PS Audio DirectStream (DS) DAC: Windom Update

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About 9 months ago PS Audio released a significant software upgrade, Snowmass, for their DirectStream (DS) DAC; I was impressed and wrote about it.

I stated that ‘I think the most apparent changes are in soundstage, imaging and reduction of noise. Snowmass throws a larger/deeper soundstage with a more stable imaging of instruments that synchs so well with my new amps; kindred spirits.’

Just the other day, October 2, 2019, they released another upgrade, ‘Windom’ (again the name of a Colorado mountain peak) that appears yet again to yield significant improvement in sound. Here, I give a brief overview of my findings.

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According to Ted Smith—PS Audio’s celebrated software engineer who invented the DS DAC and creates these upgrades—this upgrade was not intended to be a major one; he had a modest goal of pushing harder on those aspects of Snowmass that were viewed as improvements worthy of consideration. But as sometimes happens in scientific endeavors, something unexpected happened: improvements appeared that were not originally intended. Ted discusses this both in online posts/blogs over the last months and a very recent (delightful) video from PS Audio in which he and Paul McGowan (CEO of PS Audio) are at the very top of a high Colorado mountain discussing Windom.

The timing could not have been more perfect on my end: I just completed a speaker review in which a main positive was how it cast a very large soundstage (depth being a major one).
Those speakers are still in my system, and what I noticed about Windom over Snowmass was how it filled in that larger soundstage with better 3D imaging, and pleasing accoutrements: a very noticeable improvement in live venue realism, air around voices, deeper bass, and a full richer sound overall.

I placed Snowmass on one SD card, and Windom on the other and swapped back and forth (restarting the DAC with one or the other; each restart took less than 2 minutes). (Keep all components of your system on when doing this, then turn the DAC off, swap out the card, and turn (reboot) the DAC back on.) If I had to list one recording that was so obviously improved it is this:

Cantata Domino, track 12 ‘Maria Wiegenlied’ 24/192 PCM (from the original 1976 analog master), Naxos (2004). The church venue was so apparent with Windom, the singing was more natural since the church venue was now truly part of it, and the singing was less distant—more up front. The direct sounds seemed integrated perfectly with the early reflections—the singing was more articulate and the reverberation was just perfect. And last but not least, as I had discovered in an earlier amp review, the compressed air flowing into the pipes from the magnificent church organ was audible: but now with such power and sustainment; not subtle; something to behold. A magnificent recording brought to a new level of enjoyment.

Once again, PS Audio has bolstered the advantage of using a software based DAC versus one that has a built in chip. Bravo. Keep at it, I say.

Further information: PS Audio