Inserting a Denafrips Hermes between a Jays Transport and a Directstream DAC-1 using I2S

I recently read a stream about a Hermes DDC in front of a Directstream. I have looked into DDC units before but I was told that since I’m strictly Redbook I wouldn’t get any benefit. So that’s what I have believed for a long time.

Lately though, I have seen a few reviews where the reviewer has used a DDC between a transport and a DAC and really liked the result. The latest one I saw featured my transport, (a Jays CDT2 MK3) coupled with a Hermes DDC into a Terminator via I2S. The reviewer was reviewing the Jays CDT2 MK3, so I figure he probably felt it necessary to make sure not to badmouth the review unit and instead, make sure to write something good about the Jays. This is because he removed the Hermes from in between the Jays and the Terminator, and noticed something was missing.

Here are his exact words:
“The system as configured demonstrated an impressive ability to resolve such complex material and confirming that the CDT2-MK3 serves up solid timing. I then played the same tracks with the transport connected directly to the Denafrips DAC, without the Gaia DDC/re-clocker in circuit. Sound staging and low-end performance fell back as might be expected, jitter being particularly damaging to these two aspects of performance, but on its own the Jay’s still proved no slouch – evidence that the transport’s own internal oven-controlled clock does a very good job of minimizing jitter”.

I’m thinking of trying a used Hermes in my system to see if there actually is a tiny little improvement in sound quality. I could try a Gaia but the Hermes would fit my shelving better. I don’t need much in the way of an improvement, just a little bit more realism when listening to singing voices. I figure if I get a nice Hermes on the used market and the experiment is a failure, I can pretty much turn around and sell the Hermes for close to what I paid.

I noticed that Gaia DDC units are not compatible with P S Audio I2S, unless they are built after October 2019, (I think that’s right). I thought I read somewhere that Hermes units were all programmable to P S Audio I2S. Does anybody know if that’s true? If not, do you know how to tell a Hermes unit that is compatible with P S Audio I2S?


I think you have to consider that many DAC’s don’t have galvanically isolated inputs. The DDC may be cleaning up the signal.

If your DAC has galvanic inputs, you may not see any improvement.

Perhaps you can get some sort of loaner or a trial.

Thanks for the advice. I’m working off the idea that the reviewer (I believe it was Richard Willie of Stereo Times), liked what he heard when going from a Jays CDT2 MK3 transport (same as I have),into a Hermes; and Jeff Richards wrote that he really likes what he hears when he goes from a Hermes DDC in to his modified Directstream DAC (also, same as I have), via I2S.
If I get a used Hermes and the experiment doesn’t work, I can resell it for almost the same as I paid).
I still would like to know if all Hermes models are programmable to output I2S in to a Directstream.

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Sorry but gimme a break. I like many others bought a MK1 in part because it was galvanically isolated, upsampled to DSD and was impervious to whatever you fed it.

Well 7 years, much (mostly joyful and enthusiastic) tinkering, an audiophile education and more thousands of pounds than I care to think about later it turns out that EVERYTHING and I mean EVERYTHING upstream of the Directstream matters. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a superb DAC and I’ve enjoyed every last second with it. But galvanic isolation my ass.

Also the Op specifically asked about the Hermes in front of a MK1. So a generalized comment about galvanic isolation does nothing to actually answer his question.


The Directstream is reportedly best performing when fed a good I2S signal and you’ll find many threads on here about it.

My usage is mostly USB and I get great results feeding it highly optimized USB via a Zenith SE and Innuos Phoenix USB reclocker. But I’ve tinkered with I2S with mixed results.

The Singxer SU-1 was a great addition and really focused the sound.

I had the Denafrips Gaia for a while but just couldn’t get I2S working well. I’m therefore struck by your comments

That might explain it as my Directstream is older than that.

FWIW I thought the Gaia was a great DDC. The sound quality via Coax or Optical was great. But frustratingly the I2S just wouldn’t work well. My educated guess is that if you overcome this issue (post October 2019 Directstream) then I think the Hermes or the Gaia would indeed improve your sound quality. But there’s only one way to find out.

The bad news is that I2S is really susceptible to cable length and quality. So you’d probably need an expensive $300-500 audiophile short HDMI cable to get the most out of the Hermes or Gaia. It might be worth factoring that into your thinking.

I sold my Gaia in the end due to the frustrations getting it working. But it’s a very nice unit.

The other obvious option is the Matrix which has a monster thread on here as many users have had great experiences with it. It’s cheaper than the Hermes but then you need an audiophile PSU to make it shine so you’ll end up spending around the same.

If you can’t get a straight answer on compatibility and if you can’t get a loaner like @vkennedy61 suggested then the other option is try to buy a Hermes or Gaia preloved so in the worst case scenario you can sell it a month later for approximately what you paid for it.


I was unaware that the MK1 was galvanically isolated. That’s interesting.

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Thank you for the responses. Your inputs have been a big help.
Little by little I’m finding out more about the Gaia and the Hermes. It seems to me that the Hermes was created after the Gaia and the programmable I2S output was incorporated in the Hermes from the start. I’m still thinking the Gaia was updated to have a programmable I2S output sometime in 2019. (Once again, I only think that that is the correct date. I can’t find the article that mentioned the upgrade).
I’m pretty sure I’m just going to focus on the Hermes, so I feel confident enough to go out and purchase a used Hermes, when a good used one hits the market.
My upstream audio chain will then be a Jays CDT2 MK3 into the Hermes via an AES/EBU cable; and then from the Hermes to my Jrichards modified, Directstream-1 DAC via an Inakustic I2S cable. I read the manual for the Hermes and I think I have a general understanding of how to program the Hermes I2S pin output to match up with my Directstream.
Anybody that wishes to add or correct anything stated in this thread, please do. I’ll keep you posted when I run this little experiment.

Why don’t you reach out to Alvin at Vinshine and see if he can tell when the change was made and maybe where the serial numbers start for the change.

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I think @bigalmc could be wrong about the Mk 1 being galvanically isolated. I go into mine optically (I don’t need high data rates).


I have been using a Denafrips Hermes for the last year and a half between my Aurender NH 100 and DS dac Mk 1. USB cable is Purist Audio 30th anniversary and HDMI to I2S2 is Audioquest Firebird. I had some initial problems (user malfunction) in programming the damn thing but the folks at Vinshine were patient and walked me through the process. The Denafrips has worked perfectly since and transformed the Mk 1. Every audiophile aspect you can think of was improved. In fact, the effect is so synergistic it is like the Mk 1 was used in its development or something. I received my DS dac Thursday night, hooked it up to USB with my purist cable…and was unmoved. Disappointed. I listened about 15 minutes and said screw it. I went back to the Hermes, and here it is the I look at the clock and realize I haven’t slept, look like hell and have a big grin on my face. The new dac is wicked good, and so is the Hermes, better than even I thought. Now I am probably going to have to buy another Hermes since I am keeping the Mk 1 for my he main surround sound video system! But big thumbs up to Denafrips! I am not saying yet that the I2S on the new dac is better than the usb since I didn’t give usb a fair chance. I suspect the Denafrips is the difference, but cannot prove it because there is no usb output on theDenafrips to compare. Hope this helps.

The MK1 is not galvanically isolated. That feature came into play with the introduction of the MK2.

Optical input is/has always been galvanically isolated from day one.


If I were you, rather than put a Hermes (or others) box between JaysCD and PS DAC, I’d consider purchasing a used PST transport. I used it for years, via I2S HDMI and it sounds glorious. CDs and SACDs. DS DAC and PST perfectly work together. Be careful, organize a home audition before, if you like it you can sell the actual transport, otherwise you can send it back. Our friend Vince would say… less is more.


Luca, just want to say hi! Ever since you got on the MSB boat we chat a lot less.:confused:

Oh, for DS 1 I2S link is mandatory! It sounds way better than others. I would suggest AQ Coffee HDMI and it is close to 90% performance of a AQDragon. A used one is $100 plus I remembered. Darn, I have one on my TV now.

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Don’t worry my friend, if our audiophile routes shouldn’t permit us to have common gear debates we’d always talk about wine! Even if we aren’t yet so far!
For instance…
I just ordered two more Puritan cables to test with different components in my system (so compliant with IEC, C15 plug not C19 like the previous ones). Modded with Furutech IEC plugs vs the orginal. This time not the Ultimate but the Classic Plus.

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Interesting! Sounds like you like their power cords a lot.

Really? I don’t think to be the lonely one around here… at this time I just want to experiment more anyhow. Due to the imminent amp arrival, I need to reroute the subs power cords, I’ll start from them. So replacing a pair of AQ Tornado, too much stiff and long actually.

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Haha, I seemed to test way more cables lately myself. Unfornately the ones I like are all in the top-of-line level. I am waiting for another silver power cord (or two) to test. I am doing for a fourm member frankly, and I hope Dragon will beat it soundly. Otherwise I am in trouble!

Enjoy your weekend! in 30 minutes we are driving to Livermore for some wine tasting and lunch!

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I was going from memory and appear to be off base. Although I maintain my general point stands.

I was referring more to the PS Audio marketing hyperbole at the time of the original MK1 and the claims it was nearly impervious to the signal it was fed. I bought my DSD thinking it was endgame and I was done. Reality proved very different as it turned out there were many routes to further improving the DSD.

I’ll reiterate. I absolutely LOVE my Directstream. I think Ted Smith is a genius and one of the nicest most helpful guys in the hifi business. And I have nothing but admiration for Paul. I’m really not trying to have a pop at PSA here. I’m just saying that as is often the way there was a gap between the vision and the reality.

Not sure how much of this I can post here so see this link and selected comments circa 2015

Quote 1
By design, the transformer provides, “galvanic isolation between the DAC and the outside world,” and it also serves double-duty as, “the primary low pass filter required to present a perfect, low distortion, low noise output signal.” According to PS Audio, the upshot of all this is that, “When you listen to DirectStream you are never accosted by added bright, hard glare in the music as happens with many active designs.”

Quote 2
This approach eliminates the problem of having to synchronise multiple clocks with one another, while minimising differences in sound quality between various source devices – especially differences caused by some sources having different amounts of jitter than others. While conceding that, “cables and sources still make a difference,” PS claims that “with DirectStream that difference is reduced to nearly background noise.”

Anyway. I concede that @vkennedy61 probably meant galvanically isolated inputs and I have my wires crossed here. Apologies Vkennedy.

I’m also aware I’m now disrupting the ops thread and for that I apologize.

I’ve owned my Directstream for 6 years and loved every minute. I am about to move on in a different direction but I have nothing but admiration, respect and affection for it as a DAC. My point was simply that it is very susceptible to improvements in the signal it’s fed and as such a Hermes would probably make a decent difference. Assuming of course the Op has better luck than I did getting my Gaia and Directstream to become I2S pals, because they weren’t having it :disappointed:

Apologies @toolbox149 for taking your thread off topic. And best of luck with the Hermes if you give it a try.


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FWIW I too use a reclocker (with a femtosecond clock) in front of the DS.

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No worries, there’s so much to remember in this space. I can barely remember what I had for breakfast.

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What are you moving too?

I know someone who very recently replaced their dCS Bartók w/Headphone and is going to sell it for a very good price.

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