PS Audio Stellar Phono Preamplifier

hfnoutstandingForty-five years after the launch of its inaugural phono preamp, PS Audio launches another, this time in Stellar guise, and with the emphasis on flexibility with convenience

Large by phono preamp standards, PS Audio's Stellar Phono is built into the same full-width silver grey or black chassis as its partners in the new Stellar range [HFN Jan '20]. Nevertheless, it's also considerably heavier at a full 10kg because the casework here is steel, not alloy, perhaps in an effort to improve screening. Having asked PS Audio, it seems likely that all Stellars will move from alloy to steel enclosures in time.

According to the company, the Stellar range has been designed to provide a taste of the 'high end' without the price tags associated with its more costly offerings. Nevertheless, as this is the only phono stage that PS Audio offers, it is clearly intended for use with both its flagship and Stellar components.

Regardless of casework, the £2500 Stellar Phono with its separate MM and MC inputs and versatile loading and gain options is geared less towards the casual vinyl listener who is merely dabbling because vinyl is hip and cool again. This product is for those who are heavily committed to the black stuff, whose life has been spent collecting it, loving it, indexing it and playing it. So if that sounds like you, but neither are you willing to forgo flexibility, then the Stellar Phono may well tick all your boxes.

Fun On The Fly
Across the front of the two-piece case runs a recessed groove that widens as it nears the right of the fascia to house a panel populated with LEDs. These indicate a variety of parameters, all user-configurable, with the selections displayed by LEDs located beside four white legends that cover the basics: Mute, Input, Gain and Loading. No physical controls are to be found on the fascia apart from the power/standby switch, which illuminates in blue with the PS Audio logo when the Stellar Phono is powered up.


Connectivity is comprehensive, the rear panel offering two sets of L/R outputs – one balanced via XLR sockets, and a second on conventional gold-plated RCA phonos. The inputs, meanwhile, comprise two sets of L/R phono sockets, one each for MM and MC cartridges. As for the phono stage parameters, these are all selectable via the remote control and, for the audiophile, this is where the fun really starts.

To begin with, while MM cartridges are accommodated at the standard 47kohm setting, the Stellar Phono also allows the user to change MC cartridge loading between 47, 60, 100 and 200ohm. Then there are six gain settings, designed to suit pick-ups from low-output MCs to high output MMs . For MM, settings of +44/50/56dB are provided while +60/66/72dB options are available for MC. Given that a change in cartridge loading often produces subtle changes in sound, the benefit of remote control is that you can make adjustments on the fly while listening to music from the hot seat. What's more, the remote handset also permits switching between the MM and MC inputs. So if you're a vinylista with two decks, or have one deck with two arms, you can switch between them in real time.

Time To Kill
The final, and largest, button on the remote handset is marked 'Mute' which, unsurprisingly, kills the sound when pressed. This proves useful when cueing tracks mid-disc, as your ears won't be assaulted with a sudden and unwanted blast of sound should you lower the pick-up too far along the groove from the beginning of a piece of music. Or accidentally drop it with a thump...

In addition to the standard settings, there is a facility on the rear of the Stellar Phono to dial-up a custom MC load value between 1-1000ohm via two small, roughly calibrated trim pots (for left and right channels). While this extra flexibility is most welcome, it is difficult to reach the trim pots when the unit is sited in a component rack. Also, to balance the loading on each channel accurately, one would need to employ a multimeter on the MC inputs. Perhaps PS Audio felt that rotaries on the unit's front would detract from the minimalist design aesthetic.

PS Audio
Boulder, Colorado
Supplied by: Signature Audio Systems
07738 007776