PS Audio

Leading Power Regenerator Conditioners & Power Cords manufactured in the USA
Eliminating a classic problem
It’s Saturday afternoon, you go to enjoy your hi-fi system, crank up a CD and are somewhat underwhelmed with the performance.  Last night the system was sounding its very best so you came back this afternoon for more.  This is a classic example of why you need a Power Plant.
 
The reason your system didn’t sound its best is the power quality coming into your home changed.  During the day you share the power resources with industry, retail shops, factories and the day-to-day needs for power our society has.  At night things calm down, mostly lights are consuming power and these are gentle loads on the system.
 
Power Plants solve this problem by acting like a personal power generating station.  Power Plants ensure your system performs its best whenever you want to listen and in the process restore much of what’s been missing in your system’s performance.

The Power Plant is a Personal Power Generator
A Power Plant is a personal power generator for your high-end audio and video system.  It takes whatever the utility company feeds it and converts that to battery voltage and then uses that voltage to generate new and perfect power your equipment is hungry for.
 
This process is important to wringing every last drop of performance from your system – for without perfect power, your system can’t perform at its best.
 
So, if that’s true, why not just run everything through a power conditioner?  There are plenty of them on the market telling you they generate m
 
The Power Plant is not a power conditioner
For some reason people tend to lump Power Plants into the same category as a power conditioner and that’s a mistake.  Power conditioners do not generate new power, they do not fix what’s fundamentally wrong with the power and they act more as Band Aids than anything else (you can read a more detailed version here).
 
Imagine for a moment the difference between the two.  On the one hand we have a power conditioner which can easily be pictured as a simple filter cleaning the power coming into our homes.  That’s a useful feature but very different than the next scenario.
 
Now picture your home not connected to the shared power grid and sitting isolated from your neighbors as pictured in this drawing.  In your backyard is an actual Power Plant generating electricity for you.  This is much closer to the Power Plant, how it works and why it is fundamentally different than a power conditioner.  Conditioners condition, Power Plants generate.
 
The difference between the two is core to why you need a Power Plant.  The fact is, you share your power with your neighbors and local industry.  During peak usage times the quality of the power goes down and with it, the performance you’ve paid for from your system.  Your system cannot operate at its peak level unless it is fed perfect power 24/7.  This is the job of the Power Plant and no power conditioner can possibly hope to achieve the same results.
 
Power Plants solve some fundamental problems
In 1997 PS Audio co-founder Paul McGowan faced a serious problem – he could not rely on his reference system to evaluate new audio designs during the daytime – only at night.  This created a dilemma – he could restrict his working hours to the evenings only or fix the problem – he chose the latter.
 
After a few months of investigation the problem was narrowed down to the only variable element in the system that was not being controlled, the actual AC power coming into the listening lab.  The problems with the power were measurable and visible on test equipment and included varying voltage levels, distortion of the actual waveform, added harmonic distortion and lots of noise.  Clearly there was no way to fix these problems without generating new voltage from scratch – and that’s exactly what he did.
 
The Power Plant concept is born
The first commercial version of the Power Plant was the P300 which came to market in 1997.  You can see the original Power Plant P300 pictured here to the right.
 
The P300 was a 300 watt personal generator that was too small to run power amplifiers and projectors but big enough to run most source equipment – and important enough to change the world of high-end audio forever.
 
The immediate reaction to this new technology was one of awe.  Audiophiles had never considered the actual power coming into their homes as something to worry about, but one listen to this new P300 product and they were convinced.  For the first time, thousands of systems all over the world sounded their very best any time of the day or night – something no one had ever managed to achieve before the P300′s introduction.
 
Over the years bigger Power Plants were designed and built by PS Engineering to satisfy the demands for better power on bigger systems.
 
These first versions of personal generators were not very efficient and consumed more power than they delivered – the balance of wasted energy created unwanted heat.  In 2006 PS Engineering patented a new and efficient method for building a personal power generator and that technology was first introduced in the Power Plant Premier.
 
The same technology found in the Premier has been refined and perfected and is what powers today’s Power Plants.
 
Adding a Power Plant to your system
From the smallest personal audio systems to the large dedicated listening and viewing rooms, Power Plants are to be found all over the world: more than 7000 of them and growing daily.  There’s a reason more high-end systems rely on these personal generating stations than any other high-end power products made by any company – they simply do a better job.
 
You’ve taken the time, the energy and the funds to build a high-end audio or home theater system and you have every right to expect consistent excellent performance from that system.  If you’re relying on what the utility company is feeding you then you are certainly not getting all you could – even with a power conditioner connected.
 
With a Power Plant driving the system you get fully regulated power, to within 1/10th of a volt even under dynamic demands from your system.
 
You get a perfect waveform as seen through the built in oscilloscope on the front panel.
 
You get power fed to your equipment with the powerful output stage of the Power Plant that lowers impedance to hundreds of times lower than what comes out of the wall and you get more peak current than the wall socket can possibly delivery – up to 60 amps peak even when fed from a 15 amp circuit.
 
And most importantly, you get a consistent power output feeding your equipment.  That output is protecting and nourishing your equipment 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with efficiency levels at 85%.  
 
The bottom line
Power Plants build the necessary foundations for your system to produce perfect AC power 24/7.  Power Plants do this by acting like personal power generating stations in your home, freeing you from the vagaries of erratic power delivery and unintended consequences.
 
Adding a Power Plant couldn’t easier.  Simply plug it into any wall socket, connect all your equipment and turn it on.  From that moment, your system is not only transformed but its performance levels a assured any time day or night.

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Testimonials

Featured

PS 02 PC DECTET
NZ$ 1,150.00 (incl. GST)
The Dectet Power Center is built to power and fully protect your entire system with improved dynamics, increased harmonic integrity and an open spacious soundstage that can be breathtaking.  ...
3 isolated zones 10 NZ/AU 3in plugs Individually hand wired outlets Common and differential mode...
PS 04 PC P5
NZ$ 7,995.04 (incl. GST)
Regenerated power is what separates the Power Plants from power conditioners The power that comes out of your home’s wall socket is unregulated, weak and prone to distortion.  Inserting a...
1250VA output@ 230vac4x NZ/AUD plugs (Note - it is ok to piggy back another plug on top of the...
PS 05 PC P10
NZ$ 8,995.00 (incl. GST)
Regenerated power is what separates the Power Plants from power conditioners. The power that comes out of your home’s wall socket is unregulated, weak and prone to distortion.  Inserting a...
1500VA output @ 230vac9x NZ/AUD plugs  (Note - it is ok to piggy back another plug on top of...
PS 15 PC AC3 15G
NZ$ 550.00 (incl. GST)
The PerfectWave AC Series consists of 3 models of AC power cables: AC-3, AC-5, and AC-12. The series is based on the work of PS Engineering alongside cable design guru Jay Victor, who has been...
12 gauge  Superior noise reduction  Fast transient response  Low magnetic properties...
PS 16 PC AC5 15G
NZ$ 1,025.01 (incl. GST)
The PerfectWave AC Series consists of 3 models of AC power cables: AC-3, AC-5, and AC-12. The series is based on the work of PS Engineering alongside cable design guru Jay Victor, who has been...
10 gauge  Superior noise reduction  Fast transient response  Low magnetic properties...
PS 17 PC AC1215G
NZ$ 2,150.01 (incl. GST)
The PerfectWave AC Series consists of 3 models of AC power cables: AC-3, AC-5, and AC-12. The series is based on the work of PS Engineering alongside cable design guru Jay Victor, who has been...
PCOCC single crystal construction 8 gauge power cable Quad shielded Hollow tube conductors for...

All Products

Power Conditioners

PS 02 PC DECTET
NZ$ 1,150.00 ea (incl. GST)
The Dectet Power Center is built to power and fully protect your entire system with improved dynamics, increased harmonic integrity and an open spacious soundstage that can be breathtaking.  ...
3 isolated zones 10 NZ/AU 3in plugs Individually hand wired outlets Common and differential mode...
Power Conditioners
PS 03 PC P3
NZ$ 5,695.03 ea (incl. GST)
Regenerated power is what separates the Power Plants from power conditioners The power that comes out of your home’s wall socket is unregulated, weak and prone to distortion.  Inserting a...
750VA  output @ 230vac5x NZ/AUD plugs (Note - it is ok to piggy back another plug on top...
Power Conditioners
PS 04 PC P5
NZ$ 7,995.04 ea (incl. GST)
Regenerated power is what separates the Power Plants from power conditioners The power that comes out of your home’s wall socket is unregulated, weak and prone to distortion.  Inserting a...
1250VA output@ 230vac4x NZ/AUD plugs (Note - it is ok to piggy back another plug on top of the...
Power Conditioners
PS 05 PC P10
NZ$ 8,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Regenerated power is what separates the Power Plants from power conditioners. The power that comes out of your home’s wall socket is unregulated, weak and prone to distortion.  Inserting a...
1500VA output @ 230vac9x NZ/AUD plugs  (Note - it is ok to piggy back another plug on top of...
Power Conditioners

Phono Stages

PS 07 PS PHONO
NZ$ 3,959.00 ea (incl. GST)
VINYL, ANALOG, HIGH-END   The future of high-end audio isn’t limited to just digital audio, DACS, streaming and computers.  Analog sources such as tuners, docks and turntables will continue...
High resolution balanced or single ended analog outputs High resolution asynchronous DSD and PCM...
We are humbled and honored by the great reviews we've been getting on the NuWave Phono Converter...
Phono Stages

DACs

PS 08 DAC NW3
NZ$ 2,075.00 ea (incl. GST)
Sometimes good things come in small packages and that’s certainly the case with the NuWave DAC. Our most affordable D to A Converter gives up little in the way of features from our larger and more...
Three digital inputs 192kHz asynchronous USB RCA and XLR balanced outputs High current class A...
PS Audio, out of Boulder, CO, has been a major player in high end audio for decades. Their power...
DACs
PS 09 DAC DSD
Price on application
The NuWave DSD is fully asynchronous and accepts PCM up to 192kHz/24 bit from any digital source, including I2S, coax, TOSLINK and USB; DSD (single or double rate) can be input via USB and I2S.
Four digital inputs Single and double rate DSD CPLD input (FPGA) lowers jitter, waveshapes, reduces...
DACs
PS 11 MS DSDAC
NZ$ 12,525.00 ea (incl. GST)
DirectStream converts any digital input format, such as PCM or DSD to a pure DSD stream and outputs near-perfect analog directly to your power amplifier or preamplifier. Whatever the format, whatever...
Pure 100% single bit DSD based D to A Converter Most of today’s sophisticated DACs are IC based...
DACs

CD / SACD / Blu-ray & Multi-Format Players

PS 10 CD PWT
NZ$ 8,350.00 ea (incl. GST)
The PerfectWave CD/DVD Memory player is a ground breaking product that removes all digital sound limitations retrieving everything from your CD collection without any jitter or sonic loss.  
Memory player Built in Boulder Plays 192kHz 24 bit WAV files Native I2S output 4 digital...

Audio Racks & Speaker Stands

PS 11 POWERBASE
NZ$ 2,295.00 ea (incl. GST)
The need for both vibration control and clean power has been well established over many years yet, until the introduction of the PowerBase concept, no single engineered solution has effectively...
Dual isolation system Floating 20 pound solid steel equipment platform Dual sets of tuned...

Power

PS 15 PC AC3 15G
NZ$ 550.00 ea (incl. GST)
The PerfectWave AC Series consists of 3 models of AC power cables: AC-3, AC-5, and AC-12. The series is based on the work of PS Engineering alongside cable design guru Jay Victor, who has been...
12 gauge  Superior noise reduction  Fast transient response  Low magnetic properties...
Power
PS 15 PC AC3 15R
NZ$ 595.00 ea (incl. GST)
The PerfectWave AC Series consists of 3 models of AC power cables: AC-3, AC-5, and AC-12. The series is based on the work of PS Engineering alongside cable design guru Jay Victor, who has been...
12 gauge Furutech NZ/AU Rhodium audiophile 3pin plugSuperior noise reduction Fast...
Power
PS 16 PC AC5 15G
NZ$ 1,025.01 ea (incl. GST)
The PerfectWave AC Series consists of 3 models of AC power cables: AC-3, AC-5, and AC-12. The series is based on the work of PS Engineering alongside cable design guru Jay Victor, who has been...
10 gauge  Superior noise reduction  Fast transient response  Low magnetic properties...
Power
PS 16 PC AC5 15R
NZ$ 1,075.01 ea (incl. GST)
The PerfectWave AC Series consists of 3 models of AC power cables: AC-3, AC-5, and AC-12. The series is based on the work of PS Engineering alongside cable design guru Jay Victor, who has been...
10 gauge Furutech NZ/AU Rhodium audiophile 3pin plugSuperior noise reduction Fast...
Power
PS 17 PC AC1215G
NZ$ 2,150.01 ea (incl. GST)
The PerfectWave AC Series consists of 3 models of AC power cables: AC-3, AC-5, and AC-12. The series is based on the work of PS Engineering alongside cable design guru Jay Victor, who has been...
PCOCC single crystal construction 8 gauge power cable Quad shielded Hollow tube conductors for...
Power
PS 17 PC AC1215R
NZ$ 2,195.01 ea (incl. GST)
The PerfectWave AC Series consists of 3 models of AC power cables: AC-3, AC-5, and AC-12. The series is based on the work of PS Engineering alongside cable design guru Jay Victor, who has been...
PCOCC single crystal constructionFurutech NZ/Au Rhodium audiophile 3pin plug8 gauge power...
Power

Power amplifiers (Stereo & Mono)

PS 19 AS BHK
Price on application
The BHK Signature 250 and 300 power amplifiers are the culmination of one man’s half-century search for perfection in music’s reproduction. Bascom H. King has designed amplifiers for many companies,...
PS 20 AM BHK300M
NZ$ 24,000.01 pr (incl. GST)
“The first amplifier I gave up a lifetime obsession with tubes for” Arnie Nudell, founder, Infinity Systems. Have you ever wanted to own the finest amplifier in the world but were scared off by a six...
Zero-loss parallel vacuum tube input stageFully paralleled inside (not like a traditional bridged...

Reviews

Summary reviews on the PS Audio NuWave Phono Stage / Converter
TAS / DAR / Stereo Times

We are humbled and honored by the great reviews we've been getting on the NuWave Phono Converter and hope you'll forward these on to your customers.  

Best and biggest, of course, is Tony Cordesman's rave in the latest issue of the Absolute Sound.  



 

“... the NuWave is one of the first truly high-end products that can ‘stream your analog music’ and provide a conversion in both high resolution DSD or PCM ...  ‘an intensely musical phono preamp”  Anthony Cordesman, The Absolute Sound, March 2014.
 


 

There's also two other important reviews, John Darko's 2-part expose on the NPC in the Digital Audio Review ...

"a 24/96 PCM stream had already shown itself (in Part 1) to be utterly indistinguishable from the analogue output of the NPC itself. This wasn’t the case with the NAD D 3020; its digital inputs are easily bested by a healthier analogue feed"
 


 

as well as Frank Falles Stereo Times Review.....

"Once I listened and heard how great the recordings turned out and that I could remove the ticks and pops, separate the tracks, and use the files on any computer or to make high-quality CD’s, I was like a kid who just found a great new toy."

The NPC is gaining momentum daily as people start to figure out what it's all about.  Help us spread the good news to your customers.

There was really no area, sonically, the NuWave DAC lacked
Andre Marc

The PS Audio NuWave DAC simply must be auditioned by anyone looking for a DAC anywhere under NZ$4,000. It delivers the sonic goods, is ruggedly built in Boulder, CO, and has an excellent sounding USB input. Far from being the DAC flavour of the month, the NuWave DAC is based on decades of digital engineering. Highly recommended. 

PS Audio, out of Boulder, CO, has been a major player in high end audio for decades. Their power distribution/conditioning units and digital source components have been go to products for droves of audiophiles who value high value and high performance. The lists of PS Audio’s innovations and market firsts are extensive and highly impressive. Their power cords have also been a mainstay in a highly competitive market. I personally use several throughout my systems, on everything from CD players to HDTV’s, with great results. 
 
PS Audio is known as a company constantly striving to push the envelope, bringing cutting edge products to the market based on sound engineering and at very sane price points. The Digital Link series of DAC models were a huge success for the company, which leapt ahead of many other manufacturers with the introduction of the uniquely designed PerfectWave DAC and Memory Player transport. The PerfectWave DAC is now in its second generation, appropriately named the PerfectWave DAC II. 
 
If you believe in trickle down product design, then the introduction of the PS Audio’s brand new NuWave DAC is welcomed news. The company says they have applied much of the technology found in the PerfectWave series in a more affordable package. I arranged for a review sample, and was told the initial production run had sold out, based on initial buzz and the popularity of their previous digital convertors. 
 
Patience is priceless, and I shortly thereafter received a review sample in silver. It is also available in black casework. The NuWave is very impressive in build quality and feature set, even at double the price. There are three digital inputs: two S/PDIF in the form of a coaxial and optical, and one “asynchronous” USB input.  The coax and USB inputs handle sample rates up to 24-bit/192kHz, while the optical input is limited to 96kHz. The USB input is plug-and-play with an Apple computer, and for Windows machines you must download a driver from the PS Audio website. 
 
The NuWave DAC offers something unique at the sub NZ$4,000 price point, and that is optional upsampling to 192kHz. A front panel button allows you to select “Native” or “192kHz”. Native leaves the incoming sample rate unchanged, while 192kHz up-samples to, you guessed it, 192kHz. PS Audio advises experimenting with different recordings to see what setting is most pleasing. Everything about the NuWave DAC’s layout and connectors is first class all the way. 
 
Other features, noted by PS Audio in their literature include:
Designed and Built in Boulder, Colorado
RCA and XLR Balanced Outputs
High Current "Class-A" Analog Output Stage
Extremely Low-Jitter PerfectWave Clocks
Fully-Balanced Fully-Discrete Analog Electronics
Burr Brown 24 bit DAC Chipset
 
Set Up and Listening
 
Set up for the NuWave DAC was as straightforward as can be. But there have been a few additions to my system, so a few more ways to put a DAC through its paces. First, I used my go to AC cable for digital components, the Element Cable Red Storm. I used Stager Silver Solids for interconnects, and three USB cables, including the Audioquest Forest, WireWorld UltraViolet, and the DH Labs USB. I also used DH Labs TosLink and Coax cables .
 
My sources were multiple. I had a Musical Fidelity CDT connected via coaxial, a Squeezebox Touch connected via optical and USB, and an HP PC running Windows 7, loaded with Jriver Media Center, with FLAC files on an external hard drive. After installing the required driver, the PC was connected to the NuWave DAC via USB. I used the NuWave DAC in two systems. First, in my main system, with Audio Research electronics driving the excellent Martin Logan Ethos speakers. Then in another system with a McIntosh MA6600 integrated amplifier driving Harbeth Compact 7ES3 speakers. 
 
First up was my Squeezebox Touch connected via optical streaming FLAC files. I cued up the 24-bit/96kHz download of Bob Dylan’s monumental Highway 61 Revisited. The various instrumental backing on this landmark album has always been slightly homogenized on all previous versions I have heard, save for maybe the SACD. But the NuWave DAC offered up precise, detailed sound with tremendous clarity. Each distinct part was in its proper location within the soundstage, and easily distinguishable.
 
I streamed numerous albums and heard a consistently engaging, big sound, with no glare or mechanical artifacts. The NuWave was bold and lightning quick with high frequency transients. Bass was weighty, precise, and articulate. I don’t normally get caught up in such things, but recorded detail was spotlit in the most pleasant way, and I found myself noticing parts on certain recordings that were previously not as distinguishable from the whole. 
 
Switching over to the coaxial input, I used my Musical Fidelity CDT transport. Having just received a stash of remastered Jethro Tull from Amazon, I started off with their mid-70s master work, Songs From The Wood. The sonic goodness heard via the optical connection was just as evident here, with precise images, impressive textures, and distinct sound layers courtesy of Tull mastermind, Ian Anderson. The title track was magical sounding, with Anderson’s overdubbed vocal intro, flute parts, and acoustic guitar sounding remarkably present.
 
Spinning a more modern recording, Queen Of Hearts, by world fusion master Jai Uttal, yielded plenty of musical pleasure. On this outing, Uttal blends his usual Indian inflections with reggae and dub beats. The NuWave DAC rendered the prominent bass lines with unusually tight precision, with no overhang into the lower midrange. Uttal’s distinct, soulful voice was beautiful in timbre, and it was easy to get lost in the exotic, hazy melodies.
 
Comparing the NuWave DAC to my reference Bryston BDA-1, which retails for US$2300, more than double the NuWave, was interesting. They were way more similar than not. The only real difference detected was a slightly warmer overall sound with the BDA-1. The NuWave was ever so slightly more forward sounding. Also, engaging upsampling seemed to change the sound more on the BDA-1. Selecting upsampling on the NuWave resulted in a more subtle effect.  As a matter of fact, in the manual, PS Audio recommends the Native setting for most recordings. A decent guess might be the high precision clocks in the NuWave are really doing their job.
 
PS Audio NuWave DACTo evaluate the NuWave DAC’s asynchronous USB input, I the used aforementioned Windows laptop running Windows 7, with Jriver installed, with recommended settings. All that I needed to do was install the driver and select the NuWave DAC as the sole output device. I had a stash of FLAC albums connected via a hub-powered SeaGate drive in resolutions varying from standard Redbook to 192kHz.  
 
I worked my way through CD rips from Gary Jules, Frank Sinatra, and newcomer Sam Carter, and through higher resolution material from The Doors, McCoy Tyner, Stevie Wonder, and others. I heard sound that was high end in every way and every bit as good as the S/PDIF inputs. The 24/96 download of Dylan’s Highway 61 sounded every bit as revealing of what was going on in the recording as it did streamed through the S/PDIF inputs. The 192kHz download of Stevie Wonder’s mega classic Songs In The Key Of Life was a real knockout, coming as close as I have heard digital sound to vinyl’s analog ease.
 
I can fully report the NuWave DAC’s USB in input is excellent indeed. Incidentally, in using the three USB cables noted above, I was only able to hear minor differences, and that took furrowed brow and several rounds of swapping out cables to hear. Overall, the Audioquest was the most balanced, while the DH Labs and WireWorld cables were a bit more forward sounding, though highly resolving. 
 
The NuWave DAC was then installed in my second system, with the McIntosh/Harbeth combination. My source was my second Squeezebox Touch, connected via a Kimber OPT1 Toslink cable, and then via a DH Labs USB cable. This was made possible by the amazing free EDO Applet which allows the Touch to stream 192kHz files and output audio via USB. 
 
Call it system synergy, or whatever you like, but the NuWave DAC was a stellar match. I continued exploring music from deep in my collection, including albums from Hungarian jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo, and the recent 40th Anniversary remaster of King Crimson’s Islands. These are highly textured recordings, with esoteric instrumentation and unusual arrangements. The NuWave DAC was exceptionally coherent, and had no issues untangling challenging music.
 
I also streamed a lot of symphonic stuff, like Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. I very much enjoyed the texture the NuWave DAC brought to orchestral music. Strings were woody and vibrant and, across the board, instruments rendered with a natural ease. At this point, it was becoming obvious to me the NuWave DAC was an exceptional component at the $1000 price point.
 
For the last phase of my evaluation, I concentrated on vocal music. I had just gone on a bit of buying spree, purchasing a bunch of older Johnny Mathis recordings that have been recently remastered on CD. The remasters are excellent, with a great analog vibe, and great pains were taken to preserve the sonics of the original tapes. Well, the NuWave DAC was just the sweetest match for Mathis and his absolutely velvety voice. Mathis in his prime had the ability to wring the deepest emotions from even well worn standards. His version of “A Taste Of Honey” from the 1966 album, The Shadow Of Your Smile, done as a slow, longing ballad, is just devastating. The NuWave DAC got right to the heart of the music.
 
In comparison to the wonderful Musical Fidelity V-DAC II, at $350, the NuWave DAC made the music sound a bit larger in scale. Backgrounds were noticeably quieter with the PS Audio, which was no surprise, given the quality of the NuWave DAC’s power supply. Tonally, they were similar, but at three times the price, the PS Audio had the overall edge in sonics, and its USB input handles up to 192kHz, as opposed to 96kHz for the Musical Fidelity. Lastly, I would give a slight edge to the NuWave’s XLR outputs. Of course this will depend on your amplification. The McIntosh MA6600 is a fully balanced design.
 
Conclusion
 
The sub NZ$4000 DAC market is very crowded these days. PS Audio, with their Digital Link, up through version III, has been a player in this field for many years. The NuWave DAC is a game changer in that it uses trickle down technology from PS Audio’s flagship DAC, the PerfectWave DAC II. Quite a few budget DAC units have come through my listening rooms, and none had the build quality and the big, engaging sound of the NuWave DAC.
 
There was really no area, sonically, the NuWave DAC lacked. If I was to nitpick on the ergonomics, on my wish list would be a sample rate indicator and possibly an optional remote control for selecting input and upsampling. But again, this is a wish list, and these features are rarely, if ever, found at this price. 
 
The PS Audio NuWave DAC simply must be auditioned by anyone looking for a DAC anywhere under NZ$4,000. It delivers the sonic goods, is ruggedly built in Boulder, CO, and has an excellent sounding USB input. Far from being the DAC flavour of the month, the NuWave DAC is based on decades of digital engineering. Highly recommended. 
the PS Audio offers a lot of value and does a very good job providing a no-fuss setup and usage experience.
TONE audio
Working as a DJ for hire in the eighties, I was exposed to more than my share of New Wave songs, upturned collars, pastel colours, and hair gel. During those years the early CDs started taking hold. With them came forth the digital music revolution for the consumer, challenging the dominance of beloved records and cassettes. While analog will forever have a place in the hearts of audiophiles, the raw convenience of digitally stored files enables and maintains a solid grip. Digital-Analog Converters (DACs) today bring forth a great deal of musical pleasure from the latest high resolution digital files and also breathe new life into older standard CD-quality 16bit/44.1kHz material.

With all my fond memories of the New Wave era, the NuWave moniker on PS Audio’s latest budget DAC has a lot to live up to. Could it provide the same high level of musical enjoyment I associate with my past?

The Ghost in You

The NuWave carries high quality internals, though it serves as the entry level DAC in PS Audio’s product line. Its big brother, the $3,995 PerfectWave, has handed down one of its strengths – its low-jitter clocking circuitry – to its smaller sibling. The benefit of this capability is pulling from the source the best possible digital stream to be processed. From there it is sent to the analog section which is fuelled by a very substantial power supply; then it’s translated into music.

Close to Me

On close inspection, the NuWave is a petite 14” long x 8” wide by 2.5” high. It weighs in at around 12 pounds. Once placed on a shelf the front profile is quite modest. The metal case of the test unit is coated in a matte black finish. Silver is also available from PS Audio. The front panel has aesthetically pleasing curved edges wrapping around to the sides.

Buttons on the front, and the PS Audio logo on the left side, glow blue. With some equipment I’ve experienced, LEDs have the potential to scorch a retina, but not with the NuWave. In this case, the overall appearance is both pleasant and subtle.

The package does not include a remote, which makes sense given the basic in-and-out philosophy of the NuWave’s build. There’s not a lot to adjust or control after a source is selected and a standard or up-sampled signal chosen. One additional LED indicator notes whether the PS Audio has a solid lock on the signal.

I was surprised that no USB cable comes with the NuWave. You’ll definitely want to have that on hand for setup. I found the Cardas Clear USB a good match. PS Audio does include a very basic power cord, but it’s likely one you will want to upgrade later to get the most from the unit.

One Thing Leads to Another

Physically connecting the NuWave to the rest of the audio system proves straightforward. The PS Audio offers three inputs for digital sources including USB, S/PDIF coax and TOSLINK. The USB connection provides the greatest flexibility for high resolution files and will serve most users as the best option for computer-based music. While there is not an AES/EBU digital input on this DAC, the RCA coax input serves well as a secondary input source from CD players and other devices with a stereo digital output.

Despite the small size of the unit, this DAC has both balanced XLR and RCA outputs giving it helpful flexibility in an audio system.

With all cables connected, it’s a simple matter to choose the input source from the front panel selector button. If only one source is connected, the NuWave defaults to it. If multiple sources are connected to the DAC and one is playing, NuWave’s autoscan feature will pick the input receiving a signal.

Once that’s done, the user has another toggle to select one of two modes. “Native” mode creates a straight pipe from the source so a 16 bit/44.1kHz signal remains exactly that.  Another option is 24bit/192Khz up-sample mode. PS Audio recommends that users try both and decide what sounds best to them. Most of my listening took place on the “native” setting.

Work for Love

Once physically connected to sources, the final step is configuring a bit of software. PS Audio claims the NuWave acts in a plug-and-play fashion with a Mac computer, but a bit more human intervention is required for Windows-based systems. First, a driver must be downloaded from PS Audio’s website and saved to the computer. Once that driver is installed, a quick visit to the Windows 7 control panel’s “Sound” settings offers the PS Audio DAC as an output option. A right-click of the mouse gives a user the option to make the NuWave the default recipient of the audio signal.

Once complete, JRiver needs a small adjustment too. Clicking on the Player menu, and selecting “Playback Options,” a window opens which allows the user to make a few more minor changes. The “Playback Device” pull-down menu allows a user to select the NuWave as the default for music output.  On the same window, I selected a larger buffer size than the default setting to encourage and maintain the best streaming quality. Accepting these changes and closing the configuration windows, the only remaining step is selecting what music to enjoy.

In total, the configuration process took no more than five minutes, with most of that time consisting of driver download and installation. PS Audio does a nice job here to make the setup process streamlined for the NuWave DAC owner.

PS Audio suggests leaving the DAC powered on all the time so that it maintains optimal readiness for the best sound.

We Got the Beat

Testing begins with CD-quality source files. In the spirit of this review’s theme, it seems only fair to begin with Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” which many consider the first true New Wave song. Given the age of the recording and the CD’s limitations of a 16bit/44.1kHz signal, the right-to-left soundstage exceeds my expectations by extending well beyond the speaker limits. Perceived front-to-back layering is reasonable; however, it’s not the NuWave’s strength. Debbie Harry’s voice is recessed into the mix and when blended with the guitars and drums the result remains largely two-dimensional. This characteristic seems consistent throughout my Redbook CD test tracks.

Rock This Town

Stray Cats frontman Brian Setzer and his Orchestra provide a good test for the sonic portrayal of guitars, drums, and horns. His remake of “Rock This Town” offers significantly more polished recording quality than the original, though still limited to CD-quality. The NuWave captures all the energy and excitement of the performance.

The NuWave’s decoding process leaves the music enjoyable and fatigue-free. However this characteristic exists at the expense of some detail. In comparison with other, more expensive DACs on hand, the woodiness in saxophones diminishes. Bass, while quite deep, is not as tight. Similarly, the complex sounds of cymbals are truncated to a significant degree in comparison with the impact, ring and decay I’m used to hearing. Vocals are a bit hot in the mix. But at the NuWave’s $995 price tag, these are relatively minor quibbles considering what you do get. Especially from a price-performance perspective the PS Audio does a mighty good job and has the finesse to hold a listener’s attention through hours of listening.

Dancing With Myself

As the saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out,” so playback shifted to test higher resolution material. Though the NuWave there’s a huge sonic improvement in virtually every attribute.

For example, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Texas Flood” on 192kHz throws an impressively huge soundstage, both wide and tall. Vocals remain front and center where they should be, while drums step to the rear. The richness of the guitar on “Dirty Pool” reveals the level of emotion entrapped in the recording.

Similarly, Bob Marley’s “Is This Love” in 192kHz emerges with deep, plucky bass. Well-rendered, sonically convincing drum and tambourine pour forth. Background vocals complement and showcase the emotional undertones in Marley’s voice. This is especially evident during “Redemption Song.” While vocals remain a bit forward, individual strums of the guitar are almost tangible.

NuWave’s rendering of Norah Jones’s “I’ve Got to See You Again” layers vocals, piano, strings and percussion adeptly blended together in a cohesive and compelling sonic experience.

For those who have a lot of high resolution digital content, the NuWave will surprise you with its capability. If you don’t have high resolution content yet, you owe it to yourself to try it!

Make a Circuit With Me

After spending time with several DACs over the last couple months – the Chord Chordette Qute (US$1,800), AUARALiC Vega (US$3,500) and Light Harmonic DaVinci (US$30,000) – some interesting comparisons emerge. Although a native 44.1kHz signal may not be a stellar source, each of these DACs takes what bits it’s given and outputs highly enjoyable, refined sound. At a cost multiple times more than the NuWave, a user should expect more from them.

When listening to high resolution content, the gap does shrink a bit and the NuWave showcases what it’s capable of resolving. It’s a big step up from CD-quality experience. The NuWave won’t unseat the other DACs, but it leaves a listener with a very satisfying musical experience for a small fraction of the price.

In essence, more money buys a user additional capabilities like DSD decoding, variable output, custom filters, and/or a remote. It also enables more natural sounding, three dimensional and nuanced portrayal of the music. In the case of the DaVinvi, opulently so, but at 30 times the price.

Take Me, I’m Yours

Caveats considered, the PS Audio offers a lot of value and does a very good job providing a no-fuss setup and usage experience. It offers all the basic functionality most users need a DAC to do, and the sound is mighty good for a component under a thousand dollars.

The Smiths made famous the New Wave classic song, “How Soon is Now?” How apropos for this review. For those seeking a high quality DAC under $1k, especially those who want to delve further into high resolution digital content, give the PS Audio NuWave DAC a try and you might find it in your home system sooner than you think.

Testimonials

Many thanks for giving the opportunity to upgrade to the P10
Hi Terry,
I have had the P10 for just over 2 weeks now, and from the moment that it was connected, I have been hugely impressed.
 
It gives a significant strengthening and increased impact to the lower frequencies, the mono blocks also appear to be so much more relaxed and in control – compared to both the P5 (with the mono blocks connected thru the P5) and also compared to the mono blocks when they are connected directly to the wall sockets and the P5 only had the MSB gear and Aurender connected.
 
Many thanks for giving the opportunity to upgrade to the P10, much appreciated.

.... David

http://www.audioreference.co.nz/product/psaudio-p10-powerplant-9-nz-plugs-1500va-power-regeneratorconditioner
PSA AC12 power cord - the result is very pleasing:
Hi Terry,
You advised to try the PS Audio AC12 power cord direct from wall to amplifier, leaving the player and preamp on a separate chord from a separate socket via our common earth socket pad.
The result is very pleasing:
Lower base now has realistic weight, upper treble is more liquid and refined, the timbre of instruments, more defined and real, and the separation of individual voices, and instruments increased in ensembles.
The depiction of venue-height depth and width is improved, and on good recordings, soundstage width increased.
The clarity and sense of effortless command, and natural flow from digital sources is significantly improved by separating the power supply and earthing of the power amp from that for the player, preamp, tuner and set top box.
The new power cable ,while costly, has given benefits greater than may have come from a major amp upgrade-and at much reduced risk of an unsuccessful outcome. 
A very good result ,
thank you Terry.
 
Rodney
....the AC5 just dominated it.

Hello Terry!

This PS Audio AC5 power cord is something else. I compared them with another brand in the same price range, the AC5 just dominated it. At least I know which one i’m going to get. Ill buy the TQ Ultra Black speaker cables first.
….Cheers Bensan!