New DirectStream JR arrives, and out goes the Nuwave DSD. BUT....


#1

So recently I acquired a NEW Nuwave DSD Dac to use in my system last week (It’s AMAZING). I run a Line Magnetic 219ia for my amp and I have tested DAC’s from Cambridge Audio (851 & DACMAGIC), Cary Audio (200TS), NAD (M51) and finally a PS Audio Nuwave DSD. From the moment the Nuwave went in I was AMAZED at the transformation it has on my system. 3 Dimensional, Dynamic, powerful, layered. and sweet. Not harsh in ANY way, just organic and room filling creating a wall of sound. It improved over 8 hours and has stayed there without any further changes.I was so excited by this I wanted to see what the next step up would bring. If the low end PS Audio DAC sounded THIS good, imagine what a DIrectstream would do! So I called a PS Audio dealer I knew well and ordered the DirectStream Junior.

Well, the junior arrived today with an old firmware. Torrey? The sound was flat, dull, veiled, shrunken and my volume had to be jacked up to noon for normal listening levels (yes, dac was at 100 on the volume). To say I was disappointed, well, yes I was. The DSD was FAR superior in my system. The music was alive with the DSD. The Junior made it LIFELESS which shocked me. Yes, new, needs burn in…I know…but it’s a HUGE difference NIGHT and DAY.

I have owned crazy high end systems over the last 20-25 years. From $5k to $50k systems. I have never heard a DAC make such a huge improvement as I heard with the DSD and I have never heard a DAC take the sound quality down so far (JUNIOR).

A $999 dac vs a $4000 dac. You would think the $4k dac would just slaughter the $999 DAC but goes to show these things are all system dependent.

I then remembered…I HAVE THE OLD FIRMWARE! I will update it all to the latest and be wowed. So I did. I updated to Redcloud and also updated bridge. Listening to Tidal with MQA using Bridge… as well as a bluesound Node via optical (how I listened with the DSD).

So after all was updated I tried again. SLIGHT improvement in clarity and space but again, the DSD is killing the junior here. The JR has been running for 2-3 hours now, and the DSD sounded 10X better out of the box cold than the JR does with 2-3 hours on it. What I hear is a slightly veiled sound, much lower volume, lower dynamics, smaller soundstage, and an overall way too mellow sound. I also hear less separation of instruments, all sounds more muddled together with the junior. How could this be?!?!?

I have already contacted my dealer about returning the junior. Restock fee, ship fees…well, I’d rather lose a few hundred than live with a sound I just can not get into. I will let it run all weekend and see how it sounds Monday but I am doubtful it can change it’s entire character with burn in. Just doesn’t happen like that but who knows. Maybe it will surprise me.

What I have learned is that the Nuwave DSD is an amazing DAC for the money. Alive, rich, 3D, full, meaty yet detailed with precise imaging and HUGE soundstage. Never thin or harsh or in your face, just fluid music that sounds like music should.

The Junior, for me, is soft, veiled, shrunken soundstage, not as good imaging and too relaxed. No dynamics or energy at all. My vinyl sounds much nicer than the JR yet the DSD sounds MUCH better than my vinyl.

Crazy but to me, odd. Has anyone here compared these. two dacs in your system? If so, what has been your experience?

Steve


Why don't you burn in just the caps?
#2
SteveHuff1 said

…I then remembered…I HAVE THE OLD FIRMWARE! I will update it all to the latest and be wowed. So I did. I updated to Redcloud and also updated bridge…

So how did that software update go? Why I ask is it has been problematic for some people.

I would have thought a dealer would see fit to ensure that a product they delivered to a customer would have a production software on it, certainly not something as old as Torrey’s. And then to whack you with a restocking fee etc. Time to find another dealer.

Don’t give up on the DSJ yet. There are reports that the upgrade path you take has some bearing on the outcome. Just installing Redcloud over the top of Torrey’s might not yield the best result in all cases.

…and welcome to the PS Audio Community forum.


#3

When I ordered it I asked if the dealer cold update it, and they said they would before shipping. Of course, it arrived and they did not do it. I updated it and it went without a hitch. Since I am finding it soft, mellow and subdued for my system, I am now loading in HURON to see if that makes an improvement. Its loading now… ; )


#4

It’s been a while since I paid any close attention to upgrade paths and DSJ…but if I recall, sometimes you need to go backwards before going forwards. And not just between previous iterations of production versions of the software. There are also “forced” versions of some softwares that have been required in the mix as well. Much has been written about it in the forums here, it could consume many hours of reading what has been written by others on this aspect.


#5

Sound quality is wholly subjective. All I’ll say is that I agree with your sentiment about other PS Audio DACs. Before my Directstream Sr. I owned a Perfectwave DAC MKII and before that a NuWave DAC. Each had their own unique sound. For the reasons you like the the Directstream Jr less, they’re the reasons why I love the Directstream more than the previous PS Audio DACs I’ve had. I find the sound to be extremely neutral and organic.I prefer the more laid back sound of it than the more “lively” sound I’ve heard in other DACs.

I actually needed to have my Directstream’s touch screen replaced and in the mean time, before I get it back, I’m using a NAD M51. While Stereophile rates it as an A+ DAC that’s supposedly on the same level as the Directstream, I don’t think it compares well. Detail retrieval is about on par with the Directstream, but the M51 sounds flat to me and doesn’t image as well as the Directstream. The M51 also sounds as if the sound comes from the front of the speakers, whereas the Directstream sounds as if the sound is deeper almost behind the speaker if that makes sense. Anyways, my point here is that all DACs sound different and what you like versus what I like in sound differ. It’s important to buy what you feel sounds best to you as you’re the one who’s going to be listening to the DAC. I’m not going to try and convince you that you shouldn’t be liking the NuWave DSD better than the Directstream Jr. based on price. Sound is very subjective. I happen to appreciate the qualities in the Directstream more than the PerfectWave MKII and NuWave DAC that came before it. It seems you appreciate other things more and that’s perfectly fine.


#6

I have a NuWave DSD in my second system. It’s a great DAC but not nearly as good as the Direct Stream (Sr.) in my main system. The Direct Stream family requires substantial burn-in time. Many find it needs a couple hundred hours. As brodricj said, give it some time. I don’t recall offhand anyone else concluding that the NuWave beats the Direct Stream, junior or senior, after proper break-in, although it’s certainly possible that might be the case in a particular system. If you do decide to return it, I thought PS Audio dealers generally matched the PSA 30-day trial offer but don’t know for sure.

And welcome to the forum!


#7

Tried out Huron, and then back to Recloud. Been on for a few hours and it is growing on me. I put the DSD back in and while it is more dynamic I now notice the digital-ness of it that I didn’t before. Probably because the JR is so smooth. So yea, probably will take some time. Thank you.


#8

The fact that you can do these updates without any drama is a good sign. But I do suggest investing time reading within these forums as there is a wealth of information stockpiled over the past 2 years or so from the PS experts and wider end user audience.


#9
brodricj said

The fact that you can do these updates without any drama is a good sign.

You keep making digs…


#10

Just highlighting a positive for the new guy in town, particularly in this instance as the dealer seems to have been less than helpful…having the freedom to manoeuvre between the different software versions is reason to persist for somebody showing early signs on giving up on their new toy.


#11

I also just went from a NuWave DSD to the DS Jr. I took a bit of time to return the NuWave to make sure, but the DS Jr. wins by a landslide. That being said, the DS Jr. continues to improve over time. I hope this is helpful.

Mark.


#12

So it’s the next day and I spent HOURS listening last night and today. I ran the Jr all night with a source but turned off the amp of course. So this morning I listened again, with latest FW, and noticed much of the same. The Jr, in my system, is very relaxed, low energy, low dynamics, and the bass performance is not fantastic, it is quite subdued. In fact, all frequencies seem to blend to create this ultra smooth soundscape. Soundstage is not huge, but rather small. Imaging seems average without a solid separation of instruments.

I then put in the DSD after 2-3 hours.

Dynamics are back, drums really KICK where they are subdued and quite with the Jr. Vocals come out into the room with a lifelike presentation, almost eerie. Instruments are separated and I can hear a layering and separation of them that I really enjoy. While never bright or harsh, it does provide more energy and kick, and more top end. This sounds like it should be the $4000 DAC, in my system.

So I put in the Jr after 3 more hours, switch to Huron, which is very easy and problem free for me so far and I hear what is closer to the DSD with Huron but still, very soft, subdued and lack of bass and dynamics. But it offers more of what I like over Redcloud though Redcloud offers a sweetness I am not getting with the others, Huron or the DSD.

After all day listening, the JR did grow on me but the lack of dynamics and kick leave me wanting. I hear no digital nasties with the JR, at all. But it is too subdued and laid back to sound as good as my modest $2000 vinyl setup. The DSD sounds better than my vinyl, by far.

So I will keep the JR running all weekend and if its the same by Monday, it will go back and I will be happy as can be with the DSD. I think I you have a lean system with higher treble energy the JR could be magical. If you have a system that leans mid to warm, the JR may be too much of a good thing and make things sound dull.

For me, the DSD sounds like a high dollar dac and literally kills the others I have tried up to $4k. I do prefer the JR to the NAD M51 and Cambridge offerings but as of now it is the Nuwave DSD all the way. It offers the live feeling without any analytical harshness at all, and is non fatiguing for hours on end. It has great detail and imaging and a huge deep soundstage. The JR is non fatiguing but gets to sound dull with some music.

Has to be a synergy thing. But the DSD sounds like I added new speakers in comparison to the Junior. Both are good, both are lovely but again, all depends on the sound one is looking for. If you like warm, liquid, and almost syrupy sound, the JR excels at it, for me. If you enjoy some life, and drama and wow to your music the DSD is amazing.

Anyway, I will keep listening through the weekend and will update with what I have decided to do. The Junior has grown on me and I do like it more and more, but doubt it will overtake the DSD.

Steve

PS - Updating the firmware has been simple for me. Works as the manual describes and no glitches, hitches or issues. I have switched around 6 times now but if I keep it will go to Huron for my system even though that one has some odd clicks (when switching some songs) that the others do not have.


#13

I find all of that quite surprising.

Is the content all DSD or are you converting PCM? What DSD content are you feeding the DS Jr.? How are you feeding the DSD content to the DS Jr.? What hardware and software are you using? Are you doing any processing of the DSD files prior to reaching the DS Jr.?


#14

Steve,

Thank you for the detailed reports, very interesting.

I am surprised you find the sound of the NuWave more compelling than the DSD Jr., but I am impressed you are reaching your decision by using your ears and not the price/reputation of the respective products. It is easy for confirmation bias to take over.

I am sure you will let us know what you ultimately conclude.


#15

Interesting thread, especially given my interest in some of these products. One has to ask though, might there possibly be something malfunctioning in regards to the DS Jr. DAC? Given all the high praise I’ve read for these new DAC’s makes me think something is amiss. And while its seems likely all the different firmware upgrades could sound different, but to the extent of how this DAC is operating doesn’t seem the likely culprit.

Just some thoughts, but good luck sorting this out.


#16

Actually the same for me. New owners, take heart.

I just received my Junior last week and immediately after hookup, the sound was thin, flat, limited bass. Volume was OK, similar to my other DACs albeit a bit quieter than my benchmark and more quiet than my Accuphase known to have a high output.

Anywho… I went to bed pretty crushed… thinking I was going to send it back… I then thought it had to be defective because something sounding like this could not have received all those rave reviews.

20 hours later, the thing sounded great. I think it needs either thermal stability (I left it fully on for 20 hours) or needs some sort of breakin.

I can A/B/C my DACs using switching from my integrated PrimaLuna amp. I go from a computer via USB to a Mutec 1.2 clock/distributor. This Mutec allows me to hook up five DACs using various connector types (all outs are active at once, no switching required). So I go from the Mutec to the Junior, Accuphase, and Benchmark 1 USB.

Given that the Junior is the lowest in volume and the others have variable outs, I use an old Realistic SPL meter and played a 1Khz tone to level match. Remember, when you A/B, the louder unit will always sound better.

Now that I did this, I can compare. I will write a review in a few weeks comparing them, but I can say this now… I always thought the Benchmark DAC1 USB to be a bit lifeless… a really nice unit but I could never understand why it was so highly rated. My Accuphase is still a wonderful unit… just a beautiful analog sound that I only heard from Ayre products before. Compared to Junior, it is close… but I need to let the Junior break in more and I need to learn its sound.

Peace,

Bruce in Philly


#17
routlaw said

Interesting thread, especially given my interest in some of these products. One has to ask though, might there possibly be something malfunctioning in regards to the DS Jr. DAC? Given all the high praise I’ve read for these new DAC’s makes me think something is amiss. And while its seems likely all the different firmware upgrades could sound different, but to the extent of how this DAC is operating doesn’t seem the likely culprit.

Just some thoughts, but good luck sorting this out.

I think a lot of people expect monumental differences in sound quality among DACs. But DAC design has matured enough were most established manufacturers have been around the block a few times and now know what they're doing to get things to sound good, even at low prices. Purpose built 2 channel DACs are just that...purpose built to sound great. While some reviews may make it seem as if HUGE differneces are to be had, in reality I've found the differences to be more subtle than anything. There is a very real point of diminished returns once we get past ~$2000 and what most of us pay extra for is great quality sound with the sonic characteristics each of us prefers not necessarily a big increase in detail or clarity. I love my DS Sr. with its ability to sound immensely clean, detailed and neutral. Others may want more warmth or a more lively sound and that's fine. Sometimes it's okay to prefer the less expensive DAC if it's giving you what you in terms of sonic signature. In an objective way I'm sure the Directstream DACs measure better and have higher quality components, but what does that matter if you're the kind of person who prefers a different sound signature?

#18

to the OP, I own a DS Jr, and I had some complaints with the sound when I first got it. I wrote about this in my first post here that you may find helpful.

Are you running balanced connections? that helped me a lot with the sound from this DAC.


#19

UPDATE ; )

It’s now May 4th, and my Directstream JR has been played almost daily since I purchased it. Today I would not trade it for ANYTHING. It has come into its own and is delivering the most beautiful sound to my system. Ive also upgraded the power cable which improved it even more. (Audioquest Thunder). The sound has opened up so much, and it just makes me smile every time it is powered on.

Thanks for all the comments. I just need to wait it out ; ) For fun I put in my old Bluesound Node back in and could not stand the sound. Was harsh, louder but flatter, and so unpleasant after getting used to the sound of this JR, which just sounds premium all the way. DAC’s make a HUGE difference in the right system and room.

Steve


#20

Excellent!