I have the PS Audio PerfectWave transport and DirectStream DAC, with a PS Audion I2S (HDMI) cable, and it’s the best combination I’ve auditioned.
I have had the DirectStream DAC now for about 18 months and am really impressed with the detail it extracts from CDs, even better when I added the transport (my latest acquisition). The great thing about that DAC (besides the quality) is that updates are made available on a fairly frequent basis, each one of them has improved the performance. Thoroughly happy with both products.
On the advice of one of my audio buddies (retired electrical engineer), I also purchased a PS Audio P10 power plant, "power regenerator". When I added the P10, I noticed an immediate improvement in the performance of the DAC.
Best DAC for CD redbook playback
Get the best you can afford that uses R2R Ladder Multibit dac conversion, as it does it "Bit Perfect" for Redbook (PCM)
Stay away from all Delta Sigma based dacs that are for DSD or otherwise, as they only give a facsimile of Redbook (PCM) conversion.
Quote: " When a PCM file is played on a DSD or Bit Stream converter, the DAC chip has to convert the PCM to DSD in real time. This is one of the major reasons people claim DSD sounds better than PCM, when in fact, it is just that the chip in most modern single-bit DACs do a poor job of decoding PCM."
This review by Robert Deutsch answered all of my questions about CD playback with a PS Audio PWT. The answer to my original question, is yes, it is worth it to splash for the latest DAC instead of the older MkI version. Thanks all, mission accomplished.
PS Audio told me that they were so confident about the DSD Junior that review units were sent out simultaneously with the product launch, instead of before launching. The Junior was launched in February and it takes a few months to review a product so we should have reviews by the summer.
This is easy - the very best you can get is the Stahltek Vekian, or Opus, or Opus Prime DACs. Unfortunately, all are megabuck. But you can rarely pick up a used Stahltek for something in the vicinity of 10K. The Aria is more affordable and give most of the performance, but have never seen one on the used market.