Not so stellar review of Stellar stack in Hi-Fi News

Hi-Fi News published a not so favorable review to the SGCD and M700’s.
Main criticism was on the level of “noise and jitter” from the DAC and on “softness in the treble that goes beyond sweetness into something just a little too muted…” from the amps.

Would be great to see a new Stellar preamp with a more modern dac to complement the m1200’s. Something between current SGCD and BHK pre.

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According to the review the issue is not the chip, but the implementation of the Gain Cell

The noise and distortion from the “gain cell” has been reported on ASR with the same results.

And if I recall correctly, Paul said PSA own measurements were similar in most parts to ASR’s

So what’s the point of the Gain Cell? Nord (our local company) designed a transformer coupled one integrated with NC500 Class D amps, with incredibly low distortion.
They also do it as a separate pre-amp that can be used active or passive.
Expensive given their amplifier products are much the same and half the price of PSA, but the result is bundles of ultra-low noise attenuated power.

Volume control outside of the signal path.

Low noise by itself does not make good sound. Sometimes the sacrifices that are made to lower noise degrade sound quality.


Honestly, that’s the most ridiculous excuse I’ve ever heard. It’s a volume control. It’s shouldn’t introduce any noise at all. It should be down at -130dB like the Nord. The only pre-amp I ever had just put a couple of resistors in the signal path (dual mono Hattor stepped attenuators). As ASR point out, anything below -70dB is mixed in with noise, which is 12 bits of resolution. And people complained MQA processing gives about 17 bits. Both reviews also found left and right channels to be markedly different. Andrew Everard was aware of the loss of detail before he saw Paul Miller’s measurements.
I had a look for other reviews. There was one here: a guy I’ve never heard of but 70,000 people have looked at it, and he calls the treble “gritty”. He also says it has a prominent midrange and good lively bass, which others said, although it comes at a price.

Alternatively using one measurement as the end all be all doesn’t make any sense.

Using this logic would suggest an identical speaker with a passive crossover or the same one with an active crossover sound identical since the frequency response is identical. This is clearly not true.

If noise is so important, then why does the sound change significantly when cables are changed? The equipment’s THD will not change at all, yet the sound changes…

Multiple electronic components can measure very similarly in regards to noise but sound quite different. Therefore noise is a limited measure similar to calorie intake with diet. Cutting calories itself is a foolish endeavor if one doesn’t factor in other variables.

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I would have thought extremely low levels of noise are a pre-requisite of any audio component these days because it can be achieved so cheaply. The Gain Cell seems to be producing audible noise/distortion. Components may sound different, but there is no excuse for noise at that level.

I don’t know the impact of interconnect cables as I don’t use any, only one ethernet cable and speaker cables (designed primarily to exclude external noise, flat copper conductors).

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Sheesh, man - you’re the New Brodric.

Not that I’m a fan of the Gain Cell.

But seriously - you’re now a proponent of ASR?


I went to ASR to find a headphone amp and got banned in a day !!! I did buy a Zorloo, on its way from China as I type. $80 poorer. A 21-year-old kid posted about 500 comments about Harbeth SHL5+ and it turns out he listens to audio through a guitar amp. So a real expert. The answer to every question on ASR seems to be Genelec.

I searched for GCD reviews because I’ve been reading Andrew Everard for many years - I’ve read Gramophone since about 1980 and he’s been the audio editor since 1990 and is fairly easy going. But the criticisms, good and bad, are consistent.

I even posted a link to a video reviewer who wears a baseball hat indoors, which really is the ultimate in bad taste.

I was surprised PSA would make such a poorly measuring device as I used the volume control in a PSA DAC and it was very good indeed.

What about this?

The A-wtd S/N is 90dB (re. 0dBV, or just 103dB via the DAC at the maximum 6V balanced output).

Is 103 the S/N of the balanced? Is that what he’s trying to say?

And he got the DAC wrong, it’s a 9010, not 9018.

There was quite a leap from the 9010 to the 9018…

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You seem to say whatever fits the bill. ASR? “I got banned!” as if it was a Badge of Credibility - then, when it suits the argument, “ASR says…”

Half-Century-Plus Old Audio tech (Especially British - which, again, I would tend not to argue with, generally) is the Best ever devised, then its “I have the latest and greatest tech from Whomever in the World, and am waiting for you Luddites to catch up”.

I appreciate that you argue for a living as a forensic accountant who appears in court on behalf of clients. I only do it for fun, on occasion, so I can’t compete. But I do expect some sort of consistency on occasion.


Is it possible that Class D to sound better than standard, needs some tweaking (tonality, harmonic distortion added etc.)? Neutral is not always first choice depending on level of gear.

Everything/any topology requires tweaking over time. It is just that it is Early Days on Class D, G, etc. vs. All The Other Established, (koff, koff) Upper Classes.

Expecting any new-ish topology to be Fully Tweaked vs. one that has existed (and been tweaked) for Decades, is sorta… :man_shrugging:t2: WTF? stuff.


Yes…I can imagine that it could sound worse if it was made more linear…but maybe we’re on the wrong path.

Not following you…

There’s a lot of stuff besides traditional notions of “linearity”

I didn’t think that was a “bad” review - the measurements are what they are.

When I had the M700s here, they sounded quite good. Note that I was not using them with a SGCD, but a c-j PF2-L or an Exposure 3010S2 preamp.