Playback Designs

Hello friends,

I'm struggle on whether to get a MPS5 or MPS3, I know it is a matter of budget however my concern is whether worth for double the money, anyone can help ?
I got the MPD 3 after hearing the MPD 5 because of the price difference and am very happy with my choice for DSD listening. The difference in price to my ears was not worth the small increase in performance.

A couple of issues to be aware of though.

First the designer of the DAC has not done any output filtering so if you feed it into a very high bandwidth amp (the one I used had a 3db of 10Mhz) you can have problems with rustling noises etc during playback probably caused by the amp amplifying very high frequency stuff it would normally not be fed.

Secondly it's a noisy dac compared to others I own and you need to use a pre amp rather than direct connect it and use the volume control in a player on a computer. Using a pre-amp the noise is perfectly OK but otherwise its a bit annoying.

Finally via DSD this DAC blows anything I have heard away and everyone I have demoed it to agrees. However via PCM other cheaper DAC's are better - its not bad via PCM but to my ears in my system other DAC's sound better.

If you want SACD playback, the MPS5 is the only one that does it. The MPS3 is CD only.

I think you are getting the last bit of performance on the MPS5 for double the price.

Will that noisy issue also happens in 5 ?
I haven't done the comparison to be 100% sure about the noise with the MPS5. However from what the designer writes its part of the design in that he has no output filter and both DAC's should be the same in that regard.

I want to emphasise if you use a pre-amp the volume reduction it does makes the noise quite acceptable - its nothing to worry about - its only direct connecting where it is an issue.

The other problem is amp dependant - if you have a very wideband amp then it can be an issue. You need to have a look at your amp specs. But again both DAC's would have exactly the same issue.

I have the MPS-5 and I use it as a DAC along with the CD/SACD player. I hear no noise that you describe. I have it connected into my pre-amp and its a wonderful unit.... Highly recommended!
I have the MPS-5 and use it with my Sonoma and Sequoia systems. No noise that I hear and what they're telling you about filtering is incorrect. I have the FFT plots to prove it. The unit IS filtered, but it's a very gentle filter.
Yes indeed there is output filtering but is is very slow as confirmed by the designer. I still standby ny comments that it can cause problems, and I am not the only one to experience it:

The noise is quite acceptable if you use a pre-amp - but not if you direct connect.

I don't think the Playback was ever designed to run direct to power amps.
No, you can't run the MPS-5 direct.
Has anyone heard the MPS-3 CD Player yet? How does it sound relative to other players on the market like the Meitner Audio MA-2, Cary Audio 306 Pro, dCS Puccini etc.

Also, I am a bit disappointed with the responsiveness of Playback Designs. I e-mailed some basic questions on the MPS-3 to their website 3 weeks ago and still waiting for all the questions to be answered.
I had the MPS-5 cd player and I like my Modright Tube Modded Oppo 95 better. 17,000.00 vs 3,000.00
Well please don't leave us in suspense Jwm. Please detail how the modded Oppo 95 bettered the MPS-5? Any particular areas where the Oppo clearly excelled? Were there any other areas which you thought the MPS-5 drew even on?

I have an Oppo 95. How does the mod advance the sound?
It bettered it in every way except one. The MPS has a touch deeper bass. The Oppo was way more organic (musical), more natural. The top end was more refined. The soundstage and depth were fantastic. The MPS was flatter, leaner, and was tilted more towards the top. I never heard the original Oppo, but my friend Bob did at last years RMAF when he heard the original Oppo 95 vs the Modright modded Oppo 95.
I also have a modded Oppo and it's no where near the sonic equivalent of our MPS-5
That is why there are so many manufactures out there. You obviously hear very differently than I do. I had three friends who have great ears and all thought the Modright tube Modded Oppo creamed the MPS-5. What modded Oppo do you really have.
I wonder if it is the effect of the tube you liked.

I have an Ayon CD5S and the tube output is very very good but I find the MPS5 is just much more resolving. So I ended up using the MPS5 with a tube preamp.
Not at all the Oppo so more natural. I own a Basis table and Vector arm and ZYX universe. The Oppo is much closer to the vinyl than is the MPS5 which is way too lean.
MPS5 lean!??
Thats right lean. So is the Meitner.
I have both the XDS1 and the MPS5. The MPS5 is definitely not lean, especially compared to the XDS1.

The XDS1 did sound leaner at first but I've found that it does take a while to run in and it's very balanced now though without the mid bass emphasis of the MPS5 which I liked (I found the MPS5 similar to my Project RPM10.1 evolution/Sumiko Blackbird/Bel Canto Phono3).

But I do use a tube preamp which adds a lot to both the XDS1 and the MPS5, which I suspect is what you may be hearing with the tube mods on the Modwright.
Crna39: Your comment about your modded Oppo is of no help to me, unless you say which model you have, what mods were done, and by whom.
Jwm, interesting finding, what system are you running the cdps in?
I am using the VAC 300 mono blocks, the VAC Sig. 2A preamp, ESP Harp speakers similar to the Concert Grands, Aesthetix IO Sig. Phono stage with dual power supplies. I also have the Basis 5 vacuum table and Vector arm with ZYX Universe cartridge. Cables are Siltech and Wireworld.
Doggiehowser: I use Ayon CD-5s as well running directly either into Ayre V-5xe or Ayon Crossfire PA power amp feeding a pair of Lumen White Aquilla speakers through an all cabled Crystal Cable Dream system. Would you say the Playback Designs MPS 5 clearly betters the Ayon ? Have you compared the CD-5s or the MPS-5 to Esoteric K-01, Wadia S-7i, DCS Pucchini - which are more or less similarly priced ?
As a DAC, I think the DSD DAC on the Playback and EMM Labs are better than even the PCM1704s on the Ayons. But the Ayon CD5S as a combined unit with a tube preamp is quite special.

So when I compared the EMM XDS1/MPS5 with an Audio Research Reference 5SE, I find the tube magic is equalized and these 2 DACs are more resolving and more analog than the Ayon.

I havent compared the other players in my own system but I remember comparing the Wadia and the Puccini in the showroom against the XDS1 and I preferred the XDS1. The Puccini was sans U Clock though so that could be another factor. The XDS1 felt more resolving with complex multi instrument pieces.
I just want to post I concur with Doggie.

Via DSD to my ears the Playback Designs is simply the best source I have heard - clearly better than the very good PCM1704 DAC I own, a PDX, that to my ears is better than the Ayon. But via PCM I prefer the PDX by a fair bit actually - its not that the PD is bad that way - its just the PDX is clearly better. Blowed if I know why.

I find the difference between the Playback/EMM DSD DACs vs the PCM1704 to be in the capability to resolve complex arrangements. I find that with many instruments/voices/percussions etc, the DSD DACs tend to show the delineation well.
There's a new firmware out for the 5 series. Anyone know what's changed?
I have a MPS-5 which I purchased after comparing to the dcs Puccini and U clock. The Playback sounds less digital to me, I have a high end vinyl rig and the
MPS can sound surprisingly similar, depending on the recording. It sounds anything but lean. The Puccini did not manage this as well in my system.
I also had an extensive demo of the 3 box Paganini and preferred the Playback, a fuller, richer sound with better bass to my ears.
I use the MPS mostly for CD as I do not have many SACDs. Myself and a friend have compared the sound of the CD layer with the SACD layer on a few discs and find it hard to hear the difference.
I use the Audio Desk Systeme to treat my CDs, and demagnetise them on an old bulk tape eraser. This improves the sound quality further, tighter focus, better image and gets rid of the last bit of grain.
On Doddiehoser's suggestion I have ordered an USB-x box to play high-res files so am awaiting this item to assess it's influence on replay.
Dont know what the new 5 series firmware will do.
I use a BAT 52se pre amp which seems to suit the Playback really well.
Hi Dctom

I didn't have a chance to do an A:B immediately before and after the upgrade but I thought there was an improvement in separation/layers and depth on the same CD I was playing a day before the upgrade.

I emailed Jon and am copying the reply here:
This is a sonic improvement in clarity, lower noise floor and a greater sense of space.
Thanks for the info Doggiehowser
I concur that the firmware update make the playback even more musical and even more analog sounding
024 update does make the MPS-5 more musical , bass more defined and overall makes the MPS-5 quite different sounding from what I first heard it (after run in) . I was updating from 020 (factory out) directly to 024 so the difference in sound is very obvious to me .

I have Mod Sony 5400 - unless the Mod 95 is a lot better than Mod 5400 , I see no way any Mod players EVEN closed to MPS-5 .
I had the Modright Modded Sony 5400, 95, and 105 all tube modded. Both the 5400 and 95 wiped the floor with the Playback Designs. I even put 700 hours of break in on the Playback design player. No contest as the Modright beat it in every parameter. I sold it. The 105 is now in a how different league than the sony and 95.