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Help me correct my error! Bought PS Audio Stellar Gain DAC

MarcT

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#1
Hi all, brand new here, but I've been reading a fair amount here about DACs on the forum here. I am a complete neophyte with regard to DACs/servers/streamers, etc. I bought a Stellar Gain Cell DAC before I knew anything much about DACS or even knew of this site. It seemed like a good option because I have a family room system for music and movies, so I needed this type of product because of the home theater bypass feature.

I started out here reading the review of the PS Audio Directsream DAC, and now I've read the review of the Stellar Gain Cell DAC. The testing measurements don't look good at all. I play music from my laptop to the DAC via a USB cable. When using the PS Audio's DAC function, it sounds pretty good on quiet and simple music, but when the music gets more complex and louder, something just doesn't sound right. Hard to describe it, but I might describe it as "hashy". In some ways, my Denon AVR-X5200 AVR sounds better, although perhaps not quite as dynamic. I have the PS Audio connected to my Krell FPB 400cx power amp by Wireworld XLR cables.

My question would be, does anyone know of a similar type of product that actually has great DAC and pre-amp performance? It would need home theater bypass and at least a couple of stereo analog inputs. I would like it to be balanced and have XLR outputs, since my Krell power amp has only XLR inputs on it. Thanks for any advice!
 

murraycamp

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#2
Consider a miniDSP SHD. No HT bypass as such but I run my AVR through it at unity gain and it works fine.
 

Thomas savage

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#5
Just make sure whatever you replace it with you have the option of sending it back as there could be other reasons for this.

I find it hard to believe this issue if it actually exist is due to your DAC. Did we find indicators of this in the measurements?

I see there's a chance of you spending a heap of cash and not gaining any real world performance increase here.
 

Soniclife

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#7
In some ways, my Denon AVR-X5200 AVR sounds better, although perhaps not quite as dynamic.
Is that with it going through the PS audio? Initial suggestion might be to take it out and not replace it, just use the Denon direct into your amp.
 

Blumlein 88

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#8
If you've not had your PS audio gear long, return it as a dissatisfied customer. Though being honest it basically met claimed specs. It just didn't claim to have specs that were very impressive.
 
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MarcT

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Thread Starter #10
Did you have that opinion before reading the review here?
Yep. Part of my concern about the PS Audio came when I compared it with my Denon AVR. By connecting the laptop to the AVR with a HDMI cable, I was able to play the same music directly to the AVR. The laptop recognized the AVR and I was able to set the laptop's output resolution to 24/192. This did result in the use of the HT bypass feature of the PS Audio DAC. So, that means there was an extra set of interconnect cables involved.

When playing through the Denon, the music just seemed more enjoyable to listen to and more "musical". Again, I cannot explain it very well. The problem with that setup was that the HDMI connection was really glitchy and takes a while to sync every time I turned on the AVR, just kind of a hassle.
 
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MarcT

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Thread Starter #11
Is that with it going through the PS audio? Initial suggestion might be to take it out and not replace it, just use the Denon direct into your amp.
Yes, that is the way I had the Denon connected before I got the PS Audio. I thought, surely the PS Audio would have a better DAC than the Denon AVR. So, I got the PS Audio and made use of the HT bypass feature for Blu-ray movies.
 
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MarcT

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Thread Starter #12
If you've not had your PS audio gear long, return it as a dissatisfied customer. Though being honest it basically met claimed specs. It just didn't claim to have specs that were very impressive.
Thanks much. Yeah, I did not buy it direct from PS Audio, so I don't know if they would do that.
 

waynel

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#13
The Benchmark DAC3 HGC can do just about everything that the Stellar GCD can do (assuming you are ok with unbalanced line in from your receiver for HT mode) and has excellent measured performance.
 

Blumlein 88

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#14
Thanks much. Yeah, I did not buy it direct from PS Audio, so I don't know if they would do that.
If you purchased it new from an authorized seller I'd think it makes no difference.

If you purchased it 2nd hand, then resale it for more or less the price you paid and move on.
 

garbulky

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#15
@amirm

Though the PS Audio has a relatively high SINAD of 70 which maybe in some very rare instances may be able to be heard, I doubt this is what is causing any "harshness" in treble. I doubt I could hear an SNR of 70. It has also has excellent flat frequency response. Hardly the reason for "harshness". And an SNR of 104-108 db.

I highly doubt the sound issue will be fixed by buying another expensive dac. Most problems indicate the room or speakers or perhaps poor quality amplifiers. Maybe better speakers, room treatment, better speaker placement would be the solution. The recommendations should be to fix more obvious issues than focusing on very minor things.
What speakers and amps do you use? Do you have a picture of your listening room?
 
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MarcT

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Thread Starter #16
@amirm

Though the PS Audio has a relatively high SINAD of 70 which maybe in some very rare instances may be able to be heard, I doubt this is what is causing any "harshness" in treble. I doubt I could hear an SNR of 70. It has also has excellent flat frequency response. Hardly the reason for "harshness". And an SNR of 104-108 db.

I highly doubt the sound issue will be fixed by buying another expensive dac. Most problems indicate the room or speakers or perhaps poor quality amplifiers. Maybe better speakers, room treatment, better speaker placement would be the solution. The recommendations should be to fix more obvious issues than focusing on very minor things.
What speakers and amps do you use? Do you have a picture of your listening room?
Thanks for the good advice. No point spending more money that won't make an audible improvement. As I posted above, the power amp is a Krell FPB 400cx. The speakers are Legacy Audio Signature II, which are admittedly quite old, from the 1990s.

Now, I did not say the sound was "harsh" in the treble, but rather I described it as "hashy" when the music gets more complex. IOW, sort of jumbled, with instruments and voices less defined. I suppose it could be room reflections.

I am going to try the Filter 3 option on the DAC because that is the option that amirm suggested in his review. I have been using the filter 1 option.
 
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MarcT

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Thread Starter #19
The benchmark dac3 HGC and dac3L have a home theatre bypass.
Looks good. They say it can drive a power amp, but how well will it drive a power amp, compared to an actual pre-amp?
 

waynel

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#20
Looks good. They say it can drive a power amp, but how well will it drive a power amp, compared to an actual pre-amp?
Better than almost all “actual” preamps. This thing has higher output, lower distortion, and lower noise than than almost all preamps.
 
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