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PerfectWave DAC

The PS Audio PerfectWave MKII is a remarkable new class of productthat makes high-end music fun again.

It accesses high-resolution digital audio data, CD transports and players, computers, home networks, or the Internet and converts the data to the most musically natural sounding analog audio we’ve ever produced.

The PWD MKII is one of a very few high-end products to fully transcend the limitations of traditional digital to analog converters (DACS) by providing uncompromised performance for any media delivery or storage system possible.

This means that it no longer matters how the digital audio data is stored or delivered, the PWD produces the same high performance audio sent over a network, taken from a hard drive, a CD or even downloaded via the Internet.

The PWD is a complete solution that can be used in a multitude of ways. As a standalone DAC, the PWD will accept inputs from any digitally connected source such as a CD player, transport, receiver, music server or computer.

As a music server, the PWD can access any DLNA compatible network source such as a NAS, computer, or stream music directly off the Internet.

As a complete preamplifier control center connecting directly to your power amplifier controlling volume, balance and selection of any of the seven digital inputs.

“I would make listening to these units an essential part of buying a digital front end at anywhere near their price range—or even at prices twice their cost or more.” Anthony H. Cordesman Absolute Sound Sound review

Player and preamp

Our first choice for connecting the MKII to your system is all by itself and directly into your best power amplifier without going through a preamplifier first. There’s simply “no preamp like no preamp” and the MKII direct into your system provides a remarkably clean, simple and elegant path for the music.

The MKII is a fully balanced design and offers true XLR balanced outputs as the first connection option and RCA single ended output as the next best alternative.

Asynchronous inputs

The PWD MKII has 7 asynchronous digital inputs that include two I2S over HDMI, an optical TOSLINK, coax S/PDIF, balanced AES/EBU, 192kHz 24 bit USB and the optional network Bridge.

The HDMI inputs are designed not for accepting HDMI data, but instead are utilized in a unique PS designed standard for I2S data which is the native data management system within every transport, CD player and DAC.

The PerfectWave Bridge

If you wish to play music stored on your computer the MKII offers easy connection through its asynchronous 192kHz 24 bit USB input. But if you prefer to untether your DAC from your computer, the MKII also offers the ability to stream any resolution audio over your home’s network with the optional PerfectWave Bridge.

The PerfectWave Bridge is a remarkable piece of engineering that connects all your digital music sources in your home together through your home’s router. The Bridge provides bit perfect performance of any sample rate music up to 192kHz, 32 bit audio and brings uncompromised music into your high-end audio system.

The MKII can be ordered from the factory with the Bridge installed or later as an easy option installed by the user.

A built in Digital lens

The MKII features our exclusive Digital Lens technology built right inside. The Digital Lens takes any digital audio signal and regenerates a new and jitter free version to listen to.

The Digital Lens, called NativeX, is selectable from the front panel or the remote. Engaging NativeX will reduce incoming jitter levels jitter on any input of the PWD to below 1 pico second, regardless of how jittered the incoming signals are.

“The digital lens improves sound quality in the MKII so dramatically that I consider the MKI product broken. Honestly I can’t imagine listening to a PerfectWave DAC without sending every bit of audio through the sharp focus of the Digital Lens.”Chris Connaker Computer Audiophile Magazine.

Asynchronous high speed USB

A Media DAC, like the PerfectWave, can match up to either a computer or a home network. The PWD can do both with theNetwork Bridgeinstalled. For those customers connecting to their computer without the Network Bridge, there’s USBavailable. 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.

11 power supplies

The MKII has 11 separately regulated power supplies for best performance. 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.

The results of these low noise power supplies are quite noticeable- mostly as an openness that simply wasn’t present in older designs. On larger orchestral pieces of music, individual instruments take on increased air and separation between each of the players.

Lower jitter clocks

Digital clocks are an essential element to a digital audio 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 fixed clocks outperform variable clocks and these are what PS Engineering depend on to set the critical timebase in the PWD MKII.

Our fixed clocks have extremely low jitter and provides a stable reference for the digital audio data. 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 isolated clocks are audibly cleaner upper harmonics and a reduction in digital glare, present on more jittered electronics.

Balance control

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 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.

Analog switching in the digital audio path

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 digital switch gates and these play a large role in audio quality.

The vast majority of digital switch 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 causing jitter and poor sound.

The MKII uses high-speed analog switches instead of saturated logic digital switches. CMOS analog switches do not go into saturation mode, do not add jitter or timing issues and sound remarkably better than anydigitallogic gate we’ve auditioned.

Low noise layout and spot regulators

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.

Minimum phase and apodizing filters

All DACS and digital media servers rely on filters to cleanup the audio and help make the music sound open and natural. The qualities of these filters has a great deal of impact on how the music sounds through your system.

The PWD MKII utilizes the best sounding apodizing and phase correct filters, selectable from the front panel touch screen or through the supplied IR remote control.

The MKII provides 5 filter choices, each automatically memorized on a per input basis. So, for example, if your CD transport benefits from Filter 1 and your Bridge sounds best with filter 2, the selected filter will automatically engage along with the choice of input.

In addition to hand selecting the various filters you can let the MKII make the choice for you with the Auto filter feature. Auto filter chooses the best selection of filter based on the sample rate chosen.

This means that as you play different sample rates the appropriate filter is automatically chosen.

Polarity inversion

One of the handiest features on the PWD Mark II that will see a great deal of use is the polarity (phase) control. This touch screen option (available on the remote as well) allows users to select normal or inverted phase for every input and for every performance.

Sources and music have no standard for absolute polarity, a fact easily demonstrated by switching polarities on the as the music plays. Many Audiophiles mark their discs in phase and out of phase and are very careful to select the proper phase before playing each disc.

Some CD players and sources themselves invert phase so that a disc you believe is inverted actually is correct played on a specific device and incorrect on yet another. To fix this problem you can assign each input on the PWD Mark II to switch to the proper polarity when you activate that input. Touching this control is the same thing as reversing the loudspeaker connections of both loudspeakers (+ to -) at either the amplifier or speakers.

All live acoustic music is in absolute phase but some recordings may accidentally be made inverted and should sound more realistic and pleasant when you correct their phase with the switch.

The story of the PerfectWave DAC’s creation is a classic tale of innovation and risk taking.

Launched in January 2010, the idea for the PerfectWave DAC began two years earlier in 2008. In those days DACs were tethered to their sources through connecting cables and those sources were restricted to standard CD rates of 44.1kHz/16 bits. The PWD’s concept document called for a radical departure from any DAC made at the time and would include the ability to stream over a home network, be controlled through a front panel touch screen which could also display the CD cover art and accept sample rates up to 192kHz, bit depths of 32 bits and all without any upsampling. This would be a revolutionary new DAC.

Two years of research and development later, the PWD launched with every feature promised except streaming over the home network. PS design engineers had to delay implementation of network streaming for a year after the PWD launch. To ensure all PWD owners could take advantage of network streaming, a user accessible upgrade slot was provided on the back of the PWD. This slot would eventually hold the upcoming PerfectWave Network Bridge which launched in 2011, finally providing customers with high resolution asynchronous streaming.

The risks were big, the innovations many, and when the PWD launched in January 2010, it was an instant success. Now, for perhaps the first time, Audiophiles the world over could afford to own a true state of the art instrument that would set new performance standards.

In January 2012, we released the successor to the PWD, the Mark II which added fully asynchronous capabilities to all inputs on the PWD.

Sound so real you can touch it

To achieve sound so real it seems like you can touch the performers, designers must pay particular attention to the analog portion of the DAC. On the PerfectWave MK II we spared no expense in this critical area. Every component is hand chosen, listened to and evaluated.

Parts are the best in the world: PRP PR9372 audio resistors, hand selected low ESR power supply capacitors, direct coupling from input to output, fully discrete through hole parts, no surface mount resistors or capacitors in the signal path and absolutely no integrated circuits or op amps of any kind.

Hand selected and hand built

Every component is a discrete proprietary audio design developed and refined over the last 40 years of audio design expertise and experience.

Each part, circuit board, power transformer, connector and essentials are all hand selected to provide the best musical presentation possible and evaluated in one of our state-of-the-art Music Rooms.

The chassis of the PWD Mark II is a metal sculpture that is by far the best we’ve ever built. A combination of aluminum and steel, the PWD weighs in at 20 pounds of elegance and beauty. The top cover is a hand painted, hand polished piano black high density material that has been lavished over for hours. And has the look and feel of a fine Steinway piano.

The PerfectWave series is assembled, programmed and tested at our production facility in Boulder Colorado. There is a measure of pride of workmanship that goes into every one of these PerfectWave products and it shows from the moment you open the unit up and plug it in.

This is one gorgeous piece of equipment and just the beginning of the most beautiful natural sounding audio equipment you have ever had the privilege to own. Add a PerfectWave PowerBase and together we believe you’ve never heard anything quite like it in your system.

Physical

Unit Weight22 lbs [13.5 kg]
Unit Dimensions14” x 17” x 4” [ 36cm x 43cm x 10cm]
Shipping Weight31 lbs [19 kg]
Shipping Dimensions20.5”x 24” x 10” [52cm x 61cm x 25cm]

Power requirements

Input PowerModel specific 100VAC, 120VAC, or 230VAC 50 or 60Hz
Power Consumption30W

Digtial audio inputs

I2S (2), Coax, XLR Balanced, TOSLINK, USB

Sample Rates

I2S,S/PDIF, and USB -- 44.1kHz to 192kHz 16bit, 24bit
TOSLINK – 44.1kHz to 96kHz 16bit, 24bit

Analog Audio Output

Connector RCA/XLR Unbalanced /Balanced (X2)
Output level, nominal
(@ rated cartridge input)
1.0 VRMS (0dBV)/2.0 VRMS (+6dBV)
Output level, maximum3.15 Vrms (+10dBV)/6.3 VRMS (+16dBV)
Output Impedance100Ω/200Ω

Frequency Response

THD (5.0)0.03%
(Balanced, +6dBV, 1KHz)
Signal to Noise Ratio120dB
(Balanced output, referenced to +6dBV nominal output level A Weighted)
FormatPCM
Sample rate (PCM)44.1kHz, 48.0kHz, 88.2kHz, 96.0kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz
Word length (PCM)16b, 18b, 20b, 24b