Settings for my new Directstream DAC

Have you tried the Firebird on your PST? Does it sound the same as the AC12?
Just asking. :grin:

I’ve found with the latest software, setting the DSS to fixed output volume 93 results in the best sound quality.

Absolutely. The Firebird with the PST is extremely revealing, black background, and dynamic, making the AC12 by comparison sound slightly slow and golden. In my system (pro monitors with beryllium tweeters) it is a bit much if the CD in question isn’t perfect. So in a recent effort to “de-tune” my system slightly (i.e. trading off tiny amounts of resolution for better listenability for old digital albums) I am using the more revealing cable on my streaming setup, which is not quite as good as the PST of course, and letting the PST drive through the AC12, which is still a great cable.

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Because you’re not using a pre between the DAC and the amp, it may be worth playing around with the attenuator setting. If on, it engages a 6dB attenuator on the output. This can help if the noise floor is too high.


Makes sense. I have a different situation. I just don’t play much of those old badly recorded albums anymore. They sound irritating with their harshness and sibilance no matter what cable I use. I just turn down the volume a bit with those recordings. But with really good recordings, there’s nothing like a really high resolution cable to bring out the best of that recording. Some of those really well recorded is really blowing me away on how good they can sound with a top quality HDMI cable. By the way, I’m using the AQ Dragon HDMI very similar to the Firebird in my system.

Yes, I thought I would try the Firebird before going full crazy banana on the Dragon. I’ve also recently upgraded all my interconnects from Acoustic Zen to Audioquest Earth/Wind… this added a lot of air in the high end but similarly was more revealing of recording faults (and interesting stuff like edit splices, mic preamp distortion, etc.).

I’m assuming your Esoteric back end + those Infinity ribbons leave nowhere for bad recordings to hide.

It’s def off-topic for this thread, but I have had some success upsampling some harsh but much-loved recordings up to DSD128 / 256 using the more intensive HQPlayer filters. Doing it in real time is expensive from a processing perspective but worth it for some material.

I am amazed on what the DSD can do with 256DSD. The sound is competitive with my turntable! The sound has more density and presence than 128 or 64. I bought a bunch of magnificent 256 recordings from NativeDSD and with a couple of the recordings, I also have it in 128 and 64 and have compared them. Without a doubt, 256 is the most enjoyable!

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I think this is very dependent if you are using a Pre. If your Pre has a sweet spot, like the BHK Pre does, then there’s going to be some sort of compromise. There’s a discussion about this going on over here:

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Just listen to the DAC at fixed 100 for awhile. Then Fix it at 92 and listen. Then adjust it up and down from there and see what is best for your Pass preamp. I find 92 best for my Esoteric preamp. It has the best clarity and lowest noise.

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You’re absolutely right. I think the higher the rate, the lower the noise floor.

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92 has been my set-and-forget as well.


Yes, I’ve dipped more than a toe into 256 content as well – new material from NativeDSD as well as master tape transfers (recordings from the 40s to 70s) from HDTT.

Setting aside the misery of getting DSD256 to play properly outside of Roon > Roon endpoint (which I don’t love the sound of) or SqueezeServer > SqueezePlayer (clunky UI, amazing sound), this is the best digital that I (and a number of friends) have heard, including quite a few SACDs through the PST.

I would agree in theory; however Ted Smith (somewhere in these forums, probably the Sunlight release thread) stated (and I am paraphrasing from memory here…) that the high switching rate / high FPGA usage required for DSD512 resulted in lower sound quality than DSD256 – which is why they didn’t support in the Sunlight release. That is likely limited to this particular implementation / FPGA. Perhaps the DSMkII will address that issue?

It occurs to me that another component relevant to SQ here could be the steps ‘skipped’ in the DS internal upsampling process. In other words, a DSD256 input requires less upsampling to get to the DS final rate (30fs? 50fs?) than a DSD64 input, and much less than a PCM24/48 signal.

Other DACs, the Holo May comes to mind, are reported to pretty much sound better with every increase in sample rate (all things being, of course, equal). But the May is a particularly simple DAC (in NOS mode), and seems to have been designed with (external) upsampling to extremely high rates in mind.

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Just purchased a gently used DS over the weekend and experimenting with the settings. I currently have rca running directly to my integrated tube amp via the line in with volume fixed at 100 on the DS. I have seen discussion on volume setting lower than that but not sure in what situation that should be. With volume fixed does that bypass the DS preamp and use the preamp on the amp?

I also have the option to take xlr out from the DS to a Schiit Freya+ then rca out to a pre-in on the amp.

recommendations? thanks for the help.

Does your integrated have a direct preamp input, like an input for an external preamp bypassing the built in preamp? If it does, you can use your DAC as a preamp and use the DAC to control the Volume. It might sound the best that way. You have to try and see.

yes, the amp has a “pre” input that is meant for input from a preamp. I will try that as well as the line in which uses the amps preamp/tubes and see which I like better.

my question is if I use the line in from that uses the amps pre, do I set the DS to fixed volume and therefore bypassing the DS pre? can you bypass the DS preamp?


If you use line-in on your integrate, I would try fixing your DAC at 100 and listen for awhile and then fixing your DAC at 92 and see which you prefer. My system sounds the lest noise and clearest fixed at 92.

The DSD does not really have a preamp, it has a digital volume control that does not degrade the signal or the sound quality. So the suggestion of setting the volume “fixed” at 100 or 92 is a good one, and is effectively “removing the DSD preamp.”


thank you - makes sense and will give it a go. Right now I am going back/forth between using the volume control of the DSD and fixed on the DSD with volume control via the amp. both sound great honestly and enjoying my music immensely.

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Right, there are many settings between the preamp and DAC that yield excellent sound. What I have settled on is the DAC at 92 and using my preamp (a Decware ZTPRE) to adjust volume. Ted Smith recommended 92, many others use it, I’m not sure it makes a big difference but I’ve set the DSD there.

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