DirectStream red cloud vs hugo2/qutest/dave

Wondering how ds compares to chord dacs?

A friend of mine has a Dave and he’s a big Vinyl guy with top of the line VAC equipment. He liked the DSD with Red Cloud. He thought that the Dave had a drier presentation. The DSD had a warm yet detailed sound. The Dave was almost twice the money yet not twice the sound. He was on the fence on getting the DSD.

Wow that’s impressive. What did he think of the detail of the dsd and soundstage vs Dave?

We never really got that far in listening comparisons. He’s a summer contractor and his work season came about. By the time we’ve gone back to comparisons the new TOTL Dac will be out from PSA.

Any thoughts vs Hugo 2.

There’s surprising few reviews of the Directstream especially with red cloud and comparisons or Other dacs.

If you have the scratch, order a DS Sr. Directly from PS Audio and take it for a test drive. They have a generous return policy and a good trade in/up program. There is no substitute for an in-home trial. The reviewers are not able or prone to review the PSA DSD Sr. and Jr. every time the software is updated. FWIW.

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Good point for sure. But I just wonder what everyone else thinks about latest DS vs chord dacs.

I understand. My message was a bit obvious.

The DS Sr. is the best, most musical source component I have ever owned.

If you have a lot of experience with high-performance DACs you might not be so impressed; but ripped CDs and downloaded files over ethernet to the DSD with its Bridge (MK II) has yielded the biggest upgrade to my system since I bought my first pair of resolving/quality speakers.

I encourage you to get one into your system for a listen.


Captain Obvious?

Ill have a hugo2 in a week to compare with my beloved DS Sr… Although to make my DS Sr sing i had to:

  • use toslink from my laptop (Zero RF noise)
  • use an AC isolation transformer to separate from my amp (stop back EMI from the DS FPGA)
  • put a dozen ferrites on the power cable (more EMF protection for DS: and since a DAC is not a current loading device, it can tolerate ferrites).
  • put in a SR Blue fuse

The hugo2 is already AC mains isolated by virtue of its battery …so all I will do is keep the toslink interface.

Update in a week or so…

I greatly look forward to your impressions.

early days …only after one evening. hugo2 vs DS Sr. exact same setup (power, source, amp, cables plus QKore grounding matched where possible).
i know the sound of my DS inside out. My Hugo2 impressions:

  • right off the bat, hugo2 gets the transient thing right …more apparent reality of instruments, better sense of everything being present. DS sounded less engaging vs hugo2. i did a lot of back and forth and changed up various DS tweaks …but no, its the innate nature of the dACs.
  • lows are better controlled with hugo2. more immediate slam and grunt on kick drums and bass and orchestras.
  • hugo2 just kills it on classical music. immensely more enjoyable.
  • better separation on hugo2 …as they say, i peek into the music more
  • i set the Hugo2 FILT to HF (green) since there was so much detail derailing my listening pleasure. intoxicating but slightly bothersome. HF filer helped a lot.

now im going to spend the next weeks confirming all the above …and give the DS a fighting chance. ill post again.

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Wow dmance thanks for the insights!

Your continued listening impressions will be very interesting. Looking forward to them.

the opinion of your friend isn’t surprising as at this level, increasing the dollars spent isn’t a linear change. Its a case of diminishing return and very system dependent / individuals preference of music presentation.

dmance quote from another thread…

“For me, with a high efficiency dac-Amp-Voxativ system where I know redcloud comes oh-so-close to my audible reference of chord blue-dave. Ted: just a tad more reduction in noise floor and whatever other magic will, for me, become the new standard. Go go go!!!”

" hugo2 just kills it on classical music. immensely more enjoyable."

So,are you saying the DS is ‘oh so close to dave’ but the hugo also beats the DS in your opinion? Somehow something does not seem logical in your mini review from above.:roll_eyes:

Thanks for your comment. I know - DAVE and BlueDave (both from memory - never A/B) is king of the hill and I still stand by it. Here’s the logic from my most recent Hugo2 comparison.

I had a Hugo2 vs a DSJr for a week in late 2017 and that comparison was with USB input. The most recent (yesterday) DSSr/Hugo2 comparison was using TOSLINK. Using USB, I was never able to get rid of noise from my Windows laptop getting to any DAC. 18months of getting closer (Cables, OS Optimizations, INTONA, Ferrites, MP-U1 USB Battery, etc.) but I did not know what transparency was until I settled on TOSLINK (using an excellent $50 converter which lets me go jitter-free 24/192). This was a revelation to me…that you need to absolutely and fully deal with all sources of RF/EMI noise both tainting the DAC from USB or the AC Mains …or generated by the DAC itself back up the AC cord to affect your other components. Sure you can continue to torture yourself using metal-to-metal USB/SPDIF contacts but RF is insidious and shifts around to fool you. I had enough and went to TOSLINK.

So now anything digital in my system is AC isolated behind an isolation transformer (TrippLite IS250HG) and I put ferrites on the AC cord, source is isolated behind non-conductive glassfibre (TOSLINK) and any parasitic noise is controlled using NORDOST QKore grounding blocks. For the latter, I grounded the digital input (SPDIF) connector, the analog output (a spare ground pin on a spare output) and made sure the chassis was grounded too. Hugo2 is blessed with batteries and although i don’t think it sounded any better when off AC, it is comforting for me nontheless to be isolated.

I use my ears to switch in/out any of these to confirm/deny bias. For sure, the elimination of noise is both a subtle thing (like when you don’t advance to the next track because it sounds just so damn good) and also shockingly obvious (the song sounds markedly different/better/smoother with more nuance and details).

Anyhow, with this setup, the Hugo2 is, IMO, better than the DSSr. …and probably, yes, better than (or very close to) the standalone DAVE i have heard in private and during shows.

I have another day of listening planned today and will add any more information to my comparison.

Thanks for the reply to my inquiry. I would like to read more info when you get things settled in a bit…

Is this the same DAC you’re listening to?

Not a very flattering review.


I think I’ve nailed down the character of the two DACs (Hugo2 and DS) that most resonates with me.

I’d say the DS, on first listen, showed me moments of magic and I could improve on that with tweaks: toslink in, AC isolation transformer, SR Blue fuse and ferrites on a better power cable (although less certain about the ferrites). Over 9 months I absolutely fell in love with the sound.

I got a good deal on a Hugo2 and got it to reacquaint myself with the Chord sound. In the first 5 minutes of listening I heard something that bested my DS experience: a much greater sense of attack to everything - the famous attribute of Rob Watts WTA filter. I heard all the detail of the DS plus increased impact of WTA …that I really liked. Yes, there is lots of high frequency detail so I needed to chose the ‘smooth (orange)’ filter.

So three evenings of compararive listening and I’d still make the claim that, for me, the H2 is preferable to the DS. The DS is great but IMO still lacks the snap of H2’s WTA filter. Especially at lower volume levels I found I could get more enjoyment from H2. Is this increased transient response artificial? I don’t know but piano certainly sounded better (more real) with H2. I also think H2 revealed more nuance with bass heavy music. DS sounded better with wind instruments and perhaps vocals were smoother. Boths had all the stage width and depth you could want and both were not tiresome to listen to at length.

I’m not sure what the Verge reviewer had going on but perhaps his definition of ‘musical’ did not include the same things I found enjoyable.

I’m not happy in the role of audio reviewer since I know personal preference matters. With DACs, however, I am very interested in the various technical approaches …because only one can be objectively best …that is, recreating the original analog waveform. Maybe a many tap WTA is it. Maybe it’s Ted Smith’s next firmware. I will follow both developments …but, for now, I’m listening to a Hugo2.

Have you tried adding the Hugo M Scaler?
Hugo M Scaler