Quality of playback: files vs. optical

Hi everybody!

I am new to this forum and this is my first post.

I am not an owner of PSAudio products nor do I have any listening experience with PSAudio products (such as at Shows).

My first (primary) question for this post is simple (I think) but I have to delimit it with the usual “all things held equal” …

In the various YouTube videos for the new DirectStream technology DAC, I noticed a lot of mention of CD (as the carrier of PCM). And how the DirectStream DAC can extract more out of that now-old technology.

I “gave up” CDs years ago for several reasons … the most important being: lossless rips of them sounded WAY better thru my PC/system than playing them thru any of my “high-end” CD players. I’m sure that, all else being equal ;), the PC system has less inherent jitter.

So, that’s the basis for my primary question … if the source has very low jitter to BEGIN WITH (such as with files), is the now-acclaimed impact of DirectStream DAC not as dramatic?

A second somewhat related query regards the playback of high-rez PCM files (24/96, 24/192, etc.) thru the DirectStream DAC. These files can be very high-quality to begin with … hence, how much does “DSDing” thru the DirectStream DAC affect the sonic quality of high-rez PCM?


Welcome to the Forums!

You’ll notice more of a jump in quality with Redbook than Hi-rez, whether files or discs, but you’ll notice a a big difference there too. The “DSDing” is pretty darn good.

Yes, welcome to the forums. Today’s Paul’s Post covers some of this for, interestingly enough, I have discovered quite the opposite to be the case. But, that’s another whole discussion. I think there is so much more than just jitter reduction going on that the answer to your question is that the improvement in sound quality DirectStream affords over conventional DACS remains huge, even if the source has lower jitter. There’s just a lot more going on that makes DS sound the way it does than jitter reduction.

Welcome, 13mh13!

To specifically address your question, whether a given file sounds better played back by a transport to the DS or from a computer/server depends on the given transport and computer.

A computer playback system does not inherently have better sound due to less jitter (or any other characteristic), but it can sound better - or worse - depending on how well it it does its job.

I find my PerfectWave Transport playing an optical disc via I2S to the DirectStream is difficult to beat. I have yet to hear better in my system, although I have tried a number of servers and computers. I have a Bryston BDP-2 on the way (I should have it this week) and am very curious as to whether it will rival or better the PWT.

I bought the Bryston as so many extol its sound for digital playback. Also intriguing is many, including Bryston, claim it sounds its best playing back from a USB flashdrive than from a USB drive or SSD (internally mounted or external).

Specifically to the DirectStream, it is somewhat agnostic to sources. It plays them all exceedingly well and minimizes the differences in how the digital information got to the unit. It is almost agnostic to input; from the same source, the DS sounds pretty much the same through its USB, S/PDIF and AES/EBU inputs.

Here is Paul’s Post of today addressing this very topic: click

Since I have given up optical play altogether (I don’t own a PW Transport) I cannot answer part of your question but I agree that the jump in playback enjoyment is larger with Redbook than it is with higher resolution files. I have not purchased high res material for months now due to this. Redbook just rocks on the DSDac and I will be much more selective in the future, preferring to purchase high res titles that are great recordings firstly, regardless of the recording or storage technology. This will save me thousands of $, I think.cool

I can say, however, that comparing playback on a software optimized PC vs “stock” Win system sounds better to my ears. Why or what this is I cannot say with any certainty. Paul also has noticed improvement with his modified Mac Mini and the DSDac. I doubt that this is jitter reduction in either case, given the DSDac’s seeming insensitivity to it. There may be other gremlins at play on the computer end.

I agree with the above responses but would also point out that how well the source is recorded and mastered has a bigger impact on the sound quality than the resolution. Most importantly, with a good quality recording the DS can sound absolutely stunning with red book or high res.

Yup! I should clarify that WHEN I purchase Hi Res it will be for the recording quality. My post reads like I meant to say that I would ONLY be purchasing Hi Res… which just ain’t so.

The Bryston unit was noted above … I was a bit disappointed in Bryston’s “stratergy” in that they did not combine the player and DAC into one unit. Yeah, it may be a marketing strategy but that Astell & Kern all-in-one pocket-sizer sure sounds nice … perhaps one reason being that the paths (and ground loops) are all nice and short.

Not sure whether any of the DS units have a “player” feature: built-in flash memory (like 'phones and 'pads) and playback functions on the front panel/remote.

I have an inexpensive Chinese “audiophile” DAP that manages to squeeze TWO Wolfson DACs into an iPhone-sized device, with 16GB internal flash memory. Very HQ sound for about $130USD:


If you like player/DAC all in ones, you may be interested in the new Sony units. They are getting great reviews.

The Astell & Kern portable player/DAC/headphone amps are great little units, but do not begin to compete in sound with full sized dedicated components. They fill an entirely different niche.

So - let’s get back to computer file v. optical. Other thoughts/opinions/speculations?