Posted on 10th May, 2017


The word on every audio brand’s spin list is “Reference”. It’s an easy adjective to apply to any model, and a horde of audio companies does just that without blinking an eye.

But not Playback Designs. Now here’s a brand that doesn’t allow marketing hype to rule over substance. Proof positive is its new Dream Series Audio DAC and Transport-SACD/CD/Server System.

Andreas Koch, Playback’s company president and designer will tell you his latest system fully deserves to be called a ‘’Reference’’ system, but he chose not to go down this well-worn path.

Our design goal was frankly, actually much higher than that. We were aiming to design gear whose performance level was actually much higher than Reference standard.

I guess we’re talking about the lofty and seemingly unattainable performance level that hardly anybody dares dreaming about. The Dream Series models are the culmination of more than 30-years of experience in audio design.

You can’t get any more factual than telling it like that. Koch‘s feedback everywhere he’s demonstrated the MPD-8 standalone DAC and MPT-8 transport with CD/SACD drive and optional built-in music server, tells him he’s hardly whistling in the wind.

Playback Designs MPD-8 DAC

Those who have gotten up close and personal with the new Dream Series unhesitatingly tell us that sonically they’re an audiophile’s and music lover’s Dream System.

The design philosophy that drove the design of the new models was a from-the-ground-up process involving a new architecture and the building of multiple prototype generations over a two-year period.

To get to the finished products, Koch and Bert Gerlach combined their extensive experience of digital and analogue algorithms and circuit designs refined over many decades. Experience of the kind that no amount of money can buy or replicate.

The result is a no-compromise, flexible and programmable product platform that can deliver ultimate performance. More importantly, it’s also one that’s future proofed and can grow and evolve for many years to keep pace with innovations as they appear.

The MPD-8 DAC is built using a brand-new DAC architecture based on playback design’s proven discrete converter design, but it also has significant improvements and new technologies.

It comes loaded with digital inputs, AES/SPDIF/USB/ST-fibre optic and TOS connections and these support any sample rate or format up to QUAD DSD.

Along with balanced and unbalanced line level analogue outputs, the new DAC has an analogue volume control that can be bypassed. Bundled with this DAC is free recording software to allow users to create PCM or DSD music files on a computer from all digital sources linked to the MPD-8. The estimated retail price of the new DAC will be about $22,000.

This price ensures a DAC whose digital side is fully programmable and has plenty of computing power so it can extended Playback’s digital algorithms for audio processing and clock control.

On the analogue side, each channel is double differential and uniquely separated and isolated from the digital side. A design principle of Playback Design and one that pushes the idea of separating digital from analogue circuits so as to preserve the analogue nature of the music signal, to a new purist level with the MPD-8.

To achieve this separation, completely separate linear power supplies are used for the analogue circuitry, for each channel. These are mounted on ceramic circuit boards while a third separate power supply is used in the digital section of the DAC.

Even the display follows the same purist design goals. Ignored were fancy graphic displays using asynchronous clocks that degrade performance. The display used was chosen for its audio performance and not its bling.

Playback Designs MPT-8

The MPT-8 Digital Music Transport is an audiophile dream piece of kit. It’s a no-compromise companion product to match the MPD-8’s DAC’s excellence.

This is no idle boast as proven by the use of a newly developed CD/SACD drive mechanism that is not based on any mass produced components, but is a ground-up design totally intended for audiophile applications.

Taking ergonomics to another level, the optional Syrah music server can be added to the same chassis, making the MPT-8 a unique and complete digital source centre. Music server can be controlled using an iPad/Android tablet and provided internal storage (SSD) as well as external storage and networks such as DLNA and NAS. CDS are automatically ripped from an external optical drive to deliver extensive meta-data features.

A streaming interface for the MPT-8 is already being developed and this will work with today’s most popular streaming services.

Connection of the MP-T8 to the MPD-8 is via a patented 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 component in the MPD-8. Estimated RRP depending on option is $14,000-$20,000

For more information visit the Playback Designs brand page.

Peter Familari's avatar

Peter Familari

One of the veterans of the Australian HiFi industry, Peter was formerly the Audio-Video Editor of the Herald Sun for over two decades. One of the most-respected audio journalists in Australia, Peter brings his unparalleled experience and a unique story-telling ability to StereoNET.

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Posted in: Hi-Fi
Tags: playback designs  pure music group