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PS Audio announces MK2 DirectStream DAC

  • PS Audio has announced a MK2 take on its exceedingly popular DirectStream DAC. The new version is a standalone high-performance D/A converter that features an array of digital inputs – 2 x I2S, 2 x AES, coaxial, TOSLINK and USB – that ultimately result in a single-ended RCA or balanced XLR analogue output. According to the press release, the second-generation DirectStream is balanced from input to output.

    In between (and per the original), we find no off-the-shelf DAC chip from the likes of ESS, AKM or Burr-Brown but a pair of FPGAs loaded with custom code from Ted Smith that upsample all incoming audio data to a 50-bit/”high-sample-rate” datastream and then down-convert it to DSD – presumably to strip out as much jitter as possible – so that it can then be converted to analogue audio with only a low-pass filter. On this, PS Audio has gone with a pair of passive output transformers.

    A major twist in the DirectStream DAC MK2’s story is its implementation of galvanic isolation across the board: on every input, on every output, on the power connection and on the ground connection. That’s a LOT of galvanic isolation — the idea being to stop electrical noise (and its negative influence on sound quality) in its tracks. The volume control attenuation circuit has also been extensively reworked for greater transparency at lower volumes.

    Sharp-eyed observers will notice that the touchscreen display has been replaced by a more “streamlined” display module and a set of control buttons. Consequently, the Network Bridge streaming module slot has also been deleted from the back panel.

    I asked why and PS Audio CEO Paul McGowan responded thusly: “We’re moving away from big screens and going for a more minimal look. The Bridge needed to get its own dual power supply and galvanic isolation in order to solve what we find is one of the biggest hurdles in streaming — variability in SQ — which we solved in the upcoming AirLens that will be the companion piece to the DAC.”

    And if I’m reading the specifications list on the PS Audio website correctly, the DirectStream DAC MK2 is capable of storing up to 10 (forthcoming) firmware versions that will be named after Colorado mountain tops and will arrive over-the-air via the back-panel Ethernet port, which means no more fussing with SD cards. Presumably, any ‘Mountaintop’ firmware stored in the DirectStream DAC MK2 can be reanimated via the click of a button (or two) for a different/improved sonic flavour.

    The PS Audio DirectStream is shipping now for US$7999 (in the USA) in your choice of silver or black.

    Further information: PS Audio

    Written by John

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

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