Upgrade your PerfectWave DAC I to the Mark II
The PerfectWave DAC, introduced to the world in 2009, was a ground breaking product. A state-of-the-art D to A processor that connects to any digital audio source including USB and with the optional Bridge, the home network. Regardless of the input or the delivery method, music played through the PerfectWave DAC was unparalleled and uncompromised.
The Mark I has been hailed by reviewers and customers alike as one of the single best sounding pieces of audio equipment in their system.
And now we introduce the Mark II.
“The bottom line is the MKII update is a game changer that elevates the PerfectWave DAC to C.A.S.H. List status and puts the original PWD MKI to shame.”
Chris Connaker Computer Audiophile Magazine
The Mark II Media DAC
Introducing the Mark II version of the PWD which represents a major leap forward in performance and features. The Mark II comes with a completely redesigned digital processing board, software, connecting cables and remote control.
New features of the Mark II are listed below in greater detail but include 192kHz 24 bit asynchronous USB, NativeX mode, non-saturated logic data path, 11 additional power supplies, lower jitter, new clocks and a balance control for the output.
The new Mark II outperforms the Mark I by a significant margin with its improved sweet, open, analog and musical performance.
Owners of the original Mark I PerfectWave DAC can upgrade to the Mark II standard by purchasing the upgrade kit. The procedure can be handled by PWD owners at home or through your dealer, distributor or PS Audio directly.
Which PWD’s qualify?
Over the life of the product there have been several variations of the PWD Media DAC – none of the variations have any affect on the performance or audio quality – but slight differences exist in assembly and CE compliance procedures. All PerfectWave DACS qualify for the Mark II upgrade process.
If you decide to upgrade to the new model, you will be asked to look at the rear of your PWD and compare with the examples we have placed on the checkout page to purchase the upgrade. Choose which model matches yours so we know which upgrade kit to send you.
Once upgraded you will place the supplied rear panel sticker indicating the unit now is identical to new production models shipped from the factory.
We appreciate that the PerfectWave DAC is an investment level product and want to make sure PWD owners can upgrade their Mark I’s and maintain the unit’s value. To that end, an upgraded MK I is no different than a new factory built MK II.
What’s the upgrade process?
The upgrade process is fairly simple and straightforward. We estimate less than one hour from start to finish. A skilled PS technician, for example, can perform the upgrade in under 5 minutes.
The top cover is removed, the digital input connector’s screws and lock nuts are unfastened from the back panel, the internal connecting cables are disconnected by simply pulling them out of their sockets and the digital processing board is then removed and replaced with the new one. The unit is reassembled, the internal fuse is replaced, software is upgraded through the SD card in the rear and you’re done.
There is no soldering involved and very little skill is needed. You can see in the picture that the digital processing board is connected through plugins.
What’s new in the Mark II upgrade?
A Digital Lens is much like the Power Plant regenerator in its ability to produce a new and perfect output from any quality you put into it. The Digital Lens takes in any digital audio signal you feed it and regenerates a new and jitter free version sent on to the DAC. The new Lens feature is called NativeX.
NativeX is selectable from the front panel or the remote control. NativeX will reduce incoming jitter levels to below 1 pico second, regardless of how jittered the incoming signals are and when this happens, the associated glare and hard edge to the music vanishes and in its place, the most analog-like music you’ve heard emerges. This will change everything you think about digital audio.
NativeX works on lowering jitter on any selected input on the PWD. This means even highly jittered sources such as an Apple TV or a computer sound card will suddenly have a fog of jitter removed. The feature is rather remarkable.
Even the optional Network Bridge, which has its own built in Digital Lens benefits. Because the path between the output of the Network Bridge and the MKII processing board is short, there’s little chance for added jitter: but not zero. Running the already low jitter digital audio from the Network Bridge through NativeX helps open the sound up quite nicely.
A Media DAC, like the PerfectWave, can match up to either a computer or a home network. The PWD can do both with the Network Bridge installed. For those customers connecting to their computer without the Network Bridge, there’s USB available. USB communication, if handled properly, can have every sound quality advantage of a dedicated CD transport or Network Bridge.
New in the MKII is a completely redesigned high-resolution USB path. Asynchronous and capable of 24 bit 192kHz performance, the new USB input sounds every bit as good as the best digital audio. Finally, computer audio without limitations and compromise to the sound quality and it’s all yours in the new MKII. Using a high quality USB cable between the PWD and computer, like a quiet MAC Mini, and you have an instant media server that can be controlled through any number of hand held devices like an iPod, iPhone or Android using a 3d party controller program. Your music can be managed by iTunes or Ammara for ease of use.
In early 2012, eLyric Music Manager will have USB audio output support available which will complete the PS Audio system for USB based audio. eLyric MM on your computer and eLyric Controller on your handheld device and high-end audio just got a lot more interesting and fun.
It’s perhaps no surprise that the engineers at PS Audio are big on power and getting it perfected. The MKII redesign certainly didn’t leave out a whole new approach to power supplies and wait till you hear what perfected power sounds like on the PWD. Open, powerful, with slam and authority you didn’t know the PWD was capable of.
PS Engineering added 11 new local power supplies in the MKII. Each of the 11 supplies is a super low noise design placed strategically around the digital processing board to lower noise, jitter and talk-back. Properly designed power supplies are like one way gates that provide a clean and plentiful source of needed power to each section of a circuit, while keeping out unwanted noise, jitter and potentially degrading artifacts generated in digital audio circuits.
Special attention was placed on power supply additions involving clocking and timing functions. Because there are multiple low jitter clocks laid out on the digital processing board, PS engineers were careful to provide a local power supply designed to feed the clock and keep noise and jitter to a bare minimum. The results of these low noise power supplies placed around the board are quite noticeable- mostly as an openness that simply wasn’t present in the MKI. On larger orchestral pieces of music, individual instruments take on increased air and separation between each of the players.
Digital clocks are an essential element to a digital audio media DAC. They play a significant role in audio performance that can ranging from poor to spectacular depending on how they are implemented. Clocks can be either fixed or variable frequency devices depending on the design, but generally fixed clocks will outperform variable clocks and these are what PS Engineering depend on to set the critical timebase in the PWD MKII.
A proper digital timebase clock has extremely low jitter and provides a stable reference for the digital audio data. The clocks implemented in the new MKII benefit from jitter levels cut in half from those of the MKI. In addition to lowered jitter and improved stability, each of the internal clocks in the MKII benefits from its own power supply that keeps the clock isolated from all other timing devices in the circuit.
The results from lowered jitter clocks, isolated with our added power supplies, is audible improvements in improved upper harmonics of instruments and a reduction in digital glare, sometimes present on more jittered electronics.
It hasn’t escaped us that many of our customers rely on the PerfectWave DAC as their primary music source feeding a power amplifier directly. In fact, that is our preferred method of connection. Many preamplifiers only add an extra layer of unwanted veiling and restricted dynamics to the sound. Unfortunately the MKI had no provision for adjusting the balance between the left and right channel, thus any mismatched loudspeaker pair or unequal room acoustics contributed to a slight skewed image when using the PWD directly.
The MKII solves that problem with the addition of a balance control, capable of shifting the balance between left and right in small 1/10th of a dB increments adjustable from the new (and supplied) remote control.
You view the changes in balance from the PWD’s touch screen and everything can easily be handled from the comfort of your listening position.
If you were able to view digital audio moving through a circuit board it would remind you of a busy city with hundreds of intersections, stop lights, and a maze of streets. The digital “traffic” is directed and routed through devices known as gates and these gates play a large role in audio quality. Digital gates are actually made from many transistors and it is the type of transistor and circuitry that determines, in large part, how the digital audio traffic is handled and how it will eventually sound when it is converted to audio.
Traditionally, digital switch gates are employed to manage digital traffic. However, these gates are not perfect for digital audio when sound quality as affected by jitter is an issue. It turns out that the vast majority of digital gates use a type of transistor logic that is known as “saturated logic”. This simply means that when the gate is in the fully on state, it is locked or saturated on. When it moves from this saturated on state to its off state, the point of transition can vary from device to device and even from day to day depending on temperature and other environmental factors. This unpredictable transition from on to off causes jitter and poor sound.
One way to solve this problem is to stop using saturated logic switches and, instead, use high-speed analog switches instead. CMOS analog switches do not go into saturation mode, do not add jitter or timing issues and sound remarkably better than any digital logic gate we’ve auditioned. Use of these switches in the PWD MKII is one of the core benefits of the upgrade and produces a life-like, natural analog-like presentation to the music.
Digital audio noise is one of the most difficult issues to lower in a complex digital circuit. Techniques include multi-layer PC boards, precision trace lengths for digital audio signals and spot regulation using localized power regulators at strategic points in the circuit.
Execution of the circuit board is the key to a low noise design and the MKII has all these considerations in spades. PS Engineers cleaned the decks, rolled up their sleeves and created an entirely new design for the digital processing board from scratch. Special attention was paid to a low noise design that included the addition of 11 new spot regulators, matched and measured PCB traces in critical areas to minimize reflections and maintain proper impedances and superior capacitive bypass techniques using low ESR capacitors in critical areas.
The MKII digital processing board has 10dB lower emitted radiated digital noise than its predecessor, the MKI and this lowered noise is due entirely to careful design, spot regulation and matched traces in critical areas.
The MKII upgrade is self contained on a single PC board that is quite easy to remove the old and add the new. When we start to ship the upgrade kits, we will have a full online video tutorial as well as written documentation to show you how easy the process is. For many of you, this is old hat and something you look forward to. For others it may be a bit frightening and in that case we can do it for you as can your dealer. So, the upgrade is going to be easy, one way or the other.
The MKII digital processing board is the top board inside the PWD and is connected with plugin connectors. All that’s required is to remove the top cover of the DAC, disconnect the plugin connectors, remove the back panel connector locking hardware and screws, pull out the old board and reverse the process to install the new one. It’s that simple. Once the unit is back together, you load new supplied software with the rear SD card and you are done and ready to enjoy your new PerfectWave Mark II DAC.
For those ready to take advantage of the reduced early adopter pricing and self-install, click the link and get started. If you prefer to wait for PS or your dealer to help, this service will be available on January 1, 2012.