How good is the Directstream DAC

Ive had the Direcstream Sr. for a year now. Upgrading from snowmass to windom had its hiccups but all in all ive been pretty happy.
Recently I had the chance to listen to the mola mola tambaqui dac.
At roughly 2x retail i was curious to see what i was missing, I was expecting to be blown away. Other wiser audiophiles had warned me that I would need to spend a lot more to get the wow i was after. Ignoring them at my peril, i took the opportunity to hear the mola mola. Was i impressed - for a period of time yes.
How would i describe it - initially there was more bloom, more body to the sound, the vocals seemed prersent in the room, the sound seemed big, it was more enveloping.
But after listening to it and being impressed by it i missed the sweetness, the relaxed sound of the directstream dac. The direcstream felt more melodious, more listenable for longer. Admittedly it lacked the bloom, the enveloping presence of the mola mola…However the mola mola had too much of eveything. I cant describe it…but it felt the sound was maybe “too upsampled”…if there is such a thing.
In the end i felt i could relax listening to the directstream, it was more ‘vinilysque’…beautiful 2 channel stereo vs a 7 channel home theater.
At 2x the price i dont want to give up sweetness for bloom or body. I am willining to spend more but i want it all - no compromises!!
Its a amazing the directstream DAC held its own, it has its own personality. Some might say the ds touches your heart and the mola mola overwhelms your head :slight_smile:
Anyways…for all my rambling the ds is a keeper. @tedsmith - even with a limited resources what you have managed to do is pretty incredible. Take a bow.

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Thanks for your description!

I just still have difficulties to see „sweetness“ vs. bloom and body, because a character of bloom and body usually doesn’t sound edgy or something else like the opposite of „sweet“.

Can you explain in other words what the mola does less good? Does it sound too technical, analytical?

@jazznut sorry can’t describe any further :slight_smile: described it as best as I could

I’m not saying (or trying to imply) anything about the Mola Mola, which I haven’t heard. (Tho I greatly respect its designers.)

But, just as an example, any deviation from a flat frequency or phase response can cause fatigue over time. If you add bloom be simply raising the level of a relatively narrow frequency band, then playing music at a “normal” level can cause a little overload in that band…

My only point is that more of a “good” thing isn’t necessarily good.

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Yes… much aptly said

I think PSA’s claim to fame are the DACs. The Jr. especially as it is just so darn good for the money. The main factor for me in the Sr/Jr. is the units ability to just make everything sound good. I got Spotify (320 bit rate I believe) Amazon HD, and 80G of old files from 24/192 to MP3. It makes everything listenable and that maybe due to the design being less picky about source and perhaps just possessing a bit of color, musicality- call it what you want. That being said, I am trying a DAC I feel is opposite. The Metrum Pavane is a NOS “Just the bits Ma’am” type DAC. Is it better, it depends what you are after. The level of detail in the 320, HD and up music is wonderful. The only review I have seen where the SR was compared and paled by comparison was against a Rossini (sp?) and I think that is 17K. PSA DACs are hard to beat at any price. Great kit.

I’m with you Ted, descriptions like „more body“ and „big sound“ of the mola seem to describe a connection to frequency or phase response which could lead to „more of good isn’t necessarily good all the time”.

On the other hand “more bloom” and “more enveloping sounding” of the mola for me is rather detached from frequency deviations and a kind of positive, emotional touching quality criteria in terms of ambiance retrieval etc.

Than there is the description that the mola is less relaxed, less sweet, less melodious sounding, less touching heart than head (implying it’s more technical than natural sounding).

My problem in understanding is that the characteristics of the first two abstracts usually don’t contribute to a sound that’s described in the third abstract, but rather the opposite.

Finally the strength of the DS probably is, that at its level of sound quality among various characteristics, it presents the music in an overall harmonious cohesion, which some other DAC’s (although possibly bettering single characteristics) fail to do.

An excellent example of the dancing about architecture problem.

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@jazznut - easiest way to solve your problem is to listen to it. You might love it and describe the differences and your preferences better than I did.

Sure…so far I try to get the most out of other‘s descriptions without listening to every DAC on the planet myself :wink: This is independent of my preferences. Thanks again anyway for yours!

Never fix what ain’t broke. I trust it is also personal preference.

Bruno Putzeys claims not to add or substract anything, certainly not fooling around with frequencies and phase shifts. The Mola Mola has been designed and measured constantly comparing the output with the original, by the design team.

But whether that true sound is actually what we like is a different story.

In order to validate certainty of what you heard, may I ask if you were able to listen to the Mola Mola in the room with the same system and cables as you listen to your Direct Stream?

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Not sure if you all have seen this but ASR measured and reviewed the mola mola. Looks like it measured well.

Maybe im being misunderstood here. In no way am i throwing shade on the mola mola. Its a great DAC and it does a lot of things really well- at times maybe too well (if there is such a thing).
However ultimately when u listen to music u simply listen. Some music you connect to, some you dont. When we listen to our favorite artists and recordings we dont look at the Sine wave and measure ThD and frequency response etc etc - i certainly dont.
I am not in the measurement camp - at the end of the day i just listen. When i take out the component from my chain if i miss it, or maybe if its so good that i wont take it out - il keep it.
So these are very subjective. DACs certainly are, u either jive with the sound in your system or maybe theres something there u quite cant connect to.
The mola mola will be awsome for a lot of people. It measures really well and some people will look at me and think my ears are bust :smile: No worries…
Maybe they are.

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I don’t know what sounds better. That is why I am curious about whether your experience with the Mola Mola was in your own system or somewhere else.

@Rudolf_Appel In my own system

Don’t forget that the I2S input on the Mola Mola can not be utilized for extracting the DSD layer from SACD’s, at least not from other brands like PS Audio, and Mola Mola does not offer a SACD Transport.

John Darko reported that his Direct Stream Transport with redbook CD connected via I2S to the Mola Mola sounded better than streaming from an internet based music provider when he compared the Mola Mola to the dCS Bartok. To his personal opinion the Mola Mola streaming/DAC function was slightly better than the dCS Bartok.

To me that all sounds like a draw in a pissing contest and if you already own a Direct Stream it sounds like the extra costs don’t pay off.

For those still having to decide what to buy however it all depends on your preferences. Like the Mola Mola can stream and convert up to DSD512 natively. So if high res DSD files on your home server are your thing (like from Blue Coast Records) and you only spin redbook CD’s the extra money for the Mola Mola might pay off.

If you plan to play SACD’s with DSD Layer, practically your only option is the Direct Stream DAC unless you are OK with adding a SACD player with it’s own Internal DAC to your system (for even more cost).

The reason I would buy the Mola Mola Tambaqui is because you can buy it as integral option to the Makua Pre Amp that also offers 5 balanced differential inputs (truly balanced according to Bruno Putzeys) that can all be routed through an equally optional excellent phono stage.

Now you have 4 high end devices (Phono Stage, Streamer, DAC and PreAmp) in one box, controlled with a single remote (or smart device) saving you a complete audio rack of stuff with expensive cables. Because the Phono Stage and Streamer DAC are never energized/utilized at the same time they will never interfere with each other and the Mola Mola integrated Makua makes very much sense.
Add active speakers and you can play from any source in a life style environment like the living room on a high end system that doesn’t clutter your living space.

That’s great if you think having all of those functions in a single box is a good idea…keep the active speakers away from me too.

Yes, I am old school as I prefer separates. I also prefer tube gear…

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I had a similar experience with the DCS Bartok, and I’m back to my old DSS. The Bartok had a lot less distortion, bigger, wider soundstage, more extension, but was just too analytical and sharp sounding. I found my listening sessions got a lot shorter.

The single-bit DSD thing just seems to resolve low levels stuff like reverb tails more elegantly and pleasantly, it doesn’t have artificial-sounding sharp edges, is smooth and pleasing on top, and is free of any stiffness in the bass.

I’m not experienced with R2R DACs, but so far I haven’t heard any standard PCM DAC that sounds as good as real DSD upsampling playback, even where they are very resolving and high performance.

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If I had the space to go all separate I would and I totally get your point.

But considering the limited space I have and the good SQ of high end integrated equipment it is a compromise I take.

I was not saying it is better over all, it suits some people’s needs/desire/situation better.

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Looking for perspective from owners who can compare the streaming experience using DS Sr with bridge (no Roon, no separate streamer) versus other competitors in the price range.

I have a Teac NT-505. On another thread (maybe DS Sr vs. Bartok) an owner of both PSA DS Sr and Teac NT-505 stated that while the PSA was the superior dac per se, that the Teac was a much better streamer and user interface.

Is the DS Sr really that poor in streamer and UI performance? If so, will these issues be addressed with the follow-on to DS Sr (not the hi-end model coming but whatever replaces DS Sr under $10k)?

Interested but not going to get Roon or a separate streamer just to make streaming a great experience.

Goes without saying that nowhere for me to demo the PSA, and not interested in buying and returning unless I am 95% convinced I won’t have to return.

And this isn’t really a question of DS Sr vs Teac (obviously it better be better costing 3.5x the amount of the Teac), it’s about PSA versus whatever else is available in one box under $10k, where streaming is of vital importance.

Thx in advance