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.