Long road to an S300

Hi Everyone, just sharing how I ended up here…maybe it will help someone else make the leap…

It’s started with the speakers. After 30 years (!) it was time to retire the DCM Time Window 3’s. They just sounded tired and needed to be put out to pasture. Unfortunately with Covid in full bloom, it wasn’t an ideal time to engage in listening tests in a showroom, so this would be a blind buy based on reputation and reviews. For reputation it’s hard to beat Sandy Gross, so the GoldenEar Triton’s were at the top of the list. The Triton 5’s hit the sweet spot of cost versus capability, so that’s what wound up in my sunken living room. This is where this adventure really begins.

They didn’t sound great. Not bad by any means, but way below what I was expecting. I tried all the placement tricks, but nothing yielded the improvement I was looking for. However, I knew these were excellent speakers, so I suspected the problem lay elsewhere in my system. Since the cable runs for the speakers were over 20 feet, I started there and replaced the anemic 16 AWG wire with beefy ribbons of 12 AWG copper. Improvement? Quite possibly, but certainly not enough to get the speakers to where they should be. That brings us to what the speaker wires connected to: the venerable Yamaha TSR-7850 AV receiver (yes, the one you saw in Costco for a crazy low price a couple years ago). Having replaced an old school two channel Yamaha amp, the 7850 was a revelation in connectivity with Bluetooth and WIFI, and the ability to stream music from a host of devices as well as due AV duties connecting Roku’s, laptops, and a projector. Notably, it was rated at 95w into 8 ohms, so at least in theory it should be fine driving the Triton 5’s which were billed as “8 ohm compatible”.

Given that, I decided to focus on the source material which had mostly transitioned to streaming which despite its immense convenience wasn’t exactly the best quality to start with. Even though the Yamaha sports a Burr-Brown 384 kHz / 32-bit DAC, I decided that might be the weak link in the chain. I had read and seen so much good press about the Cambridge Audio CXN v2 Series 2 Network Player that it quickly moved to the top of the list, even though the price tag was bumping the limits of my modest system budget. My hope was the CXN’s dual Wolfson WM8740 DACs and 24bit/384kHz upsampling would help compensate for the the best Spotify could provide. And while I’m dropping $1K+ on the CXN, might was well upgrade the RCA interconnects for a few extra bucks while pulling the rack apart.

The CXN definitely made a difference, both on streams and on CD’s that fed into its digital input from an aging Yamaha CDC 775. The latter made it easy to do A/B testing on disks, switching between the analog signal going into the 7850 and the digital signal going into the CXN. Granted, that’s comparing the now ancient onboard YAC514-F DAC with the double barreled Wolfson’s - talk about bringing a knife to a gun fight. But when you hear it, you hear it. Getting there.

But getting there isn’t being there, so that brings us to the final chapter. I read something interesting about the Triton 5’s in Home Theater Review (https://hometheaterreview.com/goldenear-triton-five-tower-speaker-reviewed/). Although the 5’s are 8 ohm compatible, they actually average 6 ohm, and will habitually dip below 4 ohm at key points in the spectrum. So this is the kind of behavior that will leave a typical AVR gasping at critical junctures in the music. Brent even comes out and says it: “ I probably wouldn’t want to drive a nice speaker like this with a $300 AV receiver, but you certainly could.” I guess the 7850 has pre-outs for a reason…

By this time I’d watched most of Paul’s youtube videos, and even read his book, 99% True. Of course I’d also read Jason’s “Schiit Happened” so I was no stranger to the Class A-Class D Maginot Line. After absorbing a mountain of reviews and forum posts, I turned my back on glowing Class A space heaters and cast my lot with the Class D apostates and went with the Stellar S300. I figured if anyone could figure out how to tame a Class D amp, it was probably Paul, Darren, and the team at PS Audio.

And that made all the difference. I was surprised by the heft of the S300 as I got things plugged in. Pressing the glowing indigo button, I finally experienced the bass response the Tritons were rumored to have. But the most striking thing was turning up the volume didn’t so much make things louder as it made them more resolved. The Triton’s were finally getting what they wanted all along - more power! Even with that massive improvement, we still weren’t quite there. As an engineer, I have some trouble believing it, but at some point you have to trust your ears: burn in is real. And I’ll say it again, burn in is real. Over the course of several weeks, the imaging continued to improve until it achieved that shimmering curtain of sound with the speakers themself all but vanishing.

Whether it’s returning to ancient disks like Checkfield’s Water, Wind, and Stone to hear for the first time what you were missing for three decades, or listening to OneRepublic’s Good Life and hearing that newly seismic subterranean whoooomp right around the 10 second mark, while that haunting whistle floats up to the ceiling, you know, finally, everything is as it should be,

Well done, PS Audio. Well done.

Cheers,
Thom

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Welcome, Thom. Great post! I like reading about other people’s journeys. It’s fun to hear why people chose various components and what the result was. I’ve heard great things about the S300…but it seems like a gateway drug to the M700s and the M1200s. :grin:

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Welcome @ThomS !

I’m the little goblin from the M700s, M1200s and the BHKs, and I’m just right here whispering in your ear: “try me…”

:stuck_out_tongue:

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Ccongrates amd very well written, especially for an engineer. Just kidding. Sort of.

Welcome to a fellow engineer! Gotta go now and pull up Checkfield and OneRepublic!

Thanks for the welcome. Agree, half the fun is in the adventure (haha, and knowing when to stop!)

Nooooo, I’ve already far exceeded both my financial budget and my spousal accommodation allowance…

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Haha, no you’re spot on. I’m the implicit staff editor for anything that goes out the door…

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Thanks!