DAC Choices - PS, Schiit, Chord

Hi everybody, first I’d like to thank all of the regular (and not so regular!) contributors to this forum. I’ve learned a great deal from you over the last 2 years or so.
I’m currently trying to upgrade from my Stellar GCD to a better DAC. I’ve been considering the Schiit Yggdrasil, and Chord Qutest, but also came across an opportunity today to pick up a Directstream Jr. for the same price as the Yggy.
I’ve read as much as I can read and I’m at the point now where I just need to pull the trigger on one of these things, get it into my system, and start getting some first-hand experience with them.
So, if you were to choose, which of the 3 would you start with? ($2500 is a hard cap…I can’t go any higher in price) Is there a clear choice?
Would the discontinuation of the Jr. hold you back from picking one up at a great price?

Thanks for any experience, thoughts, or direction you can provide.

(Current system: PC source, PS Audio GCD/S300 stack, Quad S2 speakers. For the time being, any new DAC would be run through the preamp section of the GCD)

It’s not in your list, but I would choose an Ayon. You might be able to squeeze a used Ayon Sigma DAC at your price point, if you can find one. Built like a tank, reliable, and sound fantastic for the money. I’ve owned the DS Junior. It was buggy, which is why I sold it. I also sold my Ayon, but only because I bought an Esoteric. I was 100% happy with the Ayon, as was the guy who bought mine. He told me it’s the best DAC he’s heard, and thanked me for selling it to him. The person I sold my DS Junior to, well, I never heard from them after they bought it.

I would take a look at the Benchmark DAC 3. I just purchased the HGC model (one of several variants) and at $2200 it’s a solid performer. The sound quality is excellent. I use it as a desktop DAC for my Amps and Sound Kenzie Encore tubed headphone / pre amp, and as a headphone amp. Uses Sabre 9028 pro. I bought mine directly from Benchmark Media. They have several variants of the DAC 3; some with digital only input, some with analog inputs, headphone outputs, etc. Read the reviews. I spent a good amount of time researching, and the time was well spent.

The DSJ is a great device too (I have one) and I run it as a direct preamp to my Schiit Mjolnir 2 headphone amp, and through another preamp for the main system. PS Audio has indicated they would continue to service the DSJ for some time, so it should be in the running if you don’t mind buying used.

EDIT: Since you were looking at Schiit, I’ve also owned a Schiit Gumby (Gungnir Multi-bit) and it falls way short of both of the above DACs. The new Yggy has good reviews and is worthy of consideration.

The DSJ Bridge ii is buggy…no argument there.

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I would try out the Chord.
The Benchmark HGC could replace your GCD, it is a DAC, pteamp, and headphone amp.
I have a DAC2 HGC, they are good, but why buy another preamp. Also depending on your source with the Dac2 it can get kind of forward sounding. Definitely is brighter than my Lindemann 825.
My friend has a DS snr in his second system. He compared it to the Chord Quetest which he also owns, along with an Audio Research DAC9, I may have the AR name jumbled, but it is their top of the line.
He says the Chord is excellent, and a toss up against the DS snr.
Normally I wouldn’t base a recommendation on someone else, but I know and trust his ears. When we have done comparisons, our conclusions are usually the same.

Music, I sent you a PM.

I would not trust the ears of someone that said the Chord Qutest was a “toss up” when compared to the DirectStream DAC. It’s not even close…the Chord is not nearly as good. The Yggdrasil is much better than the Chord too.


I’d get the Directstream Jr. I.have have a Directstream SR and love it. PS Audio will also be fair on a trade up or service issues. I prefer it over the other DACs I’ve heard.

Certainly not for all, i’ve used the DS/BridgeII combo for many years to full satisfaction, always playing flawless with great sounds…

I have a Stellar GCD but just got a deal on a Benchmark DAC 3 L. I think it’s a big jump over the GCD. I would have liked to upgrade to a DS Jr. but with PS Audio discontinuing them along with wanting to stay under $2k, this made the most sense for me. I had a Benchmark DAC 2 HGC a couple years ago in a different system and I thought it was a bit too analytical, but in my current system I think the DAC 3 sounds great.

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Which Bridge firmware are you using?

I had the Chord Qutest, IMO you must get a Regulated linear power supply
such as this to reach its full potential.

It is a very good DAC and I was very happy with it.

But then I upgraded to the PS audio DSj. To me its a more musical DAC, maybe
its the DSD conversion. The Qutest had PRnT but slightly hyper detailed and
less musical. I feel the DSj is more versatile with more digital input options.
Also, I can connect a NAS to it. The I2S connection is amazing and best sound
out of all connections. I almost wish I bought the DS senior.

No comment on the Schiit as I have zero experience with it. BTW, the Chord DAC
needs BNC digital connector, not as common.

DSJ kills the Chord (plus the Chords are ugly as sin, at least to me) I haven’t heard the Schiit but I can say I love my DSJ

I must be in the minority it seems, but my DSJ has performed flawlessly, bridge and all. I did have to jump through a lot of hoops to get snowmass installed…

Same here. Very happy with my DSJ. Updating to Snowmass was a bit of a nuisance for me too, but I can live with that.

I also have not had any operational issues with my DSj.
Firmware upgrades were smooth sailing.

Yes, the Chord was very ugly, with the Linear power supply, I had 3 separate
boxes on the shelf.

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Recently removed BridgeII because the Melco USB->Matrix->I2s SQ-wise surpassed it by miles. Don’t kwow which one was in use lately however i do remember using Snowmass V3 to upgrade BridgeII (flawless) whereafter ‘downgrading’ to Snowmass V1 again for best SQ (in my system to my ears etc;-)

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Thanks for the reply. I also use the I2s input for better sound. Sonore microRendu USB>Sonore UltraDigital I2s. I had problems with Bridge ii firmware 3.6.17 and had to revert back to 3.5.1. Nasty pops and clicks.

Well, that’s up to you. His second system is all PS Audio. His Main system is AR Reference, Vandersteen 5A.
He is out of town, or I would ask for the details. It may be system dependent but it would most likely have been in his main system.
We compared the DMP against the Dac9’s transport, both heard the same things. So I do trust his ears.
But I wasn’t there, that is why I said start with the Chord, it sounds like he may be able to audition and return if not happy.
Dacs are one component where the higher price doesn’t automatically make it better.
How long ago did you compare these Dacs? It is my understanding that they have a variety of filters and like the Directstream uses FPGAs, so there may have been a firmware update.

I have the Chord Qutest. It sounds good and is great for the price but it is not in the same league as the Directstream DAC in my opinion.

The Chord Dave would be another matter - I prefer the DSDac but in some systems I could imagine it fitting in better. Also the Chords are not firmware upgradeable. For me the Chords although they are great DACs, they don’t have the effortless feel that the DSDac can achieve.

I also completely disagree with the idea that Dacs don’t get better with higher prices - just like everything else they do but that doesn’t mean you can ignore system synergy:

That suggests to me that there is something odd going on in terms of synergy in your friend’s system and for whatever reason the cheaper DAC fits better. It would probably be worth him trying out the DAVE because if the Qutest works well I think the former will blow him away (sorry for the cliche).

Also it is even better if you add the Blu Mk II CD transport which acts as a scaler (I believe it is the same one that the M Scaler is based on).