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.


@magon i’ve had this DAC for over a month now. Bought it from TMR after I sold my Bricasti M3 as a hold over until I step up to something better.

First of all, I don’t agree that this is old technology. The DAC uses FPGA custom programmed by the designer Ted Smith. Rob Watts uses FPGA in his Chord DAC designs as well. PS Audio can be updated, Chord can’t be.
I haven’t tried any older versions but the latest Sunlight sounds great. In my system this DAC sounds excellent. Very natural, no hint of digital harshness, great resolution and soundstage. The noise floor is slightly higher than with the Bricasti DAC but can be mitigated by dropping the DAC volume from 100 to 92. The tone is warmer and more intimate than the Bricasti without any loss in resolution or dynamics. 
The DAC reacts well to upgraded power cords so there’s still room for improvement there. 

Overall, at the current prices offered by TMR this DAC is a ridiculous bargain.
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.


Excellent DAC, I owned one for 5 years, and you can use any of the FPGA updates, as some prefer the older ones, though most prefer the last one...

Does PSAudio have a return policy for used items? If so, you would only be out shipping.

On the other hand, might your question be more along the lines of, “what is the best DAC that I can buy on the used market for $1800 .. and why?”

It's The Music Room selling those at $1800 ... that model was current until a few years ago...

I have owned the PS Directstream MK1 for over four years, and I could and would upgrade if I found there was something much better, but the only one I heard that was much better was over $20K, and that's not gonna happen. So I'd say for $1800 you are getting a great DAC, and as said before, it's not out of date as it's a FPGA, one of the main reasons I brought it.

Hope this helps.

TMR will entertain an offer. Their return policy is 30 days on this with small restocking fee. Not much to lose. 

I owned the Directstream MK 1 and loved it.I traded it in for the MK 2.

The MK 1 is the greatest audio bargain you will ever find at 1800.00

I went from a Yiggy to the MK 1...and the MK 1 was in another league.

Build quality, every digital input you'll ever need, you can use it as a preamp if you choose. Fantastic remote for changing inputs from your seating position, or for adjusting the volume if your going directly into your amp. Great customer service...the list goes on and on.

This was a legit 6K DAC originally. I think you'll always maintain your value at 1800.00

If I was on a budget, I could live with this DAC for a long time.

Yes it's from the Music Room, although they said something about factory refurbished or authorized, forget which.

Anyway, I offered 1600 and they accepted...  Yes, returns allowed for small restocking fee!

You won’t regret it! It’s factory “refreshed”. Mine looks brand new even has plastic protective film on top lid. +1 @krelldog on all points. 

I have had the Direct Stream Mk 1 for about 4 years - I am always tempted to get something "better", but when I A/B with something in the 5K price range, it still shines. There are two DAC’s that I have heard better - the DAC in the Rowland Daemon (but can’t get it stand alone, nor could I ever afford it), and the Linn DAC - also in the $35K range. The best reason to purchase from PS Audio is they pick up the phone, you have support - something most companies / dealers are seriously lacking. I like the screen on the Mk1 - they took that off in the Mk2. The bridge works great too - but I am mostly using USB because the software is not very intuitive "mcontrol" - plus mcontrol does not support radio paradise in FLAC to my knowledge. For $1800 it is a STEAL.

Can’t be beat for the price.  I have the DSJr. and I haven’t heard anything equally priced that is better.  Enjoy!

@krelldog - what Yggy did you have?  Certainly seems this is a bargain for a quality DAC at this price point.  

I got my PS Audio DSD MkI direct from PS Audio as a refurbished unit, but at about $3,400.00. They gave me a 30 day return policy, and I believe a 1 year warranty. Thought it was a good deal then, and still believe it was. 
It arrived in near-perfect condition, with factory manual, remote control, etc.

But TMR’s deal for a factory refurbished unit is I think, an insanely good deal. That the op was able to deal that down to $1,600 is an incredible bargain. 
Good job, congrats to the op!





YES !!!! Buy it. I have one for over 4 years and a friend recently bought one and had it shipped to his home in Japan !

Previous DACs I’ve owned/tried - Sabre, Topping (yuck), Naim, almost all of the Chord DACs, Tambaqui, T+A DAC 8, Holo Audio and Schitt Yggy (OG and LIM).

Overall Directstream is the best DAC I’ve owned, reason it’s so good is that it’s super natural and smooth - there are no aberrations to distract you. It’s very musical.

The only thing I would say is that Chord or Schitt DAC are a potentially better match for you if you run solid state amplification - solid state amps don’t sound as quick to me as tubes and need a little bit of injected pep which Chord and Schitt do. But with tube amps the Directstream sounds divine. Huge soundstage.

I read the ASR review and was put off, I bought one really cheap and never regretted it. I now know that I’m in the beauty camp, not the zero distortion ASR camp.  But what would you rather have, bragging rights about 0.00005% distortion and off the chart SNR, or amazing music?


@gavin1977 given all the DACs you've tried, would you say the Directstream MK 1 is close to offering a nice wide soundstage with good imaging and "musicality" - whatever that word means to most people - as good as a great R2R ladder-based DAC like the Holo?  If so, $1600 to $1800 would indeed be a bargain. Thanks. I was looking at a $2100 Pontus II but wondered about this one for $1800 and if would be in the same ballpark. 

@moonwatcher yes that is kinda what I’m indicating, system synergy still counts as always through. “Musical’ to me means that it’s got enough detail to be realistic, but no so much that it’s etched - you can just listen for hours and not get fatigued. Directstream is a smooth performer, with amazing soundstage and imaging and separation - but might be too smooth for some.

I could describe the Holo DAC’s in a similar way, but for me whilst they soundstaged really large the images were too diffuse for me. May didn’t last 2 days in my system and I sold it on.

Terminator would be interesting, more likely similar flavour. Schitt Yggdrasil is a favourite of mine as well.

Well, I bit. If you're interested I would suggest you order soon. They're out of the black ones and (I think) the network cards. I wanted black but, emboldened by the above poster getting one for $1600 I offered $1500 for a silver one and they accepted. Yggy LiM has been my favorite DAC so far so we'll see how this one strikes me. It's strictly for my headphone rig and will be feeding a McIntosh tube amp, and then a pair of HifiMan Susvaras.

@shooter41 please do post your feedback on here of Directstream vs LiM.  I found LiM to be really good, but it is a little dark.  Directstream has the same richness/wamrth to the sound, but isn't dark.  Apparently More is Better removes the darkness of the LiM, but I've never investigated MiB.  Singularity DAC will be interesting from Schitt when it is eventually formally announced.  

The Directstream dac Mk1 is excellent especially with the Jkrichards mods such as the APS nickel transformers, the VOCM mod and the external power supply going to analog power supply board which fits perfectly into the back of the dac. Highly recommended!

@jfrmusic had an upgrade itch. I was always curious about the ps audio dsd and saw a good deal and couldn’t pass it up. As it unexpectedly turned out I like the DSD DAC a lot so for now I’m just enjoying music. Next step most likely Bricasti M1S2 or M21. We’ll see.

I had one for 2-3 years and it was meh, ok.  The main issue that I had with it is upper treble extension - or lack thereof it.  PS gently rolls off the highs for some unknown reason and this ended up being what did the unit in for me.  Combo with with one of their P12 regenerators and it's way too much.  I was coming from record/turntable listening, so I didn't really know any better.  I thought maybe a high end DAC was supposed to make digital sound more like the relaxed highs from an analog rig.  But little did I know... 

Even my Ayre Codex PC DAC sounded better in the end, so I moved it into my main system and sold the PS while awaiting a new QX-5 Twenty from Ayre.  I love that thing.

Cool. Could be just bad synergy. It’s very detailed in my system and treble is excellent 

***Before buying, read the recent Stereophile review of the MkII, which provides some useful first-hand comparisons.

Got the PS Audio DS DAC from Fedex today. I don't know if it needs burn-in. It's "refurbished" so perhaps the innards already have a lot of play time. 

Well in any case I gave it an hour of warmup and started listening. The rest of my system is as follows

Aurender N100 -> USB -> PS Audio DAC -> custom 12AU7/FET headphone amp -> LCD-2 headphone

All cabling including power cables are custom by Igor Kuznetsoff, of the N.J. Audio Society, and the headphone amp was designed by him. I don't have any other expensive cables to compare his to, but the other people in the NJAS tell me that his cabling would cost thousands per cable to duplicate in off the shelf items.

Previously I was using a Gustard x20pro DAC custom modified by Igor. So some of my impressions will be related to differences between that and the PS Audio.

I started with Mahler's 5th symphony, Bernstein conducting. The sound was gorgeous and had great dynamic resolution. At first I thought it was a little sleepy compared to the Gustard, but then I realized that wasn't the right description -- it had emotion, specifically an emotion of sadness. The first movement of the Mahler is a funeral march, so that seems appropriate. I hadn't really noticed the sadness with the Gustard, which made it seem more dramatic and exciting by comparison.

Then I listed to the Police, Syncronicity, the 24/96 remaster. Something odd... the transients had a delicate feel to them and a great deal of music expression, but of a gentle sort. It felt similar in some ways to the Mahler. I started to wonder if the PS Audio, as musical and gorgeous as it was, was imposing a musical character on the music. 

I listened to a lot of other music and kept coming up with the feeling it was imposing a musical character... very gorgeous and expressive, but quickly becoming monotonous and feeling like it didn't match what I expected of the music. I imagine a violin player on stage, full of emotion and playing every nuance with expression, but a bit too caught up in the emotion and overdoing the nuance.

I listened to Elliott Carter's Symphony of Three Orchestras conducted by Boulez. Carter and Boulez are both staunch representatives of the Avant Garde that dominated the 60's and 70's, and Carter's composition was dissonant and hyper complex. Yet it had the same gorgeous, emotive character.

Okay if it can make Carter sound "gorgeous," something is wrong.

The Gustard with Igor's mods is very dynamic, micro and macro, very high resolution, and very extended. I ended up with a new appreciation of its neutral character. 

Well, I'm going to give the PS Audio some more time.


the PS had a reputation for a long break-in period, mine certainly did...but well worth it to me...I bought a used Aesthetix CD player some years ago, that had been unplugged for 6 months - Aesthetix told me it would need a month turned on to sound it's best...

Well, I'm liking it a little better. It doesn't just do gentle transients - it can slam pretty hard on drums etc. It's shocking how much musical expression it's finding in my old 16/44.1 recordings, often poorly made compared to the DSD files audiophiles prefer now. (My favorite conductors, orchestras, performers etc. are mostly found on old CDs I purchase used from EBay or Amazon.) It hasn't proven itself to me yet -- that is, I'm not convinced the music expression is accurate to the original performance - but I'm definitely sitting up in interest.



Singularity DAC will be interesting from Schitt when it is eventually formally announced.  

Can you provide a bit more details on the new DAC from Schitt you are referring to?

I was listening to my Yggi+ LIM on my slightly bright Magnepan LRS+ with a CODA #16 amp, and I was thinking how good this setup sounded. 

My downstairs system is now in need of a DAC, something with a little bit more detail would fit nicely. The Yggi+ MIB is what I am thinking of now getting. In the past, was planning on getting a very expensive DAC but I think those funds are better served by getting another CODA amp.


Old technology? You are dead wrong! It’s fpga based. I preferred this dac over many others costing 2-3x more at the time. I used Ethernet, never usb. If you want to increase the sound quality of the mk1 DS sr dac, get their airlens and use the i2s interface. I’m using the Revelation Aufio Labs prophecy i2s cable. Maybe next steps would be to modify some of the internals of the mk1, but in no hurry.

Also, with the later firmware releases, I think you can get dsd256 and higher resolutions. 

@yyzsantabarbara there’s stuff around on HeadFi and YouTube on Singularity. To be honest if you need a slightly darker sounding DAC to match your speakers then I’d probably stick with the LiM - put the money elsewhere for a bit until things move on.

@gavin1977 Thanks. I am not replacing my LIM. I use that in my office with my Magnepan LRS+ and RAAL CA-1a headphones, it sounds great on both slightly bright speakers.

I am looking for a slightly less dark DAC for my other system. That is where the interest on the MIB DAC arises. I would have 2 Yggi's, the LIM and MIB. 

I will look in Headfi for more into. I think Mike Moffet posts there.


I think the MKI with the full APS mod would be a fantastic dac when fed by a streamer, as people found the bridge card not as desirable. I used the bridge II card and found it better than the USB input.

However I upgraded to the MKII and had the APS transformers installed. The top end was more extended (as shown in the graphs Jeff has posted) as well as a bunch of other sonic benefits. Jeff thinks a fully modded MK I can compete with a MKII, so that might be a great bargain, though I have no idea what that costs. The MKII with APS transformers is so good I’m currently running with no preamp, and recently reviewed two amps for The Absolute Sound running direct from the MKII with no preamp. I felt this was a better way to hear each amp since there would be no preamp to effect the combo. My AGD GAN review vs. BHK300 is here https://youtu.be/K0p6MUKSVo8?si=5Gz8MTTzCYNStBwf



@magon I’d give it 24-48hrs of on/play time. Not sure if anything was changed inside as part of the “factory refreshed” process so just let it run. Overall your assessment is pretty accurate but I wouldn’t classify it as monotonous though.
It’s bombastic when the music calls for it but overall it’s a gentle giant. Coming from a cooler sounding DAC it may take some time to begin appreciating this DAC’s qualities.

I owned one for a few months and though it was a great DAC, especially as I purchased mine pre-owned at a great discount.  I ended up spending significantly more for Ayre Acoustics top DAC that I've been extremely happy with.  Happy listening.

@gavin1977 First impressions of PS Audio DS...It's definitely a serious DAC. I'm feeding it via I2S from an EverSolo DMP-A8, then the signal goes to my Mac tube headphone amp via XLRs. The DMP-A8 is being fed from a M1 Mac Mini which is running my Roon core and nothing else.

It's been a while since I had the Yggy but I'm not quite ready to proclaim a favorite between the two. Unlike one of the other posters though, I do think they're worthy competitors of each other. My most recent DAC was an Octo 8 Stereo which, of course, is a Stereophile Class A DAC. I do prefer the PS Audio over that one already. I never thought it sounded quite as good in my system as the Yggy, but it was reasonably close. The PS Audio is definitely, as most others have found, a warm-sounding DAC. The detail is not quite there for me yet but I'm willing to give it time to settle.

Honestly, it's real competitor is the analog outputs of the DMP-A8. I hooked them to my amp just on a lark, assuming any of these stand-alone DACs would trounce it. I was wrong. It's shockingly good, at least in my system. I had planned to upgrade at some point to a HiFiRose RS130 which is obviously a streamer only, no analog outputs. I'm having second thoughts about the need to do that at this point.

So, though I'm not ready to proclaim the PSAudio as a DAC I'll definitely be keeping, I certainly don't regret the purchase. If the detail improves a bit over time I think that'll do it for me.

One thing I found with the PS Audio DAC that’s critical is the quality of power. I have a dedicated line for my system and don’t use power conditioner but changing a power cable on this DAC to a better one brought out lower noise floor and more detailed sound while still remaining natural and musically engaging. 

As well as power, interconnects matter - low impedance/capacitance helps since the Directstream has transformer outputs (without really good interconnects a preamp will make a bigger difference).  Also depends on the input sensivity of your amps.  Keep tweaking and you’ll get more out of it.

I'm using a knock-off Nordost Gold PC that I've really liked in other applications but I'm also just using a standard HDMI cable (tho a pretty decent one) for the I2S connection, so that's a potential weak spot I can experiment with. XLRs to the amp are Zavfino Fusions and I've liked them a lot in every application I've tried.

I do have some other DH Labs Power Plus PCs I can try as well.

Further update... I'm loving my DirectStream DAC at this point. 

I mainly listen to classical, so there is emphasis on beauty of timbre as well as musical expression through macro- and micro-dynamics. The DSDAC renders the subtle phrase dynamics beautifully. 

I listened to a Beethoven piano sonata performed by Barenboim, who is a monster player, and it was thrilling. Barenboim's interpretative choices worked especially well compared to other DACs... and his highly dynamic playing was evident. He was committing violence on the piano and the DSDAC revealed it all.

The resolution is stunning. Hall ambience decay times, following the cutoff of the last note, are very extended.

Only problem: the softer bass instruments can get covered up by the midrange and lose their pitch. If a bass instrument has a lot of harmonics, sure you can hear it clearly, but if it's a bass guitar (without distortion) or double bass and it's not playing forte it just gets lost under the midrange and the pitch disappears. This is a pretty significant problem as a lot of classical music recordings are unnaturally light in the bass (apparently those recording engineers aren't bass heads). I'm hoping the bass will improve with burn-in.

Regarding cabling, power, etc.

- I use parallel capacitance for power conditioning, using boxes that plug into the wall. They have 10 uF capacitors, chosen for best sound by Igor, between hot and neutral, hot and ground, and neutral and group, so 30 uF each. I have about 12 of these boxes around my apartment, giving 360 uF of parallel capacitance, but that doesn't count the system circuit, which has another 100 uF between neutral and hot, and hot and ground (the system circuit skips the neutral-to-ground caps to avoid hum). I use power cords by Igor, which he sells for $850, and the other members of the NJAS say it would take $3000-5000 to duplicate their performance in stock items. I use interconnects without a traditional shield, but instead use ERS fabric to absorb RFI. They are low capacitance given that they don't have a shield. 

I also have the DSDAC as well as my Aurender N100 sitting on a vibration damping solution created by Igor... squash balls sitting in little cups filled with damping material. His experiments showed him that pneumatic support sounds best, and squash balls work perfectly as long as you sit them in a little dollup of damping material to inhibit resonance modes within the rubber walls of the ball. The DS DAC and the Aurender are each sitting on six squash balls. 

With that particular DAC, using an I2S cable was a very smart move on your part!

My primary audio dealer has been encouraging me to purchase an all PS Audio setup: DS MkII: Air Lens; and SACD transport. What gives me serious pause is the really mediocre measurement results published in its Stereophile review. How canthey be reconciled with the overall positive and experiences of users expressed here?

@magon, I want to thank you for starting this thread. I wouldn't have been aware of the sale otherwise. I've got a Directstream on the way and am going to trade in my Perfectwave mkII in on it. I don't make changes that often but this was an offer I couldn't refuse. I'm excited to move up the ladder. Thank you!  

@jmeyers When I was in college, I took a course in audio engineering from James Boyk, a pianist/recording engineer. He used to say that no measurement has ever been found that correlates with sound quality. He typically judged tubes and analog as performing better than solid state and digital, and when he said the sound quality was "good", he meant it faithfully reproduced the live sound. He had a lot of experience in recording sessions hearing both the live sound, and then hearing the reproduced sound in the control room, back-to-back. He did consulting for Sheffield Lab, and if you are familiar with their recordings, you will know they are very high resolution, very dynamic (micro- and macro-). 

Specifically about the PS Audio, the fact the it has an output transformer might be related to the measured harmonic distortion. It doesn't prevent the PS Audio from having high resolution, but I don't have a more technical explanation than that.

Feel free to enjoy any audio gear despite measurements telling you otherwise. There are interesting arguments to be made as to what exactly those measurements tell us, and why they might be the way they are... but the bottom line is that we like what we like. And there's nothing wrong with that. Don't let a chart or a number on a spec sheet tell you how to listen. 

As for the original PS Audio DirectStream DAC, this is in fact a great deal. Despite being "older" by now, it's still a great sounding device.