Modding the DirectStream DAC

Just send me a PM With your address. You can paypal me postage after shipped Personally i’d get a LPS supply with a serious transformer versus just a s booster. Something with regulators like Ted talks about in his MKII. The HDPMEX 300 uses same regulators Hint. Just big Caps. But believe me it is effortless. I am driving off the high amp rails. Get something with lots of iron. 6 amp plus. Even if a ebay supply get the balls to drive the signal.

It is just night and day.

I just like to say a big thank you to cjbreeze for your offer to help me get the tranformers. I went with dts (Kenneth)who already had the transformers to hand. Thanks once again dts for all your help. A great bloke. Sent from Canada on Friday and arrived today in the UK. Great service from DHL. Now to get the mod.done. Already booked in for this Thursday. Happy days
Steve

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great news. i had been checking to see cheapest shipping from st. louis to UK. good to know you got it done! anxious to get new transformers installed on my unit.

Hello. First of all I would like to thank Paul, Ted, and Wayne. Thanks to Paul and Ted for giving us all this great information and great upgrades throughout the years; with a special thanks to Ted for his hint on my wiring project – message number 1515. Also thanks to Wayne (WCTaudio) for performing the transformer upgrade project so professionally.
I received the transformers about seven days after I ordered them. It took about two weeks for Wayne to have some time to work on them which was okay for me because I had a IC (interconnect) wiring project that I had already started. After installing my new wires and testing them out I packaged up the Directstream and send it off for my upgrade. Shipping went well and WCTaudio was able to do the job extremely fast with a turnover of about one day. The following day it was headed back to me.
When the Directstream (DS) arrived I set it up with some spare equipment so that it was between a transport and a small mixing counsel that I have which has RCA inputs. I’m not sure if it needed a downstream target machine for the outputs during the burn-in, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. I played music through the system constantly for five days and then transferred the DS to my primary system. I played music through that for one day prior to giving it my first listen; so I hope I don’t disappoint anybody when I don’t produce a rolling dialogue of constant improvement to the sound. I really only cared about the end result.
And what a nice improvement it is.
The first thing I noticed was the same things a lot of people noticed. All of the musical instruments became much clearer focused. There was no skewed images anymore, instruments were more distinct and separate from each other. This also goes along with voices. Voices again were also very distinctly located, and clear as a bell.
Interesting thing though. Although the solo voices were a little bit more distinct than before, I noticed when a chorus of voices was singing together it never became three or four or five totally distinct voices. I could pick out the individual voices but the multiple voices still blended very nicely into a chorus so I don’t lose anything from the overall blend of voices. I could make out the individual parts better, but it still remains groups of musicians and singers playing and working together as one.
The added textures to the timber of the instruments was a nice improvement to my sound. You could hear when the bassists and other stringed instruments really dug into their instruments while at the same time there was an overall authenticity to the sound of the instruments that I have not experienced before. Apart from strings this was really evident listening to brass players. The overall sound of individual brass instruments had a much nicer, less harsh, and more realistic round tone to them. They sounded more bell-like, than car-horn like. You would think that this softening of harshness would also include a certain loss of detail and yet, I could quite easily pick out some of the special tonguing that the trumpet players were doing which was not very evident prior to the transformer upgrade.
The reduction in harshness also helped take away the final bit of harshness in massed vocals. The vocal Harshness – usually like a scratchy, raspy, underlying quality during crescendos – caused me to try many upgrades and tweeks over the course of the last few years. While I had very good success with all of the improvements I’ve made up till now, the transformer upgrade removed the last little bit of harshness that I had.
One other thing I have noticed is that prior to my wire and transformer upgrades I usually liked to play music that topped out pretty close to 85 dB. I listen through Magnepans which a lot of people like to play at a slightly louder volume in order to get the full impact and feel of the music. When I tested out my wire upgrade (prior to the transformer upgrade), I found that I was playing at a much louder volume when I really got into the music. Just before the transformer upgrade my dB meter was frequently heading north of 90 dB. A lot of people have mentioned the impact and/or PRAT improvement with the transformer upgrade. I have to agree wholeheartedly with those that do. I found that with the increased presence and impact of the music I all of a sudden was able to turn back down to my old listening level and still have the increased excitement and impact of the louder listening level. Basically I got the same amount of musical impact and feeling out of 75-85 dB that I was experiencing at 85/92 dB.
I first noticed this when I played Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge over Troubled Water” album. The second song, “El Condor Pasa” starts off with a plucked string instrument (played on a charango, which is an Andean string instrument made from the shell of an armadillo). On my system the volume of the song is very low at this point, yet I was able to experience the initial impact of each pluck of a string - even at the lower volume. Before, in order to get that feeling of impact I definitely had to turn my system up higher.
Turned out shipping to and from WACaudio was the most expensive part of the upgrade. Wayne at WACaudio did a great job for me and I highly recommend his work.

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Right on the money. Better dynamics, tonal textures, air, timing, musicality.
I also noticed the richness at lower volumes than before the upgrade.
Very well stated toolbox149.

Hi Vmax is there a chance to post some pictures showing where you placed the EMI/RF Absorber. Thank you

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Hi Terry,

I did not take time to take pictures but did do the suggestions in these posts from Ted. I used this 3M Sheet that seems to cover the emissions range

I did cover partially the bottom of digital board for the components Ted suggested. I set up a wall of aborber sheet that would block radiation Emissions from display board but not cause heat build up. You can stick to th front wall and bottom to sides of the unused supply heatsinks The new Edcor transformers i cut pieces to fully envelope them to all the way to circuit board after wrapping the lower taps with electrical tape Any vias or through solder joints I painted over with liquid electrical tape to avoid shorts not knowing if they might short to the sheets shield layer. It measure infinite resistance on its adhesive side but decided not to risk adhesive cold flow over time.

Also the components under the digital cable i cut a long narrow strip and just did a roof. The sheet is thin did not seems to be much of a thermal insulator. There were too many resistors or caps close by I did not wish to risk short or take away airflow. The noisy chips up top On digital board and their regulators also got a little rectangle or square of shielding . It was not extremely pretty but is very effective

Here are Teds posts I gleaned as important areas to address





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Wow Vmax, Thank you.
You did all of this, I am really happy for you.
Are planning to replace the IEC receptacle?
I like to do all of this but so afraid to the DSD since it is so enjoyable.
Vmax, than you again and enjoy the fruits of your work.
Best, Terry

I have not considered replacing the IEC connector. I have no idea how much it is holding back the DS performance. Adding the EMI/RF absorption and shield with the external LPS and Ghent cable seems more profound than all previous mods combined.

In my system i have yet to find a poor recording after the last round of mods.

Darren Meyers stated on the HiFi podcast the album he used to assess the goodness of a system. He said musically it is phenomenal but a poorly done recording. He also said if you’re system is set up right and tweaks are synergistic it can be quite good. So of course I tried it.

If the first riff on Lucille doesn’t make the hairs on your neck stand up and put you in the prison population……It’s time to assess if your system is robbing you of real musical freedom. By the end of the album you feel like you experienced a time machine ride.

This qobuz stream on the modded DS this album its next level. All the ambiance of the performance comes through as does BB Kings guitar and voice are just amazing and real in tone and timbre. Nothing one can complain about. Is there always more to be had in tweaks? I am nearing the point of why try more. But indeed it is addictive when something small has elicited huge changes to the combined sum. Can one squeeze more out of the DS before Mk II. Maybe with cables or an IEC? But Ted sure has blessed us with wisdom here.

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For the attention of UK members: I’m happy to report that I have had the transformer mod successfully carried out by Stephen Horowitz - a Hi-fi, Audio Repairs and Restoration Specialist, operating in N. London (Hendon). This was the first time he has done the mod but he said he didn’t find it particularly difficult, and the quality of the soldering looks excellent to my eyes. On the debit side, there was a considerable delay in completing the work, for which he apologised, but I did say I was in no particular hurry as I had an alternative dac to use in the interim. And of course I am now burning it in for a week or so using a spare PC. Anybody interested in approaching him can contact him at stephen.horowitz at gmail dot com.

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Thanks for the info. Managed to obtain the transformers from a fellow member in Canada. Took only 3 days to arrive! Arranging mod this Tuesday from a local company, Emporium Hifi in Norfolk. Glad to hear the mod is straightforward.

Has anyone measured the DS with an AP after this transformer mod? It would be nice to see what it actually does. The original transformer spec. at 20 - 20k. The new one is 10 - 50k. This new transformer needs to get everything way down by around 80k or you will introduce too much Ultrasonic???

I picked up a used DS last week and ordered the transformers. When complete I will have my son run it through the AP. First impressions of the sound is very good. Better then my Denafrips.

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Welcome, @jkrichards!

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Indeed the XS4400 does less filtering, but the analog output filter is 3 stages and the transformer is one of them. Changing the transformer doesn’t change the cutoffs of the other stages. There’s a little less ultrasonic noise filtering, but for most systems (especially systems with a preamp) there’s no problem.

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Thanks Ted! You help make this hobby fun.

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Wow!!!
Let us know the comparison between your Denafrips and the PS DSD

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The DS has a larger sound stage with better instrument separation. Bass was just about the same with Windom but the DS was way smoother to me. Sunlight has just a tad less bass however it is more textured, deeper and tighter. Sunlight has a deeper sound stage. Still burning in Sunlight. Almost 100 hrs. It had Torreys on it when I got it. I always wanted to hear the DS so I bought this one as I couldn’t pass on the price. Boy am I glad I did. It’s worth every penny of even the retail price tag.

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After listening again last night what I am hearing is a layering of 3D instruments and vocals. With the Denafrips I hear layering front to back however the instruments and vocal are in a flat plain with little depth of each layer. Also the DS has a much taller stage. Everything is a more real to life size with the DS. I have the two DAC’s setup with jriver using 2 linked zones, one for each dac. I level matched them by adding a -3db pad for the Denafrips in jrivers settings. I can A/B the two on the fly by selecting AUX1 or AUX2 on my Audio Research preamp via the remote in my listening position. Both DAC’s are using the same brand USB cable and XLR cables.

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Just had the transformers replaced. Took local company an hour to do and charged £40. Now the burn-in process. Very pleased how smoothly the process went from obtaining the transformers to implentation.

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A question for those using a Farad psu to power the DS analogue board: you have to turn on the Farad, light to blue, then turn on the DS. What if there is a brief power outage at night? Power comes back and…?