Windom sounds more open, more 3D-like with better staging and air between the musicians. Functionality is controlled by a well-designed remote or via the 4 x 2-inch touch screen panel. I also downloaded a few dozen audio files in various DSD sample rates onto my Mac mini. Overall image presentation had good focus and tended to be slightly laid- back. The master clock in the DirectStream helps reduce jitter from all inputs. I recommend going to their site and downloading as many free samples as you can. This product would definitely pique my interest if I were in the process of building a modestly budgeted hi-fi system. 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. 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. This is what really makes the DirectStream DAC so unique. It sounds like a large soundstage and you get just enough reverberation from the space that you can almost feel like you are there. 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 is about as close to hearing that unicorn we call âanalog soundâ, and I donât mean analog like the limited dynamics of vinyl. Vacuum tubes and 1200 watts The M1200 monoblocks combines rich warmth with jaw-dropping power and seemingly infinite headroom. 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 PS Audio Sprout is one example of this and a fine one indeed. Obviously, it is not a fair comparison, as the PerfectWave DAC II carried more than twice the price tag of the GCD. 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. PS Audio sent me their $4999 DirectStream Power Plant 12, the conditioner (regenerator) of choice for two Audiophilia colleagues. "Remember, acquiring good A/V gear takes lots of time...but doesn't necessarily take lots of money.". The Power Plant 12 is a full $4000 on top of the recently reviewed AQ Niagara 1200. If I played an SACD (stereo) out to the DSD from my OPPO UDP-203, the OPPO down-sampled the DSD signal to 88kHz. The Stellar GainCell Preamp/DAC (GCD) reviewed here is from the PS Audio Stellar line, which represents the company’s affordable-tier products. 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. Going the DirectStream route, the signal goes PCM>DSD>analog. With my subscription to Qobuz, I have changed my music listening paradigm. 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. My CD collection was sounding like sonic wallpaper…. As a nuclear medicine technologist, I know there are some inside the gamma camera that I use every day at the hospital. PS Audio has been around for a while and the company’s reputation among hi-fi stereo connoisseurs is rock solid. What other DAC can do that? In those aspects, it handily beat out the Audiolab P-DAC portable headphone amplifier (MSRP $199) that my son normally used. That means 64 times the sample rate of a CD (64 x 44.1kHz). All this for $1699! PS Audio also manages to squeeze in the proprietary technology called the Digital Lens, which is derived from its higher-end DACs. A black finish is also available. The possibilities are endless (hyperbole, yes). 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. 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. Analog preamplifier with DAC functionality in one chassis. Voices also seem a little more focused and forward in the mixes. 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. 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. 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. A right-click of the mouse gives a user the option to make the NuWave the default recipient of the audio signal. The soundstage portrayal was deep and wide, and the underlying deep bass in the track was delivered with good authority. Don't look down your nose at PS Audio's cheapest mains regenerator. PS Audio came up with a solution to this problem long ago: completely regenerate the incoming AC power in an effort to minimize these issues. 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). Even my CD collection sounds refreshed. While the PerfectWave DAC II was more superior as expected, nevertheless this comparison showed that the GCD was more than capable to hold its ground and did not give up much to the PerfectWave DAC II, a testament on how well PS Audio did in engineering the GCD within the target price point.