Directstream Red cloud vs R2R Ladder Dacs

For those of you who have heard high end R2R ladder dacs (like Terminator, Yggdrasil, R2R7, holo level 3).

I keep hearing how ladder dacs have a realism and correct timbre that sabre/chip dacs don’t have. In the case of DS its not that but its also not a ladder. So I would be curious to hear your opinions if you’ve compared these kinds of DACs.

Here’s a review of the Terminator, and comparison to other Dacs including the PS Audio DSD.

Thanks for sharing this. I’ve always liked this reviewer’s style and the concise manner in which he makes comparisons. I know in his earlier reviews of the Directstream he thought VERY highly of the Directstream. I have a dealer/distributor here locally for the Denafrips so I might well give it a try but I don’t know if there’s any real point to it. I’m not likely to spend $5000 or more on a product that has no U.S. service available…ditto with the Metrum Acoustics (same dealer/distributor). The thought of sending a product to Europe or Asia if I need service is not something I relish and its difficult to get a REAL answer as to whether warranty service exists here in the United States. I just spent a month without another piece of gear that had to be serviced in California and that was a PIA enough for me, much less dealing with international shipping and insurance. Direct to consumer is FINE but there has to be warranty service available in the U.S. or its a total nonstarter for me. AND I’m really enjoying my Directstream.

1 Like

Yeah that is such a good point. It’s what’s making me lean towards the PS audio. And also the PS audios more laid-back sound may play better with the pretty neutral HE9.

I don’t have much problem with ordering from audio GD because they have a really good warranty policy where they pay for shipping both ways in the first year of ownership of something breaks.

The Dennafrips only pays her to a shipping in the first 30 days.

Totally agree. I had a Raysonic CD player years ago, and when the transport died, the overseas manufacturer refused to repair it. Luckily USA Tube Audio had some of the transports and was able to make the repairs. Ended up buying an Ayon CD player from them, because at least they were the authorized USA distributor and Repair Center for the brand. No more overseas products without authorized distributors and repair centers located in the USA. Better yet though is my latest purchase of PS Audio gear, where the manufacturer is less than an hour’s drive from my home. Feel like a hit the jackpot. Awesome sounding equipment built in the USA, and the manufacturer is within driving distance.


Any other thoughts vs other ladders ?

Hard to compete with a DAC called the Terminator :sunglasses:


the one downside to terminator is lack of upgradeability. It has no user changeable firmware with future firmware updates unlike DS.

I personally haven’t heard any Ladder dacs, but based the the YouTube reviewers impressions up above, I’d say the PS Audio dac better suits my tastes.

The DS will come to a point where there won’t be any additional meaningful updates for sound quality. The time between updates are becoming longer. How long away before the DS becomes ‘steady-state’ maybe two years ? I’m all for updates but we have to be realistic - there is a finite amount of them before the specs require a hardware overhaul.

Definitely a good point Frank and it’s something I thought about too. The question is are these high-end latter-day acts like the R2R7 or terminator significantly better than the direct stream to the point where even the updates can’t close the gap. I suppose at this level it largely depends on signature preference and systems energy rather than pure technical performance.

Darko put it very well in his review ;
If you heard either the DSsnr, Denafrips Terminator or the LaScala (or insert Dave and a few other DACs) you would say they are at the pinnacle without spending additional 10K - 50K.
Darko also said his choice was dependant on his system, he acknowledged that at this level a different system might favour another DAC.
I know people who don’t like the DSsnr, believe it is beaten by the ladder DACs, beaten by locally Australian designed and manufactured SABRE based DACs (and cheaper to purchase than DSsnr). They have undertaken listening sessions, and have made their choices. A few DS have been on the market in Oz lately.
The point is that it comes down to the individual and what you hear from the music presentation in your system.
I wouldn’t make the ‘upgrade-ability’ a major factor in the purchase. The customer service in continental USA though is a factor. Not so good for us outside of the USA.

Frank those are very good points. I guess system synergy is a huge factor. But I feel some safety in popular choices in terms of high end dacs. Seems the ladder dacs are getting all the attention. I have seen that much steam behind the sabre dacs anymore even dual sabre stuff. Listening to them for extended periods and allowing burn in is really not practical for many dacs that don’t have local dealers.

So I am ok with buying listening and selling if I don’t like it. But I still like to choose initially based on some level of consensus or comparison.

I am really happy darko did his review but would love more opinions about comparisons to other dacs which find strangely rare on these and many other forums. :frowning:

Another alternative that hasn’t been mentioned in the same purchasable price range as the Terminator and the DS Sr. is the Aqua La Voce S3. It is in fact modular and can be upgraded as has just happened for the second time. It has a dealer network and a stable and dependable distributor located in Virginia. I own a Series 2 that I intend to have upgraded after the first of the year and see how it stacks up against my DS Sr. Though Alvin at Vinshine seems to be a great guy I have more faith in PSA or the Aqua distributor long term.

1 Like

Well said Dawkins about the support network in North America. I am in Canada and there are a lot of dealers here and im sure PS would take care of me if there were any problems.

I’ll looking into Aqua. Thx.

The new distributor in Canada is Atelier Audio in Montreal. Mark Sossa at Well Pleased Audio was trying to do both countries but I think it got to be more than he could keep up with. I think Atelier has been around a long time so they should be able to help you. If not reach out to Mark. The Aqua and the DS Sr. are both great DAC’s and it will come down to which you prefer in your system. Currently in my system with the Verity Audio speakers the DS Sr. just sounds right but I need to put the La Voce in and see what it does for comparison. Also another great option when it comes available next month is the Musical Paradise MP-D2 from a Canadian company. It is DAC chip modular and you can order it either with the ESS 9038 or the AKM 4097 board or order both boards and see which one you prefer. In addition it is a full tube DAC. The Mk III version should be for sale shortly for less than $1500. It is a tweaker’s dream and sounds great as a bonus.

1 Like

Just want to say it’s very big of PS Audio that they allow these kinds of discussions on their own forums. Kudos.

I might also add that I listened to a Denafrips Terminator and immediately disliked it, at least in comparison to the DS Sr. It sounded unpleasantly coloured to me, especially in the lower midrange. Whatever it is that defines the DirectStream DAC sound, that’s what I like to listen to. :man_shrugging:t2:


Dvorak: Wow… interesting to see you were not a fan of the terminator. Was the unit you listened to broken in?

Dawkins: Do you think the MP Dacs will be able to compete with the DS ?

I have a real problem from a technical standpoint regarding NOS ladder DACs, because these either must employ horribly aggressive low-pass filters (which sound bad), or they will spew copious amounts of unfiltered ultrasonic trash. I’m honestly surprised that more people aren’t frying their tweeters with some of these DACs.

Clearly NOS ladder DACs are a subset of the ladder DACs. But I honestly think that the liveliness which so many prefer out of these unit is most likely just an artifact of the incredible amount of ultrasonic noise which the unfiltered DACs produce.

From Paul’s Copper Magazine… a little insight.