Help! Volume issue: PWD or DirectStream DAC pairing with Ayre Preamplifier

I have just acquired an Ayre KX-5 Twenty (used), but have a problem with the volume level.

When I connect the pre in between the PS Audio DirectStream or PerfectWave DAC and the amplifiers (VX-5, Pass XA100.5), I had to crank up the DAC’s volume to 80, AND the pre’s volume to 40 or even MAX (46) to match the direct DAC to amplifier connection’s 50!! It was via all balanced connections.

At first I thought the pre had an issue. The seller was so nice that he offered my money back and pays for round-trip shipping. But I don’t feel comfortable with that as he would incur too much costs for nothing. So I played around, nothing helped but the following:

I directly connected my CD player to the pre, then the pre to the amplifier by bypassing the DAC. Now It works! The pre’s volume at 30 gives me comfortable listening loudnesss level. So apparently it’s not the pre, but the DACs!

Do you know what’s going on? Does this mean PS Audio DACs have a matching/pairing/compatibility issue with Ayre preamplifiers?

Is this NORMAL?

Is it safe to dial up the pre’s volume above 40 or even at the max 46?

What’s your experience on this?

Thank you for your help and opinions.

Welcome to the forum!

I have no experience with your pre or amps, but why not run the volume of either DAC to 100?

Thanks, but have you run the DAC at volume 100 before? Is it OK to do that?

Completely OK

Many DACs run at 100% out with no volume adjustment.

Think of the primary purpose of the preamp as the master volume control of your system.
If you have source components like the DAC, that also have a volume control, they should be adjusted to full volume (100) if they are run thru the preamp. And your preamp is the final control.

And yes, the OG DIrectStream DAC does have a lower than usual output level. The output level for the Mk II was increased.

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If you dig around the DS Sr. threads here you will find some technical discussions and related listener reports supporting running the DS Sr. volume at either 92 or 94 (or thereabouts).

Personally, I have settled on 92; and I use my Pre/Pro to raise and lower volume to my liking, depending on the source and recordings.

Before you go cranking up the preamplifier volume, please give your system a go with the DS Sr. volume set at (at least) 92. I think you will be pleased.

If that is not enough “gain”, the DS Sr. also performs well at its highest volume setting.

Let us know what you think.



Welcome to the forum.

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I agree with the comments above. I always ran my DAC MKI volume at 92 and used my preamp to adjust to the volume level I wanted. I experimented with different settings and felt 92 was the best. Now I have a DAC MKII and have it set to 100 and do the same.


Keep in mind that the DS DACs come back after being powered down to a level of 25 to avoid speaker damage. So when you first plugged in your DAC, it was probably at that very low setting. Occasionally the power in my neighborhood goes off for a couple of seconds, which causes the DAC to reboot. Then sometimes I say “why don’t I have sound?“

Also, what is the sensitivity of your speakers? I see a number of people commenting that they run the DAC at volume 100. I have to run mine at about 60 if I want to use the center volume range on my BHK pre. I suspect this is because my speakers are somewhat more sensitive than average (89 dB).