Digital

Playback Designs Dream Series - Munich High-End 2018 by Rom Beyerle

A short video from the Playback Designs booth at Munich High End 2018. All three Dream Series components were featured and looking and sounding stunning. Landing in store very soon.

*Munich News* Playback Dreaming - Playback Designs Announces "Dream Series" by Rom Beyerle

Playback Designs MPD-8 DAC

A quick re-cap of the latest Uber DAC and Transport announcement from digital aficionado's Playback Designs. Delivery is planned before the end of the year.

Playback Designs has announced their new Dream Series Audio DAC and Transport - SACD/CD/Server system incorporating the latest Ultra High Performance technology. Early prototypes were shown at the Axpona show in Chicago and the High End show in Munich.

According to Andreas Koch, president and designer of Playback Designs, this system could have been called "Reference" system, but the design goal was actually much higher than that: the lofty and seemingly unattainable performance level that hardly anybody even dares dreaming about. It is the culmination of more than 30 years of experience in audio design. The Dream Series consists of the MPD-8 standalone DAC and MPT-8 transport with CD/SACD drive and optional music server built in.

Design philosophy: The from-ground-up new architecture is the result of multiple prototype generations over the last 2 years where the experience of digital and analog algorithms and circuit designs from Andreas Koch's and Bert Gerlach's expertise refined over many decades has been combined and perfected to create a truly no-compromise, flexible and programmable product platform that can deliver ultimate performance and can grow for many years as technology keeps evolving.

Playback Designs MPD-8 DAC

The Dream Series DAC

MPD-8 DAC is a new DAC architecture and is based on Playback Designs' well proven discrete converter design but incorporates significant improvements and new technologies. Its digital inputs, AES/SPDIF/USB/ST-fiber-optic, TOS support any sample rate and format up to QUAD DSD. In addition to balanced and unbalanced line level analog outputs, an analog volume control is provided that can be bypassed. Included will be recording software, allowing the creation of PCM or DSD music files on a computer from all digital sources connected to the MPD-8. Target price $22,000.

The digital side is fully programmable, as always at Playback Designs, but they have added significantly more computing power to be able to extend the digital algorithms for audio processing and clock control. The analog side is double differential for each channel and uniquely separated and isolated from the digital side. In fact, Playback Designs products were always designed to rigorously separate digital from analog circuits in order to preserve the analog nature of the music signal, but the new MPD-8 pushes this purist concept even further.

For this, completely separate linear power supplies are provided for the analog circuitry for each channel that are mounted on ceramic circuit boards. A third separate power supply is for the digital section.

The same purist concept was applied to the choice of display. While many other manufacturers use fancy graphic displays, all of which use asynchronous clocks and therefore influence the audio performance, our choice of display was less for visual impact, but for ultimate audio performance.

 

Playback Designs MPD-8 DAC

Users have a choice if they want the USB interface inside the same chassis or keep it outside in a separate box (optional USB-XIII interface) for better isolation via optical connection (PLink).

This keeps the MPD-8 free from any direct connection to computers or any asynchronous clock that is not synchronised with the audio sample rate.

MPT-8 Digital Music Transport is a no-compromise companion product for the MPD-8 DAC. It incorporates a newly developed CD/SACD drive mechanism that is not based on any mass produced components, but was rather designed from ground up for audiophile applications.

Optionally, the Syrah music server can be added into the same chassis making the MPT-8 a unique and complete digital source center. The music server can be controlled via iPad/Android tablets and provides internal storage (SSD) as well as external storage and networks, DLNA and NAS. CDs are automatically ripped from an external optical drive providing extensive meta-data capabilities.

A future option for the MPT-8 that is already in development is a streaming interface for the currently most popular streaming services.

The MPT-8 connects to the MPD-8 via the proprietary optical interface PLink for native playback of any file format and sample rate including quad DSD. This interface is designed to provide a galvanic separation between all digital sources with its many asynchronous clocks from the very sensitive DAC components in the MPD-8.

 

MPD-8 Product Page

MPT-8 Product Page

 

Discreet FPGA - A Better DAC alternative by Rom Beyerle

While the world catches back on to the fantastic sound of the vinyl record, digital is certainly not standing still either. The discreet FPGA Digital to Analogue conversion implemented in the EMM Labs and Playback Designs products leaves most other D/A conversion in their wake. The ability for these DAC's to be firmware upgradable when the manufacturer makes advancements with their algorithms is like getting a new product allover again, extending the product life far beyond that of the almost annual hardware updates from many other manufacturers. The pictured EMM Labs DA2 released recently, is the absolute state of the art new converter from veteran electronics, digital and DSD guru Ed Meitner and team at EMM Labs/Meitner Designs. As awareness grows around the benefit to sound quality when not restrained to the confines of CD quality sample rate and bit depth, Hi-resolution downloads are becoming more and more common. The DA2 will take absolutely any file format you can throw at it and with further advancements to their long used trademark DSD up-sampling regime, the DA2 now up-samples all signals to an extraordinary DSD1024 (16xDSD @ 45Mhz/49Mhz). Sound is carefully tuned with Meitners trademark audiophile analogue output stages and the digital interfaces are extremely advanced to reduce any jitter or other interference from noisy digital signals, without the need for ancillary boxes like re-clockers, isolators etc. Meitner have thought of everything, and it's all in this turnkey box, taking the confusion and complication out of computer audio. With products like this and our others from MolaMola, Playback Designs & T+A, Digital Audio has most certainly come of age.

Antipodes Music Servers - All that digital audio cracked up to be by Rom Beyerle

Digital arrived in the audio world with many promises. Convenience was good. CD players and transports improved, but the potential of digital and computer audio had not been realised until the culmination of more recent events. 

Firstly, the recognition of record labels, artists & mastering engineers that not only was the loudness war a race to the bottom, but also inherently the the cd format is also somewhat hobbled by design. If the recording was captured in a higher resolution which is far more common nowadays, there is audible benefit to maintaining this high resolution through to playback, and releasing via digital downloads, SACD or Blu-Ray Audio recordings in their native format, or in the case of re-releases, high resolution transfers from the best possible source available. Not to be mistaken in saying that CD’s sound bad in general, or one particular file format is better than the other, but recognising that in our journey to reach for that final few % in performance of our system and the ultimate intimacy with the recording, it would be silly to accept a bottleneck such as that of a reduced resolution source. We are very happy to see more and more releases re-visited and released in all their digital glory.

The other and equally exciting event being the arrival of the dedicated music server. A machine with it’s sole purpose to deliver music both conveniently, but most importantly, as best as it can possibly sound. Antipodes Audio set out to build the best possible digital music server and quickly realised it was no simple task. An off the shelf computer is a hugely multipurpose machine and not optimised for any particular task.  

All the steps taken in the development of Antipodes Music Servers have been tested by measurements and listening along the way. The development was long and arduous to get to the polished, stellar performance of today. Steps taken included, removal of all unimportant components and the design and manufacture of custom motherboards, custom developed operating system eliminating all but vital background software processes, addition of custom low noise circuits and power supplies, a balanced approach to spec for processing power whilst optimising the lowest possible noise for CPU and RAM clocking rates, Jitter reduction via dedicated audiophile USB interface with the highest quality low noise clocking. The list goes on, and we are sure there are many secrets under the hood held closely to their chests.

The Antipodes Music Servers have been some of our most popular digital products in recent times, taking all the confusion out of an optimised computer audio system with turnkey packages that just plain work. Sound quality and feature set surpassing that of other server or digital audio transport currently on the market. The latest software updates offers seamless integration with Roon and many other popular playback software. If you have been dreaming of a one box, optimised server for all your digital audio media, in the highest audiophile quality, easily controlled from the convenience of your smartphone or tablet, these units are for you.

Kii Three Active Loudspeakers - Lifestyle hifi with professional performance. by Rom Beyerle

We are super passionate about each and every one of our hand picked line of products, all of which have cutting edge design and technology involved, with performance as their ultimate goal. This particular musical marvel has it in spades. The Kii Three is an extremely advanced active loudspeaker, designed with premium components and construction, with the added advantage of sophisticated on board digital signal processing(DSP). What does that mean? By implementing speakers, amplifiers, crossovers, digital signal processing and digital to analogue conversion onboard, the designer is in total control of each element to create a perfect harmonious interplay. This is truly an all-in-one system, but lightyears ahead in sound quality than the current crop of "lifestyle" active systems.

The Kii receives digital or analogue input, and using its six drivers per speaker and in-house DSP, cleverly creates a cardioid, controlled directivity bass response, helping enormously in eliminating common room acoustic issues. Cardioid bass means you can place speakers in corners or up against walls with no sonic degradation - and lets face it, many of us need to maximise all the space we have, or simply wish good sound could fit in our homes with less impact to our interiors.

Do not be deceived, this small speaker, while removing the clutter of other components, has a full range, extremely flat frequency response like a floor standing speaker. Ultra low distortion specs and fantastic impulse response, means professional mix and mastering engineers are also clambering over themselves to get a pair. And for us mere mortals that means - kickass full range sound, in a compact package, on a stand where the robot vac can't get at it.

We could continue on about the components, technology and pedigree of this new product all evening, but there is already ample detailed technical information online. For those eager or willing to break the confines of a traditional hifi setup, with all the benefits it brings, it's an exciting time.

Kii Three is also available with a rugged professional finish for studio use, or any choice of RAL or custom automotive colours.