External USB converter with DS


Did anyone try an external USB converter with the DS and see any improvements/benefits over the DS’s own USB input ? I know most of the external ones are pcm (no DSD support) only and doesn’t support more than 192Khz. The two well known converters seems to be the Berkeley Alpha Usb and the Emperical Audio Off-ramp 5. Anyone using them with the DS ? I have a chance to play around with Berkeley alpha usb and use the Aes/Ebu to connect to the DS but thought of asking the forum to see if someone already has experience with it

Thanks in advance,

– Dev

It is a pity that nobody wrote. A very interesting question!

Yes, sorry. I have not tried such things myself. Maybe no one reading the forums has either.

Not so, Paul. I just never saw this post before.

I used to swear by my OR5 when used with the PWDII. I upgraded to the DS, gave it plenty of time to settle in, then compared the DS alone versus DS/OR5.

I sold the OR5. If it didn’t negatively impact the music, then it didn’t do anything for it, either. I believe Al (1234) has had a similar experience with the OR5.

On the other hand, I am using an Uptone Regen in front of the DS now, although I haven’t done a good A/B comparison, yet.

So, my experience would suggest that you save your money. The OR5 is not cheap.

I reckon you mean USB only or USB to I2s into DS I2s?

Jitter bug and regen are the ones to try with the ds dac. I had a few converters and non helped and for hurt the sound

of also did the same thing for the HUGO dac odd that both are fpga dacs.

Now the regen is a true helper even from a custom cops. A very worthwhile addition of one wants to improve this product

I started a year ago with a laptop on my knees and a 5m USB cable to the DS DAC. I thought the sound was good. A year later I’m in a sonically different place - firmware upgrades to Yale (superb, and continuing to show its class the more I clean up around it), the laptop now an audio pc, stripped down Windows, Kernel Streaming, JPLAY/Qobuz/Foobar, PCM/DSD.

With DAC, amp and speakers down to manufacturer selection, the bit we get to play with is the source. The PC is potentially a good source - bit perfect on the one hand, but on the other the dirtiest imaginable. Things that have helped to clean up USB are:

  • USB Hub - essentially re-clocks the USB signal. Replace the SMPS with a linear 5V power supply.
  • USB Cable - cut the 5V Vbus wire on a standard $5 USB cable from the PC, and connect to the linear power supply instead. It works, in two ways – cuts out PC noise on the 5V Vbus wire, and eliminates noise crosstalk to the USB data wires.
These tweaks are low cost but, moving up a gear, what has transformed my system is the Audiobyte Hydra Z USB bridge. It does 3 things – converts USB to bit-perfect I2S/SPDIF, provides galvanic isolation, and re-clocks the output for low jitter. The result is a source that is clean, taut, rhythmical, detailed, delicate, dynamic. The sense is the Hydra Z itself sounds neutral, but extracts all of the music from the recording, leaving nothing behind (except the PC and it’s noise!). It’s well engineered, uses the same FPGA as the DS DAC, and handles all formats up to PCM 384kHz/DSD128. I use it in conjunction with the above tweaks.
  • A few other points to note:
  • Internal Jumper J24 needed to deliver bit-perfect operation
  • A Jitterbug in the chain dis-improves the Audiobyte – smears/softens the sound
  • I2S input on the DS DAC is better than USB
  • I2S 1 is better than I2S 2 (small but detectable!)
Cost-wise it’s favourable compared to a PCIe USB card/cable/powersupply, or an Off Ramp say. Cables alone won’t deliver the improvements of the Hydra Z.
Simply superb imo, and showcases the Directstream DAC and what can be achieved with a PC/USB source.


Thanks for the report. if you browse this forum you will find more experiences with the Audiobyte Hydra-Z USB bridge into the DS I2s input.

lonan said I started a year ago with a laptop on my knees . . .
Hello have you tried the regen ?

Even from a norm cpu or laptop it’s improvement is worth the cost.

A regen is a MUST if you are using a USB audio. I recently got a chance to use Alpha USB with the DS using AES/EBU. The regen makes the difference much lesser.



I did consider the Regen, but my aim was to go to I2S. I could have done both, I guess. The Regen uses a USB hub chip, a clean 5V supply, and also cleans up 5Vbus on the USB connection. I already had something similar in place, hence I went with the Audiobyte Hydra Z. It has USB processing on board, but galvanically isolated from I2S. The I2S signal is re-clocked with low-noise crystals to minimise jitter on the output.

It works well enough that a jitterbug had a negative effect.

If I get the opportunity I’ll try a Regen.