Biggest single upgrade just released


#1

After much work on the part of Ted Smith and the evaluation team, we officially release version 1.2.1; the single biggest improvement to DirectStream yet.

Here’s a little backstory. We’ve had Ted locked away in his development lab for some time now, brewing up new improvements to DirectStream. As owners of DirectStream know, this is a product where the word ‘obsolete’ doesn’t apply. Cannot apply.

DirectStream is really nothing more than a beautifully built hardware platform with state of the art power supplies feeding an FPGA, its performance, its sound quality, its entire DNA, can be changed via a simple downloaded file. In other words, we can email a new product to owners anywhere in the world.

Obsolescence, is now obsolete. dancing-009_gif

Ted had a number of truly advanced ideas he was toying with and in the middle of working on. Then came the review in Stereophile where Atkinson pointed to a bit of distortion in the lower bass. We sat around the engineering meeting discussing ideas for lowering that level. None of us really felt it was sonically important, but it would still be nice to have the measurements look more like what people’s expectations were like. Why not? Ted waved his magic wand, added his advanced thinking on improvements already in the works and bingo! We get 1.2.1.

Our first indication this was something more than just another update came at Arnie’s house. We fired up Ted’s latest firmware and we both turned to each other in astonishment within the first three notes of Mahler’s second. “What the hell?”

The bass was magically transformed. Tightened up, firm, punchy, toe tapping. This was a shock because we really didn’t think lowering the distortion would have much of a sonic change. Boy was I wrong on that one! But then the bigger surprise. The soundstage became magical in a way I’ve not yet heard any DAC, any system, perform. The degree of new layering, depth and openness really stunned us both. I would be remiss if I did not suggest this firmware places DirectStream in an entirely new class of DAC. To say ‘you ain’t heard DirectStream yet’ is NOT an understatement.

We prepared 40 versions of the code, each with small tweaks. Arnie and I personally went through each and every one of them and found the very best of them all. We then presented all this to our Beta testing group and gave them yet a few more choices in another area of code. After much cussin’ and discussin’ we arrived at 1.2.1. Wow.

Lower noise floor, lower distortion levels yes. But most important, a MAJOR sonic improvement.

And, as I hope all DirectStream owners appreciate, the upgrade is free. How many high end companies do you know of that modify every parameter of their product for you for free? happy-132_gif

Go here: http://www.psaudio.com/support/downloads/ and download your copy of 1.2.1. Unzip the file, place the contents on a blank SD card, place that card in DirectStream and power cycle the unit via the rear panel power switch. The logo light on the front will blink for about 30 seconds, the unit reprograms itself and suddenly it is transformed. If you need help, the community members are here for you.

You do not have to do anything else. It doesn’t matter what firmware you start with, you can go directly to 1.2.1. If you wish, you can download earlier versions and go back to see the difference. Most of you will not need to.

It’s that good.


#2

Paul, I’m hoping that this will be the version in use at RMAF. It will (should) silence those who walk in with a bias after latching on to some of those measurements… and it doesn’t hurt that it should also sound fantastic.4_gifYou may want to have some documentation prepared showing how this has addressed the improvement in measured performance. Show them the before and after if they need it - the sound should be enough for just about everybody, but data in hand should take care of the rest.


#3

Just loaded the firmware and about to hit “PLAY”! Thanks


#4

For those who are sure to ask:

JA first complained to me about a low level non-linearity - I was pretty sure I knew how to fix that and I was also pretty sure that it didn’t matter. Indeed no-one was particularly impressed with the FPGA code that had a quick patch for the low level non-linearities. But I was embarrassed that JA found those problems instead of us so I ordered a new scope that was optimized for audio and had 48dB more resolution in the audio band.

Something Paul brought up when we were thinking about how best to address the low level distortion reminded me of a tradeoff in the FPGA we’d settled on quite a while back on a prototype board - much to my surprise with the new scope I could clearly see changes in distortion as I tried different tradeoffs. And best of all, finding the optimal code freed up some resources in the FPGA.

So not only did we get cleaner measurements but with the newer smaller code is was also easier to see and hear the results of trying some other FPGA optimizations that were rattling around in my mind.

As Paul mentioned a big surprise from the aggregated changes was a lower noise floor. A lower noise floor always brings other benefits.

I don’t think there’s a simple description of any of the changes - they are all small things that add up to a result larger than we expected.


#5

Wow thanks! Sound is great. What an upgrade!!happy-132_gif


#6

I feel music is more “real” after upgrade.

Thanks Ted!!!


#7
Paul McGowan said ...

Go here: http://www.psaudio.com/support/downloads/ and download your copy of 1.2.1. Unzip the file, place the contents on a blank SD card, place that card in DirectStream and power cycle the unit via the rear panel power switch. The logo light on the front will blink for about 30 seconds, the unit reprograms itself and suddenly it is transformed. If you need help, the community members are here for you.

You do not have to do anything else.


Short of DirectStream grabbing the files itself via the internet and automatically updating a new firmware, the process described by Paul here is about as easy as it gets. Must have taken me 2 minutes from go to whoa, using a camera with the SD card that shipped with the DS connected to my Mac to load the unzipped firmware files. This is what the resulting file structure should look like…I see the fpga6518.hex file was last modified on Sep 6, so I suppose they’ve been sitting on this one for over 2 weeks before releasing it.

Screen-Shot-2014-09-25-at-1.28.40-am.jpg


#8

I wouldn’t say we were sitting on it :slight_smile: Paul, Arnie, the beta testers, etc. have been busy. We needed to make sure that we didn’t introduce some bad bug and also that we released a complete package of software that worked well together. I can’t even estimate how many hours I’ve been listening to it with both my favorite tracks/albums but also on random selection to see if anything didn’t sound right.


#9
Paul McGowan said ...Then came the review in Stereophile where Atkinson pointed to a bit of distortion in the lower bass... None of us really felt it was sonically important, but it would still be nice to have the measurements look more like what people's expectations were like...Ted waved his magic wand...We get 1.2.1.

The bass was magically transformed. Tightened up, firm, punchy, toe tapping. This was a shock because we really didn’t think lowering the distortion would have much of a sonic change. Boy was I wrong on that one!..Lower noise floor, lower distortion levels yes. But most important, a MAJOR sonic improvement.

This was the mantra with Halcro and their pre/power amp designs, to get the distortion as low as possible. They ended up with distortion numbers so low that JA couldn't measure them, resulting in a Stereophile headline banner famously labeling the Halcro "The Best Amplifier Ever".

It just so happens I’m listening to my DS v1.2.1 firmware now on my Halcro dm8/dm88 music rig at home, but it’s 1.55am and I dare not crank up the volume too loud at this early hour!


#10

Again, this is great. Music was never this free from my installation. The installation is gone it is only music now. The soundstage is perfect!!


#11
Ted Smith said I wouldn't say we were sitting on it :) Paul, Arnie, the beta testers, etc. have been busy. We needed to make sure that we didn't introduce some bad bug and also that we released a complete package of software that worked well together. I can't even estimate how many hours I've been listening to it with both my favorite tracks/albums but also on random selection to see if anything didn't sound right.
Yeah, that is the crux of the point I was making...sitting on the new firmware for 2+ weeks in beta to make sure it was good for us mere mortals to enjoy!

#12

Ah, thanks. I see now.


#13

Thanks guys! And thanks Ted. You are too modest Ted, it’s all in his genius for making this thing work. All we did is narrow down the choices to the very best there is and then hit release.

Yes, this will indeed be at RMAF and on every new DirectStream being built from here on out.


#14

I would encourage our beta testers to post their thoughts as well. And we thank them for their hard work.


#15
brodricj said

Screen-Shot-2014-09-25-at-1.28.40-am.jpg

Interesting.... when I unzipped my folder and loaded on my Kingston SD card, the last four files shown are larger. Both loaders are 4KB each and the last two hex files are 373 KB each, not 369KB. Funny. I wonder why the difference? pulling-hair_gif

Odd


#16

Well, I had to call in sick today. I’ve been listening non-stop and I can’t believe the improvement. The soundstage is even more amazing than it already was, voices are even more precise and clear. I never had an issue with the bass before, but now it is noticeably tighter, deeper and better defined. This is the closest I’ve ever been to “being there”. THANK YOU, Ted & Paul & everyone else who had a part in this!


#17

@oddeophile I see exactly the same sizes (and dates too) than on the attached image. It would be great to have a MD5 file delivered by PSAudio for each zip firmware.

The new firmware sounds great. Congratulation to Ted, all the Team who participated.


#18

I just tried the 1.2.1 on modest volumes (trio jazz) and it just sounds fantastic!
It is a big step up and really a giant leap forward from the PWD MKII.
The ambiance around instruments, the clean sound, the total absence of noise and the effortless flow of music are indeed fabulous :)
As Paul aptly put it, it is golden (and the DS now sounds like a million $…)

Given the fact that the DS is not (in any way) anemic or over-analytical in its reproduction, I still feel that when going direct it can benefit from using tube power amps.
When matching it with my Rogue tube amps over Crystal Cables and the Auralic Aries source I feel it bring a touch of ‘warmth’ into the sound that this combo really benefit from.

I will try to boost the volume later tonight if the situation permits.


#19

Frode, which Rogue and Crystals ?


#20
rogerdn said Frode, which Rogue and Crystals ?
Rogue M-180 w/tuberolling and CC Classic w/bridge.

I also use the top of the line WireWorld and Chord IC’s.