GainCell DAC
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GainCell DAC

GainCell DAC

The Stellar GainCell DAC combines the benefits of an exceptional analog preamplifier and a full-featured DAC. It's affordable excellence.
The analog preamplifier is the heart and soul of any high-performance audio system. It's the point in a system where music's magic can be won or lost. For more than 45 years, PS Audio has been building preamplifiers that honor the music and preserve the magic. The Stellar Gain Cell DAC is no exception. It features fully balanced class A analog circuitry from input to output, along with a state of the art DAC that ensures perfect symmetry between analog and digital. Rediscover the wealth of music in your library, with Stellar. Rich, sweet, and always a musical treat, Stellar GainCell DAC is our best value in bringing life to music.
Regular price $1,899.00 USD
Regular price Sale price $1,899.00 USD
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  • Design

    The idea of building a no-loss analog preamplifier with its own built-in cutting edge DAC was the basis of the Stellar GainCell design imperative. At this instrument's heart is the analog GainCell. Rather than using additional sonically-degrading elements inserted in the signal path to control volume, the GainCell eliminates this problem without additional circuitry in the signal path by varying its gain in response to front panel controls. 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.

  • Application

    The Stellar GainCell DAC is a full function analog preamplifier featuring a state of the art built in Digital to Analog Converter inside. It is all you need as the basis of a reference quality music system. Add a power amplifier and a pair of loudspeakers and you'll be reveling in sonic bliss within moments. Connect a computer, CD player, or digital source to any of Stellar's multiple digital inputs, or a Stellar Phono Preamplifier to its analog ins, and you've just built one of the highest value music systems in the world.


    Think of the Stellar GainCell DAC as a complete analog control center with an exceptional performing DAC at its heart. All the features and functions you’d ever want in an analog preamplifier and modern DAC are right here in Stellar. A zero-loss, fully balanced, pure, analog signal path combined with DAC features rarely found at any price level: pure DSD, asynchronous USB, Digital Lens technology, I²S to connect to our best transport, balanced throughout. 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. Together, or separately, they create an extraordinarily rich, full-bodied musical experience few standalone products can match. The Stellar Gain Cell is the perfect foundation for those unwilling to compromise sound quality. Rich. Lush. Powerful. A music lover’s answer to spiraling cost-no-object equipment without sacrifice. 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.

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    Specifications - Gaincell DAC


    Unit Weight 13.5 lbs [6.1 kg]
    Unit Dimensions 17” x 12” x 3”
    Shipping Weight 17 lbs [7.7 kg]
    Shipping Dimensions 23”x 18” x 9”

    Power requirements

    Input Power Model specific 100VAC, 120VAC, or 230VAC 50 or 60Hz
    Power Consumption 20W
    Mains Power Input IEC C14
    Fuses 100V T250V-2.0AH (2A Slow Blow)
    120V T250V-1.6AH (1.6A Slow Blow)
    230V T250V-1.0AH (1.0A Slow Blow)
    Accessories included US (NEMA 5-15P) (all versions)
    Schuko (CEE7/7) (230V version)
    UK (BS1363) (230V version)

    Analog inputs

    3 stereo pair
    1 stereo pair

    Digital audio inputs

    I2S 1 PCM (384KHz max)
    DSD64 DSD128
    Compatible with DirectStream Transport SACD handshake for DSD playback
    Coax 2 PCM (192KHz max)
    Optical 1 PCM (96KHz max)
    USB PCM (384KHz max)
    DSD64 (DoP) DSD128 (DoP)
    Format PCM, DSD

    Analog Audio Outputs

    (Analog Unbalanced) 1 stereo pair
    (Analog Balanced) 1 stereo pair
    One 1/4" headphone connector front panel

    Analog Performance

    Maximum output
    12dB +/-0.5dB
    20 Vrms
    Input Impedance 47KΩ single ended RCA
    100KΩ Balanced XLR
    Output Impedance 100Ω single ended RCA
    200Ω balanced XLR
    Frequency Response 20Hz – 20KHz +0/- 0.25dB
    10Hz – 100KHz +0.1/-3.0dB
    Noise 20-20KHz <-90dBV
    S/N Ratio 1KHz >110dB (max output)
    Channel separation 1KHz >90dB
    Input separation 1KHz >90dB
    THD&IM 1KHz < 0.025%
    20-20KHz < 0.05%

    Headphone performance

    Output power @1% THD 300Ω 300mW
    16Ω 3.25W
    S/N Ratio 1kHz
    >95dB (max output)
    THD & IM 1Vrms out 300Ω <0.05%
    16Ω <0.06%
    Output impedance <4 Ω


    Volume Control 0-100 (1/2 and 1dB steps, 80dB total range)
    Balance Control 24dB each direction in 1/2dB steps
    Home Theater Mode Assignable to any analog input
    Adjustable (in setup) to any level
    Polarity (phase) Control Digital sources only
    Filter Control 3 selectable digital filters (PCM digital sources only)
    Trigger output (3.5mm 5-15VDC) 2
    Remote Control Yes. Infra Red


    The PS Audio Stellar Preamp and S300 Amplifier are a couple of the most musical components I’ve heard in a long time, especially in solid state, and especially in this price point. What we’re really looking for from our hard-earned dollar is the enjoyment of our music and if this were my current market, I would snatch these two components up in a heartbeat. PS Audio continues to impress me with their products, their service, and their attention to detail. The Stellar Gain Cell DAC has certainly forever changed my viewpoint on what a good DAC can do, and I encourage you to audition this for yourself.
    The Shoestring Audiophile Michael Lawrance
    It matters little how well your DAC recreates the original analog signal, if the analog section isn’t able to pass that signal in a musical way…. The real test for a DAC is its performance with 16/44.1 kHz, so I began with that…. The musicality presented by the combination of the Digital Lens and PS Audio’s analog section was unprecedented, providing a laser flat, neutral tonal balance, with extension deep into the subsonic as well as the ultrasonic. The detail was such that it produced a huge soundstage with the individual instruments portrayed separately in their own space, with their own individual timbre and sense of air. And the musicality was astounding. The PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell DAC works exceptionally well on every front, as a DAC, as a Preamp and as a Headphone Amplifier. It is extremely linear in tonality, almost honeyed in musicality, it is one of the most analog sounding DACs I have listened to. Yet the resolution, even with 44.1 kHz, is so high as to present an epic soundstage. It is extremely forgiving of both hardware and software… yet it can provide world class performance from high resolution files on reference quality Headphones. I believe it to be the pinnacle of what can be achieved with a Chip based DAC, and would label it a reference DAC if not for the fact that PS Audio produces a DAC that they consider to be higher performance. As a Headphone Amplifier you would be hard pressed to find a headphone that could not be driven single ended by the Gain Cell, and I am happy to place it among my favorite solid state amplifiers. All in all, an epic effort and fully deserving of wholehearted recommendation. Gary Alan Barker
    All PS Audio components I’ve encountered (or owned) are incredibly well-built and the Stellar line is no exception. They have a weight, look and feel that exudes quality belying their sub-$5,000 USD total cost and puts me in mind of gear I’ve reviewed costing double this price point. The PS Audio Stellar ‘three-fer’ proved itself to sound far more captivating, powerful, lyrical, musical and possess a humanity to its sonic signature in playback of all types of music than I previously thought a preamplifier and mono blocks priced under $5,000 USD would be capable of. They would, without fail, elicit both an emotional and physical reaction whenever I played music through them and their lack of digital pretense and healthy dose of analog spirit was a listening experience which I embraced.
    AudioStream Rafe Arnott
    “…I could not fault the sound of the Gain Cell DAC -- its neutrality and honesty were captivating, leading to compelling listening. During my time with it and the pair of M700s, I always felt they had total control over whatever music was thrown at them, in whatever format. From the understated nuance of an unaccompanied lute to the bombast of a symphony orchestra going full tilt, the laid-back drive of dub or the pulse of electronica, I not once felt deprived of any of the music’s emotion, rhythm, dynamics or detail. Whether using planar, stand-mounted or floorstanding speakers, I knew I would be rewarded with music free of noise, artifact or boredom. Used together, the Gain Cell DAC and M700s represent an intelligent, cost-effective entrance into high-end audio’s top tier…. “The PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell DAC and M700 mono amps took my system to a level that, with some recordings, was eerily close to the real thing. Paul McGowan and his crew in Boulder should be beaming with pride over the superlative performance of these components. Those making a first purchase or those seeking to upgrade must audition these electronics or risk having spent hard-earned money foolishly elsewhere.”
    The Audio Beat Guy Lemcoe
    Speaking of price, there's nothing about the Stellar Gain Cell DAC/Preamp that says under $2k. This holds for the music it makes which is really great news. Based on my experience, albeit time-worn, I get the impression that PS Audio likes to make music sound highly listenable through its products. You know, the way we want it to sound. The Stellar Gain Cell DAC/Preamp commits no digital crimes against music. It is smooth, well-balanced, and eminently listenable… The preamplifier, as advertised, is very good sounding and there's no reason not to mate Stellar with your amp-O-choice. Again, I'm not talking about "considering its price", I'm talking about very good sounding. The same holds for that headamp which made my AudioQuest NightOwls sing (not screech). Overall, music is presented as nicely round without any glare or etch which can be a thing when shopping in this price aisle… PS Audio has gone and done it—the Stellar Gain Cell DAC/Preamp offers more performance than the sum of its part and price might suggest. This translates into a DAC/preamplifier that serves all of your music well, which should keep you listening for as long as time allows.
    AudioStream Michael Lavorgna
    They sounded so good together I couldn't bring myself to try too many other speakers. The sound was rich with resolution to die for. Magnepan speakers aren't known for their deep bass punch, but here with the two Stellars the .7 speakers' low bass was kicking with "The Legendary Skatalites in Dub" reggae album with really low, feel-it-through-your-toes bass. Austin Wintory's orchestral score for "The Banner Saga" sounded downright huge, and the low bass drums definition was truly stellar!
    C/NET Steve Guttenbergh
    that's its greatest strength: the Stellar Gain Cell DAC allows you to seamlessly, transparently switch between sources, increase gain, and make meaningful sound adjustments, all the while calling zero attention to itself. This unit is not merely a DAC with a volume control: it's the ideal analog preamplifier, and the fact that it includes PS Audio's idea of trickle-down engineering in the form of an affordable, nearly world-class, budget-friendly DAC is the icing. The GCD is a keeper—it comes very highly recommended!
    Positive Feedback Magazine Tom Gibbs
    The headphone amp section of the Stellar DAC appears to build on that device. So let's call it an improved version of the GCHA (originally $999), with far lower output impedance for better compatibility. Then throw in a PS Audio NuWave DSD for the DAC section (which is still in their catalog at $1299), making sure to tweak a few things for improved performance. At this point we've already far surpassed the $1699 asking price for the Gain Cell DAC, and that's not even counting the superb analog preamp section designed specifically for this device. image: Doing the math shows us how much value PS Audio packed into their Stellar DAC—despite it being on the "lower end" of their lineup. It truly is a multi-function marvel. If you have use for all three aspects, or even just two out of three, the Stellar DAC merits serious consideration.
    Inner Fidelity John Grandberg
    Let me just cut to the chase. The Stellar exceeded my expectations for sound quality in nearly every respect. The digital inputs produced gobs of detail, great dynamics, proper soundstage, and wide frequency range. Ripped CDs and hi-res downloads sounded astoundingly good via USB input played by my player of choice, Channel D’s Pure Music, on my Macbook Pro. Plus, the analog inputs sounded clean, full, and lively. Exactly like I hoped they would! There’s no way around it, this is one hell of a lot of value packed into a single chassis. And the sound is as good or better than you are going to get for the price–especially when you consider the Stellar is both a DAC and a preamp. It provides outstanding, modern digital conversion as well as clean analog source selection and volume control. And it does so without adding noticeable noise or veiling, and without removing detail, depth, or tone color. Aside from a couple usability quirks, its operation was flawless, and the build quality is exceptional. Highly recommended!
    Daily Audiophile Mark Wieman
    The PS Audio’s Stellar DAC is a well built, quality component with excellent functionality (headphone jack, too) with solid performance at an affordable price. In other words, a true audio bargain.
    HiFi Pig Martin Appel
    It is rather amazing to consider how much excellence PS Audio has managed to squeeze into this one product. Would you get better sound, say from a standalone DAC that costs as much as the Stellar? Possibly, but you’d still need to buy a preamp to go with it. And chances are, one with similar flexibility and performance as the Stellar’s won’t be available on the cheap. Factor in the excellent headphone amp section and it’s hard to argue with the appeal and value of the Stellar. If your system already comprises top-notch gear, this may not represent a significant improvement over the existing..
    Audio Fi J. Loh