Stellar Amp Impressions


#1

I use two Aleph 5 stereo amps, 60 watts per channel in a vertically, electronically bi-amped, speaker system. This is all the power my small listening room can handle. Upper freq drivers are 50" planar dipoles; lower freq drivers are vertical arrays of equalized woofers, also dipole operated. The system gives up the bottom octave so I use two large and powerful subs when I want to listen to pipe organ or other recordings with extended low frequencies. Most of the time I leave the subs off because I don’t like to hear a lot of recorded non musical low frequencies.

The s300 arrived 5 weeks ago and has been compared extensively with the Pass amps. Performance was not identical, but comparable. The Pass are slightly darker in tone, but very expressive and musical; being old, they are also very noisy, and run hot. The s300 is very quiet and runs cool, and gives up little in musicality. It’s dynamic range is noticeably wider because of its extra power (about 5 dB).

I unpacked the m700’s and started breaking them in about a week ago. Oddly enough, at the moment, the stereo version exhibits better synergy with rest of my system; perhaps I’ve gotten use to it. It doesn’t have quite the utter dynamics of the mono, but it does exhibit greater delicacy, or micro dynamics. The monos may improve in this regard as they spend more time with me; I certainly hope that they do. However, they seem to have unrestricted dynamics; in fact they go scary loud, so much so that I fear for the health of my loudspeakers; I should probably be more concerned about my hearing.

Day by day I believe I continually hear small improvements. When they are about a month old I will do a comparison with the Pass amps. In any case my satisfaction is such that I am not returning any of the Stellars.

Any questions?


#2

Thanks, Alan, much appreciated. To my ears, the Monos are richer, more detailed, and certainly more dynamic than the S300 - though both are excellent.

I am still a bit shocked how much these amps improve over time. Burn in with these seems far more critical than just about any product we’e yet made. But once they get there, ooh, happy-132_gifla,la!


#3

Thanks Alan for the comparisons. The monos actually take longer than the S300 to burn in. Once they are there, I find them slightly more musical and refined than the S300. When it comes to dynamics and challenging loads, you are right, the M700’s are in a whole different league.


#4

I have had my M700 burn in about 100 hours and they are opening up nicely - much more detail and dimensionality but the bass is still a little soft compared to the Emerald Physics 100.2 SE monos they are replacing. So we’ll see if that improves. The big issue I have been dealing with is a noticeable hum coming from the my speakers (B&W 805D2) that I initially was diagnosing as a grounding issue but after various cable and rewiring configurations I discovered it was coming from my DS DAC. So if I switch to the low filter there is dead silent - wonderful - but the gain is so low that I need to get the volume up to 85 (my DS DAC is going directly to the M700s via balanced Shunyata Research Python IC) and then I seem to totally lose the dynamic impact of the amps.

In talking with Kevin at PS Audio (shout out to him for his high level of responsiveness) he said that the BHK preamp can certainly improve on this but that is not in the picture at this time and he also mentioned there may be an firmware upgrade in near future that may help lower the floor noise. But in the meantime have any others encountered this issue and any suggested fixes if so? Thanks.


#5

Hi drhontanosas,

I notified Kevin that you are still having this issue and he will be contacting you shortly. We hope to help you resolve this issue.


#6

I just began my second weekend of using the M700s. I am watching tennis via Direct TV and Tennis Channel. As I previously mentioned voices are significantly more three dimentional than my previous amps (Bel Canto 1000 Mk II). After the match is over I will listen to music. Before I left last weekend (with about 100 hours on the amps) orchestral music had improved, greater resolving power over the Bel Cantos, more detail, and actually more volume. I am still hoping for and expecting further improvements as I put on several hundred hours on the amps. That was my experience with the Direct Stream DAC and the new transport.

I have not experienced any of the problem issues experienced by the previous contributor.


#7

I have already reported on my third week, very positive experience with the continued sonic improvement of the monoblocks.

From the very beginning the M700s have sounded better than my Bel Canto 1000 MkIIs. Now, after over 140 hours of playing and burning in using the Purist Audio burn in cd, they far surpass, what for many years I thought was tjhe incredible sonic presentation of the Bel Cantos.

I still am using Bel Cantos to power the center and rear channels of my system. Thus, I see the Bel Cantos along with the new M700s (all four of them). The M700s have a plain Jane, industrial look, unlike the dramatically solid and smart look of the Bel Canto cases. The cases of the Direct Stream DAC and both the old and the new transport are beautifully and attractively designed, at a much higher level than the M700s. Should I conclude that PS Audio, because they wanted to place the M700s at a more affordable price point, yet achieve a higher end sound than suggested by the reasonable price, they put their money in what is inside those plain Jane cases rather than design and order cases more at the level of the Direct Stream DAC and transport?

???


#8
Should I conclude that PS Audio, because they wanted to place the M700s at a more affordable price point, yet achieve a higher end sound than suggested by the reasonable price, they put their money in what is inside those plain Jane cases
I think so – and a very sensible business decision in order to provide high sound quality at a lower price.

#9

Absolutely. The key to Stellar’s success at the price point we were able to launch at depended entirely on making a lower cost chassis. Most people haven’t any idea how much chassis costs are. They are a very large part of the unit’s cost. And they are mostly cosmetic in nature.

To be honest, I am quite proud and happy with the Stellar chassis. I absolutely love its looks. But, to each his own.


#10

Paul, Thank you for putting the money for the M700 into the sound quality. I have the M700s on order and am looking forward to hearing them in my system. I am a proponent for Class D amplifiers and have owned a Classe Sigma AMP2 since 2015. I am happy with the Sigma and look forward to the comparison. After hearing the impact of the PS 600 and DS DAC on my system, I have total respect for PS Audio products. Much thanks for coming out with the Stellar line of products.


#11

My pleasure, believe me. This is the price points where we can get great sound into more people’s homes and I love this area of the product. Let us know when it arrives. I just saw one hundred pair of M700s are shipping this month. Exciting.


#12
drhontanosas said The big issue I have been dealing with is a noticeable hum coming from the my speakers (B&W 805D2) that I initially was diagnosing as a grounding issue but after various cable and rewiring configurations I discovered it was coming from my DS DAC.
I was running my DirectStream into another brand of class D amp and observed a high-pitched sound. After some fiddling around, as us audiophiles usually do, I traced the problem to the DirectStream display. When the display is at full brightness, the high-pitch sound was satisfactorily reduced. I suggest trying your display at full brightness or off to see the effect on your hum problem.

By-the-way, I have noticed a significant increase in the noise floor as well with the filter off. Hope this can be addressed in a future firmware release.


#13

One can hear a mild hiss on some systems depending on the gain structure of the system to which the DirctStream is connected. It is not a firmware issue. The noise goes away with the 20dB attenuator engaged as everything on the output is decreased by 20dB, lowering the noise floor. The attenuator is there to match the DS’ output to your system. Use the setting which sounds the best.


#14
Paul McGowan said

Absolutely. The key to Stellar’s success at the price point we were able to launch at depended entirely on making a lower cost chassis. Most people haven’t any idea how much chassis costs are. They are a very large part of the unit’s cost. And they are mostly cosmetic in nature.

To be honest, I am quite proud and happy with the Stellar chassis. I absolutely love its looks. But, to each his own.


Yes, the Stellar components look great and I can see how they are easier to manufacture.

Anyway I have no clue what percentage of the units cost of parts, development costs and chassis the latter makes. Would be very interesting how the relation of development/chassis/parts costs of a DS/DSj is compared to the Gain cell DAC etc.

But I understand that you probably just repeatedly can point to the high fraction without going into details :wink: So we will probably continue to be clueless about the fraction and difference of chassis cost.


#15

Yes, it’s hard to make a comparison because they are so very different and not only cosmetic but functional and necessary too. Chassis are tough stuff. On the one hand, they have obvious benefits to the user and the builder of the equipment. But there are many unseen requirements too. Like EMI (radiated noise), and magnetic interference issues. And then there’s heat, and then hum. Each of these little boxes seems simple enough but the amount of mechanical design and engineering that goes into them is enormous and always an amazement to me.

In the case of DirectStream, for example, the chassis with its touch screen, represents about 1/6 of the retail price. In Stellar it’s about 1/5 the retail price.


#16

Thanks much for this feedback!

I didn’t know about all of the add. unseen requirements. And although I roughly knew about manufacturing, alloy and galvanizing costs, I didn’t expect, that within industrial production a DS chassis still costs you ~1000$! But maybe you mean end customer value of the chassis is ~1000$, which means it’s a bit cheaper in own production costs.


#17

I just demoed the Triton Reference at a dealer in Phoenix that was in a very nice Nagra system, with all Nordost wiring and power conditioning. The DAC looks to be about $12,000, speaker wires and interconnects $10,000… etc…

I am very impressed with the Reference and am seriously considering saving up for it.

However, at home with my SGCD/S300 on my measly Polk Monitor towers, with the IsoRegen and LPS1, I don’t feel in too much of a hurry.

There is so much life and energy in the system with even these budget towers, its really fun to listen to music. There is a punch and energy in the system that wasn’t there with the Nagra system.

I plan on trying to take my PS audio setup and power cables, and trying out the Ref’s with them. I have a feeling I’m going to like what I hear.


#18
jazznut said I didn't expect, that within industrial production a DS chassis still costs you ~1000$!
I think Paul means that the chassis is responsible for this portion of the final price of the product.

#19

Yes I thought so at the end. Sounds like a lot at the beginning but it’s simply some effort and worth it.

If I had the measures of the interior and I’d make a good looking solid anodized DIY with some milling (would better have to be more rectangular instead of the nice rounding), it would roughly cost me 6-800$ as a private person I guess and a hell of work. Did it a few times in the past with alloy and/or cheaper acrylic.

So I’m glad the casework is great looking and I didn’t have to DIY :wink:


#20

I had the Aleph 5, and now the S300. I essentially agreed with the impression of OP, only add that Pass Labs has better micro-dynamics; it is what single ended designs excel in, while Stellar has a sweeter overtone and harmonic colors.

So according to Paul the M700 is a better amp as richer and more detailed at the same time. My question is since S300 output is quite sufficient for my nearfield listening, would going up to M700 be overkill. Actually would the M700 too loud for nearfield listening even at low volume setting.