PS Audio DirectStream DAC

$8,995

Brand PS Audio

Pure DSD done right

Introducing DirectStream DAC, both Stereophile and Absolute Sound’s Product Of The Year. Hand written, discrete, perfection based conversion that uncovers all the missing information hiding in your digital audio media for all these years. 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. Classic PCM based DACS, including many of today’s DACS that can also process DSD, tend to cover up some of the subtle musical details buried deep within digital audio music; a problem inherent in their architecture. DirectStream solves this problem by employing a pure DSD single-bit approach for both PCM as well as DSD media. This means that your entire library of music can finally reveal all the music and subtle low level details buried deep within its core. Imagine going to a recording studio and listening to a master tape of any recording made. This is the experience DirectStream provides its owners who enjoy a renewed sense of enjoyment and discovery when listening to everything in their library: CD’s, downloads, DSD.

Specifications:

Physical

Unit Weight22 lbs [13.5 kg]Unit Dimensions14” x 17” x 4” [ 36cm x 43cm x 10cm]Shipping Weight31 lbs [19 kg]Shipping Dimensions20.5”x 24” x 10” [52cm x 61cm x 25cm]

Power requirements

Input PowerModel specific 100VAC, 120VAC, or 230VAC 50 or 60HzPower Consumption30W

Digtial audio inputs

I2S(2), Coax, XLR Balanced, TOSLINK, USB, Network Bridge slot

Sample Rates

I2S,S/PDIF, and USB -- 44.1kHz to 192kHz 16bit, 24bit, DSD 64, DSD 128
TOSLINK – 44.1kHz to 96kHz 16bit, 24bit

Analog Audio Output

ConnectorRCA/XLR Unbalanced /Balanced (X2)Output level, low1.41 Vrms(+5BV)/3.15Output level high, maximum2.81 Vrms (+8dBV)/5.3 Vrms (+12dBV)Output Impedance100Ω/200ΩFrequency Response20-20KHz +/- 0.25dBTHD+N @ 1KHz (full scale)<0.03%Output StagePassive audio transformer, fed by high current, high speed analog amps producing double rate DSD.

Data Handling

FormatPCM or DSDSample rate (PCM)44.1kHz, 48.0kHz, 88.2kHz, 96.0kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHzWord length (PCM)16b, 18b, 20b, 24bData rate (DSD)Standard (2.8MHz) or Double (5.6MHz) DoP on all inputs as well as raw DSD on I2S inputsInput jitter reductioneffectively 100%, residual immeasurable. No input PLLs, FLLs.Input Processing170MHzSignal Processing50MHzSynchronous Upsampling, all inputs28.224MHzDigital Processing S/N ration>146 dBDigital Volume ControlZero loss of precisionAnalog Conversion methodDelta Sigma (DSD) Single-bit double rate

I2S Digital Input

ConnectorHDMIFormatPCM or DSD. DoP on all inputs as well as raw DSD on I2S inputs

USB Digital Input

ConnectorUSB “B” TypeFormatPCM or DoP v1.1 (DSD over PCM)Transfer modeAsynchronous

 

Option with or without Network Bridge

You can enjoy the option of having your DirectStream DAC with a Network Bridge or without.  If you are interested in having the Network Bridge please continue reading otherwise you can read some reviews a bit further on below about the PS Audio DirectStream DAC.

 

Playing high-end audio just got a whole lot more fun

The PerfectWavetm Network Bridge is slide in board that instantly transforms the PerfectWave DAC into a state-of-the-art network media server. You can stream high resolution music from a NAS or a computer, over your home network, directly to the PWD once the Bridge is installed.

The Bridge makes high-end fun again and removes the need for the DAC to be connected directly to a computer allowing music lovers the freedom to enjoy their digital audio collections with high performance at the touch of a finger. The PerfectWave Bridge and DirectStream or PerfectWave DAC combo will change everything in your system and allow you to build a musical library your friends and family can enjoy for years to come.

With the Network Bridge installed, you can focus on what you really want: music and the joy of a high-end audio system.

Features:

The PerfectWave Network Bridge allows PerfectWave DAC and DirectStream DAC owners to enter the world of connected audio and rediscover their music in a fun way that has no sonic compromises. You aren't tied to a computer, you can store and access your music from anywhere in the house, you can connect either wirelessly or wired, and perhaps for the first time, you'll be having more fun with your collection than you have in years.

The PerfectWave Bridge is your network gateway to streaming music. Using a UPnP compatible controller on an iPhone, Android or computer, you can access all your music storedon either a computer or NAS drive and enjoy bit perfect music on your PerfectWave or DirectStream DAC. The Bridge easily slides into an expansion slot located on the back of the DAC and allows you to connect quickly and easily to your home’s network (router).

Once connected the fun of Internet radio, bit perfect music up to 192kHz 24 bits, is yours to enjoy. Most agree music ripped in either lossless or raw WAV files, located on a hard drive, sound equal to what you get with the PerfectWave Memory Player, yet you can choose what you want to hear with the touch of a finger on your tablet or phone. This is fun!

Specifications:

  • 192kHz 32 bit compatible
  • Built in Digital Lens
  • Decodes all popular formats
  • Enables cover art and titles on the touch screen
  • Connect via Ethernet or WIFI
  • Easy install
  • UPnP compatible

 

Reviews:

The Absolute Sound Review

Easily the best DAC I've ever heard in my system

DirectStream’s easily the best DAC I’ve ever heard in my system, making digitally-recorded music sound better than I’ve ever heard it.

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Audiophilia Review

PS Audio achieves the impossible

The DS is a game changer; I think it has caused the ‘war’ between DSD and PCM to be on hold or mute for most of us, and above all hold your horses before buying expensive high-resolution PCM files or DSD. That alone is a major accomplishment.

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Home Theater Review

the best sound I have heard in my system. Kudos to Ted and Paul

The DirectStream DAC is one of the finest-sounding DACs I have heard. Many will be excited just to see that it can accept DSD signals, but I would say that they are being shortsighted. The DSD processing of all signals is what makes this unit special.

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AV Magazine South Africa

It sets a new benchmark in my books

The PS Audio DirectStream is a musically authentic, thoroughly engaging and ultimately compelling DAC that elevates the listening experience to an entirely new level. Its treatment of any digital material, regardless of format, is quite astounding — even MP3s and Internet radio sounded vibrant and exciting.

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Stereo Magazine German

100 out of 100

Matthias Böde of Germany's Stereo Magazine gives DirectStream 100 out of 100 points. The article is in German, but it can easily be translated and viewed if German's not your native language.

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6 Moons Review

The best way we've yet encountered to turn digital into music

But what happened now was beyond our expectations. Maybe we had been lulled into a bit of been-there-done-that reviewer fatigue but the DirectStream’s handling of this CD became a rude wakeup call and put us back on edge to eat crow. Damn, the performances of the various groups and soloists were so real and at such dynamic range, it was hard to believe that the source material was a simple 16/44.1 Redbook CD.

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AudioStream Review

There was an amazing sense of purity to the DirectStream's way with music as if everything and anything extraneous had been stripped away.

Even at low listening levels, music retained its character with no sense of the sound washing out. For those people looking for a direct-to-amp DAC/Digital Preamp, consider the DirectStream a solid contender.

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Stereo Times Review

the PS Audio DirectStream is the most musically and technically capable device of any type that I’ve ever had the pleasure to evaluate

After listening to the PS Audio PerfectWave DirectStream DAC for the past few months it is my opinion that DirectStream represents a new benchmark in audio reproduction. Notice that I didn’t say “digital audio reproduction.” In other words, in my view the PS Audio DirectStream is the most musically and technically capable device of any type that I’ve ever had the pleasure to evaluate. My heartfelt congratulations go out to Paul McGowan, Ted Smith, and PS Audio’s excellent design team for making DirectStream a reality for those of us who truly love our music.

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Positive Feedback Review

this bloody DAC, DSD to the fore, is a real killer. Flat-out, stone-cold, and damn-straight

This is a brilliant design, with exceptional execution, and paradigm-setting sound.

I can tell you, this bloody DAC, DSD to the fore, is a real killer. Flat-out, stone-cold, and damn-straight.

It has been a while since 2008, but now I have to say that the DirectStream DAC is the first real rival to Playback Designs that I've heard. It goes right to the top of my heap of DSD DACs, right next door to the PD Series-3.

The envelope for the audio arts has moved out yet again. To tell you the truth, I couldn't be more pleased! This is good for music, for our recordings, and for us all.

And that is the highest compliment that I can pay to PS Audio's breakthrough product….

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Bit Perfect Review

The DirectStream’s sound is non-fatiguing in an almost tube-like way

The DirectStream’s sound is non-fatiguing in an almost tube-like way. It is smooth and relaxing. Surely, you tell yourself, it must be sacrificing detail to deliver this. But no. With recording after recording, the DirectStream presents layers and layers of detail in such a way as to produce a sound which is very easy to listen to, and with a low fatigue factor, even with CD sources. As someone with very little tolerance for the fatiguing nature associated with CD, I find this to be a most appealing characteristic.

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Features:

Pure 100% single bit DSD based D to A Converter

Most of today’s sophisticated DACs are IC based instruments using off-the-shelf-chips that are Multi-bit Sigma Delta based designs. While these are relatively simple to design and produce, they don’t often give the best results sonically. Because they are one-chip systems compromises are made in their architecture that found in DirectStream’s custom based architecture. DirectStream takes both PCM and DSD, upsamples the data and converts to single-bit DSD and then outputs pure music regardless of input format for the data. The results of this design can be heard in increased musical information presented to the listener at every opportunity.

Purely passive output stage

Most modern DACs use some form of active tube or solid state output stage to amplify, filter and drive the DACs output. DirectStream takes a different approach: passive. In one of the simplest, elegant and musically correct executions of an output stage, high speed class A video amplifiers are used as the final switch for the single-bit, double DSD output of DirectStream; feeding a high performance passive audio output transformer. The transformer is specially designed to act as both the galvanic isolation between the DAC and the outside world as well as the primary low pass filter required to present a perfect, low distortion, low noise output signal. When you listen to DirectStream you never are accosted by added bright, hard glare in the music as happens with many active designs. Instead, clean, pure music flows from the DirectStream directly to your preamplifier or power amplifier.

Resolution perfect volume and balance controls

Designer Smith perfected a 100% bit-perfect volume and balance control that’s built into DirectStream, enabling users to control the output level when feeding directly into a power amplifier or preamplifier. That the volume control is completely bit-perfect means there is no loss of resolution for any volume setting, a feature unique amongst the majority of DACS in the world today. The ability to eliminate the preamplifier in the system without any resolution loss is a major benefit to DirectStream’s outstanding musical performance.

Simple, direct signal path with only one master clock

Typical high-end DAC designs use more than one master clock as you can see in the drawing we provided in the Overview page. There are often separate clocks for USB, Audio and others, causing major headaches for system designers trying to synchronize the clocks. DirectStream obviates the problem by basing the entire design on one master clock of extraordinary high quality. Used is a low phase noise, low jitter clock designed for DirectStream by Crystek. Using this advanced approach the need for synchronization is eliminated, jitter levels are reduced and music is delivered with a clarity rarely heard.

Immunity to jitter from sources

Sources have always had a major impact on sound quality with DACS. Transports, computers, CD players, cables all make a significant impact on performance into a typical DAC. This problem has been significantly reduced with DirectStream. Now, for perhaps the first time, sources of just about any quality and jitter level sound nearly identical. For example, you can take a cheap $30 DVD or CD player’s digital output, connect with DirectStream and have sound quality unthinkable for such a poor source. Performance levels no longer are dependent on the quality of source or connections; certainly not to the degree they have been in the past. Yes, cables and sources still make a difference, but with DirectStream that difference is reduced to nearly background noise. Whatever you use to play or stream your music now sounds as good as it gets.

Asynchronous high speed USB

DirectStream can match up to either a computer or a home network. If a network connection is desired, there’s is the optional Network Bridge available that slides right into the rear panel of DirectStream and adds an additional input. You can also connect directly to your computer via USB. USB communication, if handled properly, can have every sound quality advantage of a dedicated CD transport or Network Bridge. DirectStream provides a fully synchronous 24 bit 192kHz path for USB based audio. Using a good quality USB cable between DirectStream and your computer, like a quiet MAC Mini, provides an instant media server that can be controlled through any number of handheld devices like an iPod, iPhone or Android using a 3d party controller program. Your music can be managed by iTunes, Bit Perfect, Pure Music or Ammara for ease of use.

Polarity inversion

A handy feature on DirectStream is the polarity (phase) control. This touch screen option (available on the remote as well) allows users to select normal or inverted phase for every input and for every performance. Sources and music have no standard for absolute polarity, a fact easily demonstrated by switching polarities on the as the music plays. Many Audiophiles mark their discs in phase and out of phase and are very careful to select the proper phase before playing each disc. Some CD players and sources themselves invert phase so that a disc you believe is inverted actually is correct played on a specific device and incorrect on yet another. To fix this problem you can assign each input on DirectStream to switch to the proper polarity when you activate that input. Touching this control is the same thing as reversing the loudspeaker connections of both loudspeakers (+ to -) at either the amplifier or speakers. All live acoustic music is in absolute phase but some recordings may accidentally be made inverted and should sound more realistic and pleasant when you correct their phase with the switch.

Play directly into your power amplifier or preamplifier

DirectStream offers the ability to play directly into either your preamplifier or power amplifier through either its balanced or single ended outputs. You can select the optimum gain setting through DirectStream’s setup menu to match your amplifier and loudspeaker’s sensitivity. If you choose to go through a preamplifier, it’s easy to set DirectStream at maximum level (or any level you wish) to match the preamp’s gain. But should you choose to eliminate the extra electronics of the preamplifier, DirectStream is more than capable of driving the power amplifier directly. DirectStream’s unique zero-loss volume control maintains full resolution bit-perfect performance at any volume setting from the lowest to the highest levels.

Hear more than you ever imagined from CDs

DirectStream converts everything to DSD, even PCM before delivering the music to your system. This approach, coupled with careful design, low jitter and a simple and direct signal path has the benefit of uncovering details buried in the music you may not have realized are even there. CDs come alive with subtle details that were never apparent with your older DAC; details you never knew even existed. CDs sound more like high resolution audio than you ever imagined, closing the gap between higher resolution PCM and DSD copies. No longer do you need to consider replacing your current CD library because once you hear what’s truly on your discs, you may not need to consider upgrading to a higher resolution copy at all. Yes, it is that obvious and significant.

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