The Playback Designs Series 3 products are revolutionary.
The Playback Designs Integrated Playback System 3, also known as IPS-3, is three remarkable products in one: a proven world-class discrete dual differential Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) that is already found in other award winning Playback Designs products, a remote controlled analog preamplifier with a multitude of inputs and a class A/B analog amplifier with a nominal 130 watts per channel into 8 ohms and 260 watts per channel into 4 ohms, all fitted inside a compact and sleek chassis.
A proprietary USB interface allows a USB connection to music servers based on Windows, Mac or Linux platforms. All currently available music formats are supported for PCM and DSD. Any future format will be supported via firmware upgrade.
While other companies regularly release new versions of their products with increased prices, making their older products obsolete and of little value, Playback Designs does things quite differently. The IPS-3 is designed as a programmable platform, similar to a computer. Its firmware can be upgraded by the user, at any time, with new algorithms and features to keep it up-to-date with future trends and technologies.
Thanks to the high level of integration inside the IPS-3′s single chassis, signal paths are kept extremely short and connections to analog and digital playback sources simple − all this careful layout and attention to detail results in “goose bump” causing sonic performance.
WE USE PROTECTION
To protect your system, we have created minimally invasive fault detection in the amplifier section of the IPS-3. This protects against clipping, voltage overload, DC offset, power failure and the overheating of internal electronics. Normally, fairly invasive circuitry has to be inserted into the signal path for such detection, resulting in a loss of sonic purity, but in the IPS-3 we use optical isolation to retain the true audio signal.
|Specificatii||The goal at Playback Designs was an easy one to set and incredibly difficult to achieve:
Most people consider digital playback to be sonically inferior to analog playback, whether tape or vinyl. We wanted to match or better the critical areas where we felt analog had superior advantages without losing the benefits of great digital playback.
Most digital playback systems produce high frequencies that tend to sound processed or harsh. It is commonly referred to as “digititus” or “digital hash”. It is an unnatural sound that can cause listener fatigue and irritation during long listening sessions.
There tends to be a much more visceral experience when listening to analog. Listeners tend to be less analytical and just accept and enjoy the musical experience more so with tape or vinyl playback.
Sonically there is less immediacy that one tends to experience with analog playback.
System flexibility and modularity to meet various customer needs.
Playback Designs′ philosophy is very simple, but again, very difficult to achieve. In order to achieve the best possible sonic performance it is vital to understand all the details of the theories behind digital and analog signal processing. Relying on component manufacturers to solve signal processing challenges generally ends up in compromised performance. Playback Designs embarked right from the beginning on a path where it applied its vast technical expertise in analog and digital signal processing to design solutions that give “discrete” a new meaning: where standard chips for digital signal processing were not good enough, Playback Designs uses general gate arrays that can be programmed with their own discrete and proprietary algorithms, where standard analog integrated amplifiers (OpAmp) were not good enough Playback Designs uses discrete analog components to better the overall performance. Playback Designs did not leave any step untouched in the theory of Digital to Analog Conversion nor did it leave it to 3rd party vendors for any solutions.
Both the audiophile and recording industries have adopted SACD (Super Audio CD) as the premier format for both recording and playback. At Playback Designs we wanted to go much further. We decided to convert all digital audio to a format that has twice the data rate of SACD before converting it to analog. Most companies are upconverting 2, 4 or 8 times while we are doing it 128 times. You will hear greater resolution and detail, an improved sense of space with more precise imaging with much faster transient response. With a Playback Designs component your system will sound more alive!
Playback Designs′ players and DACs employ technology never previously utilized in this industry. Our PDFAS (Playback Designs Frequency Arrival System) is a ground breaking technology developed by Andreas Koch, that eliminates the need for conventional PLLs, also known as “Phase Locked Loops”. PLLs try to control and minimize jitter while our PDFAS completely eliminates it out of the audio signal. Regardless of the source, whether it is an external transport, music server, personal computer, portable MP3 or disc player, the connection to the Playback Designs is effortless and jitter free.
Most standard off-the-shelf DAC chips introduce unnatural frequency effects (“brick wall filter effect” and others). With its discrete approach Playback Designs has control over every little step and algorithm inside the digital-to-analog conversion process and was able to address the fundamental flaws of the off-the-shelf chip solutions that other manufacturers generally use.
The visceral experience is obtained by Playback Designs by using very unique technology to prevent the common side effects associated with digital signal processing.
Through a combination of unique analog and digital signal processing technologies Playback Designs was able to achieve a sonic performance that maintains the character of analog playback and combines it with the advantages of digital.
We know that every customer has different needs and different setups. With this in mind Playback Designs has designed the product architecture for the greatest flexibility and modularity. The modular architecture of the Playback Designs MPD-5 allows it to be upgraded at any time to a MPS-5. The MPS-5 can be expanded to a full 6-channel setup or a 4-channel system with center channel mixdown to the front L/R channels. Also, some applications require a multiroom distribution of the same 2-channel program. No matter what your requirements are, the Playback Designs system approach will be able to meet it.
Most educated audiophiles and studio professionals would agree that with digital playback the noise floor is substantially lower than with either tape or vinyl. This is hardly the only difference. By shifting some of the signal processing that is generally done in analog to the digital domain Playback Designs is in a better position to control phase shifts, filter accuracies and non-linearity issues than if it was done in the analog domain. This off-loads the analog stage and burdens it only with what it does best: give us this natural and undisturbed sonic performance that we all find so appealing.
Playback Designs Frequency Arrival System (PDFAS) − Playback Designs′ players and DACs employ technology never previously utilized in this industry. Our PDFAS is a ground breaking technology developed by Andreas Koch, that eliminates the need for conventional PLLs, also known as “Phase Locked Loops”. PLLs try to control and minimize jitter while our PDFAS completely eliminates it out of the audio signal. Regardless of the source, whether it is an external transport, music server, personal computer, portable MP3 or disc player, the connection to the Playback Designs is effortless and jitter free.
Playback Designs Super High Resolution USB − All series of Playback Designs products have the ability to playback, what we like to call, “Super High Resolution” music files. These are files that go far beyond the resolution that most companies are attempting to playback. Currently only a few companies can achieve, 24/192kHz. Our players and DACs can playback music files up to 24/384kHz PCM and up to 6.1MHz DSD through a USB connection to either a PC or MAC. This is up to 32 times the resolution of players with the ability to playback 192kHz high resolution files.
Playback Designs 8FS USB Interface − While there may be a few companies that make claims that they have an 8FS USB interface, they likely have to downsample the data inside the DAC because they use a standard off-the-shelf DAC chip set that is limited to 4FS. Due to our discrete DAC technology, we, truly do 8FS. In fact it is designed to receive any PCM sample rate up 6.1MHz. This technology makes our products future proof for many years, if not decades.
|Features||Audio is represented in a y/x-axis system: the y-axis for amplitude and the x-axis for time. Mostly because of analog audio′s sensitivity problems in the y-axis, digital audio was introduced. But digital audio not only quantizes the y-axis, it does so as well on the x-axis. Sounds like we got more than we wanted − true and too bad. A typical state-of-the-art DAC converts between quantization levels in the digital y-axis and the analog y-axis and is completely transparent and open as to what happens on the x-axis (time domain). Sounds like we forgot the quantization on the x-axis.
This oversight forced us to treat digital audio signals as if they were analog: use special cables, use all kinds of mechanical devices for our CD players, power conditioners for digital audio etc. Looks like we just shifted the original problem from the y-axis to the x-axis, but the issues are still the same. Instead of interference or crosstalk we now call it clock jitter.
Almost all DACs available today deal with the y-axis only and rely on external devices for the x-axis, such as complicated master/slave clock arrangements or external sync clock generators. At best these devices are band-aids on a wide open wound deep inside the DAC. They help, but do not resolve the problem at the source. We need a 2-dimensional DAC that not only works on the y-axis, but also on the x-axis. With this we can separate the digital world completely from the analog one and render any digital cable, transmission format, storage media and application completely irrelevant to the final sonic performance. The only analog problem that we still have then is the separation of the power supplies for digital and analog.
The DAC inside the Playback Designs product line does exactly that: clock jitter from incoming digital audio signals can be described as an analog signal that gets mixed together with a quantized digital signal (our ideal and constant sample rate clock). So before any processing can happen we need to bring these 2 components into the same domain: The Playback Designs system quantizes the clock jitter into a digital signal, where it then can be subtracted from the original sample rate while the latter is converted to analog at the same time. Of the course, the DAC also works independently in the y-axis by using a set of unique algorithms in a completely discrete architecture (not even a single Op-Amp is used).
Tests have shown that the DAC inside the Playback Designs product line can be fed by any digital source including a PC, an inexpensive Discman, a DVD player, or high-end CD transport and none of them seem to make a difference on the sonic performance of the analog output signal. Ultimately this means that as long as you are sending our DAC truthful complete bits the source does not make a difference. We believe if you own a home computer, you already own a music server that cannot be sonically bettered!
Why do we want a computer for audio playback?
Simply speaking, ease of use.
Having the ability to easily store music, create playlists and select music by genre makes computer playback the most enjoyable method of playback today. You no longer have to have a room filled with hundreds or even thousands of CDs. Everything is controlled easily without having to get out of your listening chair.
The most impressive part of computer audio is having the capability of playing music at a much higher resolution than a CD can provide. With the Playback Designs products, you can actually listen to files that are up to 128 times the resolution of a CD.
The download bottleneck
File sizes for a 3 minute song and download times (assuming 5Mb/sec internet connection):
Redbook (16/44.1kHz) 32MB @ 1 min.
24/88.2kHz 95MB @ 2.6 min.
24/96kHz 103MB @ 2.8 min.
24/176.4kHz 190MB @ 5 min.
DXD (24/352.8kHz) 380MB @ 10 min.
DSD 127MB @ 3.4 min.
As we can see DSD is not only very efficient for downloads, but at the same time has the highest resolution available. DSD should easily become the dominant format for high resolution downloads.
Within the computer itself, you have the software player application, the computer′s operating system and the computer driver software. All of this controls what goes out to an external DAC. Quite often one or more of these elements within the computer offers digital volume control and / or processing which degrades sonic performance.
It is imperative that you turn off all computer audio processing and set all computer volume controls to exactly 0db (i.e. wide open). This will help ensure that all the bits are intact by the time your DAC recieves them.
Also, your computer has internal sounds and audible alerts. These need to be turned off as well. If not, during playback, you may hear these sounds and / or audible alerts through your loudspealers.
Have you dropped a bit lately?
Windows is not a real time operating system and often causes audio dropouts. If you are using a PC, we recommend you download the latency checker application to configure your PC for dropout-free performance. You can find this programming by visiting http://www.thesycon.de/deu/latency_check.shtml
We have not experienced these same problems on the newer MACs.
The manifold (numerous) joys of an external DAC
Generally speaking, an external DAC should provide much better sound than having one built into your computer or music server. Manufacturers have greater flexibility in designing a power supply for an external chassis. Space is not as much of an issue and there can be better separation between the power supply and critical audio circuitry.
The PC is a very noisy environment which can have a real negative effect on the DAC′s performance. Separating the two is critical. One primary benefit is the ability to have control over clock generation. In this case the DAC can be the clock master or clock generator which eliminates a lot of jitter problems normally associated with computer audio.
Link to external DAC
Pro: cable length, synchronous
Con: limited sample rate, no DSD, requires second link for master clock and in most cases an additional sound card
Con: short cable length, limited sample rate, no DSD, requires second link for master clock and in most cases an additional sound card
TosLink − please do not use this
Pro: synchronous, DSD
Con: limited sample rate, limited cable length, expensive
Pro: standard on all computers, some support by standard operating systems, open ended (can support DSD or any future format), not limited by sample rate, no additional link for master clock necessary
Con: limited cable length, non-synchronous
Very similar to USB, but less and less popular with computer manufacturers
“Asynchronous” USB link
We believe the USB connection is currently the best connection to use between a computer and a DAC. USB connections are standard on all computers and have extremely wide bandwidth for all current digital formats (PCM and DSD) as well as future possibilities. It also requires no additional link to handle clocking.
There are a number of different ways to send audio from a computer to a DAC via a USB link, but only one that really works well.
Adaptive USB Mode is the first we will discuss. It only sends data one way and relies on the computer′s clock to control the timing of the data sent. It is not desired.
Asynchronous USB Mode is the desired method. It allows two way communication between the computer and the DAC. It is important that the clock resides with the DAC and that the DAC does not rely on the inferior unstable computer clock which cannot maintain consistent timing of the data sent. In short, Asynchronous USB Mode allows the DAC to be the clock master or generator and the computer to be the clock slave.
|Tip Echipament||Solid State|