PS Audio Direct Stream DAC vs Benchmark DAC3 HGC

Hey All,

I received my DSD Sr and hooked it up today and all I can say is WOW! I am running B&W 800D3 powered by Sim Audio 1kW Moon Rock Monoblocks and previously was using the Benchmark DAC3 HGC as my DAC/pre-amp.

Installing the DSD Sr. has been the most significant improvement to my system since I bought my B&W 800D3. The sound stage has widened by a factor of two and the bass, oh that bass- it is so much more articulate and ever so present. I expected to hear an improvement coming from the Benchmark DAC3 (considering its excellent measured performance) but the night and day difference between the two is incredible. The Benchmark almost sounds like I have earplugs in when listening compared to the DSD Sr. Coming from an Engineering background this is tough for me to say, however, it goes to show you that measurements aren’t absolute and there is much more to the story when it comes to audio equipment. I have only been listening for about 2 hours now and can’t wait to hear how the DSD Sr. evolves as it is broken in.

The only down side to me for the DSD Sr. is that without the 20dB attenuation enabled I get very loud hissing from my 800D3. Enabling the attenuation eliminates the hiss but now max volume on the DAC is loud but not as loud as I would like to be for when I really want to crank up the system. I guess this means I need to start saving up my pennies for a BHK pre-amp?

Well done PS Audio, what an amazing product! Also thank you to Walter from Underwood HiFi for giving me an excellent deal!




I’ve got the Sim Audio W-10’s and have more than once thought about the Rock’s.

On the off chance that you aren’t using a balanced connection from the DS, going from unbalanced to balanced will get you 6dB gain, which isn’t nothing.

Also, just in case you didn’t notice it the volume goes up to 106 when the attenuator is enabled, that may help a little too.

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congrats Tony! i just sold my PerfectWave DAC moving to a Direct Stream Sr. Can’t wait!!


ps. those are some kick ass speakers you got there!

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Great comments Tony!

Congrats on a fantastic new PS DSD Sr!

I have both the DAC3 and the PS Audio DSD Sr.

They are both excellent DACs.

No night and day difference.

The DSD Sr is smoother and less dynamic - more like analog.

I found no difference in soundstage width. Both are pinpoint accurate. Both are detailed without fatigue.

I did find however that the DAC3 is like a front row seat whereas the DSD Sr is more a row 10 seat. So more ambiance and soundstage depth from the smoother DSD and more dynamic impact and “you are right there” wall of sound or jump factor from the DAC 3.

Neither DAC has any of that older generation prototypical digital glare.

Two cents…


You will be pleasantly surprised!

My DS DAC has about 50 hours of run time. Clarity and detail are already quite remarkable. From other reports, there’s a long way to go … 200 hours, 500 hours, more …until it’s fully broken in. I’m very pleased with the product and PS Audio’s support and public communications from management.

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Congrats on the new piece. Sounds like a definite improvement to the listening experience!
Mine is being shipped to my dealer. I hope bests my current DAC / player.
Are you using Bridge II?

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I think that is Sim Audio - not the quietest of amps and runs at high gain. I know folks who experienced similar issues matching other components unrelated to DSD Sr.

Also B&W designs tend to always boost 3.5 to 6KHz over the upper mid range 1 to 3.5KHz. Unavoidable in a design that has a crossover very high and uses such a large mid range driver which beams at the top of its output bandwidth.

The latest Mcintosh tube preamps are a sweet match with B&W (you can roll tubes to taste and they run very quiet)

Two cents…


I also have the DAC Sr and B&W 802d3. I would like to add a Pre with HT passthrough as I have a surround processor for movies watching. I am contemplating the BHK pre and McIntosh C2600. I have not listened to either but read great reviews of both. What are your thoughts on either the BHK pre and the C2600 pairing with the B&W?

Both would be fantastic. I think it may ultimately boil down to personal preference!

I have no experience with the BHK pre but I can confirm the McIntosh C2600 is a very nice sounding preamp. Tubes have a magical effect in the way that harmonic distortion can make it easier to hear instruments and detail.

I think a tube preamp with SS power amps is a great way to go.

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Thanks. I have MC611 amps so there may be more synergy with the C2600, in addition to having a pre with DAC in case I may need it. I never have any tube gear so this would be my first tube component! I will be auditioning both the BHK pre and C2600.

Did you change the tubes on the C2600? If so, which tubes brand you would recommend? Is it easy to change the tubes on C2600?

Thanks Ted! You are correct, I am already using XLR and found out the 106 control.

The Moon Rocks involved a bit of birthday luck for me. I was in the market for a new amp and was browsing eBay and found two listings from different sellers, each had one Moon Rock. It turns out they are estate sale shoppers, both went to the same sale and thought because there was two pairs of binding posts that each were a stereo amplifier.

I managed to talk them down to $7000 for the pair and they were local enough where I could drive and pick them up in person on my birthday! Quite the present!

What pre-amp do you use in your system?

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Very interesting. Just goes to show you that no two systems are alike and you have to find what works well for you.

My buddy is coming over next week and is now considering the upgrade to DSD Sr. from his Benchmark. He is going to A/B them on my system, he will tell me if I am full of shit or not haha

I have the Bridge II but haven’t installed it yet. I have just been playing from USB on my PC. As you can tell I was pleasantly surprised, at this level I was expected marginal gains from my Benchmark- instead I received a much greater return.

$7k / pair, I’d have been all over that myself!

I have a multichannel system and use the EMM Labs (Meitner) Switchman preamp. It has four sets of inputs, six channels apiece, with all 24 individual inputs trimmable. It may not be the best preamp in the world but it’s perfect for my system.

Short of a preamp (which I always think is a good idea) you might try some 6, 10 or 12dB inline attenuators to find the sweet spot between not enough loudness and too much noise.

If you are handy, the design of the DS is such that you only need a resistor to ground from each side of a balanced connector or one resistor for an RCA for an attenuator. (I seem to remember that 62 ohms would give 10dB of attenuation (I’d use 0.1% resistors.) One fellow opened his DS and lifted some resistors to get less attenuation: DS Jr. and Attenuator)

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Moon Rocks…wow! Back when I had the moonw5 amplifiers I thought that was great, my Dad then one upped me and got the Moonw10’s. Now he has the Audio Research REF250SE’s, so I got the BHK300’s :slightly_smiling_face:


Yes, Bridge II streaming Roon. Speakers are restored vintage Swallow Acoustics ALS2 actives made in UK in early 1980s. The presentation through the DS DAC is getting better by the hour, now about 75 hours of running time.

I wonder what attenuator pad setting you used on the Benchmark?

I don’t think Benchmark (or any preamp for that matter) will sound very good at ultra low volumes which are very close to zero volume or 100dB attenuation. The Benchmark device like any other preamp (or the DSD SR) is best when played at 12 o’clock or higher - preferably even higher around 2 o’ clock. Headroom and linearity is always degraded at attenuation levels of 70dB and higher. On the DSD Sr I would recommend the volume to be a minimum of 60 out of 100.

It is best to keep audio line levels signals always as high as possible as it helps with linearity and S/N.

I don’t dispute what you heard on your system. I just added what I heard. And I certainly don’t wish to contradict or tell you what you heard.

That said, “night and day” to me means such a huge difference that I find this is surprising given both DACs are rated Stereophile Recommended A+ Components…

I definitely heard differences versus the DSD Sr and these differences were easily audible but it wasn’t like one was fantastic and the other was terrible.

I think for rock/pop/blues/country/jazz I really like the DSD Sr but for classical and Rap/disco/techno I really like the impact or dynamics of the DAC3.


There is one good reason for advocating the use of higher digital volume levels on the DirectStream DACs but linearity isn’t it. The reason is to keep the audio signal nicely above the fixed-level noise floor of the analog output stage. You get 50dB of perfectly linear, lossless attenuation to play with in the digital realm (volume settings 0 through 100 in 0.5dB steps). The -20dB analog pad is the place you might find some small compromises in sound quality.

As has been discussed many times in these forums, if you’re using an analog pre-amp then set the DS to 100 (or 98 if you’re still running one of the versions with math bugs causing clicks) and high level output. If you’re running direct to power amps or active speakers, start with the attenuator engaged and see where the digital volume takes you. If 106 isn’t loud enough, drop back to the 60s and turn off the attenuator.