Get ready to upgrade over receiver sound quality

I review many integrated amplifiers and receivers, but it’s been ages since I covered a matching preamp and power amplifier. So when I was offered the PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell DAC stereo preamp ($1,699, £1,700) and Stellar S300 power amp ($1,499, £1,500), I quickly accepted. They’re available in silver or black finishes, both feel substantially built, and they’re designed and assembled in PS Audio’s factory in Boulder, Colorado. The company’s roots in American high-end audio date back to 1973!

The PS Audio Gain Cell DAC.


PS Audio

The Gain Cell DAC’s front panel may be a model of simplicity, but it still offers the user a number of options: phase invert, digital filters, preset maximum speaker volume, preset maximum headphone volume and more. Analog connectivity runs to one stereo XLR input, three stereo RCA inputs, stereo RCA and XLR outputs, and a 6.3mm headphone jack on the front panel. Digital audio connectivity includes one optical, one coaxial and one USB connector, as well as an unusual one called I2S that looks like a HDMI connector, but it’s strictly a digital audio connector. The Gain Cell DAC handles high-res PCM files up to 384 kHz, and standard and double rate DSD files.

The S300 is a hybrid Class A/Class D design that delivers 140 watts per channel for 8 ohm speakers, 300 watts per channel for 4 ohm speakers, and PS Audio claims the amp is stable when wired into 2 ohm loads. Those numbers are impressive, the S300 easily able to drive the most demanding speakers without strain. The amp has stereo RCA and XLR inputs and two pairs of heavy-duty speaker cable binding posts.

The PS Audio S300.


PS Audio

PS Audio claims the Gain Cell DAC…

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