"You are correct in that we are riding two waves, DIY* and retail. DIY financed some of the development. It also made us test different parts to extract the best from our circuit. The DAC section is good and you see the same AK4490 chip used in the Esoteric K-05x or Lindemann decks. But what really lets this chip shine is giving it the perfect working conditions. We have tried different layouts with or without reclocking, crystals, different reference clocks and so forth. We also played around with costly opamps. You do come close by working with premium opamps. But if you really want the very best gain stage, there are no shortcuts. It requires a discrete solution and control over all parameters to generate optimal operating conditions for low noise, a high-rejection power supply, local electrical decoupling, reference quality gain and so forth. Those are just a few hints. The DAC can run native DSD 256 from a Linux source and DoP 128 via OS/X and Windows. Especially with HQ player, there is a win-win when converting PCM to DSD on the fly. Back to discrete, even for simple things like a servo which usually is handled by opamps, we selected a discrete opamp at +75% the cost of a standard part. The same will be true for our next model, the A2.120 power amp. This will be a dual-mono design with 120wpc into 8Ω. Its 2x500VA power supply runs 60'000µF capacitance to drive most loads. We again chose a linear not switching power supply because non-switching amplifiers have better bass control without any mud. To us this is a day-and-night difference that requires no concentration to hear."

If in this statement you sensed a not too subtle finger pointing at Aavik's switching Pascal module, I did as well. Any good audio designer must stand by his/her convictions to do proper work. Not having an opinion isn't an option. You might say that the same goes for consumers and reviewers. There it tends to be mostly about mental sync or conflict with any given concept or its propaganda, not any true insight based on isolating numerous circuits and parts to have a properly informed opinion. That's how our hifi cookie crumbles.
* Mirand Audio USB DAC V1 boards

Pass Labs style chassis construction plus Apple remote.

Of course the veteran consumer or reviewer has already arrived at Roma Termini from all sorts of directions, via all manner of modes of transport and many times over. This cultivates a live-and-let-live attitude. It no longer obsesses over the how. It only insists on one thing: to arrive at one's kind of sound to the max. Even there one has learnt of many different flavours which proved to be equally enjoyable or suitable. All that makes the final decision one like marriage. You settle down with one partner not because he or she was or will be the only possible choice. You do so because you mean to start living and stop shopping around. It's that simple.

On the same subject of pragmatism—what, more of that stuff?—lower box count guarantees a fully optimized electrical match, between whatever otherwise separate components an integrated solution combines. One also needs fewer power cords, fewer outlets in a conditioner or line filter, fewer shelves or tiers in a performance rack. One eliminates signal cables. This plays to the motto that no cable could possibly be as good as no cable at all. Integration is a curse word only to those who still enjoy their haphazard mix'n'match game. Such bachelors fear being locked in. That's called commitment. The more functions a single component dares to cover—the epitome thereof might be Devialet's Expert platform—the more bachelors feel tied to sameness. They fear being chained to a rock like Prometheus was by Hephaistos' handiwork whilst an eagle picked on his liver every day.

But guess what? Driving Volvo, I prefer that their engineers sweat what chassis to combine with what engine, suspension, drive train and wheel. I'd refuse to assemble such vital bits from an option sheet. Do I know more than real engineers? So, pragmatism needn't be lazy. It can be the smartest choice there is. If only hifi could end your life like a dangerous car can—ever heard of recalls?— far more people would drive integration. After all, fear of death is a most excellent motivator. Sadly, fear of inferior sound isn't powerful enough. End of only semi-humorous boiler plate.

Back on the actual hardware, delivery was inside a stout hard-plastic travel case enclosed in a standard cardboard box. The latter only seemed just a mite flimsy until the substantial black innards explained why nothing more was needed.

About their single-transformer power supply, "our main regulator exhibits a power supply rejection ratio of 90dB up to 20KHz. After that we have several other low-noise regulators with an additional 70dB of PSRR up to 100KHz. All our gain stages use local decoupling to not interfere with each other. Any mains noise is rejected very well." On their virtual ground technology, "it's an op-amp technique. Audio amplifier designers hate this type of design but it does some magic. It has far better ground hum rejection across a far wider bandwidth. Distortion drops as well because you have no voltage modulation of the input pair. By running our gain stages in inverted mode, we have a virtual ground on the inverting input, hence no common mode voltage at the gain stage's input and virtually no common mode feed through to its output. We use low-noise Jfets in the input stay with low stray capacitance. The 10KΩ input impedance set by a 0.1% thin-film resistor is there for the same reason, to lower noise. Our attenuator operates at 5KΩ for even lower noise."

Once more, the PD2 is fully modular. It's designed to avoid obsolescence. Its control firmware is upgradeable and in fact something Sonny changed just before shipping out my loaner. This entailed a rewrite of the owner's manual, about the now improved menu navigation. Not only is the Phison PD2 a tech-intense design, it's a modern smart design. By using the Asahi Kasei Verita AK4490, there's a pure DSD path for those who fancy resampling PCM-->DSD in player software. This turns the PD2 into a type of Meitner, Playback Design, Nagra and PS Audio machine which handle real-time remapping in their FPGA chips. For a DAC which unlike their lot doesn't enforce DSD with extreme prejudice—there's also a typical ΔΣ modulator to process PCM as PCM—this particular option is a distinguishing feature. It also differs in how the ubiquitous Sabre DACs treat DSD.