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PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell Preamplifier

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Quick Overview

Stellar Gain Cell Preamplifier with built in DAC. A redefined and improved NuWave DSD and a Gain Cell analog preamplifier in one chassis.

Think of the Stellar Gain Cell preamplifier as a complete analog control center with an exceptional performing DAC at its heart.

PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell Preamplifier

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What happens when you take a highly respected, cutting edge DAC, like our own NuWave DSD, and connect it to your power amplifier through an analog preamp? Audio nirvana.

It turns out that a great analog preamp preserves a DAC’s magic. Together, DAC and preamp form a new class of product whose sum is greater than its parts.

All the features and functions you’d ever want in a DAC are right here in Stellar. Pure DSD, asynchronous USB, Digital Lens technology, I²S to connect to our best transport, balanced throughout, analog volume control. Replace your preamplifier, your DAC—or both—and be stunned at the level of improvement when the full and rich tapestry of music surprises and delights your senses.

In the more than forty years of PS Audio’s design innovations and breakthrough products, Stellar’s groundbreaking level of performance as our gateway standalone DAC and preamplifier is unmatched for price and performance by their standalone competitors. Taken together, we’re willing to bet you’ve never heard anything quite this good at anywhere even remotely close to this price.


The Gain Cell DAC will transform your expectations of what’s possible in an under $2,000 DAC. Based on an improved version of our NuWave DSD, the performance of the Gain Cell DAC is unparalleled in this price category, or anywhere near.

The Gain Cell DAC produces a seamless 3D soundstage from even normal CDs. Labored over by its chief architect, Bob Stadtherr, and hand-tuned and voiced by Paul McGowan and Darren Myers, the improvement in sound quality over other DACs is astonishing. The Gain Cell DAC accepts inputs from any digital source including I²S and USB from your computer and outputs directly through Stellar’s analog Gain Cell preamplifier with either single ended (RCA) or balanced (XLR) connections.

The Preamp

At the heart of The Gain Cell DAC’s analog preamplifier section is 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. The 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.

Additional Information

Dimensions (mm) 432 x 305 x 76
Weight (kg) 6.12

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