Stellar Phono Pre Proto Pics

The Stellar prototype in a chassis, now with functioning MC, chez Beef last night. Kicking some serious ass : )


Looking very … Stellar! Now for questions. Will the options (as delineated by a light on the face) be selectable via remote? Speaking of remote, if there is one, is it different from the one for DS/BHK series? I see a “custom” loading, is that via easily inserted or soldered resistors? Presume capacitance is fixed for MM. Just to verify (from the prototype), there will only be RCA input but RCA and XLR output, correct? Any idea if there are limitations on how long a cable the XLR can drive (I realize this is a question for Darren …). Now, all I have to do is get excited enough about vinyl to find a suitable place for my turntable!

Great questions! Some I’m not able to answer yet, but I’ll help out with the ones I can. @DarrenMyers can assist with the rest.

The settings will be controllable by remote. The Stellar Phono will have its own dedicated remote, though in general we try to preserve functionality across remotes so stuff like power on and off on the DSD remote should still work with Stellar.

Loading is handled by knobs in the back - nice and easy. No need to solder.

You are correct, RCA in, RCA or XLR out :grin:

I’ll leave it to the mad scientist to answer your questions regarding capacitance and how long of cables it can drive.

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Hi pmotz,

The MC loading can be switched via the remote between 60, 100, 200, and 47K. If a different loading between 1 and 1000 ohms is desired, you can select custom and set this desired loading on the rear potentiometers.

The output impedance is roughly 200 ohms per a leg so it shouldn’t be a large issue. You could load it with a couple nF and still have hundreds of Khz of BW. How capacitive is the cable you are thinking about using?

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Hi Darren, at this point I have 5M and 6M balanced interconnects that I could use (I would have to look up the capacitance), but the real question for me is where am I going to put the turntable. I have a fairly small room, so not too many places where it won’t be in the direct sound field. I have thought of putting it outside the listening room which could require even longer interconnects, though I do have a cat that would love to play disc jockey if the turntable is out of my sight!


I think this is my favorite remote so far from PS Audio. Thumb-friendly soft buttons. Especially the big, fat Mute button. It’s all about ergonomics : ). For size reference, this is half the length of the standard PS silver multi-function remote.

The Custom loading settings on the back, from 1 ohm to 1k ohm.


Since the (3x AX7) phono section on my VTL pre has developed an issue with something solid state (first problem in 15 years of operation), and the Stellar does things it does not do - this piece is next on my must-have list, despite being solid state. It almost fools you into thinking it’s tubed. The guy’s an Analog Engineer, after all : )


Pmotz - how goes the Winter in IL? We’re supposed to get significant snow here this weekend (skiiers will be happy), but generally it’s been nicer here than any winter I can recall from 30+ years in IL : )

As you can see from my setup now, I’ve been compelled to put the TT very close to the speaker/sub, and so far it hasn’t particularly been an issue. Fortunately the floors here are quite solid, unlike my living room in IL which was an 18’ wide clear span, and very bouncy, so I had to put it outside the room for that reason. Luckily there was a doorway to the spare bedroom right next to the gear there, so it wasn’t very far.

I would go ahead and give it a shot in the room, putting it as far down the side wall as is reasonable, and isolating it as much as possible, and see how it goes.

I welcome your new VIP status very much Beef, making early tests and communicate!

I’m currently also on solid state phono pre and indeed then phono develops as beating digital in own categories :wink: A phono pre magnifies its abilities more than any other component.

Given a good basic vinyl setup, investment in a great phono pre strictly makes sense.

Yup. I’ve also gotten to feel over the years that low-output carts are the way to go…you want the pre to do its magic, rather than a HO cart where the pre doesn’t necessarily contribute as much to the sound. And very low noise tubes are critical for that application. But the thing that’s boggling my mind about this solid state pre (into a tubed linestage) is that it fits right in, and Magic Happens.

As both Paul and Darren have emphasized many times, this is one of the hardest pieces to engineer in audio. Darren has received support and kudos from numerous heavyweights in the field recently, and with justification. Dude knows his shit.

Serious Toe Tapping going on here : )


The remote looks to have a nice finish on both the background and buttons.

Yeah, I always chose low output carts in my phono history!

I’d be really interested in an answer of Darren (if you can point him on that), what he guesses as price difference a balanced execution (I mean mainly outputs in this case) of his amp would have made, guaranteeing at least the same SQ performance?

What I’d like to understand is: does it make more sense (independent of the price level) to put effort in other design criterias than a balanced design with at least the same SQ and what percentage of a units MSRP would go for the balanced execution?

Yes - though admittedly it only does a job for one unit - still, I think this is a better direction. I frankly have stuck mostly with the middle unit, and I’m realizing part of that is that the buttons are a happier/easier feeling under my thumbs or fingers than the Silver unit. This takes that to the next level.

If you’re just talking output, it is balanced:
I’m tellin’ ya…screamin’ bang for the buck : )

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Ah didn’t recognize…

I just read that a true fully balanced design means quite some electronic parts effort, doubling things etc and some designers say it’s not worth the effort compared to other measures that could improve a single ended design.

In case of PSA it’s clear to have balanced throughout the range, but it’s just this old design consideration that interests me in case of a phono pre.

Manley and Tom Evans are examples of representing the single ended philosophy at a certain price level.

The silver unit, at least mine, has sharp edges. Not a great hand feel, and I’ve worried about my leather listening couch.

Right - agreed. Never cared for it, despite slicing and dicing capability. The whole thing is unweildy, unpleasant in the hand, hard to sort out in the dark (or near dark, despite illumination) and the buttons require too much force for their size. These get better as you go right in the photo ; )

I suppose an iPad app would be nice, but I do enjoy the tactile aspect of a remote.

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I would really be interested in the phases of such an electronic design, how things develop from the first idea until the first board is made etc.

I like to look into such creative processes…

Badbeef, the winter here in Michigan (not IL, you know better :grinning:) has been interesting. November was cold, December pretty much normal, January started slow then got real cold and some snow, February has been the typical snow, melt, snow roller coaster, and now March is starting out ok, but next week is supposed to be well below normal temps. In other words, just another Michigan winter. :persevere:

Really nice to see the details on the remote and loading features, making me excited for something I was losing interest in. So many records so little enthusiasm… Pretty soon I will get my Vandersteens back in action which should get me excited again, just gotta figure out how to keep the “Demon Kitty” from climbing the mountain!

Is that the power cord from your old Sony Trinitron CRT monitor from back in the day? :wink::yum:
This is very interesting for dedicated vinyl lovers. Lots of interesting tips.
I’ve built a new listening room around getting the record deck solidly appointed and isolated as is humanly possible… Out of all the many things I’ve tried/experimented with over several decades, standing the turntable on a solid shelf (as in the article), the single biggest improvement…and the cheapest! Mind you my walls are built with bricks and they are 3 foot thick …