ps audio reviews
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. The review sample has a matte silver finish with black side panels, which to me looks particularly classy. Above is a picture of their room at AXPONA 2019. 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). Outputs are either balanced XLR or unbalanced RCA. I think of this chip less like hardware but more like a programmable software-type device. PS Audioâs BHK Signature preamplifier is a statement product that produced beautiful music. The blue LED display of the GCD is sufficiently bright and displays volume level in relatively large digits that can easily be read from 10 ft away. Vol.11 – November 2020, A Collection of New Vinyl for the Audiophile: November 2020, The Smallcombe Home Theater II â Part 1, What We Are Watching Vol. The latest from PS Audio, an all discrete FET phono preamplifier that will change the way you listen to vinyl. 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. DACDAC Review 2019DirectStream DACDSDFeaturedPS Audio, Jim Milton has been interested in high fidelity since his college years in the late 70's. The organ is treated as part of the orchestra and not just as a solo instrument. Hence, it is honest in its presentation and never tries covering its shortcomings with some unnecessary artifacts. He has been part of choral music, both in opera and oratorio and is an avid collector of classical music from the Baroque through the Romantic periods. 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. The Stellar GainCell Preamp/DAC (GCD) is from PS Audio’s Stellar line, which is designed with affordability in mind for the budget-minded audiophile. This mode should only be used if a separate preamplifier is present in the hi-fi chain. PS Audio sent me their $4999 DirectStream Power Plant 12, the conditioner (regenerator) of choice for two Audiophilia colleagues. Because of this, theoretically, it is the best digital connection to use. The panel displays the incoming input signal, sample rate, and bit depth. 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. Don't look down your nose at PS Audio's cheapest mains regenerator. 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. Iâm 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. Yongki considers himself as an aerospace engineer by day and an audio/home-theater enthusiast by night. The coax can handle up to 192 kHz signals, while the optical can only handle up to 96 kHz signals. Still hi-res, but not pure DSD. There are three unbalanced analog line-level inputs as well as one balanced XLR input. 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. It can also be turned on or off from the remote. Its treatment of any digital material, regardless of format, is quite astounding â even MP3s and Internet radio sounded vibrant and exciting. I actually enjoyed reading the manual and found it interesting, even though I can be a Luddite at times. 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. Other features of the preamplifier include selectable DAC filters, home-theater bypass, and DC triggers. prior to VAT and other country-specific fees CD isnât really digital: Since 1982 when Philips and Sony introduced the audio CD, much water went down the bridge, not the least of it over the last few years. 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. I first knew of PS Audio when they were best-known for amplifiers which they, of course, still design and produce. It may not be perfect, but its design is unique, even amongst the other few DSD based DACs out there. Moreover, the GCD conveys the rhythm and pace of the music convincingly. The I2S inputs on the DirectStream do not accept regular HDMI signals. How Much Amplifier Power Does your Home Theater Need? Campfire Audio Dorado 2020, Vega 2020 review (and podcast) November 24, 2020 Oldâs kool: Dynaudioâs limited edition Heritage Special November 23, 2020 HELMâs Bolt is a $99 portable DAC for Spotify, MQA November 20, 2020 The separation among instruments in the track was portrayed excellently. JBL Synthesis SDP-55 & SDR-35 Q&A Nick Clarke – Senior Director of Global Engineering, Thank You To All of Our SECRETS Fans and Supporters, RIAA Vinyl Sales Q&A with McIntosh Group CEO Jeff Poggi. After PS Audio traded hands, Paul left Genesis to buy back the PS Audio brand. The unit will initialize for about 30 seconds while it loads the current software into the FPGA via an SD card in the back. The Stellar line represents the entry tier to the company’s plethora of separate hi-fi components. It surprised me in terms of the high-quality sound it could produce. The sound of the musical instruments accompanying the singer seemed to emanate steadily from the stage-space surrounding the singer with believable width and depth. The front panel of the GCD is clean and uncluttered. 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. All this for $1699! 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. 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. The USB connection was needed to test the DSD playback capability of the GCD. Once that driver is installed, a quick visit to the Windows 7 control panelâs âSoundâ settings offers the PS Audio DAC as an output option. Designed by Darren Myers, the brains behind the forerunning Stellar phono pre-amplifier, the M1200âs Class D â¦ Some examples of music that best showcase my thoughts on PS Audioâs PerfectWave DirectStream DAC are: Bearâs Den: Red Earth and Pouring Rain – This recording has a fat sound with a lush layering of vocals and acoustic instruments that harmonize in ways reminiscent of the Everly Brothers… only more hip and cool with a bit of dark undercurrent in the lyrics. But convenience is one thing and performance is another thing. 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. 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. Amplifiers, CD players and transports, DACs, and preamplifiers. Single rate DSD is DSD64. These updates are named after mountain peaks in the Boulder area. There is a lot of technical information on PS Audioâs website and the user manual has a lot of detailed information as well. Two mini mono-RCA DC trigger outputs are provided in between the left and right outputs. 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? Are Expensive outboard DACs a waste of money? I absolutely loved what I heard. John Mauceri): Hollywood Dreams. The improved bass gave the music more authority and muscle. There are differences among the three DAC filters provided in the GCD (Filter 1: slow roll-off linear phase, Filter 2: fast roll-off minimum phase, Filter 3: fast roll-off linear phase), but for most music, I found these differences were subtle. 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. JBL Synthesis SDP-55 & SDR-35 Q&A Nick Clarke – Senior Director of Global Engineering, Thank You To All of Our SECRETS Fans and Supporters, RIAA Vinyl Sales Q&A with McIntosh Group CEO Jeff Poggi. This is what really makes the DirectStream DAC so unique. At every audio show, the PS Audio room is always a canât miss and requires more than one visit. Its “Normal” brightness setting was sufficient for me and I usually engaged the “Auto” feature, which turns on the display for a few seconds if it detects a change in the incoming signal and off otherwise. That experience got me into pursuing better quality DACs in my continuing quest to reach that mythical sonic Nirvana. The PS Audio GainCell preamp/DAC is a winner in every respect. With no music playing but the volume set to a normal listening level, I had to go up to one of the speakers to hear even the slightest buzz or hum. This point will be contemplated more in this very review. Analog preamplifier with DAC functionality in one chassis. Not only that, but it can also serve as a very capable headphone amplifier. Though the space is close, you hear every detail while the instruments play against each other in left to right, front to back musical tag. The Stellar GainCell preamp/DAC, with its full-width (17″) aluminum chassis and low height profile, sports a minimalist appearance (like the other components in the Stellar line) that looks modern and elegant. If youâd like to hear all the lavish praise, click here to read our review of the P20. A community of music and high-end audio lovers. It took a few months but I was able to procure a BHK 250 for review along with the BHK Pre-amp. 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. With the promise of more free firmware updates in the future, I feel confident that those who own PS Audioâs PerfectWave DirectStream DAC will be glad they invested in it. PS Audio is not an unfamiliar brand to me and most audiophiles. With me so far? PS Audio has this week announced the imminent availability of two new products. 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. The Stellar M700 â¦ Album art is only displayed via the network bridge. The PS Audio DirectStream is a musically authentic, thoroughly engaging and ultimately compelling DAC that elevates the listening experience to an entirely new level. 10Hz – 100KHz +0.1/-3.0dB, 0-100 (1/2 and 1dB steps, 80dB total range), Assignable to any analog input Adjustable (in setup) to any level, 3 selectable digital filters (PCM digital sources only), Preamplifiers 2020 Review, Amplifier 2020 Review, PS Audio, Stellar GainCell, Stellar, GainCell, Preamp, DAC, PS. Review component retail: â¬3.000/ea. The I2S bus separates clock and serial data signals, resulting in simpler receivers than those required for asynchronous communications systems that need to recover the clock from the data stream. Only these two types of inputs can be used to process the DSD signals, while the others can only process the PCM signals. 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. One 1/4″ headphone connector front panel, 20Hz – 20KHz +0/- 0.25dB 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. The GCD easily earns my highest recommendation! For album covers to display on the panel, youâll need to leave the data card in place in the back, which is fine, that way you donât lose it. In any case, streaming DSD (single and/or double rate) music from my Mac to the DirectsSream via USB was nothing short of astonishing! I highly recommend that anyone willing to spend $6000 on a preamp arrange to hear one. In those aspects, it handily beat out the Audiolab P-DAC portable headphone amplifier (MSRP $199) that my son normally used. 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. He rejoined Secrets not too long after he has returned to the US in 2012. This chip is used in many different electronic devices. I am particularly enamored with the recordings from the Norwegian based 2L. Windom sounds more open, more 3D-like with better staging and air between the musicians. Although it has been available for over six months, I've seen only a few reviews â¦ The review covers the feature and performance of this interesting product in more detail. This is great music to turn up and relax with on a Saturday while watching football with the TV sound turned off. Find what you like and then purchase and download the albums. 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. This design offers the listener extremely low jitter as it uses one master clock for all incoming signals. Blue Coast records offer free jazz samples, and in spite of OPPOâs withdrawal from audio world, they still offer free samples as well. I have had and still have PS Audio hi-fi components in my systems. Some notable ones are the oldie but goodie HCA-2 stereo amplifier and the excellent PerfectWave DAC II. The master clock in the DirectStream helps reduce jitter from all inputs. 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. He was a member of the SECRETS Team in the early years, before moving to Singapore for a number of years. 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. That means 64 times the sample rate of a CD (64 x 44.1kHz). Try getting a free Dirac upgrade. 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). The strings shimmered, the brass had plenty of blatt, and the tympani and organ pedal notes placed the music on a firm foundation. That was then or what would become the MK1. With my subscription to Qobuz, I have changed my music listening paradigm. The blue logo light on the front left side of the panel lights up and serves as the on/off switch. Perfect for any speaker. 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. A unique feature is the ability to flip the phase of the incoming signal either from the panel of from the comfort of your couch via the remote. On its website, the company claims that the GCPH phono stage is the best available, at any price. Windom replaced its soul and life force by fleshing out the music into a more realistic 3D space and a more supportive low end. As a nuclear medicine technologist, I know there are some inside the gamma camera that I use every day at the hospital. It was neutral and transparent, or in other words, it did not get in the way of music. The buttons of the remote are of good sizes, so even though the overall dimension of the remote is small, I found it to be relatively comfortable to use. Iâm looking forward to the view from the next mountain top. Last year, we published a very enthusiastic review of PS Audioâs top P20 DirectStream Power Plant. The sound had more dimensional energy, impact, and just sounded more alive. The intimacy of her voice and small ensemble players is wonderful. Obviously, it is not a fair comparison, as the PerfectWave DAC II carried more than twice the price tag of the GCD. PS Audio PerfectWave DAC II was also used for the comparison. 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. (Electric Recording Co. 180g) Vinyl Review: Miles Davis â Jack Johnson (Mobile Fidelity 180g) Vinyl Review: Brahms â Sonatas for Cello and Piano Nos. PS Audio is trying to extract musical information that can be masked by off-the-shelf PCM DAC chips. It features impeccable playing, and everyone likes the Wizard of Oz music, which is quite interesting in its arrangement… and fun, too. Thus, you need a device that can put out I2S, and that is another expense or another product you must buy from PS Audio. As a digital preamp, the DAC in the GCD locks in and recognizes the bit depth and rate of the incoming signals swiftly. PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell DAC Review; Vinyl Review: Jackie McLean â Lights Out! After processing, the signal is down-converted to double DSD, sent through a passive low pass filter and out as an analog signal. Used with low-power source components, pre and headphone amps, it can still be transformative Back in the late 1970s Bob Stuart of Meridian observed that an amplifier has more inputs than those labelled as such, others being 'output' and 'mains'. Vol.11 – November 2020, A Collection of New Vinyl for the Audiophile: November 2020, What We Are Watching Vol. Amplifier 2020 ReviewDACFeaturedGainCellPreampPreamplifiers 2020 ReviewPSPS AudioStellarStellar GainCell. During his leisure time, he enjoys listening to his music collection and an occasional movie with his wife of 30+ years. 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. PCM (384KHz max), DSD64 (DoP), DSD128 (DoP), (Analog Unbalanced) 1 stereo pair (Analog Balanced) 1 stereo pair This one sounds more intimate, and I like that. PS Audio isn't short of confidence. Paul McGowan, the CEO, and founder of the company mentioned that PS Audio has always prided itself on providing high value in products. PS Audio claims perfection there ("bit perfect") so I figured they can't complain about that. The I2S input uses HDMI cable for parallel data connection consisting of separate clocks and data. The Stellar line represents the very realization of this company’s mission. The I2S and USB inputs can handle up to 384 kHz PCM and 5.6 MHz DSD signals. For $1699, you get a product that can serve as an analog preamplifier, a full-featured DAC, and a headphone amplifier. Inside the carton were a pair of white gloves, power cable, aluminum-faced backlit remote control, a PS Audio catalog, and a very interesting, in-depth ownerâs manual. 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 process was easy, and I had no loading issues during the 10-minutes it took. It just has a smooth, detailed, and rich sound that your ears will never tire of. Even my CD collection sounds refreshed. I knew the DirectStream was special when it was able to place the orchestra in the fore and the organ behind and slightly above the stage. 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. The PS Audio NuWave Phono Converter (NPC) is a fully balanced analog phono preamplifier, but also has a built-in Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC) as an optional way of using it. My interest was piqued. The possibilities are endless (hyperbole, yes). 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. When new firmware is ready, you can go to PS Audioâs website and download it onto the provided SD card. An awful lot has changed since then, including, in recent years, a shift of PS Audio's emphasis from audio amplification to AC-power regeneration. PS Audio also manages to squeeze in the proprietary technology called the Digital Lens, which is derived from its higher-end DACs. 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. Hey, I like to multi-task sometimes. The GCD is rather heavy for a preamp. It sounds like a large soundstage and you get just enough reverberation from the space that you can almost feel like you are there. I also subscribed to Qobuz, so I have virtually unlimited hi-res music at my fingertips for this review, up to 24/192 resolution. Iâll talk about my sonic impressions of Snowmass vs. Windom later in my review. Really, itâs a DSD world out there, but you have to look for it! This is what the Dectet manual says: We strongly recommend the use of a PS Audio PerfectWave Powerâ¢ AC cable and a PS Power Portâ¢ AC receptacle to feed the Power Center electricity. This last point, however, is not a clear cut and only detectable from a careful A-B comparison. 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. Remember when we used to go to audio shows? For orchestra, I chose The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra (Dir. 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. A master switch on the back places the DSD into ready mode. There have been several of these offered since the DirectStreamâs inception, some five years ago. As the name implies, the PS Audio Stellar GainCell Preamp/DAC is both an analog preamplifier and a Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) in one convenient and handsome package. I was loving my music collection again! It features music from famous movies such as Dances with Wolves, E.T., Carousel, and my favorite, the suite from The Wizard of Oz. 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. Full-range Speaker Systems vs. Satellite-subwoofer Combinations, Schiit Audio Freya+ Preamplifier and Vidar Amplifier Review, Andover Introduces Spindeck Belt-Drive Turntable, Astell&Kern A&norma SR25 Digital Audio Player Review, Audio-gd Vacuum HE1 XLR Tube Preamplifier Review, Audio Research LS28 Triode Stereo Preamplifier Review, Starke Sound A8.350 8-Channel Power Amplifier Preview, Introducing the DALI RUBICON 6 BLACK EDITION, Cambridge Audio doubles the power with new Edge M monoblock power amplifier, BLUESOUND ADDS NEW SURROUND MODE LISTENING OPTION, PreSonus Eris E3.5 Powered Speakers Review, Andover Audio Spinbase Turntable Speaker System Review. This is about as close to hearing that unicorn we call âanalog soundâ, and I donât mean analog like the limited dynamics of vinyl. The digital inputs include one I2S, two S/PDIF coax, one optical, and one USB. Based in Boulder Colorado, Paul McGowan and company have been producing high-end audio equipment for over 40 years. The turntable used for the review was a Michell GyroDec with Gyropower QC supply and SME Series IV tonearm. itâs there, but not very emotionally engaging. First, a driver must be downloaded from PS Audioâs website and saved to the computer. 6: November 2020, What Weâre Listening To. The GCD is ready to use out of the box and requires only minimal setup. As PS Audio says, it may be a gateway to higher end for some ;) "Remember, acquiring good A/V gear takes lots of time...but doesn't necessarily take lots of money.". After having reviewed a few McIntosh products, they too use a proprietary interface called MCT. The GainCell varies the gain as the means of controlling volume without additional circuitry in the signal path, hence preserving the signal purity. A timeline also lets you know how much track time has expired as you listen to your music. 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 CD collection was sounding like sonic wallpaper…. Itâs awesome, and every audiophile cliché you can think of applies. I did not notice any specific emphasis on certain frequency ranges that might detract musical enjoyment experience. Its shortcomings were not at all obvious or objectionable, and in most cases, the GCD made up more on the other aspects of its performance that was more crucial to the overall musicality of the presentation. As an analog preamp, the GCD behaved as a good preamp should be. That is a quality you want to hear. It feels quite rigid and very well constructed. PS Audio has been around for a while and the company’s reputation among hi-fi stereo connoisseurs is rock solid. With its unassuming low-height-profile, the GCD offers fully balanced analog circuitry from input to output and a full-featured DAC based on the 32-bit ESS Sabre Hyperstream architecture, which is capable of processing both PCM (through all its digital inputs, up to 24-bit/384-kHz) and DSD signals (through its I2S and USB inputs, up to 128 Mbps). Read honest and unbiased product reviews from our users. Your taste and system may dictate otherwise. 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. I have to agree. Noise is pushed into the higher frequency band and filtered out via a passive low pass filter. It is a versatile preamplifier that provides both pure analog and digital input switching. The soundstage portrayal was deep and wide, and the underlying deep bass in the track was delivered with good authority. First off, let me start by saying that reviewing the GCD has been a joy. Also, the GCD did not have the last bit of crystal-clear upper midrange and treble presentation of the PerfectWave DAC II. 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). Going the DirectStream route, the signal goes PCM>DSD>analog. Transparent, great tonal balance, and good dynamics are some of the nice traits of the sonic characteristics of the GCD. Even my CD collection sounds refreshed. I set the DAC volume to a Fixed 100, so the volume was controlled by the Emotiva preamp. As indicated by its name, at the heart of GCD is the analog GainCell, which is used to eliminate the sonic degradation problem associated with volume control.
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