dCS Lina Network DAC 2.0 Network-Attached DAC Page 2

A final observation is that dCS will presumably update the Network DAC's user manual to reflect the expanded functionality of the Lina 2.0 firmware. The one supplied with our review unit made no mention of the mapper, filter and digital volume changes, and enabling the last of those required delving into the DAC's settings via the hardware display, as it wasn't possible through the app.

sqnote Clear To Hear
During my time with the Lina Network DAC 2.0 I used it both with a Rotel Michi P5 preamp [HFN May '20] before switching on the digital volume control and using it straight into both Primare A35.2 [HFN Dec '19] and – with one eye on my electricity bill – BAT REX 500 power amps. Adjusting the volume from the app (or through Roon on a MacBook Air) meant having one less set of XLRs, and a whole other box in the signal chain, to worry about. And philosophically, a direct connection dovetails well with the Lina Network DAC 2.0's own performance, which is all about uncluttered transparency and clarity.

As discussed by PM in our review of the Bartok APEX DAC, the effect of dCS's various filter options is dependent on the sampling rate, so experimentation is certainly recommended even if you, like me, end up with no overall preference. On the other hand, I soon plumped for the unit's Mapper 3 option, as this seemed to yield a marginally richer and weightier presentation without scrubbing away any fine detail. The stomping, lurching 'swamp rock' of Tony Joe Watson's 'Bubba Jones' [Smoke From The Chimney, Easy Eye Sound; 48kHz/24-bit] had a rhythm section as hearty as a bowl of gumbo, but above it sat a clear, glare-free treble.

Guns N' Roses' cover of New York Dolls' 'Human Being' [The Spaghetti Incident?, Geffen Records; CD res] suffers in part from the band aiming for a bar room boogie atmosphere that, on lesser systems, can become a struggle to make sense of. The Lina DAC, however, did a good job of parsing its mishmash of elements, so the lead and rhythm guitars, bass, piano, drums, multiple vocals and – yes – kazoo weren't all tripping over each other. This made it all the easier to latch on to the track's frantic, upbeat rhythm, led by Matt Sorum's snare drum which was delivered with real attack.


The Lina DAC 2.0 includes LAN, USB-B and USB-A (DSD128/384kHz), dual-AES (384kHz), 2x coaxial (192kHz) and optical (96kHz) inputs. Analogue outs on XLRs and RCAs are joined by Word Clock inputs for connection to the Lina Master Clock

On this piece, and others, there was little sense that dCS's Lina DAC was smoothing over rough edges. It has a revealing nature across the frequency band, keeping percussion details well-lit and uncovering plenty of texture in both instruments and vocals, but leaving poorer-quality material no place to hide.

Spit 'N' Polish

For example, Steve Earle's 'Feel Alright' [I Feel Alright, Warner Records; CD res] was wide, vibrant and polished, with excellent detail to his acoustic guitar, an authentic rasp to the harmonica, and well-rounded basslines. Conversely, 'Beyond The Grave', by American metal band Jungle Rot [A Call To Arms, Unique Leather Records; CD res], came across with all its low-budget foibles intact – a narrow presentation, and a thick, muddy sound dominated by the lower-mid.

The title song of Def Leppard's multi-selling album Hysteria [Super Deluxe Edition, Phonogram; CD res] has no such mixing/mastering issues – producer Mutt Lange and the band spent years honing a sound that would appeal to the MTV masses – and dCS's Lina DAC handled it with real panache. There was detail and dynamic attack, but the mellifluous quality of the production remained, making the song easy to dive into.

When you change pace to music of a more intimate, low-key nature, the Lina Network DAC follows suit, using its superb resolving qualities to present a soundstage with air and nuance. And it's arguably here that the potential of dCS's Ring DAC platform comes to the fore, bringing a naturalistic, organic feeling to the ethereal soundscapes of Bjork's 'Pagan Poetry' [Vespertine, One Little Independent Records; 48kHz/16-bit]. Here the Icelandic singer's voice is lathered in reverb, floating free of an instrumental background of keyboards and effects. It builds up, layer upon layer, until coming to a dead stop – Bjork is suddenly close-mic'd and alone, centre stage, and this change in presentation was delivered superbly.

It's a performance of impressive authority, where detail retrieval and soundstaging aren't exaggerated at the expense of the feel of the music. Joni Mitchell's 'River' [Blue, Rhino/Warner; 192kHz/24-bit] ebbed and flowed beautifully, with no trace of sibilance or harshness to her high-flying vocals, and softly struck piano notes fading away with grace. The Lina Network DAC 2.0 might be designed for desktops and headphones, but its true destiny lies in partnership with larger systems.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
dCS should be applauded for taking its most affordable DAC down the upgrade path so soon after launch. Now with variable line outputs to drive a power amplifier, and with greater options for 'sound seasoning', the Lina Network DAC is still desktop-friendly in design but is now even better equipped to front a conventional hi-fi set-up. Performance, meanwhile, is bang on the money.

Data Conversion Systems Ltd
Supplied by: dCS Ltd
01954 233950