Going back to 2 channel for both music and movies in one of our systems featuring the Stellar line

Greetings - This is my first post here. We just pulled the trigger on a Stellar Gain Cell Pre amp / DAC and the matching Stellar M700 amps. The purpose is to get back to high end, two channel in our basement theater.

A dedicated thread has been opened on Home Theater Forum, and with the PS Audio gear anchoring the system, it seemed like a good idea to open a thread here.

We are also going to be putting several speaker systems through the paces, starting with modest speakers like the Martin Logan ESL Hybrids and Axiom M100’s (see Bryston A1).

The purpose of the thread is to put a spotlight in the “forum world” on how a music centered system (2 channel) can double as an excellent source of theater sound. SO many people buy 9 mediocre speakers, a $2000 receiver and a subwoofer when the first love is music.

The thread on Home Theater Forum should be about 2 years in the making, as we plan on trying a lot of gear/speakers.

That’s it for now. :slight_smile:

Welcome, Craig. Thanks for posting. Can’t wait to read your thoughts.

Welcome, Craig!

Great idea and an excellent project.

Welcome Craig! You have definitely started with a solid foundation in the Stellar Series. Stellar powers my HT and 2 channel hybrid setup (see signature). I’ll be interested to see where you end up with your speakers. The M700s will drive just about any speaker on the planet with ease so you shouldn’t really be hampered with regard to amp/speaker matching. My B&W 804 D3’s are a great match and those are usually power hungry speakers. I think you might like how those work with the Legacy Signatures. Not familiar with the Martin Logans, myself. For me, one of the most critical factors in obtaining an excellent dual 2 channel/HT setup is in the preamp, in my instance an Anthem AVM60. It’s a fabulous unit and remarkable versatile with amazing bass management allowing my JL Fathom subs to disappear yet provide a solid and taught bass foundation. Anyway, good luck with your project. It will be fun to watch it unfold!

+1 on the welcome. My two two channel systems both do double duty as home theater systems, partly because I don’t have the room for surround but mostly for the quality issue you mention.

Paul - Thank you for the warm welcome. I am looking forward to experiencing your products!

Elk - Thank you also for the warm welcome

Amgradmd - Thank you. This room will truly be a dedicated 2 channel system, although the Panasonic 65 inch plasma will still be operational. For now, an OPPO 203 will be running with Coax out to the Stellar Gain pre, and the HDMI running the video into the TV.

I am putting 4 inch thick room treatments on the side of the video stand to ease reflections. The Martin Logans are their entry level electrostats, and are a very nice speaker. I actually sold the Legacies - a friend was salivating over them, and part of the plan is possibly a pair of Magnepans later this year.

Back to the Oppo - we will probably want to add a dedicated transport later this year, but part of this process is to demonstrate that moving into high end stereo is not difficult with the right gear.

This is going to be fun.

My system evolved in the same manner…starting with best speakers I could afford and building around them for two channel - then adding HT elements. I am still building around those speakers 15 years later. My current stereo components are in my signature, but additional Gallo Reference AV speakers round out the center and surround channels along with Anthem amplification. I believe that a solid stereo (and center channel) foundation is the key to a great sounding surround/HT audio system. Looking forward to your project and articles…

Hi Craig,

Welcome to the forum. Great project and thanks for sharing.

Can I ask about the following:

“I am putting 4 inch thick room treatments on the side of the video stand to ease reflections.”

I run a hybrid system as it’s all in the living room. So my music is magically produced by the Directstream DAC into a Hegel P20 preamp and then a pair of the M700s (which are terrific by the way!). For movies the surround sound is handled by a Marantz AVR which as well as the surround speakers drives the same M700s via the HT bypass on the Hegel.

Anyway my front speakers have no alternative other than to sit either side of the TV screen. I’ve been concerned about reflections for a while so would be interested in more info on how you’re attempting to mitigate this.



Alan - When I finish setting things up, I will post pictures. The panels were made for me by a forum friend who lives in Toronto. Basically, they consist of 4 inch thick absorbing panels of thick foam placed inside a frame. I do believe one can purchase the materials from Parts Express, and I will check on some of these ideas as the threads continue.

Our basement “high end room” is a live end / dead end style of room, and has always been my favorite place to listen to music. Our youngest is now a junior in college, and has moved out. This is what started the desire to have a dedicated 2 channel system: I can actually listen to music for a couple of hours and no one bothers me. :slight_smile:

I should be able to post pictures next weekend.

The Stellar Gain Pre Amp / DAC has arrived. We have one more cable due in from Audio Advisor tomorrow, and then the Stellar Gain will replace the Marantz 7703 in the system. Based on reading, it will take 200 hours to burn the unit in, so we will start with thoughts between the Marantz in 2 channel to the Stellar Gain “fresh” before break in.

The quality feel of the Stellar Gain is excellent, and it is elegant looking. Pics will be up over the weekend.

Can’t wait. Thanks for sharing.

I, too, am very curious as to your reaction and conclusions.

The Stellar Gain is hooked up and making music. I did about an hour’s worth of listening through the Martin Logan speakers with the Axiom Amp.

Of note for the first night’s listening was the good old fashioned CD of Steely Dan’s “AJA”. Considering the Stellar Gain is cold, no break in… it was really good. The sound stage is well outside the speakers, and the clarity of vocals is outstanding. For the next 72 hours, I am looping the disc to allow some break in, and will do some more serious listening over the weekend, but this pre amp is already impressive.

It is already exceeding the Marantz for music.

I will post more late Sunday, in terms of more auditioning.

A Quick update: We are 72 hours into burn in. The Stellar Gain is opening up nicely, so I decided to spin 2 CD’s this afternoon. The CD’s were the original Dire Straits album and The Trinity Session from The Cowboy Junkies.

Starting with Dire Straits: In contrast with the Marantz, the vocals are much cleaner. Knopfler’s voice is often hard to make out over the instrumentals, but with the Stellar Gain, they are crystal clear. The guitar work is excellent, and we are getting closer to the analog sound of the original album. My personal history with the album dates back to 1978 with a Technics Direct Drive Turntable, a Marantz 3600 preamp with Marantz 250m power amp. At 18 years old, I loved this album for late night listening, and still do.

The Trinity Session is a terrific recording: single microphone at Toronto’s Church of the Holy Trinity. The Stellar Gain does a tremendous job at making Margot sound like she’s in the room, solid center, with the instruments behind her and off to different angles.

Another arena of note is, when I originally tested the Martin Logans in mid 2015, I noted that they were really good as long as one was in the “sweet spot” at the triangle point between the two speakers. The Stellar Gain makes them more listenable off axis, with some real sound stage, even when not in the sweet spot. In the sweet spot, the depth of The Trinity Session goes from pretty good to REALLY good with the Stellar Gain.

Keeping in mind that the Marantz has a “street price” in line with the Stellar Gain, and the Marantz has Audyssey XT-32, multiple HDMI inputs and outputs … etc … Subwoofer crossover with dual subwoofer outs, XLR out on all channels, Bluetooth input … etc … it’s an excellent value.

But for 2 channel, the Stellar Gain is much better. The Marantz never made me want to listen to more music. The Stellar Gain makes me want to not only LISTEN to more music, but to also add to my collection.

Now … where is that CD of Little Feat “Waiting for Columbus”?

I suggest Dixie Chicken, released almost exactly 45 years ago (in February, 1973).

And from the post Lowell George era, “Live From Neon Park.”

Elk said

I suggest Dixie Chicken, released almost exactly 45 years ago (in February, 1973).

Elk!! I didn’t see you as a Dixie Chicken kinda guy! Little Feat was amazing. “Waiting For Columbus” may be one of the best live rock albums of all time. Crazy good musicianship.

Waiting for Columbus is superb.

I played in a cover band a bit over five years ago that played a good amount of Little Feat. Fun stuff.

I enjoyed learning Dixie Chicken is the source of the Dixie Chicks’ name.

I was introduced to “Waiting For Columbus” in 1980 at a stereo store that was my college part time job. We had a contract with an underground rock station, and the manager would stop by with milk crates of LP’s. He had a direct to disc copy, and promised I would love it. He was right!

For some almost comedic views on the Stellar Gain, I also was watching some golf early evening, and the sounds coming from the Farmer’s Open were quite … Stellar. Phil Mickelson had just made a putt to finish his (disappointing) round, and a voice came from out of the wall on the right side of the room … “Get em tomorrow Phil !!”.

It was so crystal clear… one of those moments that make one smile. I have our cable box hooked via digital optical cable to the Stellar Gain, and the performance of audio is greatly increased vs. HDMI though the Marantz.

I too wanted to use the same front Magnepan 3.6 speakers and M700 amps for both stereo listening and Surround. I got a lot of good advice on PSA forums. I thought about using my DirectStream DAC w/Bridge II as a pre for both systems. A member from Germany, can’t remember his name, suggested I use switch boxes to separate the systems.

I got two passive metal boxes. For the stereo I used Y cables from the RCA outs of the DirectStream. One Y cable went to “In 1” (these cables have 50hz hi pass filters) of the first box and then out to the M700’s. The second Y cables went to “In 1” of the second box and out to the GR Research W/Frame OB subs.

For Surround I went from the stereo XLR of an Oppo 205 to “In 2” of the first box and out to the M700’s. This was a XLR to RCA cable with an inline capacitor. The 205 stereo RCA to “In 2” of the second box and out to the OB subs. Pushing button 1 of both boxes for stereo and button 2 on both boxes for surround. The same amps and speakers are used for both systems. See pics. The yellow video inputs are not used.

Some suggested I get a AV Processor but since they change models frequently, I decided to get better power for my big Maggie’s and got a pair of M700’s. In place of an AV Processor Jeff of Aribica posted this for me. I plan to add the Ultra when funds allow:

"I have one of these and it is magical! Decware Ultra 6-Channel Preamp:http://www.decware.com/newsite……ULTRA.html

It solves the very problem you are agonizing over. I have been using mine for about 2 years now and it is the LAST component in my system I would ever get rid of, and I have some pretty decent gear. It allows me to use a single set of my beloved front channel speakers for both duties – 2-channel and HT without disconnecting anything.

I run the Oppo surround RCA preouts directly to their corresponding inputs on the Ultra. I run my DS DAC into the Ultra as a separate 2-Ch input. I simply turn the input selector knob on the Ultra and I can go from my DirectStream 2-Ch listening to 5.1 surround sound out of my Oppo UDP-205. The Ultra allows for 4 different 2-Ch inputs which accommodates my turntable and reel-to-reel tape rig as well.

Now, the only caveat is the Ultra supports 5.1, not 7.1. But not a big deal. You would just run the two side channel surround RCAs from the Oppo out directly to the amp powering those speakers, bypassing the Ultra preamp. That amp would control the volume for those two particular surround speakers instead of the Ultra.

You can read the description at the link above, but it is also very handy for controlling/adjusting output to all 6 channels at times when sound engineers were on crack while producing the movie soundtracks.

It has become the most indispensable component in my repertoire!"