PS Audio PerfectWave DAC MkII: One of the World's Best DACs Gets Even Better
For a Limited-Time, Get a Free PS Audio Memory Player When You Purchase a PerfectWave DAC - A $4,000 Value
NOTE: This Promotion for the PS Audio PWD MkII and Transport are NOT Included in the October Trade-In Promotion
PS Audio's PerfectWave DAC set a new benchmark for digital-to-analog conversion in the audiophile world. Now, PS Audio has exceeded its own impossibly high standards with the release of the PerfectWave DAC MkII. With an impressive array of updates to an already-proven design, the PWD MkII represents a major step forward for the world of digital audio.
"The DAC II is an outstanding buy, even at $3,995, and is one of the most musical front ends available at any price."
MkII Updates Include:
– Anthony H. Cordesman, The Absolute Sound
- A new Native X digital lens reduces incoming jitter levels to below 1 pico second for a smoother, analog-like sound.
- Asynchronous USB connectivity capable of 24 bit/192kHz performance and uncompromized sound quality.
- 11 new local power supplies for lower noise, jitter and talk-back, and an increased openness to the sound.
- Lowered jitter clocks provide audible improvements in improved upper harmonics of instruments and a reduction in digital glare.
- A balance control, capable of shifting the balance between left and right in small 1/10th of a dB increments to customize the sound for your room.
- High-Speed Analog Switches in the digital path do not go into saturation mode, do not add jitter or timing issues and produce a life-like, natural analog-like presentation to the music.
- The new digital processing board has 10dB lower emitted radiated digital noise than its predecessor.
The PWD is a reference-level outboard DAC, designed to mate with the PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport.
The PWD sets a new standard for DACs at any price. Not only does it
look gorgeous, the PWD is one of the most “analog-like” in its sonic
signature. Paired with the PS Audio PWT,
this combination sounded like a digital system for ten times the cost!
The DAC will decode almost any sampling rate and offers many different
up-sampling options, although it seems to sound best at standard
16bit/44.1kHz through PS Audio's ingenious i2s over HDMI connection with the PWT.
Eventually, PS Audio will release products for hard-drive storage in a
matching chassis, making this DAC and transport the hub for one of the
most ambitious music server systems ever developed by an audiophile
READ MORE: The groundbreaking PerfectWave Digital to
Analog Converter (PWD) is a remarkable product. The PWD is the first
high-end product to fully transcend the limitations of traditional
Digital to Analog Converters (DACs) by providing uncompromised
performance for any media delivery or storage system possible. This
means that it no longer matters how the digital audio data is stored or
delivered, the PWD produces the same high performance audio sent over a
network, taken from a hard drive, a CD or even downloaded via the
The PWD is a complete solution that can be used in a multitude of
ways. As a standalone DAC, the PWD will accept inputs from any digitally
connected source such as the Wadia iTransport, a CD player, CD
transport, satellite receiver, music server or computer. As a
preamplifier control center, the PWD connects directly to your power
amplifier controlling both the volume and any of the seven (possible)
If you are not interested in playing optical discs (CD’s or DVD’s)
directly, the PWD a network connection and a power amplifier are all you
need for a complete high-end music system the likes of which have never
been available in one affordable, easy to use, high-end product.
Full Color Touch Screen
The PerfectWave DAC has a simple faceplate with only two elements
apparent: a power button and a color LCD touch screen. Through the touch
screen you can control an amazing number of features, functions and
even music. As a DAC, you can use the touch screen to select any of the 7
digital inputs and assign any one of 6 sample rates and 5 filters that
fit that input perfectly and the choices will be memorized by the PWD.
You can control the phase and the volume with a simple touch of your
finger or press of the supplied remote control. You can even assign each
of the inputs a custom name so instead of the usual “input 1” it can
now read “PerfectWave Transport”, “Music Server”, “Wadia iTransport”
As a Music Server (with the optional network Bridge installed), the
touch screen becomes an indispensible tool that allows you to scroll
through your connected music library, tune Internet radio stations, see
cover art and song titles of what is playing at the moment and perform
any network setup tasks that may be required.
7 Digital Inputs
The PWD has 7 digital inputs that include two I2S over HDMI, an optical
TOSLINK, coax S/PDIF, balanced AES/EBU, 24 bit 96kHz USB and the network
Bridge (available this summer).
The most unique and valuable inputs on the PWD are the HDMI and the
network Bridge. The remaining digital inputs are standard types that
connect compatible equipment and accept up to 32 bit/192kHz digital
The HDMI inputs are designed not for accepting HDMI data, but instead
are utilized in a unique PS designed standard for I2S data. I2S data is
the native data management system within every transport, CD player and
DAC. It consists of three separate clocks and one digital audio data
line. The PWD’s unique I2S over HDMI delivers breathtaking audio
results. Openness and clarity like you’ve never experienced in your
digital audio system; ever.
The PWD as a Music Server
Perhaps the single most unique feature of the PWD is its ability to
become a music server with its optional network Bridge. Simply stated,
the Bridge is the PWD’s connection to the outside world. With the
Bridge installed, the DAC is no longer tethered to your nearby
components. Instead, the DAC now has access to digital audio data from
anywhere in your home or anywhere in the world. The Bridge spans the
gap between the first D to A converters ever built and the new age of
interconnected audio data from all over the world. It is, in fact, a
bridge into the future that turns the PerfectWave DAC into the
PerfectWave music server.
The first task is to store your music. There are really only two choices
to store music; on an internal or external hard drive. Using an
internal hard drive is restrictive because of potential noise issues and
the chassis limits the size and type of drive. External hard drives
offer absolute quiet remote operation and the greatest freedom and
flexibility between the two options.
The PWD system is built around the external remotely located hard
drive. This is by far the best solution because it allows PWD owners to
choose from hundreds of available options and sizes and allows for
unlimited future expansion of the library.
The average 2 or 3 thousand CD collection can be stored on 1 to 2
terabytes of data with no loss of quality. With the many available
external hard drive options, a 2 terabyte drive can be purchased for
$300 and those prices a dropping rapidly. These high quality drives are
available all over the world and with PS Audio’s intuitive
plug-and-play architecture, installing the drive couldn’t be easier.
Connect any DLNA compatible NAS (there are many to choose from) to
your home network, copy your music to the NAS and you are done. The PWD
will find the NAS anywhere in your home, or even a thousand miles away,
and you are ready to play.
Instead of a fixed volume hard drive installed into a piece of
equipment in your listening room, the PS system offers you the ultimate
freedom and flexibility that only a network attached storage device can
offer. The NAS can be stored away from the listening room, added to at
any time, has no size restrictions, easy to backup and easy to share
with your friends. Accessing the stored music is the job of the PS
The Network Bridge
Inside the Bridge is a remarkable piece of engineering that consists of 3
main elements: the communication portal, the musical format interpreter
and a Digital Lens.
The communication portal allows the bridge to communicate with
devices on your local network or on a remotely located device or service
through the Internet. If your home has DLNA compatible storage or
media devices on the network, the Bridge discovers them automatically
and makes them available through the front panel touch screen or our
upcoming iPod and iPhone wireless remote control application (you can
see this in action in our video). If you are interested in Internet
services such as Internet Radio or perhaps another media library at your
office or second home, the bridge can find these as well and give you
Once the communication path has been established the Bridge can
accept almost any format of music storage such as FLAC, MP3, AIFF,
Windows media, WAV etc. and convert them into the format best suited for
the PWD. This conversion takes place through the Bridge’s powerful
onboard processor and once completed, the raw musical data is sent to
the internal Digital Lens.
The Built in Digital Lens
The Digital Lens is the key to the success of the Bridge. Without it,
the type of transmission and the quality of the data would have a major
impact on the sonic qualities of the music. To date, no one has gotten
this part right. All the other attempts at transferring data over a
network have been compromised at best. High level of jitter, errors and
improper formatting for best sonics plague every system we have
examined to date.
The built in Lens on the bridge gets it right. A Digital Lens is a
device that takes any quality of digital audio data and focuses it to a
single, perfect point of data. The Lens does this with the use of a
very large digital storage tank (memory) coupled with a jitter free set
of asynchronous (disconnected) clocks to output data to the Lens in
perfect I2S format.
This means that regardless of how the musical data is sent, via the
internet, the network or through the PerfectWave Transport from a CD or
DVD, the quality of the data reaching the PWD is the same. Finally, a
system that does not care how the data is sent or stored has arrived as
the world’s finest sounding music server ever built.
The net result of these technological marvels is something to
behold. The beautiful full color touch screen on the PWD gives you a
great user interface. The Bridge handles data from any storage device
you own or accesses music from anywhere in the world, and the internal D
to A processor of the PWD converts that digital data into analog music
that is warm, natural and musically satisfying beyond your expectations.
Front Panel Accessible Features
Now that you have digital audio data entering the PWD, either through
its PWT partner, an external digital source, or the internal network
Bridge, it’s time to control that data through the many options
available on the front panel touch screen.
Sample Rate Converter
CD’s are all recorded at a fixed sample rate of 44.1 kHz and uses 16 bit
words. Other media, such as SACD, DVDA and HRx, are recorded with
either the same or higher sample rates and anywhere from 16 to 32 bits,
depending on the media and author.
It is technically possible to raise any sample rate and bit rate to a
higher level through the use of a sample rate converter (SRC). These
devices are amazing number crunching mathematic marvels that have been
used since the beginning of the CD. They perform their magic by what is
known as data manipulation. Their principal value is to reduce jitter,
increase bit depth and sample rate so subsequent digital filters can
The PWD has one of the most sophisticate SRC’s made providing 6
choices of sample rate improvement through the front panel touch
screen. They have included this sophisticated SRC for two reasons: it
is expected and in some cases, beneficial. Also, they have included a
way to defeat the SRC.
This may all sound very strange as we have become used to the idea
that “more is better”. If 44.1 kHz is good, then surely 88.2 kHz is
better and 192 kHz is the best. In some cases this is true but if you
have a chance to audition the PWD and spend some time with this marvel
you may discover that the ability to bypass the SRC is perhaps better in
many cases. SRC’s manipulate data to do their work. DAC designers of
nearly every company, including PS Audio, use them to lower incoming
jitter and add features to the front panel. But years of research and a
lot of engineering have demonstrated to us that while effective, use of
the SRC can be a mixed bag.
We labeled the SRC bypass as “Native Mode” because it allows you to
bypass completely the SRC’s data manipulation and listen to the raw data
as it is sent natively from the source. In most cases, Native Mode
sounds far superior to any of the SRC choices, including 24 bit 192 kHz.
This is a stunning advancement in DAC technology that the
implementation of the internal D to A processor on the PWD is good
enough to permit the native 44.1 kHz 16 bit to outperform the upsampled
24 bit 192 kHz from the SRC.
This feature is easily audible. For example, when using either the
Bridge or the HDMI I2S inputs on the PWD there is no jitter to eliminate
and so there is no technical need to use the SRC. Running the data
through the SRC is sonically inferior to bypassing the SRC and it is an
easy and demonstrable test to make. Simply switch between native and
44.1kHz to see. Or go the other way and switch between Native mode and
The SRC is a valuable feature when the source you are using is of
rather low digital quality such as that from an Apple TV, low cost CD
player, Squeezebox, Sonos or third party network enabled system.
The PWD offers great flexibility for any source attached and once you
hear a high quality source played through our exclusive Native Mode,
you won’t ever consider going back to a DAC with a SRC in its path.
Every DAC made uses both a digital filter as well as an analog filter to
get the audio as close to the analog signal the recording engineer
started with. The digital filter is a part of the DAC and the analog
filter is a part of the analog output stage.
All filters are “double edge swords” meaning they have both good and
bad traits. The good is that they eliminate unwanted noise and digital
artifacts that would wreak havoc on the music were they to remain. The
bad includes the damage they add to the music when they perform their
functions which include phase shift, ringing and pre-echo.
To understand the complex world of filters we’ll need to take a brief
journey back in time to the beginning of the CD player and DAC. In the
early days of CD players and DACS digital filters were in their
infancy. These filters were extremely steep “Brickwall” style filters
which means they kept the audio portion untouched and removed everything
above the audio very rapidly.
These filters were so technically sophisticated that up until a year
or two ago they have all been essentially the same for the last 25
years. Unfortunately, these filters have a dark side and that side of
them contributes to an unnatural presentation of the music that is often
referred to as the “digital sound”.
Audiophiles have known that “digital sounds digital” and while
progress has been made, rarely has any digital audio system approached
the musically natural performance of the best analog setups. This class
of filters is partly to blame.
Known as Linear Phase Filters their strongest attribute are, as their
name implies, the lack of phase shift in the audio band. A phase shift
mess with harmonic overtones in a time related sense and contributes to
an unnatural presentation of the instruments. These Linear Phase
Filters solve that problem but add another: pre-ringing (sometimes
referred to as pre-echo).
Imagine an echo occurring before a musical note rather than after the
note. This is the effect of pre-ringing and it is extremely
unnatural. In fact, we understand now that this induced echo is more
damaging than even a little phase shift.
Minimum Phase and Apodizing filters
Up until a very short time ago, there was no cure for the pre-ringing
“blues”. But recently a new class of filters has emerged called
Apodizing filters and these are able to completely eliminate the
pre-ringing of the filters and do so with minimum phase damage to the
upper octaves of the music.
So natural are these filters that they just had to be added to the
PWD. On the front panel touch screen of the PWD we have made available 5
separate filter choices and among those choices are several Minimum
Phase Apodizing filters along with several Linear Phase filters.
We offer these filter choices because our experience has shown that
different digital sources sound better with different digital filters.
The PWD will actually memorize each of the filter choices for each of
the inputs so when you choose your favorite filter it will always come
up to optimize the particular input you have selected.
The 5 filters available on the PWD are:
1. Linear phase ‘soft knee filter’
2. Minimum phase ‘soft knee filter’
3. Linear phase Brickwall filter
4. Minimum phase apodizing filter
5. Linear phase apodizing filter
One of the handiest features on the PWD that will see a great deal
of use is the polarity (phase) control. This touch screen option
(available on the remote as well) allows users to select normal or
inverted phase for every input and for every performance.
It is common knowledge that sources and music have seemingly no
standard for absolute polarity. This fact is easily demonstrated by
switching polarities on the PWD as the music plays. Many Audiophiles
mark their discs in phase and out of phase and are very careful to
select the proper phase before playing each disc.
Some CD players and sources themselves invert phase so that a disc
you believe is inverted actually is correct played on a specific device
and incorrect on yet another. To fix this problem you can assign each
input on the PWD to switch to the proper polarity when you activate that
Inside the PWD itself
Inside the PWT is an amazing piece of engineering that features the
latest in technology coupled with parts quality and circuitry of the
The heart of the PWD is a Wolfson WM8741 stereo differential DAC, one
of the latest generations of high-end DACS in the world. The
extraordinary low order modulator and multi-bit DAC architecture found
in the WM8742 achieves low out-of-band noise and world-class linearity
for outstanding sound quality.
The DAC displays characteristics typically associated only with
extraordinarily expensive high end audio products including group delay,
phase and latency, impulse response and transition band roll off. These
features significantly reduce pre-ringing and give maximum
insensitivity to clock jitter.
PS Audio’s move to the Wolfson family of DACs is a major shift for
the company. Formerly, in award winning products like the DLIII DAC, PS
Audio engineering featured the Texas Instruments’ family of multi-bit
DACs. The shift to Wolfson is a result of hundreds of hours of
listening and evaluating in the sound room and the Wolfson family, the
first of a new generation of DACs, trounced the TI parts which are the
last of TI’s older technology.
One of the loftier goals of the PerfectWave series was to build a
product that is “pre-tweaked” and would be a difficult challenge to
modify for better performance after purchase. PS Audio products are
often modified by aftermarket modification services because of their
robust engineering and liberal warranty policies that encourage
modifiers to “have at it”. PS Audio is proud that so many excellent
aftermarket modification services use our products as their platform of
choice, but we wanted to challenge these innovative entrepreneurs with
the PerfectWave series.
In the analog section of the PWD they went all out and spared
nothing. First we eliminated all the surface mount parts in the signal
path. Years of listening have confirmed for us the surface mount
capacitors and resistors sound inferior to the best “through hole”
passives. In our more affordable products surface mount parts help keep
costs down and sound great. But when it comes to the PW series we were
unwilling to budge even a little.
Every component is hand chosen. Resistors are the best in the world
PRP PR9372 audio resistors. Power supply capacitors are hand selected
Nichicon and Panasonic low ESR types.
The audio path is, of course, completely direct coupled from input to
output but there are a few audio capacitors needed in ancillary
positions and here we chose the highly regarded Nichicon Muse Audio
In the ever important analog power supply, large transformers handled
by discrete Jung regulators proliferate the analog circuit board.
Because the PWD is a no-holds-barred high-end DAC we made sure there
were absolutely no integrated circuits or op amps of any kind in the
signal path. None. Every component is a discrete proprietary audio
design developed and refined over the last 35 years of audio design
expertise and experience.
Outside the PWD
The chassis of the PWD is a metal sculpture that rivals the best ever
built. A combination of aluminum and steel, the PWD weighs in at 20
pounds of elegance and beauty. The top cover is a hand painted, hand
polished piano black cover that has been lavished over for hours.
When you receive your PWD, you’ll find a pair of soft white gloves to
pull the unit out of its protective cotton sleeve and unveil its
beauty. Every person who has had the opportunity to see a PerfectWave
in person has the same initial reaction: they reach out and softly
caress it’s finish and admire its beautiful lines.
Built in Boulder
The PerfectWave series is assembled, programmed and tested at our new
production facility in Boulder Colorado. Instead of the typical
production line process, each PWD is hand built by one person from
beginning to end. There is a measure of pride of workmanship that goes
into every one of these PerfectWave products and it shows from the
moment you open the unit up and plug it in.
This is one gorgeous piece of equipment and just the beginning of the
most beautiful natural sounding audio equipment you have ever had the
privilege to own.
- State of the art D to A processor
- Direct output to power amplifier
- High resolution volume control
- Full color touch screen
- Assign custom input names
- Polarity inversion control
- Remote control
- Sample rate converter bypass
- 6 sample rates
- 5 assignable filters
- Triangulated dither
- Asynchronous clock
- 7 digital inputs (one internal)
- 24 bit/192kHz Asynchronous USB
- I2S direct via HDMI
- Discrete analog output stage
- PRP PR9372 audio resistors
- Nichicon and Panasonic power supply capacitors
- Nichic Muse Audio caps
- Jung regulators
- 32 bit input compatibility
- Extremely low jitter performance
- Access music over network
- Identical performance over network
- Direct to amp output offers open sound
- I2S as well as traditional digital inputs
- Perfect digital transfer via I2S inputs
- View cover art and song titles over network
- Hand selected audio grade components
- Sample rate bypass improves clarity
- Eliminates pre-echo for musically natural playback
- Reduces post echo for natural analog warmth
- All USB standards supported