Playback Edelweiss in the house


So, after a long wait my Playback Edelweiss MPS-6 just arrived.  This unit is the DAC and SACD Player in one and I have had the Stream X added.  It is not Roon Ready at this time but the streaming function via MConnect Controller worked just fine.  

Build quality is obviously brilliant.  Nice chassis with simple, understated displays.  SACD controls are on the remote and the top edge of the DAC.  The remote is metal and well constructed.  

They say that it will take 500 hours to break-in.  Out of the box, this is clearly an elite DAC with what feels like unprecedented levels of detail in my system.  I am connected via Digital Coax from my Nucleus+ through a Chord 2Go/2Yu (K50 is on loan).  

The plan over the next 4 weeks is to keep it running most of the time and do a variety of tests once fully broken in and a few tests on the way.

One will be the standard five songs from the DAC Shootout connected via USB but I will also plan to put it through its paces as an SACD Player, Streamer and DAC with the K50 as the source.  

With less than an hour on it, all I can say is HOLY CRAP this thing sounds good.  

128x128verdantaudio

I know it's all about the sound, but they haven't done done anything to make this thing a bit more appealing. At least color options or something, Dream looks way better for some reason. As far as sound quality, I wonder how it compared to the cd player/dac they had for years for the same price....

The DAC is $15k.  The SACD feature adds $3k.  The StreamX adds an additional  $3K.  It is in process of getting approved to be Roon Ready.  I am expecting approval to be Roon Ready any day.   
 

Regarding look, it looks better in person than it does in the pictures.  

This one caught my eye as I am looking for a new CD/SACD player option.  Please report back on using this as CD/SACD player only.  Thanks. 

I am expecting approval to be Roon Ready any day.  

Hegel said the same thing, only took 2+ yrs.

@goose i have four SACDs on the way.  Will let you know once they arrive.  
 

@rsf507 My understanding is that this is the same module that is Roon ready being used in the Dream series.  All the work is done and testing is complete, it is a matter of waiting for final approval.  I am aware of the wait with Hegel and have an H590 here and am aware of how poor the AirPlay alternative was.  You don’t even have that.  I will report in this thread when it is Roon ready.  

@rsf507 I would be interested if you compared it to other offerings in the Esoteric or Luxman line in CD or SACD mode.  I have heard good things about Playback designs but they are more of a niche manufacture.

@goose i may have a Luxman CD in on trade soon but it is far competitive with the Playback.  As a DAC, this is one of the better units I have heard and I expect it to get better.  
 

They are definitely more of a niche manufacturer in the US.  It is a more popular brand in the East.  

Interesting tweener price point. Hard to think of immediate competitors. Perhaps the streaming DAC Nagra (esp b/c of the Koch connection) is working on to replace their Classic DAC, though that won’t have the CD option.

Then there’s the EMM DV2 plus NS1 combination, another DSD conversion DAC. Although that nominally retails for over 30k, in real life many dealers discount it new for like 23k all in, so in the same price ballpark as this Playback unit when streaming is added.

“Hard to think of immediate competitors.”

@metaldetektor

To your point, this segment of the audio industry is rapidly evolving. I replaced my digital front end comprising EMM Labs DA2 and Aurender N20 with Merging Technologies +player.

The +player is a impressive piece on its own even before you consider the external power supply and clock options. I really appreciate the fact that +player eliminates the need for external device like Nucleus to run Roon core. The onboard internal CPU runs RoonCore and is controlled by Roon remote app on a tablet or smartphone. All this simplicity, the DAC’s superlative transparency and realism comes at a bargain price of $14K 😊

In terms of the straight DAC, the closest competitor that I offer is probably the Rockna Wavedream Signature with the XLR priced above at $17K and SE edition below at $12K.  It is one of the more detailed units I have heard and delivers an impressive soundstage.  It is perfectly neutral yet is still very musical.  Obviously it is a ladder so it will have a different presentation.  

I do not have the two units side-by-side at the moment but they feel quite competitive based on my initial listening.  I am sure I will get to do a side-by-side at some point and that will be most interesting.  

I enjoyed the playback design mps-5 for many years and the company is quality and Andreas is a genius.  Its unfortunate that the prices are so high nowadays for this sort of top of the market digital.  Luckily I mostly spin vinyl and listen only occasionally to digital with modest budget dac like benchmark and chord so sold my playback design.  If you like to spin discs and you got the money though Andreas and Playback Designs is a quality bet.

So two SACDs arrived yesterday and I got to listen casually to them; Dave Brubeck and The Cars.  I am noticing some more top-end sparkle and the soundstage sounds larger deeper than I anticipated for 65 hours of break-in. 

The unit has been on and off for days with the volume turned off on my integrated amp.  I actively avoid listening during these break-in stretches to make any changes more noticeable.  

At the moment, this unit is a hair forward of neutral.  I will do a side-by side compare but I feel like tonally it is about where the Weiss is.  Detail remains unprecedented.  I am wondering if my amp is a bottleneck and am looking forward to getting my AGD back as it is a bit more refined.  

Keep us posted on Playback Designs. I know you had another thread about different dacs, but any comparisons to Meitner would be welcomed (at least by me) :-)

 

I will keep you updated but I am burning it in.  Literally, there is an explanation of how the sound will change over the initial 350-500 hours.  I am at close to 200 hours now.  I am frustrated in that I was just informed the first batch of these sold out and there won’t be more till end of June/early July.  30 units sold out in two weeks.  
 

I am actually talking to the Meitner distributor who is here in NJ.  it is definitely a line I would carry.  
 

 

Quick check in with a listening test - at 175 hours on the DAC (there is a counter) I can say that there is only one DAC I have had here in this league and that is the Rockna Wavedream Signature.  I wish I had it here for direct compare.  

The description between 150 and 300 hours is "Midrange will start smoothing out and clarity will increase but highs might continue to remain recessed.  At this point there will probably no be much change in bass.  You will probably wonder how the Playback Designs converter will ever sound like others have described, but we assure your that you will start to hear substantial changes within another week of play"

Okay...unpacking that. Listening this morning....I am not sure how this can get that much better.  I  will admit, out of the box is sounded like the Weiss 501.  But at this point...I am in complete agreement on the best.  HOLY CRAP.  For this link I am departing from my DAC Shootout thread in that I want every drop of performance I can get.  For this, I am running the Playback straight into an AGD Tempo.  It is being fed by a Chord 2Go/2Yu/Nucleus+ (K50 still on loan).  All ICs and Speaker Cable are Clarus Crimson.  The speakers remain Vivid Kaya 45s.  

I listened to Miles Davis Kind of Blue on SACD and that is frequently a reference track for me.  First thing I noted was that tape hiss or there is just some background noise that is in the recording.  It is not there on Dave Brubeck.  Never noticed that before.  Second, the opening of that has some very detailed picks of the bass and what you hear...well I have never heard before.  Went to my local 192k FLAC version and the noise is there and the level of detail remains unprecedented.  The SACD might be slightly more detailed but wow.  

Jumping into other tracks, Be Still My Beating Heart is wide but not as wide as I recall the Rockna being.  But the depth of the central image.  I am thinking I am understanding the Edelweiss Name.  I started thinking how does this image feel and it is almost like it is spread out like a horn with a bulge between the speakers.  If I drew a cross section of it, I think it would look like the cross section of a flower.  

There is a massive scale to the Rockna.  This doesn't feel massive but there is a depth here in the central image that I have only heard from the Chord Dave.  This makes something like the Berg piece feel more intimate.   

And he says it is going to get significantly better.  The scale of the soundstage is supposed to increase and detail is supposed to improve.  Basically, this unit, when fully broken in should offer the scale of a Rockna Wavedream with the depth of image of Chord Dave and be more detailed than either without being bright or sterile.  A no compromise DAC at $15k.....

I think I am going to preorder a couple of these for the production run in June.  

Verdant do you know how long the less expensive Merlot dac will be around?  I think it was introduced 6-7 years ago so perhaps due for replacement?

The Merlot had been discontinued.  I asked about it explicitly.  I am not sure Playback is planning on introducing a new unit in that price range.  
 

 

So we are starting the break-in process over again.  A customer borrowed mine and is keeping it until we get enough hours on his.  Should have it back just after AXPONA, obviously fully broken in.  At that time I will report completely on the sound of this unit vs. other benchmark devices. 
 


 

 

Verdantaudio,  Thanks for the update and look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Any updates after a month. I listened to the Dream today at my dealer since their 1st order is from the 2nd production run.

I have my unit back from my customer.  I have done some non-critical listening and my feeling is that it is pretty fabulous but need to sit down for some critical listening.    
 

Been delayed due to COVID.  My daughter brought it home from pre-school and I will admit that l am tired.  Will get to it soon.  

So I have been doing some critical listening and I can say that this DAC is stunning.  I have tried four different amps, three different pairs of speakers, several cables and two different server.  Both as preamp and source.  Every scenario has this DAC sounding great to me.  

For me, the obvious point of comparison is the Rockna Wavedream Signature.  The Wavedream is incredibly detailed, has a massive scale to it in terms of soundstage and is incredibly neutral to a point where its sound profile is hard to describe.  What the Rockna lacks is an absolute depth to its soundstage that someone who is used to to Chord Dave would really miss.

The Edelweiss sounds very big.  The image extends well beyond the speakers in either direction by a significant margin on tracks like Be Still My Beating Heart.  I don't feel like it has the absolute scale of the Rockna but it has more scale than any DAC I have here.  

The central image stands out though.  The central image is deep, instruments are well placed and very stable.  I feel like this rivals the Dave in terms of quality and stability of the central image.  

Tonally, there is a touch of sweetness that is delicious and borders on addictive.  I have not heard sibilance or glare from this DAC despite the fact that I have run speakers that are decidedly forward.  Vivid Kaya 45s and my own Verdant Blackthorn 1s are definitely tilted forward regardless of amp.  Yet, I also don't feel like anything is rolled off and the treble is lacking.  In a Sentimental Mood has sparkle and the Piano sounds amazing.  To push this, I played Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) from Kate Bush which can go very wrong on the wrong system and it is the best I have ever heard it sound.  It was in my face  but in a good way, not glaring.  

Somehow resolution seems to get better via DSD and SACD.  Crispness to notes with flawless decay is the way I would describe Time Out from Dave Brubeck.  It almost smacks you in the face on SACD it sounds so good.  

In the end, it comes down to personal taste and system matching if this is the right DAC/SACD Player for you.  If you are in the $15K to $21K range (depending on features), this is one you have to consider seriously.  

 

So I received an MPD-8 Dream DAC in on trade and am doing a deep dive into Edelweiss vs. the Dream.  Still keeping the Kaya 45s for consistency sake but have a new amp that arrived which is stunningly good.  A customer ordered the AVM Ovation A 8.3 integrated and asked me to roll a few tubes into it and offer some feedback on the amp.  It has a relatively steep price tag at $18.2K but it is the best integrated amp I have had here.  Also, for purposes of this test, I am using Inakustik power cables and ICs as I am trying to push these DACs as far as I can.  

The two DACs are obviously from the same company and it is really more defining what more you get from Dream in comparison to the Edelweiss.  Having not heard the Dream, I would have told you that the Edelweiss is the smoothest, most analog sounding DAC I have ever heard in my system.  No hard edges, no digital artifacts (or so I thought) just liquid, analog sound. In some ways I like the Jadis or the Rockna as much but neither has the smoothness and analog feel of the Edelweiss.  

Then you hear the Dream.  The Edelwiess sounds hard and edgy compared to the dream.  Admittedly, this is only obvious when you take a few seconds to switch cables between devices and get back to listening.  But the best way to describe the difference between these two insanely good DACs is that the Dream just gives you more....

And by more, I mean cleaner and smoother detail.  In practice this shows up in a place like the beginning of Duende from Bozio, Leven, Stevens.  You guys know I have mentioned this many times and use it for a reference.  This speedy bass solo at the beginning is incredibly difficult to reproduce without something going wrong.  It either sounds muddy or you get digital artifacts that sound hard and slightly distorted.  The Edelweiss sounded smooth and clean but compared to the Dream, there is still a little bit of a hard edge on each note.  Listening to this on the dream DAC, it is the first time that I hear completely smooth bass plucks with no distortion. 

The opening of Miles Davis Kind of Blue was cleaner and clearer on the Dream than I have heard on any other DAC streaming. The token exception to this was the SACD version on the Edelweiss.  Those are a push.

The soundstage on the Dream is a bit wider.  It is probably still not as massive as the Rockna but it is big sounding.  The Central image is similarly deep but with the added width, instruments seem placed slightly differently.  But both are rock solid.  

The Dream is slightly more neutral tonally while the Edelweiss is just a hair warm.  The AVM 8.3 is a neutral to warm integrated.  The Dream is a bit more in your face in a good way where the Edelweiss was a hair polite.  This shows up on a track like Maria Mena's cover of I Was Made for Loving You.  When reproduced correctly, this track marches a line of being in your face vs. glaring.  With the Dream, it was in my face.  With the Edelweiss, it was slightly recessed. 

Listening to that track made me warm up my typical reference AVM A5.2 integrated.  Being a Class D tube hybrid, it is warm but a hair more forward than the 8.3.  Playing the same song, the Edelweiss is right in my face and the Dream had moments that crossed the line into glaring.  

Tonally, The Dream is about the same as the Jadis making me think it is just the tiniest bit warmer than the Rockna.  The customer who traded it in has a Wavedream Signature and confirmed this as he had them side-by-side for a few months.  

If you have the extra $9K, you definitely get more out of the Dream.  It has definitely set a new standard for me.  

Having not heard the Dream, I would have told you that the Edelweiss is the smoothest, most analog sounding DAC I have ever heard in my system.  No hard edges, no digital artifacts (or so I thought) just liquid, analog sound.

This is the limitation with superlatives...it's always in the context of what we've previously (and recently) had in our system (ideally). We think something is the best at whatever, and then something better comes along. Curious how the Nagra Tube DAC + separate PSU compares to the Dream DAC. Same digital designer (Koch), different power supply and analog output. I think it's amazing (as compared to the sound of live music) but...see limitation above.

By the way, not trying to be combative, just curious -- if the Dream is so good, why did the customer send it back? I assume it came down to a system matching preference.

@metaldetektor I don’t find your comments combative. I think they are valid.

I would love to heard the NAGRA and and BAT as both use Playback digital modules. I am not sure how they stack up but am a firm believer that power supplies matter and if not separate (Jadis) heavily isolated (playback) is essential for great performance.

 

the customer traded the Playback because he found it a hair thin and warm in his system. The Rockna is fuller and a hair more forward. The Playback is better in mine but that illustrates that even at this high level/price, system matching still matters. You can’t blindly buy expensive components and expect them to work together.

it is a stunningly good DAC in the right system. For someone who wants a touch of warmth and a very analog, smooth sound, it is amazing.