PS Audio Directstream DAC (Snowmass)

Now, this combo is a treat. PS Audio’s DSD an incredibly euphonic sounding DAC. Its essence is in musicality. Luckily, with the Hugo M Scaler, it takes the performance up rather significantly.

Setting it up

I had to use a Purist Audio Design BNC to RCA adapter to connect the HMS to the DSD. The optical output from the HMS to the DSD didn’t sound too great (untextured & flat) so I’ve kept it to the coaxial input for all of my listening.

The coaxial input of the DSD supports up to 192kHz but I was only able to max out at 176.4 kHz. For some odd reason, I couldn’t play a 96 kHz (2X to 192 kHz) file. I might be missing something (shrug).

The Sound

Although musical, the DSD is a little slower, softer, and lacked a bit of clarity and focus. The Hugo M Scaler in its first “green” mode incorporates those qualities without any drawbacks. It’s incredible.

Here’s the breakdown of the upscaling modes:

  • Red (Bypass mode)
    • Slightly better delineation, crispier transients, and more bass definition. Speed and resolution aren’t quite there.
  • Green
    • Everything is more resolute and tactile. It sounds more physically real. You could hear the speed and strength of the piano key presses.
    • Lyrics are more intelligible.
    • Much quieter – the music fades in and out more from black.
    • Brush strokes are more delicate and resolved (Jazz at the Pawnshop)
    • Tightening (image and focus) – a theme of the Hugo M scaler. This is probably the most apparent enhancement from the HMS.
    • More dimensionality and atmosphere. There are just more reverb cues, depth, and contours.
    • Improved timbre.
    • Very clean, articulate, and controlled.
  • Blue
    • You’re able to hear the finer details in this mode. There’s more insightful storytelling in the music.
    • Better molding and weight – especially in vocals.
    • More bass definition and gradations.
  • White 
    • N/A. The DSD maxes out at 192 kHz on the coaxial.

The Hugo M Scaler gets you from toe-tapping – to singing along and being fully immersed. I actually preferred the green mode for the PS Audio DSD (88.2 kHz). There’s a nice warm coat over the vocalists yet it has the right balance of shine and detail. Though the blue mode offers up more tonal variation and fullness at times.

If you’re sticking with the DSD for the long-haul, the Hugo M Scaler is a worthy partner. It brings plenty more realism and clarity to an already great sounding DAC.