PS Audio PWD MkII vs W4S DAC2

Has anyone done a comparo between these two DAC's. Love my W4S Dac2 but if the PWD MkII is a big step up, I might get the itch. Most interested in coax connection; less in USB.


i'd seen this comparison with the Mk I:

but haven't seen a more recent comparison. i'm looking forward to the responses you get.
Hi Neal,

Cannot help...but pls post if you hear them. More interested in learning about the PS PWTransport II. particularly their i2s output and how the transport compares to the all-out transports: esoteric, mbl, cec, zanden, etc...

If you're not interested in, 1) computer audio via the new MK2 USB interface, or 2) stored digital files via the Bridge,then I wouldn't recommend making the change. If you are strictly a CD user (for your digital), then you might consider the PWD MK2 and the PWT (via I2S), as that combo is definitely something to aspire to. If you get a chance to audition the PWD2/PWT combo, keep in mind that the PWD2/Bridge is (very) close.
I use a Bryston BDP-1 as a "transport" --not for CD's but for digitally stored music on HDD or thumb drive, and use the AES/EBU output to my W4S DAC2. Bryston was a gamechanger for me. not a believer in music out of a computer in the conventional sense. Too much going on in that small case.

Will broadcast if I hear any input -- so to speak.

Thanks! I am looking to PS Audio quite carefully and have contacted them directly. Also speaking with MSB Technology about their UMT Transport.

The link you posted was an irritating read and I wouldn't use his advice at all(I hope he doesn't speak the waynhe writes).
tabl10s, perhaps you should have just ignored it instead of writing an irritating comment.
for the record, i have never heard any of the DACs mentioned in that link for a long enough period of time to have an opinion with regard to his conclusions following his comparison.

but nglazer was asking for comparisons between the W4S and PWD and the fellow who wrote that had done a comparison between the W4S, PWD, and several other DACs.

whether or not you agree with his conclusions, it is a comparison.

i see you own a PWD, tabl10s. no wonder you found the link irritating. perhaps you can say something substantive to refute his assertions as to the relative merits of each DAC and help the OP, rather than making unhelpful comments addressed at me.
I own a W4S Dac1 and a PWD.. The W4S was very close to the PWD.. not as refined, as dimensional.. close but not quite as good, the Dac 1 is 90% of the Dac 2.. The big story here is the PWD MK2.. it is substanially better than the PWD Mk1, and is most likley as close to a SOTA Dac as you'll find at anywhere near the price.. I'll go out on a limb and say that unless you plan on spending five figures there isn't a better Dac than the PWD MK2.. and just an opinion is that even the multi kilo buck Dac's aren't going to be nessarily better than the PS Audio but different.
given that the price increase for the PWD Mk II puts it closer to the price territory of the berkeley alpha dac 2 and resolution audio cantata, it'd be great to hear if anyone has compared them. with the optional bridge and potential for I2S connection to the PWT, the PWD seems to take the cake as far as features, but purely based on sound, i wonder how the three compare.
I don't have the dac, but a friend does(want to edit the system, but can't since the site update). If you didn't write the review, you shouldn't be upset. I can tell by the way he writes that he doesn't have much experience writing or reviewing.


My friend is using RCA with my digital cable and also uses the Bridge.
Neal, you're right. I didn't write it, and have my own doubts as to the article's assertions, so it is really is a non-issue. Sorry for getting huffy. Aside from any issue with writing or reviewing, I could not fathom owning a PWT and not getting the PWD.
I own the PWD MKII and it is in a completely different league than the MKI. It's critical that if anyone compares this DAC with anything else that they have the 2.02 or 2.03 firmware installed. It's the most musical DAC I've ever heard, beating the Super modded Meitner BiDat as well as the latest T + A and Bel Canto gear. I know someone who's compared it extensively to the Berkeley (which it beats) but he says it doesn't quite reach the heights of the Meitner and dCs flagships. If a person buys the PWD MKI used and installs the MKII upgrade board (which you can do yourself) ..that's quite a good deal in my book.
am yet to hear a DAC that beats my PWD MKII any where near its price point. the few much higher priced competitors i've heard don't best it either. when considering all the gear i've ever purchased...the PWT/PWD is the only thing i've never had a 2nd thought about. as already mentioned...the MKII upgrade takes it to yet another level. add I2S and the bridge/network playing capability to the equation and it's a home run/grand slam in my book.

do give it a listen. i think you'll agree.
Thanks, all. PWD II sounds like it is worth a listen (pun intended).

Anonymoustao, I am not sure what review you are referring to. I didn't write anything about as review.


Nglazer, I was responding to Tabl10s. His name is Neal, too. Sorry for the confusion.

Enjoy your further research into the PWD Mk II. I hope to hear one in a few months at the Newport Show.
I think it's worth noting that quite a few Meitner BiDat fanatics have switched to the PWD2. This crowd are known for their allegiance to "musical" DACs in a "reasonable" price range.

That said, I have to admit that the differences between the best 10 DACs could be considered relatively subtle. The reason I've settled on the PWD2 is that it hits my price/performance sweet spot. I'd have to spend more than twice its price to hear what I consider to be a significant improvement and I just don't have the green. Every DAC has a character and I could live with many of them. The PWD1 was a darned good DAC but it still had a somewhat digital quality that left me yearning for something better. With the PWD2, I find myself listening to my music and instead of focusing on my gear. What's that worth? I dunno, but I like it very much.

A final note: a buddy who moved on from the PWD1 to the Bel Canto battery powered flagship emailed me to ask whether I'd compared the PWD2 to the latest Bel Canto upgrade (MKII). I was unaware of the upgrade so my previous post does not apply to it. This is important because I trust my friend's good taste and he says the Bel Canto upgrade is stellar. The pace of digital improvement is crazy right now and I suspect strides in computing chips down the road will bring us to previously unattainable heights.
Actually it's Howard.
I would giver Walter Leiderman at Underwood HiFi a call, as he carries both the Wyred 4 Sound and the Perfect Wave DACs. (He also prices the Perfect Wave DAC very "competitively", so the difference in actual price between the two DACs is not going to be as large the retail prices suggest.) I know that he told me that the W4S DAC2 was pretty close to the Perfect Wave DAC Mk 1. But that the Perfect Wave DAC Mk 2 is a big improvement over the Mk 1 version.

I personally own two sets of Perfect Wave DACs/Transports, one set for my stereo rig and one set for my headphone rig. I have owned them for a couple of years and -- despite changing virtually every other component in my system a few times, including preamp and power amp -- I have no desire to change my digital source. The Perfect Wave DAC/Transport is simply revelatory and was the single biggest upgrade to my system I have ever made. Larger than switching from a McIntosh MC275 power amp to a VAC Phi 200 power amp at a $5K jump in price. The Perfect Wave gear just seems to get digital "right". And I have tried a variety of other digital sources, including Ayon, Northstar, and Raysonic.

My one quibble with the Perfect Wave DAC was that the soundstage seemed a little narrow and didn't extend too far beyond the perimeter of my speakers. The MK2 version seems to address this quibble, creating a wider soundstage and better stereo separation. The MK2 version also has substantially better bass and improved inner detail/resolution. It is a significant upgrade over the MK1 version. My understanding from PS Audio is that the MK2 digital board also makes the Perfect Wave Transport somewhat less "essential", since every digital input (coaxial, AES/EBU, USB) now has the proprietary "digital lens" that dramatically reduces jitter and pre-ringing, making all inputs sound very nearly identical. I imagine one could now use a less expensive transport -- say an Oppo unit -- and still end up with fantastic sound quality.
Now I am really confused!

I plan on attending the NY Audio Show at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in 2 weeks, and I am sure they will have a full array of DAC's to listen to , although one never kniows which particular component is making the difference.


I think you're right on target about the digital lens. I'm auditioning the newest Shunyata digital XLR that is bettering my Harmonic Tech Audio Only HDMI to the I2S...something I didn't think was possible. I also find eupsample measly Pandora feed over a coax sounds significantly better than it ever did before the MKII board.

Btw, I bought my original PWD from Wally...great guy!
6 months on with wider distribution of PWD MK II, any further comparos to share? I am very comfortable with W4S DAC2, especially since I connected it to Bryston BDP-1, but you know how it is . . . . As K D Laing sang, constant craving.

when you compare dacs, you have to ask what transports are being used with them.

a particular transport that works well with one dac may not match as well with another.

so you have to compare dac/transport combinations. even if someone has compared both dacs with a particular transport, the outcome may change if the transport changes.
I agree with Mr. Tennis. I hear people commit this error all the time.


Have you seen Cordesman's review of the MKII in TAS? You can download it at the PSAudio website for free.
Mr Tennis is spot on imho. I'd go one step further and specify/consider connection type and cabling. Sgr put it perfectly a few years ago when he said the pwd was " cameilian like"......or sensitive to its surroundings.

I found the pwd responded to even the slightest of tweaks/adjustments and changes. It's the first piece of gear I've owned where improved vibration control actually became audible and easy to detect. Connection type and wire are even more so.

You can make this dac sound any way you via supporting cast. The dac itself does/adds nothing to the recording (which could be bad for poor recordings). But for good recordings and hi res, I'm yet to hear a more musical dac.

Getting the pwd1 and not upgrading it to mk2 should be considered a crime =)

Yes....the mk2 sounds that good!
Thanks for your comments. I principally use a Bryston BDP-1 digital player to feed the W4S DAC2 with a Stealth Sexter AES/EBU digicable.. It is a great product. Occassionally use my modded CEC TL-1x with a Kharma RCA digicable. Best transport I have ever heard.

I have read the TAS review, which is what prompted my question. Still not sure whether to try the Mk II.

I don't have much experience with the W4S, aside from having heard it at shows. I always thought it sounded great in those venues, but couldn't make a fair comparison. But, since the thread started, I picked up a PWD Mk II and PWT, and it's pretty safe to say that my digital needs for the next few years are taken care of. I've been extremely happy with the units.

I'd spent a bit of time in the PS Audio room at RMAF after the PWD/PWT debuted and had been impressed with it then. The fact that they offered customers who had purchased the original unit a clear upgrade path reinforced my decision that it was the right way for me to go. As of now, I am just using the PWT with the bulkier HDMI cable from Blue Jeans Cable. Perhaps down the road, I'll check out the Harmonic Technology Magic cable, but for now I have no complaints. I've also been using various laptops to stream and play back music files, and again, it sounds great. Whatever they are doing in terms of the Digital Lens, does seem to work to minimize differences in transports.

Down the road, I'll check out the Bridge and Silent Server, but I'm waiting to see how that plays out, in terms of their software eLyric and its development. I'm fine with Decibel, Foobar2k, and Rhythmbox for now, on their respective OS platforms. It will be nice to simplify down to one program for my stereo, but it seems to be a work in progress, according to the PS Audio forum reports. I feel fairly confident that they'll arrive at a nicely integrated digital front end solution, but I'm still going to wait a bit before jumping on it. I have most of my files in FLAC and don't have a strong desire to go the Apple music server route. I have high hopes for the Silent Server, but will wait until it's out for a while before getting that and the bridge. I may also look into the music servers sold by Sonore, which use Linux. We'll see.

If you haven't seen it, this review of the Mk II is also worthwhile reading for someone interested in the unit:
Have the W4S DAC-2 paired with PWT and Bryston BDP-1. PWT coonected by I2s and the Bryston transport by AES/EBU. I am very happy with the performance of the digital sources. My understanding from what I read is the W4S DAC is pretty close to the first version of the PWD, but the MK-2 is a big step up. With the Bryston, I don't really need the bridge. Guess I'll need to audition the new PSAudio DAC.
Those are two great transports. Is one better than the other? Ive read great things about the PWT and Bdp 1.
Was wondering the same thing re: W4S vs PWD II. Using the Audiophelleo2 with the W4S was a huge jump, understand that using the Offramp is potentially even better...
With the NativeX implementation wondering if PWD II takes that to a new level? Would appreciate anyone's thoughts or experiences...
Use lossless files off a Mac mini primarily, occasionally will use an Oppo as a transport.
I have made the move and there really is no comparison: the PSA PWD MkII, once burned in, is audibly superior in every respect. That said, I enjoyed and respect the W4S DAC2 and could have happily continued to live with it. While it does not have the inner detail, crisp highs, or thunderous bass or soundstaging of the PWD MkII, it had an ineffable organic quality to it that was very pleasing and liveable.

So if you have the coin, the change would be very rewarding; if not, I would not in any way feel audibly deprived.


Well put. I feel the same way about my old modded Meitner Bidat. It's a classic, but time marches on.
Sorry to bring this thread back to life again.
I just got my me pwd ii with bridge. First impression out of the box is that it is inferior to my oppo 95 at least through the coax cable. It has narrower soundstage and seems less extended. Now I am hoping that break in period is required for the Pwd and that the bridge will soound better than coax. Otherwise, I spent all the money only to find out my 2 year old Oppo is better? I am really sweating, in panic and a little upset
Good luck with that...the PWD should be quite a good piece of equipment. Take your time.
Just relax and stay patient.
Gago1101, I have read the PWD needs significant time to break in. Head on over to the user forum at for more info.
I've heard the Oppo 95 and, against my well-broken in PWDII, it's no contest. Your unit needs several hundred hours to sound its best. Don't turn it off between sessions and let it run for at least two weeks continuously. Anthony Cordesman of TAS and hundreds of discerning audio fans who can afford far more expensive DACs than the PWD are not crazy in their selection of this DAC. Of course, there are better DACs than the PWDII; the stock Oppo is simply *not* one of them. Like any high end DAC, the unit will sound it's best with the best possible digital interconnect.
After playing a few days and connecting the bridge, I have to say the sound continues to improve and the soundstage has opened up significantly.

Also, I was trying to figure out the best connection for the bridge and integration with my Apple airport extreme. Ps Audio tech told me Apple wi fi bridge more would not work well as they do not support UPNP. I cannot use power-line as it sucks in my house. You cannot use USB wifi adapters either. Finally, I found the NETGEAR Universal Wi-Fi adapter, which is one of the only adapters that act as a bridge and work with Apple. It gets its power from a usb line and provides the ethernet cable out. It works like a charm, and I can stream my 192Khz Flac files at about 6000kbps with no dropouts at all. Pretty satisfied.
Very sound advice from Vhiner, much word of mouth confirmation from owners say it's a exceptional DAC.
If, after a few weeks and you are satisfied with its performance, you might
want to check the forums about upgrading your two fuses to
Hifi Tuning Supremes (very significant performance boost, IMHO). If you
want to hear what any DAC is truly capable of, upgrade the power cord.
Digital playback is very, very susceptible to electrical noise.
i'll second Vhiner's comments and take it one step further. my PWDII/Bridge/PWT are the most sensitive pieces of gear i've ever owned. power supply, power cords, fuses and vibration/isolation all made substantial improvements in sound...when similar upgrades were much harder to notice in the rest of my set-up.

went into the fuse upgrade thinking no way could this work....walked away completely impressed. just like dedicated power lines, PC's and a nice rack.... the sound just kept getting better!.

break in was incredibly long (300-500 hours). thought i was there after 300 hours as things were sounding really good. then....200 hours was sounding even better??. you will know when you get there =)

also...don't forget to use CAT 6 or 7 Ethernet cables. they made a difference for me as well (yep...i know this is crazy).
This doesn't appear to be the issue, but just for others' reference, I tried an Oppo 95 as a transport for the PWD, and it was really terrible. Lots of the bad characteristics that were listed above. I loved the Oppo's video, but it was really a poor match with the dac and I returned it to Amazon within my 30 day window. I ended up using that money to buy a MacMini, and it completely turned around my impression of the PWD... especially once I copied all my disks over to a harddrive. I haven't heard the PW Transport, but using a computer server with the PWD was really a spectacular solution.

You should probably check out the next firmware upgrade when it comes out. I hear it may be a big step forward....of course nothing is real until it's out of beta.

PSAudio has the best user community I've ever encountered and, as others have mentioned, the user forums on its website are a rich resource.
I lived happily with a DAC2 for the last two years. It replaced a Benchmark DAC1 HDR, which I could I found unforgivably sterile, anylytical, and dry. The DAC2 had plenty of resolution, and added meat to the Benchmark's bones. Over time, though, I began to feel like the DAC2 was a little bit flat in terms of dynamics and imaging. It also bothered me a little bit that its volume control had a narrow sweet spot; to my ears it only came alive at 50 and began to feel unrelaxed north of 58 or 60.

The PWD MKII I bought last week puts my system in a completly different league. Out of the box I warmed it up for 90 minutes, selected the NativeX setting, and sat my wife down in the sweet spot to hear its first noted played. "Holy Sh*t! Are you f*cking kidding me?" was her immediate appraisal of the change.

I have never heard a top end so extended, yet so sweet and liquid. The bass, likewise, feels limitless and yet has a pitch delineation that I have not ever heard in my room. Detail retrieval in the midrange is stunning. Even in very familiar recordings I am hearing things I never knew were present on the masters. For example, last night's listen was Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon's album _Clone._ I heard occasional fret buzz on an open E string that had been obscured before. Even further, I could hear the pitches of individual strings on strummed chords in a manner completely new to me.

All this detail seems to come with no perceptible harshness or fatigue. I just want to keep listening to everything that I have.

I am one happy camper over here. Neal, are you still feeling the same way? Also, have you noticed any ups or downs in the break-in process?

There will be a little roller coaster ride during break in, but if you're this happy right out of the box, you are gonna be over the moon after 300 hours. Keep it on and in operation for best results. Once it's broken in, go for a Shunyata power cord and get ready for hyperspace. ;-)
Cymbob, are you using the bridge?

A nice improvement is changing the fuses. Try HiFi Tuning Supremes ... direction is back to front.
+1 to what Vhiner said.
Do you have to take the top off of the perfect wave transport to upgrade the fuse? I don't see a little screw in the back like most of ps audio components have for the fuse.
Kng, for budgetary reasons I'm going to stick with my Squeezebox Touch until it goes belly-up. Then I'll go for the bridge or whatever updated version of it might be available. I expect the bridge will sound better than my SBT due to the extra digital lens.

Regarding break-in, I'm going to be zen and take my sweet time with it! I power on the system for about 5 hours a day, so it will take me 2-3 months to accomplish at that rate. The PWD was a stretch for me and I'll live with it for a long time, so if I can get improvements over the next 12 weeks without doing anything, that's like getting tweaks for free!

I will echo what a prior poster (Vhiner?) mentioned that even a 192 mp3 from Pandora now sounds damn near as good as redbook did before. That's stunning.