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NuWave DSD

Front-lower-500The NuWave DSD will transform your expectations of what’s possible in an under $2,000 DAC. The added detail and space produced by the NuWave DSD on good old Red Book CDs alone is worth the price of admission.

What makes the NuWave DSD so great? We’ve taken the lessons learned from one of the world’s best DACs, the DirectStream, and applied them to a smaller-scale, lower-cost unit. Like the DirectStream before it, the NuWave DSD produces a seamless 3D soundstage from even normal CDs. Hand-tuned and personally voiced by Paul McGowan, the improvement in sound quality over other DACs is astonishing. The NuWave DSD accepts inputs from any digital source including I2S and USB from your computer and connects to your system’s preamplifier with either single ended (RCA) or balanced (XLR) connections. Used with music server software like JRiver, Bit Perfect, Amarra or Pure Music and an iPhone or Android app, the NuWave DSD becomes your entry into the world of high-end digital audio music, both PCM and DSD. Performance is superb at anywhere near the price and there’s good reasons why, as you’ll soon discover. In fact, the NuWave DSD is one of the best sounding products we have produced in our 23 years of building DACs. Sweet, spacious and effortless, this device will bring the life back into your music and all at the touch of a finger.

Sideview500The NuWave DSD is fully asynchronous and accepts PCM up to 192kHz/24 bit from any digital source, including I2S, coax, TOSLINK and USB; DSD (single or double rate) can be input via USB and I2S.
All input signals are taken into the NuWave DSD in Native Mode, without Sample Rate Conversion (SRC) and fed directly into a simplified FPGA known as a CPLD (Complex Programmable Logic Device), which discovers sample rate and format, reclocks all incoming data, reduces jitter, waveshapes data output to the DAC chip, and utilizes high speed/low gate count logic to reduce propagation delay for faster throughput.
The DAC chip itself is the acclaimed 32-bit ESS Sabre Hyperstream architecture, the output of which is passively filtered to reduce transient distortion. the NuWave DSD’s power supply includes a massive analog transformer, 7 regulators, properly-bypassed high-speed switching diodes, and a massive 15,000 mFd of storage capacitance.
The output stage is a unique Class-A configuration, fully balanced and direct coupled hybrid array (utilizing both discrete semiconductors and ICs), with an extended bandwidth of -3dB at 60 kHz!

Vertical-silver-500Native Mode

The NuWave DSD allows you to stream bit perfect digital audio, both PCM and DSD, in a number of different ways, including music stored on your computer. All incoming musical data are fed directly into a simplified FPGA in Native Mode, without the degradation typical of sample rate converter chips, common among DACs. Native Mode decodes any resolution audio from 44.1kHz/16 bit all the way up to double rate DSD with no processing by an SRC. The resulting improvement to sound quality sets new levels of performance for DACs anywhere near this price. The incoming data are identified, organized and prepared for proper delivery to the ESS Hyperstream DAC by the custom CPLD on the NuWave DSD’s input.

Asynchronous USB for PCM and DSD

The NuWave DSD features a high-resolution USB path based on the same XMOS technology found in our DirectStream DAC. Asynchronous and capable of 24 bit 192kHz performance for PCM and single or double rate DSD, the NuWave DSD USB input sounds every bit as good as the best digital audio is capable of. Using a high quality USB cable between the NuWave DSD and your computer creates an instant media server that can be controlled through any number of handheld devices like an iPad, iPhone or Android using a 3rd party controller program. Your entire music library can be managed by iTunes, JRiver, MConnect, Windows Media Player, Foobar, Pure Music, Bit Perfect, Media Monkey or Ammara (to name a few) for ease of use. If you have yet to experience the pleasure of scrolling through your entire music library and selecting the next track at the touch of a finger, you’re in for a quite a treat. With the NuWave DSD and a USB cable you can stream both PCM and DSD high resolution audio, using nothing more than your computer and a handheld device to control and play your entire music library.

I2S input

For the first time in an affordable DAC from PS Audio, we have included an I2S input. I2S is the native format of all CD transports and many servers. I2S (pronounced I squared S) features separate clock and data signals from the source. Typically, these clock and data signals are multiplexed together to be transmitted over a single cable in a format known as S/PDIF (Sony Philips Digital Interface), or AES/EBU (Audio Engineering Society/European Broadcast Union). Once received in multiplexed form, the DAC input must untangle the clock and data and once again separate them. I2S solves the problems associated with unravelling data of S/PDIF and AES/EBU formats. I2S outputs are sent via an HDMI cable and sources with I2S outputs can be purchased from PS Audio as well as other manufacturers.

Active vs. passive filtering

Once the digital audio data have been processed through the NuWave DSD’s ESS Hyperstream 32 bit DAC, it’s time to turn them into music and this is the job of the analog filter and output stage. Most DACs use an active filtering system to clean up the output of the internal DAC but this can add a harsh, bright sound to the music. In the NuWave DSD we use all passive analog filtering giving our output a sweet, open sound unencumbered with harsh digital artifacts.

NuWave-DAC-insidesThe real challenge designing the NuWave DSD was making sure both PCM and DSD were handled in a way that sacrificed as little as possible through the playback process. Entry level DACs that accept both PCM and DSD typically favor one format over another when it comes to voicing the device. The two designers of the NuWave DSD, chief engineer Bob Stadtherr and CEO Paul McGowan, worked together for nearly a year making decisions on power supplies, overall architecture, developing a custom, simplified FPGA for the input stage and voicing the output stage in a balanced and musical manner that honors both PCM and DSD formats. The first choice was easy. Both Stadtherr and McGowan chose the ESS line of Hyperstream 32 architectures for the chip’s unrivaled sound quality. Important to both designers would be bringing as much musical detail as possible out of Red Book CDs, and reducing the sonic gap between 44.1kHz/16 bit performance and high resolution PCM and DSD. Lessons learned from years of building DACs aided design decisions critical to the mission of few musical compromises. We believe that one audition of a simple CD, played through the NuWave DSD, will open your eyes to the magic these design efforts have brought. And once you hear what the NuWave DSD does on ordinary CDs, we can’t wait for you to hear what the NuWave DSD can do for higher resolution PCM and DSD.

Balanced outputs

The NuWave DSD is a class A fully balanced design with an extremely low impedance output stage configuration and powerful driving capabilities. This is important to the sound quality of the DAC because driving even medium lengths of analog interconnect cables can be a sonic challenge if this critical stage is not designed properly. The NuWave DSD offers both balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA on the rear, driven from this low impedance output stage.

NWD-Side-white-mirrorThe chassis of the NuWave DAC is a fine metal sculpture made from a combination of aluminum and steel and based on the DirectStream’s construction. It’s half the width of the DirectStream and the full length. This beauty feels just right when you pick it up. It’s built as solid as it gets, and best of all, it’s hand crafted, programmed and tested in Boulder, Colorado. There is a measure of pride of workmanship that goes into every one of these products and it shows from the moment you open the unit up and plug it in. This is one great and affordable Digital to Analog Converter. Enjoy.


Unit Weight11.5 lbs [5.4 kg]
Unit Dimensions14” x 8.3” x 2.4” [ 36cm x 21cm x 6.1cm]
Shipping Weight20 lbs [9.1 kg]
Shipping Dimensions22.5”x 13” x 6” [57cm x 33cm x 15cm]

Power requirements

Input PowerModel specific 100VAC, 120VAC, or 230VAC 50 or 60Hz
Power Consumption15W

Digtial audio inputs


Sample Rates

Coax Input
PCM 44.1KHz – 192KHz
Optical Input
PCM 44.1KHz – 96KHz
PCM 44.1KHz – 192KHz
DSD single rate (2.8KHz) and double rate (5.6MHz) raw
USB2.0 Asynchronous Audio
PCM 44.1KHz – 192KHz
DSD single rate (2.8MHz) and double rate (5.6MHz) DoP

Analog Audio Output

Connector RCA/XLR Unbalanced /Balanced (X2)
Output level, maximumUnbalanced 2.8VRMS
Balanced 5.6 VRMS
Output Impedance100Ω/200Ω
Frequency Response10Hz – 20KHz +0/- 0.3dB
THD1KHz, 0dBFS < 0.01%
20-20KHz, 0dBFS < 0.2%
1KHz, -10dBFS < 0.01%
FormatPCM, DSD