Strata - DAC / why not versatile

Hi there,

was really close ordering a Stellar Strata. Two road blocks remain and seem not healable. Happens, we all never agree on everything - how boring would this world be :wink: - but these could have been avoided.

a) Fixed or non upgradeable DAC

FPGA is expensive and I fully understand that price points need to be met. But how about a slot-in board? Come on - Shiit can do it, why PSA don’t?

b) Roon Endpoint

Well there is none and due to hardware limitation never will be. If I take a brief look around there are external roon-ready DACs at fairly moderate prices. So why not here?

An amplifier likely will last a couple of years. DACs nah. At least with me. So an optional / upgradeable DAC board probably wouldn’t have changed the price tag a lot. Cannot understand the decision.

So could have somehow lived with the fixed DAC, but Roon in the end kills the Strata for me and I was more than ready to buy. :frowning:

I am a bit sad because I like PSA’s attitude and products really.

edit: to be precise: it’s not the point I could get another DAC meeting my requirements (and waste the one inside). It’s it screws the Strata concept which I regard being beautiful. HiFi needs - at least for me - blend beautifully into my living room. Can’t stand having my room looking like a garage or an altar of interconnected cases. Box count needs to be one, it matters. Ideally.

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Almost every product across the industry has a fixed dac, except a few outliers.

Not a justifiable thing to be complaining about given that almost everyone else does same way.

If it is that important to you, then just go with one of the outliers that do it the other way. Easy.

As far as amps including the dac, you’re missing the point. This is an all in one. Duh.

If you don’t want a dac in your amp PSA has about a dozen other choices that address that.

Strata is a product for a burgeoning niche. All in ones. Super integrated. Whatever you want to call it. Will become a very big niche very soon, imo. Within two years almost everyone will offer. Today, only a handful do.

Kudos to PSA for being among the first handful of companies to go there. Schiit doesn’t even have a streamer, let alone a super integrated

Well, it’s still is a missed opportunity to me. Having a slot-in DAC/streamer board could have made a difference. Other than with the amp the technology for these leaps too quickly. It would have only added a very few $$ to the asking price, giving the customer a far longer life spawn of the product while staying within the all-in-one concept. Here I agree this is a market that soon won’t be a niche any more. So kudos to PSA to be in.

And Roon? Even if no top of the shelf here - it’s still an audiophile product.

I’ve been watching the Beta Tester’s here (& the M1200’s) and try not to interfere with the conversation unless it dips into trolling or totally off topic.

I’m not a fan of any integrated stuff. Never have been. I’ve never been exposed to a powerful Tube Amp until recently (my friends 300W VTL’s). I’m no longer a Vinyl Guy so the SPP is not on my list.

This doesn’t mean that those who are into what I’m not are wrong. Different strokes for different folks. You can’t please everyone.

I’m glad to see the success of these PS Audio products and I hope the Strata takes away some of the market share from Hegel. Made in USA means a lot to me (even though I’m Canadian) and I am one of those anti-China People even before COVID-19 (nah nah nah Nineteen - couldn’t resist). Of course I buy crap from China because those Products are not readily available here or quite honestly are too expensive for what they do.


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I hear ya, but I don’t think there is much demand for the slot-upgradable stuff, industry-wide. Just my opinion. I could be wrong. Obviously you prefer it.

For example, look at NAD, arguably a brand that competes in same market as PSA, generally, in quality tiers within the industry (maybe PSA aims a bit higher with their BHK stuff, but bulk of product line in same wheelhouse). NAD have had that model for many years, making receivers and some integrateds (I think, for sure AVRs) with slot-upgradeable features. I don’t really see people clamoring for it. If anything NAD may now be going away from that slot-upgradable model - don’t think the M10 or new M33 (their latest super integrateds) have those features - but I could be wrong (I don’t follow NAD closely).

If anything, it seems to me the industry trend seems to be in the other direction.

To your point, I had a NAD receiver back in the day and the slot-based upgradeability was a big selling point for me. Did I take advantage of that feature? Nope! I ended up selling it and buying a completely different unit. Why? Well, advancement in design within a particular piece of audio gear is generally not limited to one or two hardware components/features . Even though DAC chip technology evolves and could account for a marked improvement, what about the circuit topology, the power supply filtering/regulation, etc.? This is especially true when discussing an integrated component which involves tubes, FETs, and other featurse relative to audio amplification.

Speaking for myself, if I am interested in upgrading a component based on aging hardware, the “system” in its entirety must be considered. Within the confines of a single “box,” there are many elements that are designed to work together - at least in a properly engineered audio device - which could lead to additional SQ improvements. Micro-focusing on just a single element (i.e. DAC chip) is a compromise that leaves too much on the table for me. This could be why most competent, successful audio equipment manufacturers choose not to design their hardware with this feature.

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Oops, I stand corrected. NAD new M33 all in one does include expansion slots. M10 did not but M33 does.

I have been most pleased with the strata when it is getting fed via balanced from my bifrost 2.

Not being able to get the bridge to work with Qobuz and Tidal have been frustrating. It was the main reason I signed up for the beta. Now I’m wishing they sold a dac-less and bridge-less version…

I’ve wondered why they didn’t just put a raspberry pi in for the streamer, make their own internal hat, and off to the races

Could function as a roon endpoints that way as well.

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Can only agree.
Offering a ‚Just add speakers’ product is a totally right decision by PSA. Strata just fails short on two important aspects.
Whenever there will be an Roon-ready FPGA version (or bolt on fixed DAC) with a streamer supporting this I am happy to pay the higher asking price. Hope this will happen with a newer version.

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Integrated all in one units are plentiful and have been for years. In the UK I have the choice from Devialet, Linn, Naim, AVM, Hegel, Musical Fidelity, Cambridge Audio, Audionet, Marantz, iFi, and those are just the ones I can immediately think of. PSA have been late to the game because it has taken years to get a working streaming system.

Point taken but I don’t think Cambridge Audio makes an all in one as I’m describing. That is amp capable of driving speakers (not merely headphones), plus integrated streamer (and corresponding app to control) and dac. Streaming via Bluetooth doesn’t count. I don’t think Cambridge has a one box solution, at least not in the Edge or Azur lines, each of which I own pieces (Edge W, 851n).

Wasn’t aware iFi did either.

I’ve been waiting for a back ordered marantz pm1000n for almost 3 months!!

Right. But many of these share the Strata’s shortcomings.
Cannot justify spending on a H390 when the DAC is nice today but mediocre in two years time, while the amp is still good for like 10 more years.
A decent FPGA DAC like the Qutest by Chord fully integrated in there was kind of the system I am looking for. PSA have the technology and could downsize w/o cannibalizing their top line devices. Would be a unique selling point. Having the customer to add a new Streamer/DAC when the one included starts to suck is no option. All-in-one gone.

So my ideal would be:
Beautifully designed (done) ‘Just add speakers’ system

  • great pre-amp / amp section (done)
  • FPGA DAC receiving software updates (happy to pay)
  • Roon-ready streaming solution
  • Tidal, Quobuz, …
  • Apple Airplay, Chromecast, …

Just to remind folks - a DAC that sounds really nice now, also sounds just as nice in 2, 5, or 10 years time. I know, I know, nice to have the latest and greatest…


True. But if fully true there was no market for a DS FPGA. This is exactly why a pretty old DAC like the Direct Stream still earns money.
Thing is the development speed around DACs still is breath taking. No contest with the innovations with like amps. So if we tie these two into an all-in-one-system we might want to give the DAC side some option to keep like the value of the overall system. At least from my side of the counter. If I spend a fair amount of money, I prefer not to have the same crap like w/ modern TV sets which are useless after like three yrs.

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I have many electrical audio products, as well as my TV, which are substantially over three years old, all of which work brilliantly.

As @joma0711 points out, if they were nice bits of kit when new they remain equally nice now.

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Aye “smart” TVs and Blu-ray players are by far the worst offenders, and shops will not take back a device even if the (e.g. BBC iPlayer app) inbuilt “smartness” fails after 6 months (as happened to us).

Apologies, the Edge is two boxes, but rather stunning.

Yes, and Edge is a really great amp also. Better than my Audio Research with my Spendor D1’s IMO.

Probably doesn’t get ton of respect because Cambridge not as high end with other lines but Edge is really good, I can attest.

That’s why I bought a Devialet 250. Great amplifier, fully customisable pre-amp, great DAC, Roon Ready, AirPlay, Spotify, Upnp, also a phono stage that Can handle two decks and is fully programmable, DSP, auto-detect. It operates in 24/192 PCM, but I’d tried DSD and it didn’t do anything for me and Qobuz had abandoned the idea of streaming DSD.

For most audio consumers I think the idea of a standalone DAC is history. Companies like Linn that got into streaming early (first product launched in 2007) never saw the point of a standalone DAC and never made one.

A lot of the products released in recent years are packaging mature technology in more compact, user friendly and often cheaper packages. I would have thought any DAC made in the last 10 years will remain perfectly good for the foreseeable future. We’ve had the format wars and PCM has prevailed, DSD remains a niche format with limited titles and MQA was a fraud/joke.

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Cambridge Audio is a great company. Edge was a 50th anniversary product. They engage some of the best audio engineers, just don’t shout about it, meaning great affordable products.