Stellar Gain Cell DAC Experience

The reason I decided to buy a Stellar Gain Cell DAC:

About 20 years ago I bought Yamaha MSP 5 active studio monitors as enthusiastic PC speakers. They sounded incredible and for as long as those 20 years I was convinced I’d use them for something better, but never got any further then using free with the product interconnects, even a cheap single ended adapter and a somewhat more expensive high quality monitor switch I bought some time earlier when I was a student.

The picture above is the most recent set-up and I was limited to listen to music from our iPad or iPod through analog headphone jacks and the single ended DAC integral to my more than 35 years old Technics CD player that still plays.

Yet my iMac sits in that same home office with iTunes and BitPerfect.

So I ordered the Stellar Gain Cell DAC from Echo Audio in Goes NL.

Based on the information I read on this forum I asked Echo Audio to test the unit prior me driving 2 h to come and picking it up. He did and set the unit up including the cables he advised, such that I could connect my monitors. This allowed me to listen to my speakers in comparison to other active speakers (Navis ARB-51) and optionally add a subwoofer.

Echo Audio, not a regular PS Audio dealer thought the Stellar Gain Cell DAC was a very good deal and sounded very good. Everything seemed to work I learned what I needed to know about my speakers and drove home. Including a set of cables, All Atlas Element, a pair of 1.5 m XLR balanced interconnects to the Yamaha’s a 5 m USB cable to my iMac and a 2 m Toslink to hook up the Technics CD player. I used AudioQuest RCA plugs to avoid the unused single ended inputs to pick up noise.

Cecked the CE Manufacturers declaration of conformity for compliance of the unit to the European Directives and harmonized safety standards. All in order, remarkable for overseas products, so I was happy to wire the unit up, according to the comprehensive instruction manual.

Put some sophisticated and audiophile enclosure anti-vibration material on top and ready to rock and roll or play any other music.

The picture of my home office hopefully illustrates why I am very happy with my near field studio monitors as I am working in their near field.

I have listened for close to 50 h now. If burning in improves the sound then there is nothing wrong with that complete sound system.


  • The enclosure feels rock solid, looks sleek and the user interface is do comprehensive, simple yet it leaves no wishes open.
  • I love the option to give sources custom names like “Technics CD” and “iMac” it’s these thoughtful details I much appreciate.
  • The system is dead silent when no music is playing or in-between music pieces.
  • It disconnects the outputs when volume is set to “0”
  • The sound improvement exceeds my expectations, it plays revealing even with low volumes, I do not experience fatigue when listening during work, for long days, sound stage is impressive even with this speakers just 1 1/2 ft (40-50 cm) from the wall.
  • Headphone output sounds superb


  • Such a pity the display refuses to show sample rates for USB input, no way of telling my DSD is really played DSD, just have to trust BitPerfect is working as advertised.
  • Only 1 Toslink, I get that SPDIF sounds better and therefore 2 SPDIF RCA inputs are provided, but that doesn’t help if both my CD player and TV have only Toslink outputs, so now I still have to swap the Toslink connectors on the backside in order to be able to get sound from all sources connected to the TV through my speakers.
  • The big knob on the front feels fine when selecting options or stepping up the volume, but it feels very fragile like the large metallic knob is just supported by the plastic operating rod of the electronics that are soldered to the PCB and nothing else, s I made sure the knob does not protrude over the edge of the cabinet it sits on.

Very satisfied, I recommend it to everybody, who comes from literally nothing like in my case or lesser / older systems.

@JeffofArabica, @Brodric and @Paul as promised, these experiences are posted now.


Your 35 year old Technics CD player had a digital output, really? Their crystal ball gazing way back then paid off dividends.

You made me think, the unit may be 28 or 30 years old, but yes, it has a Toslink. During my studies I forked out some, for a student, considerable money to buy it. As it still works even after many relocations and many years without repair I consider that a worthwhile investment as well.

The Stellar Gain Cell DAC made it sing again, so I am very happy.

Yeah, my GCD display sometimes shows and then does not show the sample rate for any thing high bit rate, it like flashes on and off.

Bit / sample rate is displayed on the Toslink input, but I know that my CD outputs 44.1 kHz, 16 bit, that is fixed. So in my opinion that information is much more relevant for the USB input since the bit / sample rate may keep changing on that input.

Not that it’s such a big deal, but the unit doesn’t come for pity money and it should simply work.

From a programming point I don’t know why it shouldn’t work since the DAC must know the rates for it to work. It’s a bug they should be able to fix.

1 Like

Mine always displays sample rate for USB input

Thanks @Ziggi, So why not mine? Kind of strange. For @danny it works just occasionally.

What is your USB source and software, maybe it’s a front side (source) issue.

Maybe a specialist on this subject can dial in to help me and Danny get the sample rates displayed.

PC with Windows 10.
I use Audirvana for serious listening, but it displays sample rate with any content from PC

Thanks @danny, I use Mac OS (Mojave).
@Zigg, what USB source are you using?

I guess you mixed us up?

Yeah Ziggi I did. Was not paying enough attention, apologies.

@danny, what source do you have connected to your USB input?

A pretty powerful Windows 10 desktop computer running jriver 24 via USB. When I do 352 or 384 kilohertz or high bitrate DSD, the display goes on and off and on and off displaying the sample rate inconsistently.

Thank you Danny.

It looks like we are up for a DIY firmware chip exchange If we want this corrected.

I searched the forum, there seems to be a thread addressing the display of bit- and sample rates on the SGCD:
Bit- / sample rate SGCD

Also there seems to be a different bug causing loud thumps in the right channel speaker with home cinema direct input switching (and connecting headphones causing also a loud thump in the right speaker, which I personally experienced):
SGCD HT switching

@Schroedster do you have an update for when these issues could be resolved in a firmware fix?

Thumps are the reason my wife told me to get rid of our old amplifier 9 years ago. If she hears thumps coming out of that SGCD I am truly in bad weather, paying double of what I paid for the Yami but going back to the old issue of 10 years ago, for which we ditched our old set.

Till then I will have to play any trick to avoid thumps, which seems to be to mute the unit prior to switching to HT or connecting the headphone. But that is not really convenient, is it? The whole reason to invest in a pre amplifier is not to have to deal with this.

Further posts regarding thumping have been moved to the already existing thread on the topic.

4 posts were merged into an existing topic: New SGCD loud pop/thump when changing to/from HT input?