DirectStream Break-in Time

I just purchased a DS with Red Cloud installed. Does the DS require break-in and if so how long and is the improvement significant? Also, I hoped to replace my CH Precision C1 DAC with the DS, but will need to do careful listening comparisons. Does anyone have experience with the C1 and how the DS compares? Thanks

This “break-in” is an interesting subject. I definitely have experienced it so I “believe” in it. I found the DirectStream took about two weeks of heavy use to really settle in and be all it can be.

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I agree with Lonson. Give at an easy week of break in.

Thanks… if anyone has experience with the C1 compared to the DS, would love to hear.

I think you will be the first.

The C1 is an impressive unit, occupying rarefied air. It will be fun to read your comparison.

This is the first component I have owned that I have noticed a big difference in sound quality after a week or so. But then it is also one of the few things I have purchased new.

I do have a question.

I have run the Directstream via coaxial from a CD player for 5 or 6 days and have noticed an improvement in sound quality. Would I have to do the same thing with the USB input or is break in downstream from the inputs?


I don’t think so. I think the major “break in” is of the output stage.

The DS in my own experience does need some time before it burns in. I’m more with lonson than Paul on this one. Two weeks of continuous use is a minimum IMO. But you should see the rewards of the wait.

I must admit that I was disappointed at first with my DAC. Two weeks of heavy use later and you’d have to kill me to get it away from me.

And having said that burn-in is definitely required, does anyone know physically why? I know this is a difficult question. I asked it of Paul and got no reply, so it must be tough but I’d really like to know. (The internet is full of conflicting gobledeegook)

Know? Some, not everything. When any device is manufactured there are likely oils, not quite used chemical reactants, etc. Those items aren’t as stable as the device itself and they slowly evaporate (or react with the air, etc.) Anyway since there’s a finite amount of these “extra” things we get the usual asymptotically ramping down of the “pollutants”. If any of those items have any significant conductance they can be changing the value of a resistor, changing the parasitic resistance of a cap or inductor… Also these processes typically happen faster with higher temperatures.

Some other things like dielectric absorption are essentially mechanical changes (rather than chemical) and also proceed at a rate that proportional to things like the electric field strength.

There are other things like a buildup of magnetic fields in magnetic materials that can plausibly cause some of the “burn-in” effects.

In the DS in particular I kept the temperature down almost everywhere so any of the heat related changes take a lot longer than most audio devices. (Especially the output transformers which are far from heat and relatively huge compared to anything else audio related.)

For some components the data sheets give charts for how certain parameters of the device stabilize over time - even things as simple as resistors, but much more commonly in things like electrolytic caps…

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I think the break-in time discussion for the DirectStream can be a little misleading. To read remarks here and elsewhere, you’d think that without break-in, cotton in the ears would be necessary; and accordingly I had planning not to listen to it for at least two weeks while breaking it in. So I have to chime in here to say something that I didn’t expect to find, and that is that the DirectStream completely left the Sony HAPZ1ES in the dust right from the getgo, right from the first few bars (of music). Yes, BOTH noticeably more detailed AND astonishingly more musical.

When the PS Audio was first introduced, i was impressed with it, but let me say, my enthusiasm was tempered by the fact that it didn’t quite blow the Sony out of the water. I had kept reading that the firmware updates that continued had significantly changed its sonic characteristics, but I wasn’t expecting anything like this. Yeah, less than three days in, and man oh man, is this DAC a honey of piece. So, I just wish to point out that during the break-in, I plan to continue to enjoy listening to the DirectStream at every available opportunity. Ted Smith is a remarkable … genius.

By the way, my wife, who has demonstrated on many an occasion that she can hear, appreciates good audio equipment, even though she doesn’t appreciate how much one can spend in pursuit of playback that is detailed and yet musical, walked into the room and asked if it was the new PS Audio gear (the DirectStream) that I had playing back one of favorite female vocalists. I said, of course, and she replied:

“I wasn’t really expecting to hear a four thousand dollar difference, between the Sony and this (DirectStream), and I kind of hate to admit it but … I think I can hear a lot more there … there!” Yeah, three days in, folks. Three days in, and even the wife is waxing rhapsodic.

So from my perspective I wouldn’t overdue the “break-in” theme. I have experienced it with other gear, don’t get me wrong. Tubes seem to not only go into stages of improvement but also suffer some regressive behavior, sounding worse after a short while, before coming back into their own. Headphones and speakers, but that seems logical enough. And I don’t doubt that the DirectStream will continued to “improve”. But I have to say that this DirectStream on three days sounds a LOT more than just decent. It offers quite a leg up on what I’ve been listening to. It’s indisputable that it’s on another level, both of musicality and resolution. Man, oh man! If I ever get to Boulder again, I’m going to have to bring you guys a good bottle of wine. Incredible job!

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