Hacking is a term we hear much of today. Years ago, we referred to it differently. Reverse engineering. And we did plenty of it. It began at PS when we developed the world's first aftermarket high-end DAC. The year escapes me, but it wasn't long after 1980 when Sony and Philips first released the CD player to the world and life as we knew it was about to fall off a cliff. On the back of CD players was the digital output, the ubiquitous RCA connector we still use to feed our DACs. In those days, however, there weren't any DACs and few of us even knew what was supposed to come out of that port. The documents to describe the S/PDIF formats and protocols were safely tucked away in something called the Red Book, part of a series known as Rainbow Books (for their binding colors). The Red Book was close to secret at the time, available only to a small handful of companies. PS Audio was not among them. Even though we didn't know what info was contained in the digital out connector, we suspected it might contain the actual audio stream. We could watch the digital stream on a scope and see it change with music. That was enough to get our juices flowing. My chief engineer at the time, Mark Merril, rubbed his hands together and said he was up for the challenge. It took him more than a month to hack into the system, figure out the biphase mark code protocols and design a discrete decoder. The first time we connected the CD player through Mark's decoder and output the results into what would become the Digital Link, the world's first external high-end DAC, we were blown away. It worked! Within six months of proudly showing the box at a Chicago CES, Arcam and Theta released their boxes too. I think that might have been the day the world tilted on its high-end audio axis. Thanks Mark.
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