Beta Test Impressions of the New Strata

You can email them to me and I’ll get them in the right hands. Thanks! jamesh@psaudio.com

Can’t get into the heads of the Stellar engineers (Darren?), but a couple of thoughts:

  1. There is a very capable Stellar phono preamp, and I’m guessing they don’t want to take away sales of that; nor do they want to provide a “less than stellar” phono experience.
  2. I’d guess that many people who enjoy playing records have an external phono preamp, and an internal phono stage just renders that input superfluous. (And for us anal audiophiles, that makes us NUTS to not be able to use the “Phono” input when we have a turntable!)
  3. There are million inexpensive phono preamps out there that better most internal ones.
  4. Many people in this digital/streaming day and age simply DO NOT play records. You don’t see “TAPE MONITOR” inputs out there nowadays either.

Personally, if a manufacturer added an internal phono stage to an integrated or preamp, I would LOVE it if they gave the user a “semi-permanent” switch on the back to either use the integrated stage – or bypass it so it just becomes a regular aux input. Would be very pleasing to plug my phono stage into the PHONO input!

It’s a great question. Thank you for asking. We wanted Strata to come in no higher than $3K. To do that we had to be very careful with what went into Strata and, what did go into Strata would not be compromised to meet that price point. We wanted Strata to stand out in a crowded field as the best sounding/performing integrated at anywhere near two to three times its price point. To do that and give it all the features and performance tweaks we did was a real challenge, one that the engineers have been laboring over for more than a year. This wasn’t a Darren Myer’s product, it was a true team effort (of course, Darren’s in the middle of that team). Our chief engineer, Bob Stadtherr, along with a programming team of three full time people, plus Darren, plus Chris, plus Chet, plus Bill and so on, made this happen.

But, to the phono stage. We thought long and hard about it. Clearly we couldn’t come even close to what’s in Darren’s Stellar phono. One look inside that beauty and you see there’s as many guts as are in the entire Strata. So, no way Jose on that. Which leaves us with a choice. Drop in a courtesy phono stage like everyone else does: couple of chips, a handful of components, and bingo, you have a phono stage. But, that wouldn’t fit our goals. We didn’t want a “courtesy” anything inside Strata.

Strata is a work of audio art. As more people get it they’ll soon realize that it sounds better than most separates. They’ll know it just outclasses anything even remotely close. That did not happen by accident nor by including courtesy components.

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I can understand that. I’m a fan of the SUT though so a MM input would be nice . But as we all know it’s certainly isn’t a necessity. I’ll just save my dollars for a Stellar phono pre.

I’ve been in the market for a new stereo system since I moved to a new apartment this past fall. My current system is from my former home theater - an Anthem MRX 700 receiver, 2 pairs of Focal Electra 1007S bookshelf speakers (on stands), a Focal Electra 1000S center channel, and a Focal 1000Be subwoofer. I know longer have a home theater, so I’ve just been streaming music through the receiver via a 10 year old Sonos connect system to a pair of the Focal Electra 1007S. The other speakers are just collecting dust.
Most of my music is on either iTunes or on Amazon music. I started my search for new equipment this past winter. I have a dealer that is local and I listened to different equipment; however, it all sounded great in the dealer’s space. So many choices. In doing further research, I stumbled upon Paul’s videos and the PS Audio website. I liked what I saw. Had many convos with Kevin about the best system for me, but was not ready to make the commitment.
I received an email from Joey at PS Audio about beta testing their new Strata integrated amplifier. She gave me all of the details and I told her I was interested. A few weeks later, I received a call from James. I decided to take a chance on beta testing the Strata. BTW - every single person I’ve spoken to at PS Audio has been the most pleasant I’ve encountered from a company.
I received the Strata on Monday, 4 May. I didn’t have time to open it as I was busy working from home all day. To be honest, I just wasn’t feeling it. I was sure it would be a waste of my time to do this, but time is what a lot of us have now given what’s going on in the world. I also wasn’t expecting much. I think my feelings of ennui and disenchantment also had to do with the current crisis.
Since my system is relatively easy, I told James that I would first do a comparison between the Anthem, Sonos, and 2 speakers and then switch out the speakers and Sonos to the Strata. My cables are basic (BlueJeans speaker cable for speakers, and a coax cable for the Sonos). I also use a Shunyata venom power cords with a Hydra power conditioner.

I had the Strata setup within 5 minutes. No issues. It was pretty intuitive as to what I had to do.

I played a variety of music on the Anthem setup. Queen, Nikki Minaj, Rolling Stones, Annie Lennox, Coldplay, 4 non-blondes, Martha Argerich, Alfred Brendel, Murray Perhia, Dave Brubeck, - mostly classic rock, classical, and jazz. While truly listening to these pieces through the Anthem set-up, I realized how muddy and warped the sound was. There was one point where I had to turn off a piece of music as the orchestration hurt my ears. It was a cacophony of mixed instruments and vocals.
I then hooked up the Strata with the same speakers using the same cables. I played the same music. I was overwhelmed by the clarity of each instrument and vocal. There was a lot more bass coming through the speakers. (I did not use the subwoofer during the setup). I just kept playing music to hear more and more. It was like I was hearing these recordings for the first time. I said to myself - this is a problem. If this integrated amplifier makes my simple setup sound this way, imagine what other setups could do. So far, I’m quite impressed.

My next test will come this weekend. I bought a BluSound Node 2i so I can stream my Amazon music in HD. I will then do a comparison with the Sonos (via coax) with the Strata and the BluSound (via optical) with the Strata. I will post my review soon after. In the meantime, I’m just streaming music 24/7.

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Dear Whiz Kid, My Strata arrived yesterday and I’m very pleased with the fit and finish and all the tactile stuff that is part of the ownership experience. There are three areas that I feel could use some more focus though:
One is the the Owners Reference manual. It needs a good proof read to eliminated the typos, errors in punctuation and somewhat convoluted grammar. Of course I read the entire manual before I even plugged it in. Also the diagram of the rear of the unit (page 8) is too dark to be useful to my eyes. I’m sure it looked OK on a computer screen.
Two is the streaming, or lack there of. Using the menu to enter my WIFI password was not possible since my password is actually three words separated by a space and there is no space character in the menu. I was instructed to use the app. Well…
Three is the app. Even though my laptop saw the Strata easily, my iPhone, sitting next to the amp, was oblivious to it. Finally it popped up and I began to enter my password. Then the app crashed. And crashed. And crashed and crashed and crashed ad nausea.
So no online for me. (frown) Sorry to say, but the app is not ready for prime time.
BUT THE SOUND !!! The sound is razor sharp. Power well beyond my needs (never thought I ever say that about anything) And the soundstage… Now my speakers (Klipsch Forte III’s) just seem to sit on either side of my bookcase lifeless while all the sound is clearly coming from my bookcase. Different books even.
Sorry for the length of this post.

Great looking room! Love the piano and the bottles! Noticed you really have the speakers toed-in a lot, but then I figured out that was for the cat’s listening position : ) jk

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While I have a lot more listening to do, I think the key point is the sound quality of the Strata is spot on. The rest can and will be sorted. The fundamentals are sound and it is a terrific value.

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Welcome, looks like you have a room ready to entertain! Enjoy your new kit.

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Thanks. I just changed the position of the speakers.

Thanks. I enjoy entertaining; however, during these days of social distancing, I’m thoroughly enjoying it by myself. Stay well.

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The system I’m replacing was a standard analog receiver that I used a Sonos Conect to feed digital radio, Roon, etc into. Fairly poor quality analog outputs.
When I got my Strata I had the same complaint…Where does Roon fit in? PS Audio has made a wonderful ethernet connected box that I play Qobuz on and its wonderful. (I am complaining about the PS Connect app not having importand features. But that’s another story.
So what I did was dirt simple. I connected the old Sonos box to the Strata. The important part is I didn’t use the analog RCA out on the Sonos but rather the coaxial between the two boxes. If I am right that bipasses the terrible Sonos DAC for the superb PSA DAC. Never has a Sonos fed system sounded so good and its still a Roon endpoint.
In my future I will probably buy a microrendu or other streamer to allow me to avoid the Sonos’ red book only limitation.

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Is anyone testing the Strata with Magnepans? :thinking:

I set up the Strata yesterday afternoon. Unpacking was easy and set up straightforward. I agree with some other posters that the manual needs a close proofread. My speakers are Ohm tall 1000’s with a small Sumiko Sub. I connected a Cambridge Audio CD player to the optical input and a Sonos Connect to the coaxial input. I connected to my home WiFi system. I had a little difficulty with getting the double clicks right. Often I would just jump backward in the menu. Finally got it set.
Knowing the questions around setting up PS Audio Connect on IOS, I set the developer as a trusted link through Settings on my phone (and any device I wanted use with the app). Good to go. I tested the Sonos. Even though it has a limited resolution it sound great. Clearly better than with my previous amp. (Which by the way was a PS Audio Sprout 100. No slouch itself.) The CD “Mads Tolling Live at Yoshi’s” had a sound stage as wide as my 14 ft wall, courtesy of the Ohms. Each instrument had a place, the place it was put by the sound engineer. Expansive, detailed sound. On to the PS Audio app and Qoboz. I started with Diana Krall and “Case of You” from Live in Paris, a tune and recording I knew well. Or thought I did.
I listened closely and openly. At the end of the song, a voice behind me said “Oh, Wow!” My wife had walked into the Back of the room and was listening as well. We proceeded to discuss what was different. Krall’s voice, already unique, was even more present and nuanced, the piano balanced and expressive. She was a convert right there.
I had a few glitches with the app dropping Qoboz (not a WiFi problem.) I also feel that a new user, unfamiliar with the brand or style of amp needs a more developed user manual. If one of the goals is to draw new people into the Strata circle, the manual is critical. We tend to forget all we didn’t know. Though I know I will miss the Sprout’s analog feel and straightforward operation, I will be very pleased as I continue to explore the Strata.

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Very happy with Audirvana to Strata over Ethernet - rock solid reliable. The only quirk is occasionally if you change tracks Audirvana will play the wrong song even though it lists the correct one. It just takes pressing back/forward a few times and it will get back on track. The big thing is every time I open my Mac, Strata is ready to go with Audirvana.

In comparison, the Ultrarendu and Audirvana are sketchy at best. It requires a reboot, sometimes multiple each day due to quirks with playback.

Overall very happy so far.

Hello. Can someone confirm how to hook up my Sumiko sub (which, as far as I can tell from the back panel, seems to be a clone of a REL)?
Sumiko’s nomenclature is different than PS Audios.
Am I in configuration 2 or 4 in this image?
Thx.

Kudos to @DarrenMyers, where the Strata shines over SGCD/S300 is electric guitar distortion. Very nice tone, much more realistic and reminiscent of real tube amplifier distortion. Rock music is excellent on Strata.

At volume zero there is still sound coming out (input 5). Normal?
Also, from time to time the unit crashes when switching inputs (flashing blue logo). Must reboot with rocker switch. Cannot reliably reproduce; seems random for now.

Wait…Amazon HD has BlueOS compatibility ? Meanimg it will playback BitPerfect results (i.e 96/24 shows as 384/24 from my PC’s USB into the DSD Sr.).

I thought there was 0 third party support. I only stream AmazonHD cause I can’t hear the difference when compared Qobuz.

Yes, BlueOS is the only one compatible with Amazon HD. NAD equipment already has BlueOS built-in. Hopefully, there will be others.