new system final selections


#1

Hi. Old guy here. Building a new system from scratch. Want to go all digital for storage space considerations and portability. I travel a lot. Here is what I’ve picked up so far for this system. Vandersteen 5a’s, with Quicksilver V4’s tube mono blocks in balanced configuration, mojo audio mac mini system, perfectwave II. PS audio power conditioning and cords. I’d like to keep it true balanced all the way through and will work out the interconnects to do so. Don’t need a lot of inputs. Will be used in a small treated space (nearfield application).

I already have a whole house HT and audio setup. I’d like the new system just to be a simple, specialized 2 channel stand alone. I thought I would just use a good external storage drive and connect the mac mini to the PDW with usb using a good cord. I’d apply the standard tweeks like jitterbug and uptone regen.

Been researching for awhile, but the answers seem to be changing, especially as people get more experience with the direct stream. I’d like to button this up now. My initial impression was that many people prefered the PWD II with a preamp, so I planned on starting with a used balanced tube preamp (BAT, ARC, so on) although a number of solid states would work as well. I have also looked into a tube pre/buffer with volume control like a purity harmonia.

It seems more and more people are using direct stream with the bridge II coupled to their amps. I’m wondering if I should continue with my present plan or for some additional cost upgrade to DSD and recover part of the cost by not buying a preamp, selling the PWD II, possibly go from the mac mini to a nas system, and decrease the cost of interconnects. Of course, the quality of the sound remains the most important thing.

I know all recommendations are system dependent. I’ve been doing hi-fi since the mid 60’s, but full digital is new. Just hoping I can get some help settling on my starting point so I can start getting into it. Thanks all in advance!


#2

If I understand correctly, you already have a Mac mini and the PWD Mk. II.

My thoughts… keep the Mac for now. You need a computer somewhere in the mix to rip or download music and manage the library, wherever it is.

Get the rest of the system set up and working, then work on making changes. As far as PWD Mk. II vs. DS Junior, this might depend on whether you find that you need a preamp between the PWD and amps for an appreciable sound quality improvement. If this seems to be true then consider selling the PWD and buying a DS Junior. Thus will be a sound quality improvement however you do it, with or without preamp. Start the DS Junior phase without premap to save $$ (this might easily be cheaper than PWD with a preamp). Later on you might try a preamp with Junior if you feel the need.

Similarly, start with USB and a good but inexpensive cable. Once the system is working to your satisfaction, you can shift to an Ethernet connection to the Bridge. This is very likely an improvement in sound quality, but does limit you to DSD64 and 24/192 PCM. Alternatively, you can stick with USB and add something like the Uptone Audio Regen or Wyred4Sound Recovery USB reclocker to improve audio quality, retain the USB capablity of DSD128 and 24/352 PCM.

Yes, I do recommend configuring this system in a series of steps rather than going straight to the final goal. Of course, you could just go straight to Mac, USB, reclocker, DS Junior, amp (no preamp), speakers and be sure that you have a really good system. The possible upgrade to this are the daddy DirectStream DAC and/or a preamp. Sticking with the USB connection through a reclocker would save the cost of a Bridge if you choose to go with the big daddy DAC. Certainly it is better than Junior, but how much and whether the difference is worth it is strictly your decision. If I had the money, I would go ahead and get DS rather than Junior… just one opinion here though.

Good luck with the system, and I hope that you get other good (better than mine) responses here. Do keep us apprised of the choices, progress and sound of the final result.

J.P.


#3

DS/DS Junior would be your biggest bang for the buck change, pre or no pre. I love the Belkin Gold USB. It is a great way to start and is cheap as dirt. You can compare other cables to it as you go.


#4

Welcome to the community Don. First, you will find the members here to be among the finest, friendliest, helpful and most knowledgeable in the industry about all varieties of issues in our hobby. Second, you have a fantastic system to build upon.

The answer to your query is totally subjective and is as much dependent upon your wallet as it is your personal taste. You can be standing on a tip of an iceberg or already solidly planted on firm ground, depending on how you approach it. Just opining that budget constraints aren’t too much of an issue since you already have a PWD and evidentlywant to upgrade and don’t need the switching capability of a preamp, then it boils down to personal choice. That gives you and your budget some breathing room. You will find some prefer the PWD or DS with and some without a preamp and only you can make that decision, although the DS seems to have more no preamp fans than the PWD did, partly because of higher output volatage of the PWD compared to DS. I currently have a PWD an recently posted my findings of the PWD with and without here http://www.psaudio.com/forum/pwd-topics/pwd-without-a-preamp-listening-session/. It sounds as if you have read the DS threads regarding preamp/no preamp already, if not they are easily found.

Since you are using computer files, assuming the Mac Mini is on your network, then you wouldn’t need even need USB, and thus the cable and the Regen if you have a bridge (there are mixed opinion as to whether the Regen has any effect with the DS anyway). Junior comes with the bridge built in and DS has it as an option, assuming you don’t already have one in your PWD. The only connection you would need would be a reasonable quality CATx cable (x=5, 6 or 7) and an available LAN outlet in your listening room. The mini wouldn’t even need to be in the same room. Then you just need to decide whether to use a preamp or not and on which DAC. Assuming you don’t already own a preamp, the reasonable thing to do would be to try your DAC without to see if you like the sound. You can always add a preamp later if you want to experiment and buy used to minimize your losses if you end up liking the DAC straight to the amp.

Since nobody but PSA folk have heard Junior yet, we can’t provide any personal experience comparing the two DACs yet. But don’t let MSRP deter you too much. With some savvy shopping you can find significant discounts on DS and Bridge and presumably Junior when it is available. The price difference will in all likelihood be much less than the MSRP difference. Since you already own a PWD, purchasing the DS upgrade board and bridge II, also available at a discount, is an excellent option and would certainly be the cost effective and perhaps net about the same as selling the PWD depending on what you can get for it.

I was just in your situation exactly, except I already have the Bridge II installed in my PWD. I decided to buy a new DS rather than the upgrade board because I can repurpose my PWD. I found the acquisition cost of the upgrade board plus the value of my PWD was about the same as a new DS. If I didn’t have a use for the PWD then I would have gone the upgrade board route or waited for Junior to be available then compare prices.