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PS Audio Stellar Strata

£3,000.00

The Stellar™ Strata™ combines the benefits of an exceptional analog preamplifier, a full-featured state-of-the-art DAC, a stereo 150 watt per channel power amplifier, and a high-resolution streaming module in one gorgeous package. Just add speakers.

 

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Description

Have your own source? No problem. Strata offers 3 analog and 5 digital inputs to connect whatever source you need. Strata’s fully balanced analog preamplifier circuitry, state-of-the-art DAC, no compromise high-definition streamer, and Analog Cell™ based power amplifier create an extraordinarily rich, full-bodied musical experience few products can match. The Stellar Strata is the perfect foundation for those unwilling to compromise sound quality. Rich. Lush. Powerful. A music lover’s answer to spiraling cost-no-object equipment without sacrifice.

The idea of combining a cutting edge DAC, full-featured analog preamplifier, high-definition streaming module, and a robust 150 watt per channel power amplifier was the basis of the Stellar Strata™ design imperative. We wanted an easy, simple, no-compromise musical experience whether streaming high-resolution audio from Tidal or Qobuz, exploring the millions of choices on Spotify, or plugging into a Stellar Phono. “Just add speakers” became engineering’s rallying cry. Strata holds true to its promise of easy connectivity. Download the PS Connect app onto your mobile device, point Strata to your home WIFI network, connect your speakers or headphones, and music filled with the rich textures and toe-tapping energy you’ve always hoped for will delight even the most critical music lover.

Audiophiles have long recognized the challenge of interconnecting multiple systems into a single synergistic musical experience. Interconnect choices, power supply options, and chassis isolation requirements all play into the building of a truly musical system—get any one part wrong and the system performance is compromised. Not so with Stellar Strata. The chance for PS Engineering to optimize the audio synergy between Strata’s four separate systems was immediately appealing: eliminate the variability of interconnection issues, voice the entire system as one component, optimize power supplies, control every aspect of sound quality up to the speakers.

At this instrument’s heart is the analog GainCell™. Developed by PS Audio founder Paul McGowan, the Gain Cell™ elegantly solves the fundamental problem facing preamp designers. Volume control. Nearly all analog preamplifiers use additional sonically-degrading elements inserted in the signal path to control volume. The Gain Cell eliminates this problem without additional circuitry in the signal path by varying its gain in response to front panel controls.

Integrated into this analog preamplifier is a stunning, Bob Stadtherr designed, Darren Myer’s voiced, DAC. Based on industry-leading Sabre32 bit Hyperstream architecture, Strata relies upon a fully balanced Class A analog output stage with multiple power supplies, independent jitter-reduced inputs, DSD, I2S, and asynchronous USB.

Once the high definition streaming module or connected source has passed through the Class A analog preamplifier, it’s time to connect to your speakers. Here, engineer Darren Myers used the Analog Cellwhere he could lavish upon the music the sweet, tube-like quality of Class A biased MOSFETs. Combined with the ruler flat high linearity of Strata’s high current output stage, richly overlayed layers of music’s inner details are preserved even in the most complex orchestral crescendos.

There’s nothing like Strata when it comes to musicality. It’s an all-in-one high-resolution audio solution just waiting for you to connect your speakers. Bring it on!

This product qualifies for our risk free in-home trial in the continental United States when purchased directly from PS Audio. And, trade in and save. Let us repurchase your old equipment at its full and original retail price. We’ll give it a good home and make sure you have the best power in the world. Just click the green Trade Up and Save button above these words to take advantage.

Specifications

Physical
Unit Weight
9.5 kg
Unit Dimensions
43.2 x 30.5 x 7.6cm
Shipping Weight
11.3 kg
Shipping Dimensions
58.4 x 45.7 x 22.9cm
Power requirements
Input Power
230VAC 50 Hz
Power Consumption
20W idle 50W typical 600W Maximum
Mains Power Input
IEC C14
Fuse
T250V-250mAH (1/4A Slow Blow)
Accessories included
Remote Control Line cord(s) US (NEMA 5-15P) (all versions), UK (BS1363) (230V version)
Analog inputs
RCA
3 stereo pair
XLR
1 stereo pair
Digital audio inputs
I2S
1 PCM (384KHz max) DSD64 DSD128 Compatible with DirectStream Transport SACD handshake for DSD playback
Coax
2 PCM (192KHz max)
Optical
1 PCM (96KHz max)
USB
PCM (384KHz max) DSD64 (DoP) DSD128 (DoP)
Ethernet
Wired, 10/100MBPS 1 WIFI, 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n UPnP, Spotify Connect
Format
PCM, DSD
Analog Audio Outputs
RCA
(Analog Unbalanced) 1 stereo pair
Headphones
One 1/4" headphone connector
Speakers
Binding Posts
Analog Performance
Gain
12dB +/-0.5dB
Maximum output
20 Vrms
Sensitivity
5.3Vrms
Input Impedance
47KΩ single ended RCA 100KΩ Balanced XLR
Output Impedance
100Ω single ended RCA 200Ω balanced XLR
Frequency Response
20Hz – 20KHz +0/- 0.25dB 10Hz – 100KHz +0.1/-3.0dB
Noise
20-20KHz <-90dBV
S/N Ratio
1KHz >110dB (max output)
Channel separation
1KHz >90dB
Input separation
1KHz >90dB
THD&IM
1KHz < 0.025% 20-20KHz < 0.05%
Headphone performance
Output power @1% THD
300Ω 300mW 16Ω 3.25W
S/N Ratio 1kHz Noise
>95dB (max output) <-80dBV
THD & IM 1Vrms out
300Ω <0.05% 16Ω <0.06%
Output impedance
<4 Ω
Power Amplifier Performance
Gain (relative to line output)
30.5dB
Output Power
8Ω, 1KHz, 1% 120W typical, 100W minimum
Output Power
4Ω, 1KHz, 1% 150W typical
Frequency Response
+/-1dB 20Hz – 20KHz -3dB 7Hz – 40KHz
THD+N
1KHz, 10W/4Ω 0.02%
IMD
18/19KHz -65dB
Speaker Impedance
4Ω minimum
Output Impedance
50Hz 150 mΩ typical
Sensitivity
@76 1.6VRMS @100 400m VRMS
Channel Separation
1KHz >90dB
Features
Input Selection
9 total, 3 analog, 6 digital
PS Connect Streaming via free IOS or Android app
High resolution up to 192kHz Tidal Qobuz Spotify Napster iHeart Radio Music Shares on local network DLNA sources
Volume Control
0-100 (1/2 and 1dB steps, 80dB total range)
Balance Control
12dB each direction in 1/4dB steps
Home Theater Mode
Assignable to any analog input Adjustable (in setup) to any level
Polarity (phase) Control
Digital sources only
Filter Control
3 selectable digital filters (PCM digital sources only)
Trigger output
(3.5mm 5-15VDC) 2
Remote Control
Yes. Infra Red
Network Connectivity
Ethernet or WiFi built in to Strata

Stellar Strata represents our finest all-in-one music component. Strata combines a state of the art analog preamplifier, Digital to Analog Converter, 200 watt per channel power amplifier, and high definition streaming services into one, gorgeous package.

Just add speakers. From day one of Strata’s development cycle, the engineers at PS Audio set out to craft a no-compromise all-in-one music reproduction system that was simple to use and breathtaking to hear. Connect to your home’s WiFi network, download the PS Connect App, and choose from millions of tracks available on Tidal, Qobuz, or Spotify.

Strata can stream high-resolution audio, or connect to any digital or analog source you wish. With its many digital and analog inputs, Strata is ready to rock!

All the features and functions you’d ever want in an analog preamplifier and modern DAC are right here in Strata. A zero-loss, fully balanced, pure, analog signal path combined with DAC features rarely found at any price level: pure DSD, asynchronous USB, Digital Lens technology, I²S to connect to our best transport, balanced throughout. Replace your preamplifier, your DAC, your power amplifier, and be stunned at the level of improvement when the full and rich tapestry of music surprises and delights your senses.

The preamp

At the heart of Strata is its analog preamplifier section: the GainCell™. Invented in the early 2000s by PS Audio founder, Paul McGowan, this unique approach to variable gain amplification eliminates a classic audio performance problem caused by the volume control.

All preamplifiers must provide a means for the level to be turned up or down and all have something in common. They are elements inserted in the signal path that degrade the musical signal.

The GainCell solves the problem

Instead of inserting an additional level control in the signal path, the PS Audio Gain Cell relies on a different technology known as a variable gain amplifier.

The idea behind the GainCell is simple. Instead of adding additional circuitry to the signal path to vary loudness, the preamplifier’s actual amplifier stage varies its gain in response to the user’s front panel volume control. This method requires zero additional circuitry in the signal path, offers more than 80dB of attenuation, and if designed properly performs to the equal of high-end preamplifiers.

100% analog

Strata has 100% analog input switching so users can select what they listen to without ever leaving the analog domain. Strata’s variable gain amplifier solves the problem of signal degradation from additional circuitry to control volume. Together, these pure analog technologies honor the signals passed through them, whether they’re from Strata’s internal DAC, streaming module, or an external phono stage, nothing in the music is sacrificed or lost. Music’s preserved in all its rich glory.

Rich, powerful, analog headphone amplifier

For those into headphones (and who isn’t?), Strata offers an exceptional sounding and powerful analog headphone amplifier on the front panel. Strata will automatically mute its main outputs when a headphone is plugged in and the listener can enjoy all that’s great with a high-performance set of headphones. This is music reproduced at its finest.

The DAC and Streamer

The Digital To Analog Converter and high-resolution streaming module inside Strata will transform your expectations of what’s possible.

The DAC inside Strata produces a seamless 3D soundstage from even normal CDs. Labored over by its chief architect, Bob Stadtherr, and hand-tuned and voiced by Darren Myers, the improvement in sound quality over other DACs can be a revelation. The Strata DAC accepts inputs from any digital source including I²S, USB, TOSLINK, or Strata’s internal high-definition streaming module and outputs directly through Strata’s powerful amplifier directly to your loudspeakers.

Used with PS Audio’s Connect mobile app, available for IOS or Android, or music server software like JRiver, Bit Perfect, Amarra or Pure Music, Strata becomes your entry into the world of high-end digital audio music, both PCM and DSD. Performance is superb at anywhere near the price and there are good reasons why.

Digital Lens inside

All digital input signals are taken into Strata in Native Mode without Sample Rate Conversion (SRC) and fed directly into a simplified FPGA known as a CPLD (Complex Programmable Logic Device), which discovers sample rate and format, reclocks all incoming data, reduces jitter, waveshapes data output to the DAC chip, and utilizes high speed/low gate count logic to reduce propagation delay for faster throughput. This proprietary technology is called the Digital Lens.

The DAC chip itself is based around the acclaimed 32-bit ESS Sabre Hyperstream architecture, the output of which is passively filtered to reduce transient distortion.

Strata DAC’s output stage is a proprietary Class-A configuration, fully balanced and direct-coupled hybrid array with an extended bandwidth of 60 kHz.

I²S input

I²S is the native format of all CD transports and many servers. I²S features a separate clock and data signal from the source. Typically, this clock and data signal are multiplexed together to be transmitted over a single cable in a format known as S/PDIF (Sony Philips Digital Interface), or AES/EBU (Audio Engineering Society/European Broadcast Union). Once received in multiplexed form, the DAC input must untangle the clock and data and once again separate them. I²S solves the problems associated with unraveling data of S/PDIF and AES/EBU formats.

Strata’s I²S inputs are compatible with our DirectStream Transport and allows full access to the master quality levels found on the locked SACD layer of SACD discs. Only PS Audio DACs, such as DirectStream, and now Strata, are authorized to play the pure DSD layer in all of its glory.

Choice of digital filters

Strata offers the choice of three digital filters for users to select from. Each digital filter has a different sonic character and the choice of filters offers an excellent means of improving system synergy. No filter choice is wrong or right. Instead, each filter can be selected and auditioned by the user to more perfectly match their chosen collection of the amplifier, source, and loudspeaker, as well as personal tastes and biases.

Users can relax and use the supplied remote control to audition each of the three filter choices for best audio quality matching the system it is played on. Should users upgrade their amplifier, speaker or sources at some point, Strata is there to help maximize performance.

Built-in streaming

Unique to Strata is PS Audio’s newest module, PS Connect. Used in conjunction with the PS Audio Connect app, available on IOS and Android devices, Strata owners can launch into the world of high-resolution streaming. Media with sample rates of up to 96kHz can be streamed directly into Strata’s internal Digital Lens to reduce jitter and improve streaming performance as never before.

PS Connect can stream from popular services such as Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, Napster, and iHeart Radio, as well as any DLNA source on the home’s local network.

Connection to the home network is easy through Strata’s built-in WiFi or Ethernet connection.

The Power Amp

The power amplifier plays a critical role in more than just delivering enough power for your speakers. It is an essential component in preserving music’s nuanced details such as overtones from plucked instruments, subtle cues defining placement, depth, soundstage width, and transient decays.

The power amplifier inside Strata loses nothing. Engineer’s Bob Stadtherr and Darren Myers were obsessed with providing a power output stage that could handle any speaker connected to it while lavishing great attention on even the tiniest nuances in the music.

The 150 watt per channel power amplifier inside Strata captures the rich full-bodied essence of recorded music and presents it to your loudspeakers with authority and grace—with never a hint of glare or unnaturalness.

The Analog Cell makes all the difference
The connection between preamplifier and power amplifier is critical, for it is at this junction where most essential musical details are easily lost. Nothing in the design of a power amplifier is more important than its input stage when preserving music’s finest nuances. In Strata, a proven topology called the Analog Cell has been employed to preserve the rich details found in music.

The Analog Cell closely mirrors the warm sonic characteristics of a vacuum tube while maintaining the power and control of the best solid-state amps. The listening experience with Strata starts feet tapping and smiles breaking out.

Strata’s perfected internal connections between preamplifier, Analog Cell, and power amplification stage eliminate the problems normally associated with interconnects and maximizes synergy between internal systems. The sonic benefits of synergy must be heard. Strata’s preservation of the smallest details in reverb, room acoustics, musical overtones; its commanding presence without intrusion; it’s delicate handling of subtle shadings; its authority as it grabs hold of the loudspeaker and breezes through even the most complex musical passages is a joy to be experienced.

Strata’s power amplification stage provides excellent frequency extremes, low distortion, high efficiency, high damping factor, and a generous and powerful output of 200 Watts into the most common loudspeaker loads of 4Ω. Sufficient horsepower for demanding loudspeakers.

Strata has it all. Connectivity, control, power enough for any loudspeaker.

Reviews

Secrets Home Theater Hi Fidelity
Yongki Go
I was quite impressed by the clarity, details, and naturality of the music I listened to.

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Power well beyond my needs
rgcjr60
The sound is razor sharp. Power well beyond my needs (never thought I ever say that about anything) And the soundstage… Now my speakers (Klipsch Forte III’s) just seem to sit on either side of my bookcase lifeless while all the sound is clearly coming from my bookcase. Different books even.

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A feeling of effortless acceleration
pdxdon
More listening notes, now in the downstairs system with Focal Electra 1028BEs and fed by my DSD and innuous.
Sounds pretty glorious to me, given good source material from Quobuz. There is a feeling of effortless acceleration, like riding a very lightweight bicycle or the automotive equivalent. Swells sound natural. Another manifestation of this is a lightness of touch, in a pianistic sense.
If you have to downsize. from a lot of boxes and stuff, the Strata makes a lot of sense, without the need to feel like you are sacrificing a lot. It also works well aesthetically in a rack of other PS gear.
I am a happy guy.

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Controlled bass, less mushed together
yann.pigeaire
Strata actually seemed a little less bassy but in fact it was more airy, controlled bass, less mushed together. There was more space and you can tell that we were in a church. From a bass standpoint, different but a tie. The Strata gives a much better impression of being in a church (reverb?). Also, I noticed a shocking difference. I was suddenly hearing all the clicking and clacking of the organ pedals. I had never heard that before. I then heard it (less) on the Exposure/Schiit but only because Strata had revealed it to me.

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Reach out and touch the singer
BPfister
The sound is great. Some songs are so realistic you feel like you can reach out and touch the singer.

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