Sound quality comparisons of PS Audio DACs

No. Definitely not.

Well, I believe both of them are upsampling most inputs and using a simple (digital or in the case of DSD analog) filter at the output. So the concept is the same unless I’m forgetting how the DLIII worked.

Edit: it does appear that at their core the approach is the same. Upsampled input and passive analog filter at the output.

DL3 used TI DAC chip. DSJ uses reprogrammable FPGA.

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By that logic almost all DACs would be the same. Their designs are actually quite different. I don’t have a DS Jr. but I have a DL III in the basement somewhere and a DS Sr. that started as a PWD Mk I and evolved. The DL III was a nice DAC but the later PSA units were all substantially better, and each generation better than the last, at least in my experience.

Sure, and most are relatively similar. To the comment about the FPGA, that’s done because it’s expensive and time consuming to fab an application specific IC/chipset and it offers greater flexibility in that - per its name - it’s programmable/changeable. In terms of absolute sound, there’s nothing inherently better about one approach over the other given proper R&D time. So the FPGA in the DSJR performs one function of the ‘hard coded’ TI chip or chipset in the DLIII.

In any case, the message here is: Don’t trust your lying ears, instead take it on faith that the upgrade escalator always leads to better sound. I guess if I’m going to be interested in participating in conversations like this in the future (meaning the type of question in the OP), it’s going to eventually have to get into specific details about how a given DAC (or for that matter, way down the rabbit hole - a power cable) sounds better than another one controlling for as many variables as possible.

More complex does not always equal better, even if it sometimes does. And to that point, it sounds like (discounting for burn-in time) I’m the person on this thread with the most recent A/B-ish comparison listening done between a DLIII and a DSJR on the same system. That’s not to say I won’t eventually like the DSJR better, just that on (and I can cite specific tracks) some music, the DLIII brought a dimensional nuance to the music that so far I’m not getting from the DSJR.

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Nobody is questioning what you hear in your system. It’s just that it does not generally match our experiences in our own systems. Every time there is an upgrade, whether hardware or firmware, some people prefer the prior version. Nothing wrong with that.

As for the physical differences between the various PSA DACs, perhaps Paul or Ted can weigh in on why those differences really matter.

Cool, and again I wanted to make clear that it’s much more productive to actually name specific ways in which a given component (and let’s be honest - it’s almost ALWAYS a more expensive or more recent version) sounds “better” than another one, in the same system. So I guess my ‘beef’ is with that coupled with the idea that it’s realistic to assign an 1-10 rating to a given component without any further qualifiers.

Edit: Heck on top of all that, since these threads commonly see participation by engineers and other technical folks from PSA, it would be nice to hear exactly how they not only quantify, but qualify, the alleged “betterness” in sonic terms and commonly understood vocabulary, going from one model to the next on the upgrade path. But that may be asking for too much - and I am going to catch hell for this, even though it’s in good spirit - from any DAC or amplifier company that also sells $500 (edit: $1,000) mains cables.

PSA stands behind the ‘betterness’ by paying for shipping both directions so you can try it for 30 days, just like the few local dealers around me do with the brands they carry.

Its sounds as though you’re in the objective vs. subjective camp. I’m a bit of both. I like know to why it sounds better (higher quality parts, etc), to a point, then I rationalize the spend to my increase in enjoyment of listening. I simply don’t think of it as a relative 1-10 scale.

People have different ways of listening, judging, and describing what they hear. Putting this into words, numbers, or interpretive dance are all acceptable ways of expressing this - even if their chosen approach does not make sense to you.

There is a tremendous amount of content here with Ted and Paul and BHK commenting on the sound characteristics they seek to achieve. If you do some digging around you will find a great deal. The search function actually works quite well.

What are you trying to accomplish by making the cable comment?


Sure, I am with you on the first two paragraphs.

People also have different ways of qualifying their points or taking a humorous approach to a sensitive or taboo topic.

What was I trying to “accomplish”? Only to qualify my previous requests for qualifiable descriptions from other equally subjective individuals by letting it be known that I don’t expect 100% scientific answers based on measurements and demonstrable audible or electrical differences between ANY products made by a company representative if they also happen to offer electrical conductors for sale at 5000% markups over what is necessary for a component to function to spec. Or, in other words, I find it a bit interesting that a company seemingly so committed to sound engineering and ethical business practices would also jump into what many might reasonably call the “snake oil” game of audio - especially mains power - cables.

So in line with my approach to the way I’d prefer to read about audible “betterments” between progressively more expensive components, I think it’s important to make sure that any community of people looking out for each others’ best interest is willing to agree on terms and communicate with each other in mutually meaningful ways. I.e. - as an engineer, I’m almost always going to ask for someone’s honest opinion on exactly HOW something sounds/works/looks/feels “better” when the invariable trend is one of escalating performance being equated to escalating cost. It’s easy to see why one model of Lexus might be “better” than another Lexus model based on easily communicated features/specifications. It’s less easy to convey how a Ferrari is “better” than an Acura NSX or Nissan GTR if you have to start explaining things on a basis OTHER than the fact that the Ferrari costs more. One of the latter two cars might well outperform the Ferrari in terms of objective measurable numbers.

So as users or buyers here, I think it’s important that any company - including the one hosting and participating in a forum - or for their strong advocates - to be able to put into words WHY they think it’s justifiable to charge $X more for one product than another, unless we’re simply to believe the more expensive == better/don’t believe your lying ears, there must be something wrong if you think a less expensive component sounds better than a more expensive one approach. Power cables are an even more obvious example, and it fit into the the theme of answers I sensed I was starting to get.

But hey at the end of the day - there’s the 30 day trial period - and as someone who has, in the past, often spent more on various components than they are probably worth in terms of engineering or materials value - I say more power (pun intended) to them.

There is pretty much no sensitive or taboo topic here. The only rule is to be respectful.

On the topic of cables, many find power cables to make a substantial difference in their system. Others do not. Given the tremendous amount of variables between systems, electrical circuits, etc. I find it difficult to make a blanket judgment as to what works for others.

Do you similarly find interconnects and speaker cables to represent snake oil?

Since this is now off-topic, I’m going to switch to a generic standpoint here. I’m no longer talking about PS Audio.

I think you might be missing my point on mains cables in general. I’m not saying they don’t make a difference to some people. What I’m saying is that even if they do - there is very little sound scientific reasoning being provided for the perceived differences by the particpants in the industry that markets them to “audiophiles”. There is also very little justification for exorbitant costing power mains cables without quantifiable differences or qualifiable betterments that are objectively observable/hearable. So my short answer is that I’m very skeptical on the subject of power mains cables themselves. They are almost never the “culprit” in bad sounding systems or responsible for making audible differences when compared to other factors present in a given person’s system/environment.

I’m less strident on interconnects. I think that transmission line theory and RLC circuit network analysis can tell us plenty about why a given interconnect is better than other - or rather, why it might have different (sometimes sonic) properties. It’s a more sensitive place in the audio system, where mains cables are not in the signal path at all, contrary to what some of the more outlandish snake oil salesmen will tell you. My Tripplite 15A UL listed heavy duty power cable cannot be shown to be measurably inferior - or in fact significantly different in any way important to the circuits which it sits between - to a $500 or $1000 power cable. I would not say the same thing about interconnects, with the exception of HDMI and USB cables that are within their intended spec (i.e. the proper length and construction). It’s not ethical for Audioquest to charge $1000 for an HDMI cable. That’s just my opinion as an engineer (by education, BTW, no longer practicing).

As it turns out, there is a remarkable amount of good engineering which goes into cables, and many differences are measurable. Dig around and read the threads on Belden interconnects. Galen, the designer, has just started to post (some of us have had email discussions with him for quite some time). The design and manufacturing of these cables is astounding. And, as much as I do not like it conceptually, they sound spectacular. I would prefer to think wire cannot make a meaningful difference.

We respect your skepticism, but please tone down the rhetoric. It just constructs barriers to good conversation.

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More than anything I just enjoy the conversation. And it’s normal for people who otherwise agree on some things to disasgree on others.

I certainly didn’t intend to bring any inflammatory or trolling rhetoric into this thread, so I apologize if that’s the impression, and I’d appreciate it if you could tell me what I said that might qualify.

As a final note (in this thread anyway - I’m going to look around for threads dedicated to the topic) I don’t deny that significant engineering time and manufacturing expense go into some cables - again, specifically power cables - but I have not seen a convincing argument for the costs being asked for these cables nor have I seen/heard of a double blind A/B comparison study (and let’s be honest - switching power cables in and out would be incredibly easy compared to some other aspects of audio A/B comparisons) that demonstrably shows a $1000 cable is audibly or electrically superior to a $10 cable being used within its expected parameters.

Have a good weekend.

Have a nice weekend…

I appreciate and respect all comments made here. And I respect the time that people give to respond to one’s queries.


I have no doubt that power cables CAN make as big a difference as components as long as your system is articulate enough to hear it. And with the DSD and DMP, maybe even more than interconnects.
I’ve found the best way to hear the difference is to get used to the sound of a super high quality cable in one’s system and then move back to the standard 15A, Ul, heavy duty,etc. The sound falls right off a cliff.


I’ve always struggled a bit with the idea that power cables should make a significant difference. But, at least in my system, my ears tell me they do. When I installed my PSA AC12’s there was a distinct improvement in clarity and dynamics. Whether that was due to a reduction in noise radiated or received over the power cables, lower impedance from the wall or my P10, or something else, I do not know. It was subtle but I heard it. The improvements I got when installing my Belden Iconoclast TPC (the bottom of their line) interconnects and speaker cables was even more apparent. YMMV.

Geez, yeah. Power cables - The veritable “third rail” (pun intended - although I stole it from someone else) of the audiophile debate these days. So strange that it was never an issue back in the 70s, 80s or 90s and I can think of a million reasons that a ‘spensive power cord would not improve the sound unless there was some kind of defect in whatever cable was being used before, but whatever. It’s a very contentious subject and I only brought it up because I was making a point about peoples’ opinions on sound, and in keeping with my larger axe to grind about the more expensive component/cable always being the one that people are positive sounds better.

Anyways, back on the thread I recently got an already demoe-d/burned-in (probably about 30 hours of play time before I got it) MyTEK Brooklyn DAC+ (recently == yesterday) and I’ll be comparing it to the DSD from PS Audio over the next month, but I can say that I think the DSD Junior is more musical and less grating in the midrange and lower treble than the MyTEK, but that the MyTEK does seem to be revealing more details in those frequencies. The DSJ also has more satisfying bass, where MyTEK’s bass is somewhat muddy and unpredictable, and the speakers in my main system will definitely expose an amp or dac that does not maintain a tight grip on the woofers. I guess I need to clarify that; I know that the DAC doesn’t have any control on the woofers, but same idea where it comes to how it sounds. The MyTEK sounds like I swapped out power amps and the new one has muddy, uncontrolled bass. It does go deep, though.

I should note that I haven’t messed with any filters and I’ve been using the MyTEK’s analogue output attenuation, so YMMV. I will be updating my experience with all three PSA dacs I’ve used once I’ve had sufficient time to evaluate the DSD, also conceding the fact that my DS Junior only had about 35 hours of total play time on it when I traded it in.

This, of course, is precisely the argument which was historically used against interconnects and speaker cables. But at this point, most of us have heard significant differences between interconnects and speaker cables. Power cables have been slower to reach a similar level of acceptance in the hobby. Specialty fuses also fall into this category.

I suspect most of us initially approached interconnects and speaker cables with great skepticism. Wire is wire after all. Yet, our shared observational experience established there are indeed differences - sometimes very significant.

This still bothers me intellectually. I want wire to sound the same. But those of us with science backgrounds need to remember that all explanations and understanding begin with observation. One observes the phenomena first, then tries to determine the why. Excellent explanatory work has been accomplished with interconnects and speaker cables. I have seen less with power cables, but the mere fact I personally have not seen it does not mean it does not exist.

The degree to which different wire sounds different appears to be system dependent as well. This naturally has an impact on whether a given enthusiast “believes” in differences in interconnects, power cables, etc. It is difficult to accept there are differences one one does not hear them.