"It displays a sweetness and warmth which consistently locks into the heart of a musical performance." So writes Ian Harris in Hi Fi Plus's review of this incredible sounding DAC. The DLIII is an award winning D to A converter that accepts inputs from any digital source including a computer through USB. The Digital Link III is the best sounding DAC we have ever produced in our 21 years of producing D to A converters. Sweet, open spacious and a joy to listen to, this device will bring the life back into your music. Connect to any CD or DVD player's output or connect to your computer. The DLIII will decode any stereo SPDIF output stream with 24 bit precision. Use the DLIII to improve the performance of any CD player, transport or media device like a Sonos, Squeezebox, Apple TV or I-transport. Connect any computer to it through USB as well.
If you want to enjoy music from a digital source, like a CD, DVD player or computer, you need to first convert it from digital information to analog information.
That is the function of the digital to analog converter, or DAC for short. DAC's are the cornerstone of all modern digital equipment. Many CD players and DVD players have built in DAC's, but these are rarely as good as the best outboard DAC's.
The quality of the DAC has everything to do with the quality of how your recorded CD's sound on your system.
PS Audio's new Digital Link III is perhaps one of the finest sounding DAC's on the market today at any price and clearly superior to any built in D to A converter we have auditioned.
"Displays a sweetness and warmth.."
These are words not typically associated with digital audio, yet PS Audio's new DLIII helps any digitally recorded medium sound warm, open and spacious. Our Beta Testers reported the DLIII to be "the warmest digital device we've ever heard, with a top end like that of analog".
How did PS manage to pack all this great sound in a small chassis with a great price? We relied heavily on our years of experience building DAC's.
First, a little history
PS Audio was the first company in the world to demonstrate a working standalone DAC to the high-end audio community. This was over 21 years ago, right at the beginning of the introduction of the CD.
At the time we introduced the first Digital Link, there weren't many CD players on the market: Philips, Sony and Yamaha we're just about the only ones.
Our first experiences with these early CD players was less than satisfying. Frankly, they sounded awful and the culprit was th e D to A converter (DAC). The DAC's inside were crude and the all important audio output stage were simple op amps.
Over the years, PS Audio has produced some of the best known and well regarded DAC's in the industry. From the ground breaking Digital Link to the extraordinary Ultralink, PS engineering has perhaps more history designing high-end DAC's than just about anyone.
And now, the DLIII
While everyone is talking about multi-channel audio, Blue Ray, High Def this and high Def that, the truth is 99% of our customers still have huge CD collections that would benefit from the finest of players and DAC's. Our customers have been hounding us to "do it again" and we've responded with the introduction of the DLIII.
The DLIII is a killer DAC featuring the latest balanced D to A converter, the TI PCM1798DB at its heart. This stunning new generation of 192kHz processors from Texas Instruments (formerly Burr Brown) features 24-Bit resolution, and 123dB dynamic performance, and its rated THD is just 0.0005%. Not only that, but it comes with differential outputs and an 8 times oversampling filter.
Our engineers based the DLIII around this amazing DAC engine, and designed an all new input circuit and receiver, a 100% discrete output stage and a huge power supply to finish it off.
Input circuitry and sample rate conversion
So much today is recorded onto computers, distributed audio and hard drive systems that we decided to add a high end USB computer interface in addition to the standard optical and coaxial SPDIF inputs. So, the DLIII allows you to connect one of three input types to the DAC's receiver.
The receiver in a DAC is a critical component. It takes the serial data stream (everything in one straight line of data) and converts it to a parallel stream and separates out the clock. This function is the first place a DAC can make or break the way it performs, and here we used the hottest new receiver on the market, the 192kHz Crystal CS8416 with its extremely low-jitter performance (around 50 ps after we reclock it later in the process).
Once the data has been separated by the receiver, it's sent to the astounding TI SRC4192 high-end sample rate converter. Now here, regardless of the original sample rate your USB, SPDIF or Optical source has (typically 44kHz) we take the data and upsample it to 192kHz. The TI device is the finest made today and maintains low distortion during the upsample process.
The output stage is the key
Once the sample rate has been converted, it is sent to the TI PCM1798 balanced DAC and its output is fed into our unique output stage.
DAC's convert the digital signal into current. Unfortunately, to play music through our systems, we need voltage. So the first job of the all important output stage is to convert the current output of the DAC to a voltage, then amplify it so our preamplifier can play it back through the power amp.
99% of every DAC on the planet uses an op-amp to convert the output of the DAC to a voltage. We learned years ago that this is the worst thing you can do for the sound, because op-amps all have two major problems when used for this function: feedback and speed issues.
Without getting too technical, the greatest opportunity for a bright and edgy "digital" sound is caused by op-amp based current to voltage converters (IV converters) because the high speed of the DAC's output causes transient or slewing induced distortion in the op-amps (SID). SID is a combination of feedback and transient response issues that some exotic high-speed op amps can come close to handling, but all have a problem with it.
PS Audio's engineers avoid the SID harshness by eliminating the feedback of the IV stage. We do this by a unique single transistor IV converter with no feedback. Speed issues and SID issues are completely eliminated with this technique.
Active and passive filtering
Once the signal has been converted to a voltage, the next potential sonic weakness is found in the filtering. All DAC's produce switching noise that must be eliminated before it reaches your preamp/amp combination. Most companies use a gain stage with active feedback filtering. The problem with this approach is somewhat the same as we just encountered with the IV converter, feedback and speed issues.
To solve this, PS Engineering uses a passive first stage filter to lower the noise before it enters the gain stage. This is a simple technique that completely eliminates the hardness associated with active filtering.
FET discrete output stage
Next to last, the gain stage itself which boosts the output of the DAC to the standard line level output required to play music.
For this challenge, PS Engineers stayed away from op-amps yet again, and built a 100% class A discrete FET based output stage. This high-end stage uses sweet sounding FET's at the input and low noise powerful bipolar transistors for the gain and output stage.
Everything is direct coupled between the DAC output and the DLIII output so bass is stunning in its power and impact.
Last, but certainly not least, is the power supply. Everything we do to help the sonics of our product be the best in the world would be for naught if we had a small power supply. We've seen everything from the wall mounted transformer supplies (shudder) to power amp size power supplies. Bottom line is this: if you want high-end performance you need a high-end power supply.
Inside the DLIII is a huge transformer, coupled to many thousands of microfarads of capacitance, Linear Technologies regulators and high speed, low noise diodes. We have taken every effort to make the DLIII as good as it gets.
In the 21 years we have been making DAC's the DLIII is the sweetest, warmest, most open and musical DAC we have ever built and will bring new life to your entire music collection.
Regardless of what you have for a transport, from a cheesy CD player with an optical output, computer, or to the highest end transport on the market, adding the DLIII to your system will change everything for the better.
Let's face it: CD's are going to be here for some time. Look at your own collection. How many CD's do you have and wouldn't it be great to pull warm, lush wonderful audio out of them for many years to come?
You bet it would be. And, at the DLIII's low price tag of $699.95, how can you go wrong?
See your dealer, see us, but don't wait for too long. After all, if music is a part of your life, then getting it right so you can enjoy it should have precedence over anything else in your system.
Connect with a Digital Link III today and start enjoying your music again.