Major Shoutout to the DS Sr. in the June 2019 Stereophile

In the June 2019 Stereophile (Vol. 42, No. 6), Herb Reichert writes at page 44:

“At $5999, the PerfectWave DirectStream isn’t cheap, but what I’ve heard suggests that it can compete, on its own sonic terms, with any converter at any price.”


What is remarkable is a 5+ year old DAC (OK, the hardware part is that old) still gets review press column inches after all that time. I don’t know of any other product in the HiFi caper that has ever done that before.


True it really does punch above its weight price wise and I think a large part of that is because the work Ted has been continuing to do with the firmware upgrades.

For the next DAC I would be willing to pay the extra for more solid build quality - may be machined aluminium even if it doubles the current expected price.

Obviously I understand that most people may not care about that, perhaps they could make a special edition in small numbers for people who would be willing to pay extra.

I can’t be the only one who would - people buy DCS Vivaldi systems which cost double that again (indeed I was going to last year).

That has already been discussed widely here. PS Audio has said the fancy aluminium is not going to happen.

Yes I know. Was just hoping it might change.

I’ve suggested before that they have a pimp works to customize as per customer request. It got zero support.


At the same time, the fact that code changes have delivered such improvements in audio quality is a resounding endorsement for the brilliance of the system design as a whole. The audio we get today is only possible because of the unique hardware architecture that was delivered as a product that many years ago, all based on a few key insights.

  • Converting DSD (1/0) to PDM (+/-) to analog audio using nothing but high speed switches and a low-pass filter
  • Driving everything from a single clock optimised for low phase noise instead of long term stability
  • Oversampling the input fast enough to completely decouple the DAC from any sample-to-sample input jitter, while gently pulling the master clock to match the average input rate
  • Upsampling all incoming PCM & DSD to a frequency that’s an integer multiple of every sample rate then modulating back to DSD for output

The most audible changes we’ve received via software updates came in the details of the upsampling and modulation, with a side helping of refinement in the utilisation of the FPGA resources so as to reduce internal jitter and electrical noise generation. Those are areas that competitors have been improving on also, except most of them require upgrading hardware to deliver the same kinds of benefits.

The DS DAC architecture is a marvel. Not much else is anything like it. I don’t know if you could use the same approach in any context where size, power consumption and heat were more constrained than they are in a listening room, but for this use case I suspect it’s unbeatable using any current technology.


I am happy with the casing as-is but l wonder if an upgrade of the electronics might be coming at some point. DS Sr is on the market for 5 years, and by now there must be a new generation of more powerful Xilinx FPGAs, bigger memory chips, improved clock, etc. Maybe in 2020 after TSS. In the meantime the software upgrades are nice.

Ted’s answered this kind of question more than a few times. Most of what could be done to improve the DS Sr is what gets you a TSS.

Bigger memory chips are irrelevant – the DS doesn’t use any. Improved clocks would be great if they exist but nothing I’ve read indicates that anything better is available at the same or lower price. Ditto with the digital switches and the output transformers unless I’ve missed something or Ted hasn’t shared it. The processing power of the FPGA isn’t currently a limitation, though a newer generation of chip that could do the same work with less power consumption and electrical noise would probably be beneficial.

Perhaps the best opportunity to improve the DS hardware would be in the PIC and the display, a la the discussion over Snowmass 3.0.6. That would be interesting, I think!


I thought more importantly is the comparison of the BHK Pre to Pass Labs XP-22:

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I believe there are plans for a new DS dac release in the future. I think Paul or Ted mentioned it some time back.

So just put your DS Sr. in a custom cabinet.

Fancy aluminum brings up the Dire Straits song ‘Money for Nothing’ as far as I am concerned.


Thanks, Brodric. That’s very kind and much deserved of ted’s great work.


Out of the many audio products I’ve owned over several decades, the DS is in my top 3 best buys.
Fantastic value for the money!


Only half true. It’s “Money for Nothing and your Chicks for Free”…if the fancy aluminium brings you free chicks, well, I’m all for that!

Point of order. Straits.


I agree 100%: amazing out of the box, and amazing that we regularly get free firmware upgrades that keep improving the SQ and adding features (Roon ready, MQA, etc).


I wholeheartedly agree with you. What other product improves year on year and it doesn’t cost a cent. When I bought the DS it was the best DAC I’d heard and that was with 1.2.1. Now running with Snowmass and the DS is simply irresistible… We are all privileged.


Thanks, Dirk! You’re very kind.


So just put your DS Sr. in a custom cabinet.

Yes that is just the kind of answer I would expect from a superfan. It reminds me of the long running thread where people talk about reliability issues with their items and are told that they should be fixing them themselves.

Now it seems people aren’t even allowed to make polite requests for features they would like on forthcoming items.

(Just to add an FYI I was talking about the Obsidian DAC that is still in development - not that it matters to someone who has this kind of mentality though.)