PS Audio Bridge: First Impressions

I installed my PS Audio bridge friday, had a firmware upgrade hickup that prevented me from using it until monday morning, but have now been up and running for three days. First impressions:

Stability, ease of configuration: Having had some nightmarish experiences trying to getting iTunes, J River, Media Monkey and Windows Media Center set up to share a library on a network from two PCs, and controlling remotely from an iPhone app, and playing over USB, I was prepared for the worse with PS audio's first batch post beta testing. Very pleasant surprise, their architecture designed around the network is inherently far superior and works better than any of the other mentioned music servers IF YOU USE THE RIGHT UPNP SERVER WHICH IS ASSETTUPNP. Apparently the Netgear ReadyNAS also works very well.

Ease of use once up and running: For a first production release the TagNPlay controller app is a delight. You need to use it with the right UPNP server though or you will have limited functionality. I use MediaMonkey to maintain my library (tagging organizing and adding new music) from the PC, and TagNPlay to control the library in listening mode. Works perfect and could not be happier. Supposedly things will get better still when PS audio release its own UPNP server.

Sound Quality: Compared with using the Marantz ud9004 as a tranport over S/PDIF this is a toss up. Anticipating the bridge would take things to PerfectWave transport over I2S level this was a bit of a disappointment, but thenagains - may be the UD9004 is very close to the PWT. Other possibility is I am tonedeaf. Some music I hear a bit more depth and note decay on the bridge, but it is subtle enough I don't think I would be able to pick a winner in a double blind A/B test.

Overall: The bridge give me the convenience of having my collection at my fingertips for the cost of the AC cable on my ud9004. Throw in ability to play high rez and the bridge is an absolute winner. Sure would have been nice to say it trounced the ud9004 sonically, but in all honesty it does not. I find myself listening to favorite tracks I have not been listening to for years. Next thing I will do is create personal virtual "best off" compilation albums and store them in my library.
Thanks for the information Edorr. Perhaps over time the sound quality of the bridge will improve as more experience is gained with it. The bridge is still in its infancy.
thank you for sharing this info. I've been eager to hear some first hand experiences.
I don't think the bridge has any "sound quality" in and off itself, and as such will not "improve". All the bridge (and PW Transport) does is realize the full sonic potential of the PWD by sending it essentially jitter free digital information over I2S. The bridge + PWD will never sound any better than it currently does, which is absolutely stellar.

The point I was making is that with very good non I2S (S/PDIF or AES) digital source, you get 95% of the way there as well, and to some people's ears the missing 5% is not material.
What is your review of the user interface itself?
I’d like to know where anyone in the world can find anything better or for that matter even rival the PWD/Bridge for the same money…I don’t think it is possible. Remember, this is a network music server (computer not needed). While the PWD/Bridge is by far the best digital source I’ve ever owned, I have never owned anything really exotic (e.g.: dCS, MBL, top-of-the-line Meridian, etc.).

I don’t have any illusions that there might not be other available digital sources that sound as good (or possibly even better) than the PWD/Bridge, but for the money this has to be the greatest deal in high-end audio. The sound must be on par with even the best gear on the market (or at least very close), but when combined with its sonic virtues what makes the system so unique is the functionality of the Network Bridge itself. The hype (objectives) of PS have been realized – this is a true high-end music server.
Soundgasm - I mentioned TagNPlay (the user interface/controller) for a first production version far exceeded my expectations and works excellent. Far better than all the iPhone based remote control apps I have tried for MediaMonkey, J River and the like. The problem with TagNPlay is you are at the mercy of the UPNP server - AssettUNPN works very well as it is desigend for music libraries, but it still runs on a computer. I have a small ASUS PC behind my rack, but with automatic reboots and other disruptions this is still inconvenient. Once PS Audio comes with its own NAS based UPNP server this will be fully solved though.

2chnlben - I agree with you here. I'm sure you can spend 20K and get better sound, but to get 95% of the way to absolute best in class sonically AND have the convenience of the entirel libraty at your fingertips, stored on a $200 mass market storage device is unbeatable, and I believe sets the new standard. In honesty I don't know how an Ayre or Wired4Sound over USB compares, but I'm sure reviews will be forthcoming soon.
I have been using a Squeezebox for years. It has fed a number of different DACs, most recently the PS Audio PWD, which was the best I had used up to then. I installed the Bridge this weekend and got it up and working with JRiver as the uPnP Server. At first I was very disappointed, but then realized that the defaults for JRiver were downgrading everything to MP3 quality. Luckily, I was not confused long as the DAC has a display that clearly showed up as MP3.

After looking for some help on the PSAudio Discussion Forums, I was told the correct setting and the away I went.

I am pretty much shocked and awed. Really much better than I expected. The music just flows so much better. I can hear the various musical threads of the different instruments. The tones are clear. Different instruments sound different. Backup vocals are sounding like massed, individual singers, each with their own voice. Music starts and stops better and everything is just sounds much more natural. Dare I even say analog like. This is just CD quality flacs I am referring to. The one high resolution flac I have (Dark Side of the Moon) was also quite amazing. Dare I say, better than my turntable (it could be the recording itself, but still, this thing kills for its price).

Go to the HDTracks site and download some 96/24'll really be amazed! Even better, find some 192/24 downloads (they're harder to find and not nearly as abundant). Once you hear really good hi-rez via the Bridge, you'll be even happier with your purchase.


Guys, how do I get one and how much does it cost? On the site there is no price or means of purchasing unless I am being a little slow which is always a possibility
They appear to be in stock at Music Direct- $799.99
Hey all, thought I'd share my impressions.

In terms of sound quality, the Bridge is very noticeably, though not MASSIVELY, better than my other two transports, though they are not so classy (or at least as current) as Edorr's Marantz (I was using a CAL CL2500 DVD player and an Audio Alchemy DDS III with some XLO coax with which I've had good luck in the past; I've been using a computer over USB for so long, my high-end transports have not been upgraded in forever). It also bested my HP laptop over non-audiophile USB by about the same margin.

I did find that the Bridge got substantially better over time, but whether that was because of burn-in or my brain adjusting to the sound I cannot say--I just know it kept improving TOO ME over about 2-3 weeks. So, in terms of relative sound, the bridge was a worthwhile improvement & have a difficult time believing that there is a $800.00 transport out there that can best it.

In terms of absolute sound, I cannot say--I have not had many other high-end front-ends to compare it against and my speakers (pro/active PMC AML-1s) are idiosyncratic enough to make comparisons with past systems difficult/irrelevant. I can say that when I had the original (Red Label) EMM Labs stack and mbl speakers (121) and amps it crushed my current rig, CRUSHED it (people say you cannot compare over time, trust me, the difference is/was not subtle & I certainly can tell you that much!), but whether that is a result of the EMM Labs or the mbl gear, I cannot say. On the other hand, my old rig was about 2.5x as expensive and not half as fun/usable as the PWD/Bridge...

... speaking of, and in terms of usability, I agree with Edorr 100%. Tag-n-Play is awesome and only going to get better. PSA's use of their "cue" is unique, in my experience, and just makes listening so much better, more accessible and more fun. I love it!

Unlike many, I got a NAS that could not work smoother with the Bridge (HP MediaSmart); I did my homework, shopped audio-storage features hard and this paid huge dividends. I am certain that there are other NAS-boxes out there that will work fine, but I cannot more highly recommend the MediaSmart (although, bizarrely, it has many of the necessary file-sharing permissions turned off by default, leading to several hours on the phone with HP support). I am certain that the PSA solution will be even better, but at the rate that PSA is missing product due-dates, who knows when that thing will see the light of day. Until then, I've got terrific functionality in a $500 box w/ 2TB.

Problems/dislikes: there are a few.

(1) If you turn off your iDevice (necessary if for marathon listening sessions esp. if you do not have an iPad, as I do not), about 80% of the time it will default back to itself as the audio player... it does not disconnect from the PWD, it just de-selects it. It is not a minor pain in the ass to re-connect but it gets annoying over time, plus this doesn't happen about 20% of the time, so I do not believe that it HAS to be this way.

(2) Tag-n-Play occasionally shuffles the order of songs w/in a folder/CD (or maybe this is Twonky's fault, I cannot say for sure). Most of the time, I don't mind if things are a bit out of order, but if you are listening to, say, a symphony or a DJ mixing one song into the next, this is a major source of sucking.

(3) Tag-n-Play play lists only support 128 songs, which is really, really stupid. Sure, my All-ABBA-All-the-Time mix will fit under the 128-song limit, but if I want to dump all of my punk-rock into a play-list, hit random and be surprised... it ain't gonna happen. Not by a long shot. Given that EVERY OTHER music player in existence does not suffer from this limitation, this is perhaps the biggest problem.

(4) Album art is a hit-or-miss proposition, mostly hit on the iDevice and mostly miss on the PWD touchscreen. But PSA is promising support for embedded artwork in the future and this is not SUCH a major problem in any case (besides embedding art, per PSA suggestions/instructions, I also have a .jpeg in the album folder labeled "FOLDER," like I said, sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't with no rhyme or reason that I can figure out).

Otherwise, functionality, up-time, sound-quality, etc. are all there in spades. Despite the few complaints I've made, I consider the PWD/Bridge the best purchase I've made in a very long time.
The PWD/Bridge combo is going to ruin me for analog....