Opinions on PS Audio Direct Stream DAC (Mk 1)

PS Audio is clearing out factory refurbished Direct Stream DACs, the original version from 2014 or 2015, for about $1800. I'm wondering if I could get opinions on this DAC. It's old technology as far as digital goes, but it got nice reviews when it was new. It can do DSD64 and DSD128. It upsamples everything internally to DSD.

I'm interested in musicality and musical involvement, especially dynamics (macro and micro), accuracy of instrumental timbre and extracting the beauty out of the recording, low noise floor and high resolution.


I seem to have turned a corner with my unit. I have made no changes yet (have a Morrow I2S cable on the way), but as of yesterday great things seem to be happening. I was afraid it was wishful thinking so I waited until today and I’m listening to it as I type this. Detail is MUCH better all of a sudden. I’ve got less than 10 hrs of listening time on it so that seems way too little to chalk it up to breaking in. The master power switch has been on since I got it, though, so I guess thermal stability could be a factor.

I’ve found the bass to be "prodigious" since hour one, so much so that I actually dialed it back a little with PEQ. But now I’ve turned PEQ back off, as the bass seems to have corrected itself (I wouldn’t want to use the term "mellowed" because it’s still got bass in spades). I just tried listening from the XLR outputs of the EverSolo DMP-A8 and I preferred the sound going through the Direct Stream, hands down, and I preferred the DMP-A8 to the Octo Research DAC. What stands out to me? It sounds really dynamic, with music sounding more "full" and fleshed out. I’m really looking forward to future improvement through cable upgrades and further break-in, but I’m pretty happy with it right now.

I’m now ready to say that I’m definitely keeping it. My only decision is if I want to send it off to APS to bring it up to "Signature" status. I’ll certainly wait a while to see where I end up with it as is.

I'm the OP. I've listened for a while and given it a few hundred hours of burn-in just in case that was needed. I'm giving up on it for two reasons: too bright, and weak bass (poor pitch definition). I'm using it with a headphone system, mostly: a classic LCD-2 and an LCD-X, together with a custom 12AU7/FET headphone amplifier that is very extended and powerful. 

I sensed it as too bright. For instance, in chamber music, the instruments in the upper registers tended to stand out much more than the lower instruments. Or in a piece by Chopin, the pianist's right hand dominated the texture far too much. 

The bass had poor pitch definition. First, the midbass was recessed. I could barely hear some midbass notes in classical pieces. Easier in rock, but didn't really provide a firm foundation. The deep bass sounded like an unpitched thump (poor pitch definition).

The brightness is not really a "bad" thing--maybe it's a good system match for darker speakers. I don't know how to explain the bass problems.

The Music Room says they will accept returns with a smallish restocking fee, but I'm not sure what the time limit is. I'm at 29 days since ordering it.

@shooter41 I keep mine on 24/7. It doesn’t like to be disconnected/powered down and it takes about a day to come back to optimal performance. 
I have a set of nobsound springs that are laying around. I was bored and decided to try them under the DSD DAC. I’ve not had good luck with vibration control in the past under any of the components but placing the DAC feet directly onto the springs tightened up the bass and resulted in a bit more clarity and high frequency sparkle. Still getting used to it and will try the springs under the chassis next and will play with loading. Interesting results so far though. Getting used to it for few days before I continue the experiment. 
As far as power cords, I’m using Nordost Heimdall 2 and Frey 2. Nice improvement in details and instrument separation compared to stock cord or the AQ Tornado that I used previously. 
Overall this DAC is a pleasure to listen to. 

@audphile1 Hmm, I always kept my Yggy on 24/7 as it took literally a week to thermally stabilize, but I wasn't as comfortable doing it with the Direct Stream since it has a screen. It just dawned on me to see if the remote had a button to turn the screen off and lo and behold it does! I hadn't even put the batteries in the remote before since I'm using it in a desk top headphone setup and it's within easy reach. Hopefully I'll see further improvement but I listened for a while last night and was honestly pretty satisfied as is. (I gave it about an hour to warm up first). I did switch to my new Morrow I2S cable and while I can't say that it was an immediate improvement, I do think that as the cable has broken in the synergy has improved and is pretty dang good now. I'm still using the knock-off Nordost Gold PC but I'll get around to switching that out at some point, too.

@magon If that’s your experience then yes, I would move on from it. I actually have a similar setup that I’m using mine in. McIntosh tube HP amp, which is known to be a bit warm though I don’t think I would refer to it as dark. My ’phones are HifiMan Susvara, and they are definitely not dark. Yet our 2 systems synergies seem to be much different as I haven’t found the issues that you have, at least not since the DAC settled in. But I’d say you’ve given it a fair try-out so if you’re not feelin’ it then I would contact TMR tomorrow since that will be day 30.

I have had both the LCD-2 and the LCD-X before but I decided that I seem to prefer the HifiMan "house sound". I have also had several different Focals that I liked. The Susvaras are definitely in another league than anything else I’ve had, though they weren’t until thoroughly broken in. I’ve had them about a year now and I’m pretty convinced that they are the last headphones I’ll ever buy.