DS DAC Resolution

In the current issue of Stereophile, John Atkinson reviews the Parasound Halo JC 1+ monoblock amplifier. In the review he states that “In order to be able to use my PS Audio DirectStream D/A processor’s volume control set sufficiently high so that its resolution would be preserved, I set the gain switches of the JC 1+ monoblocks to Low.”

I know there may be/are some noise differences depending on the DAC’s volume setting but I was under the impression that the resolution of the DS DAC remains the same regardless of its volume setting. Is that correct?


Yes, this is correct.

I know there have been discussions on this in the past. I personally think my DSD sounds better when set high (above 80). For me setting my DSD this high requires a preamp in my system. But I’m sure people like different things so you really need to try it for yourself to see if it makes a difference to you.

Gain staging is a separate issue. It is common for a particular gain setting to sound the best in a given system.

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Thank you both. John Atkinson doesn’t usually get technical details wrong so that prompted my question.

Agreed, he does a nice job.

It used to be that digital volume controls tossed resolution as the volume decreased. This is no longer necessarily the case.

It took me a good bit to believe it was no longer true as I needed to understand how it was possible to change volume without throwing out information.

I had the same understanding as yours – it’s why we used to leave our CD players/DACs at full volume but as you point out things have changed in some cases.

I’m not a technical person so I was gonna go back and amend my comment about him to the point that I’ve never known him to misstate something on the nuts and bolts of how a piece of equipment works.

He does a great job typically, but he’s had a hard time separating resolution from noise floor with the DS (and other DSD based DACs) from the beginning.

Gain matching is about noise floors and no resolution is lost at lower volume levels.


I know about gain and resolution. The bottom line as I stated is my DSD sounds better when set to higher in the 80+ range. I believe the last line in my post sums it up: “people like different things so you really need to try it for yourself to see if it makes a difference to you”.