Beta Test Impressions for New Stellar Phono Preamp!


My brother sent me this snap from his copy of Stereophile.

Meanwhile Darren and I are windmilling to Live at Leeds.

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That’s a great ad in many ways, really! Cool!

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I’m listening again through the DMPre/SPP this evening. I’ve had it on since Friday pickup from PSA HQ…and it’s smoothing out even more. I find myself choosing more of my fav old vibes LPs because the DM PP is just so much more pleasing at the top. Just finished more Gary Burton, then Bag’s Bag/1980, now Milt Jackson Quartet, Fantasy OJC-001.

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I saw it too. My copy arrived in the mail on Friday.

Yup it’s on page 82 of the September edition of Stereophile. I actually missed it.

Here are my first impressions after two listening sessions:

Short version - you can have your cake and eat it too!

Longer version:

It’s always a crap shoot when you bring a new piece of equipment into a system you’ve had a long time and are generally very happy with. Of course what’s good to me may not be good to someone else. For me, a good system is one that makes you grin, often makes you say “wow that’s sounds fantastic” (especially when you have been away and forgotten just how it sounds) and let’s you enjoy almost everything you throw at it. That last bit is really important to me. Having a super-revealing system that accentuates every flaw in a recording and only sounds its best on a few audiophile recordings is a non-starter. Also, one that only sounds great on a particular genre is not good either (e.g., the Harbeth P3ESR just does not do rock, even though it can sounds amazing on a classic Blue Note jazz album).

So, with that said, how did the Stellar Phono fit in? It took the place of a Jolida JD9 - a tube-based preamp certainly has a warmth that can make even records with a lot of surface noise enjoyable. The SP however, showed very quickly that that has come at the cost of high frequency extension. From the first needle drop it was clear the beryllium tweeters in my NS1000Ms were capable of far more than I was asking of them previously: the guitars on Quicksand (Bowie/Hunky Dory) jumped out immediately. This was confirmed later when listening to the Jasmine Tree (MJQ/More from the Last Concert) - Milt Jackson’s vibes sparkled and were never harsh. That lack of harshness and thank goodness no excessive emphasis on sibilant sounds really shone on This Bitter Earth (Dinah Washington/Unforgettable). My mono album is a thrift store find that has seen better days but the abundant surface noise did not detract from Dinah’s amazing voice and the emotion of the song.

Back to MJQ - those vibes also seemed more precise with the notes starting and stopping on a dime. That pace had me reaching for the Minutemen: The Red and the Black off 3-Way Tie (For Last) just jumped out of the speakers - such pace! And I had no idea that this track was so well recorded, each instrument clearly operating in it’s own space but coming together at you like a freight train. The Stellar amp can certainly deliver slam. A few tracks later the heartfelt track Stories sounded the best I have heard it with a ton of ambience and notes that just decayed forever (this time on purpose). Note to self - must dig out the Trinity Sessions.

Did I mention soundstage yet? On a few tracks that I A/B’d, it seemed as though the Stellar preamp added a few feet to the width of my listening room. Take for example the Hunting Bears and Like Spinning Plates off Radiohead’s Amnesiac; the soundstage was massive and the walls to my listening room just seemed to disappear. As with all good systems you feel transported to another place.

Of course over the two sessions so far, I have dug out many more LPs - but was too absorbed to take notes. In summary, I’d say the addition of this new preamp has really elevated my system and so far I see no downsides. I have not found a record yet that I think, “nope just can’t listen to that.” In fact, the opposite is true - I feel like I have a new record collection waiting to be discovered.


Bonus: you get a light show😁

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Having “a new record collection to listen to” is really what it’s all about and what we could only hope for. Thanks for a great review.

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Thanks so much for the review! Being too distracted by the music to keep notes about what is different says a lot! Sounds like you had a fun weekend!

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Hi danm… Your experience with the Stellar phono pre is very similar to mine. Post 55 above. Interesting how we both found the sound/ring of the vibes of Milt Jackson (and Gary Burton) to describe the treble clarity and extension. And how we are impressed with the width of the soundstage…and how, to my ears, the soundstage becomes Of The Room instead of just of the speakers.

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Exciting times with the new Stellar Phono Preamp. Initial comments show its promise, A minor nit for those reporting out their initial impressions. It would be beneficial to have some context as to what you system consists of, especially the phono cartridge, phono interconnect cable and the turntable.

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Hi weed… All is revealed in my post #55 above.

man i wish i was in on this with y’all.

Got the email from James, but I just bought some Harbeth’s – so I’m trying to be realistic about new purchases at the moment!

Replacing my NAD phono stage will have to wait!

Sounds really promising tho! :+1:

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You are the shining example I was looking for. Hopefully others will follow suit.

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…and previous phonostage it is compared to…

Hi weedeewop,

All detailed in post 19.

Dan

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Jazznut, see #19 - Jolida JD9

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Yep, and I read your review after composing mine! It will be interesting to see if others find the same (or maybe preamps 1&2 that left the factory had some magic pixie dust :wink:)

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Boing! :blush:

Anybody able to AB test the Stellar Phono Pre Amp with other top Phono stages at the same price rang or with comparable features?

Contenders in mind:

  • Linn Uphorik
  • Lehmann Decade
  • ELAC Alchemy PPA-2
  • Bauer Audio MC Phono Pre Amp
  • Moon Neo 310 LP
  • ClearAudio Balance V2

To all who enjoy a new phonostage:

this record (the Analogue Productions reissue mastered by Ryan Smith) is a must, music and soundwise! You will be pleased hearing such a nice holographic voice even if quite directly from the left speaker of this old stereo recording. Resolution and ambiance is fantastic and it‘s her best recording musicwise.

If your setup doesn’t track perfectly (one track has a loud piano part strong left), buy the AP 45 RPM version. I have both and several other versions of this one. This AP one rules, you need it!

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