Strata Integrated Review

I’ve had my Strata for six months and offer a brief review. My system consists of a VPI Scout Turntable with a Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood MM cartridge; a Musical Surroundings Nova II (purchased at the same time as the Strata) Phono Preamplifier; Oppo 105 CD/SACD Player; and, Magnepan 1.6 speakers.

The Strata replaced my VAC Standard Preamplifier with phono stage and Plinius SA 100 MkII amplifier.

It took approximately 200-300 hours to break in the Strata; however, PS Audio warned of this, so no surprise. I must add I purchased this thinking it would never beat my separates-that I would give it a try and ship it back. Wrong. It crushed my separates. Perhaps my former amplification was long in the tooth; or, the Strata is that good.

In general, I hear sounds of instruments rather than coming from instruments. It’s dead quiet, especially paired with my battery-powered phono preamp. Strummed or plucked string instruments hang shimmering and breathing in the air. I hear better separation of instruments on orchestral recordings. Because of the black background, instruments and voices explode and startle. It’s easier to hear vocal inflections and words, which contributes to my enjoyment of the music.

To my surprise, CD’s sound better than streaming high resolution files. This may be because i can run the balanced outputs of the Oppo into the Strata. I’d never heard the Oppo with balanced output before and everything from tone to timber to soundstage is better. Not different. Better. I’ve been into audio for about 40 years, and I know the difference between the two. I’m also surprised that using the Oppo balanced as opposed to accessing the DAC in the Strata sounds better; not much, maybe ten percent.

Streaming and using the bridge has been frustrating at times. However, I read the threads in the beta forum, so I expected this. Reading the forum resulted in my purchase of Audirvana software, which has helped. I still get drop outs from time to time but have no clue as to what to blame: the source, the wifi, etc. Streaming is nice, but is my last choice as it always leaves me on edge a bit.

In sum, I’m pleasantly surprised and happy. I’m listening to more music. I don’t have to worry about a tube blowing or noise. I’ve read questions about whether the Strata is a good match with maggies. I can confirm that with my speakers, in my room, it’s a good match.

I believe the other factor one must take into account when purchasing equipment is the company that manufactures it. I received great customer service. Perhaps best of all is the fact that my wife enjoys using the Strata and is not intimidated by it like she was with my other equipment. She also enjoys watching Paul’s informative videos with me. I’m thinking this will make it easier to convince her we need-not just want-the matching stellar phono preamp…

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I agree with your assessment on the sounds (paragraph beginning with “In general”). However Tidal is blowing away the sound of my CDs.

One thing is that the unit does not seem loud enough to me but maybe its just me getting used to digital volume steps. I have 89db speakers.

Does yours rumble or warp at higher volumes? On day 1 I heard this at volume 30 but have not tired this since.

I’m curious what volume you are running at and if at times you find the volume to be different. A few times volume 20 has sounded like volume 10. I do not have any trim settings.

I am 100 hours in. At first a CD was not great but 1 hour later it sounded noticeably better. At 50 hours it was much better. At 100 hours I dont notice any difference than 50. Curious if there is a difference past 50 and 100 hours.

Many thanks

Hi,

The Strata did not really wake up until the 200 hour mark and kept improving up to 300. As to volume, my Maggie’s are not efficient. I’m usually at around 50-60 when playing vinyl. When playing CD or streaming, it depends on the recording. I’d say the average is 40.

Thanks for your reply Mojo!

There’s a new review of the Strata in HIFI News.

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Can’t find it on their site…

It’s in the March 2021 edition that currently you have to buy or subscribe. I’m sure @Paul has a copy.

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Here is (most likely) the latest review of the Stellar Strata integrated:

FYI.

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Thanks!

Bought Strata when it first came out. Also bought a P3 and Vienna Acoustics Haydn Jubilee monitors to complete the system. This is second system in a large, untreated and acoustically unforgiving family room open to the kitchen. I was pleased with the sound given the room limitations.

I walked into the room the other day with music playing and WOW! It seemed the system blossomed and opened up big time. I know nothing changed component wise, but man what a difference!

One of those unexplained audio joys. Did it take this long for everything to finally break in? Were my ears and brain finally in sync? Moon and stars properly aligned? Butterfly effect?

I use the system for streaming only via WiFi. Primarily Qobuz, and SOMA.FM for background ambient during the work day. PS software is still a little buggy but works. Airplay capability is nice for when we have company and they want to play the tunes.