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PerfectWave combo vs PWT+Berkeley


Masis
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Thought I would post my experience from this past weekend here.

 

My friend is torn between the PS combo vs Transporter (he already has) + Berkeley. He has tried my Berkeley and absolutely love it.

 

So he arranged the audition on Sat at at a local (Hong Kong) shop. I brought my Berkeley with me. Light and easy.

 

I have been intrigued by the PS combo and have high expectations for the PS.

 

We did the following test:

1) PWT+PWD->Stello Amp -> ProAc

2) PWT+Berkeley -> Stello Amp -> ProAc

3) Stello CDT + Berkeley -> Stello Amp -ProAc

 

The conclusion, mutually from both my friend and I was 2, 3, 1.

 

So in short, the Berkeley is in our humble opinions, significantly better than the PS DAC. We WANTED to like the PS DAC, in fact, my friend brought like 10 discs, and we played through all the discs we brought with the first setup. Everything sounded very good, and my friend told me he was about to decide to go with the PS Combo.

 

Then we switched the PWD out and put in the Berkeley. The difference was actually quite obvious. There is a sense of smoothness and richness that simply was not found with the PWD. Before 1 track of music is over, my friend decided it was no longer necessary, because the Berkeley clearly won. I totally agree with him.

 

Is the PWD bad? No. It was a good sounding DAC, but it just wan't the Berkeley, which has this unique ability to constantly give me goosebumps.

 

My friend ask the sales to connect a Stello CDT (UD1k) just to try out if the PWT is better than a normal transport. And it is. PWT is clearly better than the Stello CDT.

 

So as insane as it may sound to some, the PWT + Berkeley is in our opinions, better than the PS Combo, using its I2S cable.

 

I am gonna stick with the Berkeley for sure. I was tempted to get a PS combo and have two front ends setup, but it's pointless. The Berkeley is imho so much better, the PWD is not in the picture. PWT on the

other hand will allow me to read 24/192 discs and connect to the Berkeley. Since Transporter tops out at 24/96, it will be useful. But I don't have much above 24/96 at this point. So better wait and see... (for my case)

 

ws

 

discless since 2005

 

Power: Equitech 5WQ-E | Primary Source: Mac Mini with Pure Music | USB Interface: Soulution 590 | Amps: Dual Devialet D-Premier in Dual Mono mode | Subwoofer: Wilson Benesch Torus + Torus Amp + DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core | Speakers: Magico Q1

 

Semi-Retired Equipment: AudioMachina Maestro S | Aurender S10 | Transporter | TacT 2.2XP | BADA USB | BADA Series 2

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Sorry if this sounds like a troll and thank you for making the post, but is it really that surprising that the Berkerley beats the PS Audio P.W.DAC?

 

The Berkerley Alpha DAC is (IIRC) close to $6000. The PS Audio PWD is around $3000.

 

Maybe all it proves is that using a "headline" grabbing i2s connection will not (as many people on other threads have stated) provide amazing improvements in SQ. It's all about the rest of the engineering of the device. The only other things it shows is that spending double on a DAC will provide performance improvements, and spending more on the transport (probably providing lower jitter, etc.) improves the performance of a DAC.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Hi Eloise,

 

Yes indeed, my point was that the I2S cable does not do magic. That's exactly what I was trying to say. Sorry I didn't make it clear enough.

 

Berkeley DAC costs USD5k here, whereas the PS DAC costs USD3200.

 

 

 

discless since 2005

 

Power: Equitech 5WQ-E | Primary Source: Mac Mini with Pure Music | USB Interface: Soulution 590 | Amps: Dual Devialet D-Premier in Dual Mono mode | Subwoofer: Wilson Benesch Torus + Torus Amp + DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core | Speakers: Magico Q1

 

Semi-Retired Equipment: AudioMachina Maestro S | Aurender S10 | Transporter | TacT 2.2XP | BADA USB | BADA Series 2

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I've had a PWT for 2 weeks now and use it with a Bel Canto DAC 3. Playback of CDs is amazing (very transparent but natural, relaxed, vinyl-like): a huge improvement when compared with my previous transport (Musical Fidelity CD Pre). Hi-res via WAV data DVDs is even better.

 

Before purchase I auditioned the PWT / PWD combination but the system was far too different from mine to be able to make any valid comparisons of the PWD and the Bel Canto DAC 3.

 

At the moment I'm using the power cord supplied and an RCA SPDIF connection to the DAC. I'm anticipating a further step-up in performance when I change to a better power cord and use an AES/EBU digital connection.

 

Anyone else using the PWT with DACs other than the PWD?

 

David

 

ALAC iTunes library on Synology DS412+ running MinimServer with Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 tablet running BubbleUPnP for control >

Hi-Fi 1: Airport Extreme bridge > Netgear switch > TP-Link optical isolation > dCS Network Bridge AND PS Audio PerfectWave Transport > PS Audio DirectStream DAC with Bridge Mk.II > Primare A60 > Harbeth SHL5plus Anniversary Edition .

Hi-Fi 2: Sonore Rendu > Chord Hugo DAC/preamp > LFD integrated > Harbeth P3ESRs and > Sennheiser HD800

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Very interesting DAVID. So you too find that the PS as a combo may not be the best way to go? Did you A/B with your Bel Canto?

 

I wonder if the filter settings make a big difference on the PS DAC (we didn't try). But whatever the I2S cable is supposed to bring, it may not be significant enough to replace a 'better' DAC.

 

 

 

discless since 2005

 

Power: Equitech 5WQ-E | Primary Source: Mac Mini with Pure Music | USB Interface: Soulution 590 | Amps: Dual Devialet D-Premier in Dual Mono mode | Subwoofer: Wilson Benesch Torus + Torus Amp + DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core | Speakers: Magico Q1

 

Semi-Retired Equipment: AudioMachina Maestro S | Aurender S10 | Transporter | TacT 2.2XP | BADA USB | BADA Series 2

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"Yes indeed, my point was that the I2S cable does not do magic. That's exactly what I was trying to say."

 

Perhaps you missed the rather lengthy thread that discussed the I2S 'feature'?

 

With the exception of one (or two) PS Audio fans - with kool-aid (still seemingly) dripping off their chin :) - the general consensus seemed to be that I2S was more marketing magic than engineering advancement. At least that's my recollection.

 

Suffice it to say, I'm not surprised by your results. OTOH, I"m sure the PS Audio combo sounds plenty good enough for more than enough people to do well at it's price point.

Different strokes for different folks, and all that.

 

Clay

 

 

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Clay, you caught me. I didn't read the PS thread. =P Hopefully someone will find the direct comparison useful.

 

discless since 2005

 

Power: Equitech 5WQ-E | Primary Source: Mac Mini with Pure Music | USB Interface: Soulution 590 | Amps: Dual Devialet D-Premier in Dual Mono mode | Subwoofer: Wilson Benesch Torus + Torus Amp + DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core | Speakers: Magico Q1

 

Semi-Retired Equipment: AudioMachina Maestro S | Aurender S10 | Transporter | TacT 2.2XP | BADA USB | BADA Series 2

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"Hopefully someone will find the direct comparison useful."

 

The direct comparison is probably more useful than the other thread, actually, inasmuch as that thread was mostly a friendly theoretical debate.

 

thanks for sharing.

clay

 

 

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The direct comparison is certainly helpful as there isn't much discussion online on how the PS combo would sound v PWT+Alpha. The buzz around the PS combo is that they do magic when used together (via I2S), but no one (as far as I am aware) has actually posted any direct comparison.

 

Thanks for sharing.

 

Rudy

 

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"The buzz around the PS combo" seemed mostly to be coming from people who had only compared it to the Cullen-modified (previous) PS audio models. Much of the buzz (here on CA) occurred seemingly before more than a handful of units had even been shipped.

 

You do the math. :)

 

Clay

 

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Good to hear someone has made this comparison. I would like to know some more details, as the PWT/PWD pair has a lot of options for settings, and set up that make critical differences in the sound:

1. Break in is critical for the PWD, the parts used in its output stage need at least a couple of weeks of break in to perform at their best (I am assuming that your Alpha is broken in), do you know the status of the PWD's break in?

2. What was the SRC setting on the PWD-when using it via I2S with the PWT the "native" mode is much better than using it with any upsampling.

3. Which digital filter was used for the comparisons in the PWD?

4. What HDMI cable was used for the I2S connection (yes it matters) and what cable was used for the SPDIF connection to the Alpha?

5. Were both DACs run from their balanced or single ended outputs? I do not know about the Alpha, but the PWD is a little better run balanced.

I am in no way suggesting any problems with your conclusions, I just think it is important to know the details of any comparison like this.

Thanks, BW

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Orange Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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Clay, glad you find it helpful. Yes I have read a few debates, not all from this site, also from local ones, and I thought nothing beats a AB comparison. It was nice that the shop allowed us to bring my DAC there. But I have to admit, the PS Combo looks nice together =) Very solidly built and looks quite 'modern'. (they were in black).

 

BW, I will try to answer and give you more details.

1) We used Native and Auto on the PS devices. I believe Native referred to the sampling rate, and Auto refers to the filter. I also tried Filter 1. Did not try the rest. We play all classical, mostly orchestral and string quartet type music.

 

2) I have no idea what I2S cable they used, but it HAS to be of better quality than the AES cable we used between the PWT and Berkeley. When we asked for an AES cable, the guy said 'don't think i Have one', then reached down on a pile of very old and dusty cables on the floor and just found a XLR cable and hooked it up. It looked like the cable was falling apart. But it worked, so...

 

3) Both DAC were connected using single ended RCA only because the Stello amp only accepts RCA. The Berkeley's manual also specifies that for best performance, pls use XLR, so if anything, that should mean both the Berkeley and PWD are both 'compromised'.

 

The difference, again, was *not* subtle! As soon as we hear the first violin note, the 'wholesomeness', richness, and superior tone quality was very apparent. At that moment, I was not even in the sweet spot, and I could tell right away.

 

We only used the Filter 1 on the Berkeley as recommended by the manual. It switches between 1.16 and 1.24 automatically.

 

Hope this clarifies things a little.

 

 

 

 

discless since 2005

 

Power: Equitech 5WQ-E | Primary Source: Mac Mini with Pure Music | USB Interface: Soulution 590 | Amps: Dual Devialet D-Premier in Dual Mono mode | Subwoofer: Wilson Benesch Torus + Torus Amp + DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core | Speakers: Magico Q1

 

Semi-Retired Equipment: AudioMachina Maestro S | Aurender S10 | Transporter | TacT 2.2XP | BADA USB | BADA Series 2

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For including those details. Any idea on the break in time on the PWD? I have some experience with these units and the output stage definately becomes more rich tonally with break in (they can be lacking in midrange tone density when new). It sounds like you did have the settings optomized for best sound with the PWT/PWD combo.

I'll have to seek out an Alpha for a listen at RMAF this year, hopefully in a system I am familar with. Thanks for posting your observations.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Orange Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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Hi Barrows,

My Berkeley is new as well, only a week old. The shop has been demoing the PS combo for some time already, so likely, all things equaled, they are more 'broken in' than my Berkeley. I only play a few hours a day, they play all day long!

The difference is kinda like my ex-DAC, EMM Labs DCC2 SE. A fine DAC for sure, but when play against the Berkeley in an A/B comparison, the Berkeley really shines through. Instant goosebumps! It's very strange.

 

As for Jesus, Probably not. It is obvious that the PS DAC is the weaker link, not the Transport. Given the Bridge goes into the DAC and not the Transport, I see little point in doing it again. Also, we have already accomplished what we set out to do, to help my friend pick between the PS vs the Berkeley. Berkeley are all sold out here. 2 weeks before they get back in stock.

 

discless since 2005

 

Power: Equitech 5WQ-E | Primary Source: Mac Mini with Pure Music | USB Interface: Soulution 590 | Amps: Dual Devialet D-Premier in Dual Mono mode | Subwoofer: Wilson Benesch Torus + Torus Amp + DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core | Speakers: Magico Q1

 

Semi-Retired Equipment: AudioMachina Maestro S | Aurender S10 | Transporter | TacT 2.2XP | BADA USB | BADA Series 2

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you said, 'So as insane as it may sound to some, the PWT + Berkeley is in our opinions, better than the PS Combo, using its I2S cable. " that much is clear. Did you try (I can't tell) pwt via AES to the Berkeley? Sorry if if you already said yes or no! If you did and you still feel the same way then enough said and I undeerstand why no more tests. If you did not then I think another test with the bridge could also be useful. If your just done with tests (nothing wrong with that) then your done enjoy!

 

Jesus

www.sonore.us

 

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hi there.

yes i did, that would be Setup 2 in my original post. PWT -> AES -> Berkeley. That was the best sounding combo.

 

discless since 2005

 

Power: Equitech 5WQ-E | Primary Source: Mac Mini with Pure Music | USB Interface: Soulution 590 | Amps: Dual Devialet D-Premier in Dual Mono mode | Subwoofer: Wilson Benesch Torus + Torus Amp + DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core | Speakers: Magico Q1

 

Semi-Retired Equipment: AudioMachina Maestro S | Aurender S10 | Transporter | TacT 2.2XP | BADA USB | BADA Series 2

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Yes I think that is the whole selling point, that somehow, the I2S connection makes the PWT and PWD to have some sort of magic synergy...

 

discless since 2005

 

Power: Equitech 5WQ-E | Primary Source: Mac Mini with Pure Music | USB Interface: Soulution 590 | Amps: Dual Devialet D-Premier in Dual Mono mode | Subwoofer: Wilson Benesch Torus + Torus Amp + DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core | Speakers: Magico Q1

 

Semi-Retired Equipment: AudioMachina Maestro S | Aurender S10 | Transporter | TacT 2.2XP | BADA USB | BADA Series 2

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As there seems to be some confusion here as to the reason to use an I2S connection vs. SPDIF, perhaps I can offer some assistance. SPDIF (and AES, which is just a balanced form of SPDIF) embed the clock signal from the transport in the data stream-to use SPDIF a DAC must strip out the embedded clock (in an SPDIF receiver chip), and then lock its own internal clock to the stripped out clock, typically by using a PLL circuit. The process of embedding the clock signal, and stripping it out, and the need for the PLL to reconcile differences between the transport clock and the DAC clock result in increases in jitter. Also note that the SPDIF signal is converted to I2S before being presented to the DAC chip (I2S is the native format for the DAC chip).

I2S has separate transmission lines for the data and the clock signal, there is no need for an SPDIF reciever chip or a PLL. In a properly designed system using I2S there is one clock only, and no need to reconcile differences amongst multiple clocks (which results in increases in jitter). The use of I2S is not "magic", what it accomplishes is to provide a single master clock. In the PWT/PWD pair it works like this: The PWT clocks the data out of the internal solid state memory with a very accurate fixed frequency clock. The data and the clock signal are sent via I2S to the PWD, and the clock signal from the PWT becomes the master clock for the PWD. Because both the PWT, and the PWD are referencing the same fixed frequency clock signal, jitter is very low.

SPDIF is a flawed interface, and the use of I2S (properly implemented) corrects for that flaw, allowing the use of a single, fixed frequency, clock and resulting in very low jitter levels. A similar result is achieved by Asynchronus USB DACs, and Firewire interfaces, as the timing is controlled by a single fixed frequency clock, also resulting in very low jitter levels.

Note that these approaches to data transmission result in low jitter without having to resort to jitter rejection schemes (like asynchronus SRC as used to reduce jitter in many DACs) that can be damaging to sound quality.

 

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Orange Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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While your comments on i2s are valid in respect to separate clock signals, as has been repeatedly commented "correctly implemented" i2s is mm of parallel circuit track between ICs on PCBs not 10s of cm between components where the lack of any clock recovery can cause more problems than it solves. Anyway this is a discussion for another thread, suffice to say it doesn't make a $3k DAC suddenly into a $5k DAC.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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barrows, you have more than once posted dismissive commentary that ASRC as utilized by some designers in DAC system architectures harms sound quality. however unless i've missed it, i don't think you've ever provided substantiation for that assertion.

 

could you kindly post some objective info supporting your contention, with attribution? you know, controlled tests, measurement,.... somethig beyond merely anecdotal

 

just trying to reconcile with the reality that even ASRC IC designs which are over ten years old yet widely utilized, exhibit distortion products down in the -120 to -140 dB range. And some more modern designs exhibit even lower figures...

 

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whatever the theoretical superiority the IS2 has over SPDIF, imho, it's overshadowed by the far superior algorithm of the Berkeley in this case.

 

discless since 2005

 

Power: Equitech 5WQ-E | Primary Source: Mac Mini with Pure Music | USB Interface: Soulution 590 | Amps: Dual Devialet D-Premier in Dual Mono mode | Subwoofer: Wilson Benesch Torus + Torus Amp + DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core | Speakers: Magico Q1

 

Semi-Retired Equipment: AudioMachina Maestro S | Aurender S10 | Transporter | TacT 2.2XP | BADA USB | BADA Series 2

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more than a few have argued that I2S has a theoretical inferiority once removed from it's native environment, the circuit board. Perhaps there's a clue in that so few have actually implemented it 'outside the box', despite it's universal use on the board. :)

 

 

AFAIC, dCS have confirmed that given enough money almost any engineering approach can be implemented to very high standards. So then, in my view, the question of theoretical superiority is measured by how easily (and inexpensively) the very highest quality playback can be achieved.

 

Right now, I think Firewire has the edge, and I've put my money where my mouth is.

 

Async USB will improve costwise, as more firms apply this approach. Right now, there are a very limited number of firms (all high end audiophile) implementing it properly.

 

clay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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