DS bass issue


When DS first came out, there were comments that it provided less bass with certain recordings than the PWD. We talked about listening differently, which version was more correct, need for more breakin, etc.

Has any consensus emerged about what’s going on here? I have heard this “lighter” bass in my own system. In particular, last night I played a favorite track where the singers finish, then one of band members (I believe baritone sax) plays the tune, in a fairly low register, to wrap things up. On the PWD, the sax part was front and center–just fun to listen to as the sax player does his thing with the tune. Through the DS, I really had to focus to hear the sax; at times it got lost in the mix. One might think that the PWD was adding undue emphasis in that region. But nothing else except the sax solo is really happening at that point, musically–just guitars strumming in the background. So it makes sense to me that the producers would make the sax prominent. That does not come across through the DS.

My setup has not changed since removing the PWD, and I have about 350 hours on the DS (maybe I’m just impatient . . . ) Comments?


Contradictorily, I do not hear less bass per se, but rather a certain lack of bass presence.

I have not heard anything like what you describe. The DS’ bass is cleaner, more precise, more finely textured, but it is not lower in level. I also never found the PWD II’s bass bloated or excessive by comparison. The PWD’s bass is much less textured, with less timbral finesse (to begin the use of French terms).

The DS, to me, however, lacks a certain je ne se qua, a certain elusive, indefinable quality. I hear it (or do not hear it) with massed double basses in orchestral works. The DS reproduces them with sufficient power, with the needed weight, yet there is a certain lack of enveloping presence the instruments possess in concert and some sources reproduce better.

This is an extremely minor issue and is worth noting only in light of the DS’ price and location in the DAC spectrum.

What is the track you are listening to? Perhaps others know it and can comment.


Let me hasten to say that on most recordings the DS bass is fine; tight, tuneful, extended. On a few I do hear a tad less than I got through the PWD–level of bass, not extension. It could well be that the PWD was adding something there and what I hear through the DS is more in line with the producers’ intention. The track that prompted this post is the most extreme instance and one where the missing bass seems to be musically needed.

The song in question is “Love Over and Over,” the next-to-last track on Disc 2 of the album Sing Me the Songs: Celebrating the Works of Kate McGarrigle.


+1 to Elk’s comments. He and I had been commenting on this in a similar manner during the early stages. It sounds like you may be hearing the same thing, but perhaps describing it differently? From what I’m reading it seems like you’re not saying there is a lack of extension or clarity. The “level” to which you refer might be the “presence” that had been mentioned by some of us.

tony22 said It sounds like you may be hearing the same thing, but perhaps describing it differently? From what I'm reading it seems like you're not saying there is a lack of extension or clarity. The "level" to which you refer might be the "presence" that had been mentioned by some of us.
For most albums [only a few] on which I've noticed a difference from the PWD, I would agree that's probably what's happening. The differences are not great. The specific track that prompted me to start this thread, however, seems to be a different case. I will listen to it again tonight.


Awaiting further thoughts. There seems to be something going on here that some of us have heard. Just wish we could figure out what it is.


I will say that I recall the bass on Neil Young’s Le Noise and Stanley Clark’s solo on return to forever - live in montreux to rattle the room at some point and they don’t any longer. However, I have swapped out pretty much every singly component in the chain over the last year except speakers, so I cannot pin it on the DS. Does not bother me that much either. Bass on acoustic bass is faster, more pronounced and clearer than ever. Totally rediscovered a little gem with Charlie Haden and Escoude (Gitane).


I originally thought the DS was bass-light overall. I determined this is not the case. Instead, the bass is more clear, more precise - initially giving the impression it was somehow lacking. The bass has plenty of power, extension is great, the timing spectacular.

I am pretty much at the point of deciding what I am hearing is cut of the same cloth. The lacking “undefinable” elusive bass presence may well be this same phenomena speaking through massed double basses and similar.

There is also the fact that no system can even vaguely reproduce the textural complexity, subtly and power of a symphony orchestra. I am probably simply asking too much.


I’m not so sure, oh Elken one. Did we not think that - even with the lesser clarity et al - the PWD MkII seemed to have more a sense of that quality?

Can you only get that quality only if one trades off what the DS is doing better?


You remember correctly. I do/did think the PWD had better elusive bassness.

I am struggling to decide if something is actually missing, or if I am misinterpreting what is there. One danger is rationalizing away something that should be there. On the other hand, I try to not to be too impressed with my own conclusions; I have been wrong plenty of times and thus want to continually reassess.

I need a couple of other really good DACs to listen to in my system for a week or two. There may well be some out there that are both transparent as well as possess this missing bass quality.

tony22 said I'm not so sure, oh Elken one. Did we not think that - even with the lesser clarity et al - the PWD MkII seemed to have more a sense of that quality?

Can you only get that quality only if one trades off what the DS is doing better?

I actually had to turn my subs down a bit and lower the crossover after a couple months of DS break-in.


I was one of the people who had been noting the “lack” of bass. As time went on, though, I heard it differently, much as Elk described at the to of the thread.

There was greater clarity and realism to the bass, but it really lacked the punch I was hoping for. This became worrisome enough that I considered going back to the PWDII (though I would have missed so much about the DS), and considered it again even after I sent in my old PWDII at 30 days.

I now have all the bass I could hope for. Part of it might have been a break-in point, but I also adjusted my Vandersteen subs to bring in more bass. At first it never occurred to me to check and reset the crossovers, as they seemed more related to the amp than the DAC. I changed the setting on the crossover from 50K (the input impedance of my amp) to 33K, along with raising the dial a bit on the input sensitivity of the speakers, and everything fell into place.

Sounds perfect now!


I also seem to remember that Ted was somewhat ‘worried’ for a while (early on, based on e.g. feedback from the beta group) and kept it under attention as a DSD-derived artifact from a measurement point of view (?)

Then one of the first DS reviews came along, praising the bass area in particular!

Me too feel that the bass is articulate and clean, but lack the PWD authority and appear a bit lean. Some of the explanation I believe is due to the direct connection, while my PWD went through my preamp. Also my subs need volume calibration because they are connected on the RCA outputs of the DS, producing 6dB less output level, but with sufficient high load impedance to not pull down the balanced level. I see this was also commented/criticised by a reviewer during direct connection (with no preamp in the loop) but with current DS electrical design nothing can be done in this area. If time permits I will try connecting my Anti-mode 2.0 in-between. As pointed out by Elk, 6dB gain on the electrical side (voltage) does not correspond with 6dB SPL, so I cannot just turn the volume pot on my sub to +6dB, but need to use my dB meter or at least a friend in sweet spot pulling-hair_gif (or I can wait until end of September when my new preamp arrives and revert with an update on the bass issue).


I am perfectly happy with my DS bass/low frequencies. I didn’t know that my Marten speakers could play bass with so much power! You should really buy Shostakovich 4 from DG (http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/en/cat/4477592), this album sounds terrific with the DS.

My DS has 150 hours of burn-in now. The only thing I miss is more warmth in the sound, I hope after more hours of burn-in this will increase.


Rob H. and Frode, so the question is why didn’t you have to adjust the subs the same way when using the PWD? I’m not picking - I made a change myself that improved the balance of the low end and still provides all that the DS offers. But for all of us, does that mean the PWD was doing something wrong, or that we had to do something to retrieve something that is missing in the DS?confused-28_gifconfused-28_gifconfused-28_gif


I can answer on the sub issue.

My answer is plain and simple; Since my subs were connected to the pre out and my main speaker amps connected on the Line out of my preamp, the 6dB gain difference was a non-existing problem. The problem raises the moment you connect the DS directly and you have to drive subs actively while at the same time driving your main speakers. If you don’t use a ‘splitter’ on your IC’s then you have to use both the RCA SE output (subs) and XLR balanced output (main speakers) at the same time on your DS, something PS Audio makes a warning about because of different levels. Also your load must be high impedant (>1kOhm) so the XLR signal is not pulled down in level when connecting the RCA. I sold my PWD before I could try it directly, however the same problem would occurr on the PWD since the electrical design is similar (I think?), still if the PWD is missing the DS output transformer.

Note that this problem does not exist for those who only uses one of the DS outputs (and I guess this covers 99% of the DS owners). Also, it only apply to those using subs with low level (active) inputs.

For those with balanced sub inputs I guess this item may help:


Frode said . . . the same problem would occurr on the PWD since the electrical design is similar (I think?) . . .
The DS' output is a balanced transformer. It is wise to avoid running the SE and balanced outputs simultaneously.

It is perfectly fine to do so with the PWD.


Well, I decided to crank up the volume on my subs just as an intermediate measure (before calibration) and Voila!

My high impact sound as I recall it returned. The added ‘smack’ just made a h#ll of of difference music-078_gif


I am still trying to decide on the bass output of the DS. It is more accurate then the MK11 which can sometimes to my ears make it sound a little less forceful. I would rather have more accuracy then weight but ideally I would like to have my cake and eat it too. On some songs such as Santana’s wonderful Mr. Szabo the bass output pressurizes the room and on others such as the Everly Brothers song,Muskrat the stand up bass just doesn’t quite resonate as much as it did with the MK11.Next week time permitting, I hope to get so more seat time and hopefully resolve this issue.


Just a question…Is the DS capable of the same “power bandwidth” as the PWD? Can it deliver the same current at low frequencies?