Stellar Strata as a Preamplifier for a Tube Amp?

Hi All, I am interested in using my new Stellar Strata as a preamplifier (or actually streamer + DAC + preamplifier) for a tube amp (most likely a Primaluna). James H of PS Audio confirmed you can indeed do this (using RCA outs). I do like the unit as an amp but would like to get back into a tube amp after a 10 year hiatus. Has anyone tried this and how did it work out?

I’m not sure how the volume works out. I do find the Stellar Strata to be a bit light in power for my 89db speakers but maybe its me getting used to the digital volume control and not being eager to go past 30.

What’s the problem with “going past 30 on the volume control”?
Remember that any power amp is a “dumb” thing. Uncontrolled. the amp is giving all it’s got; sort of “wide open throttle”. The volume control is really an attentuator, turning that output down, not turning the amp’s power up. So the numbers on the volume control are essentially meaningless, other than achieving a comfortable listening level.


Similar to what Ron said, the numbers on the Strata are pretty arbitrary. They are more so there for convenience and to give you a relative gauge. Unless you’re hearing the speakers distort, going above 30 won’t hurt a thing. I have a Strata hooked up to a pair of bookshelf speakers and go up to 50 on a regular bases. Sound is smooth and my ears are preventing me from going further.

Hi James and Ron,

Past volume 30 I’m getting some warping and and mid-range rumble when the music gets busy (and by that I mean lotts of instruments playing at the same time). This mid-range rumble is messing with my senses since I’m used to bass giving rumble but not a mid-range driver. Its fine at lower volume which is what we listen to 80% of the time. The unit has 100 hours on it – could that be the issue?

To give the full picture and hope I’m not nauseating you or anyone else… The speakers are 11 year old ARS Aures FI’s (35-20hz, 89db, rated 30-100 watt recommended). And just to paint a complete picture… Audience Au24 speaker cables, Audioquest Blizard power cable (I bought from PS Audio at an very generous price – thank you Joey!!!). Dedicated power line.

I’m not unhappy with it (dont want to leave that impression), some part of me is seeking near-perfection on a low budget (which is not really possible and so are 90% of us out there). PS Audio is good value. So glad I did not have to buy a non-American brand (like Hegel) that if it breaks I’m a little screwed or a Mark Levinson that costs 2.5x times more and does not even have WiFi).

At any rate, I think it would be fun to see how the Stellar Strata acts as a preamplifier for a tube amp. James – you said it could be great in an email I sent. Thought I would post it to the field and see if others have experimented. So cool it can act as a streamer + dac + preamp!

Please do update the crew once you have had a chance to spend some time with such a set up.

I am always interested in anything Prima Luna (preamp., amp., and/or integrated amp.) since its on my shortlist for upgrading the amplification and control of my office system.

Have fun.

Good morning Scotte1. Here’s a pretty good review of primaluna amps and different power tubes (EL34s vs. KT 150s) if you haven’t seen it already:

Thank you, “Mr. Bill.”

I’ll take a look straight away.

Here is an update. I am successfully using the Stellar Strata as a streamer + DAC + preamp to an independent tube amp. I did not get a primaluna based on their expense but I bought a used Decware TORRI Jr (20 watts). I am relieved to find that it works with the Stellar Strata as well as my 89 dB speakers. This will be my winter setup. In warmer weather I will continue to use the Stellar Strata alone.


The Decware is a good find.

Nice system .

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aside from the summer use case, was there a reason the Gaincell pre-amp didn’t work for you?

@zedcat - can you comment on the sound quality differences between the tube amp vs the Strata internal amp?