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PS Audio Stellar Phono Preamplifier review


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Hi Awayward

I've been running a PS Stellar Phonostage in my showroom for about a month now.

I'm really impressed with the sound and feature set. The build quality is really solid as you'd expect from PS Audio. Having just set up my showroom this was a product I actively sought out for my product line up. I've personally retailed PS audio for almost a decade now and am stunned by this Stellar range and to think its still made in the USA. 

683419434_PSPhonostage.thumb.jpg.16e06ea932d7313da5be63ec88dcbe76.jpg

 

Regards Geoff Haynes

 

Declaration

I am a retail sponsor

I run a retail premises in Melbourne 

I only sell products backed by Australian distributors 

I can ship products all over the country

Please PM me for pricing and deals 

 

 

 

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Hi sdepass

Unfortunately the PS Audio DACs only have digital inputs therefore preventing you plugging the Phono pre-amplifier in directly.

You could purchase the PS audio Stellar Gain Cell pre-Amplifier for around $2600 and plug the phono pre amplifier into that. It will become a very cost effective performance pre-amp and depending upon which PS Audio DAC you have you could either plug your DAC into it or use it's internal DAC.

Either way using a PS audio Pre-Amp will dramatically improve your system over using a PS audio DAC alone. 

Which DAC do you have?

 

Regards 
Geoff

 

Declaration

I am a retail sponsor.

I run a retail premises in Melbourne.

I only sell products backed by Australian distributors. 

I can ship products all over the country.

Please PM me for pricing and deals.

 

 

 

 

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I have had my Stellar phono playing for 15 hours and it is amazing, all the detail and impact I get with my digital but with the analogue magic. Dead quiet background, bass is well defined with plenty of slam when required, mids are gorgeous, instrument tone seems just right. Soundstage is wide and deep with every instrument in its correct place, all blending together as one in the end. I have a mental list of 20 albums  I really need to hear with this phono stage ASAP, highly recommended. It must be the best bargain going at the moment.

Edited by awayward
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34 minutes ago, awayward said:

I have had my Stellar phono playing for 15 hours and it is amazing, all the detail and impact I get with my digital but with the analogue magic. Dead quiet background, bass is well defined with plenty of slam when required, mids are gorgeous, instrument tone seems just right. Soundstage is wide and deep with every instrument in its correct place, all blending together as one in the end. I have a mental list of 20 albums  I really need to hear with this phono stage ASAP, highly recommended. It must be the best bargain going at the moment.

 

Very interesting, aw.  :)

 

What cart are you running and what loading do you have on your Stellar?

 

Andy

 

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11 minutes ago, andyr said:

 

Very interesting, aw.  :)

 

What cart are you running and what loading do you have on your Stellar?

 

Andy

 

Audio Technica ART-9 cart, set loading at the recommended 100 ohms, in the recent review the reviewer was using a cart rated at 100, but he found 200 was better, so I will try that soon when I’m even more accustomed to the sound.

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5 minutes ago, awayward said:

Audio Technica ART-9 cart, set loading at the recommended 100 ohms, in the recent review the reviewer was using a cart rated at 100, but he found 200 was better, so I will try that soon when I’m even more accustomed to the sound.

 

The specs for the Audio Technica ART-9 say coil impedance is 12 ohms.  They also say load should be "minimum 100 ohms " - I would suggest, yes, 200 ohms loading will sound better ... but you should try values up to 1200 ohms (100x coil impedance).

 

But reading the description of the Stellar, I can't make out whether this is an option it offers?  (How do the "custom setting knobs " work?)

 

If it can't deliver this, then I could lend you:

  • a pair of RCA 'T' connectors - so you can plug both a phono cable and a load plug into the Stellar's RCA sockets, and
  • a collection of load plugs from 330 to 1200 ohms.  (This setup would be used with the 47K setting.)

 

Andy

 

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7 minutes ago, andyr said:

 

The specs for the Audio Technica ART-9 say coil impedance is 12 ohms.  They also say load should be "minimum 100 ohms " - I would suggest, yes, 200 ohms loading will sound better ... but you should try values up to 1200 ohms (100x coil impedance).

 

But reading the description of the Stellar, I can't make out whether this is an option it offers?  (How do the "custom setting knobs " work?)

 

If it can't deliver this, then I could lend you:

  • a pair of RCA 'T' connectors - so you can plug both a phono cable and a load plug into the Stellar's RCA sockets, and
  • a collection of load plugs from 330 to 1200 ohms.  (This setup would be used with the 47K setting.)

 

Andy

 

Easy MC loading via the remote can be 60, 100, 200 or custom, custom setting is done on the rear panel and goes up to 1000, so it is  nicely accomodating to most carts, I’ll try other settings, thanks for your advice, appreciated. ?

Edited by awayward
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1 minute ago, awayward said:

Easy MC loading via the remote can be 60, 100, 200 or custom, custom setting is done on the rear panel and goes up to 1000, so it easy pretty accommodating to most carts, I’ll try other settings, thanks for your advice, appreciated. ?

 

Aah, great - I was hoping it would be like that!  (Back-panel custom settings are 1 - 1K, depending on how far the knob is turned round.)  :)

 

The only issue might be - unless there are some markings on the back panel ... what is the actual cart load at different knob positions?

 

But, realistically, if you find it actually sounds better at maximum knob-turn (1K ohms) ... you won't hear a difference between that and 1200 ohms.

 

Andy

 

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1 minute ago, andyr said:

 

Aah, great - I was hoping it would be like that!  (Back-panel custom settings are 1 - 1K, depending on how far the knob is turned round.)  :)

 

The only issue might be - unless there are some markings on the back panel ... what is the actual cart load at different knob positions?

 

But, realistically, if you find it actually sounds better at maximum knob-turn (1K ohms) ... you won't hear a difference between that and 1200 ohms.

 

Andy

 

The custom loading knobs are well labelled, markings for 1, 250, 500, 750 , 1k, including dash markings within each band, each one equal to 50

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1 hour ago, awayward said:

The custom loading knobs are well labelled, markings for 1, 250, 500, 750 , 1k, including dash markings within each band, each one equal to 50

 

Excellent, aw!  :thumb:

 

Andy

 

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On 10/01/2020 at 1:00 PM, Geoff@HeyNow Hi-Fi said:

Hi sdepass

Unfortunately the PS Audio DACs only have digital inputs therefore preventing you plugging the Phono pre-amplifier in directly.

You could purchase the PS audio Stellar Gain Cell pre-Amplifier for around $2600 and plug the phono pre amplifier into that. It will become a very cost effective performance pre-amp and depending upon which PS Audio DAC you have you could either plug your DAC into it or use it's internal DAC.

Either way using a PS audio Pre-Amp will dramatically improve your system over using a PS audio DAC alone. 

Which DAC do you have?

 

Regards 
Geoff

 

Declaration

I am a retail sponsor.

I run a retail premises in Melbourne.

I only sell products backed by Australian distributors. 

I can ship products all over the country.

Please PM me for pricing and deals.

 

 

 

 

Hi Geoff, Thanks for getting back to me. I Have the PS perfectwave dIrect Stream DAC, No bridge.

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  • 4 months later...
  • 5 months later...

The editors at Stereophile magazine have awarded the Stellar Phono “Analogue Product of the Year”, some nice recognition for a superb phono stage.

Edited by awayward
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  • 4 weeks later...

Decided to give this PS Audio product a go. Was aware of what Fremer and audiophile think of it and it's recent analogue product of the year 2020 award.

 

While I have always enjoyed the youtube vids of Paul McGowan, the aesthetics of PS Audio put me off - reminded me of someone raiding the old parts bin of HP computers. I don't know if they recently upped their appearance but I was really surprised by the look of quality the Stellar Phono had in the flesh. It is extremely well made. The outer is metal not heavy plastic I thought their products appeared to be all made of.

 

I purchased mine from Geoff Haynes, @Geoff@HeyNow Hi-Fi. I had made some prior purchases from Geoff when he was at Tivoli and knew his service was top notch. Nothing has changed. Geoff was great to deal with, has  a great showroom  in St Kilda and his pricing was excellent.  From purchase to delivery was a few days. Highly recommend dealing with him and he does support this forum as a bonus.

 

Setup was a simple as any other phono.  My vinyl setup is Techdas Airforce V, Kuzma Stogi Ref 313 tonearm with VTA, Lyra Delos cart. Preamp is Luxman SQ38u feeding Elektra Ref HD power amp. PMC twenty5.26 speakers with all interconnects and speaker cable Zonotone (Japanese brand that I love).

 

I have two options before the  Stellar - Gold Note PH10 with PS10 psu and the phono inside the Luxman SQ38u. Both of these are great with the GN being the best simply for the ability to make on the fly adjustments for gain and impedance. 

 

Like the GN, the Stellar has a range of very simple on the fly adjustments but a huge benefit is the custom setting from 1-1K ohm. It also comes with a remote control which is great fun for lazy fat blokes like me!

 

My observations:

 

New Order 2020 re-release of Power Corruption and Lies - (200ohm) it was like being in the studio with them. I could hear the echo of individual instruments on some tracks I had not heard on the GN.

 

Midnight Oil 1979 original release self titled - (100ohm) "Bus to Bondi", Hirst's drums sound so real, Garrett's voice has a an urgency I'd not noticed prior. "Koala Sprint", choppers at the start are amazing as again are Hirst's drumming. Very black blacks as they say.

 

Clouds 1991 Penny Century (200ohm) - I love this band and album.  It really comes alive. Separation of instruments and crystal clear tones of Jodie and Trish are amazing. 

 

Diane Krall - live in Paris 2016. Well, it sounds live. The sweet spot was loading at just under 500ohm. Beautiful.

 

I could go on but the same themes flow through - dead quiet background even on some teenaged owned vinyl I have had forever (just adjust the loading), a sound stage wider than my mother-in law's jeans and feeling of just simply being "real" sounding.

 

I love it.

 

20201213_154526_resized.thumb.jpg.90d94269bb00934a25bf8cc82e4ccc9d.jpg

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Nice review Rod, glad you are happy with the purchase. I agree that the PS Audio products can look a bit mundane sometimes, but they certainly are high quality and produce the goods, which is what it all about in the end.

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  • 2 months later...

I recently took the plunge on one of these.  Without going into details, have any other owners also experienced the 'remote control' issue?  Possible production batch issue.

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20 minutes ago, morty88 said:

I recently took the plunge on one of these.  Without going into details, have any other owners also experienced the 'remote control' issue?  Possible production batch issue.

I spent months with intermittent issues with the remote, got a replacement and no issues since.

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12 hours ago, awayward said:

I spent months with intermittent issues with the remote, got a replacement and no issues since.

Good to know.  I'm on my second unit - the first one had the 'remote issue' but swapping the remote for a new one didn't resolve it, so it must've been an IR receiver issue.  Replacement unit has the same problem but I haven't yet done a remote-swap for that one so will do that again to see if it resolves it for this unit.

Definitely not something at my end because I've also used a demo unit from my most-gracious hifi dealer with no issues, who is handling all this in the most-excellent customer-service manner as they usually do.  So no complaints; I know it will get resolved, curious however how systemic the issue is which may indicate a IR-remote and receiver supply-chain production issue.

The process has reinforced why I think it is crucial to go through one's bricks and mortar local dealer!

Edited by morty88
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7 hours ago, Smp said:

 Do you mind telling us what the remote control issue is?

I will once it is resolved and I'm satisfied that there isn't a systemic manufacturing issue potentially affecting all units, some worse than others.  The Aussie distributor of PS Audio is aware of it, so all dealers should be too.  I'll be asking for a written explanation and assurance from PS Audio themselves, so I don't want to pre-empt that.  In the meantime, anyone else that is experiencing it - PM me.

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  • 1 month later...

Just got mine today from @Geoff@HeyNow Hi-Fi at this stage I can't get the remote to do anything which is a bummer as I at least need to get it to move from MM to MC mode.  I'm sure it'll be sorted out and I'll just  keep hitting that MM/MC button in hope of at least being able to use it! ?

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As an interesting aside testing the remote across the devices in my house I've found the MUTE button on the PS Audio remote works everytime to bring up a settings menu on my LG TV.  I can't seem to get the reverse to happen with the Stellar though, which makes me think the issue is with the IR receiver and not IR transmitter.

Edited by MrZoo
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Just a follow up.  The Distributor has got a new unit on it's way, and did mention they had seen this before. They are going to unbox and do a test prior to sending as they did mention it was the second one from this most recent batch with this issue. Appreciate that these things happen and  I'm very happy with the customer service and support from the Distibutor.  Looking for getting this into my system.,

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