I get few thrills bigger than launching new products. It’s what I live for… well… actually… listening to new improvements that lift the system beyond what I imagined probably trumps everything… but, what the hell, I love it all!
Today marks the official launch of a new DAC for PS Audio, the NuWave DSD. Without question, this is a huge step up in quality from any affordable D to A converter we have ever built. It’s really, really, good. No, it’s really, really great.
I won’t take your time to ramble on about how wonderful it sounds but I will mention just a couple of things that matter. This design has been a personal project of our chief engineer, Bob Stadtherr. He’s labored long to build the best sounding under $2,000 DAC he can and I am wowed by what he has wrought. Played on the newly dialed in IRSV in Music Room One, music puts a smile on your face and a tap in your toe.
The innards of NuWave are based on the excellent Sabre series of Hyperstream 32 bit DAC chips, but that’s not unusual. If it were not for DirectStream, I would wager the majority of contenders for best performance at any price are also based on ESS technology.
So what did Bob do to bring his magic to an affordable DSD platform? He added a type of FPGA to the front end. FPGAs, like those found on DirectStream, are the major workhorses of sophisticated technological equipment. Big FPGAs have millions of gates that programmers, like our Ted Smith, use to build the devices themselves – but that’s not what we did in the NuWave DSD. NuWave uses a smaller type of FPGA with a different acronym, CPLD, which stands for Complex Programmable Logic Device (these engineers lover their TLAs). CPLDs are basically smaller FPGAs and can be taught to do whatever programmers desire. Though too small to handle all the functions of a DAC, as we do in DirectStream, they are large enough to pull a few rabbits from hats.
Bob wanted to make certain that all incoming data, whether DSD, or PCM, was processed in the same way and then presented to the Sabre chip in perfect form and timing without jitter. To do that he spend much time programming the CPLD to identify the incoming format, organize the bits, and wave shape their output. Without going into too much detail, the custom gate arrangement on the NuWave DAC input has a great deal of impact on perfecting audio performance and as soon as you hear the DAC for yourself, you’ll start to get a good idea of what he has accomplished.
Tomorrow I’ll cover the second big advantage, passive filtering, and what it means to sound. If you want to read more details, click here.