PS Audio PWT - cd transport

Category: Digital

When I first saw a picture of the PS Audio PWT transport I did not think too kindly of it, as it appeared to be formed plastic but with reading the PS Audio website info on it, it made good electronic sense to me.

Reading the disc via a ‘read till right’ program – in other words, it does not automatically implement ‘error code correction’ (ecc) programming when misreading a disc, instead it reads and rereads the disc up to 100 times (not utilizing the drive cache) before resorting to ecc. Once this data is extracted from the disc it is sent to RAM memory where it is stored for a brief period. This middle storage point separates the disc from the transport’s output, thereby allowing for rereading till right data (explained above) and eliminates timing errors (by reclocking the data from this point forward, instead of using the clocked data stream directly read from the disc). This memory buffer does not manipulate or change the disc data at all – it’s still what was on the disc, only now more accurate in content and more accurate in timing. This is the data output.

Anyway, after being explained this info by Paul McGowan and Ryan Conway, I was intrigued enough to buy one. First off, I can say that I pleasantly surprised and happy to report that the transport is not made of plastic, its either aluminum or steel, and it is heavy and well damped. But, the remote is made of plastic and is pretty cheap feeling – oh well. There is no buttons on the unit, all input is either via remote or via a touch screen on the unit. The touch screen is a nice touch (couldn’t resist;) – it allows for operation but also displays disc title and song name with album cover art (if the unit is connected to your internet).

But enough with the side show stuff – what does it sound like? House keeping first - I have about 348 hours on it now, it sets ontop of Symposium Rollerblocks,, I’m using a Grover Huffman Sc AES/EBU digital line to my custom Audio Note DAC, and I’m using an Grover Huffman Sx power cable. The rest of my system consists of Atma-Sphere MP-3 pre and MA-1 amps and Quad 988 esl’s. This consists of the base line and comparisions are made against a Accustic Arts Drive 1 mk1 transport.

Now then;

Most obvious is a total lack of digititis – no etching, no “over emphasized” sharp edges, no glare. Instead, you get a VERY organic sound, but mind you, it’s not bloated, softened, or rounded – the best description is ‘natural’. Significantly more liquid than the Accustic Arts.

A dramatic increase in soundstage and dimensionality. Instruments are spread out with plenty of air and space around them. Open air, breath. Whole stage depth presented. Much more extension in my sound stage width, now uncannily extends beyond the sidewalls.

Articulate and detailed, but again no etch or glare. Fast. Slam. Tight. Rhythmic. We have moved beyond toe-tappin’ and have entered the butt shakin’ realm. Very lively. No fatigue.

All is well extended in both directions, bottom to top. Nothing is bloated or sharp. – sonically very clear and focused. Micro and macro detail is really expressed nicely. But, the noise floor is bit higher than the Accustic Arts – not a totally “black” background. Lastly, on very busy passages, I detect a bit of grain – only on pieces very busy with treble (concurrent multi cymbals, highhat, triangles, +).

Putting it all together - Horns, bongos, vibes are holographic / 3 dimensional. Brass horns are “brassy” but not bright or shrill, instead mellow and sexy. Cymbals are crisp and have realistic brassy lingering overtones. Toms and snare are stout. Strings are beautiful and radiate mellow woodtones. While bass is deep and distinguishingly tonefull. Woodwinds are richfully hollow and resonate, Voices are lively, relaxed, and human. Again, my notes continuously go back to “organic” and “natural”. Very ‘smile on your face’!!!

Overall, I find myself really amazed. The PS Audio is literally 1/3rd the price of my Accustic Arts but is truly much more musical. Personally, I think it’s power supply could be cleaner but this does not distract from the organic sounds elicited – actually reminds me of good analogue. The PS Audio is without a doubt a giant-killer for its price-point and I feel I can recommend it without hesitance.

I am wonderfully happy with how well it has synergized and complimented my custom Audio Note DAC. Lastly, I should note, the PS Audio has read every disc I have placed in it without a single stoppage -- can't say that with Phillip's drive based transports.
Your review is well written and comprehensive in articulating it`s many good quailities. As I`ve told you on another tread your genuine enthusiasm and detailed insght really did stir my interest.I`m sure your music enjoyement is at an all time high, given your system you`ve obviously put in the time, effort and research to reach this point. Two other audiogon members Srg(who prefered the PS Audio duo over his M. Levinson gear) and Rogerwalk who did keep his Forsell transport but upon further review felt the PS Audio came quite close ( but not better). I`m eagerly awaiting the delivery of my PWT.
Nice reveiw. I agree. Here is some new info that can help out PWT owners.
Perfect Wave Transport Update

I just installed the Perfect Wave Update from PS Audio this weekend. It was well worth purchasing an SD cardreader and the few minutes it took to install it. Witht this update, the PWT can play FLAC, hi def WAV files, and I believe several others. I believe it also fixes the track counter issue and the fading display.
Besides, I can't swear to it, but it seemed to sound better too!
Contact PS Audio, and they'll send you the files.
When are you going to get the PWD?!
Hi all,

Did not want to start a new thread, so this one looks as good as any!

Anyone else using the PWT WITHOUT the PWD? I am getting a new DAC soon and am interested in using a PWT but would like to hear from others that the unit works just as good without its DAC counterpart and without using the i2s connection...
I did read a review where the reviewer thought his top-shelf cables through the aes/ebu connection beat out the i2s connection.

If you are using the PWT with a DAC other than the PWD, please let me know what you think.

Thanks so much!
I am using the PWT with the AMR DP-777. Stunning.
Jriggy,I`ve used the PWT with my Yamamoto DAC and the combination is superb.I feel the PWT is one of the very best sounding and very natural in presentation transports available. It will mate well with any good DAC IMO.
You guys had me going. A new concept that might actually play any disc I throw at it (as it should be) Maybe it is time to complement my analog system with a decent digital set up. Oh, then I did some checking and noticed it is FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS! Forget it.
The PWT is available used on a fairly regular basis.It`s an absolute audio bargain at used pricng and worth every penny.This is simply a top tier transport.
Hifiharv and Charles1dad,
I bought the PWT mint for about $1700 on Audiogon. It really is an absolute audio bargain. It is world class. IMO.
Thanks so much for the reasurance guys! Picking one up locally, for a great price, this week end...
Sabai, was especially good hearing your pairing. I'll be right there with ya with that combo.
Glad to hear you got a good deal. I'll be interested in reading your impressions. I have only about 120 hours on my AMR and it is already stunning. I understand it needs at least 500 hours to come into its own.
Thanks sabai. No demo for the PWT but I did do an in-home demo of the AMR and found every positive word posted about it to be true... Hope the same is true for the PWT.
I will report in the proper place once I have a handle of the pairing.
I hope you are as happy with the combination as I am.
Am running PWT via I2S into my upgraded W4S DAC2 se and by far this is the finest CD playback I have yet experienced.

I am very happy to still have the PWT in my system. It is going nowhere.
I feel the same as you. I've had my PWT -Yamamoto DAC combination four years and probably will for another 10-15 years. They make beautiful and involving Redbook CD music. A good friend uses the PWT with his Lampizator DAC with the same beautiful results.

I am looking to add the new PS Audio DS DAC to my system next year. I have the NAD M51 at the moment which is a great DAC -- a sleeper that performs far, far above its price point.
After having the PWT/W4S combo in place for two weeks now connected via Audioquest Carbon I2S, I am convinced that this form of connection is what in large part provides that extra level of detail and depth. From what I understand the I2S allows the three clock signals to remain discreet from the PWT to the DAC without having to first combine them prior to ouput and then separate per input as in USB, toslink or coax. Can you imagine, in fewer than 20 years we went from microsecond to femtosecond jitter, a million fold improvement.
Sorry, I meant billionfold.
WOW, didn't know anyone had posted to this thread in years... I too, still have my PWT and still love it. Cheers
The wonders of human hearing eh? But it sort of makes sense when you think that our ability to discern directionality via extremely small timing changes in sound allowed us to survive and evolve over millions of years. No wonder we invented music.
Great to find this thread again and nice to see y'all still enjoying the PWT. I still have mine in front of a Lampizator L4G4.
I have been recently wondering what I would have to spend to beat the PWT but maybe I should just leave it and concentrate elsewhere...
There really is nothing else out there like the PWT, and for that reason, it is an end point for CD playback for me. However, until you have heard playback from it via the I2S interface, that keeps the three clocking signals separate and discreet, you will not fully appreciate what this transport is capable of. But only PS Audio or Wyred4Sound currently offer DACs that are compatible with this connectivity. Compared to any other (Tos, UB etc, that combined the clocks and then re-separate them at the DAC) the improvment is profound. The staging alone is so much higher, wider and deeper with I2S.
I have been very pleased with my PWT too and it destroyed all of my regular throwaway dvd players. But there's MSB, BMC, and others and I'd be very curious how they compare.
Several of you stated that you wondered if there was a better transport than the PWT... Well, I have not heard the top Esoteric, or the MBL, or several of the other 10K + transports. I can say that my PWT replaced a Accustic Arts Drive 1, which the PWT totally destroyed the Accustic Arts. I too have thought about other ultra-high end transports but as Stevecham stated; there is nothing else out there that does what the PWT does... meaning that, only the new MSB and the Memoryplayer spins the disc, saves a bit to RAM, and then plays from RAM. I believe this is what makes the most significant difference. Now there is probably room for improvement... probably in parts quality (i.e. Black Gate caps, and so forth) or maybe not... I notice that when I opened mine up, seems like the power supply was rather whimpy but maybe since it's not doing anything but running digital extraction it does not matter... don't know. I can say this though, I have had increasing problems with the PWT not wanting to eject a CD - been getting worse and worse over the last year or so, recently becoming very frustrating. Thus, I decided to replace the DVD drive within it. After contacting PS Audio support and speaking about several techical aspects I decided to NOT go with a replacement Sampsung DVD drive (from PS Audio), instead I got a Lite On DVD drive for it. Why??? Supposedly, in the computer world, the Lite On is a better drive and offered several things like SMART-X which varies the drive speed to optimize data extraction, ABS mechanism to reduce vibration & noise while high speed rotating, and a belt driven drawer control with cast metal parts (the Sampsung was plastic parts) - sounded good to me... So that's what I bought and for half the price of what PS Audio wanted the Samsung for. The Lite On works perfectly. When I installed the new drive I also added Dynamat thick dampening material to the drive top and bottom, along with some cable shielding. The result is stellar - music is more articulate in the micro dynamics with blacker backgrounds and the drive ejects the CD without issue... Not night and day differences, minute but still noticeable -- I couldn't be more pleased. So maybe there is some room for improvement. BTW replacing the drive was as easy as turning a few screws and plugging 2 wires.
I should have added, the drive I got was the Lite-On HDS118.
Thanks Grateful, that's very good information to pass along.
I have been enjoying my PWT for many years. May I suggest that if your system is well developed and can use better cables an upgrade will produce even better results from your PWT.

My PWT sounds wonderful with my 32-bit STARS Audio Aero SE tube DAC, which is the Capitole SE without the transport.

However the unit I bought brand new freezes up whenever I leave a CD in it, even for under an hour. I sent it to PS Audio for repair under warranty and, while the found and fixed another problem with it, they refused to fix the bug that causes it to freeze up. PS Audio Customer Service Manager Alex Paananen told me that each and every one of these units locks up if you leave them on with a CD inside, and the only thing you can do is cycle the power using the On/Off switch on the back of the unit. He also told me that there was no timetable for fixing the bug. Does everyone else have the same problem? 

 In my humble opinion, a CD transport that costs $3999 should at least work out of the box, and if it doesn't the manufacturer should fix it or replace it - no excuses. I won't do business with a company that releases a "state of the art" product that sells for several thousand dollars with obvious design flaws, such as PS Audio. Your mileage may vary.

augwest I am sorry that you're having this trouble. I have used the PWT in my system for  over 6 years and haven't encountered this problem. Mine is obvious an older version.  I wonder how common this malfunction is. You'd think that this could be corrected.