Stellar Gain Cell DAC as preamplifier

Has anyone have experience with using Stellar GCD as preamplifier with Directstream Junior? Do you recommend the combination? What other (used) preamp would you recommend?

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I owned this combo and must say that the Stellar GCD didn’t do the DSD Jr justice as a preamp. To my ears, Stellar GCD (as DAC and preamp) with M700 monoblock sounds better than Stellar GCD (as preamp only) & DSD Jr with the same amps. In addition, DSD Jr connected directly to M700 also sounds better than with the Stellar GCD as preamp, though with higher noise. I ended up switching to Schiit Freya tube preamp, and am very happy with it.

Thanks for sharing. Which model are you using, Schiitt Freya S or Freya+? Did you change the tube in the preamp, or are you using the original tube it comes with? Have you tried it with DSD Sr? Would you expect it to be better?

Mine is the prior generation Freya with upgraded Tung Sol tubes (the new Freya S is solid state while the Freya+ is still tube-based with a few updates). No idea on the Sr. Lastly, I will say if the budget is limited, Stellar GCD is perfectly fine as a DAC/preamp combo, just don’t use it as a dedicated preamp expecting sound improvement - to my ears - it made it worse.

Yeah, I’ve been wondering about this myself.
I want to add a dac to my gcd S300.
Any more impressions?
If not, I’ll just buy one and give my impressions here.

I would agree with @Excelgam above. My experience with the GCD and M700’s was that it was ok (musical and fun) as a stand-alone combination, but not as a stand-alone preamp and it was ok as a DAC. It took adding a good preamp in line and using the GCD as a DAC only to get to sing and present any sort of a soundstage. I just changed to the DirectStream Dac with the trade in program and Black Friday sale. The difference is night and day. So if you’re building a little at a time I would seriously consider a stand-alone preamp 1st. It wasn’t clear to me if you already have the GCD.

Thanks for the reply.
Yes I have a GCD and S300.

Ijust got my Dragonfly red and connected my little streamer to the GCD rca input. It’s definitely less noisy, as I can hear less noise from the speakers at higher volumes. Also funnily enough using the dragonfly red the center of the soundstage is more in focus but it may be less meaty with electric guitar.
In experimenting with increasing the volume on the gain cell DAC and using the dragonfly red digital attenuator(or whatever you call the digital volume) to increase or decrease the volume.
How could the dac be more noisy than the dragonfly red? Hehehe. Although at its lowest volumes the dragonfly red isn’t as good as the gain cell dac preamp at its lowest volumes.

In my little system I like the synergy between the s300 and the GCD pre amp, with my Dali menuet bookshelves in the near field. Also, really like the combo of my record player into the gcd as volumes control. It’s built-in phono amp is surprisingly quiet and smooth, if a little dry sounding.

Glad things are working out Danny. It’s all about the tunes and enjoyment. Happy Listening.

It’s been a while since you posted. What conclusion did you come to? I have a GCD and would like to upgrade to the Perfectwave series, but budget is a concern for me. I see sales for the Preamps and DSDs, used, but was wondering which would give the best bang right now, were I to encounter one.

I’ll 2nd that… I have a GCD to M1200s and really wonder if a BHK pre or upgrade to the DirectStream DAC would double price dazzle me…?

So many great deals on the forum lately for DSDs. I’ve been eager to pull the trigger on one when the prices have been great, but would I need to get the Preamp to make the real difference? Again, it’s likely to be some time between purchases, but I can hold out for a few months for the second piece if necessary to see a boost right now.

FWIW, the DS Sr. DAC is a bit of a game changer, at least in my experience.

If your primary music is in digital form, go for the DS. You can try it as a digital preamp. but still use a separate preamp. if you prefer.

Preamp. functionality aside, I believe the DS will seriously up your game.

My $0.02.

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The DS is great without a preamp. . . if you have an amplifier that can come to full power with its low analog stage output (especially single-ended). With my monstrous 3 watt per channel Monoblocks it’s a better set up with a great preamp.

Currently I have the GCD feeding a pair of 700s. Would I sideline the GCD in favor of running my PST directly through the DSD? One thing that might be an issue is, my streamer/server is a DAC and has no digital out. What about volume control?

This is all interesting talk, but for me, I need (and appreciate) the preamp functions of the SGCD, since I have several source components I need to switch between, including a phono preamp. A passive preamp might work for me, but I couldn’t go without one completely.