Stellar Beta Tester Reviews


#1

Welcome to the Stellar Beta Tester’s review forum. As soon as you receive your new Stellar amp or DAC and form an opinion, post it here. Short, long, detailed, whatever, let us know what you think, what you’re comparing it to, and how we did.

If there are questions, bugs or suggestions you want to ask, report, or suggest, head over to the Stellar Questions, Bugs and Suggestions forum instead.

Let’s do our best to keep the two separated. The reason for this is simple. Customers wishing to make purchasing decisions based on customer reviews want a clean and unedited group of reviews they can read without skipping through a lot of details, questions, and suggestions for future updates.

Thanks and let’s have some fun, reviewing and reporting on what I believe to be one of the most exciting and miraculous sounding line of audio products I’ve ever had the pleasure of being involved with.


#2

My pair of black Stellar 300’s turned up today.

The system pre-Stellar is an Oppo HA-1 DAC/preamp/headphone amp fed digital data through a MiniDSP Dirac room correction box. There is a 4-way SP-DIF switcher (the MiniDSP doesn’t have enough inputs) fed from a NuWave Phono Converter outputting data at 24 bit 96KHz from a Linn LP12 with n old Rega RB300 arm and an Ortofon 2M black.

The power amps were the monstrous Parasound 2250v2 machines; these lack XLR (balanced) inputs, so RCA connections were needed… About 400W a channel into the speakers, which are the original (i.e, quite old) B&W 800D, with an impedance of 4 ohms. The speakers were driven bi-amped - so the right channel drove the woofers, and the left the mid and tweet.

The listening space is about 20x20 feet (but not square) with 10 ft ceilings, with a 20x15 ft kitchen and a 15x11 dining room opening directly onto that space. I’d always been a little disappointed with the bottom end of the B&W’s with the Parasounds, and invested in a pair of even more monstrous Rhythmik Audio powered subwoofers - 15" aluminum drivers. These were driven off the XLR outputs of the Oppo, adjusted by ear for phase and level, and then a separate run of the MiniDSP/Dirac done. Yep - crossing the subs over at about 30Hz produced noticeably more substantive bass when it was actually present.

A key problem with the Parasounds was the presence of an audible ground loop (evident on the amps before them, too), which was tamed - completely removed - by the use of one ebtec Hum-X magic ground-loop remover.

The system really sounded rather good.

So, at risk to back and sundry body parts, I hefted the Parasounds out of the way, hooked up the two Stellars (using a cheap’n’nasty adapter to split the feed from the preamp to the two channels), turned off and disconnected the subwoofers and fired up Mino Cinelu’s eponymous album. Orginally a CD, I’d transferred it into my current music server (an Olive ONE…) where it’s played back through a wired SP-DIF connection.

Goodness! Despite the slightly lower power of the Stellars, I was able to get 90+dB levels in the (largeish) room. And, for the first time sans subwoofers, there was solid chest-impacting bass.

Next up was Blue Nile’s A Walk Across the Rooftops; Heatwave is a perennial favourite. Again, from the Olive, transferred to digital through the NuWave Phono Converter. Ooh - goodness, even on casual listening there was a bit more going on than I remembered.

Now I have to drive away and do some errands, so the machinery is left playing Best of the Shadows - you know, there’s a bit more going on in there than I’d noticed before, too. And, begum, there’s actual bass.

Bottom line - straight out of the box, these Stellars make my system sound better. Better bass; making the twiddly bits a bit clearer, no ground loop. All good.

More when they’ve had a chance to settle in a bit more.


#3

Glad to hear that they are driving the 800’s well!cool

I look forward to hearing how the amps evolve during break in.

Thanks for sharing Pete!


#4

I moved a couple of posts that addressed potential flaws, etc. to the bugs/suggestions subforum. If your post disappeared, this is where you will find it.

We need more reviews here! What do you think of your Stellar amp and/or DAC after you have had a chance to listen?


#5

can’t wait to do so, but seems not shipped yet


#6

This tends to slow the review process a bit. :slight_smile:

Welcome! It will be fun to learn what you think.


#7

Okay, so I am new to this sort of thing, hope this helps!

Picked up my Stellar S-300 stereo amplifier on Thursday, have had it running since Friday evening. My system is a bit eclectic, making the most of old school equipment. I have a Melos Maestro preamp feeding the Stellar S-300. Sources include an old-school Rotel RCD-955AX cd player used as a transport for a PS Audio NuWave DSD. Also running a Dual CS-5000 turntable with Grado Reference Platinum cartridge and custom phono preamp. Interconnects are a mix of Kimber and Audioquest. The S-300 feeds the Alon Model 1 speakers with Zu Audio WAX cables and IBIS bi-amp jumpers. The whole system receives fresh power using a PS Audio Premier power regenerator.

Right out of the box, the S-300 presented a sound stage larger than previously experienced with the older Rotel amplifier. Control was tighter, base was tighter, and the overall experience tighter. After about 3 hours, I adjusted speaker placement to take better advantage of the expanded sound stage. Fun stuff!

One thing surprising, the experience was not strained at all, the sound is very relaxed, not overly bright. After approximately 6 hours, the unit is settling in nicely, both vinyl and digital sources are benefiting from the Stellar. I have other systems to reference back to (not just getting used to the new sound), and am looking forward to reporting back as to how the burn in continues and settles in.

I was VERY surprised at which of my listening selections showed the most improvement - in several cases, it is actually quite remarkable. Once the unit gets settled in, I will switch from single ended cables to Audioquest balanced cables to deliver from the Melos preamp to Stellar and see what happens then.

That is all for now … Thanks to everyone at PS Audio for all their efforts here!


#8

I received my Stellar GCD Beta (black) a couple of days ago. Here is my initial test setup…

  • Macbook Air using JRiver and DSD files; David Elias and others…

  • LanRover from MBA to USB input on GCD

  • Initial listening with headphones; B&W P7s

Build quality thoughts…

  • I just happen to have the GCD sitting in some moderate sunlight for a few minutes in the living room before wiring it up. Sunlight is very revealing and the top of the black GCD shows some tooling marks on the aluminum panel. Picky, yes, but just being honest. Also, the edges of the top and bottom aluminum panels show small bare marks where the silver aluminum shows through the black. All-in-all, I don’t actually care about any of this.

  • The volume resolver is not detented. It is VERY smooth and responsive, but I would prefer some tactile feedback. When using an extremely light touch on the resolver, one can feel faint notches in the rotation, but I don’t believe these are meant to be felt.

  • The display is beautiful. Is it an OLED?.. whatever it is, it is color saturated, clear and crisp. Very nice.

  • The overall look and feel of the component is every bit as good as the Direct Stream series of products.

Initial listening…

  • I started listening to David Elias’ Crossing album. IMHO, this album is one of the best recorded acoustic albums I have ever heard. The GCD’s headphone output is clean and clear. Good treble and midrange details with tight, clean bass. With the GCD volume set to 18 and with JRiver paused, there is an ever so slight hiss coming through the headphones. However, it is VERY faint and takes some mindful listening to hear it. Not really an issue, but it’s there.

  • Without going into more detail about the sound, I find the GCD to be very good. Just my initial impression. Not that I expected anything less.

  • I just happen to have a set of Woo Audio WA7 FireFlies (the newest version from after March 16, 2016) sitting next to where I’m testing the GCD. By pair, I mean the tube power supply and the DAC/tube headphone amp… hence, two units. I don’t know if this an apples-to-apples comparison, but I couldn’t resist moving the USB output of the LanRover to the input of the WA7s. The GCD has not been run but a few hours, so some break-in time is needed. In comparison the WA7s have been run for dozens of hours.

  • The WA7 combo has more detail and warmth compared to the GCD. There is a slight muffled nature to the sound from the GCD in comparison. Voices are bit more forward and three dimensional with the WA7s. Again, I don’t know if this is a fair comparison or not, but the WA7 combo costs about the same as the GCD, but the WA7 combo is not an input selector and “preamp”, so-to-speak, as the GCD is. So, there is much more to the GCD and it fills an interesting product niche, in my opinion.

I will report more as I test the other digital and analog inputs of the GCD, as well as the analog outputs to a power amp or powered studio monitors vs. the headphone output.

Cheers…

Gene


#9

I’ve listened to a couple of albums now (via JRiver as described above). The sound is already coming alive… in fact, it’s faaaantastic! I’m currently listening to Robert Cray, Strong Persuader (high rez FLAC file). The detail and punch are just what they should be. His voice is clear and centered, surrounded by nicely balanced treble and bass. Another wonderfully engineered recording and the Stellar GCD shows it off in fine fashion. The clarity has improved and the veil has lifted. Wow, this is going to be fun!

Cheers…

Gene


#10

S-300 stereo amp. Replaces Belles 150A Hotrod. S-300 more dynamic, less tubby and more revealing. Space & timing is very good, more hours on unit will help with warmth? So far, I’m very positive about this amp. I have played jazz, rock, and folk remastered cd’s I am familiar with to establish a baseline, so for the S-300 is delivering.


#11
Gene said I received my Stellar GCD Beta (black) a couple of days ago. Here is my initial test setup...
  • Macbook Air using JRiver and DSD files; David Elias and others…

  • LanRover from MBA to USB input on GCD

  • Initial listening with headphones; B&W P7s

Build quality thoughts…

  • I just happen to have the GCD sitting in some moderate sunlight for a few minutes in the living room before wiring it up. Sunlight is very revealing and the top of the black GCD shows some tooling marks on the aluminum panel. Picky, yes, but just being honest. Also, the edges of the top and bottom aluminum panels show small bare marks where the silver aluminum shows through the black. All-in-all, I don’t actually care about any of this.

  • The volume resolver is not detented. It is VERY smooth and responsive, but I would prefer some tactile feedback. When using an extremely light touch on the resolver, one can feel faint notches in the rotation, but I don’t believe these are meant to be felt.

  • The display is beautiful. Is it an OLED?.. whatever it is, it is color saturated, clear and crisp. Very nice.

  • The overall look and feel of the component is every bit as good as the Direct Stream series of products.

Initial listening…

  • I started listening to David Elias’ Crossing album. IMHO, this album is one of the best recorded acoustic albums I have ever heard. The GCD’s headphone output is clean and clear. Good treble and midrange details with tight, clean bass. With the GCD volume set to 18 and with JRiver paused, there is an ever so slight hiss coming through the headphones. However, it is VERY faint and takes some mindful listening to hear it. Not really an issue, but it’s there.

  • Without going into more detail about the sound, I find the GCD to be very good. Just my initial impression. Not that I expected anything less.

  • I just happen to have a set of Woo Audio WA7 FireFlies (the newest version from after March 16, 2016) sitting next to where I’m testing the GCD. By pair, I mean the tube power supply and the DAC/tube headphone amp… hence, two units. I don’t know if this an apples-to-apples comparison, but I couldn’t resist moving the USB output of the LanRover to the input of the WA7s. The GCD has not been run but a few hours, so some break-in time is needed. In comparison the WA7s have been run for dozens of hours.

  • The WA7 combo has more detail and warmth compared to the GCD. There is a slight muffled nature to the sound from the GCD in comparison. Voices are bit more forward and three dimensional with the WA7s. Again, I don’t know if this is a fair comparison or not, but the WA7 combo costs about the same as the GCD, but the WA7 combo is not an input selector and “preamp”, so-to-speak, as the GCD is. So, there is much more to the GCD and it fills and interesting product niche in my opinion.

I will report more as I test the other digital and analog inputs of the GCD, as well as the analog outputs to a power amp or powered studio monitors vs. the headphone output.

Cheers…

Gene


Thanks, Gene! Great initial review. Very thorough

#12
Stephen said S-300 stereo amp. Replaces Belles 150A Hotrod. S-300 more dynamic, less tubby and more revealing. Space & timing is very good, more hours on unit will help with warmth? So far, I'm very positive about this amp. I have played jazz, rock, and folk remastered cd's I am familiar with to establish a baseline, so for the S-300 is delivering.
Thanks! Keep us up to date with your progress and descriptions.

#13

I received my S300 amp on Friday. The front of the amp does not bear close scrutiny due to scuffs but, from a listening distance is not visible.

On to the listening… Initially, the sound had no bottom end and sounded THIN. At that rate it was on a fast track for a return if it didn’t open up with some more time.

I recently purchased a Marantz AV8802A which has balanced connection capability. This was one of my motivations for purchasing the S300.

I decided to remove my MIT single ended cables ($600 for comparison purposes) and switched to the balanced connections (Mogami XLT $80) which are the only balanced cables I own. HORKY FINORKY! and WOW! simultaneously!!! Suddenly, the amp exploded with detail, bottom end heft and specificity of instrument placement. Once again, WOW! I had no idea an amplifier could be such a significant difference. This literally kicked sand in the face of my Outlaw 140 watt per channel amp. I had no complaints with that amp either. I was very pleased with it prior to this. It’s a great home theater work horse. 2 channel music listening? No comparison.

Speakers: Martin Logan ESL

I’m very pleased. Now if only the cosmetics were right…


#14
Elk said I moved a couple of posts that addressed potential flaws, etc. to the bugs/suggestions subforum. If your post disappeared, this is where you will find it.

We need more reviews here! What do you think of your Stellar amp and/or DAC after you have had a chance to listen?


While I appreciate being accepted as a Beta Tester, but I gotta admit I am very cranky that i paid immediately and while PS Audio wasted no time to hit my credit card, today I get a “not gonna ship” message???

ELK you gotta get real about wanting reviews when the company is unable to hold up its end! IMHO you should direct your focus internally and work on resuscitating PS Audio’s Stellar reputation.


#15

Tom, I am sorry you are frustrated. This complaint came up previously and Paul nicely addressed this issue here, et seq.

Please understand I am not affiliated with PS Audio. I am just a lowly volunteer.


#16

Hi all, sorry for the rant … i was told last Monday that the items were shipping that day or the next and this Monday i get “oops” it is several weeks out… reading the great comments added to the frustrating delays, things sorta boiled overembarassed


#17

Hi Tom and sorry about that. It is indeed frustrating to get conflicting information. What did you order?


#18

I asked for the Stellar GCD and the M700’s … my best/favorite “past” system had a GCC, so i am anxious to see this latest incarnation!!


#19

I would have thought the GCD would have shipped already - but I know the M700s won’t be released for another few weeks - they are just coming in now.


#20

“Suddenly, the amp exploded with detail, bottom end heft and specificity of instrument placement.”

Hello,

It will be greatly appreciated if anyone has insights into why I would experience such a significant difference when switching from single ended to balanced connections.

Thank you in advance.