Unlike in an earlier open photo, final production had replaced a blue plastic-encased power transformer with a freestanding non-potted toroid. Also different from early photos was the expansion slot on the rear panel and its final silk screening.

On my iMac, the device appeared promptly as xCore USB Audio 2.0 and 2ch-32-bit integer at a colossal 768kHz in the Sound, AudioMidi and PureMusic windows alike. Whilst PureMusic recognized the 768kHz value, it defaulted to 384kHz when I actually selected the device. Apparently at present PM won't handle anything higher. Frankly, I questioned whether my 2-metre double-header USB cable would have transmitted a 44.1kHz signal upsampled to 705.6kHz without hiccups in the first place. At 352.8kHz, I had zero stutter.

The included Apple remote worked a treat. Controls 1+3 and 2+6 do ± volume/inputs respectively. 4 goes through PCM filter options 0-3, 5 is mute and 7 toggles between DSD normal (on-chip volume at max) and bypass (on-chip volume circumvented). PCM filters 0+1 are traditional delays with sharp/slow roll-offs; filters 2+3 short delays with sharp/slow roll-offs. The volume control's lower end hits a stygian -120dB, then notches up in 0.5 increments to +12dB.

Unless you run a hyper-efficient speaker systems with very high-gain amps, you probably won't hear anything until you ramp up to -60dB. Running the PD2 balanced into the Pass Labs XA30.8 to drive our 85dB Mythology 1 monitors from EnigmAcoustics meant standard levels at -36dB in our 100m² room. The 7.5dB figure at right is purely for show. In our context, I'd not have been able to use it without blowing up my ears.

Phison's GUI was easy to navigate. Items important to various display modes were marked in red. That seemed particularly useful with 'mute' when one stands too far to read the actual word but will still make out the red. It now beckons one to step closer and realize why there's no sound instead of fretting over a serious malfunction. One thing they might still like to address with the next firmware update is to make input selection endless, i.e. cycle through in either direction. On my loaner, '+' or '-' hit stops. After that I had to reverse direction. Pushing the last input command repeatedly without a response until one figures out to try the other direction seems just a bit inelegant. But that's the beauty of firmware. It can be rewritten. The PD2 dedicates its second USB input to just that. Hello 2016. Sonny: "Thanks for the suggestion when navigating the channels. We will add it as it sounds logical." Voilà, instant karma; no, gratification.

Spoiler bait or boiler plate? Discussions on modern digital ought to include small print about its current spec craze being quite irrelevant. Digital specs continue to improve but they're surrounded by choking bottlenecks. The majority of popular recordings are artificial splice'n'dice jobs. They are also dynamically compressed butchery. Our speakers suffer distortions and nonlinearities several orders of magnitude higher than anything preceding them. Amplification components exhibit S/N ratios far below what's measurable in the digital domain. Our living rooms are sonically compromised. Unlike anechoic chambers, they also exhibit constant noise floors of 30-40dB. With 85dB peaks in the seat perceived as sufficiently loud by most, real-world dynamic range is seriously narrower than modern digital specs would have you believe. Drawing blood from this stone recently had one reader "realize the one thing you always emphasize: that there is no best. With the same budget, it is better to pursue several mid-level but excellent components than to spend every penny on a 'high-end' one." Having acquired an end-of-life Soulution DAC, he'd subsequently auditioned a far cheaper Aqua Hifi LaScala MkII. Confirming my assumption that he'd not been able to declare the first superior, he put it this way: "Exactly. I heard more difference than improvement." This didn't imply that the Soulution couldn't measure better. It could be technically more advanced. But until playback addresses a number of far greater weak links than the potential but currently minute benefits of escalating digital specs, getting geeky about -145dB SN/R and sundry misses the plot. It puts the cart before the horse. Far more fundamental flaws in the playback chain must be fixed first before digital advances can begin to matter to the extent they ought to given rising costs and propaganda. In other words, today's top digital tech already exceeds what's real-world relevant at this time. Due to analog gear, speakers, recordings and our rooms not having caught up, it can't fully deliver despite what its super specs would promise. Feel free to disagree. That's simply my opinion after having reviewed converters up to €20'000. This intro sets the pace for my juxtaposition of the €6'000 Phison PD2 and €9'000 COS Engineering D1.