Empirical Audio modded PT P-3A review

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Sa-dono

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Empirical Audio modded PT P-3A review
« on: 2 Feb 2004, 04:56 am »
Thanks to Steve Nugent, I was able to demo the Empirical Audio Turbomod + SuperclockII modified Perpetual Technologies P-3A (hereafter referred to as the EA P-3A). This was of great interest to me, given others' positive experience with Steve's mods, as well as with this version of the DAC. Also, I was able to be the first person (that I am aware of) to directly compare this version of the P-3A with the ModWright Signature Level II modified PT P-3A (hereafter referred to as the MW P-3A).

Well after spending some time with the EA P-3A, and doing some comprehensive testing and comparisons, I am ready to provide my thoughts. I will be breaking up this review into multiple parts - so more to follow :D

Sa-dono

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Disclaimer:
« Reply #1 on: 2 Feb 2004, 05:03 am »
[disclaimer]
Please keep in mind the following are just my experiences, based on my personal preferences. All P-3A comparisons were done in my system, in my room. Based on the above, some people may feel differently, as everyone is entitled to their own opinions. Give a listen for yourselves, if possible, and come to your own conclusions.
[/disclaimer][/b]

Sa-dono

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The Meitner
« Reply #2 on: 2 Feb 2004, 05:37 am »
Thanks to oneobgyn, I was able to hear the highly touted EMM Labs Meitner DAC6e DAC yesterday. Through the use of the EMM Labs Meitner modified Phillips SACD1000, a "proprietary algorithm converts PCM audio from regular CD’s to DSD," and also allows a direct digital transmission of DSD to the DAC. Given all of the great comments I had read in regards to the Meitner DAC, and the technology involved, I was very much looking forward to hearing this DAC.

So what the heck does this all have to do with a review of the EA P-3A? :o :lol: Well that will be revealed shortly.

Redbook performance on the Meitner was very good. Dynamic, great transient response, smooth, all of the sustain, and neutral sounding would all be characteristics I would ascribe to the Meitner. However, something was missing for me. I was not involved or engaged, and felt a level of emotion and musicality was missing.

Well, after playing my "overused" :roll: Norah, oneobgyn recommended listening to the SACD version. Given my previous less than stellar experiences with SACD, I decided to give it a shot, since this is the Meitner we're talking about. So oneobgyn puts the disc in, presses play, and WHOAH!!! :o :o :o Now THIS is what I am talking about...finally, THE MAGIC!

The sound had completely transformed for me. The pace had quickened - but what really stood out was that the sound had become much more natural. Everything became much more controlled, fuller, more three-dimensional - and depth improved. Also, most important to me, is that the texture, harmonics, and timbre (THT) all improved. The sound was finally extremely musical, involving, and engaging. I had found the magic, and I loved it! :inlove:

If I ever got into SACD, this would most certainly be the DAC I would have to get :D

Sa-dono

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Empirical Audio modded PT P-3A review
« Reply #3 on: 2 Feb 2004, 06:42 am »
So again, what does the Meitner have to do with the EA P-3A? *Looks around to see how many people are ready to attempt to strangle my neck.* :lol:

The Meitner is relevant, because in my system, the upsampling and interpolation of the Perpetual Technologies (hereafter referred to as PT) gear with the EA P-3A provides me the same magic. However, the PT gear does this with Redbook CD's! :D Given that my collection is for the vast majority CD's, this is of HUGE benefit to me.

In terms of video, this is like native 1080p video (Meitner) and the $40K+ Terranex upscaling to 1080p (fully tweaked PT gear with EA P-3A). Both are extremely good. Which is better though? Well it all depends on the quality of the associated gear, the amount of material for each format, and your personal needs. Plus, you would have to do a direct comparison to make your final judgement.

Unfortunately, I was not able to compare the EA P-3A to the Meitner, as we did not have the necessary cables. To my later discovery, the comparison would have been nowhere near exhaustive, even if we been able to make the comparison.

Sa-dono

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MW P-3A vs. EA P-3A
« Reply #4 on: 2 Feb 2004, 07:10 am »
So now that I have hopefully explained just how special the EA P-3A DAC is, I am going to conclude the rest of my review with a couple of comparisons I have done. The first being the comparison of these two different modded versions of the P-3A.

Based on the large price differential, many people may be hesitant about the EA P-3A. However, my own experiences have shown the extra money to be worth every cent. My decision has already been made to upgrade one of my units.

To start my description of the two, I will continue with the video comparison. The difference between the MW P-3A and the EA P-3A would be relatively like the difference between 720i and 1080p video (respectively). One of the reasons for this is the MW P-3A sounds grainy and intermittent in comparison to the EA P-3A. The EA P-3A is also more three-dimensional and has further depth, while the MW P-3A sounds flat in comparison.

The EA P-3A has fuller bass, better micro and micro dynamics, better transient response, and further blackness. The sound has also become smoother and more cohesive. There is also an extensive increase in THT. The combination of all of the above results in a more natural sound, with increased realism.

The realism is simply mind blowing. To confirm how natural the sound is, I used a vast amount of listening material. I listened to everything from male vocals, female vocals, piano, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, electric bass, upright bass, drums, cymbals, vibraphones, horns, strings, cowbells, and many other instruments I am familar with. I even went as far as listening to the spoken word, and listening to a hot girl slowly walk around in high heels (not kidding)! :D

Sa-dono

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Is the P-1A still useful with the EA P-3A?
« Reply #5 on: 2 Feb 2004, 07:59 am »
The above is the question that has been in the back of my mind ever since I have read the intial reviews about the EA P-3A. Since I already have the PT P-1A, I was not going to miss the opportunity to see what I think for myself.

The main feature I was interested in testing was based on the P-1A's interpolation (increasing bit length), which the P-3A does not have. As such, I left the P-1A in the system, and switched this feature on and off, to make for quicker comparisons.

So is the P-1A still needed or not? IMO, it is very much needed, and still provides a large benefit. I am personally unsure why others thought otherwise. :scratch:

Just for those that do not know, the P-1A reduces the SPL by 6 db in order to add further jitter correction and interpolate. As such, you must be careful to level match the SPL, if you are taking the P-1A in and out of your system for this comparison. Also, you must make sure that the options of the P-1A are setup to interpolate to 24 bits from 16. If you do not take these two factors into account, then the comparison will be partially invalid, and not be taking into account the full potential of the P-1A. I also personally recommend making use of a higher quality I2S cable (the Revelation Prophecy being my current favorite) to connect the P-1A and P-3A.

So what does the P-1A and interpolation still do for the EA P-3A? The sound becomes even more natural, and fuller. THT reaches a further degree. The overall sound just increases in how involving, engaging, emotional, and musical it is. After a couple of comparisons, I just could not personally see living without the P-1A. It was that much better.


"And that's all folks!" I hope my review has been informative and helpful. Again, these are just my experiences, and you should give a listen for yourselves. Happy listening! :D

Marbles

Empirical Audio modded PT P-3A review
« Reply #6 on: 2 Feb 2004, 02:11 pm »
Nice review and confirms what I hear with the P3a.  It is a special DAC.

Looks like I will have to get a P1a now and try it myself.....just when I thought I was done too  :roll:

Quote from: Marbles
I really think it would be worth an A/B of your ModWright level 2 and the Empirical moded unit.

With the Empirical, you don't need any external power supply other than the original wall wart and you don't need the  P1a.


I unfortuneatly based this on what Steve told me on more than one occaision.  Some of it may be due to different equipment, and some of it may be due to different prefferences.

Anyway, I'm glad you tried the P1a and it worked out for you.

Ronm1

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Empirical Audio modded PT P-3A review
« Reply #7 on: 2 Feb 2004, 03:33 pm »
Sa-Dono

   Thanks, well done,  just as I suspected and hoped for...further refinement is still possible and the P1a stays in the picture, particularly with SOCS so close.   :)    
   Did you ever bring up with Steve how his mod may potentially impact a 192Khz upgrade to the P3a?

audioengr

Empirical Audio modded PT P-3A review
« Reply #8 on: 2 Feb 2004, 05:42 pm »
Quote
Did you ever bring up with Steve how his mod may potentially impact a 192Khz upgrade to the P3a?


It should not have any effect.  Most of the changes are relegated to:

1) power supply improvements
2) analog section redesign
3) S/PDIF input transformer and matching improvements

None of these impacts the digital section

Marbles

Empirical Audio modded PT P-3A review
« Reply #9 on: 3 Feb 2004, 01:52 am »
Sa-dono, what is your system like?

Thanks

audiojerry

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Empirical Audio modded PT P-3A review
« Reply #10 on: 3 Feb 2004, 03:08 am »
Thanks for the informative review.
I may have to contact E.A. about an audition.

Mad DOg

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Empirical Audio modded PT P-3A review
« Reply #11 on: 3 Feb 2004, 03:26 am »
Quote from: Marbles
Sa-dono, what is your system like?

Thanks


http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?action=systems;system=103

Marbles

Empirical Audio modded PT P-3A review
« Reply #12 on: 3 Feb 2004, 03:29 am »
Thanks Mad Dog (20/20)

Mad DOg

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Empirical Audio modded PT P-3A review
« Reply #13 on: 3 Feb 2004, 04:03 am »
Quote from: Marbles
Thanks Mad Dog (20/20)


actually, my vision sucks, but my hearing is pretty good... :wink:  :lol:

John Casler

Empirical Audio modded PT P-3A review
« Reply #14 on: 3 Feb 2004, 04:16 am »
Quote from: Mad DOg
Quote from: Marbles
Thanks Mad Dog (20/20)


actually, my vision sucks, but my hearing is pretty good... :wink:  :lol:


Neither will be too good after a little MD 20/20 :nono:

Sa-dono

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Empirical Audio modded PT P-3A review
« Reply #15 on: 3 Feb 2004, 07:29 am »
Thanks guys!

Marbles:
I would be interested in your impression with the P-1A. Steve's comments are actually one of the reasons I was unsure of using the P-1A. However, there is quite a large difference with the addition of the P-1A, IMO, due to the interpolation. This is completely separate from the issue of jitter and the transport, which I believe is what he was testing.

Ronm:
I was glad that the P-1A ended up serving a purpose for me, besides the future addition of SOCS and ROCS.

audiojerry:
Definitely give this DAC an audition, when you can. I would be curious how it compares to your current mods. I am still interested in trying other mods with another unit, but am unsure if it will still happen.

witchdoctor

Empirical Audio modded PT P-3A review
« Reply #16 on: 6 Feb 2004, 02:37 am »
Well, I read your review and I am breaking down and getting the p1 and EA- P-3. It will take a while to mod. Thanks for posting, I hope the p1 sounds better in my system too. I will compare and post.

Sa-dono

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Empirical Audio modded PT P-3A review
« Reply #17 on: 6 Feb 2004, 07:48 am »
Congrats on the purchase witchdoctor! :D Keep us updated with your thoughts.

audioengr

Empirical Audio modded PT P-3A review
« Reply #18 on: 6 Feb 2004, 05:27 pm »
Sadono - Starting on your DAC later today.

BTW - there is a new improvement that I am adding to the mod that makes it even more focused and clear.  It came to me when doing a mod to a Birdland Odeon-lite DAC.  

The Birdland is 95% of the P-3A after mods.  The P-3A has a slight edge in HF and LF extension over the Birdland.  I'm planning to offer the Birdland mod for around $800 (no superclock2).

geverett

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Empirical Audio modded PT P-3A review
« Reply #19 on: 13 Feb 2004, 07:13 pm »
I would like to add another STRONG endorsement for the Empirical turbomod with supperclock 2 for the Perpetual p3a. I just got mine back with the new improvements and am amazed that my system can sound this good. I had the modwrite level 2 before I had the Empirical mods done to it.
Improvements included more air around instruments, faster bass, natural sounding cymbals without any harshness, and more focus.  I am really happy with the improvements and as others have said "my front end is done". Steve does great work and I recommend that you audition the modded p3a.