Transports

May 21, 2016
 by Paul McGowan

Sometime in this calendar year we will be launching a new transport that replaces the PerfectWave Transport, a product that’s been a reliable old friend for many years. Thousands of them are playing music around the world. But it’s getting close to the time we will finally replace it.

I have been comparing the sound of the new DirectStream Transport, vs. the PerfectWave Transport. I spent much of yesterday in Music Room One doing so. Though the new DirectStream Transport will play SACD in its native format DSD, right into the DAC, that’s not what I am auditioning. Instead, I have been focusing on the basics: CD reproduction. How does the venerable CD sound on the new transport vs. the old transport?

It’s a given that SACD finally unveiled and played the way it was intended, and through a proper DAC, is nothing short of breathtaking. But you knew that. No, what I am focusing on is far more basic. What’s a CD sound like?

The thing is, the PWT was one of the first transports to be able to play a high resolution audio datadisc, but the vast majority of its users played CDs. Our libraries are chock full of CDs. We surely have fewer high resolution discs. So when we launched the PWT, it was CDs I listened to most during its voicing. Not much has changed since.

The real challenge is to make sure the baseline is maintained, not to focus on the cake’s icing, where the real fun is. The results are most encouraging.

Yes. Most encouraging.

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44 comments on “Transports”

  1. Errors that inherently occur when the laser reads the optical disc prevent that a cd-transport can deliver bit-perfect results. When ripping CDs via a CD-ROM drive it sometimes happens that it takes hours to get the bit-perfect result. Thus it would be most interesting to learn how the new transport will handle these “bad CDs. I have never invested in a SACD-transport lacking a highrez digital connection to my existing DAC. From a today’s technological point of view I should get either all benefits of high-Rez digital signal transfer to the final destination point (active speaker) or have at least an integrated solution with a minimum of external interconnects and shortest signal paths. The power supply could be a separate box however!

    1. I’m thinking the same thing … I’ve been waiting a long time for this transport. I was prodding Paul about two years ago to do something with Oppo, apparently not as easy as one would think. He has stated recently it would be released in October, but the bigger question is will there be a Beta test prior to that? If so, when?

    2. Understatement. 🙂 I am trying to be reserved, but it’s hard for me. I get pretty wild eyed. The new transport just annihilates the PWT on CDs. More space by a country mile. It’s uncanny, really.

      1. Paul,for those of us not interested in sacd playback,any plans for a DS transport for cd only, with the improvement in sound quality that you speak of? Kind of like a DS transport ” junior” .

        1. No, not really – at least not now. This player is superb on CD playback – thought at $6K it’s expensive. Perhaps someday we can do a lower cost version, but currently there aren’t any plans to do so.

          1. Hi Paul,
            This January you noted the expected MSRP would be 4,999. With the substantial upward swing to 5,999, I hope that the aggressive trade-in program you reference favors loyal PWT owners with a 3,999 credit toward the new one.

      2. So what has changed in the DS Transport to make It better with CDs? Better clock, less jitter and noise?

        With my PWT I had one CD that would stick and skip on the first track. I traced it to a visible defect in the disc that looked like small scratches or cracks that a professional resurfacing machine at a video store did not remove. The CD played fine in my Oppo Blu-ray player because it uses error correction. Does the new DS Transport have the ability to revert to error correction if it can’t get a clean read without it?

      3. Really Paul? As to you saying, “just annihilates the (original) PWT on CD’s”?? –Where is your justification and evidence for that statement. When I called PS Audio, about a month ago, I talked to Duncan (who, I believe, is your son, correct me if I’m wrong), and discussed the new PWT with him, I specifically asked him if the new PWT would also make standard “redbook” cd’s sound better, as well as, of course, being able to play SACD’s, which the original cannot. He stated clearly that the original PWT plays cd’s as well as they can be played, and that “we can’t really improve that any more”. The point of your new transport, he assured me, was it’s superlative ability to now play SACD’s, not an additional improvement in standard CD playback, as well. Your of the cuff, hyperbolic statement, conflicts with what he told me. The new transport is very expensive. As I don’t have many SACD’s I don’t see a reason, even with the meager trade in credit, to invest in the new PWT unless it noticeably improves standard CD playback, which Duncan assured me it doesn’t. Please make an effort to back up your claim of standard CD playback improvement, using the new PWT, with convincing technical reasons, or, at least a reasonably detailed explanation as to why. –Thanks

        1. He’s not my son, though he’s a good guy and a valued team member.

          The point of the new transport is more than just playing SACD and DVDA discs, it is a new statement on the state of the art in disc playback. Remember, it’s been over 5 years since we launched the PWT and, at the time, it was the best player I had ever heard.

          Duncan’s correct in the statement the PWT gets about as much info off the disc in perfect fashion as possible. I wouldn’t argue that. The question is, how then is that data handled? And this is where the developments we’ve made over the last 5 to 6 years come into play. The way we process the data is much better and with lower noise, jitter, and power supply interaction than the PWT had.

          I hope you get a chance to audition one yourself in the near future when it is released.

          1. Thanks for the reply Paul, – but at this point I’m more convinced by Duncan’s honest, sober assessment of the new PWT’s sonic presentation of standard CD’s sound, as being no better than the original PWT (which is excellent), than your “Annihilates” etc. statement. I wouldn’t be convinced unless and until I heard an instant, push button sound off between the two transports, playing identical CD source material. That’s really the only convincing way to do it, IMO. –As to my thinking Duncan was your son, well, I talked to two different PS Audio guys on that same day, and it must have been the other fellow who was your son, but it seems it was Duncan who did make the statements to me. It was definitely one or the other. –Anyway, Paul, I would look forward to visiting your room at the upcoming Newport Show and hearing the new PWT, though at this point I don’t see that you’re listed as an exhibitor. –Brian

    1. It will play CD’s and a few others through any DAC, but it will only play the SACD layer (DVD-Audio too?) through the DirectStream and DirectStream Jr.

    2. That is correct. It’ll actually play any format except SACD into any DAC. We have separate I2S outputs for our DACs, but then the same data (except SACD) is also available through the multiple coax connectors too. It’s a very versatile transport.

      Think of it like this. The DST will play just about anything to any DAC (DVDA, BluRay, CD, datadiscs) and the only restriction is when the secure SACD layer outputs DSD, it must go through our DAC.

      1. Thank you, Paul. I shall wait with baited breath and a hopefully rising savings bank account total for the new transport and one of your DACs. Will it have US release first with world domination to follow? Or will you flood all available markets at once!

        I am in the UK…

  2. On the strength of this subject I went back to the information on the current PWT and read that it’ll play DVDs and as I have a number of DVDAs , I should try this , but no , it doesn’t play them nor DVDs . Why is this so ?

    1. It will play DVD data discs, not DVDA which is a separate format. If you place a WAV file on a DVD data disc the PWT will play it. It doesn’t know what to do with a DVDA format – only WAV formats.

  3. Is there a cultural fault line between those who listen to music as music only (CDs, etc.) and those who listen to music with video (MTV, YouTube, etc.)? This new PS transport seems to target the first group of people.

    1. Paul has stated elsewhere that the addition of video compromises the audio, hence no video. This has caused some consternation with folks who just want a video out for setup purposes. Personally I would have loved for this to be a full BlueRay player, but given the compromise I can accept it without video.

      1. Video has been eliminated. I just did another test yesterday to confirm the importance of turning all that off. With the video circuitry active, not even connected to anything-just active-the sound of CDs flattens out and becomes somewhat two dimensional. Turn the video processing sections off and the sound opens up, gains a three dimensionality I have yet to hear from any other transport. It’s really instructive, but there’s no way I would allow us to sacrifice what I am hearing for the gain of video – this is, after all, a dedicated music player and I really want it to be the best possible.

        1. I get your reasoning, Paul. You don’t need a CD player for MTV or YouTube. I was just wondering if anyone had a sense (or better yet, data) as to whether only old geezers play CDs and only young people stream YouTube’s through their audio rigs. Or is there a lot of cross-over among people who might do all of the above–or even stream live concerts through their fine audio systems?

            1. Certainly, AIX puts out some great work on disc. And Public Television puts out great music performances, particularly at pledge time. Yahoo streams concerts, etc. I’m curious as to whether most audiophiles (or even just the folks who comment here) just listen to music, or also watch recorded performances.

              1. I subscribed to the Berliner Phil streaming service for a year. They do a top-notch job of it, cameras capture soloists and sections beautifully, so you’re getting a perspective you wouldn’t have even if you were there, and the sound is quite good, considering it is streaming.

                Eventually, though, I tired of watching while I listened. Feeling like you have to have some form of video on while you’re listening became a pain. And better sonic quality is to be had by means other than streaming (at least for the moment).

                It makes more sense to me to watch a video of a music show that has an intentionally visual component – say, for example, a Peter Gabriel concert. But even so, I only watch a concert video on occasion – I’d rather listen to the recording of the same thing with the lights down. We spend so much time every day dealing with sight-intensive tasks that it is a relief and pleasure NOT to have to look at anything, or to look at lighting of choice.

  4. Just another item to put on my wish list along with the Direct stream dac and BHK monos and preamp. 🙂
    Question( and I know this has been discussed before but…). Will the new transport, which has no video output, be able to easily navigate all the formats that it can play ?

    1. The PS Audio wishlist, I’m going to need to win the lottery or rob a bank. I’d still like a PWT to replace my PS Audio Lambda. I like to put a disc in the Lambda, and one in the Oppo for late night listening. Maybe I’m lazy, but I like to just change transports. I think that is why I enjoy my LPs transferred to computer, I can program an afternoon of music. My wishlist includes the Directstream, the PWT, the LANDRover [won’t need if I get a Directstream], and a P10. I like my preamp a CJ CT5, but the BHKs are on the short list of amps. Being a poor 61 year old audiophile on disability, makes it hard to keep up with all the great products from Paul’s company. I was lucky enough to put together a decent system, but these days, it’s tough. I am thinking there will be a lot of used PWTs on the market in the next year. Right now the LANDRover is the only one that will most likely become a reality.
      Considering that we audiophiles are supposed to be a small percentage of those that care about music, I was amazed at the number of products I saw pics of at the Munich show. See: http://www.my-hiend.com/vbb/showthread.php?10531-2016
      Take a look at those massive speakers on page 14, the photos those guys took are really impressive.

  5. I could never understand why SACD was deemed a failure by the press in 2007, and abandoned by Sony and Phillips. True that it serves mainly a classical music genre, but it grows every month with new recordings. Are the millions of classical music lovers around the world that attend countless concerts and collect large SACD libraries [like myself] considered a “failed market” ? Ridiculous and insulting. F***K the press is my answer and thanks Paul for this upcoming gift.

    1. Not sure the press is to blame. The vast majority of non-audiophiles either didn’t want to upgrade their player to hear the SACD layer or if they had a player didn’t hear enough of a difference to inspire them to search out SACD (at a higher cost). Combine that with the questionable reissues, many of which were just up sampled CD quality versions and the benefits of SACD were washed out. As you and many others (myself included) have discovered there are a lot of SACD’s still being produced. Many of them are excellent to exceptional recordings. Pity those who gave it up. And now PS Audio is going to produce an “affordable” player to truly hear what is on that SACD layer!

      1. There was no OPPO in the early days of SACD so unless you owned an expensive player, the higher resolution was not readily perceived.
        All my SACD’s were recorded within the last 10 years and most more recently in pure DSD. Except for several re-issues purchased for the artists, the higher resolution SACD’s blow most CD’s away. I can only imagine what the new PS gear will do for both formats.

    1. Unfortunately, no, it requires more than just replacing the guts, the chassis has to be replaced too.

      We will have a very aggressive trade up program to buy back your PWT. I’ll announce details later in the year when we get closer to launch.

  6. I went into the music server thing kicking & screaming. Now that I’m there, I really have no desire for a transport component. The computer software players have come so far, and continue to get better. I have 5 different players on my Mac, which seems somewhat daunting, but the features are pretty much the same between them. It’s actually quite simple once you get the hang of one of them. I like the choice of players, and tweeking the options within each one of them, to tune the sound to my preference & system.

    I just purchased Roon, and am running it on my Mac. To me, Roon starts to open the door to a really cool aspect of listening to music. It has additional information you can browse while listening to an album, much the way the old album covers did. I have already learned new things on Roon about an album & it’s artist while listening.

    1. +1
      Does the new transport act as a memory player? How much benefit is there from have a large buffer versus playing a full track from memory or a drive (could be HD or SS)?

  7. “We will have a very aggressive trade up program to buy back your PWT”…
    Yeah, if you’re a US-citizen that is.
    Not for Europeans because they did not spend money, they got the PWT for free…
    So no use to the company.
    Sorry to be a little sarcastic, but that’s how I feel.

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