Some Kit-Bashing Required: My Direcstream Upgrade Experience

I recently had the extremely good fortune to purchase the Directstream DAC upgrade kit for my Perfectwave DAC. I have been very impressed with PS Audio as a company that cares about the quality of their products and how they treat their customers. Paul's efforts are unique in the industry in making even those who do not own their products feel as though they are part of the PS Audio family.

I don't know how many others have undertaken the adventure of upgrading their own DAC as I have not seen anyone else commenting about their experience. With that in mind, I thought I would share my experience.

For those unfamiliar with the process, it involves completely gutting the Perfectwave DAC — everything with the exception of the touch screen and microprocessor board attached to the front panel — and replacing them with the contents with the upgrade kit.

The kit is the most complete I have encountered. It not only contains the assembled and tested circuit boards required for the upgrade, but also all new hardware to replace that which is removed from old device. Also included are the tools needed to complete the job as well as a new remote control and user manual.

The only items in the kit with which I found fault (probably due to my past experience as a technical writer) were the manuals. The owner's manual is the best of the two. Layout is basic but clear and illustrations are informative with the possible exception of a Windows screen shot that lacks a highlight to draw attention to the subject in question.

The kit assembly instructions, on the other hand, were somewhat disappointing as the manual appeared hastily assembled, poorly laid out, and rife with typographical errors. In addition, for some unknown reason, it was decided to print it at half size making it more difficult to read and handle.

Aside from these observations, the manual was clear enough to facilitate assembly without me having to question at any point what to do next. I do, however, consider myself an experienced kit builder and there is also a helpful video on YouTube to supplement the manual.

The one difficulty I encountered, which must be an issue for others attempting this adventure, was that the power supply board did not line up with the mounting standoffs in the cabinet. Careful examination of the situation revealed that a rim around the AC power receptacle collided with the right hand rear edge of the board preventing the proper alignment with the mounts.

This is where some "kit bashing" was required to complete the step.

After carefully evaluating the situation and determining that the bit of copper foil on the board that would be exposed was electrically identical to the metal rim on the receptacle, I carefully and precisely applied a jeweler's file to the corner of the circuit board and removed a tiny bit of material to provide clearance for the rim of the receptacle. (Taking a file to something this expensive is not for the faint of heart!)

The operation was a success and the patient survived. The board dropped into place and the holes lined up.

The digital and analog boards were a tiny bit difficult to install owing to the fact that the rear panel connectors are flow-soldered to the board without being restrained in a fixture to align them to the holes in the panel. Tolerances are close enough, however, that mild force applied is adequate to get the fasteners in place.

All in all, assembly was enjoyable and the unit powered up without a hitch and the Snowmass update applied without error. I now have a brand new Directstream DAC in which I had a hand in determining the quality of its construction. How cool is that?

One note of caution: When removing the top cover of the device, place your fingers under diagonally opposite corners of the top and DO NOT SLIDE THEM AROUND! There are phosphor bronze grounding clips lining the edges and front of the top which are razor sharp and will slice any fingertips dragged past them. Pull the top straight up without moving your fingers around.

I now look forward to years of listening pleasure. One thing I love about the Directstream DAC: Just add a MAC Mini, a decent power amp and speakers, and you have everything you need to enjoy great music!

Many thanks to Ted, Bill, and all those involved who made this great product available!

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Great and thorough report! Thanks for sharing.