Best first upgrade?

I was almost ready to order the Stellar Gain Cell/M700 combo but now I’m wondering if the Directstream Jr may be a better ‘first step’? (similar cost)

I want to simplify my current setup and go back to a 2 channel system. I was trying to implement the Magnepan ‘tri center’ setup using MG12/CC5/MC1 speakers but just can’t get it to sound good. Stereo always sounds better.

Besides the Maggies, I have a Sherbourn pt7030 prepro, Emotiva xpa-5 amp, Oppo 103 and a Denon turntable.

So… oppo feeding Stellar/M700 OR oppo into Directstream Jr into Balanced inputs on Sherbourn/Emotiva?

Thanks for any advice!

I haven’t heard the DSJ personally. At the beginning of the year I upgraded from a Rotel preamp and poweramp to the Stellar GCD and M700’s. It has been a big improvement in my system. Though at some point I would upgrade to the DSJ but still run it through the preamp of the SGCD. For me it is just a sequence of the upgrade process.

Sale on Directstream (Senior) right now for same price as Jr

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Call Walter at for DSJ pricing. I paid $2580, shipped.

DS Senior and Junior are software based and upgradable (six free ones so far from PS Audio). Stellar GCD is not.

Depends on your down the road plans for further system upgrades. DS Senior and Junior provide an open road to better sound.

You say you can’t get your existing speakers to sound good, so can I ask why you are considering changing your electronics as a fix and not changing your speakers?

Thanks for the tip. The upgradeability is one of the reasons I started to consider the DS instead of the GCD.

I don’t know about your amp but I’ve had some Maggies and they need a lot of power, high damping factor to come to life.
Although my personal taste does not lean toward class D, the M700’s will surely be up to the task of making those speakers bloom.
And if you want a DAC, the sale price on the Senior makes it a no-brainer.


That’s a fair question. I actually started out thinking about upgrading my speakers first but don’t think my main speakers (MG12) are my weakest link.
I’ve been trying to implement the Magnepan “Tri Center” concept but with less expensive equipment. The concept is 3 channel ‘stereo’ using multiple speakers for the center and Dolby PLII logic. The issue I’m running into is that it needs full range in the center position. The CC5/MC1 speakers are ‘small’ and the Sherbourn will only send signal below the crossover point to the sub, not the front speakers… even if I select no subwoofer. I could upgrade the Sherbourn but to get a good sounding HT processor I’m probably overspending for all the extra features that I won’t use. The other option is to make the center ‘large’. Magnepan has an add-on woofer (DWM) that may work but that means adding another 1 or 2 panels and additional amps into my room and it’s just getting overwelming and overly complex.

My ‘dream’ speakers are Maggie 3.7i. They are $6K+and would cost me a lot of matrimonial equity to put 71"X24" speakers in our family room :slight_smile:

Also… I didn’t mention in my first post… my Cary CDP1 CD player died, so I am looking to do more streaming.

RonP -

My Emotiva xpa-5 is rated:

Power output (all channels driven):

300 watts RMS @ 4 ohm (0.1% THD)
200 watts RMS @ 8 ohm (0.05% THD)

The Emotiva amp is not bad, but would the M700 pair be a noticable upgrade… that is the question.

So you’re trying to do something unconventional with hardware that is not really intended for what you’re trying to do, did I understand that correctly?

I assume you first tried the 2 channel stereo concept and found that to be not to your liking? Stereo music needs no more than 2 speakers, and perhaps a sub-woofer. If I might have a wild guess at a solution, if you have a budget, whatever that budget is, put it towards the best speakers you can afford before messing with any electronics.

I think although you won’t hear all the quality potential of this upgrade with your gear (which is great but not on that level) the DS sr. for the current price reduction is a must.


I’d phrase it more as I found a limitation of my current prepro instead of doing something unconventional. Some prepro’s send signal below the crossover to the front speakers, some to the sub only. I used to have these speakers in a smaller room for music only and when I downsized my home, I combined my HT and music systems. Tried the ‘tri center’ thinking it would satisfy both needs… time to admit defeat and move on. Looking to optimize for 2 channel stereo now.

15+ years ago when I first dipped a toe into the high-end audio pool, I was enamored with Meridian Audio and bought an entire Meridian source path: 596 DVD player -> 568 Processor -> 558 Power Amp, driving my B&W Matrix speakers.

Meridian had (has) a very well regarded three-channel audio format such as you describe, called Trifield. Despite my best attempts at tweaking the setup, I never found Trifield to be as satisfying as straight 2 channel stereo for music. I even went so far as to buy some used Meridian digital speakers, DSP5000 L/R and DSP5000C Center, but still found Trifield didn’t do it for me.

As a digital hardware/software engineer in the networking industry, Meridian’s Digital Theater concept really appealed to me, but I quickly realized that I could not afford to stay on the Meridian upgrade path as new technologies emerged, i.e. Blu Ray, HDMI, Room Correction, etc. As such, only the 558 power amp remains in my system.

The Stellar GCD would be my first step as it ticks a lot of check boxes, great analog audio preamp path, darn good DAC, HT bypass integration mode, etc. While I long for something like the DSD Sr or Jr, I just can’t see spending that kind of money to then just run the analog out into my home theater processor, where it’s going to go through an ADC/DAC process. So, my thinking would be to get the preamp path correct first, then the get the source right. But, that’s an age old debate in the high-end world. :slight_smile:

Good luck with your journey back to pure 2-channel stereo for music!


+1 @drybeveridge730 with the M700 combo.