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PS Audio's New Snowmass Firmware Update Dazzles
By Bes Nievera, Music Direct Brand Ambassador

In an ongoing effort to rid obsolescence from components, PS Audio's futureproofing of its award-winning DirectStream DAC continues with its new Snowmass OS firmware update, which leads to even better sound quality and performance. Per the company's recent press release:

Ted Smith, [the] longtime collaborator and lead designer of the DirectStream andDSJ DACs, has periodically written new OS which reconfigures the basic structure of the DACs. The FPGA-based architecture of those models allows owners to download new OS and update their DACs in the field, whenever Ted devises a way to produce better performance and better sound. In this way, owners are assured of performance which improves over time, and units which never become obsolete.

Since the initial release of DirectStream in 2014, Ted has authored nearly a dozen OS updates, each better than its predecessor. As improvements in both sound quality and functionality increased dramatically, PS dropped the usual numeric labels and began naming the OS updates after Fourteeners, to symbolize the company's aspiration to ultimate sound quality.

So what magic did Ted unleash with this new OS?

"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."

In the press release, PS Audio CEO Paul McGowan also spoke about the upgrade's impact.

"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.' Snowmass is our best update yet, and as always, DirectStream owners get this upgrade for free – and holy moly, they're not going to believe how good this is. It'll easily blows away six-figure DACs."

Simultaneous with the launch of Snowmass, PS Audio is releasing new code for the network Bridge II. The new code will improve the connectivity and stability of Spotify Connect, and include a number of improvements in functionality – including a dimmer feature for the display.

Snowmass and the new Bridge II code can be downloaded for free from the PS Audio website. For those who prefer to purchase the DirectStream code on SD cards, they will be available directly from PS Audio for a modest cost. Code for the DirectStream Jr. will be available soon.

November 13, 2018

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