As far as judging industrial design, fit and finish, component as art, and overall aesthetics; much of that is totally subjective....and therefore a matter of individual tastes.
i own the Playback Designs and do appreciate it's look and quality of build. but the others you mention are good too.
as far as i'm concerned; the only digital player that qualifies as art is the legendary Linn CD-12. i owned 2 of them. as good to look at and to touch as it was to listen to.
here is a link
to the Playback Design website. all the information you asked for, e-mail address, etc. is there. at the bottom of the home page it does say; 'Proudly made in the U.S.A.'....in California. Playback Designs manufacturers their player themselves. it's not rebadged or oem'd from anyone.
Rilou, I suggest that you contact the respective manufacturers regarding distribution in your country.AMREMM
The PBD link was posted.
I urge you to then experience each and evaluate for yourself the build and sound quality before purchasing, rather than basing any decision on posts in forums.
Essentiaudio but thank you all 3 CD player are not sold around the world,
I can only listen to AMR. but I would like you to tell me how wet is your opinion on the 3 only in terms Musicality thank you again.
as i mentioned above i own the Playback Designs MPS-5. i have heard the AMR CD-77, but never in my own system and not compared directly to either EMM or the Playbacks. i did own EMM Labs gear for 6 years, the last one was the SE transport and DAC. and i owned both the EMM Labs and the Playbacks at the same time. i may have heard the EMM Labs XDS1 at either RMAF or CES but i'm not 100% sure it was that exact model.
with all those limitations my perspective on comparitive performance is of limited value. but for what it's worth i prefer the Playback Designs to those other 2 players based on my limited exposure to the other 2.
but maybe of more importance, i will comment on the 'musicality' of the Playback Designs MPS-5. i'm a big analog guy, and own 3 good tt's and 3 RTR tape decks. the Playback Designs can hold it's own with great analog. no; it does not go as far as better vinyl or tape; but it does not sound flat, it has depth and width.....the high frequecies are not hard or etched, they are silky and extended, yet lively.....the mids are rich and tonefull, emotionally involving. the bass is world class.
i've not heard any digital as satisfying as what i hear from the Playback Designs MPS-5.
another issue is the fact that the Playback Designs is also an SACD player, and can be used as a hirez server DAC. i have a music server with quite a few high rez files and they sound great. it also has a programmable DAC so it can be upgraded. upgrades are easy to do; i've done two of them in the 3 years i've own the MPS-5.
i do agree with Brian that it is best to hear things for yourself if possible. there are distributors world wide for the Playback Designs; are you sure there is no one near where you live that might not be able to demo it for you?
Can you address the Playback Design's harmonic distortion artifacts that John Atkinson found in his measurements for the Stereophile review?
Thank you Mike, Anyway the Emm XDS1 is too expensive for a CD player Digital, and I will opt for the Playback Design MDS-5 well after having listen AMR CD-77.
I am also a very big fan of analog vinyl, but nothing can replace listening to analog. Thank you again to all.
We don't care about "harmonic distortion artifacts". We just listen to music. I could give a R's A about how it measures!
Dagogo just reviewed the Playback. Yikes! Talk about faint praise.
Not that reviews matter. People need to listen with their own ears.
Crna39, Bruce, you are obviously oblivious to the implications! It means that the AMR / EMM / PLAYBACK Designs comparison is not an apples-to-apples comparison but rather an "organic apple" to a "genetically altered apple" comparison. Would you like me to explain further?
Rtn1: I fully agree. Fred Crowder is a friend whose judgment I value, although we sometimes see things a bit differently. That's why personal auditions are so important.
Sorry... I don't like apples.
The Reviewer DAGOGO referred to by RTN1 purchased the playback designs after reviewing it.
The act of purchasing the playback designs unit after reviewing it hardly seems like faint praise.
I would say buying it is a rather strong endorsement from a reviewer.
The fact that he found something better for $40,000 more does not discount the quality of the playback designs.
So the fact that you probably have to pay 2.5 times the cost of the playback designs to find a better product is rather strong praise.
I'll say it again. Listen for yourself to the candidates, preferably in your own system, being sure to match levels (measure voltage at the speaker terminals). You might be surprised. :)
Dear Radio Head, you missed the point, the fact that the reviewer bought the unit, doesn't mean necessarily that he is buying it just because the sound is good, bad or indifferent.
The problem with reviewers is they don't play by the same rules which dealers or consumers play in.
Lets say the reviewer was offered the piece at $5K he could use the piece and then sell it discreetly and make $5k.
Or he may have purchased it as it has USB while the Esoteric does not and he may be interested in really evaluating computer audio.
My point is you can never know a reviewers agenda or complete reasons for doing things unless you can crawl up into their head.
I too am an AMR dealer like Essential Audio is. The AMR is an amazing player which sounds like an analog source. I believe in the validity of this product and the design integrity which it represents.
The only way for this gentleman to make an accurate assessment is to hear the two players next to each other and then judge for himself.
In this industry to many of us fall into the technology trap that because you use whatever chip or magic circuit you will create great sound, a particular product may require you to change certain variables cables, footers etc before you make magic.
In my shop I have the AMR, Esoteric, Audio Aero, and I am getting a demo of the Chord QRB 76 DAC, all of these products employ completely different technology and offer different strengths and features.
I have my favorites in terms of sonics but a particular customer may still purchase a different front end depending on his or her particular ears and requirements.
If I was this gentleman I wouldn't make up my mind until I experienced both products in his own system, then and only then will he be able to really make a valid decision.
I purchased the Playback MPS-5 after comparing it with the EMM XDS1, EMM CDSA, dCS Puccini, Linn Akurate, Ayre C5XE-MP.
Sound quality was the most important factor but not the only consideration. It was more about bang for the buck, future upgradability, potential aftermarket resale value , etc.
My logic was as follows, which includes the value proposition and not pure no-compromise sound quality:
EMM XDS1 - Very similar sound to the MPS-5. My guess is Mr Koch designed it, so future algos/upgrades might be questionable. Top notch build quality (much better than the CDSA). Love the screen, transport, and the repeat button built on! Dislike input for music server can only handle 96/24. Very expensive @ $25k (I have to pay full retail here). Scatch off the list because of future upgradability concerns & price.
dCS Puccini without U-Clock: Had more "sparkle" in the sound I thought. Very balanced throughout the frequency range. Loved the fit & finish. Very holographic - best of the bunch I thought. Liked it more on classical music (is it the sparkle/holography? not sure) while I liked the PBD/EMM more on vocals & SACD playback. However, I'm uncomfortable buying a dCS product since they seem to upgrade frequently. Imagine the older(but not that old) multi-box units which you paid $50k+ and now worth maybe <$10k at most? Scratch off the list due to that reason alone. Plus I wanted a true 1 box solution and don't want to be urged in buying the U-Clock.
Linn Akurate: Most convenient for playing high-rez files. A bit more edgy in the highs & slightly less defined soundstage. Again, most convenient for playing high-rez files (its strongest point). Cheap compared to others.
Ayre C5XE-MP: Different sound especially contrasted vs EMM/PD. EMM/PD is fuller, Ayre is thinner. Not a fan of computer transports. Great value for the money though. I think it would be better mated with a different system than mine. I liked it more when I heard it on a Wilson/ARC setup. Scratch off the list because I'm going a different direction, not really because it's worse per say.
PBD MPS-5: True single box solution without having to worry about clocks. Loved the soundstage (wider/deeper), while the midrange was a bit fuller. Thought it sounded most at ease of the bunch. Future upgradeability also less of a concern since Mr Koch is now with PBD. I'm not sure about aftermarket value in 3-5 years, but it seems like with PBD's emphasis on upgradeability, they probably will not switch models every 2 years which just kills digital resale value. Best balance in terms of sound quality vs features. Wish it had a repeat button on the box!
My disclaimer is I'm an amateur and I've only been "churning gear" for 2 years, and that my system the way it is now is not as good/revealing as similar systems at the dealer/distributor which I've heard. I don't believe I was hearing the full strengths/weaknesses of each player when I auditioned them.
I agree that you have to let your ears heart brain wallet decide not a review by another
I still think what a reviewer buys is relevant because if flipping a product is the ulterior motive not playing it, this works for any of the units in question.
Besides, I assume these reviewers are credible unless proven otherwise. Why advertise you bought a particular unit if you plan to flip it in the near future. More likely you would quietly buy and sell.
To me writing in your review you bought the ite
means overall you were very impressed!
These are all impressive products so synergy and personal taste will probably be the biggest difference.
Enzo618 and Essentialaudio: I agree that reviews are but one tool in the tool-box. I typically will find reviews by a reviewer of a product which I have heard and know to be poor sounding (to my ears) in order to get a baseline of their tastes. Also I agree that nothing proves a product better than listining to the product in your sys with other products :)
Just a correction, I am the Dagogo reviewer who reviewed the Playback Designs. I did not purchase the unit. I returned it to the manufacturer with all shipping charges paid by me. The manufacturer in question was a perfect gentleman and put absolutely no pressure on me to buy the unit or to write a favorable review. The PD is an excellent unit, particularly at its price point, but it will not suit every taste or even every system. I should also say that my editor did not pressure me to write a favorable review, only one that was balanced and honest.
For what it is worth, I am out of the country but EMM Labs has shipped an XDS1 for review. I will certainly comment after I have had the chance to break the unit in.
Look forward to your impressions!
I will say from the start that I am biased towards EMM Labs as I represent them in New Zealand & Australia (but I can also choose any CD player manufacturer to use for my reference playback) & I can cannot wait to get my EMM Labs XDS1 and look forward to comparing with the EMM Labs CDSA player that I am using now for reference playback in my own audio system.
The EMM Labs CDSA player keeps impressing me still to how good it actually is and it is only the digital recordings which let this player down in my experience.
It is a pity that more CD/SACD are not produced to the best quality that is now available, Direct CD/SACD pressings from masters would be wonderful but then that would be the end of sales for that album with people copying to hard drives.
Great review on the EMM Labs XDS1 By Phil Gold in Enjoy The Music, well worth a read.
Keep up the excellent work ED.
If you read my review of the Playback Designs at www.Dagogo.com you will have noted that I sold my existing Esoteric X01-D2 after many years of enjoyment and am currently borrowing a CDSA from a good friend. This has given me a golden opportunity to understand what each unit does well and how they differ. I find the CDSA to be an exceptional unit with many strengths, particularly used with the Halcyonics isolation base. I will, however, be very surprised if the XDS1 is not in a different class.
Thanks for the link, yes I am sure the EMM Labs XDS1 is another level above the EMM Labs CDSA in playback.
What I wanted to say is that I am still very impressed with CDSA especially at its price point, it gives me a digital playback reference point to use with my Fat Boy horns that is very close to what I hear at open air live concerts.
On Friday night we were playing the band Katchafire`s Live album who I have seen many times live, the Vocal and instruments sounded very real in my listening room and how I remember them standing beside the mixing desk at the concert.
Just out of Interest and a bit of New Zealand music promotion Katchafire is touring the US now I have noticed from their Gig Guide.
Gig guide link
Great NZ Roots Reggae band with Bob Marley Style lead vocals.
The XDS1 arrived yesterday while I was at work and will see some heavy playing this weekend. Initial thoughts will follow the weekend.
The XDS1 has been in contitnuous play since Friday morning but will still require many additional hours of breakin. Given the new rather brute force power supply, you might think that power cords would make little difference. You would be incorrect in that assumption. It is quite sensitive. It seems to simply love the Jorma Prime power cords which incorporate Jack Bybee's filter modules and the Weizhi power distribution system. Properly set up the XDS1 significantly outperforms any of the other digital equipment which I have had in my home including the CDSA. This superiority is particularly evident in the top octaves which are extended and completely devoid of any digital artifacts. I have always appreciated the difference between red book and SACD and other digital formats but not completely understood how wide the gap actually was with DSD. The XDS1 makes it abundantly clear how good the best SACD's can be and their superiority over red book. It also provides the best red book playback that I have heard. More later.
I am looking to replace my Berkeley DAC with something that will also handle SACD. So far I had a well broken in XDS1 in my system for a little over a week and I was a bit disappointed. Hopefully in the next week or two, I should have PD MPS-5 to try. XDS1 looks much better than the pictures in most magazine. However, I find it to be an unfinished product as it still has some bugs that has not been taken care of yet, although I understand that EMM knows about the problem and still tries to fix it.
I forgot exactly what it was now but I remembered getting some distortion sound coming out of the unit either when sampling rate was changed from 44.1 to 88 or when switched source from digital input (from my music server) to SACD player or something like that. The only way to get rid of the distortion was to turn off and on again. For product this price, I expected everything to be functioning perfectly. Also AES/EBU digital input supporting on 24/96 is a bit lame and EMM is delaying its upgrade to support 24/192 for awhile now. Anyhow, beside that sonically, it was a mixed bag for me. In my system, Berkeley has fuller, richer and warmer midrange. EMM has greater extension at both ends, better speed but for my taste, sounded too lean. I use all Synergistic cables (Tesla Apex) in my system with T3 power cords for Berkeley and EMM. I also tried Nordost Valhalla IC for a littel while with EMM.
I think XDS1 did many things better than Berkeley but in the end, I find Berkeley easier to listen to for extended period, more musical although may be less neutral or accurate than EMM but happen to be the way I prefer to listen to music. Let see if PD MPS-5 will suit me better.
It was strange listening to SACD on EMM though. I found the difference between SACD and CD layer was less than when I heard the same disk with Esoteric D-05 that I used to have.
Suteetat, EMM lost me when they made everyone buy that Philips SACD 1000 transport. Whenever someone describes a problem, I always think back to the beginning.
Let me again stress that the sound of the unit is much impacted by the choice of power cord. I have tried a number of cords with which I have had success in the past, including the Stage III Zyklops. With most of these cords, the mids were a bit lean for my tastes and the bass was not right. Some of this is undoubtedly breakin related. The cord with which the unit seemed to lock/sound right to my ears was the Jorma Prime with Prime balanced interconnect. I have friends that have also had excellent luck with the Odin power cord and interconnects. It is too early to say whether the unit is ruthlessly honest or a bit lean, but it has great potential.
I have not heard the EMM gear, but I do seem to read about a number of issues with the gear (now including their $25K flagship) is this the case? Or are these isolated idiosyncrasies which are quickly rooted out and nulled?
I cannot speak to use of the EMM Labs XDS1 as anything other than a player, but in that mode EMM Labs has been extremely successful in addressing earlier criticisms. The transport mechanism which is sourced from Esoteric works flawlessly and the time required to access tracks is similar to other top brands. The build quality is excellent, certainly much improved over past efforts. The unit appears to be very well thought out and very nicely implemented. The manufacturer is also quite helpful. I also like the fact that many functions are software based and any upgrades can be easily accomplished by reprogramming and do not require hardware changes.
Fcrowder, I also own an EMM Labs XDS1, and I agree with you. It's easily one of the best players I've ever owned. SACD is wonderful, and standard CD playback is also great. I use one of the digital inputs with my Blu Ray machine, and the sound is phenomenal. Movie soundtracks come alive. No regrets with this purchase.
Fcrowder and Docmark: You Listen XDS1 and PD
What the buzz the BETTER in terms of musicality.
I now have PD in my system and it is not even well broken in yet but so far I am very impressed.
It sounds like Berkeley DAC on steroid. I found its sound closer to Berkeley than EMM XDS1, surprisingly. Whatever Berkeley does well, it improves it while at the same time, it corrects many of Berkeley weaknesses, much better controlled bass, excellent pacing and rhythmic control. With XDS1, I felt like it did many things better but at the same time, Berkeley did certain thing that was crucial to me better.
To me, EMM is more hifi-ish where as PD is definitely more analog and more musical. However, some friends who heard EMM in my system also heard EMM XDS1 sounded better in other system so some of these is most likely system dependent as well.
Two thoughts, 1) surprisingly, given the huge power supply, the XDS1 is very sensitive to the power cord used. It particularly likes the Jorma Prime and the Stage III Zyklops. Each sounds a bit different but both bring out the best in the unit. The PD is less sensitive to power cords. 2) Likewise, the EMM Labs benefits from good mechanical isolation as do the top of the line Esoterics. It particularly likes Cerabases. The PD works pretty well with the factory supplied feet.
I have had both the PD and XDS1 in my system for extended listening as well as some of the Esoterics and I am buying the XDS1. Each of the others does some things better but taken as a whole, the XDS1 nis the one that I chose to live with long term.
I have also had the PD MPS5 and Emm Labs XDS1 for extended listening in my setup. In the end I clearly preferred the Emm Labs, it sounded more controled, dynamic, neutral and above all with blacker backgrounds (really impressive here). The PD is more flexible tough given its array of inputs and 24/192 capability.
At the end of the day I bought the XDS1.
Did you find the Playback design to sound a little closed in compared to EMM. Like comparing moving magnet to moving coil.
Yes indeed. I found lushness in the PD whereas the Emm player sounded more neutral.
Its sounds to me that the Ayon CD5 would be better than the Play Back Design if you want that warmth, but the Ayon may be more open.
I changed my mind a bit about EMM. The other day, I spent several hours listening to XDS1 in my friend's system with top of the line T&A active speaker, McIntosh preamp (can't remember which one). The first couple of hours, using Kubala Sosna Elation power cord, I still was not impressed. The sound on many tracks was thin, piano was very clear but too light weight for my taste. However, when it Elation cord was replaced with Elrod Gold Statment, it sounded much much better. I don't think that Elation was a bad cable but may be it just did not match well with EMM. Perhaps the same could be say of Synergistic Research Tesla T3 cord that I used with EMM. Unfortunately EMM is already a stretched for my budget, throw Elrod on top of that, it is not healthy for my bank account so I think I'll stick with Playback for now.
There is no need for all that. The VH Audio Airsine with Oyaide P-004/C-004 is fantastic with the XDS1 and it is nowhere near the Elrod's price point.
Please note that the XDS1 comes with a very nice upgraded power cord from Kimber. This is not ultimately what you will want to use but may be satisfactory in the short run. Power cords are easy to change, SACd players much harder.
Bar81, I did not mean to imply that EMM only works well with incredibly expensive power cord.
It kind of surprise me though. Usually, even with stock cables, I expect a unit to work ok and give a reasonable performance. Better matched cable certainly should elevate the performance. However in EMM case, it seems like wrong cable can significantly deteriorate the sound quite a bit.
I never listened to it with stocked Kimber cable however.
My friend is now reporting also good result with Stealth Dream and he will compare Stealth to Elrod again before he make his decision on power cord.
With regard to your earlier point, the issue with the SACD and switching inputs appears to be resolved. And you haven't heard anything yet. The upcoming firmware update (just a few small issues left to iron out) takes the XDS1 to another level; it is subtle but significant if your system is resolving enough (and I thought it was impressive when I bought it back in November).
Bar81, thanks for the information, I will let my friend knows since I was at his place a couple of weeks ago, he still did not know about any fix on switching input problem between high rez and SACD. Also, do you know if the new firmware will make XDS1 accept 24/176 and 24/192 input?
I am under the impression that this update is a sound quality enhancement (again, it has been described as "subtle" so owners should temper their expectations, but, in my system, the enhancement was significant) and bug fix. I know that, mechanically, the inputs are capable of 24/192 and I understand that this feature will be enabled in the future but I do not have any more information than that. In any case, given the dearth of music available at that quality imo emm should be commended for focusing on the core sound quality of the player and bug fixes prior to adding checklist features that are currently not particularly useful to the great majority of owners.
I tried the PD in my home with various headphones w/tube & solid state amps as a possible 1-box alternative to my EMM SE separates(CDSD-SE + DCC2-SE). I liked the tonality and ease of the PD, and actually thought the SACD on the PD was, well, perfect. But the PD on redbook lost control of the lower mids, upper bass and vocals and sounded, for lack of a better adjective, squirmy or wormy and kind of hurt my ears. The contrast with the EMM showed the EMM's wonderful control of all sounds, with a balanced presentation that is just plain truthful-- not warm, not edgy, not syrupy, but still liquid, with very solid, well-articulated bass.
EMM just gives the music a great foundation. To repeat, it is very controlled (I think that factor appeared earlier here). The PD highs were a bit sweeter even on badly recorded discs. I think that is why I liked the PD SACD sound just a trifle better than EMM, but not enough to matter much.
So, call me addicted to the EMM take on things.
(I just wish the CDSD transport wasn't so noisy, but it varies with each disc. It's not just my CDSD, I've heard a few. The noise varies from sample to sample.)
But it's worth it to me for that wonderful sound.
I really love EMM...
Hi Rgs92. I too was a long time EMM fan. I just loved the clarity of the EMM units but they tended to be edgy in the highs. The SE version cured that to some extent. My last EMM gear was the DCC2 SE and CDSD SE like you have. I traded mine in for the Playback Designs player which I liked better because to me it still had the clariety but with more weight to the images making it a little more organic or less edgy on a wider variety of discs.
I don't understand your impressions of the upper bass/lower mids as I don't hear that at all. Maybe it's a matter of different associated equipment. I run mine throught an Ear 868 tubed preamp to Lamm 1.2 Ref. monos to Talon Firebirds with diamond tweeter. It's a very resolving system and the PD sounds wonderful in it. I also run an APL NWO4.0 SE direct to the Lamms which is also wonderful.
I would love to hear the XDS 1 in my system sometime.
How would you compare the PD with the APL?
"How would you compare the PD with the APL? "
Excellent question. Frank, I also would like to know your opinion.