m700 - moving from Ayre amp to Stellar

I took the plunge and tried the new m700 mono-blocks just in time for Christmas. For years had this setup:

Sony HAP Z1-ES -> BAT VK5i -> Ayre V3 -> Aerial Acoustics 7B's

The Sony is a great player. The 10-tube BAT pre-amp is a beast of a tube pre. The Ayre was a great 200@4 ohm amp. The Aerial 7B’s have always been known to be very neutral with a good amount of bass. But what I was lacking was POWER. The Sony converts everything to DSD, so I have been keen on the PS Audio’s DirectStream as a future upgrade, so I decided to check out the amazingly priced m700’s.

WOW! I had no idea what my front end and speakers were capable of! I always knew my 4-ohm nominal 7B’s needed gobs of power to sound their best - and been told at least 300 watts is needed, which the m700’s have. I decided to tried the m700’s (350@8, 700@4, stable into 2) over, say the the BAT VK-255SE (150@8, 300@4), Rotel RB-1590 (350@2, 400-ish@4), Audio Alchemy DPA-1 (125@8 ohms, 200@4) Once I got past the 2 weeks break in period, I suddenly have a completely new system with the m700’s!

Sound integration: The most amazing thing about the m700’s is they are so neutral, they really add far less to every recording. Many of my live recordings had the same feel with my old amp - with the m700’s they all sound very different. I think they have the power to drive the bass in my speakers, so instead of getting generic bass I am now getting what the readings have in them. And I can now place instruments much more independently in the soundstage – everything is clearer and cleaner.

Soundstage: As wide as my fully balanced Ayre amp, but the M700’s is a bit deeper. I had to move the speakers away from the wall to get more out of the soundstage

Bass: m700s - AMAZING! I have a ton more control. My Ayre amp didn’t have the power to control my 7B’s, and I realize I was getting more generic bass from my old amp. With the powerful m700’s, I now have solid, strong bass even at low levels. I am finding I don’t need to turn up the volume to really loud levels to hear everything. But when I do, the bass grows evenly with everything else.

Micro-dynamics: another REVELATION! I am learning that my Sony HAP Z1-ES has far more resolution than I thought, and I am hearing detail and micro-dynamics in everything I listen to. I’m curious what the DS/DSjr could do!

Speaker Binding Posts - my only issue with the amps are the binding posts. I could not easily get my Transparent Audio MM speaker cables to easily around the fat binding posts. My first attempt to set them up I had them set up poorly, AND THEY DISCONNECTED. I contorted the speaker able to go around the fat binding posts, and I fear I have to use pliers to really clamp down on these cables. I can send pictures if you would like to see it.

Stereophile review: I agree with Robert Deutch’s review of the m700: smooth (almost tube-like), well-balanced, outstanding value! And same as Robert, I set them up stacked first, only later to try them side by side. I needed them side-by-side to help solve my binding post/speaker wire problem – and I do they they sound better side by side. Weird.

Great job Paul McGowan and the team!


Thanks! Credit goes to its designer, Darren Meyer. I only helped.itwasntme_gif


Paul, great job to both you and Darren.

Any speculation on why laying the M700s side-by-side yields better sound than stacking?

davidkellyphoto - Thank you so much for this excellent review! Sorry to hear about the spade connector issue. Are the spades 3/8th inch? What you could do is pick up some 3/8th compatible spade to banana connectors so that the connection isn’t so poor. Let me know if this sounds like a good solution to you.

yuhyma- Thanks! Not sure exactly whats causing the difference in sound. The M700s radiate very minimal amounts of RF energy outside of their chassis (we had this tested as per the IEC standards). With that being said, there is still the possibility that the fields are interacting slightly which could explain why there are small improvements when they are separated out. Just a guess!

I think all components sound better without another sitting on top. One is hopefully on a solid base, the other on a metal cabinet, it all matters.

If you have them just sitting on the floor, consider some amp stands. Mapleshade sells a nice slab of maple with isolation, but if you are on budget it can be done cheaper. Check out Timbernation, or go diy.

Go get a couple of good solid wood cutting boards, or go to Home Depot, Lowe’s, or Menards and either see if they have something that can be cut to size, thicker the better. Or see if they sell some precut shelves. Parts Express sells some inexpensive cones or spikes. Or you can go get some threaded archery practice tips. Use the spikes under the board, then get either the rubber cork isolation pads, linked in another topic, do a search, and put those under the amps. Another option that I like for amps, most hardware stores sell rubber plugs, same shape ask the cork plugs, or rubber used with test tubes. They come in different sizes, get some big wide ones for the amps.

I have tried cones, various pads, but for amps I prefer the rubber corks under the amp, and brass cones or spikes under the platform. For front end components, it varies, but I got a good deal on some BDR Pyramid cones that I like under my preamp and DAC. They come in two types, 3 and 4. I use three of the warmer ones under my DAC, with one of the other as the fourth. That is reversed with my tube preamp.

Great review and welcome to the forum!

I have since tried the Stellar Gain Cell DAC at the beginning of March (review coming) – pretty wonderful so far except for these 5 items:

  1. My Sony HAP Z1-ES, which is a hard drive music server/DAC’s, it now has a USB digital output that isn’t working with the Stellar. I am guessing I am getting some kind of DSD handshake, because the Stellar says “DSD 64”; but when I play songs I get some random noise plus random beeping. The “noise” is repeatable and sounds different track-to-track. I have disconnected the USB and gone back to listening to its analog outputs to the Stellar, which sound quite good. When I try sending the same files from a MacBook over USB using either BitPerfect or Amarra, I get some AMAZING sounding music from the Stellar. which sounds sometimes better (or just different) from the Sony. Doing some research, I get two different answers about what is onside the Sony - it is either a Linux embedded system, or modified Windows 10. I am thinking Linix, and I have no idea what USB output drivers are in there.

  2. The Stellar keeps the USB “active” even when not using that input, which would be a problem if I get the USB output working, because the Sony disables the analog outputs if it has a USB connection/handshake (which it is making). I think you should look at a menu option to turn off the USB if not used (but the default would be ON)

  3. When using the Stellar Optical input from this stream (Xfinity X1 -> Sony 905B tv -> Stellar Optical), I occasionally get the very end of words clipped. Not on all channels, but it happens more with documentaries where the audio was obviously added over another soundtrack. Since the Xfinity X1 is a DVR, I can replay the clipping over and over. I did not hear this before when I was running the optical into a 1994 California Audio Labs Alpha 24/96. I suspect you are closing the channel on the optical data stream too quickly…

  4. When my Sony 950B (specifically a 2014 KDL55W950B LED TV) is On but has no digital output, I hear what sounds like an old pre-amp “Whomp” sound every time I switch to the Optical input. I think this is something in how the Sony is outputting digital, or how you are interpreting the startup stream from the Sony

  5. when the Stellar is turned all the way down to Zero, it does not seem to be mute. On USB inputs, I can still hear a little bit of sound. I believe Zero should be Mute

Besides these items, I am VERY HAPPY with the Stellar – it is a great complement to the M700’s, as I was expecting since they were designed and tuned together!

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I too noticed an issue with the optical when I was running Directv satellite. It was annoying but the intriguing thing was when I ran the signal to the TV first and optical out of the TV the clipping/cutting out stopped completely.

I am suspecting the issue is coming down to the quality of the optical outputs on varying devices.

Your tv for instance may have a poor quality optical output that is combining with something that the SGCD doesn’t like.

What kind of optical cable are you using? I hope its not a stock $5 skinny one, those sound awful even on my $250 polk soundbar.

I’ll move this discussion over to a new SGCD post (with my review), but I am using a good AudioQuest optical cable.

Thanks, David and trust you’re having a good time with the GCD. Excited for you to have it.

1.) The Stellar (as with our other products) does not support native DSD over USB, only DoP. I assume everyone knows what DoP is? Basically pure DSD wrapped in a PCM header and footer - kind of like a train. But it is still pure DSD.

2.) Indeed GCD does this and if we wanted something different we’d have to think about it as a feature request for the future.

3.) We don’t “close the channel” and there is no auto muting in GCD. Seems likely this effect is happening in your TV or from Xfinity.

4.) Yes, the Gain Cell doesn’t go quite to zero. Close, but no cigar. It’s the nature of not having a volume control to muck up the sound. Always a fewe niggling details. The sound quality improvements over a pot are so overwhelmingly better that I would be hesitant to change anything but, I get this can be somewhat annoying. We’ll look at muting the output with the relay when you go to zero but then people might complain about the internal “click” when that happens. Let us take a look and see if maybe that’s an option.

  1. the Sony does export DoP: http://helpguide.sony.net/ha/hapz1es/v1/en/contents/TP0001220509.html – here is a YouTube of the Sony exporting (they say) DSP over DoP to another DAC https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmm-5usnQtw looking at the Sony guide, I see they seem to not be following a standard driver, and they already know it doesn’t work with all DACs. Oh well… I’ll neet to try a DSjr via Ethernet sometime soon instead

  2. thanks for considering that option

  3. yes, I think it is a xfinity/source problem for the words being clipped, I realize I hear that in other places too.

  4. the woop, yes I think this could be the TV

  5. thanks again for looking into that option (zero = mute)

Hi davidkellyphoto,
Aerial Acoustics (10t, CC3 & SW12) owner here, and considering switching to the Stellar M700 for the front 3 channels. Are you still happy with the M700 driving your pair of 7Bs? Do have a 7B/CC3 or 7B only setup? Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

Note, the 10t can drop down below 3 Ohms (see attached graph), even lower than your 7Bs. Thus my concern for using the M700 to drive the 10t pair.

4 - personally I like the sound of a good relay - very satisfying acoustic click;)

I only have 7B’s (no center channel) - The M700’s do amazing with the 7B’s – an amazing amount of base, and a sweet sounding high end!