Another review of the DS DAC

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Is this a joke?

SMH

He certainly makes the DAC appear to be dreadful junk.

I guess I like the sound of dreadful junk.

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Is there any/some truth in his measurements…?
Wonder if Paul or Ted will comment…??

As he does with every Schiit DAC, some say he has an agenda. Seems actual listening enjoyment is not a factor, only measurements. I have owned more than one of the DAC he ‘highly recommends’ - none were enjoyable to me, and I’ve heard a couple of those he’s slated, I loved them both.

Each to his own I suppose.

It’s the best sounding piece of junk I’ve ever heard.

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On no, my DSD measures like crap, better sell it now…and I’ve enjoyed it so much…sorry to see it go.

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Should it measure like this…?

I have no agenda with posting this review…just curious…

Hopefully not…this seems to be a site to ignore…seems just like reading about a measured meal.

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He doesn’t like Rob Watts. Yet for the Chord Qutest he said:

Amir and his bunch of followers are better left ignored. Nothing good can come from lending them any credibility.

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I think the tests warrant some kind of response, myself. It’s not like he’s only ever tested this DAC – there’s probably something useful that can be learned from the comparison of so many devices.

What would be super interesting to me is a similar set of measurements of the DS Jr to see how much of these results can actually be attributed to the transformer. I’d also like to see a repeat with the Sr with the Bridge removed and with USB disconnected.

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It kind of screams Attention seeker, look at me, look at me

Amir’s “review” does offer some interesting data, and reflects some of the shortcoming of the DSS, some that I think do need improvement in a future iteration of the hardware.

But it is important to note that Audio Science Review is a measurement fundamentalist site where the apparent majority of the gear they review and judge is never even listened to. When they do listen to gear it tends to be an afterthought, through inadequate systems, and heavily biased by their opinions of the measurements. There are many examples of good sounding gear getting bad reviews based on the numbers, but in none of the reviews will you ever see a negative listening critique of gear that measures well.

It seems apparent that the unit wasn’t burned in by the original owner or himself.

To the important data their measurements show:

  1. The DSS noise floor is way too high. I think everybody knows this, if you need to use a 20db attenuator in order to use the DAC as a preamp, you have 20db too much noise.

  2. The output voltage is low

  3. The transformers add a bit too much coloration and distortion. This would be way less of an issue if Jensens were used in the original design as they are in the TSS.

I think the dynamic range thing is relevant as a lot of 24 bit files I play sound a bit dynamically compressed, even if the texture is excellent.

However, one point Amir seems ignorant of: People like the sound of transformers. Just about every pop vocal, rock album, you hear etc. etc. was recorded with transformed microphone preamps, transformered (and often tube-based) compressors, often transformer based mixing consoles, and tube microphones. There are even mix engineers who will run the entire mix through a pair of transformers. This is done specifically for the sound.

Because Amir (when he does listen) uses budget equipment he does not understand that what works in a real audiophile setup may be counterintuitive, the reality that DACs with high noise floor like the DSS will reveal no flaws and sound exquisite in a tube pre/amplifier setup. What makes a resolving and satisfying system is more than high dynamic range and low harmonic distortion. I think to properly evaluate audiophile equipment, you have to listen within an audiophile ecosystem. Hooking up a DAC to a cheap headphone amp and headphones with cheap cables won’t tell you the whole story of how it will sound in a particular high end system.

I hope he never gets his hands on a Lampizator!

The way Amir qualifies “detail” is interesting too. I have other DACs that easily best the DSS in terms of dynamic contrast, transients, and noise, but except for the Chord stuff I haven’t heard anything else that had better low level detail, and I’ve heard nothing with better texture. In this case he is being a sloppy listener and mistaking conventional PCM sound signature for detail. This is par for the course in that there is nothing here to demonstrate that he listened for more than a few minutes on a budget headphone system. I think for many of us, Amir’s reference for “detail” would probably sound pretty clinical and ugly.

Just to add, although we are talking about a digital product, from the perspective of professional studio recording and audiophile analogue equipment, this kind of design and measurement is pretty normal. That sweet Taylor Swift vocal was recorded on a transformered Neve preamp with far less dynamic range, and way more distortion than the DSS.

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It’s pretty simple really. If you own a DS Sr. or Jr. and are happy with the way it sounds and operates then it doesn’t matter what Amir thinks about it. If you don’t then the market is full of alternatives sell and move on.

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I don’t know if “warrants” is the right word, but I would like to hear what @tedsmith has to say about the points Amir used to trash the DirectStream DAC.

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You really hit the nail on the head especially about causal listeners often mistaking PCM being more “detailed”. I own both the Stellar Gain Cell and the DSD. While the SGCD gives you more of a front-row and in-your-face listening experience that has wowed a few family members and friends, I can hardly listen to it for more than 15 mins before the fatigue sets in. On DSD, I often find myself tapping my feet unknowingly and cling to the listening chair much longer than I had planned. Listening experience trumps the measurements in my book.

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Same experience here, the ‘front row’ DACs always grab my attention right away when listening but invariably I find myself getting fatigued after 15 minutes. The DSD on the other and I can listen to for hours. I’m not saying that makes one kind better or worse, just my preference.

Excellent post.

Thanks for taking the time.

Cheers.