Getting high on PS Audio’s supply at RMAF 2015


Ya gotta get high! That’s the first thing any forward thinking journalist does at Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. Not in the mind altering sense and making the most of the mid-western state’s progressive marijuana laws. My Mother and your mother would not approve. No, I’m talking about the number of media folk who, in avoiding lobby lift queues later in the day, make a 9am beeline straight to the 11th floor and then progressively work their way downwards, floor by floor, via the fire stairs.

Immediately across from the elevators on the 11th floor in the Breckenridge suite was PS Audio rather splendid looking room. If you wanna know how it all sounded, you’ve come to the wrong guy. This room proved to be the first port of call for two other colleagues and so there was catching up and introductions to be made in between taking time with Paul McGowan to talk about his forthcoming BHK Signature pre-amplifier and Ted Smith about the next version of the DirectStream’s operating system.


Smith says he has bugs to squash first but also knows what he wants to do with the next release. Don’t hold your breath though. Smith won’t start work on it until December (at the earliest) with an anticipated release slated for some time in ‘early 2016’.

Y’all can live with Yale (or Pikes Peak) for a few months longer but owning a DirectStream is a little like owning a PC or Mac; new tricks are easily installed by the end user. As such, this DAC no longer sounds the same as it did at launch. Opt for any one of the firmware downloads at ANY time and it’s a DAC with multiple possible personalities. Talk about trying to hit a moving target.

Smith also conceded that DS firmware releases have to fit in with the remainder of the PS Audio product release schedule for which the BHK Pre is presently earmarked for Q2 of 2016. It’s been done to death elsewhere that McGowan has been skeptical of a pre-amplifier’s value in the playback chain but like tubes before it, Mr King’s circuit designs and (likely) commercial considerations are bringing him around.

On show in Denver was a prototype version:

“The preamplifier is a full function line stage, featuring five single ended and balanced inputs, a discrete Class-A MOSFET headphone amplifier, all classic through-hole construction, PRP resistors, assignable home theater bypass, and a fully balanced design. Based on a pair of zero feedback 12AU7 current sourced vacuum tubes feeding a class A MOSFET output stage, the BHK Preamplifier enjoys extreme linearity with a rich and open sound.”


Connectivity? 5 x balanced inputs, 5 x single ended inputs. Pricing is still TBC but PS Audio are shooting for US$7000 or lower.

Looking at the photo above – the first and best shot by yours truly all weekend – you can see the PS Audio family of electronics coming together nicely. A pair of Power Plant P10 power regenerators sit behind a pair of BHK Signature monos. Heading up the chain of command, a PerfectWave Transport disc spinner pushing into the aforementioned DirectStream DAC and then the BHK pre take pride of place on top of the credenza (made by another McGowan).

Sensing a golden social media opportunity, PS Audio’s PR rep Bill Leebens interrupted Hull and I’s photography work to shoot his own. The end result showed only two of the photo’s four subjects to be taller than the mighty YG Sonja loudspeakers (US$106,800/pair). Sorry Paul McGowan, sorry Scot Hull.

Oh – and off to the side of the room, a reminder that PS Audio’s mainstream-focussed Sprout integrated amplifier recently saw a price drop to US$499. That’s the best kind of come down.


From the press release:

“Sprout was a hit with our customers, but it wasn’t a home run with the target audience,” said McGowan. “We haven’t made as much headway into the new market as we’d hoped, and we’ve seen that for entry-level consumers, $799 was just too expensive.

“Building Sprout was a leap of faith on our part, and required a major investment that we’ve repaid, paving the way to restructured partner pricing. To us, and our dealers, developing the future of our industry is far more important than maintaining standard margins. So, to make Sprout accessible to even more music lovers, we’re cutting the price to $499. Sprout was a bargain at $799; at $499, it’s a total no-brainer.”

Put that in your vaporiser and smoke it.

Further information: PS Audio

Ted Smith chats chinos with Scot Hull at RMAF 2015.

RMAF ’15 coverage brought to you by Aurender:


Written by John H. Darko

John lives in the NOW + HERE = NOWHERE. He derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also an occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
Instagram: DarkoAudio
Facebook: DAR