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Article: Playback Designs MPS-8 CD/SACD player, DAC and Streamer Full Review

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I have an enormous amount of respect for Andreas Koch, and I expect that this DAC/player will sound marvelous (especially as a DAC combined with a really good source)-But, seeing the internal pic, I am a bit disappointed by the price. I get that the chassis is probably very beautiful and quite costly, but at $28K I would have liked to see fully dual mono construction and power supplies internally, and more internal isolation and separation between sections.  I am sure Andreas' approach to DSD conversion is very good and all, but considering the price of DACs such as PS Audio's DS and even DS Jr, I am a bit taken aback by the price asked here.

I probably need to price the Dream DAC, to be sure, perhaps the disc drive mech is really, really expensive...

 

Addendum: It looks like the DAC version of this has full dual mono construction, at least by the looks of the back panel.  Not having to place the drive in there is probably a good thing for the internal layout.  And of course you save some money ($6K) by forgoing the drive, easily enough to purchase a really, really, really good Ethernet renderer set up to feed the DAC via its USB input which should easily out perform the built in drive anyway.

 

Does anyone know what does the analog volume control in these units?  I do not see a discrete resistor ladder, unless I am missing it, perhaps it is an analog resistor ladder chip?  I know some who claim none of these chips are as good as a true discrete resistor ladder, but I have experience with the MUSES volume control chip, and it is superb (good enough for Pass Labs to use in their top of the line preamp).


ROON: DSD 256-Signature Rendu optical--Buffalo PRO (ESS 9038) or DSC-2--Ncore 400 Stereo-Focus Audio FS888-JL E-112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, Cardas Clear AC, XLR, & speaker cables-Synergistic Blue & Hi Fi Tuning Supreme Cu Fuses, Dark Matter system clarifiers.    Design/Build Consultant with Sonore

 

                                                                                                  SONORE computer audio

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2 hours ago, Ran said:

 

This is a classic case where a company just integrates a 3rd party module into their product. For $28.5k I would expect them to get a better board that does not have any restrictions compared to the USB input. Companies should be transparent about it by just saying "we built a great device but the streaming board was made by someone else."

I saw reference to Converse Digital in one of the manuals. Unless you go with a computer solution I’m not aware of another board that would get you those services and the rates you can achieve with USB. Andreas is going to put a full computer inside that unit and that board is a nice addition to the PLINK and USB input. Connecting Ethernet and USB or PLINK into the unit at the same time makes for a great combinations of features.

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3 minutes ago, vortecjr said:

I saw reference to Converse Digital in one of the manuals. Unless you go with a computer solution I’m not aware of another board that would get you those services and the rates you can achieve with USB. Andreas is going to put a full computer inside that unit and that board is a nice addition to the PLINK and USB input. Connecting Ethernet and USB or PLINK into the unit at the same time makes for a great combinations of features.

 

Raspberry Pi does it without an issue. TI offers many boards that do that as well.

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9 minutes ago, vortecjr said:

I saw reference to Converse Digital in one of the manuals. Unless you go with a computer solution I’m not aware of another board that would get you those services and the rates you can achieve with USB. Andreas is going to put a full computer inside that unit and that board is a nice addition to the PLINK and USB input. Connecting Ethernet and USB or PLINK into the unit at the same time makes for a great combinations of features.

 

Another one:

 

http://www.streamunlimited.com/support/downloads/product-leaflets/stream810-v32-scaled.pdf

 

dCS and Lindemann use it.

 

Matt

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4 minutes ago, matthias said:

 

Another one:

http://www.streamunlimited.com/support/downloads/product-leaflets/stream810-v32-scaled.pdf

 

dCS and Lindemann use it.

 

Matt

Yep. That company appears to be partially owned by Google. 

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25 minutes ago, vortecjr said:

You can’t load all those services on a Pi. 

 

Depends what you mean by services. I have a Pi3 that runs PCM audio up to 32bit / 384kHz, DSD x 4. It runs mpd / upmpdcli in the background and can run Roon as well as Spotify connect if I want to. It does all these via Ethernet.

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2 minutes ago, vortecjr said:

Yes I’m familiar with them:) Take Spotify Connect which you are using...it’s an unofficial hack with constant issues. The module in the Playback Design MPS-8 supports the official versions of such apps and will less problematic long term. So there are some benefits and some disadvantages which have to be weighed. Besides if they had used a Raspberry Pi you would still have complained:) 

 

Just for the record, I am not complaining... I stream redbook from my nas / qobuz 95 percent of the time. I don't care so much for all the specs but I do wish to get some transparency from the companies that make streamers. How many times did I see things like "we built our own Linux OS" or "We optimized the OS to our needs" or "We built the streamer from the ground up" only to find out that it is far from the truth.

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12 minutes ago, Ran said:

 

Just for the record, I am not complaining... I stream redbook from my nas / qobuz 95 percent of the time. I don't care so much for all the specs but I do wish to get some transparency from the companies that make streamers. How many times did I see things like "we built our own Linux OS" or "We optimized the OS to our needs" or "We built the streamer from the ground up" only to find out that it is far from the truth.

Agree we have heard all those things to many times. Some of it is true and of it is BS. I can tell you though the software we maintain on our units accounts for a tremendous amount of work pre and post sale. 

 

FYI You are not alone I mostly listen to Redbook from my NAS or via a streaming service. 

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7 hours ago, Ran said:

 

Just for the record, I am not complaining... I stream redbook from my nas / qobuz 95 percent of the time. I don't care so much for all the specs but I do wish to get some transparency from the companies that make streamers. How many times did I see things like "we built our own Linux OS" or "We optimized the OS to our needs" or "We built the streamer from the ground up" only to find out that it is far from the truth.

I don't think they've hidden what they did. Did you see somewhere where playback designs said they made the streaming section themselves?  I don't think they ever claim anything like that.

It seems pretty clear their products are designed to work optimally with the PLink system. Someone who doesn't want their internal or external streamer "limitations" an buy a nice ethernet to USB unit and use USB from another company as an input. Problem solved. What's the big deal?


Main listening (small home office):

Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>CAPS IV Pipeline Server + Sonore 12V PS >SOtM Lan Isolator>Bricasti M5 Network Player >Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.
 

Secondary Listening: CAPS Pipeline>IFi iOne DAC>Schiit Freya>Kii Three . Also an SBT and a RB Pi 3B+ running piCorePlayer as an SBT emulator. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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38 minutes ago, vortecjr said:

It’s a fair solution utilized by several high end audio companies. 

 

What about a Sonore OEM streaming board for other manufacturers?

 

Matt

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1 hour ago, matthias said:

 

What about a Sonore OEM streaming board for other manufacturers?

 

Matt

That is not really or business model, but there is one company using an internal Rendu in a DAC. Let’s consider it off topic in this thread though. 

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Interesting that in the Dream Series all files with the exception of DSD256 are first converted to DSD128, then with PDs own algorithms upsampled to DSD2048 before the conversion to analog.

 

Matt

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I've been reading some of these comments over the past day or so and think that this isn't nearly the big issue some of you make it seem. The Stream-X module is just that, a module; an optionally available way to create a network ready endpoint for Roon or other software. You can always use a PC or Mac via USB to playback any format you wish (minus MQA) in higher quality than via the Stream-X option. That said, I'd like to reiterate that virtually all streaming capable DACs I've seen / used in the past couple of years, from AURALiC to dCS to Playback Designs, have all sounded better when used as a stand alone DAC w/ my EINSTEIN The Last Record Player leashed as the CD transport. So that tells me that there's something about NAS or internet derived music files that's still not quite as developed as CD transport sourced data. 

 

PS: since the review was published, I heard from Andreas who merely uttered, "the 8 series isn't nearly end-game digital..." which leads me to believe that we may yet one day hear more from PD...

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7 hours ago, Danny Kaey said:

I've been reading some of these comments over the past day or so and think that this isn't nearly the big issue some of you make it seem. The Stream-X module is just that, a module; an optionally available way to create a network ready endpoint for Roon or other software. You can always use a PC or Mac via USB to playback any format you wish (minus MQA) in higher quality than via the Stream-X option. That said, I'd like to reiterate that virtually all streaming capable DACs I've seen / used in the past couple of years, from AURALiC to dCS to Playback Designs, have all sounded better when used as a stand alone DAC w/ my EINSTEIN The Last Record Player leashed as the CD transport. So that tells me that there's something about NAS or internet derived music files that's still not quite as developed as CD transport sourced data. 

 

@Danny Kaey  Thanks for the review. While my impression of streaming audio may be different than yours, streaming technologies will gain popularity as time goes by. Like the DACs of yesteryear, where reviewers mention that type of chip used (Sabre, AKM, TI, Burr-Brown, etc..) I find it appropriate to include information about the streaming module itself. It is obviously not a big issue but for some readers, this information is valuable. 

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16 hours ago, Ran said:

 

@Danny Kaey  Thanks for the review. While my impression of streaming audio may be different than yours, streaming technologies will gain popularity as time goes by. Like the DACs of yesteryear, where reviewers mention that type of chip used (Sabre, AKM, TI, Burr-Brown, etc..) I find it appropriate to include information about the streaming module itself. It is obviously not a big issue but for some readers, this information is valuable. 

 

Thanks Ran. I have no doubt that streaming is the way of the future - let's hope that investments will keep taking place to improve the back-end of all these efforts... 👍

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Good to hear CD/SACD player are still a top performing medium. Companies still continue to make CD/SACD transports because they realized the old CD players performed poorly because the DACs were poor. Now the engineers are slowly realizing that a solid CD/SACD transport and DAC are formidable sources.


Music after life

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On 7/14/2019 at 12:04 PM, Danny Kaey said:

I've been reading some of these comments over the past day or so and think that this isn't nearly the big issue some of you make it seem. The Stream-X module is just that, a module; an optionally available way to create a network ready endpoint for Roon or other software. You can always use a PC or Mac via USB to playback any format you wish (minus MQA) in higher quality than via the Stream-X option. That said, I'd like to reiterate that virtually all streaming capable DACs I've seen / used in the past couple of years, from AURALiC to dCS to Playback Designs, have all sounded better when used as a stand alone DAC w/ my EINSTEIN The Last Record Player leashed as the CD transport. So that tells me that there's something about NAS or internet derived music files that's still not quite as developed as CD transport sourced data. 

 

PS: since the review was published, I heard from Andreas who merely uttered, "the 8 series isn't nearly end-game digital..." which leads me to believe that we may yet one day hear more from PD...

Thank you for this comment. I have been stating the same fact for years


Music after life

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8 hours ago, ajay556 said:

Good to hear CD/SACD player are still a top performing medium. Companies still continue to make CD/SACD transports because they realized the old CD players performed poorly because the DACs were poor. Now the engineers are slowly realizing that a solid CD/SACD transport and DAC are formidable sources.

 

Completely agree and in fact, I think we may even see some sort or resurgence of the format at some point. There are a growing number of people across the globe who want nothing to do w/ streaming, internet, social media, etc. (I get it, whole different subject, but still)... having a physical disc in hand, being able to sit through an entire disc's worth of music instead of bumping around from track to track every 12.4 seconds just isn't that interesting anymore. Thus, much like my preferred playback medium, vinyl, I believe this to resonate with more and more people...

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On 7/14/2019 at 9:04 PM, Danny Kaey said:

PS: since the review was published, I heard from Andreas who merely uttered, "the 8 series isn't nearly end-game digital..." which leads me to believe that we may yet one day hear more from PD...

 

Please share with us when you get some more info from Andreas.

Thanks

 

Matt

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On 7/14/2019 at 1:04 PM, Danny Kaey said:

So that tells me that there's something about NAS or internet derived music files that's still not quite as developed as CD transport sourced data. 

 

That is just not true from a technical standpoint, or a subjective one, for that matter.  The problem which you have experienced is that the source still matters:  Not just any old computer will do, as not just any operating system will do, and not just any interface either.  Any, and all of these things must be optimized to achieve best performance.

When a computer based set up is optimized, it equals (or exceeds) the performance of any other source component-the current problem being that many, even very high end products, are not optimized (yet).  The Convers Digital Ethernet approach used by Playback Designs (and many others) is just one example of a "less than perfect" interface design.

 

From a factual standpoint, there is no "something" about files sourced from a NAS vs. the bits delivered from a spinning disc drive (in fact, many spinning disc drives actually produce data errors, which never happen with a reasonably well engineered computer based approach).  There are peripheral problems with computer based playback (not any problem with the files though) which are engineering problems which are solved by the best interfaces.


ROON: DSD 256-Signature Rendu optical--Buffalo PRO (ESS 9038) or DSC-2--Ncore 400 Stereo-Focus Audio FS888-JL E-112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, Cardas Clear AC, XLR, & speaker cables-Synergistic Blue & Hi Fi Tuning Supreme Cu Fuses, Dark Matter system clarifiers.    Design/Build Consultant with Sonore

 

                                                                                                  SONORE computer audio

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On 7/14/2019 at 5:16 AM, barrows said:

I have an enormous amount of respect for Andreas Koch, and I expect that this DAC/player will sound marvelous (especially as a DAC combined with a really good source)-But, seeing the internal pic, I am a bit disappointed by the price. I get that the chassis is probably very beautiful and quite costly, but at $28K I would have liked to see fully dual mono construction and power supplies internally, and more internal isolation and separation between sections.  I am sure Andreas' approach to DSD conversion is very good and all, but considering the price of DACs such as PS Audio's DS and even DS Jr, I am a bit taken aback by the price asked here.

I probably need to price the Dream DAC, to be sure, perhaps the disc drive mech is really, really expensive...

 

I would agree with this opinion.

 

The power supply probably upgraded, but looks very similar to the MPD-3 I own. PD sourced TEAC OEM drives in the past, maybe they still do, from the Esoteric range maybe. For the price the drive must be really expensive, but for an OEM issue product?

 

The interior doesn't show any mechanical damping  for the drive, it's bolted on to the foundation plate which looks sturdy enough, maybe 3mm steel?

 

Compare the interiors for a similar price (in the USA)

 

Playback_Designs_MPS8_TOP_OPEN.jpg

 

 

Accuphase DP-720 28 kg

image.thumb.png.d412e05cc5765f576afec72bd1d5605d.png

 

image.thumb.png.4c181eb8033fe9891ccc4443580ab672.png

 

 


AS Profile Equipment List        Say NO to MQA

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