PS Audio goes inter-Stellar at Norddeutsche Hifi-Tage 2017

  • As product launches go – especially for more affordable hardware from a hitherto predominantly high-end-shooting, promo-heavy manufacturer – they don’t come more low-key than PS Audio’s new Stellar series, which went into public beta testing at the beginning of January and forced the Boulder company to pull back the curtain on each new model’s product web page (lest it find its sale team inundated with phone enquiries).

    Last weekend, the Stellar Gain Cell DAC and Stellar S300 stereo amplifier made a similarly low-key worldwide debut at Germany’s Norddeutsch Hifi-Tage audio show. PS Audio’s sales manager Travis Townes was on hand (with one arm in sling) to answer questions on behalf of local distributor Hifi 2 Die 4:

    The Gain Cell DAC is both analogue and ESS Sabre-chipped digital pre-amplifier. Connectivity includes balanced and single ended analogue inputs plus USB, TOSLINK, 2 x coaxial and I2S. Also out back sit balanced and single-ended outputs. Blink and you’ll miss the front-panel’s 6.4mm headphone socket. Price? US$1699.

    Gain Cell? That refers to the attention lavished on the unit’s volume control: “Nearly all analog preamplifiers use additional sonically-degrading elements inserted in the signal path to control volume. These impediments to the signal path’s purity range from simple potentiometers to exotic stepped attenuators, relays, solid state switches, ladder networks, transformers, light dependent resistors. All share intrusive elements in the signal path. The Gain Cell eliminates this problem without additional circuitry in the signal path by varying its gain in response to front panel controls,” says the website.

    The S300 is a stereo amplifier. The numerical assignation refers to 300wpc into 4 Ohms. Class D output stage, Class A MOSFET input stage, bridged by Analog Cell technology by one Darren Myers: “…a proprietary, fully differential, zero feedback, discrete, Class A MOSFET circuit, hand-tuned to capture the smallest micro dynamics without sacrificing the loudest macro dynamics music has to offer.”

    Price = US$1499. The 700wpc (again into 4 Ohms) M700 monolock variant will sell for US$3000/pair.

    Further information: PS Audio

    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

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    One Comment

    1. The Stellar Gain Cell DAC quietly replaced PS Audio’s NuWave DSD DAC. Poof!…the latter is gone as if it never existed. I’m not certain, but I also think the price of their DirectStream Junior DAC took a Rocky Mountain hike northward. It would be interesting to compare the sonic quality of these two…hint, hint JHD.

      The addition of the volume control on the SGC is a welcomed feature in this lowest-priced DAC. I’ve owned and have enjoyed their older DirectLink III DAC for several years. I positioned it between a Squeezebox Touch music streamer and Martin Logan Purity (powered) electrostatic speakers. Chock it up to dumb luck, but the Pandora, MOG, and then TIDAL sources with this hardware combination provided some great listening pleasure. However, I was unable to use my MacBook Pro/new TIDAL app to stream the MQA Masters albums, as there’s no way to control the volume.

      The MacBook Pro/TIDAL app works fine for streaming MQA’d files (deblurred + one-step decode) to my Wyred mINT amp/dac w/volume control and inexpensive Martin Logan Motion 12s. Having done A/B testing of the MQA difference, even this economy system was capable of resolving the improved SQ of basic MQA.

      Thus, I agree with what JHD wrote: “Even if you don’t have an MQA DAC and you don’t have software that executes hi-res unfolding, an uptick in sound quality might still be heard, especially on a more resolving HiFi system.” For me, it was a rather noticeable “uptick.”

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