PS Audio is known for its innovative, and in the case of the Stellar DAC and Power Amps, reasonably priced hi-fi separates. Led by their CEO and Founder Paul McGowan (check out his video below), they’ve spent many years championing the advantages of separate amps, preamps, and phono preamps. Alas, times changes, and it seems like the siren call of the “just add speakers” trend has reached their halls in Boulder, Colorado.
The fruit of their shift towards the “all in one” component is the $2999 Stellar Strata Integrated Amplifier, an impressive looking piece of gear that incorporates a DAC, analog preamp, high-definition streaming module, and power amplifier that provides a minimum of 100W per channel into 8 ohms (They claim 120W typical into 8 Ohms and 150W typical into 4 Ohms, but unfortunately not full-range specs). The idea of putting all of the highly-regarded Stellar components in a single Stellar enclosure is an interesting proposition, especially when you add in a network streamer. They also claim an excellent Class A Headphone Amp.
In the Strata, we see some of the ideas pushed forward in the Stellar Gain Cell DAC, including the Gain Cell analog preamp architecture and the DAC section based around an ESS DAC chip. The amp section brings in the Class A Analog Cell used in the Stellar Power amps.
The built-in network streamer with app-based control (brings DLNA, TIDAL, Spotify, etc.) adds an extra dimension to the Stellar formula. Being primarily a digital guy, this is an element I’m very interested in. So far, with the Cambridge Audio CXN V2 DAC/Streamer connected to the Strata’s DAC, I’ve heard some good things, especially in the areas of natural texture, depth, and separation, but I have a lot more testing to do. Please sign up for our email list at the top of the page to get an update when the full review is published.
1. The Stellar Strata looks a lot like its sibling, the PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell DAC.
2. This is the Strata’s LED Screen. Note the Wi-Fi symbol in the upper left corner. Not hooked up yet.
3. Check out the rear panel, note the balanced inputs, wired networking connection, USB input, and Wireless Antenna at the top.
4. Digital Inputs. I almost forgot about the i2s HDMI input, supposed to be the best for DSD.
5. Analog Inputs. Can you find the Home Theatre Bypass Input?
6. Speaker Outputs. Very robust 5-Way Binding Posts.
7. Same remote as the Stellar Gain Cell DAC.
I’m an audio writer who started as a young audio salesman/consumer electronics professional back in the late 90s. That’s where I discovered the magic of 2-Channel sound. My thirst for great sound has led me on a delightful music quest that continues today.