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The exaSound PlayPoint DM - Designer's Notes

10-01-2018 | By Editors at Positive Feedback | Issue 99

George Klissarov and David W. Robinson

exaSound PlayPoint DM

George Klissarov, AXPONA 2017

exaSound's new flagship device, the PlayPoint DM Dual-Mono D/A Converter and Network Audio Server, is the high point of my life-long obsession with audio and eight years of research, design, and the making of DACs and streamers. We entered the audiophile market with the introduction of the world's first multi-channel DXD DAC, followed by the world's first DSD256 DAC. Our devices didn't follow the established design patterns; we did what we believed will bring the best sound fidelity and transparency. The value of our approach was recognized by audiophiles and reviewers alike, and exaSound in short time became a respected name in the field.

exaSound is currently known for producing devices with reference-grade sound fidelity at affordable prices. Customers asked us to design a higher class device that takes the sonic fidelity to the next level, and brings together the best of workmanship, industrial design, and user experience. Our response is the PlayPoint DM. We designed it without monetary and market constrains. Our philosophy called for simplicity and minimum processing. We aimed for sound with no artificial flavors. We wouldn't sacrifice sonic fidelity for the sake of adding trendy features and buzzword-named configuration options. We had at our disposal in-house developed tools for complete control over the sound streaming chain. With our proprietary asynchronous USB packet streaming with error correction, custom drivers, FPGA firmware, and galvanic isolation, we achieve 32bit, low-jitter, low-noise, and bit-perfect signal path.

The appearance of the device reflects our understanding that the best industrial design is stylish, functional and simple. On the inside, we deployed the most advanced dual-mono fully balanced architecture for the D/A conversion:  two 32-bit DXD/DSD256 DACs with four autonomous I/V stages. We use the ES9028PRO monolithic DAC. In our experience this is the best Sabre chip for dual mono applications. The left and right channels are fully independent, and each has its own power supply. Not only does this maximize stereo separation, it means that high demands on one channel will not affect the other channel. Thanks to the balanced design, common-mode noise is rejected. This makes for a very quiet background, especially if a balanced connection is used for the amplifiers or headphones.

George Klissarov, Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2015

PlayPoint DM takes the notion of galvanic isolation to the next level. All inputs are galvanically isolated, which blocks noise both in the signal path and on the ground plane. Inside the PlayPoint DM, the digital section is galvanically isolated from the analog section, and the left and right channels are galvanically isolated from each other. PlayPoint DM has independent power supplies for the left, right, and digital sections, all with isolated ground planes. Galvanic isolation is also employed between the left and right channels of the headphone amplifier. Sonically, this translates to a significant reduction in external and internal noise, and a significant improvement in stereo separation.

The integrated dual mono balanced headphone amplifier with bridge topology can drive the most demanding headphones. We use two XLR connectors for interfacing with balanced headphones to maintain ground separation and to eliminate the channel crosstalk that occurs when a single XLR connector is used. A separate 1/4" socket is provided for use with non-balanced headphones.

PlayPoint DM has a high-resolution digital volume control, so it can connect directly to your monoblock amplifiers or balanced headphones.

George Klissarov, AXPONA 2016

The primary purpose of PlayPoint DM is to play music stored on attached USB and network drives and from streaming services. It comes with Roon Core music-management software pre-installed. The Roon Core is optimized for best sonic fidelity and best user experience with the built-in dual-mono D/A converter.

PlayPoint DM is a multi-level device. It can be used in basic and the most-advanced network configurations, and it supports UPnP, OpenHome, HQPlayer NAA, Tidal, Spotify, and Qobuz.

Combining a reference-grade 32-bit digital-to-analog converter, balanced dual-mono headphone amplifier, and Roon-enabled music server in one elegant component brings together the highest level of sonic purity, simplicity, and enjoyable user experience.

To learn more about exaSound PlayPoint DM, please visit their Website HERE.

All photographs and image processing by David W. Robinson