Snowmass DSD Sr. - Sound Characteristics and Perceptions


#1

Since the Snowmass announcement thread is getting long, I thought I would create a new thread dedicated to the sonic characteristics of this update. What are you hearing, good, bad or indifferent?

Here are my impressions of Snowmass over Redcloud.

The presentation is much more forward, especially in the midrange with a sense of immediacy. Vocals are so much more palpable that I could almost feel Diana Krall’s throat resonating. The difference was so drastic that it was a bit uncanny at first. Is this what she would sound like if I saw her live?

Soundstage is much wider and instruments are more open and airy enveloping the listener. Some recording could almost feel like a surround effect.

There is an amazing amount of detail and resolution bringing out the smallest nuances of the musicians playing their instruments.

So does all of these amazing improvements make for a more musical experience? Well what I loved about Redcloud was the fact that it had more of an analog sound. Snowmass overachieves in many ways but I think it traded a bit of smoothness for a more forward presentation and resolution of detail. At least this is what I am hearing in my system.

Overall though it’s still a keeper and an amazing accomplishment by @tedsmith. Would love to hear other people’s impressions.

Alan.

Gear:
DirectStream Senior w/ Bridge II
Bryston BP17 Cubed Pre-Amp
Bryston 4B Cubed Amp
Focal Sopra 2 Speakers
Pangea Balanced Interconnects
Kimber 8TC Speaker Cables

Content:
DSD, Redbook CD and MQA


#2

I played several LPs last night, of various genre and pressings. My system isn’t ultra high end but they sit on a good foundation. A small but dedicated listening room was built based on acoustically friendly dimensions, with various sound diffusers and absorbers on the walls and ceiling. It is also very quiet once the doors and windows are closed.

With Snowmass, what I noticed most was that in my system, digital and analog are now virtually indistinguishable, especially on well-recorded, well-mastered and well-pressed LPs from Mobile Fidelity, Analogue Productions, and MA Recordings. Warmth, purity of tone and an unforced sound, qualities vinyl lovers say digital lacks, Snowmass provides in spades. I was pressing the remote control, going back and forth between sources, and the only time it was obvious that I was hearing the LP was the audible groove noise between tracks.

I also have many poorly-done LPs. There is absolutely no contest that Snowmass playing my lossless CD rips sounds better.

What about the things many audiophiles look for, like soundstaging, imaging and focus? Or dynamics and frequency response? Or goosebumps and hairs on the arms and the back of the neck standing up? Or the “you are there” feeling? For me, there is no question. I get all that from Snowmass.

This makes me extremely happy with Snowmass. Kudos to @tedsmith and @Paul and everyone at PS Audio for their wonderful products, attention to detail, and customer service! :smiley:

My system:

  • Clearaudio Performance DC turntable and Basic Plus Phono Stage
  • Ortofon 2M Black Cartridge
  • Baerwald Alignment via Dr. Feickert Protractor
  • Audio Note VX-R Silver RCA cable from Phono Stage to Preamp
  • PS Audio DS with Bridge II
  • Audioquest Red River Balanced XLR cable from DS to Preamp
  • Emotiva XSP-1 Gen 2 Differential Balanced Preamp
  • Emotiva XPA-1 Gen 2 Differential Balanced Monoblock Amplifiers (switched to Class A mode)
  • B&W CM10 S2 Speakers
  • XLO HT6 speaker cables
  • PS Audio Directstream Power Plant P12 (powering everything)

#3

Great thread idea. Ted just gave us the culmination of his life’s work to now – for free – all we can talk about the last 2 days is who didn’t like the window dressing.


#4

Alan,
You described my experience so far with Snowmass vis-a-vis Redcloud “to a tee” with one exception. i have been battling a “phasiness” issue since mating brand new Vandersteen Treo CT speakers with a Van Alstine 400R amp which uses global feedback in design . Snowmass seems to have just locked the images in perfectly for the first time. Alas, all of the truly wonderful aspects of Snowmass (and they are breathtaking) seem to have come at the expense of the …beauty/smoothness/romance…??? that characterized Redcloud in my system.

The rest of my system Is:

*Byrston BDP-2
*PS Audio LANRover
*Belden Gold USB
*Kimber Select 1030 interconnect
*Audioquest Rocket 44 shotgun biwire
*Noisetrapper Sound Conditioner
*TG Audio Power Cables
*Oppo 103 Transport
*Tara Labs Digital Coax

My system is anything but lean and mean, so the missing element from Redcloud is probably not a system issue, I feel. I am just reminded that the DS has become so good, that “having it all” seems more and more to be a necessity, not just a wish???

John

John


#5

I just received SD cards from the mothership with both 3.10 for DMP and Snowmass for the DS. I know I SHOULD NOT HAVE, but I updated them both at once and am listening to the resulting completely different sound for the first time, and on top of that listening to a new Coltrane reissue that arrived at the mailbox simultaneously. I love to really challenge myself!

Very interesting different sound. So much to process and get my brain around, and I’ll probably wait to make any critical decisions til Monday and the firmware has had that time to settle. (I usually don’t get to listen much on the weekends as I leave the weekends to my wife, and she doesn’t particularly want to listen to music. . . I usually get about four hours or so of headphone listening in early in the mornings while my wife and dachshund sleep in. . . .)

There’s an unsettling element to get getting all these firmware changes in and upsetting the apple cart, but once both I and the system settle into the changes, they’re always enjoyable ones.


#6

Why say you should not have updated both firmwares? I updated both last night and currently have the attenuator engaged and leaving it on until I can listen to it for the first time (maybe tommorrow?).


#7

By updating both simultaneously one cannot listen to the differences each makes individually.

Nothing wrong with this in a global sense.


#8

Yes, what Elk said. As it’s the weekend I really didn’t have time to listen to one update one day, the other the next, and just decided to do them both at once. Ideally I would like to know what each brought to the plate separately, that’s a sort of “fun.”


#9

After listening for hours it was hard to put my finger on exactly what we were hearing. Then CSN went on and Lise said WOW, their harmony just leaps out. Its a monumental step up.

Nice work and a great update


#10

Where is the bass? I seemed to have lost some mid bass and bottom end. Anyone else get that?
All else is great -blacker background, better definition, etc. Hmm -I am almost tempted to go back to Red cloud.


#11

Lon—I think both sound better. I would recommend you go back to 3.09 while you digest Snowbird for a couple days and then go to 3.10. Else, you won’t really know.


#12

If you read the main Snowmass firmware thread (this new thread is duplicative) you will find a number of users who conclude there is more bass. Ted additionally comments on the flat frequency response and why one may perceive more bass.


#13

Hey Ron, nah I’m just going to keep on with both together, I’ll let them run in over the weekend when I won’t be doing much listening and then I bet the whole shebang will wow me next week. Right now I’m not sure I prefer this new sound, but I am always skeptical in that direction with new OS firmware.


#14

I’ll be amazed if you don’t like Snowface. It’s quite a step-change.


#15

There have been other releases where someone lost bass when most others were talking about there being more. If you have subs you might need to move them around or at least adjust their phase, adjusting toe in helps some, one listener realized he was listening from a position 6" different than normal… Objectively Snowmass’s bass is more accurate and more in phase with the rest of the audio band than in Redcloud (which was better than Huron…)


#16

Thanks for the reply Ted. Very much appreciate your input on this. Perhaps my system some how responded well to the phase shift on the bottom end with Redcloud.


#17

It sure wouldn’t be the first time. In some ways we need to treat each software release as a new component and expect to at least have to check all of our previous tweaks.


#18

I am guilty of making more than two simultaneous changes in my system that resulted in better sound.

These are:

  1. Snowmass Firmware Update
  2. Bridge II Firmware update
  3. The addition of a PS Audio Power Plant P12 for the entire system.

All three were installed within 2 days of each other.

Because everything sounds so good, with excellent synergy, realism and dynamics, I now lack the inclination to investigate which of the 3 made the biggest improvement. I just want to listen… and listen… and listen… :smiley:


#19

A really odd thing in my set up - Oppo 203 to DS via spdif/iFi purifier - has been ever since installing Snowmass last Friday, that as great as music sounds, cable TV audio (box to Oppo) has been relatively crappy - narrower sound stage, almost as if coming from the TV speakers, and thinner and a bit tinny, i.e., not the same resonant voices and speaker to speaker fullness as before unless something special is done momentarily in the program or ad. I haven’t called the cable company (Charter) yet to check, not that distant customer service reps would know, but it would be one heck of a coincidence if there had been an adjustment locally on the same day. Not sure what to make of it.


#20

I too made three changes in quick succession:

  1. Replacement of Harbeth SHL5plus speakers with the 40th Anniversary model
  2. Snowmass firmware update
  3. Bridge II firmware update.

I tried to get a handle on the effect of each by having about a week between them but I guess running-in had not been completed before I went on to the next, particularly for the speakers. The incremental effects I heard were:

The Anniversary model SHL5plus speakers added a more natural and transparent quality. They improved on the basic plus model in the separation of instrumental and vocal music strands, apparent dynamic range (because even quieter elements of the music could be heard?), and imaging.

Upgrading the PS Audio DS DAC firmware from Redcloud to Snowmass produced advances in sound quality of the same magnitude in the same areas as the SHL5plus upgrade. In addition there was a greater richness in the tonal quality, for example Miles Davis’s flugelhorn sounded more realistic. Dynamic peaks sounded far less congested; I could clearly hear all sorts of secondary lower-volume lines. The most immediately noticeable gain was in the speed and articulation of the music - OK I know it can’t be actually faster but there seemed more pace and urgency . The bass was better defined and more substantial, but not overblown. Singers are amazing in terms of diction, tone and positioning in the soundstage.

After upgrading the firmware on the Bridge II I honestly could not identify any change in sound quality however, as audio memory is notoriously short and I had quite a hassle doing the firmware upgrade, I may well have missed any subtle changes.

Overall the upgrades have added very significantly to my enjoyment of music. Yesterday I played the Previn recording of Carmina Burana from start to end as I thought it would make a good hi-fi test. In fact not only did it show all the improvements I’ve described but it drew me into the performance so I tended to forget about the reproduction.

I agree entirely with Leonard that the sound is now very similar to that obtained from a vinyl setup. My experience is the opposite of John (jedi1): my system has gained considerably in terms of beauty, smoothness and romance, and, I should add, terror, if the music requires.

I’ll join the chorus in congratulating Ted, Paul and all at PS Audio for producing such a major (free) advance in the sound quality of the DS DAC. (I’ve also thanked the Harbeth CEO & owner for producing an equally effective, if rather more expensive, upgrade!)

System:

Synology DS412+ NAS with optical ethernet isolation
PS Audio DS DAC with Bridge II
Cawsey CCB balanced interconnects
Primare A.60 power amp
Yter speaker cables
Harbeth SHL5plus 40th Anniversary speakers