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…