Old School

PS Audio Digital Link

In 1989 I purchased a Nakamichi CD player that had a digital output jack on the rear panel.  I scratched my head and thought “what’s that for?”  It didn’t take long.  A few months later a good friend had just purchased this tiny box from PS Audio called The Digital Link, that took the digital output from your CD player and did outboard digital conversion, with an external power supply similar to a phono preamplifier. Oh yeah, that little box was a thousand bucks.

If you remember what CD’s sounded like back then, you would have paid a million bucks if you had it to get rid of early digititis. Man, those players sounded screechy back in the day.

Of course, I ran out and bought one right away and it still works just fine, almost thirty years later. When PS Audio’s Digital Link III came in for review, it jogged my memory and I realized that it was still up on a shelf somewhere.  Serial number 1351.  How old is that?  So old that the folks at PS Audio only have a schematic for it, but that’s all they remember.

Next step, pop the top and see what’s inside.

As you can see from the picture, this was a well thought out and nicely built piece of gear.  Using a pair of what was then Burr Brown’s newest 18-Bit DAC chip, the PCM 61P, the Digital Link was a real hotrod in 1990.  I still remember the day I brought it home and hooked this one up.  My audiophile buddies thought I had gone completely insane, thinking that CD’s could actually sound good, but the Digital Link was great.

Years later I stepped up to a PS Audio UltraLink II, as my local audio dealer was abandoning their support for PS Audio for $400.  While I kept that DAC for about eight years, something told me to hang on to the original.  Recently, I borrowed that old Nakamichi OMS-3 CD player from staff writer Jerold O’Brien and we were both surprised at how well these two still sounded together.

While the Digital Link is not anywhere near as resolving as today’s hardware, it is still a very musical device. Back in 1990, it was a big breath of fresh air and was responsible for my CD collection growing to where it is today.  - Jeff Dorgay