DIrectstream Jr versus Perfectwave MKII


#1

Currently I have a PWD MKII and was curious if there’s been any comparisons made between these two DACs? I’ve seen the comparison made that the DS Jr is ~85% the performance of the DS. I don’t know if percentage is the right metric to be made here, but how much of an improvement can I expect going to the DS Jr from the PWD MKII?


#2

A considerable amount. Both the DS and DSJ are significant upgrades from the PWDMKII. I have made the comparisons many times and am always pleasantly surprised at just how much better the Ted Smith designs are than our older ones based on the Wolfson.


#3

Keep in mind that PS Audio has a very generous 30 day trial policy. If you find you are inadequately impressed, simply return the unit. I doubt you will want to however. :slight_smile:


#4

Thanks for the responses guys! I was able to pick up a full fledged Direcstream DAC today instead of a Jr for a very good price. I’ll do a little shootout between the two and form some thoughts. I’m excited to hear what all the buzz is about.

I’m using PinkFaun I²S bridge card on my PC so I’ll be able to feed “bit perfect” I²S high resolution audio to both DACs. The next upgrade on my list is possibly upgrading my amp. I’ll have to see if there’s any thoughts on the forum of how the new Stellar S300 compares to a Parasound Halo A23.


#5

Even better! Thanks for letting us know and please post your impression after it warms up.


#6
Paul McGowan said A considerable amount. Both the DS and DSJ are significant upgrades from the PWDMKII. I have made the comparisons many times and am always pleasantly surprised at just how much better the Ted Smith designs are than our older ones based on the Wolfson.
I was interested to see this question asked and Paul's reply because I've also been considering getting a DS Jr. to replace my PWDll & bridge2. Paul, are you possibly able to qualify the difference in these 2 units in terms of sound quality; ie, detail, clarity, etc. or whatever SQ improvements you are able to hear.

Your opinion would be much appreciated and could help me take the plunge. Hope you don’t mind me asking.

Thanks.


#7

I’m sure Paul will chime in when he gets the chance. I don’t have possession of my Directstream DAC yet, but in the mean time I’ve done a considerable amount of reading and I’ve watched several videos on YouTube where Paul and Ted talk in a great detail about how this product came to be and what makes it different from most DACs out there. In essence, this DAC is fundamentally different from the ground up compared to essentially every other DAC out there. Most DAC devices are using a “system-on-a-chip” if you will where the majority of the conversion process happens on a single chip. These chips are from companies like Burr-Brown (TI), ESS Sabre, Cirrus Logic, Wolfson and a few others. There are complexities and fundamental issues that need to be overcome or compromised when using said DAC chips. Ted “opens up” the entire conversion process by using an FPGA and other components that would normally all be crammed into a single chip. Ted’s design has it’s fair share of issues that need to be overcome too, but he’s able to overcome them because he has free range in hardware component choices/placement and a lot of processing power in the FPGA. An FPGA can be thought of as a blank-slate CPU that can programmed to do anything you want. This gives him a huge advantage in what he can do in terms of processing power compared to the rather limited capabilities these single chip DACs have, but he can also design the input and output stage of the DAC as he sees fit because of the FPGA. He’s far less limited in how he can design the DAC by taking this approach.

Ted uses DSD not necessarily as a marketing hype-piece but because he can create a much simplified DAC by comparison to how these system-on-a-chip DACs work by how he utilizes DSD to work with the rest of the components inside the DAC. Simpler equates to less going wrong, less jitter created and better analog audio because of it. He’s also very anal about getting the math as accurate as possible inside his FPGA and he’s also extremely careful to choose and place components in his DAC that will yield as little jitter as possible.

I suppose the point I want to make and from what I learned from reading and watching all these videos is that there is no “magic” that makes this DAC better than any other, it’s just straight up high quality engineering from both a hardware and software point of view where every single aspect of the DAC has been scrutinized and thought over on how to achieve the best possible results. And that right there is the reason why it sounds better.


#8
bluenose1 said
Paul McGowan said A considerable amount. Both the DS and DSJ are significant upgrades from the PWDMKII. I have made the comparisons many times and am always pleasantly surprised at just how much better the Ted Smith designs are than our older ones based on the Wolfson.

I was interested to see this question asked and Paul’s reply because I’ve also been considering getting a DS Jr. to replace my PWDll & bridge2. Paul, are you possibly able to qualify the difference in these 2 units in terms of sound quality; ie, detail, clarity, etc. or whatever SQ improvements you are able to hear.

Your opinion would be much appreciated and could help me take the plunge. Hope you don’t mind me asking.

Thanks.


They are pretty close, but in my opinion, DS excels in the upper treble regions with an openness not shared by Junior. Also, DS has better separation of instruments, more space around them, and greater depth.

That said, on many systems without the resolving power of the IRSV in Music Room One, that gap narrows quickly. Both are exceptional sounding and trounce the PWDMKII in these very areas.

If you compare either Jr. or DS to the PWD, these are the areas where you’ll immediately notice the difference. Openness, ease of presentation, effortless dynamics, and a lucious top end not found on many products at any price.


#9

That helps a lot Paul and I do appreciate it. Thanks.


#10
Paul McGowan said Even better! Thanks for letting us know and please post your impression after it warms up.
So, I've had a couple days with the Directstream. I thought I had an issue with the unit as I was hearing quite a bit of "hissing" noise. I tried changing all the cables with new ones and loading a new OS on it. I was still getting the noise. I decided to do a little search here on the forum and It turns out I needed to enable the attenuation filter as apparently my Parasound amplifier is quite sensitive. Once I enabled it, the noise was completely gone. I noticed in the user manual it states there "shouldn't" be and sonic difference with this filter enabled. I hope that's true.

So far I’m extremely impressed. More impressed than I thought I was going to be. Before I bought the Directstream, I thought to myself: “How much better can it really be”? This was especially so when the Perfectwave MKII already sounded so good. Though I’m sure you’ve heard this conclusion countless times now.

This DAC sounds so effortlessly natural, clean, highly detailed and organic in a way that it doesn’t sound or feel like the source is digital. Everything just sounds so amazingly analog. Music sounds like…music. Though I suppose thats the end game all of us digital music users are looking to achieve? I’d say it definitely sounds a little more laid back compared to the PWD MKII. Though, not laid back where there are details or transients being smoothed over. The PWD can sound more forward, leaning towards being bright. This slight harshness is completely gone on the Directstream. With that said, I think the firmware I was using on the PWD MKII was noted to have this sonic character and I probably could load an older firmware on it to remove that forward, bright sonic character.

I also MUCH prefer the GUI on the Directstream. It’s nicely laid out which makes it’s quite intuitive and easier to read from further back. Kudo’s to whomever made these changes.

Excellent work Paul, Ted and the whole team over at PS Audio. You guys do an excellent job at bringing amazing audio products to price points where even mere mortals can afford them.

PS. I also received a new $1300 pair of headphones the same day I got the Directstream. I was having so much fun listening to the Directstream through my speakers by the time I was done (several hours later), I turned around and saw the headphones sitting there on the table and thought to myself “Oh yeah, I forgot I got those today too.” Initially I was more excited to check out the headphones, but the Directstream was so much fun to use it made me completely forget about the other piece of hardware I’d received that day. If that’s not a positive endorsement for the Directstream then I don’t know what is!


#11

Thanks!! What a great article. Thanks.