First off, let me say I was not paid to make these comments. I was honored to be selected as one of the beta testers on the StellarGold Preamplifier. My primary reason for wanting to get the unit was so that I could add my turntable to my rig which consisted of the DirectStream DAC MKI, Directstream Memory Player and an Emotiva XPA 2 power amp driving JBL L100 Classic 75 speakers. I was not anticipating any real change in the quality of the audio.
When the unit arrived, I put it through its paces and noted a few minor issues with the controls which have now been corrected. I then set about listening to see if there was any loss of quality in the sound. This is where I was totally taken by surprise.
At first, I noticed an overall improvement to the body of the sound as well as more authoritative bass with a little added punch (not much was needed here but the addition was an improvement). I was amazed at how much better recordings I had listened to many times were now sounding.
The real surprise, however, happened when I put on the first of what I consider to be one of my audiophile reference SACDs, Dire Straits Brothers in Arms 20th Anniversary SACD. To say I was gobsmacked would be a bit of an understatement. You know that soundstage that Paul describes as three dimensional where the speakers disappear? I had been trying to obtain that with my system but the best I could get was a broad, smooth spread of sound extending a bit beyound the speakers but still basically flat.
Now, when I closed my eyes, there was no sense of there being two speakers in front of me. The sound seemed to envelope and extend the space before me. I could now tell where every instrument was and each was perfectly clear to where I could hear every note and the placement had depth as well as height. I was hearing components I never knew were there!
How this was possible by adding a component to the chain seemed somewhat non-intuitive since, typically, the more you put in the signal path, the more it is degraded. The only reason I can imagine is that the StellarGold improves the presence of the ultrasonics which are essential in providing point localization of sound. Whatever the reason, I was totally amazed that I could now experience this with my rig without having to resort to expensive room treatment or new speakers.
Then I thought, what about the Octave Records collection? I have listened to many but so far was not greatly impressed though I enjoyed the content. I put on The Art of HiFi, Vol. 1 Bass. I closed my eyes and was instantly transported to new environments, completely recreated in my listening room. So THAT’s what they’ve been talking about! From the confines of the Octave records studio to the vast space of the church in which Kenrick Mervine performed on the pipe organ, each was accurately recreated. Then I noticed during Mervine’s performance of Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D minor, there was an odd clicking sound coming from my bedroom I had never heard before. I almost got up to investigate when I realized that what I was hearing was the organ stops on the console in the distance clicking as Mervine changed the presets during the performance!
I have to say, Darren hit the ball out of the park with this one and I think it’s going to make a lot of owners very happy!