The groundbreaking PerfectWave Digital to
analog converter (PWD) is a remarkable product. It accesses
high-resolution digital audio data from multiple sources such as a
transport , CD player, computer, network, or the
Internet and converts the data to the most musically natural sounding analog
audio ever produced.
The PWD is the first high-end product to
fully transcend the limitations of traditional
digital to analog converters
(DACS) by providing uncompromised performance for any media
delivery or storage system possible. This means that it no longer
matters how the digital audio data is stored or delivered, the PWD produces the
same high performance audio sent over a network, taken from a hard drive, a CD
or even downloaded via the Internet.
The PWD is a complete solution that can be used in a multitude
of ways. As a standalone DAC, the PWD will accept inputs from any
digitally connected source such as a CD player, CD transport, satellite
receiver, music server or computer.
music server , the PWD can access and control
DLNA compatible network
source such as a
network hard drive (NAS ),
or stream music directly off the Internet.
center, the PWD connects directly to your
power amplifier controlling both the volume and any of the seven (possible)
If you are not interested in playing optical discs (CD's or
DVD's) directly, the PWD a network connection and a power amplifier are all you
need for a complete high-end music system the likes of which have never been
available in one affordable, easy to use, high-end product.
Full color touch screen
The PerfectWave DAC has a simple faceplate with only two
elements apparent: a power button and a color LCD touch screen. Through
the touch screen you can control an amazing number of features, functions and
As a DAC, you can use the touch screen to select any of the 7
digital inputs and assign any one of 6 sample rates and 5 filters that fit that
input perfectly and the choices will be memorized by the PWD. 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 so instead of the usual "input 1" it can now read "PerfectWave
Transport", "Music Server", etc.
As a Music Server (with the optional network Bridge
installed), the touch screen becomes an indispensible 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.
7 digital inputs
The PWD has 7 digital inputs that include
, an optical
TOSLINK , coax
AES/EBU , 24 bit 96kHz
and the network Bridge (available this summer).
The most unique and valuable inputs on the PWD 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
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
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
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 PWD'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 PWD has three I2S inputs. One can be used for the
PerfectWave Transport (PWT), the second can be used for future products we build
or for the addition of the upcoming PS Audio Digital Lens. The third is
accessed internally by the optional network Bridge.
The PWD as a music server
Perhaps the single most unique feature of
the PWD is its ability to become a
music server with its optional network Bridge.
Simply stated, the Bridge is the PWD's connection to the outside world.
With the Bridge installed, the DAC is no longer tethered to your nearby
components. Instead, the DAC now has access to digital audio data from
anywhere in your home or anywhere in the world. The Bridge spans the gap
between the first D to A converters ever built and the new age of interconnected
audio data from all over the world. It is, in fact, a bridge into the
future that turns the PerfectWave DAC into the PerfectWave music server.
To understand what the Bridge is and how it enables the PWD to
become a music server, let us first spend a little time understanding what a
music server is and then how these concepts all tie together.
A music server is a digital audio library with a convenient
way to access and playback all the material in the library. It is a
mechanized version of what we all do: search our CD or vinyl collections, choose
what we want to hear, insert the media into our players and enjoy.
To build a music server you need 4 elements: a user interface,
a means of storing the music, a way of accessing that stored music and a way to
playback what is stored. The PWD comes to you from the factory with the
first and the last required elements built in; the middle two (storage and
access to the stored media) are needed to complete the chain.
The first task is to store your music. There are really
only two choices to store music; on an internal or external hard drive. Using
an internal hard drive is restrictive because of potential noise issues and the
chassis limits the size and type of drive. External hard drives offer
absolute quiet remote operation and the greatest freedom and flexibility between
the two options.
The PWD system is built around the external remotely located
hard drive. This is by far the best solution because it allows PWD owners
to choose from hundreds of available options and sizes and allows for unlimited
future expansion of the library.
The average 2 or 3 thousand CD collection can be stored on 1
to 2 terabytes of data with no loss of quality. With the many available
external hard drive options, a 2 terabyte drive can be purchased for $300 and
those prices a dropping rapidly. These high quality drives are available
all over the world and with PS Audio's intuitive plug-and-play architecture,
installing the drive couldn't be easier.
compatible NAS (there are many to choose from) to your home network, copy your
music to the NAS and you are done. The PWD will find the NAS anywhere in
your home, or even a thousand miles away, and you are ready to play.
Instead of a fixed volume hard drive installed into a piece of
equipment in your listening room, the PS system offers you the ultimate freedom
and flexibility that only a network attached storage device can offer. The
NAS can be stored away from the listening room, added to at any time, has no
size restrictions, easy to backup and easy to share with your friends.
Accessing the stored music is the job of the PS Bridge.
The network Bridge
Inside the Bridge is a remarkable piece of engineering that
consists of 3 main elements: the communication portal, the musical format
interpreter and a Digital Lens.
The communication portal allows the bridge to communicate with
devices on your local network or on a remotely located device or service through
the Internet. If your home has DLNA compatible storage or media devices on
the network, the Bridge discovers them automatically and makes them available
through the front panel touch screen or our upcoming iPod and iPhone wireless
remote control application (you can see this in action in our video). If
you are interested in Internet services such as Internet Radio or perhaps
another media library at your office or second home, the bridge can find these
as well and give you instant access.
Once the communication path has been established the Bridge
can accept almost any format of music storage such as FLAC, MP3, AIFF, Windows
media, WAV etc. and convert them into the format best suited for the PWD.
This conversion takes place through the Bridge's powerful onboard processor and
once completed, the raw musical data is sent to the internal Digital Lens.
The built in Digital Lens
The Digital lens is the key to the
success of the Bridge. Without it, the type of transmission and the
quality of the data would have a major impact on the sonic qualities of the
music. To date, no one has gotten this part right. All the other
attempts at transferring data over a network have been compromised at best.
High level of
jitter , errors and
improper formatting for best sonics plague every system we have examined to
The built in Lens on the bridge gets it right. A Digital
Lens is a device that takes any quality of digital audio data and focuses it to
a single, perfect point of data. The Lens does this with the use of a very
large digital storage tank (memory) coupled with a jitter free set of
asynchronous (disconnected) clocks to output data to the Lens in perfect I2S
This means that regardless of how the musical data is sent,
via the internet, the network or through the PerfectWave Transport from a CD or
DVD, the quality of the data reaching the PWD is the same. Finally, a
system that does not care how the data is sent or stored has arrived as the
world's finest sounding music server ever built.
The net result of these technological marvels is something to
behold. The beautiful full color touch screen on the PWD gives you a great
user interface. The Bridge handles data from any storage device you own or
accesses music from anywhere in the world, and the internal D to A processor of
the PWD converts that digital data into analog music that is warm, natural and
musically satisfying beyond your expectations.
Front panel accessible features
Now that you have digital audio data entering the PWD, either
through its PWT partner, an external digital source, or the internal network
Bridge, it's time to control that data through the many options available on the
front panel touch screen.
Sample rate converter
CD's are all recorded at a fixed sample rate of 44.1 kHz and
uses 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 PWD has one of the most sophisticate SRC's made providing
6 choices of sample rate improvement through the front panel touch screen.
We included this sophisticated SRC for two reasons: it is expected and in some
cases, beneficial. We also included a way to defeat the SRC.
This may all sound very strange as we have become used to the
idea that "more is better". If 44.1 kHz is good, then surely 88.2 kHz is
better and 192 kHz is the best. In some cases this is true but if you have
a chance to audition the PWD and spend some time with this marvel you may
discover that the ability to bypass the SRC is perhaps better in many cases.
SRC's manipulate data to do their work.
DAC designers of nearly every company, including PS Audio, use them to lower
jitter and add features to
the front panel. But years of research and a lot of engineering have
demonstrated to us that while effective, use of the SRC can be a mixed bag.
We labeled 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.
This feature is easily audible. For
example, when using either the Bridge or the HDMI I2S inputs on the PWD there is
jitter to eliminate and so
there is no technical need to use the SRC. Running the data through the
SRC is sonically inferior to bypassing the SRC and it is an easy and
demonstrable test to make. Simply switch between native and 44.1kHz to
see. Or go the other way and switch between Native mode and 192 kHz.
The SRC is a valuable feature when the source you are using is
of rather low digital quality such as that from an Apple TV, low cost CD player,
Squeezebox, Sonos or third party network enabled system.
The PWD offers great flexibility for any source attached and
once you hear a high quality source played through our exclusive Native Mode,
you won't ever consider going back to a DAC with a SRC in its path.
Every D to A processor made 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" meaning they have 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 which include phase shift, ringing and pre-echo.
To understand the complex world of filters we'll need to
take a brief journey back in time to the beginning
of the CD player and DAC. In
the early days of CD players and DACS digital filters were in their infancy.
These filters were extremely steep "Brickwall" style filters which means they
kept the audio portion untouched and removed everything above the audio very
These filters were so technically sophisticated that up until
a year or two ago they have all been essentially the same for the last 25 years.
Unfortunately, these filters have a dark side and that side of them contributes
to an unnatural presentation of the music that is often referred to as the
Audiophiles have known that "digital sounds digital" and while
progress has been made, rarely has any digital audio system approached the
musically natural performance of the best analog setups. This class of
filters is partly to blame.
Known as Linear Phase Filters their strongest attribute are,
as their name implies, the lack of phase shift in the audio band. A phase
shift mess with harmonic overtones in a time related sense and contributes to an
unnatural presentation of the instruments. These Linear Phase Filters
solve that problem but add another: pre-ringing (sometimes referred to as
Imagine an echo occurring before a musical note rather than
after the note. This is the effect of pre-ringing and it is extremely
unnatural. In fact, we understand now that this induced echo is more
damaging than even a little phase shift.
Minimum phase and apodizing
Up until a very short time ago, there was no cure for the
pre-ringing "blues". But recently a new class of filters has emerged
called Apodizing filters and these are able to completely eliminate the
pre-ringing of the filters and do so with minimum phase damage to the upper
octaves of the music.
So natural are these filters that they just had to be added to
the PWD. On the front panel touch screen of the PWD we have made available
5 separate filter choices and among those choices are several Minimum Phase
Apodizing filters along with several Linear Phase filters.
We offer these filter choices because our experience has shown
that different digital sources sound better with different digital filters.
The PWD will actually memorize each of the filter choices for each of the inputs
so when you choose your favorite filter it will always come up to optimize the
particular input you have selected.
The 5 filters available on the PWD are:
1. Linear phase 'soft knee filter'
2. Minimum phase 'soft knee filter'
3. Linear phase Brickwall filter
4. Minimum phase apodizing filter
5. linear phase apodizing filter
We have also added a feature for the filters known as "Auto".
Auto filter chooses the best selection of filter based on the sample rate
chosen. This means that as you play different sample rates, such as when
you switch to USB and the sample rate goes to 96kHz 24 bits, the appropriate
filter is automatically chosen for you. The auto filter chooses one of the
five available filters.
One of the handiest features on the PWD that will see a great
deal of use is the polarity (phase) control. This touch screen option
(available on the remote as well) allows users to select normal or inverted
phase for every input and for every performance.
It is common knowledge that sources and music have seemingly
no standard for absolute polarity. This fact is easily demonstrated by
switching polarities on the PWD as the music plays. Many Audiophiles mark
their discs in phase and out of phase and are very careful to select the proper
phase before playing each disc.
Some CD players and sources themselves invert phase so that a
disc you believe is inverted actually is correct played on a specific device and
incorrect on yet another. To fix this problem you can assign each input on
the PWD to switch to the proper polarity when you activate that input.Touching
this control is the same thing as reversing the loudspeaker connections of both
loudspeakers (+ to -) at either the amplifier or speakers.
All live acoustic music is in absolute phase but some
recordings may accidentally be made inverted and should sound more realistic and
pleasant when you correct their phase with the switch.
When a playback system is in absolute phase (polarity) when
the transients of the reproduced performance are in sync with the transients of
the live performance.
How many times have you wondered what was connected to "Input
One"? A common problem with any preamplifier or control center is the
difficulty of knowing what is connected and remembering them all.
Certainly an even greater problem is when someone else, unfamiliar with your
system, goes to switch inputs they haven't a clue what is connected where.
To solve this age old problem the PWD features an easy to use
input naming scheme. Switching to the keyboard screen on the PWD accesses
a nicely laid out alpha numeric keyboard that allows you to name any input
anything you wish. It's a terrific feature that is hard to live without
once you've had a taste of this convenience.
Inside the PWD itself
Inside the PWT is an amazing piece of engineering that
features the latest in technology coupled with parts quality and circuitry of
the highest order.
The heart of the PWD is a Wolfson WM8741 stereo differential
DAC, one of the latest generations of high-end DACS in the world. The
extraordinary low order modulator and multi-bit DAC architecture found in the
WM8742 achieves low out-of-band noise and world-class linearity for outstanding
The DAC displays characteristics typically associated only
with extraordinarily expensive high end audio products including group delay,
phase and latency, impulse response and transition band roll off. These features
significantly reduce pre-ringing and give maximum insensitivity to clock jitter
PS Audio's move to the Wolfson family of DACS is a major shift
for the company. Formerly, in award winning products like the DLIII DAC,
PS Audio engineering featured the Texas Instruments' family of multi-bit DACS.
The shift to Wolfson is a result of hundreds of hours of listening and
evaluating in the sound room and the Wolfson family, the first of a new
generation of DACS, trounced the TI parts which are the last of TI's older
One of the loftier goals of the PerfectWave series was to
build a product that is "pre-tweaked" and would be a difficult challenge to
modify for better performance after purchase. PS Audio products are often
modified by aftermarket modification services because of their robust
engineering and liberal warranty policies that encourage modifiers to "have at
it". We're proud that so many excellent aftermarket modification services
use our products as their platform of choice, but we wanted to challenge these
innovative entrepreneurs with the PerfectWave series.
In the analog section of the PWD we went all out and spared nothing. First
we eliminated all the surface mount parts in the signal path. Years of
listening have confirmed for us the surface mount capacitors and resistors sound
inferior to the best "through hole" passives. In our more affordable
products surface mount parts help keep costs down and sound great. But
when it comes to the PW series we were unwilling to budge even a little.
Every component is hand chosen. Resistors are the best
in the world PRP PR9372 audio resistors. Power supply capacitors are hand
selected Nichicon and Panasonic low ESR types.
The audio path is, of course, completely direct coupled from
input to output but there are a few audio capacitors needed in ancillary
positions and here we chose the highly regarded Nichicon Muse Audio caps.
In the ever important analog power supply, large transformers
handled by discrete Jung regulators proliferate the analog circuit board.
Because the PWD is a no-holds-barred high-end DAC we made sure
there were absolutely no integrated circuits or op amps of any kind in the
signal path. None. Every component is a discrete proprietary audio
design developed and refined over the last 35 years of audio design expertise
Outside the PWD
The chassis of the PWD is a metal sculpture that rivals the
best ever built. A combination of aluminum and steel, the PWD weighs in at
20 pounds of elegance and beauty. The top cover is a hand painted, hand
polished piano black cover that has been lavished over for hours.
When you receive your PWD, you'll find a pair of soft white
gloves to pull the unit out of its protective cotton sleeve and unveil its
beauty. Every person who has had the opportunity to see a PerfectWave in
person has the same initial reaction: they reach out and softly caress it's
finish and admire its beautiful lines.
Built in Boulder
The PerfectWave series is assembled, programmed and tested at
our new production facility in Boulder Colorado. Instead of the typical
production line process, each PWD is hand built by one person from begi