Stellar GC DAC initial impressions

I have had my Stellar GCD for a couple of months, but have done only limited listening to it yet. I had a logo “stand by” button problem in which it would not illuminate. Since the unit was brand new, I sent it back to PSA for repair. They found that the power cable to the button was not connected, so it was an easy fix, totally on warranty. I have let the unit burn in for about 2 weeks to break it in so I could be sure the sound I was hearing was a fair representation of the sound of the DAC.

I also have the Directstream DAC, and an Oppo BDP-105 to compare the Stellar DAC to. Most of my first listening comparison was to the Stellar DAC and my Oppo 105. I was listening to Mannheim Steamroller’s “Romantic Melodies”. This CD is encoded in HDCD, which the Oppo decodes and the Stellar dac does not. I listened to the CD all the way through on both DACs before playing a portion of a track to directly compare the GCD to the Oppo. After listening to both DAC sources on the Mannheim Steamroller disk I had made some very good impressions of the two. The Oppo had a very full sound with excellent imaging in the sound field. It was easy to listen to, it had very good frequency extension at both ends of the spectrum. The Oppo’s imaging of instruments in the sound field was very good, with a sound stage that extended both in front and behind the speakers and somewhat beyond the outside of the speakers.

With any good recording, my system will energize the room with instruments placed front, back, and side to side from my listening chair. The Oppo did a good job with this effect, in general, but I was sometimes having to work to see the images in the sound field. (this was using the HDCD decoding in the Oppo). Next I switched to the Stellar DAC and sat down to listen. On the very first hearing the GCD had impressive imaging of instruments with very good instrument localization and air. It also had very good frequency extension at both ends of the frequency range. The imaging was improved over the Oppo, with easier to resolve instrument placing in the sound field, and a more realistic and solid image outlines. I did not have to work as much to perceive the instrument’s location and I felt a better connection with the music on the GCD. I felt like the GCD had better realism that allowed me to get sucked into the music and forget the outside world for a while. For me, this is my acid test of a playback system.

The Stellar GCD has better involvement with the music than the Oppo 105, despite the lack of HDCD decoding in the GCD. I feel that it is an excellent upgrade from the Oppo BDP 105 when it is used as a music source. On the question of which one is the best, the Stellar DAC is a winner.

My prime DAC is the PS Audio Directstream DAC, which I will compare after more listening to both. I bought the Stellar GCD to work as my back channels so I can play multi-channel SACD’s in full resolution. As such, it is unbeatable!