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Review and Measurements of PS Audio PerfectWave DirectStream DAC

Blumlein 88

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So this from PS Audio is a different sort of direction. If the measurements are right, if you know they are right, and yet you think the DAC sounds good for other reasons, don't throw shade on the measurements. Just admit it is so and make your case the measurements aren't important.
 

Blumlein 88

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Ok, I gotta ask... WTF is a "HiFi Advocate"? What role does this person play in the company... they don't appear (to me) to be an engineer and they're writing things like a marketing or PR guy (which is to say, well written normative shite that doesn't appear to be based on anything concrete).
Well I'd take issue with HiFi Advocate. Apparently PS Audio as a company isn't a believer in High Fidelity. They are believers in personal sound preferences. Colored to your liking.

Maybe the title should be Artfully Tailored Sound Advocate. Or Tastefully Shaped Sound Advocate.
 

BDWoody

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Well I'd take issue with HiFi Advocate. Apparently PS Audio as a company isn't a believer in High Fidelity. They are believers in personal sound preferences. Colored to your liking.

Maybe the title should be Artfully Tailored Sound Advocate. Or Tastefully Shaped Sound Advocate.
Sales: fuzzbox flavor of the month club
 

GrimSurfer

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Well I'd take issue with HiFi Advocate. Apparently PS Audio as a company isn't a believer in High Fidelity. They are believers in personal sound preferences. Colored to your liking.

Maybe the title should be Artfully Tailored Sound Advocate. Or Tastefully Shaped Sound Advocate.
Or tube boob (apologies to the tube crowd).
 

PSAJH

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Hi dudes, took some time to read through this thread and there are some great personalities in here. Love seeing all of the enthusiasm!
Hifi advocate here. Title should speak for itself. I advocate for HiFi... Duh. Or I guess "Artfully Tailored Sound Advocate. Or Tastefully Shaped Sound Advocate." ain't bad. Definitely would be Tube Boob if Paul would let me :)

If y'all can handle just a little more 'shite,' one of Ted's biggest focuses with the Windom update was to decrease the noise floor.
I know I open myself up by saying this, but it sounds better. Simply put. I run a DSJ in my system at home and I'm still having a lot of fun going through some of my ref albums.
Thanks!
 

BDWoody

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Hi dudes, took some time to read through this thread and there are some great personalities in here. Love seeing all of the enthusiasm!
Hifi advocate here. Title should speak for itself. I advocate for HiFi... Duh. Or I guess "Artfully Tailored Sound Advocate. Or Tastefully Shaped Sound Advocate." ain't bad. Definitely would be Tube Boob if Paul would let me :)

If y'all can handle just a little more 'shite,' one of Ted's biggest focuses with the Windom update was to decrease the noise floor.
I know I open myself up by saying this, but it sounds better. Simply put. I run a DSJ in my system at home and I'm still having a lot of fun going through some of my ref albums.
Thanks!
Saying you like your system doesn't open yourself up to anything!
Welcome!
 

ahofer

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Ditto. Glad to see PS Audio here rather than hand waving indirectly about the measurements like Ted did. We won’t be the most credulous bunch about it sounding better, but if we achieve agreements on the measurement and leave it to discussion of subjective preferences, that’s actually a great resolution.

Then how about some ABX tests to prove it?
 
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Hi dudes, took some time to read through this thread and there are some great personalities in here. Love seeing all of the enthusiasm!
Hifi advocate here. Title should speak for itself. I advocate for HiFi... Duh. Or I guess "Artfully Tailored Sound Advocate. Or Tastefully Shaped Sound Advocate." ain't bad. Definitely would be Tube Boob if Paul would let me :)

If y'all can handle just a little more 'shite,' one of Ted's biggest focuses with the Windom update was to decrease the noise floor.
I know I open myself up by saying this, but it sounds better. Simply put. I run a DSJ in my system at home and I'm still having a lot of fun going through some of my ref albums.
Thanks!
Glad your here! I live about 30 minutes from PS Audio and have been in a few times and listened to the IRS system, always impressive! I really wanted a DSJ but settled happily with a Matrix Audio PRO MQA. My door is always open if you want to come listen. Just PM me...

Also, I just finished setting up a Mac Mini as a music server following Paul’s excellent article. Thanks for that!
 
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GrimSurfer

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If y'all can handle just a little more 'shite,' one of Ted's biggest focuses with the Windom update was to decrease the noise floor.
Fair enough.

Since noise floor reduction was one of the "biggest focuses with the Windom update", do you have any factory figures that you are able to provide? I raise this because Windom has been released and, presumably, the company has tested against its engineering goals.

Also, you say you advocate for hifi at PS Audio. What does that mean, exactly? Do you have executive authority over engineering goals, specifications or designs? If so, which ones and what are your qualifications/experience?
 
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Matias

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Well there are the major updates called mountain peaks, and the smaller bufixes in between as far as I know. Here are some of the names, in no particular order.

Yale
Pikes
Torreys
Huron
Snowmass
Windom

Just look for Directstream Senior on their archived firmwares:
https://www.psaudio.com/support/downloads/
How cool would it be if @amirm could update and test all the firmware versions to see how they progressed (or possibly regressed?) over time?? :)
 

GrimSurfer

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How cool would it be if @amirm could update and test all the firmware versions to see how they progressed (or possibly regressed?) over time?? :)
That's where I was going with the question on specs. The goals include lower noise. OK, does PS Audio say that the update delivers lower noise and, if so, by how much? The answer provided by PS Audio then forms the basis of an independent test to confirm company claims.

If kudos are due, then we all stand up and cheer... cause we're not hear to bash companies whose products measure objectively well and perform subjectively well.
 

Sal1950

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This is the 12th firmware update or so in the product life cycle, by the way.
And massive SQ improvements they were, each and every one. ;)
 

ahofer

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And massive SQ improvements they were, each and every one. ;)
This reminds me of an old joke-

“Someday we will solve the problem of junk email, but our d***s will be so huge we won’t care. “

Can’t remember who said it. Very Steven Wright-like.
 

amirm

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Hi dudes, took some time to read through this thread and there are some great personalities in here.
Like your sense of humor right there. :) Welcome to the forum....
 
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Simply liking the way PSA is responding now....after a 'congruent' denial....cannot escape from the 'facts and measurements'.

I hope they are realising that the future consumers of their products will be less TEDism and more 'measurerisms'....and more younger lots than the oldtimers (apologies). Tectonic shift in market can happen within few years ...heck look at the 5 years of Facebook beginning. Salacious marketing may still linger but it won't last (It may take time).

Simply in the most fundamental way what ASR is helping is - deciding what value audio hear holds at the personal level.....and a certain re-introspection of what is 'music' all about and what we enjoy in the 'songs'.....and the way audio tech is all about.

IMO it will help the audio industry if honesty is more up-front. It will help us all. PSA does not want to address an issue - it is hurting it more than it knows.


Just a few cents...from a common consumers perspective.
 

MediumRare

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If y'all can handle just a little more 'shite,' one of Ted's biggest focuses with the Windom update was to decrease the noise floor.
I know I open myself up by saying this, but it sounds better. Simply put.
Thanks!
Awesome that you're here and handling this issue head on. And i really appreciate your allowing me to post your initial reply. It is absolutely possible in my mind that "pure" measurements do not equal perceived "musicality" and therefore enjoyment. HOWEVER, how 'bout you post some of PS Audio's measurements of the pre- and post-Windom and show us what you guys look at and what you see? :cool:
 
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amirm

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OK guys, I have a fantastic new product to review but had to put it aside and re-do these measurements. On top of that, had a heck of a time getting the DS DAC to recognize the new firmware. A bunch of googling eventually led me to a page that said the SD card cannot be more than 8 Gigabytes! Who the heck keeps such small SD cards around anymore? Hunted everywhere in the house 'till I found an old camera with 8 Gig SD card. Put the image on it, plugged it in upside down as instructed (!) and it upgraded. Here is the screenshot:
PS Audio PerfectWave DS DAC Windom Firmware Audio Review.jpg


And our dashboard:

PS Audio PerfectWave DS DAC Windom Firmware Audio Measurements.png


SINAD went up by a 1 to 1.5 dB but I think that is run to run variation. The standing of DS DAC does not change by 1 dB improvement anyway.

It was said that noise was lowered in this release so let's measure our dynamic range:

PS Audio PerfectWave DS DAC Windom Firmware Dynamic Range Audio Measurements.png


Nope. Nothing is changed.

Intermodulation distortion which also measured noise indirectly shows identical release to Snowmass:
PS Audio PerfectWave DS DAC Windom Firmware IMD Audio Measurements.png


Oddly, one area where PS Audio DS DAC did well, jitter, got worse with noise floor rising with Windom:

PS Audio PerfectWave DS DAC Windom Firmware Jitter Audio Measurements.png


Could be run to run variation but the noise floor is distinctly raised with output remaining the same.

Frequency response is identical to before so no change in timbre:
PS Audio PerfectWave DS DAC Windom Firmware Frequency Response Audio Measurements.png


Linearity is as bad as before:
PS Audio PerfectWave DS DAC Windom Firmware Linearity Audio Measurements.png


The exponential rise means noise and it too has remained the same in this test.

Multitone results are identical to before:
PS Audio PerfectWave DS DAC Windom Firmware Multitone Audio Measurements.png


The transformer is distorting low frequencies and nothing upstream of that can change that.

Confirming the same in THD+N versus frequency:
PS Audio PerfectWave DS DAC Windom Firmware THD vs Frequency Audio Measurements.png


Conclusions
As predicated, there is no change of substance in the two releases of the DAC firmware/FPGA image. The performance of this DAC is bound by its output stage/transformer. The upstream digital processing is likely way more transparent than this is so you can do all you want there but it won't make a difference. The weakest link principle applies here quite well.

The fact that people are reporting differences in what they hearing is simple to explain: they are testing it wrong. Short-term memory which is most accurate dissipates in a few seconds. No way can you remember fine detail after you power this down, upgrade and power it back up.

Now, PS Audio can back their claims easily.

1. They can perform a blind AB test with identical units running the two different firmware, allowing the tester to instantly switch between the two. Paul said that he could instantly hear the better sound the moment the DAC powered up with the new firmware so let's not have the tired argument of you need hours and days to discover the difference.

2. They can show us measurements that show before and after noise improvement.

Failing either, science, engineering and common sense indicates that the new firmware doesn't do anything to rescue the DS DAC from our bottom of the pile with respect to performance. It is a distortion factory and to my ears and others who have tested this DAC, is unpleasant.

If your experience is different, I suggest having a loved one change the firmware on you without you knowing a few days to see if you can tell which is which. The first person who can show this across at least 8 trials, will win $500 from me.
 
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