Each and every person involved with Playback Designs is first and foremost a lover of music. Without this appreciation no company involved in either high-end audio or the professional recording industry can truly measure how good the products are that they are bringing to market.
Sure, we measure each and every unit that we ship, but the most important step is the final listening session that occurs just prior to packaging the unit for shipment.
We believe that Playback Designs' systems represent the finest audio playback in the world for the finest listening system in the world… your ears!
In addition to being avid music lovers the engineers at Playback Designs are among the most innovative in the Audio Business .That spirit of innovation
is exemplified by the Merlot DAC and Syrah music server. Togeather they are the single simplest system out there for ripping and storing your CDs and playing them back. No computer needed ! Just a network and an Ipad and you are all set to hear music.
and what beautiful music it is ! I have heard nothing near their price range which presents such a convincing portrait of the original !
"A Special Musical Experience
After listening to the Syrah / Merlot system for several days, I realized that I was enjoying a very special musical experience that had to be included among the finest digital systems I have heard. We often talk about natural or analog-like sound when describing fine DACs and the Syrah / Merlot system had these qualities in spades. Music emerged from a silent background with fine dynamic shadings being very apparent. Macro dynamic changes were powerful and easily felt. The bass was highly detailed but well controlled with no bloat of unnatural heaviness. Voices and instruments were detailed and well nuanced. The soundstage of the Syrah / Merlot was among the largest I have experienced with excellent width and depth. There was excellent image stability and focus within the soundstage with a sense of air surrounding instruments and vocalists. The Syrah / Merlot system simply allowed music to flow with minimal, if any, coloration. " AUDIO STREAM MAGAZINE
CENTER PIECE FROM GROUND UP
The Merlot is a new design from ground up and borrows elements from the existing
5- and 3-series product lines and combines them with new technologies in a novel
and cost effective package. Like all Playback Designs products, the Merlot was
designed from the inside out to maximize sonic performance which is competitive
with many much higher priced converters and often even outperforms them.
Integrated DAC / Headphone Amp
- Up to 384kHz PCM and up to 11.2MHz DSD
- USB, AES, Coax, PLink inputs
- Headphone output with separate volume control
- Balanced and unbalanced line level outputs
- Differential discrete DAC (standard “Playback Designs” architecture)
- Software upgradeable by end user
- Recording software for file creation on computer
With its many unique features it is the center piece of the entire Sonoma series.
It ties all the various products together, the Syrah Music server,
the OpBox disc
player and the Pinot ADC. There is no audio format, no sample rate that cannot be played on the Merlot, even analog audio can be played. And then there is recording...a feature that is not commonly associated with playback.
This system gives the Swiss Army Knife a new MEANING
SYRAH MUSIC SERVER
Playback Designs spent the same amount of care and diligence in creating and
developing its Syrah server as it does for any other audio product. Here is a
selection of key elements that are used in Syrah:
The criteria for the mobo are quite tricky. While for general computers you want
as much CPU speed, RAM, bus bandwidths and connectivity as possible, for
dedicated music servers this can be a disadvantage resulting in compromised
audio performance. Playing back audio files is not a heavy load on today‘s CPU‘s
and it is not necessary to aim for the fastest version. In fact our own research and
long experience have shown that certain slower CPU‘s perform better in audio
Rather than maximizing connectivity for general purpose computers, this is a
feature that needs to be minimized, because most communication protocols
require asynchronous clocks - at Playback Designs we understand very well what
that means for audio quality (PBD products belong to a very small selection in the
market that use completely synchronous clock designs, from power supply all the
way to front panel displays).
After many long and grueling tests with many different mobo‘s we found one
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based on Intel‘s NUC designs, that has enough CPU power for our application,
does not require a fan to cool and provides the right connectivity for the intended
Integrated Music Server
- Connects directly to Merlot (or any other Playback Designs DAC) via USB
- Easy and intuitive remote control via iPad or Android
- Plays any audio from internal, external or NAS storage
- Internal 2TB HDD standard, optional SSD
- Streaming via DLNA
- Automatic ripping from external drive (included)
- Automatic retrieval of cover art, meta data from data base