With the new Stellar Gain Cell DAC, S300 stereo power amplifier, and M700 mono blocks, PS Audio is serving notice that the sub-$3,000 USD high-fidelity market is in for some serious competition from Paul McGowan, and the crew in Boulder, Colorado.
The trio of new products recently posted to the company’s website have a very low profile, in the audio world, in physical appearance, and in price ($1,699 USD for the DAC, $1,499 USD for the S300, and $2,998 USD for a pair of mono blocks) but are no lightweights with each component weighing in at a healthy 27 lbs. So expect the same attention to detail in construction here as in the rest of the company’s products.
The DAC is based on the Sabre 32-bit Hyperstream architecture, and designed by PS chief engineer Bob Stadtherr (the man credited with the Digital Lens, and Power Plants). The pre-amp section of the Stellar features multiple power supplies, a Class-A analog output stage that is fully-balanced, and direct-coupled (no capacitors). The DAC supports asynchronous USB, handles DSD, and the PCM-audio standard interface of I²S. The output level of the DAC is under the control of a unique volume controller that PS originally developed in the 2000’s, and has named the analog Gain Cell. The S300, and M700 feature a similar input stages as well, there it is dubbed the Analog Cell, which the company credits for all three products ability to reproduce:
“… music filled with rich textures and toe-tapping energy [to] surprise and delight even the most critical Audiophile.”
According to the PS Audio website:
“… the Gain Cell elegantly solves the fundamental problem facing pre-amp designers: Volume control. Nearly all analog pre-amplifiers use additional sonically-degrading elements inserted in the signal path to control volume. These impediments to the signal path’s purity range from simple potentiometers to exotic stepped attenuators, relays, solid state switches, ladder networks, transformers, and light dependent resistors. All share intrusive elements in the signal path. The Gain Cell eliminates this problem without additional circuitry in the signal path by varying its gain in response to front panel controls.”
Differing from the Gain Cell, is the brand new circuit architecture of the S300, and M700’s Analog Cell:
“The Analog Cell is the heart of the S300/M700’s musicality: where richly overlaid layers of music’s inner details are preserved even in the most complex orchestral crescendos. The Analog Cell is a proprietary, fully-differential, zero-feedback, discrete, Class-A MOSFET circuit, hand-tuned to capture the smallest micro dynamics without sacrificing the loudest macro dynamics music has to offer.”
According to PS Audio the major challenges to developing the Stellar line were the twin design imperatives of affordable pricing, and uncompromising sonic quality. The price is definitely there, and while I’ve yet to hear any of the components in question, if they sound anything like PS Audio’s other products, these could be a new benchmark in their class.