Just got the PS Audio Perfectwav DAC -- Amazing

For the last year my system has consisted of the Slim Devices Transporter (Transport + DAC) -> Bel Canto Ref1000 -> Anthony Gallo Ref 3.1

I listen to all my music digitally (lossless/flac). I was very happy with my original system but when the Perfectwave DAC came out I was intrigued. For quite a while I debated between the PW and keeping the transporter or modding it via Modwright.

I ended up getting the PW and though I can't compare it to a modded transporter, it blows the stock transporter out of the water. I should note that since the network bridge isnt out for the PW, I am currently streaming music via the transporter -> coaxial out (spdif) -> PW.

I have only listened for ~5 hours so far, but things I have noticed right away is much cleaner/tighter bass. The low end is so much more accurate than it was before. When comparing, the transporter sounded very muddy (even though at the time I though it was quite good). The mids and highs are tighter as well. The separation has improved quite a bit as well. I have immediately noticed that the loudness of different instruments is wider spread than listening to the same songs on the transporter.

Hope this helps! If anyone has any questions about the PW or the transporter I will try my best to answer them.

Can you tell me about the rest of your system?
Have you tried bypassing your preamp.

From what you say it seems the PW might be a better match to your amp.

1) Perhaps it has a better output stage than the Transporter and you are getting more dynamics?
2) If you are not using a preamp then how were you controlling the Volume with each setup? Software and digital colume control can be a bit of a minefield. The rule of thumb is to set software to MAX volume (with no processing) and to use analog controls to attenuate the sound - this helps ensures bit transparency.

Ricky64 -- I don't have a preamp. My preamp was the Transporter and is now the PW.

Shadorne -- 1) That could be possible. The XLR of the PW does 6Vrms vs. Transporter 3Vrms. 2) The Transporter / PW controls the volume. So far havent had any problems with it and both have taken a lot of steps to make their software volume processing really good. Not too worried about that. I am trying to avoid a preamp at all costs. I am a fan of keeping the signal path as minimal as possible.
Great comments and thank you!
My new PW DAC is coming soon.
of the two digital sources, which is more foregiving of poor quality cds ? also, which is the more forward of the two ?

while i may be mininterpreting your original comments, it would seem that the transporter is more colored in a pleasant way than the PWD. what is the interface between dac and transport ?
I for one can clearly hear the loss of detail if, on occassion, I use the digital volume control built in to my MW transporter.
The digital volume controls on the squeezebox work by changing the bits. In other words, there is some digital re-sculpting of the signal, and it's lossy.

Supposedly, it gets worse as you attenuate more and more, and I don't know at what level it is "still OK".

I don't know if the Transporter does the same thing, but I would be surprised if it didn't.

Hence the standard recommendation to let some other device do the volume attenuation. Yes, those are lossy too--but in an analog way, and that's usually better by comparison.

Before passing judgement on the DACs, you could insert a preamp--any preamp, probably!--between the DACs and the amp and then do some a/b testing. The difference you have been hearing between the two units may go away, or become a different difference; hopefully, in both cases, you will hear them play better.
I too have been enjoying the new PWD. It is more smooth and airy than any DAC I have thus far encountered, yet its ability to retrieve detail is exceptional; this all right out of the box via coax/squeezebox Duet. Once the Bridge device becomes available, we should be able to hear what the PWD is really capable of.

I've been reading some great things about other new digital gear too (such as the new Meridian CD and the Berkeley Alpha DAC), but they are all much more expensive than the Perfect Wave devices - which makes the PW gear a pretty good bargain. Maybe not the next “big thing” to shatter all previous digital audio protocols (as marketing hype and general consumer hype often tend to extol), but the PWD is definitely something special, and at only $3,000 (a steal compared to some of the other gear listed in the five-figures) it is definitely worthy of anyone’s audition.
Yah, the bridge will definitely be interesting. Right now I have my PW hooked up via spdif coaxial to the transporter which is doing the streaming. I also briefly tried the PWs USB port but havent messed with it long enough to compare it to the spdif.
congratulation's on your PW DAC Danyal. have had my duo for about 3 weeks and it's still blowing me away. incredibly enjoyable!.

i'm planning on trying my PWT/PWD without a preamp too. will be upgrading my krell integrated too separates down the road. would like to loose the preamp if it sounds better?.

has anyone done comparisons with/without a preamp? would love to hear your thoughts.

Based on my experiences using cdp's or DAC's with level controls the massive improvement of going "direct to amp" with the source, if doable, is of such benefit that it is almost impossible to overstate.

I have two rigs assembled from review components I purchased (Disclosure) which I use regularly; they have no dedicated preamp, nor the additional set of cables necessary for said preamp. Cabling between components is assumed:

Pathos Classic One MKIII integrateds in Bridged mode
Kingsound King ESL or Legacy Audio Focus SE


Cambridge Audio Azur 840W (two units, Bi-Amp Mono)
Kingsound King or Legacy Focus SE

In the first setup the tube preamp stage of the Classic One integrateds control listening level, and the source volume is run on max. In the latter example the source controls the level.

Danyal711, you are wise in attempting to streamline your rig in that fashion, and I'm not surprised you are being handsomely rewarded.
I have played my PWD with and without a preamp. With a preamp, I can hear the real magic happening when I bring the DAC up to full volume. Below that sounds excellent, but not quite as magic.

Direct was excellent as well, and perhaps wider and more defined in the bass, but not as 3 dimensional.

I guess my point is that with an outstanding preamp, I'd go through that. With a mediocre preamp, probably the PWD direct to amps will be better.
" ...with an outstanding preamp, I'd go through that (i.e. direct to amp). With a mediocre preamp, probably the PWD direct to amps will be better."

Agree, as with any DAC/CDP w/volume control. I have Esoteric SA-50 (being rebuild at the moment by APL HiFi) and Joule-Electra LA-300 Preamp. Day/Night difference in 3D, palpability, in realism and musicality

All The Best
Interesting comments. I didn't know a preamp makes a difference in terms of 3D sound. I may have to demo one to see how it changes my system.

I think I am most interested in how the PW compares to the Modwright transporter though.
Great comparison, PWD vs Modwright Transporter lets hear some thoughts and feedback on the two items.
When comparing source direct to power amp vs source to preamp, the impedance of the poweramp is a major consideration.

Some power amps are just easier to drive then the others.
Count me among those who really like this unit, but find it sounds better with my preamp (and, I've been looking for a different preamp, so I'm not enamored with my current one).

The output impedence of the PWD is 300ohms, and the input of my Ayre V5xe is 200ohms.

My preamp is the Ayre K3
"...the input of my Ayre V5xe is 200ohms"

Hello Ricky. If V5xe is power amp then its typo error, its too low even for solid state amp

Not a typo, just a total misrepresentation of fact.
100kohms is the number. Only off by a few orders of magnitude.

What are the recommended generalizations for matching preamp and amp impedence?
With 100 kOhms input impedance you can match any preamp. The minimum ratio would be 10:1 - its my arbitrary number, provided that preamp, otherwise is fantastic. Somebody else will have different number. I feel that with 20:1 ratio the audible effect of mismatch is negligible.

My Joule-Electra preamp has the two outputs: buffered with 300 Ohms and with bypass buffer - 1200 Ohms. I would choose, most probably 1200 Ohms output even if my power amp would have low input impedance... sort of trade-off. Here, I gain transparency and immediacy bypassing buffer and would take the some roll-off at the top and bottom simply because preamp is fantastic (the best I ever auditioned) there and I can sacrifice it a bit.

All The Best
I don't know a whole lot about pre amps. I thought that really what you wanted to match was the Vrms out to the Vrms of the amps. The PW does 3Vrms RCA and 6Vrms XLR. The Bel Cantos are 3Vrms XLR and 2Vrms RCA. Currently I have them connected via XLR and don't crank the volume too loud.

Other than helping level these kinds of discrepancies, what does a preamp add? Is it the case that the preamp is simply coloring the sound in its own way which may sound better or worse? Or would a solid pre amp definitely improve the sound / why?
i was thinking the same thing. seems to go against the "less is more" theory i was looking into.

not to hijack the thread but if true...what does one look for in a pre that makes it "a good one"?(for applications like this). am actually more concerned about price point for a "good pre-amp". this could kill the estimated budget for my future upgrade.(like that hasn't happened before lol!)
i think it should be a new (old!) thread if we want to discuss DAC-amp vs DAC-PRE-AMP vs DAC-passive pre-AMP.

I'm very eager to know how the MW Transporter compares to the PWD.
I don't know why you guys are not talking about this, but I think that the real issue with using the DAC to attenuate the volume is whether that is achieved by analog or digital methods.

If it is done digitally, then you are definitely losing original bits from the songs. Lossy. Think mp3. No surprise if you lose "3D", and you're probably losing something in the 2D and 1D and 4D and 23D as well, whatever that means. Lossy. Worse with more and more attenuation, and if you're bringing it down from 100 to 60ish then you can forget about hifi.

If the attenuation is done via analog, then of course it depends on how well it is done. Now that is precisely what a preamp is suppose to do! A good one should do it well, and if the DAC outperforms it then we are talking about one hell of a great DAC (or one lousy pair of interconnect cables).

I know that the squeezebox attenuates by digital manipulation; I'm pretty sure that the Transporter does the same thing. This thread will shed some light on this,


Basically, you want to listen to the slimdevice gadgets at maximum volume and attenuate with something else; or use them to get the 1s and 0s into whatever DAC you like, and then go through there to, once again, a preamp.

Anything else and you're asking for lossy data. Mp3s, maybe nice mp3s, but still mp3s. The whole point of flac gets tossed into the bitbucket.

I have no idea what the PS Audio dac does to achieve this. If it trumps a preamp, then it's a better preamp than that preamp. If it trumps all preamps, then it's a hell of a preamp (well, except for its lack of non-digital inputs!). But if it does it digitally, then it's lossy. The fact that their web site does not mention this issue is not encouraging,


since it is a clear big selling point and they should be explicit on the method (sadly, the logitech transporter site does not mention it either). For $3k, I would expect one hell of a volume knob...
Redbook CDs are 16bit. Most of the current DACs upsamples to 24bits. So there are 8 bits for attenuation without lossing any bits when a Redbook CD or CD ripped file is played.

However, if you have a downloaded HiRes file starting at 24bit, then any attenuation via digital will lose information. i.e. you don't have the full 24bit resolution after attenuation.

This is the case for the Transporter. (read it from the slimdevice forum). I don't know how PS does it.

Let's hope that the 32bit DAC chips will become popular. Then we have 8 bits to play with when we play 24/192 files.

IMO for a DAC->amp combo (via analog volume control) to beat a DAC-pre-amp combo, it has to have superior power supply and ability to drive diffult loads in the analog section. There aren't too many DACs built that way. (may be the Theta Gen 8)

I don't know why you guys are not talking about this, but I think that the real issue with using the DAC to attenuate the volume is whether that is achieved by analog or digital methods.

Good point...

The following has been copied from the PS Audio Forum:

Is the PWD perfect? Not entirely but close. Used in the last 50% of its volume setting (where any serious listening would be) you get a “free lunch” so to speak.

Can you expand on this Paul? Is that the loudest or quietest 50% percent? Why is there a difference? Also, the Slimdevices Transporter had a bug which occasionally caused full-volume output. I’m sure you’d never release a product with a bug, but that brings up a more interesting point. A product like this is probably going to benefit firmware updates. How will this be handled? An Ethernet port would have been nice (I’m sure it’ll be on the PWD II…)

The loudest 50%. The volume control is such that the loudest 50% is handled without any loss of data (it’s a digital volume control meaning it is just doing math and not an extra element in the audio chain). In the lower 50% there is a small data loss but we have this setup so for any serious listening you’re way outside of this area,
For updates, all PerfectWave products will be easily field upgradable by the customer.
Paul McGowan - 27 January 2009 01:10 PM

Hi folks, I haven’t participated in this forum for a while and just re-registered.
I’m assuming from your statement that the output level of the PWD in the lowest 50% of the VC’s range is relatively low and would produce a low volume level with the average amp and speaker combination, lower than a “serious listening” level. A logical and appropriate choice, although difficult (actually impossible) to get right with every amp and speaker combination, particularly with very high sensitivity speakers. Am I correct?
It popped into my head that given that the output stage of a DAC is similar to a preamp, that your Gain Cell level control could be used as the volume control in the PWD. Seems obvious, but things are rarely as simple as they ought to be, and there are likely many reasons why this was not done. Just wondering…

Absolutely this would be a perfect place for a Gain Cell except we don’t need one since the digital attenuation scheme obviates the need for a Gain Cell. Here’s the deal. The output of the DAC is an analog output stage (discrete type in ours) and has very little gain. It’s near a gain of 1 and is really there as an output driver and balanced device to lower any common harmonics - and to isolate the IV stage. A Gain Cell makes the most sense when you have a large dB change you want to effect as in a preamp.

The only thing cleaner than a Gain Cell is this simple output stage and the digital attenuation scheme we’re using.

For this reason, I listen through my preamp because I tend to do a lot of listening in the evening under the 50% "level." I have driven the amp direct via the PWD at levels well above the 50% range with exceptional results.

I have a new question... How does the PWT compare to the Linn Klimax DS. Granted the Linn KDS is ~7x the price ($20k) but I want to know how much of that is just for the 'Linn' name / hype. I find it hard to believe that the KDS could be that much better considering it's 2 years old and digital streaming technology is relatively new.

Furthermore Linn provides almost no specs about the KDS (DAC, how it processes the info etc). Maybe the PWT description is all marketing but things like native mode etc seem pretty legit and I doubt the KDS has them.

That is exactly the question I'd like answered. Very little mention of Linn on here, though they were the first high-end audio company to adopt this technology, and they seem to have truly embraced it. (For the sake of argument, I'm allowing Slim Devices no high-end pedigree, unlike ModWright).

For my money, Linn 'get' the benefits of this architecture better, and have made excellent efforts to explain it (though there's a lot to it and I'm techier than most). Their products seem more focused to me, as a direct result. They have always integrated an ethernet port with the DAC. The Klimax and Akurate DS both use the same DAC as the PS, the Wolfson WM8741 (though Linn use 2). Actually the PS blurb says it uses the WM8741 and the WM8742 in the same paragraph, which is poor. The Majik DS and entry-level Sneaky DS uses a single WM8740. I'm not perfectly sure, but believe Linn's implementation is to upsample always.

Interestingly, and confusingly, Linn talk very highly of their digital volume control, and the benefits of a signal path unencumbered by a preamp. But, they only have digital volume on their two lower models. It's a mixed message, and you have to wonder whether they have an eye on the inevitable harm done to pre-amp sales. One thing's for sure: analog or digital, attenuating reduces the s/n ratio, so it's 'lossy' either way. But it's entirely confusing(though tempting) to equate this with lossy compression, which is doing different things to different frequencies.

Price wise, I think the equivalent to a PS + bridge would be an akurate ds, but you need a pre-amp with the akurate. I have yet to do a single listening test, but looking forwards to comparing PS and Linn one day.
forgot to mention, as the thread had moved on so much: I'm going to audition Bel Canto Ref 500s and/or S500 and Gallo 3.1s, which is very similar to OP's setup. Danyal, do you like it? I've also been advised to try the low power amp/high sensitivity speaker route. Going to try to look into this at the upcoming audio show in Silverstone.

Also, if the talk is to be believed, then your current setup, connecting via spdif, has lost all the low jitter benefits of the Transporter. It would definitely be great to hear you compare the PS + bridge vs Transporter. And in the meantime, though you're hearing the higher spec componentry of the unbridged PS, can you make out any jittery downside compared to your previous setup?

Mnm-- The Gallos are great. Can't really tell you much about different amps on them because I have only tried the Ref1000s. But with the PWT they are amazing. I am planning on getting the bridge as soon as it comes out, but (currently) regardless of whether it is connected via USB or TOS it sounds far better than the Transporter. Additionally I can't really tell the difference between USB and TOS. I need to listen a bit more though.
I am using the PW DAC straight into my amp, a McIntosh MC275. The DAC really shines with the PW Transport. The combination is astoundingly good, much better than with other digital sources and better than any other source I have ever used. I am not using a separate preamp because I am not convinced one would improve on the sound. My speakers are Sehring 703s. Interconnects/speaker cables are Gabriel Gold.
I just went through the remarkably long description of the PW DAC on the PS Audio web site. They do not even mention how they attenuate the volume, which must mean that they do not think it is a very important issue.

They do go on and on about the various digital filters that they put in this gadget, though...
So then the consensus is that the PW DAC is superior to even a Modwright Transporter and I should hold out for the bridge>? It is a digital volume control which somewhere in the literature they state sounds best when above the half way point if I am not mistaken. I've been getting itchy and before I buy the PS PW Transport to add to the DAC I was considering backing out into the Modwright. IF the Modwright added an analog volume control I would OR IF the slim devices remote was self contained with song info like the iTouch will be instead of looking at the unit BUT ultimately I would take the one that sounds better so back to so then the consensus is that the PW DAC is superior to even a Modwright Transporter and I should hold out for the bridge>?
I would like to know what people think of this DAC when using a transport other then the PDT. Is it worth upgrading to this DAC without the PDT. I am not savvy enough to undersatnd how the bridge will work or how it will work with compters and things like that. Only intrested in regular trasports.
I use the DAC with my computer as a transport and it is amazing! It will be even better with the bridge when it comes out. The bridge is a slide in cart so I (or anyone) can do the upgrade. Once the bridge is installed you will hook it up just like you do the rest of the DAC. Easy peasy!
The bridge is a card which will allow the unit to connect wirelessly to your network, where you might have a NAS (Network Attached Storage (a fancy way of saying a hard drive connected over the network instead of plugged directly into the computer)) drive. This is supposed to (according to PS Audio) have the exact advantage and sound every bit as good as hooking up to there PWT as the bridge is said to have a built in digital lens.

I would probably buy this dac if the bridge were currently available but as it stands to the only transport/player I will buying is either the new Cambridge BluRay or the OppoBDP83 and then I am sending it off to MSB for the XPORT upgrade in order to have a SACD transport and BluRay player (you of course have to have a MSB dac with XPORT in order to take advantage of this). Hope that helps.
The digital volume control seems like such a deal breaker.

If you pay something in the neighborhood of $3k, for the sake of hi-fi, only to watch the accuracy of the system go away dramatically with a digital volume knob, it seems a shame.

I think that the $400 DacMagic paired with a midfi preamp (altogether, less than $1k) would sound better than a $3k DAC that uses a digital volume knob.
I think that the $400 DacMagic paired with a midfi preamp (altogether, less than $1k) would sound better than a $3k DAC that uses a digital volume knob.

You're thinking is way off. It simply is not possible that the $400 DacMagic paired with a midfi preamp could ever sound as good as the PWD. I assume that you have not heard the PWD for yourself and are merely speculating. If you have the opportunity, listen for yourself…

There is no loss in the upper 50 percent of the digital volume with the PWD used as a preamplifier. That said, I prefer to use a preamplifier – with the PWD volume set at 100 percent.
2chnlben, do your homework on how a digital volume control gets the job done.

On the other hand, if you cannot tell the difference between an mp3 version of a song and the version on the CD, then you might be OK with it...

No need for the immature rhetoric…homework aside, the PWD is simply in another league compared to what you offered as a “better alternative.” The type of conjecture that you offer happens all of the time at this, and other sites – in that a someone make a generalization or even an attempted rationalization about a given product based on everything (except) hands-on experience and primary knowledge of said product. I’d say that is a bit impetuous…
What’s an MP3 anyway!
trebejo...i am not familiar with the pwd volume control however there are methods of digital volume control that do not degrade the signal. i know the berkeley alpha dac's does not and i believe there are others. figured i would jump in and complicate things...
The digital volume control is not going to make a huge negative impact on the sound. Depends on your amp and where you have the knob. But there are ways to do it right and ways to do it wrong. Ask Wadia how they get the digital volume control that has existed in their CD players for years and years to sound as good as it does. :)
Ok, the digital volume control will usually alter the 0s and 1s as they enter the DAC. So what the DAC processes and turns into sound is quite different from what is on the CD or hard drive.

It is not a small matter. It is "as bad" as it gets. Ok, maybe not as bad as blowing an output tube, but people, we have standards here! Think of the little audiophiles!

Thanks, Richard, for the tip about the Berkeley alpha dac! It's good to learn something new. I'll probably never be able to afford one, but that does not stop me from drooling a little bit after it. :) I am very curious now about just how they get this little task done, because it's a bit of a math problem that needs to be solved real-time, oh, 44,000 times per second! :0

What makes me suspicious about the PS Audio gadget is that they went on and on and on about far less relevant stuff in their gadget, but they never talked about this digital volume control problem. When someone ducks the mention of a difficult issue that has stopped those that came before him, the safe thing to assume is that they are ducking the issue and pretending it is not a problem.

I asked PS Audio about this and did not get a response. Maybe they'll address it someday.
trebejo...i am sure they would be willing to explain the math but my suggestion would be to listen to one! my guess is your ears will forget the formula and you will enjoy the music. they (berkeley) actually recommend bypassing any preamp so as not to degrade the signal.

i'll get out of here so you folks can continue the pwd love...
Trebejo: not sure if this is what you're looking for but Paul McGowen has addressed this issue several times on the PS Audio discussion boards. just search the forum for "volume control" and you'll find quite a few explanations/discussions regarding what's really going on. seems to kinda boil down to having a 32 bit DAC onboard from what i understand (but i'm no expert)

can tell you i've been using my perfect wave pair without a pre lately and it's sounding great. good volume control too imo.

here's a couple of links



i own the pwt and pwd. i assume it is broken in. i left it on for two weeks and fed a signal, changing the cd every so often. i used the coax and hdmi input to the dac.

i disagree with all of the opoinions so far about these products. it extends the treble, improves clarity, extends the bass, but it sounds analytical, and digital.

my 1990 audio note cd player sounds better as a transport and my audionote sounds better than both the dac and the transport. its not a bad products, so long as you want to be reminded that you atre listening to a pooor quality cd. of course, better quality cds sound better.

i was using a$450 ess sabre tech dac which i prefer to the ps audio.

perhaps it is nit yet broken in . does it require more than 3334 hours for break-in ?
That should be good, you can sale it and get a return on your' money while being completely content with less expensive gear. Wish it worked out like that for me.
Mrtennis, 3335.5 hours and you'll be there!
Thanks for the links, Levy03. I am going to check them out.

If I come to the conclusion that I have to eat a little crow, I'll be sure to do so. It is highly nutritious, according to Dr. Friedrich Nietzche. :)
I'm surprised your having isssues with the sound of the PWT/PWD combo. I've been pleased before it broke in and since breaking in found it to surpass my older, but very respectable, Levinson Reference 30.6 DAC and 31.5 transport. Right away, the PWT/PWD just seemed to get the music right. I've since upgraded the HDMI cable to PS Audio's top of the line silver HDMI on several people's recommendations. It put the combo even further over the top.
As for volume, I'm currently setting the DAC at 75 to 80 on the volume display and then sending the signal into the ARC Ref 3 preamp. I broke my HDMI cable by playing just the transport into the DAC over Xmas break, for about 2 weeks the Purist Audio break in disc along with others. It sounded better each time I listened, and I assumed the new HDMI cable was broke in then. However, since being home, and having it play in the system, instead of just between the DAC and tranport, I've been amazed at how much it seems to improve each night. I really can't explain why this has happened. But this is what I'm experiencing.

I hope your PWT/PWD starts reaching its potential. But as we all have found out before, a component that sounds great in one system, may not make the grade in another system for many reasons.
Good listening,