First Listen: PS Audio DirectStream DAC with Pikes Peak operating system

Digital-to-analog converters
PS Audio DirectStream DAC
First Listen: PS Audio DirectStream DAC with Pikes Peak operating system

This blog is not a full-fledged Hi-Fi+ review, nor should it be read as one. Instead, it is – as the title states – an introductory ‘first listen’ to PS Audio’s unique, impressive, and newly upgraded £5,250 DirectStream DAC (or to £5,550 with the optional Perfect Wave Bridge module, which our sample did not include). The DirectStream DAC also includes the firm’s latest Pikes Peak operating system.

PS Audio’s digital line is not confined to DACs, and in a week or two, I will be doing a follow-up blog on another PS Audio product commonly used in conjunction with the DirectStream DAC: the PerfectWave Memory Player (also known as the PerfectWave Transport, or PWT). Like the DirectStream DAC, the PWT has some interesting and unconventional technical features, so that my thought is that the PWT deserves a separate blog of its own (stay tuned).

With the advent of higher resolution PCM-format digital audio files and increased interest in DSD, DACs and universal disc players that handle DSD files by converting them into PCM are relatively commonplace. This approach makes sense for some DAC makers—especially those whose primary expertise and technical ‘comfort zones’ centre on working with PCM files.

PS Audio, however, takes precisely the opposite approach with its DirectStream DAC, which instead converts all incoming digital audio files to DSD format, upsamples those files to 10x DSD speeds, and processes them using what the company terms a, “true single-bit, double rate DSD core engine.” The resulting circuit path offers what PS Audio describes as, “advantages in simplicity, linearity, and in analogue-like overload characteristics that avoid PCM’s ‘hard clipping’ and propensity to mask subtle details.”

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