Many audio manufacturers periodically introduce product updates that take the form of parts upgrades and/or design changes. This process is arguably a natural and expected part of the high-end audio game, but it can alienate owners by suddenly rendering their once-prized components obsolete, leaving them faced with either having to trade in old components for new ones, or of paying potentially steep upgrade fees. PS Audio addresses these issues in its DirectStream DAC by implementing its product upgrades through free firmware updates instead.

Firmware updates often add new product features and functions, or for improved user interface functionality, but it can also have a large impact on sound quality. This point was forcefully driven home to me when I recently updated the operating system software in my reference PS Audio DirectStream DAC to the firm’s latest Huron OS package (named after one of the taller mountains in Colorado).

The update process is blessedly simple and straightforward. One visits the ‘Downloads’ page at psaudio.com, selects the most recent firmware for one’s component, downloads the firmware package to one’s PC or Mac, and finally copies the firmware update files to a 2GB or larger SD memory card. With the memory card in hand, one powers down the component from its master power switch, inserts the SD card into the component’s rear panel card slot, and then powers the unit back up—again from the master power switch. The update process (denoted by a flashing blue PS logo on the component’s front panel) begins automatically and is complete within 2–10 minutes. Once the update is complete, the PS logo glows a solid blue and the unit’s front screen shows that initialisation is taking place. When initialisation is finished, you have a component that performs exactly as a brand new unit would do. Cool, no?

Running Huron, my DirectStream DAC exhibited what I perceived as quieter backgrounds, quicker transient speeds with an across-the-board improvement in definition, enhanced resolution and focus, more top-end ‘air’, and smoother (but by no means softer) high-frequency response. In short, the improvements in sound quality wrought by the Huron upgrade weren’t subtle. Instead, they were the sorts of changes that even laymen could easily observe and that audio veterans might normally associate either with major hardware changes or even the introduction of an entirely new model. 

This, in a nutshell, is the real magic of PS Audio’s upgrade approach; the hardware stays the same, but ongoing firmware changes unlock more and more of its potential over time, in the process giving products like the DirectStream DAC a refreshing ‘evergreen’ quality. We can’t speak for you, but we deeply appreciate the idea of components whose performance envelopes continue to expand and evolve over time, all via firmware updates offered free of charge. 

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

 Type: Operating system upgrade software for the PS Audio DirectStream DAC

Storage/Installation requirements: SDHC memory card.

Price: Free of charge to owners of PS Audio DirectStream DACs

Manufacturer Information: PS Audio

URL: psaudio.com

Distributor Information: Signature Audio Systems

Tel: +44(0) 7738 007776

URL: signaturesystems.co.uk

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