Agree. I also use only dac from directsream and prefer accuphase own preamp. Dac is best so far from that price range.
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I bought the PS Audio DirectStream DAC shortly after it was introduced, and don't use the DAC built into my preamp, thought it is quite good. One thing I really enjoy about the PS Audio is how they distribute firmware updates, usually 1 or 2 a year, that improve the sound quality. It's like getting a new DAC, that's a tad better than the old one, at no additional cost.
One thing I've learned about digital audio is that, although "bits are bits", the timing of those "bits" is crucial to the quality of the playback. When I got my first PS Audio regenerator (a P10), I was really impressed at how much it helped the DAC to not produce what I think some call "digital glare". When I upgraded the P10 to a P15, the improvement in that regard, and in the quality of the bass, stereo image and soundstage was immediately noticeable. I found these improvements to my PS Audio DAC and the Mytek Brooklyn DAC as well.
I tested also ps audio directstream 2 with latest update. From first second it gave a smile to my face. It is very controlled and still it didn't lose liveness and musicality than others. Everything is in balance. All instrument played with direct stream sounds like right and give a smile. Highs sounds pleasant and bass is very controlled and dynamic. Directstream has won many awards and thats for reason. I have listened others hyped machines and none of them sound like this good. It is worth to test this dac. For me it is on must to have list.
I have tested now many days Hegel H390, H590, Mark Levinson 8505 and Accuphase E-480. I own Accuphase E-450, Audiolab 8200CDQ V12E used as DAC and Magnepan 3.6. Testin is done against my E-450 and Audiolab.
In the first minute i notest that it sounds that speakers are behind curtain. Singer was between speakers. Overall sound was dumped and i never got exited.
Mark Levinson 8505
Very controlled and tight grib. Also laid back and relax. Sounds like when instrument or singer give drama i didn’t get that feeling. Actually sound was thin and did not exited me at all. Then i connect my Audiolab DAC. Sound became alive but still controlled and tight. Still i miss present feeling and livenes instead that i felt lisnening only speakers. 8505 DAC seems to be weakest link in this integrated amp. Separate pre amp and power amp would be nice to test.
In sound Hegel has taken a giant leap forward grom H390. Curtain was gone and instruments was clear. Dynamic was present a lot. BUT... the stage was dissapointing. Singer was in both sides a bit before speakers and changing from side to side. I got really confuced. Sounds like singer was cutted half. Instruments came also from speakers and between speaker was nothing. The 3D dimension was great. Then i connected my Audiolab DAC. Same feeling. So that feature is in amp section. H590 DAC is good.
I notest that E-480 has tighter grip and a bit controlled. Also highs are not sparkling any more as with E-450. Very pleasant sound. After 3 listening i notest that quitar gave to singer more space. It sounds also quieter. More control seems to take some livenes from music. But other hand it is very pleasant to listening without listening fatigue. I reconnect my E-450 and liveness and drama came back. Singer was between speakers. Sound more forward compared to E-480. E-480 has not lose Accuphase sound. There is small changes and differences. Highs are very good. Overall sound has more control. But still to me it lose a bit liveness.
Audiolab 8200CDQ V12E is a damn good DAC and wiped floor with Levinson DAC and is better to my gear compared to H390 and H590 DAC.
Accuphase E-450 has smile affect very high compared to Hegels and Levinson. E-480 is very close and with different gear it can be the number one choise. But not for me this time.
I have not heard the ps audio direct stream. I do own a hegel h360 and the internal dac in it is not too bad. Depending on you budget I would suggest looking at the Chord TT2, Dave, dCS Bartok, MSB discrete, and the metrum onyx and pavane.
I have owned the onyx, TT2, and now the Bartok. The Bartok is easily better than the rest of the dacs that I listed but it is more expensive as well. The onyx is great and sounds incredible for the price. The TT2 is really great as well but not as natural as the Bartok. The Dave is more of what makes the TT2 great. From my understanding the Psaudio dac is more analog sounding so the metrum might be a good option if that is the sound that you are looking for. They also make a streaming solution module too. The Chord stuff is more analytical and the dCS reproduces music more like a live performance in the room.