PS Audio stellar Gain Cell PreAmplifier:
The idea of building a no-loss analog preamplifier with its own built-in cutting edge DAC was the basis of the Stellar Gain Cell™ design imperative. Add any analog or digital source to Stellar’s input, a power amp and speakers to its output, and music filled with rich textures and toe-tapping energy surprise and delight even the most critical Audiophile.
At this instrument’s heart is the analog Gain Cell™. Developed in the early 2000’s 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. These impediments to the signal path’s purity range from simple potentiometers to exotic stepped attenuators, relays, solid state switches, ladder networks, transformers, 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.
Integrated into this analog preamplifier is a stunning, Bob Stadtherr designed, digital to analog converter. Based on industry-leading Sabre32 bit Hyperstream architecture, Stellar DAC features a fully balanced Class A analog output stage with multiple power supplies, independent jitter-reduced inputs, DSD, I2S, and asynchronous USB.
Together, the Stellar™ Gain Cell preamplifier and DAC make musical magic.
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At the heart of the Stellar Gain Cell is its analog preamplifier section: the Gain Cell. Invented in the early 2000s by PS Audio founder, Paul McGowan, this unique approach to variable gain amplification eliminates a classic problem for preamplifier designers. The volume control.
All preamplifiers must provide a means for the level to be turned up or down. There are numerous methods of accomplishing this seemingly simple task: potentiometers, stepped attenuators, light dependent resistors, transformers, electronic switches, etc. All have something in common. They are inserted in the signal path and degrade the musical signal to varying degrees.
The Gain Cell 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 (Gilbert Cell). This topology was invented in the 1960’s by Howard Jones and Barry Gilbert and widely adopted by recording and mastering studios in their analog heyday—later abandoned when these same studios went digital.
The idea behind the Variable gain cell 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 most high-end preamplifiers.
The Gain Cell DAC has 100% analog input switching so users can select what they listen to without ever leaving the analog domain. The Gain Cell DAC’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 Stellar’s DAC or an external phono stage, nothing in the music is sacrificed or lost. Music’s preserved in all its rich glory.
Stellar’s Gain Cell is balanced from input to output and the sound is rich, full and engaging in ways few preamplifiers can claim. From the quietest micro-dynamics to the loudest macro-dynamic passages, Stellar’s Gain Cell outputs gorgeous music through either its balanced or single ended outputs or its headphone amplifier. Music takes on new life through the Gain Cell.
Rich, powerful, analog headphone amplifier
For those into headphones (and who isn’t?), Stellar Gain Cell offers an exceptional sounding and powerful analog headphone amplifier on the front panel. Stellar Gain Cell 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.