.

dCS Lina Network DAC Review
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It’s no shock that the Lina Community DAC takes on the very same stylish design language because the Lina headphone amplifier which is not any shock since they’re a part of a triple modular system designed to neatly stack or sit aspect by aspect. 

Which means a comparatively slender however deep physique, with a discreet or minimalistic ‘shoe field’ type issue and the identical sturdy machined aluminum chassis because the amplifier. Solely this time, the entrance panel is a relatively reflective glass panel end than the matte minimalism of the matching amplifier.

Housed within the center is the all-important LCD show which is a bit greater and extra legible from wider angles than the narrower Bartok interface. All I/O is housed on the rear panel in a really clear and well-organized vogue and the power-up button is in the identical discreet place because the amplifier’s equal, just below the entrance panel.

The stabilizing system beneath is similar enticing design because the amplifier creating an phantasm of separation between all 3 items when stacked, (or the rack ground if singular).

As an alternative of flat toes or the normal pillar stabilizer design, it’s a curved lengthy physique design with the toes discreetly positioned at every inside nook. It retains every little thing very regular and on the identical time retains the sleek design ground fully uninterrupted.

Stacking or Not?

The burden distinction is minimal between the DAC and the amp with the Lina Community DAC weighing in at 7.4kg in comparison with the amplifier’s 7.5kg. Each have some heft however on their very own, they’re no match for the 16+ kilo Bartok.

Collectively, they’re meaty, and while they give the impression of being superior stacked I might have some reservations on the kind of rack you want with such excessive downward stress on a slender floor space. My private take is they appear extra snug when aligned aspect by aspect relatively than on high of one another.

dCS Lina Network DAC Review


Every thing exterior of I²S is just about accessible on the backend of the Lina Community DAC. You get each balanced 3-pin XLR and unbalanced twin RCA analog outputs and a variety of digital inputs.

You get a minimum of 3 SPDIF ports together with coaxial, BNC, and optical, 2 AES, USB-B, and USB-A ports, and the twin BNC on the base particularly to connect with the Lina Grasp Clock. On the very far proper a single RJ45 enter for network-based streaming and one other twin RJ45 socket on the backside left for the Energy Hyperlink system.

One small tip, and purely non-compulsory is you may slap a journey router on the top of that RJ45 and hook it up in consumer mode to show the Lina Community DAC right into a wi-fi receiver. For round $50 a superb TP-Hyperlink journey hub will try this for you whether it is appropriate and in case your modem is simply too far-off or lacks a spare RJ45 output.

Aesthetically I do need to say additionally the spacing and ending on the again of the Lina Community DAC are implausible. Very often, modular again panels will be cramped or messy of their group making cable administration a little bit of ache.

Not so with the Lina Community DAC interface. It’s as clear as a whistle, fantastically gold-plated the place it’s wanted, and with very clear labeling.

dCS Lina Network DAC Review


As a result of it’s a DAC there is a little more to regulate right here and for these coming from the Bartok, there shall be a excessive diploma of familiarity with that guide management system.

Nonetheless, this time, dCS has opted for a extra discreet touch-based system in comparison with the older Bartok mechanical button array. I presume eradicating the bodily articulation will lengthen the useful lifespan of the buttons themselves in case you intend to maintain this technique round for a very long time.

I need to level out that by touchscreen I imply the 4 lights you see within the above image are contact delicate permitting you to navigate in a linear method by means of the choices introduced on the display screen relatively than all the display screen itself.

There is just one such bodily button which is similar power-up swap because the Lina Headphone Amplifier located on the underside of the entrance panel and you might be solely going to press that a couple of times a session.


As an alternative of labels you now have icons above every touch-sensitive button. As an previous UI guide, I do have apprehensions about utilizing icons over textual content labels, they’re by no means as instantly intuitive each when it comes to motion recognition and anticipatory workflow.

Nonetheless, dCS appears to have restricted the navigational path of the Lina Community DAC touchscreen operation to maintain it comparatively easy and fast to be taught. The OS itself just isn’t massively completely different both from the Bartok when it comes to class choices.

The navigational drill down appears to be solely 2 deep with sub-menus on the second layer presenting not more than 4-5 choices which you’ll be able to cycle by means of with out citing any extra screens. Left-to-right navigation can also be pretty minimal. 

One of many unfavorable factors from the Bartok system is gone additionally. In the event you linger too lengthy on a Bartok menu function it defaults again to the primary display screen that means you must navigate again in case you have not accomplished any adjustments. With the Lina Community DAC OS, it stays there till you determine to return out which feels a lot much less hurried.

dCS Lina Network DAC Review


And what choices do you precisely have? Rather a lot really. Options embrace supply switching, Grasp Clock enabling, AES controls, line-out voltage ranges, and even a take a look at sign function. 

You even have loads of sound shaping choices. Every thing from a variety of PCM and DSD filters, upsampling in DSD/DXD mode in addition to a really efficient Crossfeed choice, one you might be more likely to need to use. 

You even have a USB Audio Class selector which is pretty distinctive since most DACs don’t trouble with differentiating between the 2 courses.

Sometimes, trendy DACs are set at USB Class 2 which maximizes the potential pattern charges as much as DSD128 and 384kS/s. Nonetheless, the Lina Community DAC can hook up with older legacy units for Class 1 handshakes which peak at 96kS/s.

This OS additionally affords a buffer swap. This reduces the default inherent information buffer delay the DAC makes use of to detect adjustments in pattern charges and clocking changes in audio. Why cut back this convenient delay? Often for video and media functions akin to watching films in your PC or TV. With out it, the Lina will present some audible, (and visible,) sync lag on media.

Lastly, the 4 icons on the house display screen are additionally fast entry choices together with a supply selector and a crossfeed activator with a secondary crossfeed mode selector, (third icon). The ultimate one to the far proper is your drill-down primary menu system for deeper ranges of configuration.

dCS Mosaic
Mosaic Residence Display screen

dCS Mosaic
Enter Choices

dCS Mosaic

I contemplate the Mosaic app essential for the Bartok over the previous few years and so additionally now for the Lina Community DAC. It’s accessible for each Android and iOS customers alike however each the system and the Lina Community DAC should be on the identical community to detect one another.

It provides you every little thing I listed above in a single helpful remote-control-like system in your cellphone or pill in addition to direct entry to streaming companies akin to TIDAL and Qobuz and the flexibility to improve the firmware on the DAC as and when required.

The interface could be very clear and simple to know. In truth, I might argue utilizing the app offers you a a lot sooner ‘training’ on what you are able to do when it comes to choices for the Lina Community DAC than the guide finger tapping on the precise unit display screen itself. 

Additionally, the response time of the Lina Community DAC to your choice through Mosaic could be very quick, with virtually no lag in any respect on my community for various weeks now.

dCS Lina Network DAC Review

Packaging & Equipment

There may be not an enormous quantity so as to add right here when it comes to packaging over the Lina Headphone amplifier expertise as a result of it’s virtually the very same wonderful unboxing expertise. You’ll be able to learn up in additional element on what comes packed in here

What I do need to add is the marginally stronger accent line-up over what got here with the amplifier together with a set of balanced 3-pin XLR cables which ideally I might have preferred to have additionally seen included within the amplifier bundle. For the value, I do suppose the addition of a USB cable wouldn’t have gone amiss both with the Lina Community DAC accent line-up.

Lastly, you additionally get a splendidly leathery smelly pouch that accommodates the consumer guide and a few collateral on the dCS neighborhood in addition to Spotify Premium.

Click on page 2 below for sound impressions and pairings

Click on page 3 below for select comparisons

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