Yes, I think I do. Now that my DS has 400 or so hours on it, I don’t think it’s going to do anything beyond what it’s doing now. You’ve seen in the First Impressions thread that I went so far as to rebuild my PWD to make sure of what I thought. While the DS is overall a better DAC than the PWD, I’m not so sure I’d go so far as to say there is nothing to examine. While the PWD may have been surpassed by the DS, the PWD’s shortcomings were integrated into the fabric of the DAC - nothing called attention to itself as an obvious flaw. It wasn’t until you stacked it up against the DS or another higher end DAC that IME you’d walk away going “yeah, the PWD may not be quite as good”. The DS on the shelf is a $6K DAC; IMO it should have no “noticeable” shortcomings - the kind that call attention to themselves.
I spent a lot of time listening to my PWD, other DACs in my and other systems, my own TT, and other TTs in other systems. I’m sure most of us have done all these things, and I’m sure Paul and Ted have as well. I’m using this experience as a “consensus driver” on what I think are common characteristics in music that I use when try to get a bead on a system. One can argue with me about the merits of this method, but it’s my method and I think it tells me something about what… sounds right.
If there is going to be a firmware revision at some point, I think there are two areas that should be addressed as part of that effort: the harshness in the upper mids and the “low end drive”.
I referred to harshness in the upper mids as “glassines”. The fact that
near everyone has a number of DS users have* heard it - in vastly different systems - suggests it is a characteristic of the DAC that is calling attention to itself. It’s better but still there after 400 hours; I don’t think it’s going to go away. I normally use silver ICs. I’ve tried a couple of different copper types (to eliminate the possibility of “that silver sound”) to no significant change. I’ve even changed power cords. Again small changes, not enough to really matter for a DAC at this level. I originally concluded that the improved clarity of the DS was probably just giving us what was on the recording, but I’m not so sure about that right now.
So a question Ted: why are so many of us hearing this? What is it about the DS that seems to play into what we’re hearing?
The second area is what I called “low end drive”. Like Elk, I briefly thought the DS didn’t go as low as (in my case) the PWD. It does, but it also brings clarity and articulation the PWD didn’t have to the same degree. This may be a case of “you get one thing, you pay for it with something else”, or not. When I listened to a lot of music through the PWD, and through my TT and through other “audiophile” systems, the low end typically creates a strong underpinning to the music. Listen to “Bluesville” on “88 Basie Street”. On many good systems the double bass and the other low frequency instruments create a continuous, persistent undercurrent that brings the rest of the music with it. This is how live jazz sounds, IME. I don’t get the same sense of “foundation” through the DS. The DS goes as low, I’m pretty sure, but it doesn’t seem to lay that down in a way that makes the rest of the music sound “driven” by it.
We know the PWD went through many changes in sound as the FW kept evolving. We’ve all read that the DS should not (hopefully) be as unpredictable with respect to any FW changes it might get. It’s my own opinion that I think these two areas should be looked at for any upcoming release. I know this is a slippery slope - we all want the DS to be properly engineered in both HW and FW. We don’t want it purposely “voiced”. By the same token there is plenty of superbly engineered audio gear that does not deliver the musical goods. I am not saying the DS is one of these components. I think what I’m saying is the DS does so many things so very well, that anything that is not consistent with all that goodness gets noticed.
(* edited after concurrence with woot’s observation)