Playback Designs Firmware Update

Have any of the PD MPS-5 owners installed this update yet? Jonathan Tinn told me that it'll further improve the MPS-5's redbood CD playback. (I considered this a strength already, so I'm amazed that I might gain more in this area). I'm travelling now and plan to install it when I get home this weekend, but I'm interested to read what my compardres heard when they installed this firmware.

After downloading the update I noticed improved bass definition & articulation on redbook cds. Attack & dynamics also.
I to thought this was a strength already in the mps-5 but they managed to take it to another level.
I find it refreshing that a company does not rest on its laurels & keeps pushing the envelope. It's also nice that they notify you instead of vise versa.
Grr6001, thanks for the report. I'll install the update this weekend.

Yes, I'm extremely pleased with PD's followup and improving something that was already a strength.

The update has been updated. This is a story of an unanticipated problem and how the manufacturer quickly rectified it.

I installed the update on Saturday morning (for you PD owners it has an "18" in it's file name) and was enjoying the increased bass impact reported earlier. I was going from CD to CD and noting the bass impact and ever so slightly more openness in the mids. The highs seemed about the same to me, but then I came to my friend Al Hood's CD "a little taste". Darn if I didn't hear the solo trumpet break up when it got to bravura style, well over the dynamic level of the rest of the recording. I thought to myself, "gee wiz how could I have missed that when I listened before? Al needs to clean up his production."

Later I was listening to Rose Marie and a trumpet obligato in the CD did the same thing. Next I threw Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band at the PD, playing "Back Row Politics" from the "act your age" CD. The cut was fine until the trumpeters started taking their solos and it just fell apart, with nasty distortion on the trumpet solos.

I wrote an email to Andreas and Jonathan explaining my trouble. Within hours Andreas wrote back for details and asked some questions. Andreas was able to replicate the issue and rewrote the update code. PD users should use the update with "19" in the name, the only one on the site as of today. Install it just like the first firmware update.

I've only been listening an hour now, but I played the offending cuts first, with no issues whatsoever, in fact, the trumpets now have more of the "brr" and "sizzle" of real live lead trumpets.

The most obvious change with the update is the increase in bass impact. If you've got some really hotly recorded lead trumpet (Chris Botti won't do), then you'll hear the "brr" and "sizzle" that you hear when you stand in front of a really good section. (I'm a trumpeter and hear lots and lots of live trumpet). All the rest of the frequency spectrum is ever so slightly more stress free than before (the PD was already excellent in this regard). This update takes what the PD already did well and adds an extra nth or ten to that.

I really appreciate how Andreas jumped on this and had a solution out very quickly. He might have done it even quicker if I hadn't been slow to answer his questions as I was busy with some weekend chores. This is very impressive. It'd be nice if we were all infallable, but none of us are and how we react to a slip is what really defines us. PD gets a top score for this.

The thought crossed my mind to not point out this little slip up, but users need to use this latest update in case the bug appears later. I re-installed the first update and the bug went away, but the final update is better with trumpet, otherwise they're much alike (but for the bug). Andreas says to use the newest update to avoid any issue.

I did the update 18 and took the unit to the Pacific NW Audio Society meeting. There were several hi-rez sources we listened to. The other high-end DAC we were comparing it to was the Weiss Minerva. I felt the MPS-5 was slightly bettered at RBCD/96k/192k.
Jonathan called last night and told me about the new update (19) and behold... the MPS-5 is now back on top!
There's nothing better in this industry than great customer support. Even with my EMM Labs equipment, Andreas has bent over backwards for us.
Ditto on the new update (19). I did mine a couple of nights ago. Very impressed with improvements, keeps getting better.

I agree with you, at this point I feel it has to be one of the better units out there. All subjective of course, so no one gets their panties in a uproar.

Also agree, the customer support has been the best. Other's should follow how well Jonathan, Andreas, Kevin, & Herve' address their customer base.
I lost my e-mail from JT regarding logging on to PBD web site to down load the latest drivers, could some PM me with the user name and password please, pretty please?
I second the comments on both how the performance of the unit keeps improving as well as the excellent customer support from JT.

Great support. Great unit.
Would someone explain exactly what is firmware, and why does it change the sound? Thanks.
Rtn1, firmware is software which is embedded in hardware. :^) Firmware are the effectively the Operating Systems of electronic devices. In some cases, but obviously not most cases, electronics are equipped with a way of updating that software. The most obvious example is the BIOS of your PC. Some firmware can be hacked, like the button combinations on the remote which will allow a DVD player to become a region-free DVD player, or at least I've heard about those things... :^)
Speaking of jtinn, he is such a great dealer because among other things he is incredibly accessible and helpful with any questions or concerns!

My former lamm dealer was almost impossible to reach (on the lam from his customers so so speak?)
02-28-09: Rtn1 asked:
"Would someone explain exactly what is firmware, and why does it change the sound? Thanks."

T_bone explained what firmware is. In this it changes the sound because the Playback Designs upaamples redbook CDs to DSDs and applies alogrythms before doing a digital to analog conversion. All that's done in the software that controls the DAC and is actually part of the DAC's functioning.

The PD designer, Andreas Koch has been involved with pro-level digital audio equipment design since its inception and has been recently applying his knowledge to consumer units, first at Emm and now at his own company.

I always wondered why high-end DACs did not actually put everything into FPGAs when the software was there. With the right 'gatekeeper' (pun only partially :^), the IP can be protected, and it could be updated on a regular basis. With even a simple OS and some RAM, users could keep all the older algos and directly compare. Eventually, I suppose this goes down the road of loading the data into RAM and processing it realtime, which I would have imagined FPGAs do quite well.
Thanks. I understand the concept of the firmware, but still unclear as to why it would result in such a big improvement in sound. The resources of a digital source are fixed based upon the hardware and processing capabilities. Software can either (1) apply different filters to the sound or (2) reallocate resources to achieve that sound.

For example, updating your BIOS or a computer driver could result in increased compatibilities, but it doesn't make your computer run faster or have a larger memory.

So I'm curious to know from a design standpoint, how firmware can be used to improve a machine without altering the power supply, the transport, or the processing chips.

The BIOS analogy is interesting - updating the BIOS "could" also raise the speed of the CPU (overclocking) in which case the computer WILL run faster.

Rtn1, I doubt that Andreas will come on here to clear up our confusion, but I think that the alogrythms do more than filter, but that is one key activity. The upsampling to DSD will get certain noise up into the stratosphere, allowing a number of sampling alternatives.

Let me tell you what was wrong with version 18. It sounded good on almost everything, including BIG orchestral stuff with lots of dynamics. I received a CD from Al Hood, a trumpet playing friend, and on one cut, where he was doing a bravura-style solo, that soared over the band, the trumpet broke up very harshly, even worse than a mistracking stylus. I reported the problem and found another CD or two that did the same thing. Andreas was able to replicate the bug. When I reverted to the default software the problem went away and when I reinstalled v. 18 the problem was not there.

Andreas said that we needed to install v. 19, even if v. 18 was working for us. He said that a certain series of actions could cause it to recur.

It's very interesting that the highs, particularly trumpet sheen or what we call sizzle, was more realistic, open and unstrained than on v. 18.

Could that all be due to a filter change? I suppose that it could be.

There are dark secrets we'll never be told the answer to. Is the EQ manipulated in the digital domain?? Just like "voicing" of amps and preamps, I think that DACs can be voiced. What's "neutral" when you start with a harsh, brittle sounding CD??? Maybe they can simply filter out that harshness and hash, but maybe you also apply some gentle EQ. I don't know, but I bet it's done by some.

Dcstep/Dave, I bet you are right - it can probably be voiced in a variety of areas - from upsampling algo to analog gain stage after DAC output, and several places between. I am surprised about the trumpet problems not being there, being there, then not being there on a reinstall - sounds like a bug in software setup in v18 (not so much the filters themselves but the way one part reads the status of another part). Not being a PD guy (neither in English, nor French), I don't know the version history, but if he's not careful, Andreas might incur the contempt of Audiofeil, who seems skeptical of a high upgrade count :^)
Yes T_bone, Andreas said it was an install bug and he wrote v. 19 so that it couldn't happen. He, of course, had tested v. 18 quite a bit and was distressed that he'd missed the bug, but was very quick to recover.

One neat thing about the MPS-5 is that you can always push the reset button and get back to the excellent original firmware.

Do you think that anyone really take Audiofeil seriously anymore? He stalks me, so we'll probably hear from him soon. Hi Bill. ;-)

Is the new update called the MPS-5_01021 and when was it released?. Also what does the new ( November)DRIVER do?.

Just got an email response from Jonathan Tinn re my question of the purpose of the "November" driver. His email informs me that the driver is designed for those users who are connecting the optional USB-X outboard box. I don't use the USB-X box so I can't comment any further on what benefits the driver confers. For those that use the USB-X I'd suggest contacting PD directly. I've had wonderful support from Jonathan and Andreas and can't speak highly enough about their customer commitment.
Couldn't agree more with you about Jonathan and Andreas' commitment to customer service. It is unparalleled.