Directstream DAC versus DCS Rossini

I have a friend who owns a PsAudio Directstream DAC, but who was helping a friend shop for a new DAC. They auditioned the DCS Rossini and both decided it had a significantly lower noise level than Directstream. I acknowledge that the price difference is significant, but have learned along the way that high price does not guarantee better quality. Is there a simple explanation for the perceived shortcoming of the Directstream DAC? Or perhaps another way to ask the question is what type of improvement is expected in the next firmware update?

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Were they compared in the same system?

If they were, I answer your first question with ‘listener preference’. No simple explanation but I would expect 4x spend to achieve a higher level of performance as I’m sure the TSS will for similar $. Ted has said he’d have liked to use higher quality output transformers but was constrained by the budget.

Ted finds obscure ways to make things more efficient and often mostly improves the sound. Each update has been an improvement in my 2 years with the DS but some I had to adjust speaker position (mostly) to realize it.


If I may ask: Decided how/compared the two in the same system and heard “quieter” results when listening to the Rossini instead of the Sr.?

Curiously yours.

[PS - Did your friend’s friend go ahead and buy the dCS kit? dCS certainly has a great reputation for performance.]

Ha! You beat me to it (by just a second or two).

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It’s not a surprising result. Not apples to apples given cost delta. Different weight classes. Not that cost always indicative of quality (it isn’t) but in this case dcs one of most respected digital players, so the result you heard (dcs winning on sq) was no accident (nor should it have been unexpected, and that’s no disrespect to the psa unit). Of course, everything subjective and there will certainly be some who would prefer the PSA on sq

Yes, they hooked both to the same system. I am not sure what all thE hardware foodchain was, but they played through Avantgarde speakers.

And yes, he did purchase the DCS unit.

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I certainly don’t have bat ears…but the DS never came across to these ears as a very noisy dac. I would say that any type of a noise issues could be the fault of system synergy maybe. My DS is as quiet as a mouse. So much so that listening deep into the soundscape is not much of a chore at all…a black abyss comes to mind.


You might look at the architecture of DCS’ Ring DAC. My understanding of it is because they use a 5 bit conversion system instead of the DS’ one bit DSD output there is less noise.

Well, the noise floor is the DS Achilles’ heel. Nothing new here: although from a musical point of view is less relevant than many may think. I own one and love it.
I could also live with a dCS, the Rossini being an excellent DAC, although at completely different price point. I would like to know your friend’s impression on how they both compare besides the noise floor issue :wink:



I would not be so sure about this. I own the MSB Select DAC II Loaded with Mono power bases. I feel that with Windom the DSS is nipping at the MSB’s heels. It is not quite there but it pretty darn close. You are comparing 6 grand to 130 grand here. So I think that speaks volumes. I really do not even see how Ted can even do better but I guess he can. If I can hear it is a different story. As for noise, I find the DSS to be dead silent.

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If you like the sound profile of the DSS a better comparison to my ears are the Aqua DAC’s whose TOTL is still about a tenth of your MSB.

I listen to my DSDS Sr. Through Electrostatic Headphones sometimes. I never noticed a noise floor/hiss issue. Definitely not through my Speakers.

I remember Ted writing somewhere that a little higher noise floor is part of the DS‘ design and unavoidable without loosing other benefits.

It’s definitely there in a big way if you go straight to the speakers without a preamp (or headphone amp with volume control) and don’t use the -20db output attenuator. If I go straight into my BHK 250->Focals, we are talking loud noise. I don’t love the effect of the output attenuator, and so the BHK preamp is a necessary component (plus it just enhances the sound)


One way to reduce noise…

I don’t get how a P20 reduces noise.

Anyway, the Direcstream does produce noise but this is so much lower than the signal that it becomes irrelevant (i.e. not heard behind the music). As has been said, inefficient speakers will hide noise but efficient ones won’t. I think the DS is stunningly good (not that I’ve directly compared it with other respected dacs).


I’d be curious to hear a DS against my Naim nDAC/Pardo TXPS.

I’d also be curious to hear what PS Audio could do if they made something in the general price range of the DCS.

In my room, listening at 80db you get 20db of hiss. That is tons of noise, and you absolutely have to have a preamp or the 20db pad.