It's All True: My Directstream Listening Experience

Although there have been many posts describing user's reactions to the Directstream DAC, I thought I would share my experience for those contemplating a purchase.

I had some feelings of trepidation leading up to my first serious audition of the Directstream. I had read the technical description and familiarized myself with the design of the DAC and my hope in purchasing the unit was that it would render the many CDs I had purchased over the years more listenable than what I had experienced with every CD player I had ever heard. I was ready to toss the entire collection because they just didn't hold a candle to the sound of my vinyl records and, when I finally got to hear the few SACDs I owned played on a proper device, I decided DSD was the future. Paul's comment that the Directstream unlocked what was hidden in CDs was encouraging but I would need to hear it for myself.

I connected the Directstream to my transport (a Sony DVP-NS999ES) via the coaxial S/PDIF port and allowed the unit to warm up for a couple hours while I listened to some new SACD titles a had recently acquired. I then selected my MoFi Collection 1 Gold sampler CD as the first test to give the DAC every advantage and, with I and my brother listening, nervously pressed "play".

What followed was a moment of confusion as what we heard was no different than what we had just been listening to — in fact it was a tiny bit better! The tracks on the Collection 1 sampler are taken from several classic LPs — most of which were in my bother's collection — and he was astonished at the clarity and detail in the tracks he was familiar with and remarked that they had never sounded that good. I had to double-check to make sure this was just a CD and not one of the SACDs.

We spent the next three hours excitedly pulling CDs from his collection and playing excerpts from each with our jaws on the floor. I never dreamed a CD could sound like this. The typically harsh and irritating high frequencies common on CDs was replaced with that sweet, detailed clarity that one usually experiences only on 45 RPM audiophile LPs or special edition SACDs. The music went from seeming flat to expanding into a depth that drew you into the performance.

We even decided to toss some of the worst examples into the mix that had been intolerable on his Marantz CD player. Amazingly, while these did exhibit overdriven elements of the mix, each element remained clearly discernible and the overall sound was more than tolerable.

My biggest surprise came when we tried some of the collection CDs such as the Have a Nice Day Super Sound of the 70s collection. Each cut sounded like it came straight off the master tape! Some of the other collections we tried had tracks that did sound like they were mastered on type A cassette but that was to be expected. Most were just incredible.

My hat is off to Ted Smith and the team that made this product a reality. After recently attending a high-end audio show in Oakland, California, I can say no other DAC in attendance could hold a candle to the Directstream; A truly magical product and one anybody would be proud to own.


Wow! Thank you so much for the feedback and sharing your experience. Looks like you have a fun weekend coming up! :smile:

Hey thanks James!

My favorite post (can't remember where I saw it) had a new DSD owner who set up a 10 hour playlist to burn in the DAC and went off to work. When he arrived home he found his wife sitting on the couch where she'd apparently been all day and gave him a glowing report on the sound of the gear!

Thanks again for all you do!


Wow. What an awesome review. Thank you for all of us on the team!

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Hey thanks Paul!

I hope someday I can make it out Boulder and meet you guys in person.

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Congrats! It is really a special unit isn’t it?

Would you mind sharing what DAC you were using prior to the DirectStream?
also, what other components are in your system.
Glad you are getting a second life out of your CDs.

It’s wonderful to read about your experience. Mine was similar. Ted Smith is indeed a wizard and with the rest of the PS Audio team backing him up, the results are just startling.

I had switched to FLAC files for my source material even before the DirectStream was available. My usual procedure when I purchase CDs is to immediately rip them to FLAC files (I don’t have a CD player apart from the CD drive in the PC) and the DirectStream even made a startling difference to rendering those files as well. Ted’s firmware upgrades are usually just as startling with their improvements. Improvements you wouldn’t think possible!

Your experience echos most others’. The Directstream closes the gap tremendously between CD and high resolution variants. There’s no hyperbole at all with this statement as you’ve experienced.

I actually didn't have a DAC because nothing I had heard to date could match the clarity of a good vinyl LP. My Sony DVP-NS999ES made CDs sound a bit better than the other players I had owned but I only played CDs when there was no vinyl or SACD copy of the album available and even then only when listening casually.

As for my setup, I'm still working on it. My plan is to go directly from the DSD to my Fantasia-modded Hafler 220 amp driving either my rare Sonab OA 2212 speakers or my more recent Dahlquist DQ-10s.

I built my brother's system first which is what we used for the audition in my original post. That project began when he decided to pull his vintage system out of mothballs and start listening again. It consisted of original JBL L100 speakers, a Thorens TD125 turntable with a Shure V15 cartridge and a Heathkit AR 1500 receiver.

The first step was to refurbish the speakers and trash the receiver which, to my ears, was never any good. Next, we replaced the receiver with a new Marantz (I believe it was the PM6005) with built-in phono stage. We then refurbished the Thorens and replaced the ailing cartridge with a Grado Reference Sonata.

We quickly discovered that the phono stage in the Marantz suffered from a design flaw and, essentially, didn't work — a problem common to all (PM6005) receivers. We then added a Musical Fidelity phono stage which resulted in a significant improvement and transformed the JBLs from speakers I always hated to ones that actually are quite resolving and engaging once you feed them a good signal.

This has been my reference system of late and the one used to audition the Directstream.

I do plan to add a MAC Mini server to my setup and rip some of my CD collection to experiment with. Nothing beats being able to select your music from your listening chair without the need to get up and change discs!

I plan to rip the discs in their native Redbook format and use Bit Perfect on the MAC so there should be no difference in quality, although some swear that the direct feed from the transport does sound better. We'll see.

Not necessary, my Melco N1ZS10 beats my Perfect Wave Transport…:wink:

It occurs to me there may have been some confusion regarding my last statement. I meant to say that some prefer the sound of the Direcstream when fed by the coaxial input direct from the transport to that of the Direcstream fed by a server through USB or ethernet even though the digital format is identical (i.e. 44.1/16 Redbook).

The Directstream Memory Player was engineered to work with the Direcstream DAC so I wouldn't be surprised if the Perfectwave Transport proved to be a tiny bit inferior when compared to a native source though the coaxial output should be identical to that of any other transport (perhaps it's the cable 😜). I'll have a better reference when I get to experiment further.

If you’re talking about the best sound possible from the DS, the DMP playing SACD through I2S is it for now. It is almost as good as my turntable system, but not quite. Next is a streamer playing dsd or 24bit 192k through the N10 Aurender with usb, since usb can transfer native dsd through usb. Then you can use other cd transports or files from a Mac Mini, it does’t matter. The sound quality takes a back seat with these lesser sources.
I forgot to mention, the balance from the dac is better than the rca. You have to match levels though. The balance is 6 dbs louder. The balance is much clearer sounding than the single ended output from the dac.

I would rate SACD a bit higher than vinyl just because of the consistent quality of the content. I will keep my vinyl setup (Yamaha PX2/Grado Sonata) because just about anything you want is available on the format. SACD will probably always be limited in content. Vinyl quality ranges from outstanding to horrible but, on average, the experience is quite good.

I have no doubt SACD playback through the DSD is an experience to behold but I will have to wait for the new Memory Player to be released before I can join that club...

In general, it's best to go with balanced if you can. Signal quality is usually cleaner and you can get away with longer cable runs.

In the meantime, I will give DSD from the server a try. Any recommendations as to artist/track?

Thanks for your input!

Do you like jazz? Try We Get Requests by The Oscar Peterson Trio, track 8. Or Shelly Manne 234, track 1 and 2 for starters.

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Love me some jazz! I will definitely give those tracks a listen.

Do you have a preferred vendor for the files?

Once you try I2S you’ll never go back!

I get a lot of my files from Acoustic Sounds, mostly dsd files if available, but the 24bit 192k files sounds good also.

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Chad Kassem's Acoustic Sounds is an old favorite of mine for vinyl. His QRP division as rapidly becoming the premier pressing facility for quality vinyl product.

Now that I have the equipment, I will look into their download offerings as well.