Product of the Year Award-Winning PS Audio PerfectWave DirectStream DAC Converts All Digital Music Files to 10x DSD: American-Made Reference Component Decodes MQA and Is Roon-Ready
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Able to decode and play back MQA and work with Roon software, and defeating obsolescence by way of free firmware upgrades to its architecture that lead to superior sound, PS Audio's groundbreaking PerfectWave DirectStream DSD DAC uncovers everything previously hidden in your digital music files. This award-winning DAC up-converts all digital music files to 10x DSD, producing perfectly linear, edge-free sound guaranteed to reveal missing details in all of your music. Providing an entirely new approach to making music from any digital signal, the Colorado-made DirectStream DSD DAC will breathe new life into countless digital files and all high-resolution downloads. Whether it's MP3 or 24-bit/192kHz or DSD files, we guarantee that you have never heard your digital music sound this analog-like.
"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."
– David Robinson, Positive Feedback
No off-the-shelf DACs inside this award-winner: DirectStream features hand-written, discrete, perfection-based digital-to-analog conversion technology that uncovers all the information hidden in your music and brings it to the forefront. CDs, downloads, high-resolution PCM or DSD based media are expertly up-sampled in the DirectStream DAC to ten times DSD rate and then output as the most pure analog signal through its singled-ended or balanced outputs into your preamplifier or use its preamp circuitry to output directly into your amplifier. However you use the DirectStream DAC, you will hear instruments and voices reproduced with an unheard level of realism.
"Whether you're a rabid DSD fan, or have strong convictions that PCM is the only way to go, PS Audio's goal for the DirectStream DAC was to make both types of recordings sound as good as possible. My personal take is that it substantially realizes that goal....It's easily the best DAC I've heard in my system, making digitally recorded music sound better than I've ever heard it."
– The Absolute Sound
DirectStream converts any digital input format, such as PCM or DSD to a pure DSD stream and outputs near-perfect analog signal. Whatever the format or sample rate, DirectStream is a pure DSD based solution that fulfills the promise of a high-resolution performance standard - one that was promised by the originators of the Compact Disc over 30 years ago. Hear what you've been been missing in your music for all these years. 100% Music Direct Guaranteed.
"...I was already impressed by the DirectStream's ability to play music more compellingly than most D/A converters of my experience; here was the refinement that put its sonic presentation in the first rank, as well...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!"
Free Firmware Update for All DirectStream DAC Owners: Snowmass
– Art Dudley, Stereophile
“Unless you’re going to drop six figures on a dCS Vivaldi or an Esoteric Grandioso, I can’t think of a better digital disc player than the PS Audio DirectStream Memory Player and DAC.”
—Jeff Dorgay, TONEAudio, Product of the Year Award
PS Audio’s tradition of providing free firmware updates that lead to superior sound—and which defeats obsolescence—continues with Snowmass. While with most other DACs you willl always have the technology that came with the product when you bought it, DirectStream gives you a progressive return on your investment. DirectSteam lead designer Ted Smith explains: “For Snowmass, I rewrote the FPGA code that upsampled lower rates of PCM to 352.8kHz (or 394kHz, depending). I wanted to get better control of the times at which things happened in order to have more control of noise generated, and of the jitter generated by the FPGA. I could also get a better balance of FPGA resources needed to do the filtering. In the old upsampler, I got about 144dB S/N in the upsampling, in the new code I have about 156dB S/N. Lowering noise and jitter makes everything better. 352.8kHz PCM and DSD will also have a quieter background and essentially everything else mentioned, but perhaps not with the magnitude of improvement heard with CD." PS Audio CEO Paul McGowan adds: "Redcloud, our last upgrade, made a huge improvement in the sound quality of DirectStream, but Snowmass is truly stunning. Everything is more open and has soundstage depth that is better defined. This allows your ear to work less because the image is more palpable and the illusion is therefore much more realistic. In the midrange, there's more detail with less harshness, and voices and instruments are better separated, more precisely located in the soundstage. It's easier to hear the enunciation and vocal technique of singers, dynamic contrasts are far greater and crescendi just leap out at you—and everything just sounds more 'real.’”
Pure DSD Done Right
Introducing DirectStream, one of the most remarkable DACS ever built. Hand written, discrete, perfection based conversion that uncovers all the missing information hiding in your digital audio media for all these years. CD's, downloads, high-resolution PCM or DSD based media are expertly upsampled in the DirectStream to ten times DSD rate and output as pure analog directly into your amplifier or preamplifier. Classic PCM based DACS, including many of today's DACS that can also process DSD, tend to cover up some of the subtle musical details buried deep within digital audio music; a problem inherent in their architecture. DirectStream solves this problem by employing a pure DSD single-bit approach for both PCM as well as DSD media. This means that your entire library of music can finally reveal all the music and subtle low level details buried deep within its core. Imagine going to a recording studio and listening to a master tape of any recording made. This is the experience DirectStream provides its owners who enjoy a renewed sense of enjoyment and discovery when listening to everything in their library: CD's, downloads, DSD. It is likely that whatever DAC you are currently using to decode your music may be covering up some of the finer details such as room reflections, upper harmonics, inner details and proper tonality. Removing the barriers inherent in PCM based processors can reveal more in your library than you might have thought possible.
The DSD Engine
10X DSD rate: Regardless of input format, whether PCM or DSD, all data are upsampled to 30 bits running at 10 times the standard DSD rate and then back down again to double rate DSD for noise shaping. This critical step sets the DirectStream apart and is responsible for much of the uncovering of details in the music.
No rounding: The internal volume control keeps complete precision: every bit in the input affects the output of the DAC for any volume level. Except for the sigma-delta modulation process itself there is no rounding, dither or other trimming. This means that perhaps for the first time, the DACS volume control has no degradation or data loss at any volume setting, eliminating the need for a preamplifier if the user wishes.
30 bit frames: The design utilizes a minimum width of 24 bits and achieves at least 144dB S/N in all of the upsampling filters. Use of full precision in the upsampling filters and significant number of “guard bits” in the IIR filters and the sigma-delta modulator help maintain the goal of perfecting the audio output. Music has never been this clean and high-resolution analog-like.
Headroom: Depending on the source material some designs may run out of headroom or approach saturation levels. The DirectStream design opts for at least one extra top bit everywhere in the digital path, coupled with an extra 6dB of head room in the analog path above and beyond the 6 dB of headroom that SACD needs. This means no PCM or DSD program material will ever have dynamic restriction from the DAC itself.
Transformer coupled output: The output of the DSD engine is fed directly into the output stage which is based on high speed video amplifiers, passive filtering, including a carefully crafted high bandwidth audio transformer at the output. Unlike conventional DACS that depend on active analog output circuitry and the problems associated with them, DirectStream is purely passive. This approach is one of the critical success stories of DirectStream. Because the output DSD stream is running at double DSD rate (5.6mHz) the ability of active analog electronics to handle these tremendously fast frequencies without adding any sonic artifacts is a serious challenge, one handled without incident when passive means are employed as found in DirectStream.
Critical Design Choices
One master clock: Two clocks would mean more jitter. Even being able to shut one of them completely off while using the other adds stubs and possibly worse, logic or switches between the clocks and the final retiming-flip-flop. PCM architecture DACS almost universally require more than one clock and thus mask subtle details in the music.
Low noise transfer: Connections between sections of the design have large impedances to slow down the edges and lessen any noise transfer, in addition to significant power supply isolation. This technique improves musicality and reduces, if not eliminates, the audible glare associated with traditional DACs.
Low interference: Control signals run as slowly as they can possibly go, plus control of their transition times limits the amount of induced noise (and hence possible jitter) into the main digital processing area. By slowing these control signals, music remains pure and unaffected by internal commands necessary for the DirectStream's operation.
Balanced architecture: Balanced signals are used throughout reducing radiation and noise in the ground and power rails. A balanced architecture is largely responsible for cleaning up the background and lowering noise floors to black levels.
One of the handiest features on the DirectStream that will see a great deal of use is the polarity (phase) control. This touch screen option (available on the remote as well) allows users to select normal or inverted polarity for every input and for every performance. Sources and music have no standard for absolute polarity, a fact easily demonstrated by switching polarities on the as the music plays. Many Audiophiles mark their discs in phase and out of phase and are very careful to select the proper polarity before playing each disc. Some CD players and sources themselves invert polarity so that a disc you believe is inverted actually is correct played on a specific device and incorrect on yet another. To fix this problem you can assign each input on the DirectStream to switch to the proper polarity when you activate that input. Touching this control is the same thing as reversing the loudspeaker connections of both loudspeakers (+ to -) at either the amplifier or speakers. All live acoustic music is in absolute polarity but some recordings may accidentally be made inverted and should sound more realistic and pleasant when you correct their polarity with the switch.
Inputs and Outputs
DirectStream has seven digital inputs which include: two I2S, one TOSLINK optical connector, one coaxial S/PDIF connector, one balanced XLR AES/EBU, one asynchronous USB input and one optional Network Streaming Bridge slot. DirectStream has both single ended coaxial and fully balanced XLR outputs.