Review component retail: €3.000/ea. I recommend going to their site and downloading as many free samples as you can. The I2S inputs on the DirectStream do not accept regular HDMI signals. This mode should only be used if a separate preamplifier is present in the hi-fi chain. For headphone I used DROP + MRSPEAKERS ETHER CX with its XLR connection to THX 887 amp. A black finish is also available. As a nuclear medicine technologist, I know there are some inside the gamma camera that I use every day at the hospital. PS AUDIO PERFECTWAVE DIRECTSTREAM DAC SPECIFICATIONS, © Copyright 2020 Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity /, Show Reports, Film Festivals and Concerts, MartinLogan Balanced Force 212 Subwoofer Review, Starke Sound A8.350 Multichannel Power Amplifier Review, STAX SR-007A Electrostatic Headphone Review, SR-L700 MKII Earspeaker Review and the SRM-D10 Portable Driver Unit for Earspeakers Review, The Smallcombe Home Theater II – Part 2, What We Are Watching Vol. I expect PS Audio components to be well designed, with excellent fit and finish, innovative circuit design, and tangible value for the dollar being asked. There is a lot of technical information on PS Audio’s website and the user manual has a lot of detailed information as well. The input/output connectors of the GCD on the rear panel are nicely laid out. Also, the GCD did not have the last bit of crystal-clear upper midrange and treble presentation of the PerfectWave DAC II. The enabling of the DAC mode will bypass the analog preamp section and the GCD will function only as a DAC with fixed volume output. There are three unbalanced analog line-level inputs as well as one balanced XLR input. Although his field of expertise is in aerospace control systems as exemplified by more than 80 technical articles in various aerospace-related journals and conferences, his passion is always in hi-fi audio reproduction. That is a quality you want to hear. The amplification used during the review was alternating between the PS Audio HCA-2 and the Bel Canto Ref500S, driving my trusty NHT Evolution T6 speakers. My impressions were with the speakers set to full range, sans a sub. I noticed a few differences between the two firmware packages. That experience got me into pursuing better quality DACs in my continuing quest to reach that mythical sonic Nirvana. Remember when we used to go to audio shows? The Stellar line represents the very realization of this company’s mission. After listening back and forth with these filters for a variety of music, I settled with Filter 1 during most of the listening sessions, which to my ears, gave the best overall results in my system. The GCD was able to convey the minute details in the soft and loud passages of the track articulately. Using the front panel touchscreen is intuitive; allowing you to select inputs and change the volume (which can also be set to Fixed). Paul McGowan, the leading man at PS Audio of Denver/Colorado, thinks of himself a bit like a rebel; a rebel with a cause that is. This was equipped in turn with a selection of cartridges, including an Audio-Technica AT-OC9 ML/II and EAT Jo No5 [HFN Dec '18] – both MCs – and the Pro-Ject Pick-it S2 MM [HFN Aug '19]. This success is not only garnered by the quality of the products PS Audio produces over the years, but also by the company’s willingness to stand behind its products, offering support for service, repair, and product updates that are above and beyond the industry’s best practices. Even my CD collection sounds refreshed. DAC can handle both PCM (up to 24-bit/384-kHz) and DSD music signals (through its I, DAC is capable of up to 384 kHz PCM and 5.6 MHz DSD signals. Because of this, theoretically, it is the best digital connection to use. Amplifiers, CD players and transports, DACs, and preamplifiers. Thus, you need a device that can put out I2S, and that is another expense or another product you must buy from PS Audio. How Much Amplifier Power Does your Home Theater Need? Now, if you have a few SD cards on hand, and you are really geeky into this, you could load a software from a previous release and re-load it for comparison and keep the one that you feel sounds the best on your system. Hey, I like to multi-task sometimes. The setup mode, which can be accessed by long-pressing the input-selector button next to the LED display, needs only be accessed for balance adjustment, phase setting, maximum analog and headphone volume limits, input name editing, home-theater bypass setup, DC trigger delay, and DAC mode setting. The GCD is very adept in navigating through a dynamic piece of music like Steps of Maya from Keiko Matsui’s The Ring (2002) album. The GCD is supplied with a relatively small infra-red remote control, which can be used to switch on/standby the device, select the input, adjust the volume level or mute the sound, select the filter or phase for the digital playback, and dim/un-dim the LED display. I noticed sonic improvement with the time I spent recently with a powerful Class-D amplifier that really added punch and body to my system. As mentioned, the DAC can handle both PCM and DSD signals. 1 & 2, Janos Starker, György Sebök (Speakers Corner 180g) Subscribe The digital inputs include one I2S, two S/PDIF coax, one optical, and one USB. Most of the time, this information is not really needed during the operation of the unit, but sometimes I do wish to be able to tell easily the sampling rate of the digital signal fed or which DAC filter is being used without getting up from my seat. The Stellar line represents the entry tier to the company’s plethora of separate hi-fi components. Vol.11 – November 2020, A Collection of New Vinyl for the Audiophile: November 2020, What We Are Watching Vol. It sounds like a large soundstage and you get just enough reverberation from the space that you can almost feel like you are there. For album covers to display on the panel, you’ll need to leave the data card in place in the back, which is fine, that way you don’t lose it. This is about as close to hearing that unicorn we call “analog sound”, and I don’t mean analog like the limited dynamics of vinyl. PS Audio is trying to extract musical information that can be masked by off-the-shelf PCM DAC chips. This product would definitely pique my interest if I were in the process of building a modestly budgeted hi-fi system. Lastly, I would like to point out that the headphone jack on the GCD is not provided only for convenience. On your smart device, you’ll have to download the Mcontrol App, to work as an interface between the DSD and your network. The improved bass gave the music more authority and muscle. Audio bliss awaits me, so let’s get into the listening session next. PS Audio has been around for a while and the company’s reputation among hi-fi stereo connoisseurs is rock solid. Never have I seen this kind of value in a HiFi Integrated Amp and yes this amp does give you a small taste of what the high end is. My analog outs were balanced out with the unbalanced input into my Emotiva UMC-200. PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell DAC Review; Vinyl Review: Jackie McLean – Lights Out! Vacuum tubes and 1200 watts The M1200 monoblocks combines rich warmth with jaw-dropping power and seemingly infinite headroom. PS Audio Stellar GainCell Preamp/DAC SPECIFICATIONS, © Copyright 2020 Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity /, Show Reports, Film Festivals and Concerts, Marantz SACD 30N Network SACD Player Review, MartinLogan Balanced Force 212 Subwoofer Review, Starke Sound A8.350 Multichannel Power Amplifier Review, STAX SR-007A Electrostatic Headphone Review, What We Are Watching Vol. The output DSD signal is fed directly into a stage based on high-speed video amplifiers (capable of handling the 5.6MHz signal) and a passive output transformer. It is an excellently built versatile preamplifier that can handle both the analog and digital signal switching equally well. It can also be turned on or off from the remote. Audio researcher and consultant Ted Smith is the guy who has handwritten the programmed architecture of the FPGA from the digital inputs to the passive output stages. PS Audio should be applauded. PS Audio sent me their $4999 DirectStream Power Plant 12, the conditioner (regenerator) of choice for two Audiophilia colleagues. I’ll keep my discs, but now I have a world of hi-res music in the palm of my hand. Naturally they recommend their premium power cables and outlets. It is a versatile preamplifier that provides both pure analog and digital input switching. Don't look down your nose at PS Audio's cheapest mains regenerator. Are Expensive outboard DACs a waste of money? My interest was piqued. The coax can handle up to 192 kHz signals, while the optical can only handle up to 96 kHz signals. With me so far? To make things more interesting, I was able to listen to Snowmass for a few weeks, before upgrading to Windom, the latest firmware update for the FPGA. I’ll talk about my sonic impressions of Snowmass vs. Windom later in my review. My speakers are the Revel Concerta2 F36’s. It is this continued passion for audio that has brought him once again to the SECRETS team. The Power Plant 12 is a full $4000 on top of the recently reviewed AQ Niagara 1200. The volume level of one of the analog inputs can be set fixed for home-theater passthrough input, which is a convenient feature for home-theater integration, allowing the surround processor to control the volume of the two front channels when this input is selected. You can hear her take in a breath on some songs and you are immediately struck by the close placement of the microphones and the tiny details they have captured. Windom sounds more open, more 3D-like with better staging and air between the musicians. For example, the song Those Sweet Words by Norah Jones from her Feels Like Home (2004) CD was presented in such lively rhythm and pace through the GCD, making me toe-tap. So when I found out there was an updated and upgraded Sprout100, naturally I was intrigued. I also subscribed to Qobuz, so I have virtually unlimited hi-res music at my fingertips for this review, up to 24/192 resolution. Single rate DSD is DSD64. So we don’t need to go there again. The PS Audio Sprout is one example of this and a fine one indeed. I did not notice any specific emphasis on certain frequency ranges that might detract musical enjoyment experience. Even though the GCD might not be the best in all the things that it does, nor does it pretend to, it seems to do everything right. I connected a Morrow Audio digital interconnect from my OPPO UDP-203 to the digital coaxial input in the DSD, connected my network cable into the Bridge II and a USB from my Mac mini into the USB input. Living on the longest stretch of sandy beach north of Boston offers him plenty of opportunities to take a relaxing stroll or soak up some sun. The DirectStream is a preamp too, so you can go directly (analog) out to an amplifier and control the volume with it (the lossless volume can be set to Fixed or Variable, so in this case, set it to Variable). This is what the Dectet manual says: We strongly recommend the use of a PS Audio PerfectWave Power™ AC cable and a PS Power Port™ AC receptacle to feed the Power Center electricity. In those aspects, it handily beat out the Audiolab P-DAC portable headphone amplifier (MSRP $199) that my son normally used. Campfire Audio Dorado 2020, Vega 2020 review (and podcast) November 24, 2020 Old’s kool: Dynaudio’s limited edition Heritage Special November 23, 2020 HELM’s Bolt is a $99 portable DAC for Spotify, MQA November 20, 2020 The bass has depth, the brass is rich, and the strings sound natural and never strident. That means the PS Audio DSD is upsampling the incoming PCM to 20 times the nominal DSD rate (20 x 64 x 44.1kHz) which is 56.488MHz (as in million). Music should transport you from your daily grind and make you just enjoy the sound. I also downloaded a few dozen audio files in various DSD sample rates onto my Mac mini. In any case, streaming DSD (single and/or double rate) music from my Mac to the DirectsSream via USB was nothing short of astonishing! At the time of this conversation, Snowmass, the 8th major firmware update, had just come out and was garnering positive attention. Your taste and system may dictate otherwise. I think of this chip less like hardware but more like a programmable software-type device. I’m not going to get into the DSD being one bit at very high sample rates, because that has been covered by SECRETS in the past. In the US, the company relies on the direct-sales approach for its business, offering the purchase of its products with 30- day return privilege and all shipping costs covered. The USB connection was needed to test the DSD playback capability of the GCD. I have been using an NPC for some months now, eve To get the purist effect, you’ll want to go direct when using a preamp. Yongki earned his Sc.D in aerospace engineering from MIT in 1999 and pursued a career as a professor in Singapore and later on in the US before deciding to change path to join the aerospace defense industry. The versatility of the Stellar GainCell Preamp/DAC does not stop there; it also includes an analog headphone amplifier with a headphone jack on the front panel. For the review, I used the Musical Fidelity A5 CD player as an analog source, while the Auralic Aries G1 streamer and the Bel Canto CD3t transport served as the digital sources. The DAC section of the GCD is based on the 32-bit ESS Sabre Hyperstream architecture with a fully balanced Class A analog output stage. The sound had more dimensional energy, impact, and just sounded more alive. What I love about this recording is the fact that you can hear the venue they play in. The Stellar M700 … The level of the fixed volume is adjustable and if a unity line-level gain is desired, the manual states that the volume level should be set at 76 (out of 100 scale). Even the PS Audio Dectet owner's manual advises using a premium power cable. Voices also seem a little more focused and forward in the mixes. PS Audio is not an unfamiliar brand to me and most audiophiles. After processing, the signal is down-converted to double DSD, sent through a passive low pass filter and out as an analog signal. That was then or what would become the MK1. That means you get to try a “new DAC” every so often. The latest from PS Audio, an all discrete FET phono preamplifier that will change the way you listen to vinyl. Moreover, with 30 days home-trial offer and generous trade-in policy, this is a must audition product for someone looking for modern affordable preamp/DAC. These tweaks and upgrades are FREE to owners. Going the DirectStream route, the signal goes PCM>DSD>analog. I have had and still have PS Audio hi-fi components in my systems. PS Audio from Boulder/Colorado/US is an established company for Audio and Power components, and digital products not only with the Direct Stream series, but since 2017 it offers the Stellar series of DAC/Pre and power amps, from which the S300 is the "cheapest" device. Moreover, the GCD conveys the rhythm and pace of the music convincingly. Phase and filter adjustments are also provided to tailor the DAC better to the rest of the system and the listener’s preferences. 6: November 2020, What We’re Listening To. While I have long been aware of the PS Audio DirectStream DAC (abbreviated from here onward in this article as DS DAC), my listening had been confined to short sessions at audio shows. Our magazine, which began with the publication of the SECRETS Primer, is available exclusively on-line and offers to our readers an extensive information resource about home theater and high-end audio. However, such a digital data output format is not yet standardized, and thus it can only be used with the digital source components that output I2S data using HDMI connection. 5: October 2020, Setting Up a Bryston BDA-3.14 Streaming DAC and Qobuz Streaming Service – A How-to Series, Part 2, Setting Up an AURALiC ARIES G1 Streamer and Qobuz Streaming Service – A How-to Series, Part 1, DCI-P3 Color – What It Means in Today’s Ultra HD World, AVR-Audio Video Reciever-Build Quality: Part V. Does Your Projector Display Accurate Color, and Why Is That Important? Located on the front panel are the round volume-control knob, the LED display, the input selector/setup button, the 1/4″ headphone jack, and the PS Audio square logo button, which also serves as the standby/on button. Diana Krall: The Girl in the Other Room – She has a great voice and it works with some of these off-the-beaten-track tunes (some written by her husband, Elvis Costello). For $1699, you get a product that can serve as an analog preamplifier, a full-featured DAC, and a headphone amplifier. The possibilities are endless (hyperbole, yes). The final matching was 0.3 dB difference between the two. I absolutely loved what I heard. Find what you like and then purchase and download the albums. The GCD easily earns my highest recommendation! PS Audio has this week announced the imminent availability of two new products. For example, even though the bass response of the GCD is in general quite satisfactory, it does not have the same attack and slam as that of the PerfectWave DAC II. Transparent, great tonal balance, and good dynamics are some of the nice traits of the sonic characteristics of the GCD. During his leisure time, he enjoys listening to his music collection and an occasional movie with his wife of 30+ years. I read somewhere that I might be able to rip DSD from my SACD collection with a software utility, but that is out of my range for this review. Paul and Ted, thanks for pushing the envelope and trying to move the musical bar higher. Other features of the preamplifier include selectable DAC filters, home-theater bypass, and DC triggers. Still hi-res, but not pure DSD. A timeline also lets you know how much track time has expired as you listen to your music. The GCD has a pair of unbalanced and a pair of balanced analog outputs. I am not so much of a headphone guy, but from my brief tryout of the headphone feature of the GCD using my son’s V-Moda Crossfade Wireless 2 in wired mode (which is Hi-Res certified), I was quite impressed by the clarity, details, and natural sound of the music I listened through it. First off, let me start by saying that reviewing the GCD has been a joy. it’s there, but not very emotionally engaging. By contrast, the GCD bass presentation of the song, while still conveying the overall bass energy, was not as authoritative. Our magazine, which began with the publication of the SECRETS Primer, is available exclusively on-line and offers to our readers an extensive information resource about home theater and high-end audio. The DirectStream is a fully balanced design. The strings shimmered, the brass had plenty of blatt, and the tympani and organ pedal notes placed the music on a firm foundation. The review sample has a matte silver finish with black side panels, which to me looks particularly classy. Clean power has been the driving force behind PS Audio, leading to a full range of components from critically acclaimed digital sources, to well respected and reviewed amplifiers and preamplifiers. That means 64 times the sample rate of a CD (64 x 44.1kHz). To use it to its fullest, I subscribed to Qobuz Sublime, with resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz. It was there that he first became interested in classical music. By now, it should be clear that I admire the musicality of the GCD. We learnt a bit more about his motivations and mind set in an interview we conducted with Paul at the eve of introducing their Network Bridge, an add-on to the PS Audio PerfectWave DAC or PWD for short. During the review, I had a chance to compare the DAC performance in the GCD with the PerfectWave DAC II, which used to be PS Audio’s top-of-the-line DAC before being superseded by the DirectStream DAC. It was neutral and transparent, or in other words, it did not get in the way of music. It is also important to note that the signal transfer capabilities of the various digital inputs of the GCD vary depending on the capability of the connection type. PS Audio isn't short of confidence. Functionality is controlled by a well-designed remote or via the 4 x 2-inch touch screen panel. Windom replaced its soul and life force by fleshing out the music into a more realistic 3D space and a more supportive low end. Currently he is the director of Nuclear Medicine at the North Shore Medical Center, located just outside of Boston. PS Audio PerfectWave DAC II was also used for the comparison. Certainly, there is not enough landscape on the OLED window to display everything in large digits, but a possible way to overcome this is to rotate the information displayed using large digits, for example by using a remote-control command. Enter the PS Audio PerfectWave DirectStream DAC, which is a state-of-the-art-DSD digital-to-analog converter, preamplifier, and media center designed into a large, slick-looking aluminum and polished blackwood designed product with no discernable knobs or buttons on the faceplate. After having reviewed a few McIntosh products, they too use a proprietary interface called MCT. The display brightness is adjustable (Bright or Normal) from inside the menu. It just has a smooth, detailed, and rich sound that your ears will never tire of. It also displays other information, such as the input name, DAC filter, the type of signal (PCM or DSD), and the DAC sampling rate, but it is in much smaller digits, and thus it is visible only from a close distance. PS Audio claims the Gain Cell DAC and S300 are both " fully balanced " designs that sound best when used with their XLR connectors, not RCA connectors. This one sounds more intimate, and I like that. The Mcontrol App works well, but it does seem a bit clumsy and not in step with the quality of the DirectStream. When new firmware is ready, you can go to PS Audio’s website and download it onto the provided SD card. The process was easy, and I had no loading issues during the 10-minutes it took. This more price aware approach was one of the design goals for the new PS Audio BHK lineup: to offer true world-class performance at a significant discount to the prodigious prices found in ultra high-end audio today. The San Francisco Symphony with Michael Tilson Thomas playing Ives and Copland – This SACD has an astonishingly good sound quality and the Copland Organ Symphony is made up of devilishly syncopated rhythms and heavy jazz influences. It features music from famous movies such as Dances with Wolves, E.T., Carousel, and my favorite, the suite from The Wizard of Oz. I labeled the UMC’s input as Analog In, with direct selected as opposed to stereo, as that would reprocess the analog signal back to digital for processing. The DirectStream made it sound so perfectly natural, so you just relax, even though you are trying to listen critically. How Much Amplifier Power Does your Home Theater Need? The I2S input keeps the data in their parallel form, which is the native form required by the DAC to process, hence skipping the data combining and separating process used in the other connection methods. That sonic life really improved with the last digital preamplifier I reviewed earlier this summer and I attributed that improvement (amongst other things) to the DAC. I set the DAC volume to a Fixed 100, so the volume was controlled by the Emotiva preamp. Analog preamplifier with DAC functionality in one chassis. …and did I mention it’s FREE? Only these two types of inputs can be used to process the DSD signals, while the others can only process the PCM signals. I first knew of PS Audio when they were best-known for amplifiers which they, of course, still design and produce. It is a versatile preamplifier that provides both pure analog and digital input switching. At every audio show, the PS Audio room is always a can’t miss and requires more than one visit. 6: November 2020, What We’re Listening To. Last year, we published a very enthusiastic review of PS Audio’s top P20 DirectStream Power Plant. I threw in various music files in various formats (PCM and DSD) and bit depths/rates to the GCD, and as long as they were within the signal specifications that the GCD could handle, it played them fine. True enough, the GCD never failed to impress me with its strong all-around sonic performance, which was even more remarkable when its modest price tag was factored in. This chip is used in many different electronic devices. As a DAC, it is capable of handling both PCM and DSD high-resolution music signals, which adds to its repertoire of capabilities. This last point, however, is not a clear cut and only detectable from a careful A-B comparison. Just like a traditional preamplifier, one can just plug in the sources to the appropriate inputs, connect the outputs to a stereo amplifier, supply the power to the unit, and switch it on to make the unit operational. The PS Audio GainCell preamp/DAC is a winner in every respect. They also make preamplifiers, power conditioners, an integrated amp the size of a Jane Austen novel, audio accessories, and a unique DSD DAC that I am reviewing here today, the PerfectWave DirectStream DAC. Will all these nice attributes, the GCD never failed to convey the emotion in the music, allowing me to get more involved in its presentation. Even my CD collection sounds refreshed. Obviously, it is not a fair comparison, as the PerfectWave DAC II carried more than twice the price tag of the GCD. The front of the unit has no buttons or knobs. The GCD is ready to use out of the box and requires only minimal setup. The really unique aspect of the PS Audio DSD (DirectStream DAC) is that the core processor is not an off-the-shelf DAC chip from Burr-Brown, Wolfson, or Sabre, but a field-programmable gate array (FPGA). Above is a picture of their room at AXPONA 2019. Amplifier 2020 ReviewDACFeaturedGainCellPreampPreamplifiers 2020 ReviewPSPS AudioStellarStellar GainCell. In any case, why go to all this trouble? Like the PerfectWave DAC, the new DirectStream DAC provides a wide variety of digital inputs: SPDIF on coaxial RCA and TosLink inputs, USB, AES/EBU on an XLR connector, and two I2S inputs on HDMI connectors.
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