PS Audio Direct Stream

Has anyone received this unit yet?
And if so please share your review.
You're a bit premature, no units have been shipped to us ordinary folks. Go to the PS Audio site and check out their forum, there is one Beta tester with a unit, Gordon is his username, and several people who have heard the unit in controlled circumstances. The reaction is unanimous in praise, but it's not a true sampling. I'm waiting for regular folks to get their units and post comments before I upgrade.
Pmotz, Thanks for your reply.
I thought they were shipping out in April.
Ozzy, they are shipping but as Pmotz indicated no one has yet raised the "I got mine" flag. PS Audio did indicate the first units off the line had been sent to a number of reviewers, so maybe that means we'll be seeing something in electronic print soon.
This unit will set you back $6k.
They are supposed to ship this month, PS Audio is saying in the "third week", so none have shipped to regular customers. I think some dealers have one for demo, but they are probably under restrictions on selling them right now. Strangely one is for sale here on Audiogon, I won't speculate on what it is but buyer beware.
Thanks, The PS Audio claims seem too good to be true.
As per the PS Audio web site, the PS Audio Direct Stream "converts all digital inputs, including PCM, to pure 1-bit DSD". All of the Direct Stream processing is being done using the 1-bit DSD format.

Does this mean the source PCM music is going through a "double" conversion? The PCM source is being converted to DSD and the DSD is being converted, again, to analog for input to an amplifier (or a pre-amplifier).

Since the source music is being converted twice, does this mean some music is being lost with the two translations? I always thought that less conversions being done to the source music produces the best sound. Will the double conversion produce the desired results? Maybe a better question is how successful is the DSD processing in the Direct Stream.

If the conversion from PCM to DSD produces the best musical sound, does this mean that others will offer DAC's that do the same PCM to DSD conversion?

I am waiting for someone to review the Direct Stream and let us know how it sounds. I have the same comment as Ozzy did above. "The PS Audio claim seem too good to be true".
Grandiose claims made by manufacturers are nothing new. It is called "marketing".

Terms, jargon, made up names and theories abound. They do not need to be proven and 99% cannot be measured anyway, it is mostly a subjective hobby. The main thing is to capture your attention and get you to accept their premise as to why their idea/product/implementation is superior to the competition, and then spend your money on it. Right now up converted digital playback and Hi-Resolution are a fast moving target in constant flux. The standards are not even agreed upon by the major players or the record labels who provide the music. Kind of the "Wild West" in some respects. Many theories on the proper implementation. For me, I will let it settle out for a while, no need to be a Ginny pig.

Before a single review is out, I submit that some will fall in love with it and others will find it to be no better than what they have now and even prefer their vinyl rig to anything digital. Been down this road many times in the past and this is no different. Opinions are free and all reviews are just that. Many today are a huge conflict of interest in my opinion. Look at the ads vs positive review correlation. It's a Business folks.

Everyone is entitled to their own truth!
I am not endorsing the PS Audio DAC, but the music we listen to has gone through many conversions no matter which format you listen to. Sound quality is not a matter of how few conversions are done but more a matter of how well they are done.
Paul McGowan himself brought this new DSD DAC to the Arizona Audio Clubs last meeting and we kept Paul for around 3 hours asking questions about the design of this unit and its uniqueness. This could be a game changer; the sound was very, very good. From what I remember of Paul's presentation this unit does not deal with jitter on the signal's entry from the computer or transport into the DAC and Paul says the unit isn't sensitive to the transfer of the signal. Once the digital information is in the DAC it is up-sampled 10x's then leaves the DAC in 2x DSD to the preamp. There is no analog out section in this DAC. This is taking a totally new and fresh look at digital/analog conversion and may force other manufacturers to rethink how they design. As mentioned, it sounded amazing. Standard 16 bit CD's were up-sampled to double DSD and the information and musicality was like I have never heard. A member of our club is in the first 100 to be built and I look forward to hearing this in his computer based system.
Well..if the PDSD sounds much better playing PCM than does the PWD2, then it will be a considerable achievement. Yes I owm a PWD2 and it's about as good as it gets at its price point.
I talked a friend into ordering one. Can't wait as I didn't want to give up my transport.
I heard the DS DAC at the AAVC and it is the most incredible DAC I've heard, and is indeed a true game changer. Mine should be shipping soon.
Srwooten, please get back here with a review after you get it settled in. We'd love to hear about it.
Srwooten, I appreciate the info but can you give any examples of other DAC's you have heard that the PSA DS overshadowed? That would help so as to have a reference point.

And anyone else that have heard the DS that would care to add.

You said:
Once the digital information is in the DAC it is up-sampled 10x's then leaves the DAC in 2x DSD to the preamp. There is no analog out section in this DAC.

That seems to contradict what the PS Audio website says:
CD’s, downloads, high-resolution PCM or DSD based media are expertly upsampled in the DirectStream to ten times DSD rate and output as pure analog directly into your amplifier or preamplifier.

I have read about systems that are digital to the amplifier or speakers, but this does not seem to be one of them. I think PS Audio would have to make a special amp for that to happen.
The Direct Stream has both RCA and Balanced outs. In fact the claim is it can be used direct to an Amp.
It better, I ordered one..
I may start a new thread on this, but is it true that this new breed of DACs, like this PSA DirectStream, and the new Chord DACs, are fairly impervious to the quality of the server feeding it? That seems to be an underlying impression I'm getting from reading reviews and comments on these units. This would make it a lot easier on those of us searching for the best computer rig to serve as transport. I hate the idea of spending 4-5k or more on just a computer disguised as a hi-end transport, but I want an all-in-one-box solution (rip,download, store, play) and I can't build one myself. If these new dacs render the server quality somewhat irrelevant, than there is no need to spend great sums on the server side.
Initially PS Audio's claim was that all DS inputs sounded the same. They later reported a significant sonic difference with the USB input depending upon the specific USB cable being used. There are not many DS units in the field yet to be able to determine whether the quality of the server makes a substantial difference or not. Stay tuned as reviews and user comments are likely to be coming soon.
Thanks for the additional comments.Still waiting for some owners opinions.I did not see in print that the usb was a better connection. Where did you get that info?
Just to clarify my comment - I never stated that the USB connection was better than the others, only that the quality of the DS output varies when using the USB input depending upon the USB cable being used.
Emm labs has been doing what the DS claims since the beginning. Meitner and Emm utilize immediate DSD conversion and up sampling to process PCM and then convert to analog. Obviously Mr. Meitner is doing something right.

In DSD there are no filters needed and a myriad of other advantages to PCM (theoretically).

I currently own a PW2 and have a DS on order. From a technical standpoint, it has the ability to shine. Let's see....

If not, I'm going to Rowland Aeris personally. Jeff hit that one out of the park! But my curiosity for the DS is too much to hold back.
Bill k, thank for clearing that up.
Mattnshilp, The Meitner and Emm are pretty pricey units. I hope the Direct Stream can compete.
When do you expect delivery of your unit?
not until June. I didn't get in early enough. But they didn't seam to have a problem charging my card now for a (maybe) June delivery....

I have a friend whose opinions and preferences are pretty much identical to my own who is telling me to just buy the Rowland Aeris and not look back. I wish getting these uber-DAC's in for a solid audition was easier. At least PS Audio is good with that...
This is a 30 minute discussion by PS Audio on their new Direct Stream DAC.

Paul describes some brief history of the project and Ted Smith, Technical Designer, provides a review of the technology. It is very interesting.
I believe there is a Chicago show starting today and the Direct steam will be on display. Hopefully, some reviews will come out of that. It is odd though that with all of the PS audio claims, there are no actual user reviews.
Ozzy, they are just shipping them so that is way no user reviews. Unless you count the one or two of the beta/alpha testers that are also users.
PS Audio has been claiming that the first units have been shipped since mid April. Even the PS Audio Newsletter states all of the first 100 have been shipped.
I know it is still early, but surely someone has opened the box and tried it by now...
upsample to 10X DSD? WOW. For $6K it's pricey - but I just purchased a Cary preamp for $3K and PSaudio recommends going directly in the amp from the DAC. This puts my net cost at $3K if I go without the Cary pre.

A big gamble since I won't be able to hear it first. But if the Sony HAPZ1 is any indication of the sound improvement possible from up sampling to DSD (never mind 10X DSD) along with the reputation of PSAudio - this might not be such a big game after all. Just wish there were some reviews on it.
Ozzy, REGARDLESS of what the news letter states NOT all of them have gone out. Many of them want out this past week.
Here is a post by Paul M very early this morning about this and the new web site forums.

"As for DirectStream, I just flew in tonight. I have a quick 10K race I am running in the morning and then all day Sunday and most of the day Monday I am auditioning DirectStreams in Music Room One. We should be able to ship all that we promised if I can get through them all before I leave for Texas on Tuesday morning. It's a bit difficult for me right now, but I swear to you I am doing my best."

Try and be patient for a few more days for new owners to post their impressions. Maybe they are so blown away by the sound they hear they can not tear them selves away yet. Ha, ha.

This new DAC looks incredible, no question. BUT I already have an EMM CDP -however it lacks a USB input. Now i "could" spend $2500 plus shipping and send it to Canada (EMM Labs) to have USB added to the unit,
OR i could buy converter box that has a USB input and an AES-EBU output for much less money. I have been looking at DAC's as well (PS Audio included) but
this seems to be the best 1st step into computer audio.
I wonder how many other people have considered these same options?
French_fries. A number of people on the forums (albeit some with vested financial interests) claim that adding a quality external converter/reclocker is a big improvement, so that would be the route I'd go over paying the $2500 to retrofit the unit.
Still know one has received a unit yet?
Ozzie: mines not supposed to come until early June. Sigh.

Cal3713 and French_fried : that is my exact dilemma. There are some serious contenders in the outboard USB to SPDIF converter category. 2 of the top choices are the Berkeley Alpha USB and the Empirical Audio Off Ramp 5. There are many others for sure, but in have narrowed my selection to these 2 if I went that route.

It does make sense that a dedicated external USB to SPDIF converter would do a better job then a built in board inside a DAC; just like an external phono stage is better then a phono card in a pre-amp. Not only will it isolate clocks, but it guarantees a more robust power supply and (theoretically) more accurate clocking. Mof course, many of the newer DAC's re clock their incoming signal so that part may be moot.

I am seriously considering the very well reviewed Concert Fidelity DAC-040 for red book only sources coming from my Core Audio mod'd Mac Mini. But the CF has no USB in so I would NEED one of the USB to spdif converters.
For now, I have decided to stick with a DAC that comes with a USB input. Once I chose one, I will definitely try adding a seperate USB to spdif converter to see if the sound gets better. Then I can try the CF unit as well.
Some peeps have received their dacs. Shipping was supposed to start the 3rd week of April, which would be the 25th. Positive comments at PSA forums so far. I heard it a month ago and it is divine.
Ozzy, one on the PS Audio forum just got his and one on Aidioshark gets his by Fri.

So hopefully we will start to get more feedback in a week or two.
Hifial, Srwooten, Thanks for the information.
Hmm, that sounds very interesting. Is the USB Input upgrade available for all EMM Labs products? Or just the CDP model you have?

It's news to me.
Hopefully soon we will see some user reviews.
If you visit the PS Audio Forum, there are some early user reviews of the DirectStream. Very positive so far.
First listen mini-review at audioshark forum...
Thanks, I'll check it out.
Notes below are from someone on AudioShark that just got his DirectStream DAC.
Drivers loaded......player playing (easy) !! First song "out of the box" impressions........(drum roll).......Diana Krall "Live In Paris" now sounds like she IS SITTING at her piano. This made an immediate impression. The distance/placement to one another was real, and it made me take notice. Piano strikes are very, very real in tone. Nice first song. OK, I will kick back and listen for a bit. I will send some more updates tonight, as things gel.

More first hour notes. FINALLY.....a real hi-hat sound. As a drummer for 20 years, I finally heard an absolutely "real sounding" hi-hat, my first ever....via a stereo system. There is such a beautifully gentle sound quality to a hi-hat, as you compress and release the two cymbals via the foot pedal. It was there in spades on one of the tracks of the Best Audiophile Voices l CD. I cannot stop noticing minute details that flesh out as real sounding.....that I do not remember hearing before. I heard what sounded like very low volume oscillating (sp ?)sound, from a B-3 organ.....that was never there before.
A trumpet player squeezed off a note, and you could hear the note decay and fall apart.....bit by bit. I guess I should qualify all the above by stating that I am also using a "new, never before used" USB cable that Paul (PS Audio) suggested. It is the J-CAT cable, from the company making J-PLAY boards. So that could be contributing somewhat to the combination, who knows ?? But I have a few other USB cables of which, I am familiar with none.
I am having trouble just listening to the music, because exciting little details keep revealing themselves. The soundstage opened up immediately after a couple of songs. Presentation seems a tad closer, which I normally don't prefer. But this DAC is sounding very "small club intimate" in nature on vocal tracks. Very enticing for sure. The depth has gotten a few feet deeper as well. Kinda strange, as soundstage depth usually gets a tad less deep.....when the presentation moves forward.
Sound ??? First hour is showing a more full, robust sound. I do notice the "building blocks" of notes, voices, etc. as they are formed and decay.......if that makes sense ?? Sort of like using a magnifying glass on the music. You can hear more of the individual minute parts that make up each word, note and sound. I do notice a few more warts as well in the mix. Definitely not a step backwards in SQ so far. Will do some more listening, and give a few more impressions this evening. Stay tuned.....

More notes: great snap/attack on percussion, more defined "pluck" on bass notes, very natural overall sound. Sound stage can go very wide if mixed that way. There seems to be a greater number of layers in the sound stage depth. Some recordings sound like the lead singer and bass player are singing/playing from the middle of the bass drum (in other words....a very mono, one dimensional perspective). This DAC breaks up this perspective into many smaller depths, giving each performer more space. The reverb trails seem longer, deeper, and wider.
One aspect that is a bit un-nerving is when there are several instruments/vocals going on all at once. This DAC brings forth better separation and detail of these multiple things happening, and my brain is not used to processing so much detail/info. Sort of like walking into a room with 50 people all talking at once. Usually you perceive this as noise. Now imagine hearing every conversation individually, and understanding every word......all at the same time. Takes a bit more work for your brain to computate what you just heard. I hope everybody can understand my descriptions. I am not so good with the audiophile techno-speak descriptos. Back to listening....more later.
Thanks Mitch4t, First real user opinion. I really appreciate it. Mine is due in June, I ordered it by blind faith. (Usually not a good thing.)
Ozzy, blind faith is a fact of life in high-end audio today. Finding someone that stocks this stuff in a brick & mortar store is very rare.
Pacific Northwest Audio Society meeting tonight.

Ted Smith presents discrete DSD DAC to PNWAS
Ted Smith is a longtime friend of PNWAS and was the lead designer of the new PS Audio DirectStream DAC.

Over three years ago, Ted presented an early prototype of this DAC. I remembered liking it a LOT, and members asked if it would ever get into production. It is a discrete DSD-based DAC. All of the input processing, upsampling, DSP and DSD conversion is done in field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA; a type of software configurable hardware). The analog output is a purely passive filter based on transformers. In the PS Audio unit, the digital and analog boards Ted designed are direct replacements for the boards in a current PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC or Perfect Wave DAC Mark II, enabling a field upgrade for owners of these units, to a DirectStream DAC.

One feature of the FPGA input processing is that there are no PLLs (phase loop locks): the bits are pattern matched to figure out what’s coming in and then they are placed into a buffer. In a sense, all inputs are locked at all times. You can go from input to input seamlessly and you can change sample rates of incoming material seamlessly. Most importantly, you can go from PCM to DSD seamlessly. This architecture also leads to a very low susceptibility to incoming jitter. I2S, AES/EBU, S/PDIF and TOSLink within their bandwidths all sound the same. For 96k and below, optical TOSLink can sound better since it can eliminate ground loops.

All digital inputs are upsampled to wide words at 28.224 MHz (10 x the DSD rate!). Then that signal is sigma delta modulated to double rate DSD and then lowpass filtered.

The upsampling filters are chosen to keep as much detail as possible not for computing convenience: they use a lot of CPU power, but the FPGA has the resources to do a great job. The result is that the FPGA digital processing looses less audio information than most other designs.

Ted will be present to talk and answer questions about the DAC.

A couple of Executive Committee members have already heard this DAC and they have reported that it sounds really great. Everything in the DAC was designed to get your toes tapping, to allow you to enjoy all the music you already have. The DirectStream DAC uncovers more music than we knew was present in any of our sources, from Redbook to hi-rez PCM, to DSD.

As usual - visitors and guests welcome.

Thursday, May 8th. 7:30pm
Mercer Island Congregational Church (basement)
4545 Island Crest Way
Mercer Island, WA 98040
Sarcher30. Any update from the Meeting?
I have now heard opinions good and bad on this unit.
What I am hoping for is that this unit can replace my preamp.
Hi Ozzy, Not sure if it can replace your preamp. We played it through our clubs Genesis I-60 integrated amp, into Genesis G7.1f loudspeakers. It seemed to have less gain than the clubs Oppo-95. Depends on how much gain your amp has, input impedance, length of cables, speaker sensitivity, etc.

A lot of the members really liked it. It does depth really well. I thought it was a tad soft sounding, and could be a bit more extended in the treble region. It was really easy to listen to. Very smooth with no nasties at all.

As with anything I would try to demo it in your own system first, if possible.
I guess a tad soft and not the most extended in the treble plus great depth describes DSD/SACD sound in general. This is why it reminds us of the old time turntable/analog sound. Since the DS up converts everything to DSD this shouldn't be too shocking. Does it have the option of NOT up converting to DSD?
Sarcher30, Thank you for your comments.
I see others have also commented that it was a bit laid back in the treble. PS Audio claims that you need to retune your system to account for the different equipment.
Perhaps toeing the speakers in a little more.
I sure wish I could try before I buy, but right now if you want one you've got to pay in advance just to get on the waiting list.
Perhaps PS Audio has a 30 day refund policy, that would be nice.