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!
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Stereo Magazine (Germany)
100 out of 100
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.
Marja and Henk
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.
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….
David W. Robinson
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
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.