PS Audio DirectStream Memory Player
Output: 3 I2S through HDMI outputs (Front-Stereo, Rear, and Center/Sub), XLR (AES/EBU), and RCA (Coax-S/PDIF)
Dimensions (W x D x H): 17" x 14" x 3.75"
Weight: 20 lbs.
Availability: Direct Online and Authorized Dealers
Other Products used in the Evaluation: PS Audio DirectStream DAC ($5999.00)
PS Audio’s new DirectStream Memory Player builds on the success of its predecessor, the PerfectWave Memory Player, with a new design that they feel is state-of-the-art in the extraction of data from multiple disc sources. PS Audio is not new to the design of disc players having introduced the PerfectWave Transport in 2009. The DirectStream Memory Player represents an evolution of technology that has resulted in a highly versatile disc player.
The Digital Lens
At the heart of the DirectStream Memory Player is a technology called the Digital Lens - a technology that was invented by PS Audio founder and CEO, Paul McGowan and chief engineer, Bob Stadtherr in 1993. Essentially, the Digital Lens is a memory buffer that outputs the data perfectly with a low jitter asynchronous clock. Unlike older technologies that relied on expensive mechanical transports to extract the data with error correction, the Digital Lens offers superior performance that is not based on a real-time stream from the disc thereby eliminating a significant source of timing errors.
For the Technically Inclined Reader
"The new Digital Lens takes advantage of advances in semiconductor architecture found in FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays). Using a single large scale integrated FPGA, Bob Stadtherr devised a segmented structure including intelligent RAM, two-way isolated communication with the drive, and near-field output latches controlled by an ultra-low-jitter fixed clock."Recognizing that timing is the key to successful extraction of data from a disc, PS Audio has concentrated their efforts to reduce timing errors that degrade the performance of digital reproduction. They have accomplished this not only with the Digital Lens, but with a number of other design considerations. For example, timing can be corrupted by noise from the analog power supply necessitating the use of multiple separate regulators in the DirectStream Memory Player.
The transport used in the DirectStream Memory Player is the basic transport and board built by Oppo. PS Audio worked with the Oppo engineers to use this proven transport with the master clock designed by PS Audio.
I2S through HDMI output
The DirectStream Memory Player offers multiple digital output choices including XLR (AES/EBU), RCA (Coax-S/PDIF), and the I2S through HDMI outputs that PS Audio feels deliver the best audio performance. An HDMI cable is used for the I2S connection between the Player and the DAC. This I2S connection requires a PS Audio DAC to create the "code handshake" between the products. The I2S output, when used with a PS Audio DAC, allows the extraction of the "locked" raw DSD data to be sent to the DAC.
Multiple formats are supported and can be read by the DirectStream Memory Player:
- SACD, CD, CD-R/RW, DVD±R/RW, DVD±R DL, AVCHD, HRx
- Plays FLAC, APE, WMA, MP3, M4A, AAC, DTS, AC3, WAV, DSF, MKA, PCM, OGG, from discs or USB input
- 6-channel digital coax outputs
- 6-channel digital I2S outputs through HDMI style connector
- XLR AES/EBU stereo digital output
- USB data input for stored digital media
- Cover art
- Full color LCD touch screen
- Artist, track title information
- Multi-channel synchronization with PS DACs
- Network connection for My PS
- Play from a USB Memory Flash Drive
- Upgradable operating system via SD card slot
- Remote control
The DirectStream Memory Player shares the same physical appearance with that of the DirectStream DAC. Both have a hefty attractive chassis of sculptured aluminum and steel with a top cover that is composed of a hand painted and hand polished piano black high density material.
Operation of the DirectStream Memory Player
The DirectStream Memory Player has a large touch sensitive screen that is self-explanatory in operation. Opening of the drawer, selection of tracks, fast forward and reverse are all accessible from this screen.
What I enjoyed most about the display was the large track number that allowed me to see the display from across the room. When a disc is loaded into the Memory Player, the disc table of contents, format, sample rate and bit depth are read and displayed. Cover art can be accessed for a particular disc when the player is connected to the internet via an Ethernet connection. PS Audio offers users through its website a personalized library for storage of cover art and metadata of CDs and SACDs.
One can also use the versatile hand remote for basic operation of the player.
Other features of the display include accessing and playing music from a USB Flash Drive, Setup Menu, and SACD Mode. PS Audio provides an informative reference guide that discusses all of these features in greater detail.
The main power switch is located on the rear of the unit. The front panel power PS Logo button allows one to go from Standby or Ready Mode to Operational Mode with display operation. The Ready Mode keeps the power on for the critical internal circuitry and turns off the display.
PS Audio provides a 3 foot length high quality HDMI cable for the I2S output. If you need a longer cable, PS Audio recommends the use of the shortest possible length HDMI cable. While most any length of HDMI cable will work, there is a degradation of sound quality with very long cables.
The DirectStream DAC and Setup
PS Audio provided me a DirectStream DAC to use in the evaluation of the DirectStream Memory Player. If you are unacquainted with this DAC, check out Michael Lavorgna’s favorable review having found the DirectStream DAC’s sound" highly resolving, pure, and...direct." The DAC was connected to my Ayre KX-R Twenty preamp using the balanced outputs with AudioQuest Wild Blue Yonder XLR cables. While the DirectStream DAC offers both single end and balanced outputs, I found that the balanced outputs provide the best sonic performance. The other interconnects and speaker cables in my system are Synergistic Research Atmosphere Level 4. Both the DirectStream Memory Player and the DirectStream DAC were powered from a Shunyata Research Triton V2 / Typhon with Shunyata’s Alpha Digital AC cords.
I also employed my Asus G701VI laptop running Windows 10 Pro 64 / AudiophileOptimizer to run Roon Server and act as my Roon Core to stream to a Sonore microRendu / Sonore Signature Power Supply. The Asus laptop and the Sonore Signature Power Supply were plugged into a Shunyata Research Hydra DPC-6 v2 distribution center to firewall the noise generated by the computers from contaminating my AC line. The microRendu was connected to the USB input of the DirectStream DAC to compare CD rips to the same disc played by the Memory Player.
The DirectStream Memory Player worked flawlessly during my evaluation. The touch sensitive screen is very responsive and well thought out in function. The Memory Player had no difficulty recognizing different format discs. The connection of the DirectStream DAC using the I2S through HDMI output resulted in immediate recognition of the DirectStream Memory Player.
PS Audio was quite proud of the Memory Player’s ability to bring out the best sound from a CD and I found this to be truly an understatement! CD reproduction by the DirectStream Memory Player fed into the DirectStream DAC was simply outstanding; perhaps the best sound I have heard from many of my favorite CDs. I compared the sound of my computer setup playing the same ripped CD to that of the Memory Player. The Memory Player usually outperformed my Asus Roon Core streamed to the Sonore micrRendu with a richer, more relaxed sound that I found to be more engaging. I was very impressed with just how good CD performance was with this new disc player often leading me to believe that I was listening to a hi-res source.
Fourplay’s CD Let’s Touch the Sky delivered great body, solidity, and low end impact present on this recording. The combination of the DirectStream Memory Player and DAC resulted in smooth, non-fatiguing reproduction with dynamically expressive sound.
Many of us have acquired large SACD collections over the years. Moving to computer based audio forced many enthusiasts to box up their collections and repurchase many of their favorite titles on-line to acquire DSD files to play, or find a way to rip their SACDs. The DirectStream Memory Player brought back to life my large SACD collection with what I found to be first-class sound. The Memory Player’s ability to feed .dff files to the DirectStream DAC using the I2S stereo outputs resulted in impressive SACD performance. Well recorded SACDs were a joy to listen to, easily surpassing my previous experience with CDs. Now I know that many SACDs initially released years ago were sourced from 16/44.1 material. But SACDs used to archive older analog masters and newer music recorded in DSD, such as the fine recordings from Channel Classics Records, were a joy to listen to with the Memory Player.
The Memory Player used in tandem with the Direct Stream DAC was capable of outputting a large focused soundstages with sound that was harmonically rich and possessing a tube-like bloom and dimensionality. Resolution and overall-transparency were found to be excellent.
The DirectStream Memory Player resurrected a favorite SACD of mine: Alison Krauss + Union Station Live. This 2 disc Rounder offering was recorded live at the Louisville Palace in Louisville, KY in April, 2002. The recording was recorded in Direct Stream Digital on Genex 8500 recorders. Up to this time, I was only able to enjoy the CD audio tracks not having a good SACD player for use in my system. With the Memory Player, the DSD tracks were now available to me allowing this title to sound terrific when played through the DirectStream DAC. The Memory Player captured the essence of the live event with resolution of fine details that provided good sound staging clues.
I have a good number of Reference Recordings HRx discs that contain exact copies of the original Reference Recordings 176.4/24 digital masters. The DirectStream Memory Player had no difficulty reading and playing these discs. The HRx discs sounded very impressive when played from the Memory Player. The classical titles I owned displayed stunning extension and dynamics with outstanding spatial resolution when experienced from the DirectStream Memory Player.
One of my favorite HRx recordings was Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra performing Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. The PS Audio combination captured the air and bloom around the instruments with outstanding reproduction of instrumental textures. Inner detail and resolution of the orchestral performance were easy to hear.
A Solid Multi Format Performer
Even though this review was really a review of the DirectStream Memory Player and the DirectStream DAC, I felt that I was able to get a good feel for the operation and sound of the Memory Player. PS Audio has done their homework with the release of the DirectStream Memory Player that I found to be a solid multi format performer. I experienced impressive sonic performance in combination with the PS Audio DirectStream DAC utilizing the I2S through HDMI outputs. I also found the mechanical functions of the Memory Player to be flawless. While building on their previous PerfectWave Memory Player, PS Audio has designed a disc player that will reinvigorate the life of large CD and SACD collections with exceptional sonic performance.