Cost no object edition of DS DAC

Remember I’d already taken an initial design that cost multiple thousands of dollars per board (tho there was no budget for that board) and cost reduced it to build the DS. There’s not a lot of fat in a DS to cut and still it costs more than we’d like (hence the higher price for a DS than the PWD.) The Jr costs about 4/6 the cost of the DS (hence the price ratio of 4/6.) But the Jr shares the most expensive components with the DS (the FPGA and the clock) and hence the rest of the budget get squeezed a little more to achieve the over all savings of approx. 33%.

PS Audio and I save by releasing software to keep a product fresh and viable instead of spending time and money on engineering, marketing, etc of multiple new products.


Thanks Ted, sure one always cuts initial designs to make them affordable, agreed. Same from sr. to jr, although it’s maybe a bit different with a first prototype which needs no newly designed housing and all that.

But it’s the same with cars etc. I know…my problem it takes time to go into my head;-)

Paul mentioned in a thread that the casework of the DS makes 1/6th of the MSRP, so a DS without housing would cost 5000$. It’s interesting that then with a newly designed housing and parts savings of probably just a small amount of $, a jr. is 33% less.

I maybe was that beer that confused me today :wink:

Which means the direct cost of the case itself ex supplier is about 1/12th MSRP (or probably a bit less). As much as I like the aesthetics of the DirectStream chassis, if you’re going to do a SOTA piece then the faceplate and other bits get carved out of a solid block of aluminum and anodized. And the bottom gets carved out of steel plate. And there is usually a layer of copper sheet sandwiched in there as well.

The feet for the chassis alone might add $1500 to the final price. OEM tweak feet cost that, and we’re aiming for a product that covers all build bases and doesn’t need other OEM tweaks.

Look at some examples of casework in SOTA products:


True, but I prefer the mix of cost efficiency and design of the DS to paying loads more for a better chassis.

And regarding the need of a cooper sheet, I trust the sq considerations of PSA.

They even speak openly when there’s room for custom improvements. I never saw this from other manufacturers.

For sure. But the case needs to set it apart from a DirectStream chassis. If they aim for a $20k selling price, that means all the parts cost $5k-ish. So obviously the casework needs to be mindful of that, because low volume CNCing and anodizing 'aint cheap.

The numbers people are throwing around aren’t the correct ones, but the idea is definitely that PS Audio’s pricing is simple - a simple multiple of the costs of materials, nothing else, they don’t try to bundle in development costs, marketing costs, etc. and hence those aren’t relevant when speculating about a new (or an old) PS Audio product’s costs or prices.

And FWIW when we got some accurate quotes for milled aluminum (which was definitely my first inclination), the cases, in and of themselves, cost more than the total cost of materials could be for a $15 - $20k PS Audio DAC. Tho I like milled aluminum a lot I’d much rather spend money on things that make a significant difference in sound quality and have an $15 - $20k DAC than having to have a $40k, $50k, or… DAC just for a nice case… I know that other companies regularly do that for their high end products (or all of their products) and I know that there are definitely some people who care about how a device looks as much or as more than how it performs, but I do think PS Audio’s history of good bang for the buck is important and by eschewing looks only for looks sake, a much better DAC can be had for the kind of money we’re talking about.

The DS (and DS Jr) are already darn good bang for the buck products and both I and PS Audio want to keep that up. As far as I’m personally concerned SOTA doesn’t have to imply giga bucks. I also balk at phrases like SOTA and “cost no object”, we all know we can make a product that’s as expensive as we want and sell a few. PS Audio and I would rather make the very best product we can at a given price point and sell a heck of a lot more. If I wanted people to focus on the looks rather than the sound of something I worked on, I’d be a mechanical engineer, industrial designer (or something like that) instead of an software/electrical engineer. (When I went to MIT you couldn’t get an electrical engineer degree or a computer science degree, you could only get a EE/CS degree.)


Good to hear, Ted. We’re singing from the same chart.
And right now I’m enjoying your work at night time volume whilst communicating with you----all good.

If it was built would it be sold via the normal dealer channels, or be more of a sort-of limited edition restricted PS Audio direct only product? I imagine many in the dealer network would prefer the high volume more affordable price point model. I’m pretty sure that for some top-level products from some manufacturers they use direct sales model only. This means that the dealer mark-up component of the simple parts cost multiplier pricing formula is not factored. So $10k worth of parts gets you a $20K product, rather than $5k worth of parts.

I can’t answer questions like that - Paul gives me essentially free reign within an agreed upon budget (for the parts of a product that I do) and I gratefully defer to Paul and company about all of the manufacturing, marketing and sales decisions.

I have to comment.

I am strongly opposed to changing the casework for the Ultimate DS. I greatly prefer the tasteful understated style of the current DS casework to the “we try really hard to look modern” approach of the Esoteric and DCS pictured above. Also, I want the Ultimate DS to fit with my other PS Audio equipment.

While I am in favor of spending what is necessary on sound quality, it makes no sense to splurge on casework and expensive feet.


But at the $20K+ price point customers expect casework and expensive feet. If they intend pitching to that market, that is what’s needed. And I think if they want to tangle it with the high-end big boys, there needs to be a slight disconnect from the already excellent aesthetics of the DirectStream chassis, and pimp it up to a higher level.

Not all customers expect fancy casework. Look at Audio Note.

You may like the changes in the casework, but some of us may not. It’s a gamble.


My DSD Sr, which I used to feed with USB, was transformed when I switched to TOSLINK …and now I am a big believer in anything that avoids RF/EMI/Parasitic/Microphonic noise contamination to a DAC.
So ive heard audible benefits when I’ve mounted the DSD on isolators or added ferrites on the power cord or used a passive Nordost grounding box on the AC ground pin.
The most impressive change, however, was when I recently added another grounding box to the SPDIF coax input. Honestly, doing so was like flipping off an attenuation switch for noise floor and clarity.
I’m okay with adding expensive tweaks to a mid price DAC …but it would be frustrating if your new (and expensive) Uber -DAC still benefitted from such things.

From the 3rd post in this thread:

I think I’ve addressed this, but remember there aren’t any DACs on the planet which are immune from changing sound with different cables. Obviously it is a question of degree, but I’m hoping to get closer to the ideal than most other DACs out there.

Expensive components can’t make up for some systemic problems in systems. Even perfect DACs would get blamed in some systems which happen to have relatively minor grounding issues - just having a safety ground and dc coupled analog connections guarantee groundloops. (Balanced cables can help a lot.) And to make things worse often the digital sources have different or worse grounding (often on “non-audio” outlets, etc.) and having proper safety grounding and DC coupled digital signals is a recipe to tie noisier groundloops into an audio system. That’s one of the reasons the DS (and any higher end DAC I might be involved in) have transformer coupled outputs. I’m trying to have selectable grounding on every input and output connections to new DACs - (some cables need the source grounded to the system ground for the shield to work well so having everything always isolated isn’t always good.)

In your case the S/PDIF connector is a pretty solid ground to the DAC case - Were you using balanced audio cables from the DAC?

I’m not picking on you, you may not even have this problem: but I feel bad when people buy expensive unbalanced cables, expensive power cords, grounding boxes when often a much less expensive balanced connection would make a bigger difference. Having all audio and digital connections balanced is one of the most cost effective cable tweaks you can do (assuming your components implement balanced inputs and output reasonably well.)

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Reading between the lines, it looks like Ted Smith might have already done a lot of work on a new DAC that might be the top dog replacement for the DirectStream DAC. Drip feeding his ideas as he is has me salivating at the prospect.

Ted, does your involvement in the Direcstream Imperious mean that updates to the FPGA code for Sr & Jr are on the shelf for now? Is there a timetable for another update, or is that open-ended? Finally, a suggestion. Whenever the next update is issued, I recommend, from the available 14ers, that you not name it Quandary. Just imagine the kerfuffle. :smile:

I have no particular schedule for a new update. The past two releases (and some others) were essentially eureka ideas I had and then implemented, not something some thing from a schedule.

Still any slack time while boards are out or whatever I’ll be working on software. When I need a break I work on software. I have some things I want to try in any new FPGA/DAC, but most of them also will work in the DS and DS Jr. Thinking about things from a different viewpoint often leads to improvements. I also have the ideas that have been in my head since before Redcloud. The actual coding and debugging of ideas doesn’t take much time. Listening, synchronizing with PS Audio for a release and other random things are usually the gating issues.


Hi Ted. I’ve been out of the online loop for a while, but if we’re looking at an uberDS of some sort, my request be that it is not bandwidth limited. I read your comments above (all being super-informative), but if for example there is a defeatable Ethernet input - make it so that it can accept the current max rate data streams. I find it frustrating that the hardware is the limiting factor in whether it makes sense to have DXD384, DSD512, whatever, music in our libraries. I’d like to be able to deliver a music stream to a DAC without having to convert it / downsample it to something else.

Could you please provide me some specifics (brand, model, etc.) on the added components (ferrites, isolators, grounding boxes, cable for TOSLINK, …) which I could try in my system? Thanks in advance.

@plato …for yourself or others who may be interested in my chain.

  • Source is a Lenovo Yoga Windows10 laptop with JRiver MC22. I am agnostic here for I believe a digital source makes zero difference in SQ since its just a bit mover.
  • USB to TOSLINK is from ALI Express here. This has the latest XMOS U8 chip which works wonderfully and reliably to deliver 24/192 to the DS. Toslink and USB cables are midline AudioQuest …just for appearance sake.
  • Ferrites on DS power are $15 100Mhz clamp-ons from my local electronics shop. I have four mounted (two at DAC, two at powerbar). I used to have ferrites on my USB …but with the TOSLINK, this is not needed …since, as you know, optical fibre is not a conductor and all fuzzy noise spewing forth from my laptop thru USB is kept at bay by the Toslink converter.
  • Other products below are from Nordost (I get good deals from a local representative).
  • DS Chassis isolators are TC Sort Kones (3). I believe all these do is lessen the microphonics unleashed from crystals and caps mounted on the DS motherboards. I’d give these dubious value-for-money but Im sure I can hear them making a difference.
  • Power products (Tyr-2, QBase, QRT) help my entire system and the DS comes along for the ride.
  • QKore1 to capture parasitic noise from the powerbar ground line.
  • Qkore3 to capture parasitic noise from the DS SPDIF coax (which Ted mentions is pretty-much chassis ground) and I also ground the shell of my RCA (unbalanced) DAC to AMP interconnects …so I may have the total benefit of a balanced setup that Ted mentions.

If anyone wants to chat on more details, we can go off-line.