PS Audio Stellar Strata: Elevating Audiophile Experiences

Introduction

In the world of audio enthusiasts, finding the perfect sound amplifier is like discovering a hidden treasure. The PS Audio Stellar Strata is one such gem that combines the benefits of an exceptional analog preamplifier, a fully functional modern DAC, a stereo power amplifier with output power of up to 200 Watts per channel, and a high-resolution streaming module all in one magnificent device. With just a pair of speakers added to it, the Stellar Strata becomes the ultimate foundation for an audio system that refuses to compromise on sound quality.

The importance of high-quality sound amplification cannot be overstated. It is the key element that brings music to life, enhancing every nuance and detail, and allowing listeners to experience their favorite songs in all their glory. Whether you are an avid music lover or a professional audiophile, the Stellar Strata promises to deliver an extraordinary listening experience that few products on the market can match.

In this comprehensive review, we will delve into the technical specifications, design and construction, functionality, sound characteristics, and performance of the PS Audio Stellar Strata. Prepare to be captivated by its impressive features and immerse yourself in a world of unparalleled audio bliss.

Technical Specifications

The PS Audio Stellar Strata is a versatile and powerful integrated amplifier, DAC, and network audio player that combines the best features of an analog preamplifier, a modern DAC, a stereo power amplifier with up to 200 watts per channel output, and a high-resolution streaming module in one exceptional device. With just a pair of speakers, it becomes the perfect foundation for an audio system that refuses to compromise on sound quality.

With 3 analog and 6 digital inputs, the Stellar Strata offers extensive connectivity options for all your audio sources. Its fully balanced analog preamplifier circuitry, modern DAC, uncompromising high-resolution streaming capabilities, and analog power amplifier based on proprietary GainCell™ amplifier modules deliver an extraordinarily rich, musical, and immersive sound that rivals only a few products in the market.

The built-in Wi-Fi connectivity allows you to connect the Strata to your home network and use the PS Connect App to access millions of tracks from popular streaming services such as Tidal, Qobuz, or Spotify.

At the heart of the Strata is the GainCell™ analog preamplifier module. Invented by PS Audio founder Paul McGowan in the early 2000s, these modules solve the classic problem of volume control degradation by utilizing a unique variable gain approach. Unlike traditional volume controls that degrade the sound quality, GainCell uses a variable signal amplifier with up to 80 dB of gain.

For headphone enthusiasts, the Strata offers an exceptional quality analog headphone amplifier with a front panel input. When headphones are connected, the main outputs are automatically disabled, allowing you to enjoy music playback at its best through high-quality headphones.

The DAC inside the Strata creates a seamless 3D soundstage even when playing regular CDs. Designed by Chief Engineer Bob Stadtherr and voiced by Darren Myers, it provides an improvement in sound quality compared to other DACs that will be a revelation to your ears. The Strata DAC accepts inputs from any digital source, including I2S, USB, TOSLINK, or the internal high-resolution streaming module, and delivers the signal directly to the power amplifier section for output to your speakers.

Using the PS Audio Connect mobile app available for iOS and Android, or a music server along with software such as JRiver, Bit Perfect, Amarra, or Pure Music, the Strata becomes your window into the world of high-quality digital audio in PCM and DSD formats.

All digital signals are accepted by the Strata in their native format – without sample rate conversion (SRC) – and are fed directly into a simplified FPGA (Field-Programmable Gate Array) chip known as a CPLD (Complex Programmable Logic Device). This CPLD determines the sample rate and format, reclocks all incoming data, reduces jitter, restores the signal shape before the DAC, and uses high-speed logic circuits to reduce signal propagation delay and increase bandwidth. This patented technology is called Digital Lens.

The DAC itself is based on the renowned 32-bit ESS Sabre Hyperstream architecture, with its output passively filtered to reduce transient distortion. The output stage of the Strata DAC features a proprietary Class A hybrid matrix configuration with an extended bandwidth of up to 60 kHz.

The I²S input on the Strata is compatible with the PS Audio DirectStream Transport disc transport and provides full access to the master recording level found on SACD’s hidden layer. It is worth noting that only PS Audio DACs, such as the DirectStream and now the Strata, have the ability to play back pure DSD layer in all its glory.

The Strata offers users a choice of three digital filters. Each filter has its own sonic character, allowing you to fine-tune the system synergy based on your amplifier, source, speakers, personal taste, and preferences.

The connection between the preamplifier and power amplifier is crucial as it is where the most critical musical details can be lost. In the Strata, a proven topology called Analog Cell is used to maintain the finest nuances of music while delivering high power and control similar to the best solid-state amplifiers.

Design and Construction

The PS Audio Stellar Strata amplifier boasts a sleek and visually appealing design that will seamlessly blend into any modern audio setup. Its black color adds a touch of elegance to its overall aesthetic. The construction of the amplifier is solid, with high-quality materials used to ensure durability and longevity.

One notable design feature of the Stellar Strata is its efficient cooling system. The amplifier is designed to dissipate heat effectively, preventing overheating and ensuring optimal performance even during extended listening sessions. This feature not only enhances the lifespan of the amplifier but also contributes to maintaining the audio quality at its best.

In terms of reducing interference, the Stellar Strata incorporates advanced shielding technology. This helps to minimize any external electromagnetic interference that could potentially degrade the audio signal. As a result, users can enjoy a clean and uninterrupted listening experience.

The connectors and switches on the Stellar Strata are of exceptional quality. They are sturdy, well-built, and provide a secure connection for various audio sources. The inputs and outputs are conveniently positioned on the rear panel, allowing for easy access and cable management. The presence of balanced XLR inputs further enhances the overall connectivity options.

Overall, the design and construction of the PS Audio Stellar Strata amplifier exude a sense of sophistication and attention to detail. From its sleek exterior to its robust build quality, this amplifier is built to impress both in terms of aesthetics and functionality.

Functionality

The PS Audio Stellar Strata amplifier offers a wide range of functionality, making it a versatile and convenient option for audio enthusiasts. With its numerous connectivity options, you can easily connect various audio sources such as CD players, computers, smartphones, and more. The amplifier features 3 analog and 6 digital inputs, allowing you to connect any source you have.

In terms of controls, the Strata provides balance controls, tone adjustments, and other operating modes to fine-tune your listening experience. Whether you prefer a warmer sound or want to adjust the bass and treble levels to your liking, the amplifier offers flexibility in tailoring the sound to your preferences.

Additionally, the Strata includes a headphone amplifier with exceptional sound quality and a front panel input for easy access. When headphones are connected, the main outputs automatically disable, ensuring an optimal listening experience through high-quality headphones.

Furthermore, the Strata is equipped with a built-in DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter), allowing you to enjoy seamless playback of digital audio files. It supports various input formats including I2S, USB, TOSLINK, and the internal high-resolution streaming module. This means that you can directly connect your speakers to the amplifier and enjoy high-quality audio reproduction from any digital source.

To enhance its functionality even further, the Strata can be connected to your home Wi-Fi network. By downloading the PS Connect App on your iOS or Android device or using music servers and programs like JRiver, Bit Perfect, Amarra, or Pure Music, you can access a vast library of high-quality digital audio in PCM and DSD formats.

Overall, the functionality of the PS Audio Stellar Strata amplifier is impressive. Its wide range of connectivity options and adjustable settings allow for seamless integration into any audio setup while providing users with control over their sound preferences.

Sound Characteristics

The PS Audio Stellar Strata amplifier offers a truly remarkable sound experience. Its sound characteristics are characterized by exceptional detail, instrument separation, and a well-defined bass response. The amplifier provides a clear and precise treble clarity, allowing for an immersive listening experience.

When it comes to details, the Stellar Strata excels in reproducing even the subtlest nuances in the music. Whether it’s the delicate plucking of guitar strings or the soft whisper of a vocalist, this amplifier brings out every intricate detail with impressive clarity.

Instrument separation is another standout feature of the Stellar Strata. It creates a spacious soundstage where each instrument is precisely placed, allowing listeners to discern individual instruments within complex musical arrangements. This level of separation enhances the overall listening experience and adds depth to the music.

The bass response of the Stellar Strata is powerful and well-controlled. It delivers deep and impactful bass notes without overpowering or muddying the other frequencies. This ensures that the low-end remains tight and controlled, adding richness and depth to the music.

In terms of treble clarity, the Stellar Strata shines with its ability to reproduce high-frequency details with precision and accuracy. The highs are crisp and clear, providing a sense of airiness and sparkle to the sound.

The overall sound presentation of the Stellar Strata is engaging and dynamic. It strikes a perfect balance between warmth and accuracy, resulting in a natural and lifelike sound reproduction. Whether you’re listening to classical music, jazz, rock, or electronic genres, this amplifier adapts effortlessly to different music styles and brings out their unique characteristics.

In summary, the PS Audio Stellar Strata amplifier offers exceptional sound characteristics with its attention to detail, instrument separation, powerful bass response, clear treble clarity, and overall engaging sound presentation. It elevates the listening experience across various music genres, making it an excellent choice for audiophiles who appreciate high-quality sound reproduction.

Sound Performance

The PS Audio Stellar Strata amplifier delivers an exceptional sound performance that will transport you into a captivating auditory experience. With its advanced technology and meticulous design, this amplifier faithfully reproduces audio signals with remarkable clarity, dynamics, and tonal balance across the entire frequency range.

When listening to music through the Stellar Strata, you’ll immediately notice the level of detail and precision in each note. The amplifier effortlessly brings out the subtleties in the music, allowing you to hear every nuance and texture with astonishing clarity. Whether it’s the delicate plucking of guitar strings or the intricate layers of a symphony orchestra, the Stellar Strata presents a level of detail that truly immerses you in the music.

One of the standout features of the Stellar Strata is its ability to deliver a wide dynamic range. It effortlessly handles both soft and loud passages with finesse, ensuring that no detail gets lost in either extreme. The amplifier maintains control even at higher volumes, preventing any distortion or harshness from creeping into the sound.

Furthermore, the tonal balance of the Stellar Strata is simply outstanding. It strikes a perfect equilibrium between the different frequencies, allowing each instrument and vocal to shine without overpowering one another. The bass is tight and controlled, providing a solid foundation to the music, while the midrange is rich and full-bodied, capturing the warmth and emotion of vocals and instruments. The highs are crisp and detailed, adding sparkle and airiness to the overall sound.

Whether you’re listening to classical music, rock, jazz, or any other genre, the Stellar Strata excels in reproducing each style with incredible accuracy and realism. It effortlessly conveys the intended emotions of the music, making every listening session a truly immersive experience.

In conclusion, the sound performance of the PS Audio Stellar Strata is nothing short of exceptional. Its ability to faithfully reproduce audio signals with clarity, dynamics, and tonal balance is truly remarkable. Whether you’re a discerning audiophile or a casual music lover, the Stellar Strata will elevate your listening experience to new heights.

Advantages

The PS Audio Stellar Strata amplifier offers several distinct advantages that set it apart from its competitors in the market. Firstly, its combination of an analog preamplifier, a full-featured modern DAC, a stereo power amplifier with up to 200W per channel output, and a high-resolution streaming module makes it a truly versatile and all-in-one device. This integration eliminates the need for multiple separate components, simplifying the setup and reducing clutter in your audio system.

In terms of connectivity options, the Stellar Strata boasts 3 analog and 6 digital inputs, allowing you to connect any source you have. This flexibility ensures compatibility with a wide range of devices and enables seamless integration into your existing setup.

One standout feature of the Stellar Strata is its use of GainCell™ amplifier modules in the analog preamplifier section. These modules, invented by PS Audio founder Paul McGowan, address the common issue of volume control degrading sound quality by utilizing a unique variable gain approach. This results in exceptional sound reproduction with minimal distortion and an incredibly rich and musical listening experience.

Additionally, the inclusion of a high-quality headphone amplifier on the front panel caters to those who enjoy listening to music through headphones. When headphones are connected, the main outputs are automatically disabled, ensuring optimal performance specifically tailored for headphone use.

Furthermore, the built-in DAC within the Stellar Strata creates a seamless 3D soundstage even when playing regular CDs. Designed by chief engineer Bob Stadtherr and meticulously tuned by Darren Myers for exceptional sound quality, this DAC delivers an improvement in audio fidelity compared to other models on the market. It accepts inputs from any digital source, including I2S, USB, TOSLINK, or via the internal high-resolution streaming module, delivering a signal directly to your speakers through the power amplifier.

The inclusion of PS Audio Connect mobile app for iOS and Android devices provides convenient control over the Stellar Strata, allowing users to select and play tracks from popular streaming services like Tidal, Qobuz, or Spotify. Additionally, it can be integrated into a smart home system using the Triger feature, further enhancing its functionality and ease of use.

When considering the Stellar Strata’s value for money, it is important to note that it offers a comprehensive set of features and exceptional audio performance at a competitive price point. Compared to other models in its price range, the Stellar Strata stands out with its combination of versatility, build quality, and sonic excellence.

In conclusion, the PS Audio Stellar Strata amplifier presents numerous advantages that make it a standout choice in the market. Its integration of multiple components into one device, flexible connectivity options, exceptional sound reproduction through GainCell™ technology, built-in high-quality DAC, headphone amplifier, and convenient mobile app control all contribute to its appeal. With its impressive features and performance, the Stellar Strata offers excellent value for money and is an ideal foundation for any audio system where uncompromising sound quality is desired.

Value for Money

The PS Audio Stellar Strata amplifier offers exceptional value for money, combining high-performance features with a competitive price point. With its versatile functionality as an analog preamplifier, full-featured DAC, powerful stereo amplifier, and high-resolution streaming module, the Stellar Strata provides a comprehensive audio solution in a single device.

Considering its performance capabilities, the Stellar Strata is a standout product in its price range. The inclusion of the GainCell™ amplifier modules ensures excellent sound quality and eliminates the common issue of volume control degrading audio performance. The analog power amplifier section delivers up to 200 Watts per channel, providing ample power for driving a wide range of speakers.

Additionally, the Stellar Strata’s digital-to-analog converter (DAC) creates a seamless 3D soundstage, even when playing standard CDs. Designed by renowned engineers Bob Stadtherr and Darren Myers, this DAC offers remarkable sound improvement compared to other DACs on the market. It supports inputs from various digital sources, including I2S, USB, TOSLINK, or through the high-resolution streaming module.

The inclusion of Wi-Fi connectivity and compatibility with popular streaming services such as Tidal, Qobuz, and Spotify further enhances the value of the Stellar Strata. Users can effortlessly access millions of tracks and enjoy high-quality audio streaming directly from their home network.

In terms of build quality and design, the Stellar Strata exudes elegance with its sleek black finish. The compact form factor makes it suitable for any setup or room size. The absence of a remote control may be seen as a drawback by some users; however, the overall functionality and performance outweigh this minor inconvenience.

Considering its competitive price point in relation to its extensive features and exceptional audio performance, the PS Audio Stellar Strata represents excellent value for money. It offers audiophiles and music enthusiasts an all-in-one solution that delivers rich and immersive sound quality without compromising on build quality or functionality.

Whether you are a seasoned audiophile or a music lover looking to elevate your listening experience, the PS Audio Stellar Strata provides an impressive value proposition that is hard to beat in its price range. Its combination of versatile features, exceptional sound performance, and competitive pricing make it a compelling choice for those seeking high-quality audio reproduction without breaking the bank.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the PS Audio Stellar Strata amplifier is a remarkable all-in-one device that combines the benefits of an exceptional analog preamp, a fully functional modern DAC, a stereo power amplifier with up to 200 watts per channel, and a high-resolution streaming module. It is truly a standout product in the market for those who refuse to compromise on sound quality.

The Strata offers a multitude of connectivity options with its 3 analog and 6 digital inputs, allowing you to connect any source you have. Its fully balanced analog preamp circuitry, modern DAC, uncompromising high-resolution streamer, and power amplifier based on the proprietary GainCell™ amplification modules create an incredibly rich, musical, and immersive sound that few products can rival.

One of the standout features of the Strata is its ability to seamlessly integrate into your home Wi-Fi network, allowing you to access millions of tracks from popular streaming services such as Tidal, Qobuz, or Spotify through the PS Connect App. This level of convenience and accessibility enhances the overall user experience.

The analog preamplifier in the Strata utilizes the GainCell™ modules, which eliminate the traditional problem of volume control degrading sound quality by employing a unique variable gain approach. This ensures that every element in the signal path preserves and enhances the musicality of the audio.

For headphone enthusiasts, the Strata offers an exceptional headphone amplifier with a front-panel input. When headphones are connected, the main outputs are automatically disabled, allowing listeners to enjoy their music at its best through high-quality headphones.

The DAC within the Strata creates a seamless 3D soundstage even when playing regular CDs. Designed by chief designer Bob Stadtherr and voiced by Darren Myers, it provides an improvement in sound quality compared to other DACs on the market. The Strata’s DAC accepts inputs from any digital source, including I2S, USB, TOSLINK, or the internal high-resolution streaming module, delivering the signal directly to your speakers through the power amplifier.

With the PS Audio Connect mobile app for iOS and Android or music servers and software such as JRiver, Bit Perfect, Amarra, or Pure Music, the Strata becomes your gateway to the world of high-quality digital audio in PCM and DSD formats.

The Strata boasts a range of digital filters, allowing users to tailor the sound signature to their system, amplifier, source, and personal preferences. This flexibility gives users an excellent means of enhancing synergy within their setup.

The connection between the preamplifier and power amplifier is crucial for preserving the finest musical details. The Strata utilizes a proven topology called Analog Cell, which accurately conveys the warmth and musicality of tube amplifiers while maintaining the power and control of solid-state amplifiers.

In terms of value for money, the Strata offers an exceptional combination of features, performance, and build quality. Its versatility as an integrated amplifier, DAC, and streaming device makes it a compelling choice for audiophiles looking to simplify their setup without compromising on sound quality.

In conclusion, the PS Audio Stellar Strata amplifier is a standout product that delivers exceptional performance across its various functions. Its rich sound characteristics, versatile functionality, and impeccable design make it a top choice for audiophiles seeking a high-quality all-in-one solution. Whether you’re a casual listener or a dedicated music enthusiast, the Stellar Strata will undoubtedly elevate your listening experience to new heights.

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