Industry Reviews - DirectStream DAC

The PS Audio DirectStream DAC is a 5 year old design that, with the latest “Snowmass” release, still competes with the best DACs in its price class. How many DACs can make that claim? Many DACs are user-upgradeable, but very few have received the steady stream of free firmware updates that delivered sound quality improvements - not just bug fixes - that enable the DS DAC to retain its competitive edge. Plus, designer Ted Smith tells me he still has some (albeit shrinking) capacity left in the DS DAC's FPGA to continue delivering improvements in the future. These include trickle-down findings from the cost-no-object Obsidian “Ted Smith Signature” DAC he is developing. That is a stunning value proposition, and one very few companies can match. The DS DAC is an intensely enjoyable piece of gear that allows you to connect deeply with your music. Its biggest strength is its ability to make music sound natural and real. Refined tonality, dimensionality, dynamics, and grunt - it has it all. And to my pleasant surprise, this was the first DAC I've reviewed where I could optimize the Ethernet input to a level of sound quality close to that of USB. Did the DS DAC surpass its competition in every attribute? No it did not, but that's not how I measure success. The DS DAC's success comes from having earned a spot on the shortlist of any audiophile shopping for a DAC in this price range. And just like thousands of delighted current owners, I fully expect many more will find it to be the one that speaks best to their soul. Highly recommended!

Audiophile Style

In all configurations I tried, playback from the Memory Player was clearly better than playback from the Mac Mini+Roon. This is an instance where I feel the differences were not a matter of preference. I am sure there are some out there who would prefer the sound of the server, but they would be wrong…. I consistently heard a lower noise floor from the Memory Player and, from that, more air, better definition, and less smearing, which I became aware of only when confronted with its absence. I also heard better bass from the Memory Player; not more ample bass (or not just that) but truly better in being more foundational and center-of-the-earth, which is musically important even with smaller speakers… I can't think of a company I'd be more comfortable hitching my digital wagon to than PS Audio. The DirectStream Memory Player and DAC are, without question or reservation, exceptional products worthy of your serious consideration.


I feel fairly safe in concluding that not only are these components highly enjoyable to hear and use, but that they are also safely on the cutting edge of digital audio reproduction. And I don't see that premise changing anytime soon, what with PS Audio's commitment to free software updates to anyone purchasing the gear. I don't think the digital audio enthusiast could go wrong with this pair!

Part Time Audiophile

I can't think of a better digital disc player than the PS Audio DirectStream Memory Player and DAC. (Neither of these six figure players will play your DVD-a discs) If I had more than two thumbs to raise I would offer them, it's that good. The only remaining choice is whether you want silver or black.

Tone Audio

Attaining the performance provided by the PerfectWave transport and DirectStream DAC even five years ago would have cost multiples of the PS Audio Duo. This potent, engagingly musical front end will allow you to rediscover the plethora of CDs in your collection with a fresh, more organic and dynamic take. And with the millions of CDs flooding the used market the PerfectWave Transport and DirectStream DAC will be a great musical partner standing by your side for years to come.

Positive Feedback

The DirectStream DAC is the hottest thing to come of PS Audio since forever. This unconventional design, even as it does all manner of violence to the heart of the purist with all of his “do nothing to the signal” whining, just kills it. Its performance is on par with some of the very best “traditional” designs on the market, and with its potential for endless upgradability, the DirectStream is revolutionary.

Part Time Audiophile

Time will tell if and when these levels of performance, flexibility, and luxury will become available for less than $6000. But today, for those who've waited for a computer-friendly DAC that offers, with every type of music file, the best musicality of which DSD is capable, the PerfectWave DirectStream may be in a class by itself.


DirectStream's easily the best DAC I've ever heard in my system, making digitally-recorded music sound better than I've ever heard it.

The Absolute Sound

The real magic of this DAC may centre on its handling of PCM material—material the DAC gives greater smoothness, fluidity, dimensionality, and elegance than it might otherwise have had. I don't mean to suggest by this that traditional PCM playback methods cannot or do not sound perfectly good in their own right, because they certainly can and do. But if PCM playback has an identifiable 'failure mode' it might be that PCM files can at times sound a bit flat and 2-dimensional, while exhibiting subtly edgy and/or mechanical qualities that tend to hold the listener at arm's length from the music. ... I will tell you that it makes these sorts of playback problems better—and sometimes eliminates them almost completely.

Hi Fi PLus

the jump from downmixed to true, native DSD was quite astonishing. It lifted a previously unnoticeable opaqueness, allowing unfettered access to the full harvest of tonality and detail.

AV Magazine

Synergy and magic. Right now here in our listening room...Way deeper bass, way more open, way less whatever being in the way of our music… way more music. Dynamics… try My Disco's "1991" or anything from Lustmord. Happy times.

Positive Feedback

The DS is a game changer; I think it has caused the 'war' between DSD and PCM to be on hold or mute for most of us, and above all hold your horses before buying expensive high-resolution PCM files or DSD. That alone is a major accomplishment.


The DirectStream DAC is one of the finest-sounding DACs I have heard. Many will be excited just to see that it can accept DSD signals, but I would say that they are being shortsighted. The DSD processing of all signals is what makes this unit special.

Home Theater Review

PS Audio's DirectStream DAC is a goto unit for vinyl fans who've previously found digital playback to sound too rigid or uptight. The DirectStream is simultaneously more mellow and understated; there's less of the celestial awe of the Aqua La Scala MKII and less of the ultra-colourful exuberance of the AURALiC Vega. In driving this point home I've put my money where my mouth is: I've purchased the DirectStream review unit in spite of already having a multitude of terrific sounding DACs here to play with. I think that speaks for itself.

Digital Audio Review

The PS Audio DirectStream is a musically authentic, thoroughly engaging and ultimately compelling DAC that elevates the listening experience to an entirely new level. Its treatment of any digital material, regardless of format, is quite astounding — even MP3s and Internet radio sounded vibrant and exciting.

AV Magazine (South Africa)

Matthias Böde of Germany's Stereo Magazine gives DirectStream 100 out of 100 points. The article is in German, but it can easily be translated and viewed if German's not your native language.

Stereo Magazine (Germany)

But what happened now was beyond our expectations. Maybe we had been lulled into a bit of been-there-done-that reviewer fatigue but the DirectStream's handling of this CD became a rude wakeup call and put us back on edge to eat crow. Damn, the performances of the various groups and soloists were so real and at such dynamic range, it was hard to believe that the source material was a simple 16/44.1 Redbook CD.

6 Moons

Even at low listening levels, music retained its character with no sense of the sound washing out. For those people looking for a direct-to-amp DAC/Digital Preamp, consider the DirectStream a solid contender.


After listening to the PS Audio PerfectWave DirectStream DAC for the past few months it is my opinion that DirectStream represents a new benchmark in audio reproduction. Notice that I didn't say “digital audio reproduction.” In other words, in my view the PS Audio DirectStream is the most musically and technically capable device of any type that I've ever had the pleasure to evaluate. My heartfelt congratulations go out to Paul McGowan, Ted Smith, and PS Audio's excellent design team for making DirectStream a reality for those of us who truly love our music.

Stereo Times

This is a brilliant design, with exceptional execution, and paradigm-setting sound. I can tell you, this bloody DAC, DSD to the fore, is a real killer. Flat-out, stone-cold, and damn-straight. It has been a while since 2008, but now I have to say that the DirectStream DAC is the first real rival to Playback Designs that I've heard. It goes right to the top of my heap of DSD DACs, right next door to the PD Series-3. The envelope for the audio arts has moved out yet again. To tell you the truth, I couldn't be more pleased! This is good for music, for our recordings, and for us all. And that is the highest compliment that I can pay to PS Audio's breakthrough product….

Positive Feedback

The DirectStream's sound is non-fatiguing in an almost tube-like way. It is smooth and relaxing. Surely, you tell yourself, it must be sacrificing detail to deliver this. But no. With recording after recording, the DirectStream presents layers and layers of detail in such a way as to produce a sound which is very easy to listen to, and with a low fatigue factor, even with CD sources. As someone with very little tolerance for the fatiguing nature associated with CD, I find this to be a most appealing characteristic.

Bit Perfect

It is truly an exceptional product, and a DAC that allows even the most familiar music to surprise and enthrall. Yes, the folks at PS Audio understand that with digital audio, there can be no final word. Meet the Directstream - a DAC that is ready to keep up with the conversation.

Headphone Guru