Darren Myers - Guilty as Charged

It’s my first weekend with the Stellar Phono Preamplifier (SPP). Even barely out of the box I must say Darren is guilty as charged. For telling the truth. His offspring is indeed something to behold.

I’ve not yet felt the one “Note”. I’ve not shouted the multiple “Wows”’ that Paul and others have. I’ve not picked up the phone and lavished praised with the world at large. No doubt that will come. The good folks at PS Audio have yet to disappoint.

First music I usually play are classical recordings from the late 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. Few today can match those performances and their sound quality. Mercury Living Presence and RCA Living Stereo pressings are special. A lesser system will not bring out their full quality. My almost all PS Audio rig does it in the digital realm. The SPP tops it so far in the analog universe.

Mind you, the signal from the SPP is not going to a hi end preamp. It is digitized by a Musou $16 analog to digital converter. It then goes via coax to the DSD DAC input. That incredible unit is reputed to make any signal sound good. And it does in spades, which may account for my results. The analog superiority was obvious when comparing the same music.

I don’t doubt Paul’s and Bascom’s claims about the BHK Preamp. Following the SPP in the chain, it appears to improve sound quality. And not by an insignificant amount. Here is what is interesting. Both men confess to not knowing why that is. I confess to not following faith-based initiatives. PSA has an incredible trial policy. Still, I’m not ready to take six grand from other needs during a pandemic.

The BHK Preamp may work magic in my system. God, how I wish that to be the case. For once, I’ll have to postpone gratification. I will continue using the DSD DAC as a digital controller for now. I’ll be shamed for sure, but it is hardly a shabby rig chain.

Postponement is hard for us audiophiles. It’s so even when we are about to fall to the poverty line. But now is not the time for self-reflection. Action might be more satisfying. Action brings opportunities. One may be the seed for a high performance PSA product.

PSA once had an ADC converter type component. It disappeared from the lineup. Could PSA build an improved version of the Amazon $16 converter? No doubt preamps have their place for a variety of reasons. What about the rest of us without a good reason? Could we do better than a $16 converter? I’ve searched to no avail.

Here is the action. Does anyone have a Stellar phono preamp, BHK preamp and DSD DAC? A tall order perhaps. Would any of you be willing to compare SQ from two signal paths? The first you already have. The second means getting the part mentioned earlier. Bypass the BHK preamp, connect the SPP to the ADC and go coax to the DSD DAC.

My intention is not to take business from PSA. Rather, is there an opportunity for a win-win? For PS Audio and its family.

I’d hazard a guess the $16 ADC has little to do with it. And with a pre, there is no need to ever convert to digital.

For those who do not otherwise need a preamplifier, there are six thousand reasons to explore an alternative.

There are at least five thousand reasons to get a decent pre however, and it need not cost $6k. I’m guessing a large part of what you’re liking is the analog medium. Seems a shame to digitize it. But if you don’t need a pre otherwise, I get it.

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I’m with @badbeef - there are many reasons for a preamp. And it doesn’t have to be real expensive either.

You just don’t how much better food tastes with salt, until you try adding a little.

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That is one great metaphor. I love it.

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I have two preamps. A Wyred4Sound STPSE2 for the main system, and PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell DAC for the office system. Different price points. The Stellar Gain DAC has a solid preamp section and headphone amp. In my experience, a DAC sounds a whole lot better via a preamp. It just smooths everything out.

Let me chime without getting in Schiit from Elk, Paul, Darren, or badbeef :

  1. I don’t do Vinyl anymore so the only comment I have is from the endless great reviews both here in the PSA Forums and from a member in our Audio Club. So its a KickAss Preamp based on Darrens hard work, the folks at PS Audio, and of course the Lucky Owners

  2. Same applies to the BHK Preamp (its on my Radar though - new or used in a few years $$$)

  3. The DSD Sr. Is my DAC, my Turntable, my Everything ! The XLR outs feeds a Balanced MiniDSP board that feeds two M700’s out to a Pair of rare 1974 Bose Series 2 Continentals on 27” metal stands. Others color the output of the DSD Sr.with Tubes or fancy Class A FET based Preamps, I have to color it with the MiniDSP EQs.

  4. The RCA outs feed a “modified by me” Koss “Energizer” for my newest beloved Toy, MassDrop ESP/95X. I always put the M700’s in standby mode (front panel blue power button) when using the Koss Electrostatics. I disconnect/connect the RCA connections when not using the Energizer. As per PS Audios recommendations, XLR and RCA and never to be connected at the same time.

  5. SGCD is a great Preamp. Wish I didn’t have to trade it in towards the DSD Sr. Purchase earlier this year.

Thanks for understanding, badbeef. Belief me, were I one of greater resources I would not think about it twice. Even though other preamps might do the trick, I know myself. Knowing the BHK preamp brings magic to others I feel it calling my name. I try hard to ignore it for now and unfortunately the meds don’t help :slight_smile:

I love PSA, in part because of its customer policies. I know if the BHK did not bring magic I could return it at no cost. What holds me back is that digitizing the analog and sending it to the DSD DAC sounds so awesome, and definitely superior to the same music ripped from CDs or streamed from Qobuz.

Plus, I am curious by nature. Since I am no engineer, I wonder if someone like Darren could work his magic on an ADC converter and further improve on what I now hear.

What I know for certain is that my reference records never sounded better than their digital counterparts with the predecessors to Darren’s and Ted’s handywork. If digitizing the analog signal sounds so exceptional it’s only because of the components before and after the ADC in the chain.

Just like I can’t know if a preamp would bring nirvana unless I try it, unless others try the ADC signal route we won’t know if my experience is unique or others would have it as well, and how it would compare to the preamp route.

Anyways, it’s all about the music. Right now, I am listening, again, to Mahler’s Fifth Symphony by Solti and the CSO, an original DECCA pressing. I feel like I’m in the hall where I heard that work so many times when I lived in Chicago.

I doze but the brass keeps waking me up. Maybe I’ll get some sleep tonight…

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I have no issues with putting analogue through A/D and D/A conversion and I have a very good analogue source. An increasing number of manufacturers do it, not least because so many systems have DSP these days that can only be done in the digital domain.

For what it’s worth, I’ve never understood the point of pre-amp, only only ever owned one for 6 months in 40 years of having hifi.


psalvet…regarding preamps…when Oppo owners inquired if Oppo blueray players could
be used as preamp to drive amplifiers…their response was not recommended…use preamp
between player and amp…so here is my .02 worth experience.

At the time I had acquired an Oppo 205 I ran it direct to Parasound A21 power amp…the sound was airy light very nice but not much oomph in the bass slam deptartment…was running bjc rca connects…when I got my Emotiva XSP1 Gen 2 preamp I placed it between Oppo 205 and
my Parasound A21 power amp. The difference was big…as the Emotiva was providing the drive
to the amp big difference…also at the time bjc balanced ics were on order…when they arrived
installed them Oppo 205 to Emotiva preamp to Parasound A21 power amp…another very significant improvement in sounstage quality…

All this to say that a dac might not have the necessary drive current to really deliver the goods to your amp…as I found out.

I also have a Wyred4 Sound STP Se stage 2 preamp…quite different voicing from Emotiva.
both are excellent…

If like others around here you are feeling a crunch…perhaps you might like to consider this…
and always can trade in for a PS Audio product of your choosing later…

Hope this helps you have fun along your journey!!

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Thanks for the suggestion, Davida, but I already have the PS Audio Phono Preamp. It is better than good. All I am trying to do is see if a high quality analog to digital converter might be a possibility and rival in its results using a preamp.

The ADC that I am using cost $16. It may be all that is needed to go from A to D. It may be that going from A to D is a much easier engineering job than going from D to A. Right now the $16 converter is doing a fine job but I wonder if a more sophisticated and costly unit might do a better job. Curiosity is a wonderful but burdensome trait :slight_smile:

I was kidding about hitting the poverty line. I could afford a preamp. The question in my mind is “Do I really need one?” given that I can use the DSD DAC as a switch.

You, however, just gave me a pretty good rationale for why a preamp might improve sound. That is what I am trying to understand. Thanks again!

Sorry I missed that …

XSP 1 is also a line reference pre…

Happy journeying

Steven, you just mentioned something I totally neglected to say. The digital domain allows us to equalize to compensate for a number of things.

Although I have to say, not to be a brown noser, that since I switched my components to an almost all PSA rig (except for turntable and speakers), the need to equalize is minimal. PSA components are pretty tonally right. Somehow things that could sound pretty horrible with previous components I’ve owned, and they were pretty well regarded, sound eminently musical with my PSA rig.

The new Phono Preamp works as advertised. It does bring out all that is good about a record, just like the DSD DAC does with digital sources.

Still, there are a few things that need some degree of equalization. Bette Midler records come to mind. So digitizing does make making those adjustments possible. Thanks for reminding me!

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There was a Swiss company that made a range of expensive DSP units that went between the pre-amp and power amp and did DSP between an A/D and D/A conversion. Behringer did a unit called a DEGQ2496 (or something like that) and then there is MiniDSP with a range of products. They all seem to be about taming or correcting the bass response up to around 250Hz, which is more to do with the room than the system. Devialet have a system called Speaker Active Matching, which works very well, and is basically a speaker-specific correction algorithm that does much the same as servo speakers like Infinity made that measure the drivers in real time. The algorithm is derived from laser measurements of the driver and is applied in the DAC, and again is only aimed at the lower frequencies.

A good phono amp is pretty vital with low output cartridges. I’ve got a list of about 6 I’d like to try! I’m currently using one that cost me $720 used but it’s only $1,250 new, from a company that makes $30,000 turntables. It’s very minimalist in design, but has 12 gain, 8 loading and 3 ground settings. It weighs 1.2kg compared to 9.8kg for the Stellar. The range of phono amp designs is quite extraordinary.

The one before was this - all bespoke with valves and silver stuff.

There don’t seem to be any rules, just get one that works!

I read this thread with great interest. I just added analog to my digital music. I don’t have a TT in my car or at work so I will need to digitize.

Has anyone here used/heard the NPC. How does it compare to the Stelar? Would it be advantageous to use the Stelar with a good digitizer (providing one exists).

I think there are some members here that do exactly that. Darren Phono Preamp with the old PS Audio Digitizing Phono Preamp.

I am intersted in how the NPC compares to the Stelar?

All depends if your primary sources are digital, and your DAC is the centre of your system (e.g. switching between multiple digital sources) then an ADC could be the way to go (and of course then easily allows DSP etc.).

I think of it as which unit is the selector, since in most cases a “preamp” is just that, a selector (and if not passive, then with impedance matching and possibly some gain, though that is seldom required).

In my case I use the digital chain of digital selector, upsampler, and DAC as the point of selection,so it makes perfect sense to put any analogue sources I have through an ADC so they can be selected (and optionally DSPd) on the same digital selector.

The NPC comes highly recommended around here,if I could afford one I would most certainly chase one down on the used market.
It was an idea a bit before its time for most old-school audiophiles.
in my humble opinion :slight_smile:

In my opinion, they’re not even remotely close in terms of a straight phono stage. Stellar kicks its booty.