Affordable alternativ to the PS Audio DirectStream DAC


I have borrowed a DirectStream DAC from my dealer very nice of him because he knows that I can't afford it (:
I have to say it is everything I have ever wanted from a streamer/dac. Music just pouring out of my speakers, real sweet music.

Voices just sounds so real, everything is in place, there are details but not in your face. I just love it. This is like music should sound.

I am using it with a PrimaLuna HP integrated. Very nice combo.

The DirectStream DAC junior is discontinuing and I can't get my hands on a used one.

If you have heard the DirectStream DAC and know of another dac sounding as musical -- let me know   
martin-andersen
The answer is the Denafrips Terminator DAC. Many reviews and even a few comparisons to the DS DAC out there. 
Post removed 
The price of the Denafrips Terminator are close to the PS in europe
Denafrips received some bad reviews IIRC.

I suggest you wait until PS Audio releases the TSS DAC, at which time you should be able to find a reasonably priced used DirectStream Sr.
I hope that the new PS junior will be as god as the current senior
Not really sure about the price point , but i would for sure look into Lumin streamers. They are a Hong Kong Based company that decided they wanted to go into HiFI , they have been serving and still do commercial TV broadcasters. so they do know a thing or 2 .
Their streamers are musical , engaging , and updated for free.

Yes Fdpdk yes our point exactly.

We have been working with Lumin for years and we have never seen a product that is as loved once people get one in their systems.

Musical, great feature set, reasonable cost, many available price points. easy to use app, Roon and Mqa, and in most cases they are usually considered the best sounding products in their price points.

We sell a lot of digital products and the Lumin gear always stands out.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Lumin dealers
As usual Audio Doctor promoting its products. In this case he ignores, deliberately, what the OP wants to hear: a comparison between the PS Audio Stream Dac and others Dacs. Poor selling technique.
PS Jr. has been discontinued.
Post removed 
Jes wasnt the Op looking for an alternative in a similar price point that is available?

As per sound quality a T2 is more than a match for the Direct Stream digital
I will try to see if I can audit the T2. I have promised that I will never buy a product with out trying it in my system first
Actually my take on the OP was that he was looking for a comparable experience but at a LOWER price point.

Read his first paragraph.

"I have borrowed a DirectStream DAC from my dealer very nice of him because he knows that I can't afford it"

So if the Lumin is comparable but similar price them it does not fit the OP.
Uberwaltz the OP is talking about the direct stream digital not the Junior as there are no Juniors available which means the Direct Stream Digital with Bridge card is $6,995.00 is it not?

$6k or $7k is not $4.5k now is it?

Most of the $3k streamers will not compete with the more expensive gear, the Mytek Brooklyn Bridge Plus is very nice at $3k but it does not sound as good as the Lumin and PS units.

Also look at the statement from the OP where he says he wants to audition one which would probably mean the the T2 would be in his price range.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Lumin and Mytek dealers


Fair point, I must admit my mind was stuck on junior! Doh!

But the T2 only has network and USB input correct?
So if the OP needed any additional digital inputs he would SOL.

Just something to consider in the long run as far as flexibility goes.

Back to my vinyl corner now.
The Lumin T2 is based on the Saber ES9028PRO chip. I haven't heard one, but in general I don't care for Saber chips which sound digital to me. However, I know people who like them and YMMV. 

The sound of DirectStream Sr. is like analog as you know from your own audition. It can be had for USD $3k to $4k used, and as I said, there will be a glut of used units when the TSS is released this summer. Wish I could afford a TSS :(

Not a dealer.




The Auralic Vega G1 is $2k less and the Auralic Altair is less than a third the cost of the PS Audio. Both great digital products.
Jburden,

You are free to make any claim you like. However saying that you don't like a particular dac chip is an erronous statement.

You are not listening to a dac chip, it is one part of the equation, you have an input board, power supplies, clocking technology andof course  the analog output stage, all of these contribute the sound that a dac
produces.

The Lumin T2 uses dual ESS 9028pro dac running in mono which means you have 8 cores per each chip running differential computations this lower noise dramatically and gives you better dynamic range, many companies use only a single dac chip, two sounds and measures better.

One issue that some people have is being forced to listen to DSD on the Direct Stream series, DSD in general has a softer sound than PCM and the Lumin can be set to output everything in DSD as well. 

You can also listen to upsampled PCM which generally has a more incisive sound with greater dynamic snap than DSD.

As per analog like their are fans of the Direct Stream and people who don't like it it is a good dac among many good dacs sometimes one person's analog like is another persons rolled off. YMMV.

Uberwaltz, the Lumin is designed to be a streaming dac, it has always been a 100% purposeful device. The engineers directly ommited digital inputs as they felt that it can introduce noise into the product. 

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Lumin dealers




If your looking for a DAC only the closest you make come to the DS at a lower price may be a used Aqua La Voce S2.  I own both and they are both in a similar vein.  My S2 is headed back to Italy for the S3 upgrade after the Munich show. 
Audiotroy
I understand completely.
However it is still a consideration to be made if one needs other than a USB input IMHO.
One can claim it is stripped down for audio purity agreed.
One could also claim the PS costs more because it offers more.

Just depends on your point of view.

Over and out.
Yes Uberwaltz those are all valid points, in terms of value that is only determined by the listener.

We would recommend that the OP listen to a T2 and decide for himself. We are willing to believe he will find the T2 to match the PS and perhaps may even enjoy it more, only the OP will know for himself.

In our store we sell a lot of digital products, from Mytek, Ifi, Naim, Lumin, Innous, Baetis, NAD, Light Harmonic, T+A, Rega, Aqua Hifi,and a few others.

We agree with you on that Lumin will not work for everyone, that is why we don’t sell only Lumin. A person has to consider what their needs are.

If you think about it locking down the system is generally very effective at eliminating any noise entering the piece along with the digital signal, but it does limit you if you want to spin a CD as well as stream.

For many of our clients the world of Tidal and Qbouzz are eliminating the desire to play a CD, howerver, if you have a rare CD or an artist not available via streaming that could be an issue. You can also rip a CD to a computer on your network and play the disc that way, we know that isn’t for everybody.

We are big proponents of the Lumin products because they sound and work wonderfully well and are among the best sounding products in their price range.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
jackd:

The Aqua La Voce S2 uses PCM1704-K which is an R-2R ladder that also is used in the renowned Theta and some Wadia DACs. I much prefer this to any Saber-based DAC that I've heard. 
Jburidan, we also sell the Aqua, we have a Formula and a Lascala Mk II on display and we are not going to say they don't sound good.

We would also ask you have you heard a Lumin T2 or an X1.

The X1 is an extraordinary digital product one of the best sounding front ends we have ever heard, it is magical and it also uses a Sabre dac. 

Their are many great dac chips from AKM, Sabre and Burr Brown including the 1796 and the 1792 chips what really matters is not the chip but how you impliment your design. R2R dac chips and the best multi bit chips are sounding more and more alike these days.

However, again, you are basing your love of the Aqua on just the chip the Aqua analog stage is superb.

This discussion is about Streamers both the PS audio and the Lumin are streamers the Aqua Hifi is not a streamer so you can't really bring up one in the same conversation also the new La Voice MK III is $4,750 add in a good server and you are in the $7k or so catagory so not a valid comparison unless you are talking one $7k package vs another.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ 
Martin-anderson ,   Buy a Bluesound Node2 and a great dac like Benchmark 3 DAC for about $2,000.00 which is a Stereophile Class A/ A+ recommended product and as good a DAC as the PS Audio. There are other good standalone streamers, the software and app on the Bluesound is great and never gives you any squabbles. 
Initm, the Benchmark does not sound like any of these dacs.

Benchmark sound is much crisper and hyper detailed, the PS, the Lumin especially running DSD mode, and the Aqua are all in the liquid more musical camp.

If you want a cheap dac that sounds great and is very liquid but not as good as the above the Ifi DSD pro is really amazing for its price point of $2,500.00

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
Audio Doctor

The point here is we don't really know what he is looking for.  He only mentioned the DS Sr. in  the context of it being a DAC and at no time mentioned the Bridge II.  So until he clears up what he wants then we are all just guessing.  As he said he was looking for a lesser priced and similar sounding DAC to the  DS Sr. then the S2 fits the bill and as I said I own both.  Whether that is true of the S3 I won't know until Mark sends it back and it is broken in.  If he wants a streamer/DAC combo then one of the Lumin's with the Wolfson chip fits the bill and yes I have owned one of those too. Whether or not the newer Sabre based units fit the bill I won't guess as I have never heard one and am not selling them.  I would guess on based on hearing them that the AKM based Teac Reference/Esoteric units would come closer.
Jacked

From the OP

I will try to see if I can audit the T2

Considering the T2 is only  a dac/streamer it certainly looks like the OP wants a unit with a built in streamer or it would be doubtful he would have said he would like to take the next step to audition one.
I used to own the Auralic Aries streamer which I thought was much better than the LUMIN and Aurender. I got rid of that and my external dac and the expensive usb cable ($750) and went with the ps audio DS dac with bridge board. Much much better. Use Roon on my Mac and use Ethernet to connect to the dac. The DS jr is almost as good as the sr version, gets the same updates. Fpga based dacs are the way to go. Every 6 months or so you get a free update that makes the dac better sounding or adding in additional features like MQA at no charge. People and reviewers like this dac years ago using the then current firmware, and now the latest snowmass firmware is much much better
Street price on a Directstream w/ bridge is closer to 4500 so compare that to a 4500 Lumin T2 which is not discounted as heavily and the PS Audio is a no brainer I sold my T2 as the sound gets fatiguing after a bit. Aurender A10 is very listenable but not quite as detailed as the T2. 
A few ladder DACs available in the 1,000-1,500 range if you can live without DSD. MHDT Orchid getting a lot of hype. 
OP, I know a dealer Chris in Ontario who has some Directstream Juniors on sale in both colors, you can email him at [email protected]

I bought one a month ago, updated it to the newest "Snowmass" upgrade patch, and the sound is even more "analog" that advertised, which for me is a good thing.

Let us know how it goes, if you decide to buy one!
First dont turne this into a cat fight over a LUMIN product. I was looking for advices from people that has experiences with the PS DirectStream and has compared it to other dac's at a lower prices.

I am looking for used junior but I live in Denmark and there are sold very few PS Audio products.

I know I maybe asking to much but I was blown away by the PS. Had a Chord Qutest for a week, but the PS sounds so much better in my ears.
 
I have reported @audiotroy for trying to stuff a T2 down my throat  
I have the Bell canto 2.7 dac and it is very musical and natural sound8ng , upgrade the fuse and put in a quality power cord 
better still. The Schitt Yaggs is very good also , it excels in detail 
but in my system the Bel canto sounded more Natural,
not quite the absolute resolution in low level detail  but overall 
balance was most important to me and has a excellent digital preamp if you wanted to run direct into a amplifier 
from my Blu-ray I play concerts through it ,and has a Very very low noise floor,excellent dynamic range and Dual low noise Femto clocks Trillions of a second . Dedicated Audio give great deals,
and FYI they are coming out with a player Exact same setup
you can probable get for under $3k in the fall , thedac retail $2500
can be bought for under$2k, all great reviews they only did3-4 
Schiit saturates the market with reviews, 
If you are patient quite a few DS Juniors and Seniors come up on eBay, also try your PSAudio distributor they can often get hold of ex dem models
I have yet no experience with really high priced dac/streamers (above USD 2,000). In my opinion the musical experience is to 95% in the recording, the speakers and the room. But I understand the Moon 380 D with the MiND streamer is a nice piece of kit for about USD 2,500. Beware though that bad apps often destroys good streamers. 
"I have reported @audiotroy for trying to stuff a T2 down my throat .."

Seriously? Are you a 2 year old? You should read some of the aftermarket fuse and power cord threads to build some character...
ok maybe I need some hair on my chest. But the post was not very helpfull
@gosta

Technically you are right. For around $2000 or less you get SOTA in measurement performance. The rest is taste or presentation. The PS Audio DS DAC Snr has a large following and rightly so. Measurements aren’t as good as some but the balance of sound is great. Same can be send for various tube amps - not as good technically - but sweet sounding and in some cases audibility is improved by added harmonics. I think the magic of the PS Audio DSD is the added effect of the transformer output...

I believe that tube harmonics help audibility of instruments which don’t have as much natural harmonics themselves. Hi-hat is a good example as it doesn’t naturally have a load of harmonics like other instruments. Many vocalists benefit from added richness of tubes. Guitars sound richer too but in electric guitar genre the tube effect is often already on the recording.
+1 @audiotroy

“the Benchmark does not sound like any of these dacs.”

Agreed. Benchmark is like sitting at Row 1 and PS Audio DSD is like Row 8 to 10.

I limited experience with Schiit but that might be a cheaper option in the direction the OP seeks...

I also agree with the OP description of the PS audio DSD DAC - no loss of detail but a more laid back presentation.
I don’t think they even make this anymore so probably not much help.  I prefer my Oppo Sonica with Modwright tube mods over my PS Audio DS DAC. It is however somewhat system dependent.
My understanding is that PS Audio is moving towards their own streaming system and away from things like ROON. I maybe wrong but I think I read on the PS Audio forum that Bridge III is not going to be ROON Ready. That is a no go for me.

If I am wrong please clarify since I would hate to spread incorrect facts on the DS.
Martin,

We haven’t been shoving anything down your throat.

We mentioned the Lumin as it is an excellent product that many people are raving about and enjoying for both its sound quality and ease of use as well as its price point.

Ask a dozen audiophiles any question and you are going to get a lot of different results based on their experiences with their systems.

We as a dealer sell many, many brands of dacs and steamers and have tested our products with many different loudspeakers and amplifiers.

For the gentleman  with the Persona 5 they tend to be a bit forward so a dac that is very lush is a better choice, his choice of the Aurender was good for his system, also with the Lumin the DSD cross conversion feature makes digital much more rich, we don’t know if he tried this feature some people never play with it, however, we would have pointed him to an Aqua with an Innous which is way richer combo then the Aurender and would add additional warmth that the Personas need,so different systems and tastes require different components.

It is physically impossible for our words to be of any issue to you, we made a suggestion based on our experience with the Lumin vs many of the products which we sell, and have listened to.

If you read our posts we mentioned a whole host of other dacs from the IFI DSD Pro which is mind blowing for its price point, and we did also mention the Aqua Hifi Dacs plus a streamer as also sounding excellent.

In Europe the Aqua Hifi La Voice S3 shoud be less expensive than it is here and if you are indeed looking for a streaming combo then an Innous Mini might give you the more laid back liquid sound that you find with the PS audio piece and in terms of upgradability the Aqua stuff is completely modular an older S2 can be upgraded to an S3 which make the Aqua gear a very good long term investment in the ever changing world of digital and considering you are in Europe you may find that piece to be the best possible solution not to mention the Aqua gear has a very lush full bodied presentation similar to a DSD based dac like the PS.

If you wan to get more out of your post you should quantitfy exaclty what you are looking for:

1: Dac or Streamer
2: Price point
3: What the rest of your system is
4: Do you want a current product or an older perhaps discontinued model which might also work and in that case the older Aqua Hifi La Voice S2 might be right up your alley.
5: What you liked about the PS

(were there any areas that you would have wished that could be better in the comparison vs the Chord Dac you prefered the tonatlity of the PS, but did the Chord have any qualities that you liked over the PS.)

Based on the limited data we see your preference is towards a more rolled off and liquid digital sound, therefore a dac like the Benchmark, Sim Audio, or Chord or any dac that sounds neutral to a bit brighter would not float your boat.

Based on the above still don’t know any of the question 1-4 we would recommend:

1: Aqua Hifi La Voice
2: Ifi DSD pro cheap and amazing
3: Any R2R NOS dacs avalilable in Europe


Good luck on your search and give the Aqua a demo that shoud be right up your alley.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ

@gosta Take a look at the new SimAudio Moon 390. Jeff Dougey from TONE sold his 380 to buy the 390. It is more expensive (around $5K) but based on what I have been reading online it seems like an excellent DAC | Streamer | Preamp | ROOD READY.

I will have a listen at a local shop soon. The sound of the 390 is supposed to be more of the lush category based on what I have been reading.
I owned the DirectStream DAC, Border Patrol DAC SE, and Benchmark DAC3L at the same time, so was able to compare them. The latter two dacs cost much less and can be combined with a separate streaming source and still cost much less than the DirectStream with Bridge.

I sold the DirectStream DAC and kept the other two dacs. It was too laid back and it lacked the image dimension and weight of the other two dacs, at least in my system and to my ears. Detail was silky smooth and exceptional, though.

The Border Patrol dac is closest to sounding like my analog rig, but not as detailed. I like it because it fills in the space between the speakers, and all the way to the side walls. It does this quite nicely, which makes for a natural, realistic sound to my ears. It often invokes a "you are there" emotion in me. I’ve really loved having this dac.

The Benchmark has more "blackness" between the performers on the soundstage. It does not fill in the speakers like the Border Patrol does, but soundstage depth and width are excellent. It indeed has a first row presentation which takes getting used to. It often makes it seem like you are in the studio with the mastering engineer. But it has the knack of being non-fatiguing despite its forward sound. It is very clean and pure sounding, and it lets you hear deep into the performance.

I just got a Mojo Mystique v.3. It’s soundstage presentation is like the Border Patrol but with better detail and image specificity. That’s the one that is going to be my daily driver.

I’m going to have to sell one of my dacs, and it will probably be the Border Patrol. I like switching in the Benchmark for its different presentation, but the Mojo is what I have been liking for everyday listening.

Isn't this audiogon, which is used by people who desire champagne but have a beer budget. Buy one used if new is to much, PS Audio stands behind their products for new and used owners.

Lumin does not sound like the PS Audio dac, buy a used PS Audio dac if you like the sound.

Jab Audiogon is used by many people for some it is not price but gaining knowledge from others who have different exp.

Sometimes new products will outperform older used ones even sometimes way more expensive ones.

Based on this thread and the Op being in Europe and liking a very rich sound then Aqua or Border Patrol dacs plus a good streamer or a used PS audio Dac or other nos dac would be our recomendendation.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
The DirectStream upsamples the input signal to high rate DSD and I suspect this is what makes it appealing to you.

I'd try the Teac NT-505 DAC/streamer which can upsample to DSD512 or the T+A DAC8 DSD connected to a PC with HQ Player for DSD upsampling.
I would love to try the Teac NT-505 DAC but it's not available in Denmark.
Hi,

If you're not in a huge rush, Rockna will be debuting their new Wavelight dac and Wavelight server at the Munich Audio show this week. The designer and owner for Rockna was also one of the previous designers for PS Audio, Goldmund and MSB. Rockna in our opinion, after A/B testing 74 different digital front ends, is a world class digital product. I am not sure of the pricing but I know it will be below the Rockna Edition dac which retails for $6000 per piece in the single ended version.

Just a side note we are the North American distributors for Rockna but it can now be purchased in several stores across Canada and the US.

Cheers,

The Rockna new Wavelight dac looks like billion. very nice dac to look at
Martin, we are not yet selling the Rockans one of our clients in a different state got one and was blown away with the sound quality this gentleman demoed a lot of dacs and came away with stateing that the Rockna was just exceptional in both its musicality and build quality.

Considering that you are in Europe and so is Rocknawe would agree with World Wide that you really should check out their products.

The main designer of Rockna is considered a digital engineering genius and we have been following Rockna’s progress for years.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ