Am I Missing Something Here???


#1

Hello Everyone,

Brand new here; first post . . .

I’m no audiophile, but enjoy listening to music on a mid-fi system, playing cd’s exclusively. Figure I’ll never get the itch to try any other format, so in hopes of extracting every last bit of pleasure from my disc collection, I just purchased a pre-owned Directstream, the previous owner having loaded PP prior to shipping. I have it running from a Cambridge Audio 840c using a low-end Cardas digital cable to my Anthem integrated, using trusted RCA interconnects. Had high hopes . . .

Sounds just fine, but no better to my ears than just using the Cambridge (in “pass-through” mode; no up sampling) balanced to the Anthem. In fact, I am preferring the latter; more detail extraction, spacial cues, but surprisingly to me, very little, if any, more “cd glare.”

So, my question: is the DS going to work for me – a guy with a zillion discs, modest equipment, but a real thirst for musical realism? More burn-in time? Different configuration? Learn to like TV?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Ron


#2

I would a least give it some warm up time before critical listening and depending on how long it was burned in by the previous owner, you may also need to do some additional burn in. I think the consensus is at least 500 hours to get the most from the DS and don’t power it off between uses if you want the best sound. Have a little patience and see what you think, since the DS excels at rendering mid-rez PCM files.


#3

It sounds like you are using balanced cables with the Cambridge and rca with the DS.

Did you try the DS using the balanced cables?

I am guessing that you are using the Cambridge as a transport into the DS, is the data being sent as 44.1 or is it an up sampled rate?

I would think that untouched 44.1 would be the way to go into the DS but try it both ways if available.

Can you run the DS direct into the amp section of your integrated and bypass the pre, using the volume control of the DS?

If the DS does not have at least 500 hours of playing time, it more than likely is not up to its full potential.

The option of rolling back to the previous OS is something that you can also try.

You may have to take into account that anytime a major change is made within a system, some fine tuning is probably going to be needed.

The bulk of my source material is 44.1, through the DS it is the best that it has ever sounded.


#4

You can run the bit perfect test to see if anything in the chain is upsampling, doing some DSP or playing with the volume:

http://www.psaudio.com/ps_how/how-to-run-a-bit-perfect-test-with-directstream/


#5

Thanks so far! Several great suggestions to check out. I’ll get started soon . . .

(And I’ve already learned not to double-space between paragraphs!)

Ron


#6

Hi, Ron!

ronritcher said Learn to like TV?
EEEEK! Way too drastic!

Give it some time and work through the suggestions in this thread. Of course, you may end up preferring something else, absolutely nothing wrong with this. :)

The double line spacing with a carriage return is a pain. By the way, if you want a single line shift-enter does the job.


#7

It’s not possible to properly evaluate equipment unless you got balanced power. Electrical power quality is too variable.

Also, electrical isolation between source and audio system via optical links is a must.

What amp/speaker are you using? They may not be good enough. (Edit: I see Anthem is rated class B by stereophile)

With that said, there is a reason the Directstream price is dropping fast on the used market. $3000 MSRP would be a better match.


#8

I am certain he can achieve excellent sound without balanced power and using other than TosLink. But it is obvious he cannot extract maximum musical goodness without a levitating listening cushion, set to float so that his ears are 0.37 inches above the center of the tweeters. Red of course sounds warmer, silver is brighter if you are into this sort of sound.

I echo Ted’s recommendation that you first check to make sure you are sending an unmolested datastream to the DS. If not, this will significantly impact the sound.

Please let us know how it goes.


#9

Hello again,

Well, that last response by Elk gave me a chuckle, and the previous poster may have indeed had a point, vis-a-vis my associated gear’s (lack of) sophistication. As mentioned at the outset, my audio equipment, technical knowledge, and needs are modest at best, but wishing to maximize enjoyment of a substantial CD collection (with no motivation to get into downloads, computer-driven music, etc.), I took a flyer on the DS.

Here’s what I have and what I’ve noticed early-on:

Cambridge Audio 840c CD player

Anthem 225 Intergrated

Gallo Reference Strada 2 loudspeakers; single Gallo sub (can’t recall model #)

Cardas entry-level digital cable from 840 to DS

Balanced cable (from Benchmark Labs) from DS to integrated

Mapleshade speaker cable

The Cambridge has a “pass through” mode that avoids up-sampling; when using the unit’s DAC, I prefer that mode; sounds a bit more lively and detailed. When routing the signal to the DS, I keep the CS mode the same; the Directstream indicates 44.1/16 (and the couple times I forgot and left the Cambridge in up-sample mode, the DS’s front panel looked confused and the unit refused to play.)

Using the DS sounds almost identical to playing just the 840 with its up-sampling – rich, warm, engaging, very pleasant, non-fatiguing. But at the end of the day, I slightly prefer the Cambridge (in “pass through”) to the other options . . . so, now what?

I’m figuring that the DS might give me a big boost IF I fed it hi rez files (not likely to happen) OR if I had vastly up-graded gear (again, no wholesale changes in the works). So, maybe I’ve bitten off more than my needs can chew??

Appreciate the thoughtful comments – not just to my post, but throughout the PS forums . . .

Ron


#10

That’s a tough call. IMHO, you’ve got plenty decent equipment - the DS clearly outclasses it all, but I’m a firm believer of having a great source and working back from there.

I’m not familiar with the Anthem, but that’s the only thing I’d say is suspect. Everything else should be good enough to hear a difference!

Do you have a good amp you can borrow and try out? You don’t happen to be in the Chicago area, are you?

If all else fails, flip the DS and keep what works for you. In the long run, you being happy is all that matters. I will say that while the DS is a very expensive piece, and not something I easily afforded (if it weren’t for a 36 month Same As Cash financing I wouldn’t be able to afford one!), it is hands down one of the best DACs I’ve ever heard. Enough that I jumped at a 36 month commitment! LOL

There are other options out there if you do decide to flip the DS, but maybe your Integrated amp is all that’s holding you back from really enjoying your system?


#11

Again, thanks for chiming-in. Don’t suspect the amp at all; it’s highly regarded among reviewers, and sounds every bit as good as the other two I’ve had in and out of the system: Unico Uno and a mid-line NAD. The only things, so far, that have given me tangible, obvious improvements (in CD playback) are: Mapleshade cable, using the Cambridge 840 in “pass-through” mode, and running balanced from CD to amp.

What I HAVE wondered is whether or not a higher-end cdp might be an answer for my purposes. In the past, I’ve moved horizontally with equipment, avoiding big up/down moves. Few area dealers in Northern CA, so limited audition opportunities, but might swapping the DS for a $4k player get me that last tad of improvement I hope is out there? (and again, for MY limited needs)

Maybe, as you suggested, it’s time to call it a day – but I just KNOW that as soon as the DS leaves the building, I’ll get the download bug and cry to have it back! Arrrgggg . . .

Ron


#12

Ronritcher, based on what you have said so far I don’t think you will see much improvement from changing the CD player, unless there is a problem with it. Assuming it’s not a settings issue I would suggest trying another CD player to see if that sounds better. If you don’t have a dedicated CD player then a DVD player should work. Doesn’t have to be high quality, since you are using it as a transport with the DS the analog output of the player is not a factor. What you want to determine is if there is a problem with the Cambridge Audio unit, if a an inexpensive unit sounds better, you’ve got a problem. Now if it does come down to replacing the CD player, and you don’t have any SACD discs or use it for DVD Video, I would suggest the PS Audio PerfectWave Transport. It’s about as good as it gets. There are plenty on the used market if funds are tight. I will add that Ted Smith who designed the DS thinks there is very little difference between sources, the DS being so good at what it does. One last thing, have you cleaned all your connections? Poor connections can hide those little details!


#13

Probably mis-spoke; What I wondered in my previous post is whether or not another upgrading my cdp (with the DS OUT of the system) might get me that last bit of improvement I’d like to think is out there (but perhaps with 44.1, significant improvement is not out there). I have absolutely no concerns about the Cambridge, whether played solo or run into the DS; that’s not my issue.

My concern is simply this: the Cambridge 840c sounds to my ears slightly better than the 840/DS combo. That said, I have the chance to borrow a PST soon, and that will be a great test. But IF that combo doesn’t get me there, maybe I’m done?? Maybe just keep the 840, sell off the DS, and consider my work done . . . for now?

Ron


#14
ronritcher said Thanks so far! Several great suggestions to check out. I'll get started soon . . .

(And I’ve already learned not to double-space between paragraphs!


You can also edit your own messages after they have been posted ;)

#15
ronritcher said Maybe just keep the 840, sell off the DS, and consider my work done . . . for now?

Ron


Let me know if you decide to sell, I’d love to pick up a 2nd DS for one of my secondary systems.

Karl


#16

What Lonely Raven said.

The DS does a great job with 44/16 files so I doubt you will get a significant improvement going to a different CD player. Not to say it’s impossible. It may be that you basically have what you need right now even without the DS, short of spending a lot of money to upgrade everything else in your system. You might consider giving a PSA Sprout a try, on a 30-day trial. It’s a nice little integrated amp with built-in DAC but also has an analog input so you could compare the built-in DAC to the DS.


#17
ronritcher said As mentioned at the outset, my audio equipment, technical knowledge, and needs are modest at best, but wishing to maximize enjoyment of a substantial CD collection . . .
Your equipment list is very nice, with obvious thought given to eac purchase. Well done.

I find the DS to be the greatest improvement when playing CDs and 44f1/16 computer files. Thus, I think you are on the right track.

But trust your ears. If everything is set up correctly and you prefer something else, go with it. :)

If the Anthem allows access to its amp section directly, you may want to try going DS --> amp to learn what this sounds like.

I doubt an expensive CDP is going to do the job for you. If the DS does not do it, something else is not quite giving you what you want. Figuring out the missing link in an audio chain is tricky.


#18

Several questions

what firmware are you using in the DS. Sorry I just read its pike .

When you say Cambridge in bypass and mention an optical out is the CD player bypassing the dac inside ?

Lastly can you use a cpu and usb as a source and rip one disk as a test .

I thknk buying it and it not significantly improving what you have is a shame but not going the extra mile in trying it is even worse . I do not know the Cambridge CD player you have but I do find it odd they both sound the same .

Just some thoughts


#19

Ok, let’s see if I can remember what everyone’s said and respond accordingly . . .

(and Karl, I sent you a PM)

Thanks for all the great ideas and comments! It occurs to me that maybe, DS aside, I have already optimized cd playback as much as possible (in my system) – without going WAY out there in terms of different gear. Perhaps what I presently have gets me within a smidge or two of “as good as it gets” – as long as I am stubbornly sticking to the redbook format. The DS, then, may very well be redundant. That said, I agree with a recent poster who urged me to try all possible configurations, making sure that I give the DirecStream every opportunity to shine; couldn’t agree more …

So, as mentioned, I have access to a loaner PST, which I will plug into the system later this evening; will report back …

Also, someone asked about the OS; my pre-owned unit was loaded with PP, but I’ve gone back and forth between that and the prior iteration, preferring the PP by a slight margin. (The fact that I can hardly distinguish between the two may shed light on my gear’s lack of infinite resolution) But that leads to a question: does software need burning-in, too? Does the fact that I tried the pre-PP version for only about 15 minutes invalidate my comparison?

Also responding to a poster, yes, when testing the DirecStream, I do run the signal from the Cambridge bypassing its internal DAC; the DS receives unadorned data. A bit confusing, because when using JUST the 840c, I run in “bypass” mode, which uses its own DAC, but does not invoke any up-sampling (and that’s the sound I enjoy most; more resolved, more like a live venue)

And lastly, I have downloaded a higher rez file of Mark Knopfler’s “Sailing to Philadelphia”, burned it to DVD, and will run it through the PST tonight or tomorrow; since I also have the CD, I’m very familiar with how my 840 makes it sound. A good suggestion; thanks.

Feel free to continue this chat; I’ll report back on my latest testing w/in 24 hours . . .

Ron


#20

If your current setup sounds better with pass through mode then running through the DS why bother changing if you’re happy with the sound…

Also, when you switch between 1.2.1 and PP make sure you give the machine adequate warm up time after you switch the DS off and back on. According to the designer it takes at least :15 to begin settling back in. The DS is very sensitive to cables and ancillary equipment so it could be an issue of synergy. Be very careful bailing too quickly on the unit you may find as others have there were problems elsewhere in their system before discovering the true magic of the DS (I.e. Having to reload the software 5 times before getting it to appropriately load). Anyway good luck!