System Adjustments After DirectStream DAC

Hello, All.

I finally pulled the trigger and added the DS DAC to my system. I am upgrading from the PWD MK II.

I currently have the Pikes Peak firmware version and I am only a few days into this new experience. Based on others’ comments on this forum, the unit is not yet broken in.

Nevertheless, one distinctive characteristic I have observed in my system so far is the apparent increase in the “definitization” of vocalists and instrumentalists as a specific “point source” in space across the width and depth of the sound stage thrown up in front of my listening position. This has been a little unsettling to experience in that this presentation is very different from the characteristic sound stage I have grown accustomed to. It is a bit hard to describe, but does what I am describing make sense/ring true to others?

Anyway, my question: What steps have DS DAC fans taken to adjust their speaker placement, listening position, room treatment, etc. to address this phenomenon (or other notable changes) to the presentation of familiar music wrought by the addition to DS DAC to your system?

I am wondering if moving the speakers closer together and/or adding some tow in might make the musical presentation a little more cohesive. On the other hand, maybe this new, somewhat holographic presentation is the new normal that I will learn to appreciate more and more (not that I am not enjoying the overall sound immensely).

Best regards,


I had a PWD MK II also and now have the DS. I wouldn’t do much in terms of “tweaking” your system yet. The DS needs a good 400-500 hrs of “break in” before it will settle down and show you its true colors. This process for me had its ups and downs. Right out of the box it sounded good. Much better than the PWD. Just hang in there for the first 400 to 500 hrs. To get me through this time I found a audiophile test playlist on you tube and set that on repeat and just let the DS play 24/7 for about 3 weeks. Sometimes it seemed like it was getting worse sound quality wise and sometimes it would shine and make me smile. Somewhere between the 400 to 500 hour mark it settled down though and I am VERY happy with the outcome. I am certain you will be too. Congrats on your upgrade!

Others have commented on and described changes they felt they needed to make. Unfortunately these posts are not easy to find and are typically buried in the main DirectStream thread. A dedicated thread for the topic is a good idea.

Hoping to stir up some interest in this topic…


I don’t know if you saw this post today:

I don’t know for sure if I understand the change(s) you are talking about. Many of us like more air around each performer, e.g. when things are more localized away from other things, there’s more separation from each performer to the next. For example hearing three separate trumpets in a trio instead of a more amorphous trio. (Track 3 of “Blues in Orbit” always comes to mind.)

If, on the other hand, you really like the “wall of sound” experience on all recordings I’ll have to beg off since I think of that as a feature of some particular recordings more than your system or DAC…

Well absolutely, the DS is amazing!

Fortunately for me, I was able to pick up one that PS had used for many shows and demos, totally settled in.

And yes, a huge up level in my system AND enjoyment!

However, I have not felt the need, nor felt the urge to up grade any other portion of the system.

I am quit content and constantly entertained.





The DS takes a good long time to break in. I got mine new and I stopped tracking time after 800 hours of essentially continuous playing time. I felt that it was still improving up to that point.

As for firmware, Pike’s Peak was good, but Yale was an improvement, and Torreys is better still. I suggest updating to Torreys immediately and then not making any other system changes until you have at least 800 hours on the DS.

I completely agree that you shouldn’t think about changing other parts of your system until the DS is well broken in. Audiophiles I know generally like a more spatially-specific presentation, but of course it’s your system. I would at least live with this for a while and see how it develops.

Whether to upgrade immediately to Torreys is another question. Most DS users do like it best, but there are a few who prefer earlier versions; you can find lots of discussion about this if you search the forum. You could stay with Pike’s Peak until the break-in is done, then upgrade, or upgrade now and revert back if you aren’t happy with the final sound. Remember to leave the SD card in the slot after changing firmware if you want to see album art on the screen.

Step 1: Get rid of Pikes Peak.

Step 2: Load Torrys

Step 3: Enjoy your music again.

Remember to let the DS settle for a bit after loading different firmware before making any judgments. It takes five - ten minutes for the output transformer to stabilize.

It takes a lot of music playing time for the DS to fully settle down ( burn-in ) and sound at its very best… I noticed this when I bought my second DS, it took weeks of playing to reach the performance level of my first DS:

Torreys is definitely way better ( to my ears ! ) than Pikes Peak … Torreys takes the DS to another level. But I also found that new O/S changes take time to settle down for the DS to fully deliver. Once again - I noticed this when I loaded Torreys to DS 2. after running Torreys in DS 1. for over a month !

@Scott: you asked me about trade offs in speaker position. First I started with adjusting the speaker distance to the wall in front of you. In general, the longer the distance the cleaner and punchier the bass became and the sharper the pulses in the high tones, for example clavecimbel. This also resulted in more harshness, because of the non-optimised rest of my system (see earlier post). This was the first trade in to my later distance, which was a little bit further from the wall. Second, I played around with the speaker to speaker distance. The longer this distance, the less pronounced is the central sound, often voice. So if you experience harshness in the voices you can reduce this by increasing the distance. I suppose I did some trading here. The last piece is the amount of rotation ( call that ‘toe in?’) the speakers have. The more I rotated them towards my listening position, the more clear the central sound became at the expence of a little bit of soundstage. Earlier i used less toe in. The end result is: largest distance from the front wall, about a meter, little bit more speaker to speaker distance than listening distance (about 3.5 meter for me) and nearly full rotation to the listening position. With some miracle I touched upon a sweet spot, but it took a lot of heavy lifting and torturing the carpet…!

NB I am not an expert, and the whole story could be very speaker depending. But there is very very much to gain in fun when you are finally happy with the results!


edit: with my large speaker to front wall distance i experienced too much echo/ resonace in some music. I reduced the distance to about 80 cm decreasing the echo without much loss in other chracteristics.

TarnishedEars said

Step 1: Get rid of Pikes Peak.

Step 2: Load Torrys

Step 3: Enjoy your music again.


I have to agree, the first step should be to go straight to the latest firmware. After 500 hours you can try the older versions anytime you like but I almost guarantee you won’t !

Having said that, I don’t want to insult anyone that prefers a prior release. Our likes and dislikes are so personal and vary widely and everyone’s preference is correct.

It’s funny that you mention this. I had the exact same experience when I switched from my NuWave to my DS DAC. For me, one way I evaluated my new DS DAC was by playing vinyl rips against the original vinyl and see how close the reproduction is to the original. The NuWave was pretty close, but ultimately discernible from the original while playing from my Mac Mini and Roon/HQPlayer chain. When I played the DS I was struck with how much more “diffuse” the sound was compared to the original vinyl. The vinyl sounded better defined and could more easily pinpoint specific voicings in the recordings. I must say I was pretty disappointed. Then after a while I realized that I had inadvertently changed the “Listener Position” to the wrong one for my DAC input. This had my speaker distances set for an old speaker setup and didn’t jibe at all with my new speaker config. As soon as I changed it back, all was right again! The Directstream now had the same pinpoint voicing and soundstage as my turntable. Not to mention that the vinyl rips now sounded almost identical to the original vinyl. I mention all this because I see that you also have an Anthem preamp and you could make a similar mistake to mine. The AVM 60 is a phenomenal multimedia and 2 channel amp, but it can be pretty complex to operate. Some 2 channel’ers might look down at it, but I challenge them to find a comparable sounding pre/pro, multimedia or not, for the money! I hope this helps.

amgradmd said

… I mention all this because I see that you also have an Anthem preamp and you could make a similar mistake to mine. The AVM 60 is a phenomenal multimedia and 2 channel amp, but it can be pretty complex to operate. Some 2 channel’ers might look down at it, but I challenge them to find a comparable sounding amp, multimedia or not, for the money! I hope this helps.

FYI, I am currently running the DS DAC direct to my amplifiers via balanced interconnects, but I appreciate the input.

And, I agree with you regarding Anthem pre/pros and receivers. When I “calibrate” the room with ARC (for two channel listening), my AVM 50 really tightens up the mid-range and bass clarity. The direct out path (no DSP) option is very clean/quiet as well through the AVM 50. I have not bothered with ARC since inserting the new DAC.


That’s interesting that you have gone direct to the amp. I tried that and I liked it, but not as much as I do with the ARC (Anthem’s DSP). I have a smaller and slightly irregular room with bass nodes galore. ARC really tightens things up. Plus it really does a great job of integrating my subs and getting things phase aligned, which I couldn’t easily do without it. I need my subs! I hope you get things sorted.

Thank you. I plan on experimenting with the AVM 50 and ARC again when the DSD DAC has settled in and I feel like I have a good handle on the “non-DSP’d” sound.

I found that placing the DS on an Ikea cutting board and placing vibrapods between the cutting board and the shelf, served to add some warmth to the sound of Torreys. Same for DMP.

I assumed you tried various cutting boards before settling on the Ikea.