Talk me into a Strata

Hopefully, I’ve come to the right place to get broader insight into my decision process.

I’m sold on minimizing and simplifying the equipment stack with one compromise I’m willing to make with connected Audio and Home Theater solutions. So, an audio oriented integrated streamer/DAC/Amp for audio that’s connected to a separate multi-channel receiver works for me.

My research has narrowed down top contenders to:

  1. Strata
  2. NAD M10

If anyone has gone through the same decision process, would love to hear what you considered in terms of pros-cons.

In today’s world of digital, software is crucial - but also expensive, time-consuming and requires frequent attention/investment on the part of the vendor. This point favors the software with broader user bases - to spread out cost of development/maintenance. As amazing as Paul, James and team are in responding to feedback and addressing issues, HEOS and BLUEOS may have the edge over PS in terms of being able to sustain the focus/effort. in terms of feature/function and extensibility, the M10 may have longer relevant life.

So, talk me into a Strata?


Welcome, @kayakerf !

Welcome Kayak. There are pros and cons for the route we took with the streaming on the Strata. The main app is written my a larger company which keeps up with the updates. This is great because our programming team is busy enough writing code for the new DSD MKII and the streamer. The con of course is we are responsible when it breaks or starts acting funky. Luckily, the streaming app and streamer within the Strata will be relevant for many years to come.

As far as sound quality goes with the Strata, it’s awesome! I’ve said it else where, but the sound from the Strata is darn fun. It does great with every genre I feed it. It has that punch and slam when you want and that delicate, refined sound when it’s needed.

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Thanks James - I assume you are referring to Muzo - the streaming app and streamer being relevant for years? So, I should research the Muzo roadmap - if any of the streaming services provide HighRes streams (eg. MGA) or downloadable content, or if new services become available? Hopefully, none will require work/effort from PS Audio.

I do expect the Strata to sound “better” than the M10.

Naim Uniti Atom

Thanks - that didn’t make my shortlist because of the 40W/ch. and the effective cost is higher as well.

I’ve not heard the M10 so will not comment on comparison.

If the streaming aspect of the device is important go M10. Hands down just night and day better support across multiple streaming providers and protocols. However, if you use Roon you’ll be using an external device anyway. Strata has no support and M10 has reliability problems. I’ve pretty much given-up on the streaming of Strata except for the occasional Spotify. I’ve got a Rasp Pi connected via Coax to handle those duties.

Sound quality of the Strata is really good. That “GainCell” thing is serious. Until you’ve overdriven the amp section every frequency is balanced, natural, effortless, it downright dances. Truly magic. Matched with the internal DAC and its, I hate to use the cliche but I will, musical.

The suggestion above to go Naim… oh… I’ve heard that… yeah… no compromise there. (I mean except for pure wattage and $)

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The Strata is in a highly competitive sector of the market where there is a lot of competition. It’s something I’m looking at at the moment, a electronics for around $2,000 or less. Requirements are as few boxes as possible, few wires, small footprint, convenience, good software and small price. Products not on your list are the Naim Uniti Atom or one of the Hegel units.

This seems to make the market quite regional, most products are available internationally, but perhaps with less market presence. Pricing does not allow much scope for a brand premium above manufacturing and distribution costs.

Arguably the best software around is BluOs, Heos, Auralic Lightning and anything Roon Ready.

The Strata seems to have excellent connectivity and things like better than average binding posts, which can be quite expensive. What I personally don’t like is the 17" footprint. Most of these systems, with the exception of Hegel, are much smaller and much less industrial looking. Inside the Strata is about 2/3rds fresh air.

The Strata appears to use a standard ICE power module. Naim, Hegel and my likely choice use class A/B that, particularly with Naim, has peak power several times greater than the quoted continuous power output. So I would not agree with the comments above in that regard. It really depends on your speakers and how hard you plan on driving them…

My reason for changing is I’m not that convinced by the amplifier in my Bluesound Powernode, which is p[robably similar to the amplifier in the M10, which is the next product up the Bluesound/NAD line. The app is great, 100% reliable and has Roon, but its just not that refined, but then it’s very cheap. So personally I would not be interested in the M10.

Having thought through what my priorities are, what product or products do that well and hence avoiding paying for things I don’t want or need, I have an idea of what I might get, which may well be completely different from you, but then you don’t say what your speakers are, your room size, listening preferences, etc.

I went from Bluesound Powernode 2 to Marantz pm7000n in my work office system and it has been a substantial sonic upgrade. Spendor SA1 mini monitors, Rel R328 sub. Kef Q150, NHT Absolute Zero for change of pace.

Under $1k new, class A/B with Heos app well flushed out and just works, always without issue to stream Tidal. I’m happy. Of course you can do better if you are willing to spend more.

I have not had opportunity to hear Strata, so cannot offer a comparison.

I have heard the M10 in a dealer demo and wasn’t impressed by the sound quality for the price. Of the super integrated one box units I can readily demo at a dealership, Uniti Atom would be the upgrade I turn to (different level of performance vs marantz based on audition) if/when the time comes

Steven - I had considered Hegel and Naim but for various reasons including cost tradeoffs, put them lower on the list. Being in the business of software and user experience, sub-optimal software experience would bug the hell out of me :slight_smile:

I fully agree with your point about form factor. the M10 and Naim form factor is better for the minimalistic decor I’ve been adopting the last few years. a Strata that’s half width would have been cool. I used to have a stack that included 3-4 carver amps, a separate home theater processor, CD player, DVD player, HT PC, … Now, I’m aiming for 2-3: a in integrated stereo amp (DAC, Streamer, Preamp) and a separate AV receiver. it looks like I may have to add my laptop to the stack (maybe as the streamer if the Strata’s streaming abilities/UI don’t cut it.

At this point, the M10 seems to be slowly dropping as I just remembered it doesn’t have a headphone jack…(even though most of my listening is sans headphone it’s a good option to have occasionally). Also, I’m prioritizing the audio performance a bit higher than the streamer user experience.

Good point about the peak vs nominal power output. Having come from systems with 375W/ch, I appreciate having the headroom even if I don’t use even 20% of it most of the time.

Thanks for the perspective. All the best in your decision journey.

I would go for Marantz or Onkyo in a heartbeat if it were not for the 440mm footprint. No Roon.

Give it a year or two :slight_smile:

Wait what… DSD MKII? Tell me more, tell me more.

I am so accustomed to 19 inch/440mm components with stands and racks to accommodate this size I do not think of smaller width components. I also like it if the components are multiples of 1u (1 3⁄4 inches/44.45mm) in height.

Half-width components are fine for stands if I had two half-width components to full the width of a stand shelf. Otherwise the empty shelf space would feel wasted.

What size would you ideally like to see for components? Where do you plan to place them, on a sideboard or otherwise displayed?


I was speaking to a dealer today and he was telling me that Auralic are soon to bring out a DAC/streamer/pre at around the $1,000 mark, perhaps a little more. At your current thinking, the Auralic Altair should be on your list. Lots of Auralic users here, I’ve owned two Auralic units and my son has one of them.

As I’m reacting against the rather uninspiring (but still good value) Bluesound amplifier, I’m looking at an A/B integrated amp, warmer but still very detailed. Then a Roon streamer/DAC. I think Roon is so good, put it in a relatively cheap unit and it becomes 10x more attractive.

I’m currently thinking about a Lindemann Limetree streamer/DAC. Exceptional hardware that measures superbly well. Very limited connectivity - LAN and bluetooth in and usb digital and RCA analogue out - nothing else. But then it is only 4" square. So whilst PS Audio always offers good connectivity, you could not connect a CD transport to the Lindemann. They work on the premise that their customers don’t spin discs, whereas apparently many PSA customers do.

PS Audio have only made very limited use of Roon. They are developing an Octave streaming app and player software. Hopefully this will be very good and soon be implemented in products like the Strata. The Lindemann Limetree is typical in having a very average app of its own, useable but no more, but as a Roon Endpoint that weakness disppears.


Do none of Primare units do what you need?

Compact units are generally not 440mm because they are not designed to be put in a rack. The design criteria are completely different. The original Naim Muso was thin and very wide, the Naim Muso Qb2 is a cube. They share the same sexy dial, which my son loves. The M10 and M33 are based around a display that can be read from a distance. Bluesound are white, designed to visually disappear. To many customers the design is as or more important than the sound.

I used a Primare A30.1 and CD30 system for 12 years. I love their styling and it’s obviously popular as it hasn’t changed in decades and still looks very modern. The build quality for the price is incredible. Their amplification has gone from A/B to a totally proprietary Class D. Their latest killer product is a phono stage. I’m not aware if they make compact units.

Thus my earlier queries - What size would you ideally like to see? Where do you put them? How do you deal with the wires? Etc.

I’m not sure @kayakerf is that worried as he is connecting to an AV receiver.

A lot of these units now have advanced wireless reception like 24-bit bluetooth, AirPlay2 and Chromecast.
Personally, I use wired ethernet as the unit is next to my office hub.

The most minimal is an active system like ELAC Arb-51 with a wired or wireless hub (streamer/DAC), but you need power cables to the speakers.

Personally I’m looking at streamer/DAC + integrated amp, needs a 6" pair of analogue RCA. The Streamer/DAC runs off a 5v supply and the amp off the mains (possibly Lindemann Limetree and Brio-R).

A streamer + DAC + integrated amp needs an additional usb cable. The components in that are so small it would make little difference (possibly Pro-Ject S2 Ultra, Chord Mojo and Brio-R).

In the UK the Strata is not competitively priced and I’m not attracted to the gain cell. Rega uses a motorised ALPS volume pot that is ultra-reliable and you see them everywhere.

I once converted a superb phono amp to be a pre-amp for my PS Audio DAC, included adding a motorised ALPS, seen here lower right - all silver wired: