The dCS Network Bridge looks like a good way to get Roon Readiness and various sonic improvements into older streamers.
A review online describes it thus:
What : The Network Bridge. A digital to digital converter with Ethernet input and digital audio output. The Network Bridge feature set includes Roon Ready support, UPnP / DLNA rendering, AirPlay, Tidal, Spotify, bit perfect output or down sampled output to match a DAC, MQA core decoding, and support or PCM up through 24/384 and DSD up through DSD128.
dCS also provides its own iOS app for control and configuration of the Network Bridge. The app supports music stored on a network, locally attached hard drive, or streaming via Tidal and Spotify. People who don’t want the complexity of a third party application or who like simple interfaces for just listening to music, will be very pleased with the dCS iOS app.
I like what dCS has done with the app in that it’s very simple and straight forward. Users who want more features can easily add a Roon or DLNA server and fire up another app.
When : Released in 2017 with an initial set of features that has been upgraded over time via firmware.
Why : The Network Bridge is a product many manufacturers wish they’d have built. The Bridge not only breathes life into legacy DACs from dCS and others, but it also enhances the features and sonic quality of many current DACs. Many legacy DACs feature S/PDIF or AES inputs that support various sample rates but don’t have other digital inputs that enable network streaming or remote control or any of the other aforementioned features. Attaching the Network Bridge to these DACs essentially creates a new digital system very close to what’s currently available. For example, there are sonic qualities to the older dCS Scarlatti DACs that I just love. Whether this is me being nostalgic or not is beside the point that the Network Bridge can turn a Scarlatti into a product that wasn’t even conceived when it was released in 2007.
Enhancing new DACs with a Network Bridge is another huge benefit. Let’s face it, many DACs aren’t cheap. Nobody likes to put one on the shelf and by a new one because of missing features. Adding a Network Bridge to DAC immediately enables all of the above features. For example, adding the Bridge to an upgraded Berkeley Audio Design DAC not only enhances its feature set greatly but also provides a core decoded MQA stream for the DAC to render. Don’t care about more features? No problem. Adding the Network Bridge to a Schiit Yggdrasil and connecting it via AES can improve the sound quality greatly.
One huge benefit to many music lovers on the Roon bandwagon is the fact that the Bridge turns almost any DAC into a Roon endpoint. If the DAC can connect to the Bridge, Roon will be able to send it audio. Technically the Bridge is the Roon ready endpoint, but when viewed as a system of Bridge + DAC, the difference is neither here nor there.