New, slightly dissatisfied PTW owner

I know this runs counter to popular opinion, but as a new PTW/PWDII owner, I’m having some issues with what I’m hearing. I have the two connected via I2S (Pangea HDMI cable), and just a quick list of associated gear:

Modwright KWI 200 integrated, Proac Response D2s, Rel S-2 sub, Analysis Plus Big Silver Oval speaker cables (8 ft), Clarus Aqua XLRs.

What I’m hearing is very much what I’m supposed to be hearing: great presence, hyper-resolved deep detail, and pinpoint imaging, but it is not actually pleasant to listen to. The sound is piercing and lacks roundness. Extended listening threatens to result in ear damage. Through my Cambridge Audio CXU universal player with a Wyred4Sound reclocker, the presentation is a little less resolved but far more pleasant to hear, fuller in the middle with just a tinge of warmth. It’s still very detailed, but not up to the PWT’s standard.

I guess I’d like to have the best of both worlds. Have any of you experienced this with your systems? Is it just the nature of the beast? Is there a remedy that doesn’t involve investing thousands in new speakers? (I’ve actually considered this but there’s so much I like about the Proacs that I’m extremely reluctant to act on it–yet.)

Just FYI, I have the PWDII set to “auto” filter and “NativeX” resolution which is the general consensus for optimum SQ. I’ve experimented with other settings, and the differences are noticeable but small. Also, everything’s got the latest firmware.

Thanks for any input you experienced PWT owners may have on this subject.

While I’ve never heard the PWD/PWT combo (I did have a PWD though) I would say based on forum posts that what you’re hearing is not normal. I’m assuming both pieces are fully broken in, so that shouldn’t be a concern. The rest of your system looks good too, so my thought is the HDMI cable (actually I2S cable, but I’ll use HDMI). If you have one or more other HDMI cables I would try them just to see if there is a difference. Seems like a lot of blame to place on a cable, but it’s worth a try. Should you discover a new cable is the answer there has been quite a bit of discussion on the HDMI cable for the DS/DMP combo (which I have now), but Paul favors the generic (no name) cable they provide with the DMP. Some like the PS Audio branded HDMI cable they sold several years ago but now out of production. Personally I like the PS Audio branded cable, but the generic one works real well.

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Doesn’t sound quite right to me; I used this combo for about four years and got better sound than that “sounds like” from your post.

My biggest recommendation: keep it running for a few more days, all the time on repeat. I have found that cables do need to break in and though I haven’t used the Pangea that is a possibility–it’s possible a few more days use will change its sound. Also I find that the components sound their best when turned on and/or used for a few days.

Hopefully it will sound better soon. I too have a CXU that I run into my DSD and also run the analog output into my ZTPRE preamp. . . the basic differences between the two sources you are hearing I hear, but I remember the PWT and PWD sounding better than you describe.

After posting I noticed you responded to another topic and said you had the drive replaced. While it seems a stretch I would take Lonson’s advice and run it on repeat for a few days. Fingers crossed it’s a break-in issue.

Hi Dowlandfan , that is a curious issue . You should outline this issue in “Ask a PS Audio Expert”section on the main page ,.

No need to post it elsewhere; it will be seen here by the PS Audio people. If you truly believe there is a defect, contact service directly.

I have no idea other than to try another HDMI cable in case there is an issue with it.

While I am certain “Extended listening threatens to result in ear damage” is typical enthusiast hyperbole, the sound quality should be pleasant and not harsh or fatiguing.

Thanks to all for the suggestions.

I’m pretty sure there isn’t anything wrong with the PWT, it’s just an issue with the synergy of my system/ears/room. I hear all the things this unit is famous for and I’m trying hard to fall in love with it but that shrill edge still gets in the way. My first instinct is to blame the speakers, but that’s a can of worms I’m not ready to open. Still, it would be an interesting (if expensive) experiment. Stay tuned…

There’s a lot of hot debate over whether HDMI cables actually make any difference, and I’m really on the fence about it. Significantly upgrading the power cable might be a step in the right direction, so that, I think, will be my next step. I’ll keep you posted.

While transports do sound different, it makes no sense to me that the PWT sounds so different and unpleasant as to risk ear damage.

Thus I suspect something basic, such as a faulty HDMI cable. I do not suggest that buying a fancier HDMI cable will solve the issue, but rather there may be a basic problem. Along these lines, have you tried a S/PDIF output? I also suggest taking the re-clocker out of the signal chain for the PWT.

Have you tried re-positioning your speakers? When I changed DACs, I had to change toe in, as it wasn’t as bright as my last one. Maybe you should go in the other direction. A little less toe in, might smooth the brightness without losing the good stuff.

Per Elk’s suggestion, the reclocker isn’t in this path, it’s adjunct to the Cambridge Audio CXU. I’ve done a bit more experimenting with cables and different inputs but in general I2S with the NativeX and Auto filter settings still sound best to my ears. Thanks, Jeffstarr, for the suggestion to toe out the speakers a little–I have to say that made a bit of difference, but hasn’t totally solved the problem. The one experiment that DID yield huge results was trying out an old set of Celestion SL600 speakers, currently used in my computer system, in place of the Proacs. While the Celestions are quite old (probably well in excess of 30 years now), and notoriously power hungry (no worries here–the Modwright amp can eat them for lunch), those old copper-dome tweeters tamped down all the shrillness and the speakers presented some very nice and very musical sounds. They’re not quite up to modern standards for detail and breadth of image, but they sure gave me some insight into where the weak link in this chain might be. I’d like to exhaust any other possible remedies before getting into that project, though.

No need to downplay the Celestions. They were and still are a great pair of small speakers. Always wished I had bought them when I heard them.

BTW, HDMI cables do make a difference, although not to the same degree IMO as swapping out speakers!

The only reason I didn’t make the change to the Celestions permanent–and believe me I was plenty tempted–was that compared to the Proacs, they sounded just a bit “contained,” that is, I was missing the breadth of stereo image the Proacs impart. That aside, they are immensely pleasant to hear, in a Harbeth-y sort of way. (A few years ago I auditioned some Harbeths, but they’re not quite my cup of tea).