How to get on the PS Audio ladder

Hi everyone. I’d like to switch to PS Audio amps (pre and/or power). This decision is based solely on Paul’s wonderful you tube videos and blog posts. He seems to down to earth, kind and knowledgeable that I would like to be part of the family. So … can anyone advise a good place to start with a PS Audio amp - pre or power. It needs to be available in the UK, budget for pre & power is circa £2.5k. Second hand is fine, and probably preferred as I’ll get more bang for my buck. My only source is a CD player, and line input for AV front channels. No need for phono stage or dac. Also I have very sensitive speakers (96db i think they are).

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If your only source is a CD player you will need a DAC or an integrated amp that has one built in. Unless I misunderstand and you already have an outboard DAC. If you have a DAC you might be able to pick up a set of M700’s for £2.5k if not maybe an S300 which will do both jobs quite nicely
Welcome to the forum! Cheers, Jim

Hi, i would connect my CD via analogue interconnects (i.e. I’m happy with it doing it’s own D to A conversion with it’s own internal DAC)

The S300 looks very good … I wonder if the M700s might be overkill for my sensitive speakers?

So what pre-amp would match the S300?

S300 is an integrated, has its own Pre. If you went with the M700’s you’d need at least a volume control or Pre as well, most folks run them with a Stellar Gain Cell DAC/Pre. Not sure you could get the M700’s and the SGCD for your money but I don’t know the market over there.
Edit to note, the M700’s would be fine with high sensitivity speakers, I ran mine at first with Klipsch which were at least 96db

Personally I’d recommend one of the power plants–the whole system would benefit. I have the P15 and love it. I have the DMP and DSD and love them. I love the non-PS Audio pre- and amplification I have and have not stepped onto that PS Audio ladder nor plan to–I’m committed to all tube for these type of components and mine have a lifetime warranty.


The S300 is NOT an integrated, it’s a two channel amp.

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Of course you’re correct, I meant the Strata, @hiace_drifter please note this with my apology.


Here in the UK the S300 had good reviews and should be vastly more power than you need for 96dB speakers. What are they, Audio Note?

I’d call Dave at MCRU. One of the good guys. He’s always amenable to a deal and it’s already on a 15% discount.

You would then need a pre-amp. There is a culture difference between the USA and the UK/EU, in that towards the budget level we’ve always preferred integrated amps, so there are precious few budget pre-amps to choose from, but millions of integrated.

This John Westlake analogue design is probably excellent.

Your budget would then allow some mains treatment, there are several units around the £500 mark (ifi Power Station, IsoTek Evo3 Sirius or Isol-8 Powerline). Dave sells all these products and will give you good advice. He’ll also do you a deal on a power cable for the S300 and you may have cash left over for a bag of crisps.

Don’t think about power plants - the cheapest one would blow your entire budget.

Here is a, technically, non-responsive suggestion for you.

I would save your pennies for just a bit longer and pick up a used DirectStream DAC (“the Sr.” model, a/k/a the DSD) for as close to your budget as you can.

The DSD has a built in volume control and can feed your amps, AVR or whatever, directly without a pre-amp.

I was a bit of a skeptic/luddite when it came to realizing how much of an impact a stand-alone DAC could have on digital sources. Adding the DSD to my system was one of the most impactful upgrades I have ever made.

Given your current mix of components (in terms of what you have revealed so far) I really believe that the DSD would offer the biggest performance bang for the buck for you.

With new DAC’s pending in the PSA line, you should be able to get a DSD pretty close to your budget with some patience and active bird-dogging of reputable used gear sites (like this forum, for example).

Good luck with your quest, in any event.


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Great helpful post.

Strong agree on Dave being one of the good guys.
I know him.

The DSD Snr DAC has been discounted in the UK for well over a year, probably due to stiff competition, like the Chord Hugo TT2, which is the same price (£3,900), and other cheaper alternatives. It was £6,000 when I considered it. So I doubt it will come down further and anyway it is 50% more than @hiace_drifter’s total budget for an amplifier. The DSD Snr is probably cheaper in the UK than the USA.

In the UK market the DSD DAC has a major drawback not being a headphone DAC, which is a strong market, and all the competition have headphone amps and often two headphone sockets.

What is 50% higher than the OP’s budget? The Chord?

DSDs are available in the UK right now within spitting distance of the stated target budget:

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@hiace_drifter needs to buy an amplifier, not a DAC. He said wants to use the analogue output of his CD player. I was only making the point that PS Audio gear is already discounted here. Even the UK distributor is selling unused items on eBay.

I would be curious to know what CD player and speakers @hiace_drifter is using.

The Oxford Audio DSD unit is a customer part-exchange and is only 22% cheaper than a brand new one. It’s not relevant as he doesn’t need a DAC. They would probably sell it for less.

Happy to receive suggestions of alternative approaches :slight_smile:

If I had a DirectStream DAC I’d sell my CD player (Rega Saturn R) and get a standalone CD transport… any recommendations?

One issue though … my AVR sends front channels into my current preamp and into my main L&R hi fi speakers (Russ Andrews Quave LS1). I don’t think the DirectStream DAC would accommodate that?

Perhaps one of these would be better (for now):

Strong STRONG recommendation for an alternative to your Saturn R.
Audiolab 6000CDT.

Have mine hooked up to my DS Dac with a not overly expensive Wireworld Starlight 8 digi coax.

Best CD spinner in my system by a country mile.
Betters my heavily modded Oppo 203 hooked up via i2s to the Directstream for CD playback.�m-about-to-do-Major-Oppo-mods

That was significant for me?
Investing in the Oppo mods (not inexpensive) was to get my “last” disc spinner.

As it turns out, whilst the Oppo is probably close to “reference level” now for video playback, playing CDs isn’t as good as the Audiolab.

Don’t care, too many CDs to enjoy again.

When I discovered streaming I sold hundreds of CDs thinking I had a digital copy and wouldnt need the discs.

Like selling my vinyl collection off “back in the day” for the new CD format, I’m buying back the Albums I really like on the CD format.

The Audiolab CD Transport played through the Directstream is really…genuinely…THAT good.

It’s a future classic in my opinion, will be investing in one of Chris Sommovigo’s top Black Cat digital cables again, I’ve literally not heard what the Audiolab is capable of yet.

Seriously, one enthusiast to another.
Buy the Audiolab with confidence.

Even I, who gave up on CD’s years ago, knows that the Rega Saturn-R is an absolute classic that is easily worth it’s money for the DAC alone, indeed it was intended for use as a standalone DAC as well as a CD player and has several digital inputs.

Like @gazjam, I’m a fan of Audiolab, I replaced a PS Audio PWD DAC Mk2 with an Audiolab MDAC+. The 6000CDT is another classic, but if you had £3,000+ spare for a DSD DAC you could use the Saturn-R as a transport. It would, however, be a waste of a superb DAC.

Why not just go the whole way: 8300A / MDAC+ / 6000CDT

Why not?
a combo that’ll work great.

Suggest hearing it first of course, see if the flavour suits your tastes.
Not heard the other Audiolab kit, sure its great, but the CD Transport is off the scale good.

Have a good Dac to hear it through, and it doesn’t embarrass itself.
As I said, looking to invest in a better digital cable, still not heard what its capable of.

Even this morning listening to Stone Roses’ first album.
Enjoyed it a zillion times, but recently re-bought it on CD not heard it in a while.

Stuff I’m hearing for the first time…mastering engineer panning L to R, and how it impacts the flow of the song.
All that good stuff.

I considered the Audiolab when I needed to replace my Planet last year, but I ultimately chose the NuPrime CDT-8 Pro for its sample rate conversion and ability to output to the SGCD’s I2S input. It’s a couple hundred more than the Audiolab, but I got a deal on a demo unit. I think it’s being replaced by another model, but dealers (including Audio Advisor) may still have some stock.