The DAC That's Also a Music Server
The PS Audio PerfectWave DAC will change the way you think about digital-to-analog converters. It accesses high-resolution digital audio data from multiple sources such as a CD transport, CD player, computer, network, or the Internet, and converts the data to natural sounding, highly musical analog audio. The PerfectWave DAC has one of the most sophisticate sample rate converters ever made, providing six choices of sample rate improvement through the front panel touch screen.
As a music server, the PWD can access and control any compatible network source such as a network hard drive (NAS), or stream music directly off the Internet. As a preamplifier control center, the PWD connects directly to your power amplifier, controlling both the volume and selecting any of up to seven connected sources.
"One Of The Finest CD Players That I Have Heard"
In his joint review of the PS Audio PerfectWave transport and DAC in the August 2009 issue of England's Hi-Fi News magazine, Keith Howard notes, "The PerfectWave combination proved to be one of the finest CD players that I have heard. Effortless detailed and yet never cold or clinical, it spits in the face of all who say that CD is inherently unmusical." The combo won the magazine's coveted Editor's Choice award.
Full-Color Touch Screen
The PerfectWave DAC has a simple faceplate containing a power button and a color LCD touch screen. Through the touch screen you can control an amazing number of features and functions.
You can use the touch screen to select any of the seven digital inputs and assign any one of six sample rates and five filters that fit that input perfectly, and the choices will be memorized by the PerfectWave DAC. You can control the phase and the volume with a simple touch of your finger or press of the supplied remote control. You can even assign each of the inputs a custom name like "PerfectWave Transport" or "Music Server."
As a Music Server (with the optional network Bridge installed), the touch screen becomes an indispensable tool that allows you to scroll through your connected music library, tune Internet radio stations, see cover art and song titles of what is playing at the moment, and perform any network setup tasks that may be required.
Seven Digital Inputs
The PerfectWave DAC has seven digital inputs that include two I2S over HDMI, an optical TOSLINK, coax S/PDIF, balanced AES/EBU, 24 bit 96kHz USB, and the proprietary network Bridge.
The most unique and valuable inputs on the PerfectWave DAC are the HDMI and the network Bridge. The remaining digital inputs are standard types that connect compatible equipment and accept up to 32 bit 192kHz digital audio signals.
The HDMI inputs are designed not for accepting HDMI data, but instead are utilized in a unique PS designed standard for I2S data. I2S data is the native data management system within every transport, CD player and DAC. It consists of three separate clocks and one digital audio data line.
When a separate transport and D-to-A processor are used in a system, the I2S data inside the transport is typically mixed together to form one single data line so it can easily be transferred between the transport and the DAC through either optical, coax or balanced means. The format used to send this data is called SPDIF (Sony Phillips Digital Interface) and is found on every CD player and transport from the least expensive to the most expensive units.
Once the S/PDIF signal is received by the DAC, it must then be separated back into its I2S components, and that is where the trouble lies. The process of encoding and then decoding the I2S data into SPDIF data compromises the audio quality on a high-end system. The PerfectWave DAC s unique I2S over HDMI solves this problem in a simple elegant fashion, and the audible results are breathtaking. Openness and clarity like you've never experienced in your digital audio system; ever.
The PerfectWave DAC has three I2S inputs. One can be used for the PerfectWave Transport, the second can be used for future PS Audio products, including the PS Audio Digital Lens. The third is accessed internally by the optional network Bridge, which interfaces with your network hard drive (NAS) and allows you to stream music directly off the Internet.
Sample Rate Converter
CDs are recorded at a fixed sample rate of 44.1 kHz and use 16 bit words. Other media, such as SACD, DVDA and HRx, are recorded with either the same or higher sample rates and anywhere from 16 to 32 bits, depending on the media and author.
It is technically possible to raise any sample rate and bit rate to a higher level through the use of a sample rate converter (SRC). These devices are amazing number crunching mathematic marvels that have been used since the beginning of the CD. They perform their magic by what is known as data manipulation. Their principal value is to reduce jitter, increase bit depth and sample rate so subsequent digital filters can sound better. The PerfectWave DAC has one of the most sophisticate SRCs made, providing six choices of sample rate improvement through the front panel touch screen.
PS Audio labels the SRC bypass as 'Native Mode,' because it allows you to bypass completely the SRC's data manipulation and listen to the raw data as it is sent natively from the source. In most cases, Native Mode sounds far superior to any of the SRC choices, including 24 bit 192 kHz.
This is a stunning advancement in DAC technology that the implementation of the internal D-to-A processor on the PWD is good enough to permit the native 44.1 kHz 16 bit to outperform the upsampled 24 bit 192 kHz from the SRC.
Every D-to-A processor uses both a digital filter as well as an analog filter to get the audio as close to the analog signal the recording engineer started with. The digital filter is a part of the DAC and the analog filter is a part of the analog output stage.
All filters are 'double edge swords' with both good and bad traits. The good is that they eliminate unwanted noise and digital artifacts that would wreak havoc on the music were they to remain. The bad includes the damage they add to the music when they perform their functions, including phase shift, ringing, and pre-echo.
Recently a new class of filters has emerged called Apodizing filters, which completely eliminate the pre-ringing of the filters and do so with minimum phase damage. The front panel touch screen of the PerfectWave DAC lets you choose from five filters, selecting the one that makes your music sound best from a particular source.
Additionally, a polarity (phase) control lets you select normal or inverted phase for every input, for best performance.