My journey in audio eventually led me to tubes-my first high end amp/preamp combo was an Adcom GFA-545 with a GTP-400 tuner/preamp. After listening to the systems of friends and developing my own listening skills it became painfully obvious how bright and fatiguing this combo was, so they were eventually replaced with a Dynaco tube preamp and a McCormack power amplifier, which was a big step up but still didn’t have that magic that we are all looking for. Their eventual replacements were an Audio Research LS-16 line stage along with an original Music Reference RM9 amplifier-now, this was more like it! A nice, musical sound with great bass and dynamic drive, but still sweet enough on top-a must if you are like me and your library has a lot of classic sixties rock and pop, like the Zombies and the Animals-great records but obviously pretty hot on top. All was bliss, until the RM9 developed a nasty hum in one channel-fortunately, I found a great local McIntosh repair tech who was able to diagnose the problem and replaced several parts on the circuit board. Back to bliss for 9 months-then, more noise and another trip schlepping 60 pound beast back to Mike and a few more resistors and capacitors were replaced. 14 months later, back to Mike and a couple more parts were replaced. This brings us to last December, when the beast developed yet another hum in the right channel-by this point, I had really become weary with the care and feeding this beast required, and I this frustration along with the fact that I had been hearing a lot of solid state gear at hifi shows that really impressed with their musicality had me thinking it might be possible to replace the RM9 with something that gave me the sweet highs and big soundstage that I craved, but without the hassles. At both RMAF and Newport the last several years, the PS Audio gear really stood out, and after reading all of the positive reviews about the Stellar gear I decided to take the plunge (I really loved the BHK stuff, but that was beyond my budget.
The primary sources for my system are a Project Xtension 10 turntable with a Parasound Halo Jr phono stage and Denon DL-301 Mk II cartridge for analog and an Elac Discovery music server for digital. The phono stage has XLR outputs and is connected with Audioquest King Cobra cables to the balanced inputs on the SGC (my first foray into using balanced cables) and the music server is connected by digital coax to the SGC. Speakers are Vandersteen 2Ce Signature II. I hooked everything up last weekend, and the sound impressed right away-perhaps a bit bright on top, but I reminded myself of the consensus re: break in and left the music server playing on shuffle mode with the volume set on 1 both at night and while I was at work. Thursday night, I settled in for some serious listening. Wow! Incredible soundstage and detail, and the brightness I heard had pretty much vanished. Everything from the Beatles to Diana Krall to Mercury Living Presence classical titles sounded rich, full and detailed. My wife remarked that with past gear changes I’d claim improvements that she couldn’t hear, but this time even she could easily hear the improvements.
I’m a happy camper-kudos to the design team!