Next Component: DirectStream or P12?

I’m considering the next upgrade to my system. I currently use a PWD Mk II with Bridge —> BAT 51 SE preamp —> Pass Labs 30.8 —> Tekton Double Impact Speakers.

The system has a very nice sound, but I am always looking for ways to improve. I currently live on the edge of town in a new subdivision, and I run all of my audio components off of a 20Amp dedicated circuit.

I’ve read on the forums that even in a “relatively clean” power environment, the P12 can have a significant improvement on sound.

Similarly, the DirectStream DAC notably improves on the sound of the PWD Mk II, and is well-documented on these forums.

With that in mind, which of these two components would have the greater impact on my system?


I start with the least expensive/bang for the buck upgrade. If you’re happy with your power and signal cables, then I’d go for the regenerator. My first one was a P5 and the improvement was impressive.
BTW–nice amp.

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Gosh that’s a tough call. Both are going to be a big improvement.

Generally I like to start with perfect power - a power plant sets the foundation for the rest of your system and will elevate everything else you’re running.

Now on the flip side, I asked 2 other folks on our team here what they would upgrade in your shoes and they both said they’d go for the DirectStream before they did the P12. Go figure.

I guess the take away is you can’t go wrong either way.

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I have both a P5 (P12 predecessor) and a Directstream Dac. I’d go for the Directstream dac. A P12 isn’t powerful enough for a Pass Amp. I only use mine for the source components and BHK preamp.


Directstream DAC

IMHO it all starts from the wall outlet. I have relatively clean power. I just replaced my PPP with the P15 and there’s a very noticeable improvement. Voltage in and out were measured the same between the PPP and the P15 but yet there was an improvement.

I can only see the P12 doing the same for you.

As great the improvement that a power plant will bring to your system the difference in your DAC and the Direcstream will be many orders of magnitude greater! And as wonderful as it sound with Snowmass it will get even better with Ted’s next release! The gift that keeps on giving!


@RonP Thanks! It’s a good little amp; arguably bass shy, but still pretty good.

@Schroedster I think you might be right! I guess the fact that people are just as conflicted on this question as I am means you are probably spot-on.

@watchdog507 I figured if anything, the Pass would be an easier load for the P12 since it is a constant wattage. It’s always pulling just under 400 watts, unless I really crank it up. Then maybe a little more. Do you think the constant draw of the 30.8 is better or worse for the P12?

@guthrie_m Noted. Thank you!

@audiophilehi I definitely think there would be an improvement to the system. I can always hear differences throughout the day. My wife makes fun of me because I think I can hear differences in the sound of the system when she has the washer and dryer turned on. I think the sound gets a little washed out when all of the household appliances are running. She thinks I am crazy!

@sixpack1 In all honesty, I find the PWD Mk II a little forward, and strident; but also extremely dynamic when directly coupled directly to the Pass. I purchased the BAT with the hopes of taming the brightness of the PWD, and it worked. Mids and highs sound great, a little loss of detail, but absolutely non-fatiguing. Problem is, the BAT rolls of the bass a little bit, so I bought a monster subwoofer. Turns out the combined impedance of the subwoofer and the Pass is 18K ohms; the bass is even worse when driven by the BAT.

So maybe the solution is the DirectStream direct coupled to the Pass. No preamp, and no subwoofer.

Thanks for the input everyone! Looks like the consensus is… they’re both great products.


I have the same amp and similar consideration.
I run: PC > eXasound e22 > Pass XP 12 > Pass XA 30.8 > TAD ME1

I will upgrade my DAC. I recently did a shop demo, the DS was ahead of the TT2+Msacler, and on par with Dave (not same sound, Dave wider, maybe more resolution, but thinner)…the DS was on Redcloud.
Anyway, with what I read on the threads, I am thinking that I should be waiting on the TSS to see price and quality.
But I am also thinking that as I liked the DS, maybe my system might benefit more from DS+PP than TSS (or any other high priced DAC.

I hope to ask my dealer not only for a DAC demo at home, but to also bring a PP. (He already offered to do a DS vs Dave at home for a few hours, but I did not take him up on the offer, wanting to wait for TSS).

(The issue I have with my current set-up is that it sounds a little too harsh/aggressive (mainly on brass) with some digital glare. This is more obvious with the speakers, but I feel the same with DAC > eXasound e22 > DIY KGST > Stax SR009)

In theory (my head tells me), you should improve your power plant first if you have the $$. Having said that, I have to tell you – speaking from the heart (and ears) – the PSA DirectStream Sr. DAC is one of the top three, most significant upgrades I have ever made to my system in 20 plus years. The others were the addition of my Anthony Gallo Acoustics Reference 3.1 speakers and Anthem Room Correction via Anthem Pre-Pros. To my (and others’) ears, the DSD Sr. is a trans-formative piece of kit. This is a truly high-end product and if you have decent speakers, I expect you to be really impressed with it. Having said all that, the PW MK II was no slouch so your tunes probably sound pretty good already. Given the rest of your kit, you could just flip a coin, pick one, and then toss the coin into a jar and start saving for the other! :wink:

Is your home’s electrical system relatively modern and in good shape? Are your appliances relatively new? Do you share the utility transformer with older homes/appliances? Do you share your substation with old/heavy industries? Have you noticed the sound clearing up after 11pm and/or on weekends? If you don’t have any of the above worries I would definitely go with a new DAC.

John Darko has compared the DS Sr vs the DAVE and he had the same opinion as you, interestingly enough.

If harshness and digital glare are your problems, I can’t think of a better fit than the DS (at least until the TSS comes out).

If it helps with your decision making process, we will be offering a generous trade-up program for current PS DAC owners who wish to upgrade to the TSS when it’s available.


Well if you’re thinking about getting rid of the BAT and the sub, perhaps you could trade them in or sell them and get both :wink:

Regarding the Pass on the P12, I’d be comfortable running it. As you said, 400 watts continuous is well within the P12’s operational range.

I’m still of the opinion that the DS Dac is the route to go. Just because the 400 watt draw is within the spec of the P12, doesn’t mean that it will sound its best. Years ago I had a Krell KSA 250 through TICE Power Conditioners that were as heavy as the KSA 250. It should have been fine, but it wasn’t. The sound lost it’s dynamics. Even Paul told me that running 2 BHK 300’s out of a P10 at the time wasn’t really recommended. Let your ears be the judge in the end. I run my BHK 300’s right out of a dedicated circuit.

The BHK 300 spec show a power consumption of up to 1600W for 300W into 4 ohm, much higher than the constant 400W used by the class A 30 W Pass amp. So lack of power for the BHK does not mean lack of power for the Pass;…at least that is my theory.

Hallelujah, and thank you, PS Audio! :tada:

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