PS Audio unveils their PS Audio Directstream DAC

First of all I have no affiliation with PS Audio, just an interested observer.

PS Audio has just announced their successor to the Perfectwave MKII called the Directstream DAC. It implements DSD and eliminates the PCM delivery system and uses a Field Programmable Gateway to acheive results which they say will "uncover more music on redbook CDs than was possible.

A full explanation can be read here:
I am a fan of PS Audio and their products, and if this new DSD DAC pans out, I'll probably buy one - or at least the upgrade (I currently own a PWD MKII). What I really want however, is to better understand what the purported benefits of DSD are over PCM - and not from a technical white paper... I really want to know if DSD is a superior format over PCM from a "musical / sonic" perspective. Some "so-called" industry experts disagree with the theory that DSD outperforms hi-res PCM files.

I will appreciate any information from those of you with specific knowledge and experience in this area...


From what I understand, those of you who already have a Perfectwave DAC I or II can upgrade to the Perfectwave Directstream DAC since it uses the same chassis.

CEO Paul McGowan explains it here:
Thanks Aurelius... What I'm hoping to find out here, is whether DSD is really a better format than hi-res PCM, and if so, why. Does anyone have any experience converting hi-res PCM to DSD... And does DSD truly sound superior...??
It will be of great interest what Steve has to say about this.
Good question you asked. It may sound different but is there genuine sound quality/ music presentation improvement to be gained?
The original PWD was highly regarded and extremely well- reviewed...yet the PWD MKII was supposedly way no-brainer better, and now the DSD version is supposed to be 'way better' again. I find it hard to believe the original has been improved upon so much in such a short period of time. As for the upgrade path, at minimum it seems to me they should be cutting faithful owners and upgraders a little better deal. Anyone who has paid full price for a MKI, MKII and now this is likely in $10K for something (the DSD) that now retails for nearly half that. And the deal they're giving for the DSD upgrade is no better than you could do selling your MKII and just purchasing the new version. It's crazy.
"Anyone who has paid full price for a MKI, MKII and now this is likely in $10K"

I meant full price MKI to MKII upgrade to DSD upgrade.
I have the MKII,PSA will give pre owners a 30 day in home, if you do not like their new DSC. they will refund your money.
Anyone receive the Directstream DAC yet?
Only one question, why are SO many owners of the PWD MK II putting them up for sale here on Audiogon instead of upgrading?
One reason would be that they aren't interested in trading up and they want to sell now before their MKII's take a bigger hit in value (which will likely occur when the DSD's are in full swing). Or, they hope to get more than the $2000 PS Audio is offering on a trade-in and then hope to buy the DSD for less than the full retail PS Audio is selling them for .
Keep in mind their trade in price saves them from rebuilding a whole new unit they use your case and so forth. If this is as good as they say and I have no doubt it would be of great value to us who own thousands of CD's and have not plans are streaming or going back to vinyl and starting over. Nothing wrong with CD sound, as lone as it was mastered well, just like vinyl.
That PS Audio can offer their customers an upgrade kit to their existing Perfectwave DACS I & II offers them a good value if the Directstream DAC does what it promises. What I wonder is if the upcoming firmware upgrades will improve or hinder the sound that emanates from the DAC.
I've enjoyed my new DirectStream DAC now for about a month, and my jaw still drops with all the detail I now know I was missing. This DAC is just plain awesome!

I received the latest firmware with the DAC. PS Audio seems to go thru firmware updates from time to time, the updates apparently effect the performance of the unit, not just features. I've read that prior versions of the firmware might have made some music sound harsh, not the case with the 1.2.1 version shipped on my DAC.
You may want to stick to the 1.2.1 version a while longer. Folks over at the PS Audio forum site are rolling back and forth the 1.2.1 vs the latest Pikes Peak update.
The gist of it is that, compared to 1.2.1 :-
1. PP gives more detail, widens the soundstage but foreshortens it
2. PP gives a leaner presentation with less "meat on the bones".

You stated that people have observed that PP foreshortens the sound stage and has less meat on the bones, in comparison with 1.2.1.

My impression, and that of many others, is that there is actually more meat on the bones. But that the sound stage suffers, in some cases. It is more than about it being foreshortened. In my system the feeling of air and natural imaging I heard with 1.2.1 is missing. Some others have experienced the same thing, but most have not.

The DS DAC is truly awesome. The PS Audio team is the best audio team I have ever seen, providing a world class DAC with free software upgrades. The PS Audio team do their best with each successive version but they recognize that it is inevitable that one size may not always fit all. The easy solution is that you can revert to an earlier version if the latest version is not to your liking. So, in the end, there is no problem.
It is as usual, about system synergy and personal taste. I guess those with already warm systems may cotton up to PP but those whose systems are on the lean/dry side would rather stay with v1.2.1. My humble suggestion to the PS Audio team would be to not call each firmware version an upgrade but rather have all versions switchable on a whim like different settings/strokes for different folks. That should make the DS extremely versatile and one heck of a desirable one for everyone.

My system is not on the "dry side". I have a tube amp and a tube preamp. By the way, all PS Audio firmware versions are already "switchable on a whim". All you need to do is insert the SD card and away you go. So, there is never a problem choosing and using the firmware that best suits your system.
What I mean by switchable on a whim, is that one could have all the different versions switched to instantly without a reboot, use each to compare for different recordings(much like filter/upsampling settings) and then choose a particular version instantly the next time one plays the same recording. This would make the DS a dream machine for many. It's like FPGA settings instead of filter or upsampling options.

That's not the way it works. There is no such thing as an instant install of all versions simultaneously -- and an instant comparison switch. You need to use an SD card for each version and reboot each time.

You mean firmware rolling as opposed to tube rolling?
On my Big7, I do similar to change the presentation, but I was told that with the DS, you should wait 10 mins after rolling so that the system degauses the output transformers (during playback) and then you hear the Dac at its best.
Yes, I meant firmware rolling.

I get that reboot is required for each firmware version. That's why it would be great if you could change each FPGA version as a setting option on the fly without the reboot. I guess that may be hoping for too much. Maybe someday, the folks at PS may come up with something. After all, it is just software. So, instead of a firmware reboot, it could just be an FPGA setting option. The PS team would certainly want the DS to be all things to all people and that would indeed make it a topseller.
Cheers! J.
Jon, i know, just teasing.

I am in the loop for the DS, as AL and Mike keep me up to date and I also read TedB.

Apart from the reboot, you have to wait 10-30 minutes for the Dac to degauss and sound good again (transformer outputs). I think they cant do the instant rolling like you wish for as the FPGA does not have enough memory to hold the additional FWs.

I think that's asking way too much -- in the realm of wishful thinking, for now.
DS owner, here.

Maintaining multiple versions has been discussed at PS Audio's forum, as a "wouldn't it be nice." Ted Smith, the designer of the DAC, has said that it would be very difficult to do multiple versions due to a lack of... something... probably memory. Perhaps two could be maintained, at best.

Considering the improvements that I've heard over a couple of versions of firmware, I have no problem inserting an SD card, waiting 2-3 minutes, and listening. It's a bit more difficult to A/B, but the differences are usually so clear that it doesn't take long to make a decision on which FW version you'd like to settle.
If it is purely a memory issue, then it may not take too long. RAM chips are getting faster and cheaper by the day. But for now, we'll just make the best of it. It's very interesting to note that opinions of PP vs 1.2.1 can be so divergent.
No Jon,

It has to be on the FPGA and that seems to be maxxed out.

To use a bigger xylinx chip would require a complete redesign of most everything.
They will get there one day but we just have to wait a while longer.... :(

I think PS Audio probably has other priorities at the moment.