PS Audio PWT - cd transport

Category: Digital

When I first saw a picture of the PS Audio PWT transport I did not think too kindly of it, as it appeared to be formed plastic but with reading the PS Audio website info on it, it made good electronic sense to me.

Reading the disc via a ‘read till right’ program – in other words, it does not automatically implement ‘error code correction’ (ecc) programming when misreading a disc, instead it reads and rereads the disc up to 100 times (not utilizing the drive cache) before resorting to ecc. Once this data is extracted from the disc it is sent to RAM memory where it is stored for a brief period. This middle storage point separates the disc from the transport’s output, thereby allowing for rereading till right data (explained above) and eliminates timing errors (by reclocking the data from this point forward, instead of using the clocked data stream directly read from the disc). This memory buffer does not manipulate or change the disc data at all – it’s still what was on the disc, only now more accurate in content and more accurate in timing. This is the data output.

Anyway, after being explained this info by Paul McGowan and Ryan Conway, I was intrigued enough to buy one. First off, I can say that I pleasantly surprised and happy to report that the transport is not made of plastic, its either aluminum or steel, and it is heavy and well damped. But, the remote is made of plastic and is pretty cheap feeling – oh well. There is no buttons on the unit, all input is either via remote or via a touch screen on the unit. The touch screen is a nice touch (couldn’t resist;) – it allows for operation but also displays disc title and song name with album cover art (if the unit is connected to your internet).

But enough with the side show stuff – what does it sound like? House keeping first - I have about 348 hours on it now, it sets ontop of Symposium Rollerblocks,, I’m using a Grover Huffman Sc AES/EBU digital line to my custom Audio Note DAC, and I’m using an Grover Huffman Sx power cable. The rest of my system consists of Atma-Sphere MP-3 pre and MA-1 amps and Quad 988 esl’s. This consists of the base line and comparisions are made against a Accustic Arts Drive 1 mk1 transport.

Now then;

Most obvious is a total lack of digititis – no etching, no “over emphasized” sharp edges, no glare. Instead, you get a VERY organic sound, but mind you, it’s not bloated, softened, or rounded – the best description is ‘natural’. Significantly more liquid than the Accustic Arts.

A dramatic increase in soundstage and dimensionality. Instruments are spread out with plenty of air and space around them. Open air, breath. Whole stage depth presented. Much more extension in my sound stage width, now uncannily extends beyond the sidewalls.

Articulate and detailed, but again no etch or glare. Fast. Slam. Tight. Rhythmic. We have moved beyond toe-tappin’ and have entered the butt shakin’ realm. Very lively. No fatigue.

All is well extended in both directions, bottom to top. Nothing is bloated or sharp. – sonically very clear and focused. Micro and macro detail is really expressed nicely. But, the noise floor is bit higher than the Accustic Arts – not a totally “black” background. Lastly, on very busy passages, I detect a bit of grain – only on pieces very busy with treble (concurrent multi cymbals, highhat, triangles, +).

Putting it all together - Horns, bongos, vibes are holographic / 3 dimensional. Brass horns are “brassy” but not bright or shrill, instead mellow and sexy. Cymbals are crisp and have realistic brassy lingering overtones. Toms and snare are stout. Strings are beautiful and radiate mellow woodtones. While bass is deep and distinguishingly tonefull. Woodwinds are richfully hollow and resonate, Voices are lively, relaxed, and human. Again, my notes continuously go back to “organic” and “natural”. Very ‘smile on your face’!!!

Overall, I find myself really amazed. The PS Audio is literally 1/3rd the price of my Accustic Arts but is truly much more musical. Personally, I think it’s power supply could be cleaner but this does not distract from the organic sounds elicited – actually reminds me of good analogue. The PS Audio is without a doubt a giant-killer for its price-point and I feel I can recommend it without hesitance.

I am wonderfully happy with how well it has synergized and complimented my custom Audio Note DAC. Lastly, I should note, the PS Audio has read every disc I have placed in it without a single stoppage -- can't say that with Phillip's drive based transports.

My PWT sounds wonderful with my 32-bit STARS Audio Aero SE tube DAC, which is the Capitole SE without the transport.

However the unit I bought brand new freezes up whenever I leave a CD in it, even for under an hour. I sent it to PS Audio for repair under warranty and, while the found and fixed another problem with it, they refused to fix the bug that causes it to freeze up. PS Audio Customer Service Manager Alex Paananen told me that each and every one of these units locks up if you leave them on with a CD inside, and the only thing you can do is cycle the power using the On/Off switch on the back of the unit. He also told me that there was no timetable for fixing the bug. Does everyone else have the same problem? 

 In my humble opinion, a CD transport that costs $3999 should at least work out of the box, and if it doesn't the manufacturer should fix it or replace it - no excuses. I won't do business with a company that releases a "state of the art" product that sells for several thousand dollars with obvious design flaws, such as PS Audio. Your mileage may vary.

augwest I am sorry that you're having this trouble. I have used the PWT in my system for  over 6 years and haven't encountered this problem. Mine is obvious an older version.  I wonder how common this malfunction is. You'd think that this could be corrected. 
 Hello,  my pwt has froze a couple of times in the 5 or 6 years I have had it but it is not much of a problem to just turn it off and then back on.  It is a very nice transport otherwise
Mine is one of the first generations and I have never "up graded" the software - because I heard that one of the software upgrades decreased the usable RAM for music playing... so I never upgraded the software.  The only issue I ever had was the one described above, where as the drive would not eject.  No problems since I replaced the drive.  But I have never left a disc in it over night.  I am very very picky over the safe protection of my music, so as soon as I am done listening the CD goes right back into my storage vault, yes, vault.
I purchased used PWT and PWD's a couple of months ago. They are about 5 years old and haven't been updated since the original owner purchased them new from PS Audio. They sound great and I couldn't be happier......unless maybe with the Directstreams? 

Questions for those of you with more experience with these units. The cd transport seems noisy at times but it doesn't bother me from my listening position over 14' away. Something I should be concerned about? I didn't realize leaving cd's in the tray overnight was an issue. What problems does that cause? I'm quite guilty of that! Storage vault? Please don't tell me I need a vault for my cd's! Lastly, I've been considering ripping my cd's onto a laptop and play my music from it. I believe I just need the bridge for the PWT to do so? Thanks for your help.