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PS Audio DirectStream DAC



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Dollars (AUD) and include GST.


PS Audio DirectStream DAC

PS Audio DirectStream DAC rear panel

 

 

The new DirectStream is a remarkable DAC that is pure DSD in operation. Handling both high resolution PCM and DSD like no other product ever made.

Class A+ Stereophile rated DirectStream DAC converts any digital input format, such as PCM or DSD to a pure DSD stream and outputs near-perfect analog directly to your power amplifier or preamplifier. 

Whatever the format, whatever the sample rate, DirectStream is a pure DSD based solution that fulfills the promise of a high-resolution analog performance standard the originators of CDs promised over 30 years ago. 

Hear what's been missing in your music for all these years. If you know the sound of music and instruments, and want to hear what's been missing on your discs, then this DAC is right for you.

Please scroll down for PS Audio's youtube videos on converting PCM to DSD...

 

 

  • Included IR remote.
  • Silver or Black
  • Network Bridge II optional - please select from below options if you would like one on board.

 

Pure DSD done right

 

Introducing DirectStream, one of the most remarkable DACS ever built. 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.

 

Features

 

  • Pure 100% DSD based D to A Converter
  • Resolution perfect volume and balance controls built in
  • Upsamples PCM and DSD to 10x DSD rate
  • Purely passive transformer coupled output
  • Improves imaging and soundstage
  • Simple, direct signal path with one master clock
  • Hand written filters, processors and upsamplers
  • Immune to incoming jitter problems from different sources
  • Increased digital headroom
  • No off-the-shelf IC DAC chips used
  • Uncovers musical details masked by typical PCM based processors
  • 7 digital inputs
  • Fully balanced from input to output
  • Colour touch screen

 

The start of the 30-year war

 

In 1981, music was reproduced exclusively on analog-based turntables and tape decks with limited dynamic range.Despite the very listenable music coming through those grooves, the audio world wanted more: greater dynamic range, lower noise, extended frequency response. No wonder that when, in 1982, Sony and Philips announced they had achieved Perfect Sound Forever¯, music lovers around the world waited in eager anticipation of analog's promise finally fulfilled. 
Unfortunately those early CD's sounded less musical than analog. In some cases, much worse. The launch of the PCM-based Compact Disc would set in motion a 30-year war amongst Audiophiles, decimate the analog format, cover up subtle musical details for decades and turn the music and audio industries upside down and not necessarily in a good way. There had to be a better way to fulfil the promise of analog's century of dominance for sounding like music and PCM would not be it. That answer is DSD.

 

Fundamentally better

 

The poor results of the first CD's might not have been a problem if Sony and Philips had waited another decade, passing over the classic PCM delivery system in favour of PDM (DSD). The problem is the PCM decoding process itself: whether a classic ladder-DAC or more modern multi-bit Sigma-Delta type, most PCM playback processors mask some of the subtle cues in music. 
Fortunately music's details have been more faithfully recorded than we ever suspected, but the cover-up of those recorded details has been with us for more than 30 years. Happily, the missing musical information is still buried deep within our audio libraries waiting to be revealed. In order to extract everything hidden in PCM recordings, a completely new processing method is needed.

 

Pure DSD is the answer

 

Put DSD into DirectStream, you get DSD. Put PCM (how CD's are recorded) into DirectStream, you getâ€"DSD. DirectStream converts all digital inputs, including PCM, to pure 1-bit DSD, in an elegantly-simple path. 
In the process, the PCM feed becomes more linear, less edgy, and never-before-heard musical details are released from all digital audio recordings. Billions of CDs and high-resolution downloads worldwide will gain new life, and be saved from obsolescence. There's a notion floating around high-end audio circles that DSD may be nothing more than a passing fad. In fact, we would suggest the opposite may be true. PCM based music decoders are nearing the end of their lifecycle in favour of a significantly more musical sounding format, DSD.

 

A better format

 

DSD is a high sample rate single-bit format while PCM is a lower sample rate many-bit format. DSD sample rates are 64 times higher than those used to create CDs and the output of a DSD stream can be placed through a simple filter to produce pure analog ready to feed your audio system. 
PCM, on the other hand, can produce great sounding music but to do so requires a very complex and technically daunting conversion process to produce something you can play on your system. Sometimes the simplest path is the best sounding one. DSD is a far more analog-like encoding and decoding process than classic PCM. In fact, most modern A/D converters (used to make the recordings) are DSD based already and that movement is growing. 
There are millions of PCM based recordings that will be in our libraries for years to come, but with the introduction of DirectStream, you no longer need listen to them with a PCM based processor.

 

The secret is in its simplicity

Take a look at this comparison diagram: on the top is a block diagram of one of the best PCM-based processors in the world. Notice the circuitous path taken by the audio data stream to the output of this converter. Then look at the pure simplicity of the DirectStream. The PCM processor's tendency to mask music's subtle details is largely due to its complex needs, and the technical requirements of PCM processors.

Converting PCM to DSD

 

Converting PCM to DSD can be an easy exercise using any number of computer software programs. Converting PCM to DSD properly,and in such a way as to reveal missing details in the music, is a serious technical challenge. To handle this properly DirectStream utilises 66-bit fixed-point FIR filters, eliminates headroom issues common to PCM, flattens noise response in the 20-100kHz region, uses coefficients optimised for best sound rather than faster processing speed and optimises hardware-specific operations not possible in software. 
Unlike other processors available today, DirectStream unifies all inputs (PCM or DSD) at 10 x DSD, then uses a true single-bit double-rate DSD core engine. True DSD core engines (compared to the standard multibit Sigma-Delta converters followed by random lower quality multibit converters) offer advantages in simplicity, linearity, and in analog-like overload characteristics that avoid PCM's hard clipping¯ potential and a PCM processor's propensity to mask subtle details.

 

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 synchronise 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 synchronisation 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 realised 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.

 

Build

 

DirectStream is built in the United States by hand. Local manufacturers use sophisticated PCB building machines to populate and test the multi-layer boards used in DirectStream. It takes a number of companies and a lot of skill and equipment to build something this sophisticated. From high tech x ray technology to place the FPGA IC on the board, to automated pick and place machines to add parts in just the right spots, each of the four PCB's used to build a DirectStream are built, tested and delivered to our Boulder Colorado facility by handpicked US vendors. The chassis of DirectStream is a metal sculpture that is by far the best we've ever built. 
A combination of aluminium and steel, DirectStream weighs in at 20 pounds of elegance and beauty. The top cover is a hand painted, hand polished piano black high density material that has been lavished over for hours. And has the look and feel of a fine Steinway piano. The PerfectWave series is assembled, programmed and tested at our production facility in Boulder Colorado. 
There is a measure of pride of workmanship that goes into every one of these PerfectWave products and it shows from the moment you open the unit up and plug it in. This is one gorgeous piece of equipment and just the beginning of the most beautiful natural sounding audio equipment you have ever had the privilege to own.

 

Reviews:

 

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."

 

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."

 

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."

 

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."

 

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."

 

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...."

 

PartTimeAudiophile.com review

 

"...Performance is on par with some of the very best “traditional” designs on the market, and with its potential for endless upgradability, the DirectStream is revolutionary.
Highly recommended."
 

 

 

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."


PS Audio & Magnepan, High End, Munich 2015:

PS Audio & Magnepan room Munich High End show 2015

 

 

 

 


Colours Available   Silver
  Black

Optional Network Bridge   Including Network Bridge     + $999.00
  Without Network Bridge