Playback Designs is launching a new series of components under the Sonoma name—in reference to the eponymous pro audio DSD workstations—and the first two introductions are the Merlot DAC and the Syrah Music Server. Naturally, they borrow their names from wine grapes—a nod to the wonderful (if somewhat counterintuitive) symmetry linking the enjoyment of good wines with the joy and awareness derived from profound musical experiences. Driving this audiophile/oenophile point home further, each product is shipped with a bottle of wine from a high-quality private winery.
The Merlot DAC is a state-of-the-art D/A converter with AES/SPDIF/USB/PLink digital inputs that support any sample rate and format up to quad DSD. Its discrete architecture is software upgradeable for future Playback Designs updates. In addition to balanced and unbalanced line-level analog outputs, there’s also a headphone output on the front panel with discrete volume control. An easy-to-use recording software application allows the creation of wave or DFF/DSF files on a computer from digital sources connected to Merlot.
The Syrah Music Server is the companion product to the Merlot DAC. It provides internal storage, but can be connected to external storage and networks. The Syrah supports DLNA streaming, rips CDs automatically from an external drive, and offers extensive metadata capabilities. Able to be controlled via iPad/Android tablets, it supports any file format and native sample rate, and connects to Merlot via USB for native file playback. Also on offer is the “OpBox” modification kit for Oppo players, which allows a direct connection to the Merlot DAC via ST optical cable. This permits digital audio data sourced from any disc (CD, SACD, DVD or Blu-ray) to be transmitted natively via the Oppo’s optical output to Merlot for direct conversion to analog. The conversion is an easy install and can be performed either by a dealer or end user directly. Price: Merlot, $6500; Syrah, $6500; OpBox, $1850. playbackdesigns.com