August 4, 2015

  • PS Audio DirectStream DAC and Network Bridge, Part 3

    Correction to the DS DAC’s output from my Part 2 posting. On the low setting, the output is 1.4Vrms when 20db attenuation is applied to its high output setting which is 2.1Vrms. Therefore both the Oppo 105D and the DS DAC have identical (on paper) output. Although I’ve noticed more and more that the DS DAC seems louder at the same volume level than before, it is still somewhat lower than the Oppo.

    April 22-25, 2015
    Total Burn-In Time: 264 hours
    Uploaded Pikes Peak Firmware/OS on April 22

    Previously I had been using the 1.2.1 OS (unnamed) which was the firmware version loaded onto the DS DAC at the time of purchase. After loading Pikes Peak (PP), the sound was more dynamic with a wider if not deeper sound stage. Instruments are easier to pick out of the mix. Details are extremely clear and frequency extremes are extended but it still maintains the SACD-like smoothness with no evident glare.

    For an unknown reason (but a result which has been reported in the PS Audio DirectStream Forum), as the new firmware "settles in" the overall sound changes. Specifically, there's greater sound stage depth and in general, it's more dynamic than when PP was initially loaded. Please remember that at this point the DS DAC was left on continuously so this isn't an effect of the equipment warming-up.

    April 26-May 21, 2015
    Total Burn-In Time: 864 hours
    Replaced Oyaide 7NP4030II power cord with P-/C-004 connectors on the DS DAC with Bybee Golden Goddess with Acrolink CF connectors
    Put Black Discus over the DAC's power transformer
    Placed a trio of Black Diamond Racing #4 cones under the DAC
    Finally figured out how to get JRiver Media Center 20 to work in conjunction with the DAC's USB connection
    Changed JR20 output encoding setting from DoP to none so that the DAC now sees the USB input in its native format
    Replaced stock USB 3 cable on the EHD with WireWorld Starlight 7 USB 3
    Added three #4 BDR pucks to the cones already under the DAC

    Obviously quite a few system changes/tweaks occurring during this time period plus the DAC has passed the 750 hour burn-in period after which I didn't detect any changes in sound due to that factor alone. For whatever reason the 500 hour burn-in time estimation didn't hold for this unit/system.

    Bass became more punchy and the sound stage more dimensional after putting the Bybee/Acrolink CF on the DS DAC. Certain sound effects (running water, birds, etc.) are more realistic.

    Placement of the BDR #4 cones has little or no effect versus the stock feet.

    The JR20/USB input may show the DAC at it's best although when the Bridge is working without hiccoughs, that comes darn close.

    Photo of Bridge connection after switching JR20 to no output encoding. Note that the DAC now sees .DSF files in their proper format and not as PCM.

    Adding the #4 pucks to the #4 cones yields a slightly rounder, richer sound but still with excellent upper treble response.

    May 22-July 2, 2015
    No longer reporting burn-in time
    Replaced Bybee/Acrolink CF on DS DAC with Bybee/Oyaide M1/F1
    Replaced the Acoustic Reveive RCA-PA connecting the DAC to the c-j CA200 with XLO Signature 3.1
    Replaced Kimber D-60 with XLO Signature 1.1 as coax connector from Oppo 105D to DS DAC
    Replaced BDR #4 cones and pucks with Mapleshade Triplepoints under DAC
    Replaced XLO S1.1 with Nordost Red dawn (original ribbon version not current Leif series)

    After switching to the Bybee/M1/F1 the bass is tight and taught but the transients are still not as sharp as either the Olive O3HD or Oppo 105D when they are used solo. Piano is very realistic and low levels details are more apparent. Decay is at reference level as the background is even darker than before. Sound stage is dense, complex and dimensional.

    The switch to the XLO S3.1 is ever so slightly more dynamic but in most other respects not a change over the Acoustic Revive. This is a surprising, to me, result.

    A consistent difference between the 105D solo and having the DS DAC in the chain is the previously noted drop in "air" and transient edge but more inner detail/truth of timbre.

    Switching to the XLO S1.1 as coax connection yields a slightly more forward sound stage.

    Replacing the BDR cones and pucks with the Triplepoints results in clearer upper treble and transients. This was a needed, beneficial change.

    Inserting the original version Nordost Red Dawn in as the coax cable results in an apparent volume level increase with a more prominent if also slightly more thuddy bass response.

    July 3-30, 2015
    Updated OS/firmware from Pikes Peak to Yale Beta
    Plugged DS DAC into the CA200's External Processor Loop 2 which sets the CA200 to unity gain and volume is now controlled via the DS DAC

    Yale Beta yields a well centered sound stage with reference level lateral spread. Listening to some solo cello suites the cello seems more solid, more there in the room.

    Switching to the EPL2 input has piano sounding more tinkly with smaller, denser images. More air, more snappy sounding, and dialogue is more intelligible. Makes the DAC sound more like the 105D but in a good way.

    General Comment: When listening to music I prefer having the DAC in the loop but for Netflix and Cable I prefer the 105D solo. However as time goes on even for movies and TV, having the DS DAC in the chain is becoming more and more the new normal.

    July 31-August 4, 2015
    Upgraded from Yale Beta to Yale Final
    Switched the DAC from EPL2 to regular line level connection

    With every OS firmware upgrade the noise level has been dropped approximately 3dB and the already extremely low jitter level has been reduced. The noise floor now stands at about -130dB. Also, with every change the apparent volume difference between the DS DAC and the 105D has been reduced to the point where although still present it has become relatively minor. Sound stage is even more three dimensional than Yale Beta.

    After switching input connection there is an increase in inner detail/truth of timbre and the overall sound seems a little softer.

    That's pretty much all she wrote folks. I may come back to this topic again but for the moment, I'm very pleased.

Comments (5)

  • a.) No, Xanga does not send me notification, when any of my xanga connections has posted.

    b.) Remember the AA guy who smugly snickered about taking notes?

    c.) Very appreciative of you investigating the analog output voltage. It's not close; in my decades in this hobby, the #1 complaint I hear is that the volume it TOO LOUD, even when the preamp is at or near MIN. The problem starts with sources having way too high output. So it's nice to know that the DS' "high" setting is 2.1V, which is other DAC's/CD players' low.

  • Good to know about (a), thank you. Even with notes, it's sometimes no easy task putting this stuff together as you very well know. And this leaves me with the open question of why identical output voltages don't sound equally loud.

    Hmmm.I wonder if it might be their respective out impedances?

  • Damn, not that either, they're both 100 ohms unbalanced which is how I use them.

  • Perceived "loudness" can also be a qualitative function. The one with a distant soundstage may sound "softer." The one with BIG & BOLD images may appear to sound louder. The one with lazy transients, downbeat mood, and plodding rhythm can give the impression that it is softer.

  • Good points all and any one or more of them could be exactly why I'm hearing what I do. Thanks for the follow-up.

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