Review: PS Audio PerfectWave System Page 2

Performance

PS Audio’s Transport is more like a purpose-built audiophile computer than a mere CD player. Its DVD-ROM drive reads discs and extracts data minus any error correction, storing a portion — generally 15 to 30 seconds’ worth — in a memory buffer it calls the Digital Lens. From here, the Transport’s asynchronous fixed timing clock recovers the audio data and outputs it to the DAC. The drive only reads WAV fi les, but it can handle resolutions up to 192-kHz/24-bit. I burned several 192-kHz files (transcoded from FLAC) that I downloaded from HDtracks.com onto a DVD. These indeed played with no trouble, and the amazing sound quality was exactly what I’ve come to expect from high-rez recordings.

Operationally, the Transport is far more elegant than a traditional CD player as well. It has the ability to retrieve metadata and album art, which it displays on an LCD touchscreen that’s also used for control. I found album art retrieval to be spotty, working properly maybe 60% of the time. (Fortunately, there are provisions — albeit cumbersome ones — for editing metadata and adding album art.) The transport also has no random or shuffle play features.

In past listening sessions, I’ve found differences between DACs to generally be subtle. That was absolutely not the case this time. From the first second, it was totally clear that PS Audio’s DAC was performing nothing short of sonic magic. In fact, the PerfectWave DAC had the most profound impact of any audio component I have ever auditioned. It was as if someone had wiped away years of grime and build-up from the sound, taking each note and shining it up to a factory-fresh sparkle, or that my entire audio system had been upgraded instead of just the single component.

It didn’t matter what I threw at the PerfectWave system. Jazz, pop, rock, classical, blues: Everything sounded like I was hearing a special, newly remastered copy of the CD. Each note had a much more tangible presence. I could follow its decay in a way that seemed like I was hearing a completely different version of the recording.

On George Michael’s “Jesus to a Child,” for example, cymbal strikes were presented far more clearly, especially the trailing notes, which remained audible far longer when played through PS Audio’s DAC than what I’m used to hearing. And the bass line in John Mayer’s “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” also had far more weight. When listening to Miles Davis’s “So What,” I could feel the air coming from his trumpet, and each performer stood out in better contrast — I could even picture their arrangement in the studio. I was so stunned by my experience that I did something I’ve never done before: I called another reviewer I knew who had spent time with the product.

“The PerfectWave DAC . . . it’s . . .”

“I know.”

“I mean, it’s just . . .”

“I know, right?!”

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