At the heart of Strata is its analog preamplifier section: the GainCell™. Invented in the early 2000s by PS Audio founder, Paul McGowan, this unique approach to variable gain amplification eliminates a classic audio performance problem caused by the volume control.
All preamplifiers must provide a means for the level to be turned up or down and all have something in common. They are elements inserted in the signal path that degrade the musical signal.
The GainCell 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.
The idea behind the GainCell 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 high-end preamplifiers.
Strata has 100% analog input switching so users can select what they listen to without ever leaving the analog domain. Strata’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 Strata’s internal DAC, streaming module, or an external phono stage, nothing in the music is sacrificed or lost. Music’s preserved in all its rich glory.
Rich, powerful, analog headphone amplifier
For those into headphones (and who isn’t?), Strata offers an exceptional sounding and powerful analog headphone amplifier on the front panel. Strata 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.
DAC and Streamer
The Digital To Analog Converter and high-resolution streaming module inside Strata will transform your expectations of what’s possible.
The DAC inside Strata produces a seamless 3D soundstage from even normal CDs. Labored over by its chief architect, Bob Stadtherr, and hand-tuned and voiced by Darren Myers, the improvement in sound quality over other DACs can be a revelation. The Strata DAC accepts inputs from any digital source including I²S, USB, TOSLINK, or Strata’s internal high-definition streaming module and outputs directly through Strata’s powerful amplifier directly to your loudspeakers.
Used with PS Audio’s Connect mobile app, available for IOS or Android, or music server software like JRiver, Bit Perfect, Amarra or Pure Music, Strata becomes your entry into the world of high-end digital audio music, both PCM and DSD. Performance is superb at anywhere near the price and there are good reasons why.
Digital Lens inside
All digital input signals are taken into Strata in Native Mode without Sample Rate Conversion (SRC) and fed directly into a simplified FPGA known as a CPLD (Complex Programmable Logic Device), which discovers sample rate and format, reclocks all incoming data, reduces jitter, waveshapes data output to the DAC chip, and utilizes high speed/low gate count logic to reduce propagation delay for faster throughput. This proprietary technology is called the Digital Lens.
The DAC chip itself is based around the acclaimed 32-bit ESS Sabre Hyperstream architecture, the output of which is passively filtered to reduce transient distortion.
Strata DAC’s output stage is a proprietary Class-A configuration, fully balanced and direct-coupled hybrid array with an extended bandwidth of 60 kHz.
I²S is the native format of all CD transports and many servers. I²S features a separate clock and data signal from the source. Typically, this clock and data signal are multiplexed together to be transmitted over a single cable in a format known as S/PDIF (Sony Philips Digital Interface), or AES/EBU (Audio Engineering Society/European Broadcast Union). Once received in multiplexed form, the DAC input must untangle the clock and data and once again separate them. I²S solves the problems associated with unraveling data of S/PDIF and AES/EBU formats.
Strata’s I²S inputs are compatible with our DirectStream Transport and allows full access to the master quality levels found on the locked SACD layer of SACD discs. Only PS Audio DACs, such as DirectStream, and now Strata, are authorized to play the pure DSD layer in all of its glory.
Choice of digital filters
Strata offers the choice of three digital filters for users to select from. Each digital filter has a different sonic character and the choice of filters offers an excellent means of improving system synergy. No filter choice is wrong or right. Instead, each filter can be selected and auditioned by the user to more perfectly match their chosen collection of the amplifier, source, and loudspeaker, as well as personal tastes and biases.
Users can relax and use the supplied remote control to audition each of the three filter choices for best audio quality matching the system it is played on. Should users upgrade their amplifier, speaker or sources at some point, Strata is there to help maximize performance.
Unique to Strata is PS Audio’s newest module, PS Connect. Used in conjunction with the PS Audio Connect app, available on IOS and Android devices, Strata owners can launch into the world of high-resolution streaming. Media with sample rates of up to 96kHz can be streamed directly into Strata’s internal Digital Lens to reduce jitter and improve streaming performance as never before.
PS Connect can stream from popular services such as Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, Napster, and iHeart Radio, as well as any DLNA source on the home’s local network.
Connection to the home network is easy through Strata’s built-in WiFi or Ethernet connection.